Episode 365:

You Don’t Ever Know

Theodore Durrant, The "Demon of the Belfry"


The Ghost Ship, The Mary Celeste


Episode 365: You Don’t Ever Know

On today's episode, Karen and Georgia cover Theodore Durrant, aka the "Demon of the Belfry" and the ghost ship, the Mary Celeste.

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

Theodore Durrant, the "Demon of the Belfry"

Theodore Durrant, The "Demon of the Belfry" Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Silas Baisch on Unsplash 

Other Images:

1. Blanche Lamont (Collection PJ / Alamy Stock Photo)

2. Minnie Williams (The Reading Room / Alamy)

3. Theodore Durrant (The Reading Room / Alamy)


"'The Demon of the Belfry' murders, committed just seven years after the infamous Whitechapel slayings, drew instant comparisons to Jack the Ripper for their shocking brutality. But unlike the Ripper, Durrant killed young middle class women, luring them into the church they all attended before raping and murdering them. Durrant was well-liked, a Signal Corps member and a future doctor. But beneath his buttoned-down Victorian niceties, there were warning signs.

William Henry Theodore Durrant's family moved to San Francisco when he was eight, and Theodore displayed signs of manic-depressive tendencies even as a youngster. As he grew into manhood, a disturbing rumor started circulating among San Francisco’s sex workers: a young man named Theodore enjoyed murdering birds during intercourse and spreading the birds’ blood on his body.

Durrant kept the company of many young women at the Emmanuel Baptist Church on Bartlett St. in the Mission. Later, some would come forward to admit he’d made lewd propositions to them — so lewd that the ladies kept silent for fear their fathers or brothers might kill Durrant..."

Source: “The tale of the 'Demon of the Belfry,' San Francisco's forgotten Jack the Ripper” by Katie Dowd (SF Gate) 2016

The Ghost Ship, the Mary Celeste

The Ghost Ship, The Mary Celeste Notes:

Other Images:

1. The Mary Celeste (The History Collection / Alamy)

2. Benjamin Briggs, captain of the Mary Celeste

3. Sarah Briggs


"The British brig Dei Gratia was about 400 miles east of the Azores on December 5, 1872, when crew members spotted a ship adrift in the choppy seas. Capt. David Morehouse was taken aback to discover that the unguided vessel was the Mary Celeste, which had left New York City eight days before him and should have already arrived in Genoa, Italy. He changed course to offer help.

Morehouse sent a boarding party to the ship. Belowdecks, the ship's charts had been tossed about, and the crewmen's belongings were still in their quarters. The ship's only lifeboat was missing, and one of its two pumps had been disassembled. Three and a half feet of water was sloshing in the ship's bottom, though the cargo of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol was largely intact. There was a six-month supply of food and water—but not a soul to consume it.

Thus was born one of the most durable mysteries in nautical history: What happened to the ten people who had sailed aboard the Mary Celeste? Through the decades, a lack of hard facts has only spurred speculation as to what might have taken place. Theories have ranged from mutiny to pirates to sea monsters to killer waterspouts. Arthur Conan Doyle's 1884 short story based on the case posited a capture by a vengeful ex-slave, a 1935 movie featured Bela Lugosi as a homicidal sailor. Now, a new investigation, drawing on modern maritime technology and newly discovered documents, has pieced together the most likely scenario..."

Source: “Abandoned Ship: The Mary Celeste” by Jess Blumberg (Smithsonian Magazine)

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. “The Story of Theodore Durrant - The Demon of the Belfry” by Thomas S. Duke (The Great Crimes of San Francisco)
  2. “The tale of the 'Demon of the Belfry,' San Francisco's forgotten Jack the Ripper” by Katie Dowd (SF Gate) 2016
  3. “Theo Durrant – The Demon of the Belfry” (Murder by Gaslight) 2009
  4. “Why Blanche Lamont Was Enticed From School and Led to Her Death” (San Francisco Examiner) 1889
  5. “American Murder: Criminals, Crimes, and the Media” by Mike Mayo
  6. “Theo Durrant Trial: 1895” by Stephen G. Christianson (Encyclopedia.com)
  7. “The Murder of Minnie Elora Williams; What is Known And What is a Mystery” (San Francisco Examiner) 1898
  8. San Francisco Call, Volume 77, Number 129, 18 April 1895
  9. “1895 murders - was Mission District church cursed?” by Gary Kamiya (SF Gate) 2013
  11. “William Henry Theodore Durrant” (Murderpedia)
  12. United States Army Signal Corps (Wikipedia)