A STUDY OF THE FACES OF MURDERERS.
By J. Holt Schooling.
[Member of Lord Egerton of Tatton's Committee on the Mental
and Physical Condition of Children.]
1. JAMES CANHAM READ, THE SOUTHEND MURDERER.
2. KATE WEBSTER, WHO KILLED HER MISTRESS.
If you walk along the Strand from Charing Cross to Temple Bar, and back
to Charing Cross on the other side of the street, any day at an hour
when London hums with life, you probably meet at least one man who has
either done a murder or who will do murder before he dies. Perhaps his
shoulder rubs yours, or, in the jostle, you kick his heel; perhaps you
catch a passing glance from a pair of sinister eyes that somehow causes
you to feel a moment's vague uneasiness, or, as is more likely, you
walk unconscious of a possible contact with murder—but it's there.
3. CHARLES PEACE AS "MR. THOMPSON" THE ENTERTAINER.
I do not now refer to persons tricked into committing murder by the
perfidy of circumstances (such persons, for example, as the old man
Viney and the young woman Shoosmith, both lately respited), to many of
whom a fatal provocation has come at a moment of weakness or of
passion, and who, but for that unsought provocation, would have been
free from murder; but I do now refer to those men and women who are by
nature and inclination callous, scheming, unscrupulous, and insensitive
to any pain or injury inflicted by them upon their fellow-creatures,
and who are merely human beasts of prey.
4. CHARLES PEACE, SIDE FACE—THE NOTORIOUS ASSASSIN AND
The sense of self-preservation possessed by all animals, but not
possessed in such a high degree, perhaps, by human beings as it is
possessed by many of the lower animals, carries with it an instinctive
recognition of approaching danger from some other animal. Nature does
in many cases, perhaps in all, hold up to us certain danger-signals,
and if we were to let our natural instinct guide us—as dogs and young
children are instinctively guided—we might often avoid grave evils
that come to us from the human beasts of prey: cunning fraud, no less
than actual murder, is not allowed by Nature to walk through the world
without tell-tale evidences of its approach that ought to warn us. But,
as adults, we usually ignore the finer and more delicate suggestions of
our natural instinct, and we are guided much too often by what we think
is "reason," or by what we believe to be our "best interests"—and then
we are more or less mauled, in our pocket or in our person, by one of
the many human beasts of prey, when prompt obedience to our instinct
would have saved us.
Look at these faces. There is not one of them which cannot easily be
more or less closely matched as you walk about the streets of a big
city, or even, but naturally with less frequency, as you notice faces
in country districts. There is, of course, no typical murderer's face.
But all of these faces are bad faces; they warn you off. In some
instances (Nos. 1, 2,
3, 6, and 8,
for example) the danger-signal is so
plain that not even the most casual observer can fail to see it; each
of these faces speaks for itself. In other instances, the warning is
not so plainly shown, especially as in these photographs you cannot see
the colour of the eye and its exact expression; but in no instance does
any one of these faces inspire you with sympathy, they all cause a
feeling of aversion or of distrust; and we, if we are wise, should not
put aside as fanciful that instinct in us which gives to us similar
warnings in everyday life.
5. J. B. RUSH, THE NORFOLK FARMER AND MURDERER OF MR.
JERMY AND HIS SON.
Look at No. 5. The points which constitute a danger-signal in this
callous villain's face, occurring as they do in one face, are the
massive lower jaw, the thick "blubber" mouth destitute of a shade of
sensitiveness, backed up by the massive and long upper lip, the great
width between the cheek-bones, the broad insensitive nostrils, the
angry forceful shape and angle of the eyebrows, and last, but not of
least importance, a pair of hard, cold, blue eyes without a spark of
feeling in them. All these things, coming as they do in one face, fit
in well with this cold-blooded and insensitive murderer, who, while in
prison on his trial, wrote an order for his dinner: "Pig to-day, and
plenty of plum sauce."
6. MRS. DYER, THE READING BABY FARMER AND WHOLESALE
MURDERER OF INFANTS.
7. JAMES LEE, OF ROMFORD, WHO SHOT CHIEF-INSPECTOR
SIMMONDS, OF THE ESSEX POLICE.
In No. 7, there are, amongst other bad signs, a coarse and cruel mouth,
great prominence of cheek-bones, and again those terrible hard blue
eyes, as cold as flint.
8. HENRY FOWLER,
9. AND ALBERT MILSOM, THE MUSWELL HILL MURDERERS.
No. 8 speaks for itself, and you see in No. 9 an abnormal animal
development of the lower jaw, very great width between the cheek-bones,
and the eyes are a cold, treacherous, hard blue.
No. 10 was a French peasant, who, with his wife (see No. 18), lived by
decoying young women, under the pretence of getting them situations,
into a wood near Lyons. When the victims came, Dumollard and his wife
killed them by garrotting, and after taking all valuables, these
wretches put the bodies of the young women into a new-made grave,
previously prepared. This man's face is a dreadful face, and the brow
reminds one of a gorilla. Look at the two faces (Nos. 10 and 18), and
imagine the degree of denseness of perception of approaching danger
that must have been present in the poor victims who would negotiate
with such wretches as these Dumollards.
10. DUMOLLARD, WHO, WITH HIS WIFE, MURDERED NEARLY
TWENTY YOUNG WOMEN.
The danger-signal is shown plainly enough in No. 11. This wretch
poisoned a large number of persons for the sake of petty gains with the
unconcern of a farm girl who wrings the necks of poultry. She had
thick-looking, dark brown eyes, muddy and hard.
11. MARY ANN COTTON, THE POISONER.
No. 12 is a shocking bad face. The lower jaw runs back a long way and
is then very pronounced—always a sign of animality, although in men of
intellect and feeling this same quality may often be innocuous, and
even useful as supplying energy; the mouth, especially when seen
full-face, is very coarse, and the lips thick and heavy; the nostrils
are very wide at their base, the ears are noticeably bad, and the eyes
are light blue and as hard as a flint.
By the way, and in order to avoid a possible misconception on the part
of my readers who may think I am bringing an indictment against blue
eyes generally, I ought to expressly state that this is not the case.
Many of the kindest and best people living have blue eyes, but their
eyes are not the same sort of blue eyes that nearly all deliberate
murderers have (of the twenty-two persons here included, fourteen have
blue eyes, six brown, and two have hazel eyes): the blue eyes I refer
to must have been noticed by everyone, and must have inspired aversion,
or at any rate a lack of sympathy, for, of all eyes, the hard, cold,
blue eye is perhaps the least human or humane. Some of the finest
soldiers and men of practical affairs have blue eyes, which, without
being in any way unpleasant, are yet those of men who, rightly enough,
never let an undue sensitiveness interfere with their actions. These
men may be honourable and excellent men, but they are essentially
practical, and are guided by their head rather than by their heart, and
they are often of immense service to the nation. Lord Kitchener has
splendidly resolute blue eyes of this sort, but they are entirely
different from the sinister blue eyes that are in nearly all the faces
now shown. The one sort inspires you with confidence, the other with
12. PERCY LEFROY MAPLETON, WHO KILLED MR. GOLD ON THE
No. 13 is the face of one of the most cold-blooded poisoners that ever
lived. Under the guise of love or friendship he killed his many victims
for the sake of gold, coolly smiling at the torture he inflicted, and
nicely calculating the effect of each dose of poison. How could anyone
have trusted such a face as this? The immense development of the face
below the brow, its enormous width between the cheek-bones, the
absolute and sickening plausibility of the whole expression, the great
lower jaw, the cruel callous mouth (look at this mouth closely), and
the peculiarly uncanny light blue eyes, are a collection of
danger-signals that are rarely seen in one face. But his victims were
probably deceived by this wretch's fat, easy, and bland manner—they
stifled their instinct, and were duly poisoned.
13. WM. PALMER, THE RUGELY POISONER.
The lower jaw of No. 14 is quite Napoleonic in its strength and
unscrupulousness, and this face carries its warning with it. So also
does No. 15, which has a specially cruel and brutal mouth,
widely-placed cheek-bones, coarse wide nostrils, great width of head
between the ears, and cruel blue eyes.
14. MANNING, WHO, WITH HIS WIFE, KILLED AND ROBBED A
FRIEND, WHOSE BODY THEY BURIED UNDER THE HEARTHSTONE IN THEIR KITCHEN.
15. WAINWRIGHT, THE WHITECHAPEL MURDERER OF HARRIET LANE.
No. 16 carries a warning in his eyes, and No. 17 shows several of the
danger-signals already pointed to; he also has those terrible hard blue
eyes. The woman's face in No. 18 speaks for itself, and the face in No.
19 is one that instinctively creates aversion, although this man was
perhaps the least atrocious of any of the persons here chosen on
account of their deliberate wickedness. As is mentioned at the
commencement of this article, I have picked out only deliberately
wicked faces, not those of persons who have become murderers through a
moment's passion, or through provocation.
16. REGINALD BIRCHALL, THE CANADIAN DECOYER AND MURDERER
OF YOUNG BENWELL.
17. FISH, THE BRUTAL MURDERER OF EMILY HOLLAND.
There is a particularly ruthless expression in the mouth of No. 20,
again the great lower jaw-bone going right back nearly square to the
ear, and again the wide cheek-bones, with hard blue eyes, destitute of
any flicker of softness or kindliness.
18. MADAME DUMOLLARD, WHO, WITH HER HUSBAND, DECOYED,
ROBBED, AND MURDERED NEARLY TWENTY YOUNG WOMEN.
No. 21 is another of the impassive, mask-like faces, but it has a most
sinister surface; the great bulging cheek-bones are very significant,
and the eyes are treacherous and menacing. This man was so callous that
he suggested that the place where he had buried his numerous victims
should be called "Troppmann Cemetery."
19. ORROCK, WHO KILLED COLE, THE POLICEMAN, AT DALSTON.
One of the worst faces of the lot is No. 22, although the tell-tale
mouth is hidden by hair. The eyes are very bad; they would by
themselves give sufficient warning to most of us. Here, again, you see
the development of cheek-bones and of the lower jaw at the back, which
so often goes with a brutal nature, and the eyebrows are very
The last of these danger-signals is the face of Henry Benson, the
remarkable swindler and forger who was mixed up with the "Great Turf
Frauds" of some years ago (see No. 23). This man, who, after
conviction, gave evidence against the detectives Druscovitch,
Meiklejohn, and Palmer, was subsequently released on ticket-of-leave,
and later, being arrested for fresh frauds, committed suicide.
20. JAMES MULLINS, WHO KILLED AN OLD WIDOW AT STEPNEY.
Looking at this face, one can scarcely conceive how the man succeeded
as he did in deluding people—some of them of good social position. For
example, in 1870 Benson personated the Mayor of Châteaudun in France,
and nearly swindled the Lord Mayor of London out of charitable
contributions for the benefit of sufferers from the Franco-German war.
Benson was well educated, very clever, and inveterately wicked—he
looks it. Notice the great bulge at the "hinge" of the lower jaw, and
the cynically bad mouth; surely, this face plainly shows the absolute
unscrupulousness of the man, backed up by plenty of resolute energy to
make that unscrupulousness effectively dangerous.
21. TROPPMANN, WHO DECOYED AND MURDERED A FAMILY OF SIX.
There are many men now going about whose entire want of scruple is as
plainly shown in their faces as it is in the face of Benson, but a
passable exterior, a plausible manner, seems in many cases to put
people quite off their guard. We are, I suppose, so accustomed to
regard as sufficient a due attention to social conventions, that we
have lost the more primitive sense of self-protection that, in more
primitive conditions of society than our own, would be actively used by
us for our own protection. Moreover, we have become accustomed to look
to the law for protection, and this is, perhaps, another reason why our
instinctive recognition of Nature's danger-signals has become dulled,
and is now so much less effective than the instinct for danger which
some of the lower animals possess in a high degree.
22. DR. NEILL (CREAM), THE LAMBETH POISONER.
As I have already suggested, one or more bad signs may often be seen in
the faces of persons who are good rather than bad, kind rather than
brutal, honourable rather than treacherous. In such instances, the bad
point is dominated by the good ones, and it may indeed be converted
into a useful quality. For example, the animal brutality of a murderer
may become in a good face the resolute energy of the man of action.
23. HENRY BENSON, SWINDLER AND FORGER.
But where you see many bad signs collected in one face, and when you
feel a certain instinctive aversion for a face, even though your reason
or your supposed self-interest gives you no warning, then I say let
your instinct have its way, and take the warning that Nature is holding
up to you as a danger-signal.
This reliance upon instinct works both ways, moreover. It is equally
foolish to distrust all men, as the cynics do, as it is to trust all
men, as the imprudent do. In giving these necessarily scanty notes upon
faces which contain some of Nature's most obvious danger-signals, my
purpose is to warn people off the bad faces, and at the same time to
encourage a belief in good faces; but in both instances, I suggest, let
instinct be your guide, for in this matter instinct is often a far
surer guide than reason.
Note.—These photographs have been specially taken from
the models in Madame Tussaud's Exhibition. In expressing my
thanks to Mr. John Tussaud for the facilities thus given, I
must also express admiration of the art which produces these
life-like models.—J. H. S.