There are Bones in the Basement
Can you think of a better story than one that involves bones hidden in the basement of a serial killer's home? Neither can I. So, as you can imagine, I was delightfully surprised when I met with a historian to discuss history - but what he had to tell me left me in awe. There are bones in the basement of the Museum.
That is right - tucked away deep inside the old limestone basement, in the archives of the Wabash County Historical Museum, there exists the remains of a serial killer from the 1800s. Although my original meeting with the museum's historian was to discuss how Wabash, Indiana, was the first electrically lighted city in the world - the True Crime Podcaster inside me couldn't resist hearing this story.
As we made our way down into the basement, the historian began telling me why the basement felt like such a creepy place. You see there is a lot of history behind the building, a long time ago the basement was used as a Mortuary - in fact, you can still see the remains of the Embalming Pit. The embalming pit was, as the title suggests, a large deep pit in the basement that they would use to drain the fluids out of your body. Once you were dead, they would put your body on a flat surface that was connected to a conveyor system inside the pit. After cutting the body, they would then lower you into the pit and allow all of the fluids inside your body to drain. Then, after some time, they would pull you back up and start the remainder of the embalming process.
Although the embalming pit was filled in after the Museum purchased the building, you can still see where it was on the floor. Oh, and did I mention the lights in the basement are hidden? That's right, a single light switch will only control a few bulbs - and with no windows in the underground room, it gets very dark. Isn't it weird how light seems to not travel well in dark creepy basements?
As we navigated around many boxes of artifacts, much like you would inside a maze, we found ourselves in a tiny corner full of stacked boxes. There, blended in with all of the other boxes, were two ordinary brown boxes - but boy were they hiding a secret!
As I lifted the lid open, immediately staring up at me was a skull that had been cut open. The remainder of the body's bones were laying split between the two boxes - but the skull was really what drew my attention. So many questions came to my mind - Who is this? Why are his bones in these boxes? And why is his skull cut open?
John Hubbard - 1854 A.D., Wabash, Indiana
In a time before President Lincoln, the town of Wabash existed as a middle-of-the-canal place for travelers between the Ohio River and Lake Erie. Our story starts when a transient man named John Hubbard, and his family, comes into town and rents a house with the French family.
Mr. French had been suffering from an illness for a while, so when he and his family suddenly leaves town - selling all of their belongings to the Hubbards - one would think suspicion was raised. With no evidence of a lie, the Hubbards were left to attend to their daily lives as the public was forced to accept their story. Even when another worker moves in with the Hubbards and disappears, suspicions fell silent.
It wasn't until two fishermen find a body in the bottom of the canal, that things start turning south for the Hubbards. Once the remains were identified as the worker Ed, John Hubbard was quickly brought in for questioning. Here is where the story starts to get interesting.
While John and his wife were talking alone to each other in the jailhouse, the wife is overheard asking John "What are we going to do with the people under the house?" Needless to say, the house was searched and what do you know - there are bodies under the floorboards.
Through court documents and first-hand written accounts, the Historian told me all the details surrounding John Hubbard's murder trial. Thousands flocked to the small town of Wabash to witness the hanging of a mass murderer - something new to most people at the time. What is wrong with someone that can cause them to do such a horrific act? Well, the doctors in the area at the time wondered this too - which is why after John Hubbard was buried they exhumed and studied him.
The historian told me of how the bones were split up among the doctors, and how they eventually were collected and donated to the local high school. There in the classroom, the bones of Hubbard existed as the classroom skeleton for about a century. Later, when the school is torn down, his bones would be placed inside boxes and tucked into storage at the new school. It isn't until the boxes of bones are re-discovered are they then given to the museum.
So, that is the short version of how a True Crime Podcaster came about unexpectedly finding the story of the bones of a mid-1800s serial killer in the basement of the Wabash Historical Museum. I highly suggest listening to the full podcast episode I created that day - you can do so here:
Thank you for taking the time to read my post - if you'd like to keep up with my True Crime travels and experiences make sure to subscribe to this blog and my podcast 'American Crimecast'. If you like what you read - leave a comment! Oh, and don't forget to share :)
- Shane Waters