This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
The Bad – Jake Bird
This is one I have never heard of but does fit my stereotype that many serial killers come out of the northwest. Seriously, what is it? The weather?
Jake Bird was born in Louisiana on Dec. 14, 1901. He left home at 19 and made a living as a laborer and laying railroad track. Bird preferred this kind of work because it allowed him to move around the country. This was perfect for Bird’s hobby, which I’ll get to soon.
Early morning Oct. 30, 1947, police officers arrived at 1007 S. 21st St. in Tacoma, Washington in response to screams coming from the home. As they walked up to the house, Bird ran out the back door, scaled several fences, but stopped when he got to a high wire fence. Backed into a corner, Bird pulled out a knife and attacked the officers, cutting the hand of one and stabbing the other in the back. One officer responded with a punch to the jaw and kick to the groin.
In the home were the bodies of Mrs. Bertha Kludt, age 53 and her 17 year-old-daughter Beverly. Both were killed with an ax that was left on the kitchen floor. Bird told police it was a burglary gone wrong. He was looking in Bertha’s bedroom for money when she woke up and grabbed him. Beverly woke up and tried to help her mother but Bird killed them.
During Bird’s trial, it took only 35 minutes to find him guilty of first degree-murder. Evidence against him included blood and brain tissue on his clothes, his fingerprints on the ax and in the house, and his own confession. Bird was sentenced to be hanged on Jan. 16, 1948,
To buy him some time, Bird confessed to 44 other murders. Police from around the country came in to interview Bird and were able to substantiate 11 murders. Bird had enough knowledge about the 33 others to be considered the prime suspect. He mostly killed white women with an ax or hatchet in Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
As Bird was sentenced for the two murders, he said “I’m putting the hex of Jake Bird on all of you who had anything to do with my being punished. Mark my words. You will die before I do.” This curse, known as the “Bird Hex” became more famous than the murders themselves.
Shortly after his conviction, the following people involved in the case died:
- Judge Hodge (heart attack)
- Bird’s defense lawyer (heart attack)
- Guard at the Washington State Penitentiary (apparent heart attack)
- Police officer responsible for documenting Bird’s confession (apparent heart attack)
- Court clerk at the trial (pneumonia)
Bird was hanged on July 15, 1949.
Dunkelberger, Steve. (n.d.). Jake Bird: The Strange Story of a Tacoma Serial Killer and the Hex that Made Him Famous. SouthSound Talk. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from http://www.southsoundtalk.com/2016/03/31/jake-bird-tacoma/
Jake Bird. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jake_Bird
McMlary, Daryl C. (2016, October 31). Jake Bird, convicted of murdering two Tacoma women, is hanged on July 15, 1949. HistoryLink.org. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from http://www.historylink.org/File/7973.
Sutfin, Heather. (2016, April 11). The Curse of Ax Murderer Jake Bird. Sword and Scale. Retrieved February 3, 2017, from http://swordandscale.com/the-curse-of-ax-murderer-jake-bird/.