n 1905, a prominent Manhattan physician was reading his morning mail when he opened a disturbing letter. Written in spidery handwriting and signed cryptically from someone calling themselves "Justice," it read, "Mrs. Margaretta Todd was murdered—she did not meet her death by accident. The crime was plotted in New York and carried out in Philadelphia, to which city she was lured."
The physician reading this mysterious letter was no ordinary doctor. He was the Honorable Gustav Scholer, head Coroner for the city of New York, and one of the era's leading alienists—an arcane term for specialists who studied the mental pathology of those deemed "alienated" from society.
This article explores the boxes of case files lying unread in the archives of the New York Public Library. Originally published in Atlas Obscura.