No. 436
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
August 17, 2019

A Madman in the Pulpit.

Charles Emmons takes possessions of a Springfield, Mass., church and turns it into a fort.
August 1, 2016
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A Madman in the Pulpit.

Madman in the pulpit

Charles Emmons takes possessions of a Springfield, Mass., church and turns it into a fort. [more]

When the Rev. Mr. Dorchester entered the Olivet Congregational Church in Springfield, Mass., the other morning he found that the pulpit was already occupied by Charles M. Emmons, a member of the church and an employee of the government at the United States Armory. Emmons gained admittance at an early hour, and had hits position well fortified before anyone else arrived. Around his body he had wrapped a sofa cover and thrown a black veil over his head and face. The janitor tried to eject him, but as he approached the pulpit the madman fired three shots in rapid succession. All of them lodged in the ceiling.

In the meantime the congregation had begun to arrive, and the news spread throughout the city. In less than fifteen minutes the church had a larger congregation than ever before in this history, but all kept a respectable distance from the lunatic’s gun. Then the janitor, reinforced by Deacon Adams, other church members and four policemen, re-entered the church, but they were unable to capture the pulpit. Emmons, with a revolver in each hand warned them not to advance.

Several persons who knew him tried to persuade him to leave the pulpit, but he answered their entreaties by pointing his revolver at their heads and warning them to retire. The police attempted in various ways to direct the attention of the crazed man, when it was planned to rush upon and over power him. But this was only the signal for more shooting, two bullets grazing the helmet of the officer who made the attempt. The officers then held a council, and it was decided that as Emmons was so well armed it would be more prudent to await events.

Emmons held the fort unit after 2 o’clock, when he fell asleep in his chair. Then Detective Atkins and patrolman Hanes crept carefully up to the platform and pounded upon him. Emmons struggled desperately, but was soon overpowered, disarmed and handcuffed. As they started for the police station Emmons begged to be allowed to put on his overcoat. The handcuffs were taken off for this purpose, and before he could he prevented the madman brought out another small revolver and fired again but hit no one.

Search showed that Emmons had converted the pulpit into a veritable fortress. He had poured a pound of powder into the marble urn to make, as he afterward said, the smoke of incense. He had enough canned meat, crackers and water to supply him for several days; in fact he has since admitted that he thought it might be a week before he got an audience adding that he would have remained there till he starved.


Reprinted from National Police Gazette, November 12, 1892.