The mysterious case of the phantom barber

A British cartoon sketch of the phantom barber of Pascagoula, Mississippi.

The blondes of Pascagoula went on red alert.  He was starting to show a preference for that color of hair.

The following is a cold, cold, case from the Magnolia state.  It all commenced like this in 1942 in Pascagoula, Mississippi:  at a convent, Our Lady of Victories, an unknown subject broke in at night—through a window.  He cut chunks of hair off the heads of two sleeping girls.  The girls, Edna and Mary, came awake just in time to see him leaving through the window.  They described him, “sorta short, sorta fat, and wearing a white sweatshirt.”

During the time span of a few months, the culprit struck again, and again.  He accomplished his breaking-in by slitting the screens on windows and struck on Monday and Friday nights.  He took his nefarious activity up a notch when he started using chloroform to make sure his victims stayed asleep during his barbering.  The blondes of Pascagoula went on red alert.  He was starting to show a preference for that color of hair.

How creepy is this?  In the midst of the snipping activities, the barber took a turn.  Instead, he crept into the bedroom of a Mr. and Mrs. Hiedleberg and beat them with a lead pipe.  They were asleep when attacked, then incapacitated, so they could not give a good description of the intruder.  The police put bloodhounds on the trail the attacker left in going from the house.  The hounds followed the trail into the woods where they found some bloody gloves.  The police thought that the attacker had left an escape-bicycle in the woods at the spot where the gloves were found.   After this vicious attack, the barber went back to his earlier snipping activities.

A chemist named William Dolan was arrested—only for the Hiedleberg attack—attempted murder.  He was known to have argued with the couple on occasion.  Authorities found a bag of hair at his property, they said.  Dolan was not popular in the town because of his Nazi sympathies.  He was sent to prison for ten years, although he never admitted to the assault on the couple. 

Six years into his incarceration the governor of the state ordered him to take a lie detector test in regard to the hair-cutting crimes.  He passed with flying colors.  This indicated that he was not the Phantom Barber.  Some thought the bag of hair was even planted in order to speed up prosecution of any likely candidate.  The citizens were demanding a solution to the case during the reign of the barber’s terror.

Was Dolan able to trick the polygraph?  Was the Phantom Barber Dolan, or was it one of ten thousand people that had arrived in Pascagoula as temporary laborers for the construction of warships?  A few of these were undoubtedly of questionable character.  Almost overnight the population of the town had doubled.

The Phantom Barber has never been identified.  Was he a transient in and out of the area due to the war effort?  Was Dolan simply the patsy of an over-taxed police force, as he claimed?  William Dolan was set free, early, in 1951.  

The name, Pascagoula, is eerie and mysterious itself.  In case the town sounds familiar to you, it may be because it has been in the news before.  It is the site of the reported alien abduction of 1973.  It is also the site of an eerie noise that emanates from the Pascagoula River, leaving scientists stumped.   Those are different—albeit delectable—stories for another time.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of the award-winning novel, It Rises from the Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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