FBI: Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth

Mr. Grant accepted the situation and said, with some emotion, “I shall write this matter up fully in my paper tomorrow morning.” Whether the publi­cation was ever made I am not advised.

I next found myself with Mr. Hennley, owner, ed­itor and publisher of the Daily Democrat, of El Reno, who had known David E. George well, and readily identified him from the pictures which I have just mentioned as having been identified by Mr. Grant, Mr. Bellamy and others.

The city editor of the Democrat, a gentleman whose name I believe was Brown, and who had re­moved to El Reno from some Western city a short time before to enter the employment of Mr. Hennley, became interested in bur conversation and was handed the pictures by Mr. Hennley. He instantly said:

“I never saw David E. George, and I know nothing of him, but these are the pictures of John Wilkes Booth.”

‘ ‘Did you know John Wilkes Booth personallyf” I asked him.

“I did, and I knew him well, personally and on the stage. I regarded him as the greatest actor of his day on the American stage, and never missed an opportunity to see him. I saw him and heard him in Baltimore and New York often, and in Washing­ton also, where I was connected with the Federal army, and saw him on the streets, frequently meet­ing him and speaking with him as a personal ac­quaintance. I remember that I saw him for the last time on the street only a short time before the as­sassination. I also know other members of the Booth family and could not be mistaken about this picture.

“I was in Washington City at the time of the as­sassination and later, when the body of the man claimed to be Booth was brought there, and owing to the secrecy and the mysterious manner of handling that body after it reached Washington there was a belief, quite general among the members of the Federal army with whom I came in contact, that the body held was not that of John Wilkes Booth. These recent developments in the discovery and identifica­tion of John Wilkes Booth have been no surprise to me.”

I next went to the Anstien Hotel and met the pro­prietors of this house, where David B. George first put up on moving to El Beno. On showing the pic­tures to them they at once identified them in the following authentic manner:

“El Beno, Oklahoma Territory, Jan. 23d, 1903.

“To Whom it May Concern: We, N. J. Anstien and G. F. Anstien, proprietors of the Anstien Hotel, situated in the city of El Beno, after examination of the tintype picture and photographs shown us by F. L. Bates, of Memphis, Tenn., say that the same are true and correct pictures of one D. E. George, or a man who claimed to be of that name. This man, George, boarded at this hotel for a long time. We knew him well, and do not hesitate to pronounce the pictures shown us to be those of this man, and we fully corroborate the statements of Messrs. Du-mont and Brown, as fully as if incorporated in this statement.

“Sworn to and subscribed before me this, the 23d day of January, 1903.



(Signed.) “FR

(L. S.)

“My commission expires 6-12-05.


“Notary Public.

The Messrs. Anstien said: “It was plain to be seen that the man who called himself George was not a painter; that, in fact, he did not know how to properly mix paints or to spread it after it was mixed, but his taste was good, his idea of the ar­rangement of colors with respect to blending them into harmony was splendid, and as a paint talker he was a success, but as a practical labor painter he was a dismal failure. We supposed this to be the reason why he did not work at what he claimed to be his trade. Then there was the further fact that he always had plenty of money and was prompt at the payment of his bills, whether he worked or did not work, which made it a matter that, in fact, did not concern others.

“When George, or Booth, bought the cottage for thirty-five hundred dollars he lacked a small amount of having enough money to pay cash for it. He came to the office and requested this amount as a loan for a few days. The money was handed him without a question or a note, and promptly on the day agreed upon for its return he came in and paid the money. Where it came from was a mystery, but that did not concern us, so long as he kept his word. And during the long time that he boarded at this hotel he met all his bills with equal prompt­ness and satisfaction. He was regarded as the soul of honor by those with whom he came in contact, personally or in a business way, and while he was queer, or what we would commonly call cranky,” and as the elder man said, ” always spouting poetry, everybody liked him. I told him that he knew much more about Shakespeare and other books than he did about painting and paint brushes.

‘If you (Mr. Anstien) could spread and display it in certain places as well as I can you would not need to keep a hotel,’ Booth had replied on one of these occasions. (Do you catch his meaning—to spread and display paint on the actor?)

The elder Anstien says that “after these little un­pleasant sallies,” Booth seemed to take a dislike to him, which was regarded as the principal reason for his changing his boarding place.

The cottage which Booth bought was sold by him about a year before he committed suicide, after he went to the Kerfoot Hotel.

There is one fact that has struck me with great force respecting the identification of Booth, and that is, he affected the same style of dress during his entire life. It will be noticed that his dress at twen­ty-seven, thirty-eight and sixty-four are practically the same. He always wore a black semi-dress suit style, of the best fabrics, always with the turndown Byron collar and dark tie. His dress at the time he committed suicide was of the same character, his suit being tailormade, new and well pressed, his pants well creased, his shoes new patent leather and his hat a new black Stetson derby. This style of dress, it seems, being a physical characteristic of John Wilkes Booth.



Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth_Page_352

After remaining in EI Beno about forty-eight hours, having completed my investigation of Booth’s identity, I returned to my home in Memphis, Ten­nessee, without further incident. Scarcely had I reached home, however, when I was recalled to Enid by the administrator of Booth’s estate.’ On my re­turn I found public sentiment in Enid much quieted down and it was no longer necessary for me to im­personate the character of another. I found that two men supposed to be in the secret service of the United States government—which fact they did not deny—had requested and been permitted to view the body of Booth. They were provided with pic­tures of John Wilkes Booth, which they compared with Booth’s body, and having satisfied themselves that the body was that of Booth, they appealed to the Territorial legal authorities to compel the bur­ial of the body, without denying at any time that the body was that of John Wilkes Booth. But be­fore I reached Enid the matter had been satisfactor­ily arranged, in what way I did not at that time learn, and I found the body unburied and in a state of perfect preservation, still being held for further identification, challenging, as it were, those in au­thority, or those of contrary opinion, to show that this body was not that of John Wilkes Booth.

During this visit I learned that Mr. L. TreadkeU, who had employed Booth as a teamster, as hereto­fore mentioned, was then living within nine miles of the city. I at once communicated with him and he came in. On being shown the tintype picture of St. Helen, so often referred to, he readily identified it as the picture of Jesse Smith, his teamster in the early part of the year 1867. He also identified the picture of Booth at the ages of twenty-seven, thir­ty-eight and sixty-four as being pictures taken from one and the same man, the only difference being the matter of age.

During this visit Bentiey Sage, the well known palmist, made the trip to Enid for the express pur­pose of examining the palms of the now notorious character, whose body lay in the morgue at Enid, known as George, and identified as John Wilkes Booth. The reading follows:

“I discover this hand to be of the spatulate type, from which I learn that the subject was emotional, erratic and governed almost entirely by inspiration. Persons who have this hand are controlled by im­pulse and are carried to extremes by the impressions of the instant. They are what science might term impractical. Of bright purpose and brilliant prom­ise, they almost invariably fail to materialize their ideas. They are etherial and poetic. Their hopes are’ rarely fulfilled and they are not only a disappoint­ment to themselves, but they disappoint their friends by their failure to accomplish the real and material things of useful and practical life.

“This subject was no exception. His intellect was keen and wide awake and took in the details and peculiarities of everything he saw, but he lacked the faculty of applying his mind toward the execution of his ideas. Like all those of a spatulate type, his vivid reason was the admiration of his associates, because of his effervescent enthusiasm and opti­mism, but he never came down to earth from the heights of imagination, and remained pleasure-loving, jovial and incomprehensible, was subject to moods of melancholy and morbidness. These latter characteristics, however, belong to those of the spatulate type. It is the non-fruition of hope to which this moodiness is due in the spatulate hand. It is the sensitive hand that is easily repulsed, espe­cially is this true of this individual hand. He was re­pelled by a gross nature, but still he had a large faculty for friendship and a strong desire for intel­lectual and genial companionship.

“Let it be understood that the foregoing is a study of the whole hand, which, owing to its peculiar class, being that of the spatulate, is weak in many respects. In order to correctly understand through- -out the balance of this disquisition it will be neces­sary to take the hand in subdivisions and describe each division.

“I will begin with the thumb, which is of unusual length. All thumbs show the possession of or lack of leadership, will power, control, integrity, reason­ing, planning, logic and stability.

“In this thumb I find a man of unbending nature, one who is set in his opinions and ideas, and one whom facts impress strongly, but who did not analyze them carefully, generally depending on obser­vation and the acts of others. At the base of the thumb is the mount of Venus—Venus was the mother of Love—Venus indicates the desires of life acting upon the line of heart. His mount being full and broad at the base, indicates the emotional and sentimental. The mount of Jupiter at the base of the index finger shows pride, ambition and self-esteem. This man had great ambition and great aspirations. He was sensitive to a fault, and the crosses and triangles found upon this mount indi­cate that his ambitions were never realized. His life was materially affected by disappointments and hopes that were never realized. At the base of the second finger is the mount of Saturn, which indi­cates the talents and gifts of the individual. His would have been literature, music, art and imitat­ing. Being full of inspiration he could have developed the talents of art and imitating which, together with an entertaining disposition and gestures that were smooth and appropriate, he possessed the fac­ulty of making every movement pleasant to those in his society. He was a man of elegance and charm.

“The mount of Apollo, located at the base of the ring finger, indicates the success of past, present and future, and in this particular case I find the mount to be undeveloped, showing that he had not reached the height of his ambitions, and showing that he had lived under many heavy strains, due to past failures and excitements.

“The mount of Mercury at the base of the little finger indicates the domestic nature of the individ ual. This man was loyal to true companionship, but he could love but one.

“The line of heart at the base of the fingers, start­ing at the index finger, signifies marvelous powers of the occult and spiritual intuitions. It also indi­cates honor, wisdom and tender devotion, and in this case proves one worthy of nature’s divinest gifts. His head line turns quickly downward across the line of destiny into the regions of harmony, imitation and romance, showing him to be of a senti­mental and impractical nature. The line of life indi­cated around the base of the thumb, which is clear and well defined, shows he would have lived to reach a ripe old age under favorable circumstances. In the illustration of this hand is shown many fine lines spraying downward from the life line, which denotes loss of vitality and mental force. And the end of the line turning upward to the region of vi­tality is a fatal sign with serious reverses in health. From the location and broken line of the face he appears to have been a person during his life who had a great deal of trouble and went through many trying experiences, and who could not rely upon friends for help, but who had to shape his own career.

“The most interesting element in the study of palmistry is that of dates at which important events in the life of the individual have taken place, or may be expected to take place. And in the reading of this hand, to go into all of the events of his past life would take more than three pages of this paper, for under favorable conditions he would have lived to a ripe old age.”



JOSEPH JEFFERSON As He Appeared at the Interview With Mr. Bates at Gayoso Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee.
JOSEPH JEFFERSON As He Appeared at the Interview With Mr. Bates at Gayoso Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee.

Being a constant attendant at the theaters at El Reno, Enid, Oklahoma City and Guthrie in the early part of December, 1900, Booth was much struck by the genius of the leading lady of one of the com­panies then playing in these towns, beginning at Enid. In fact, Booth regarded her as a genius and sought an introduction through her manager, claim­ing at the time to be a correspondent of the Dra­matic Mirror of New York, and giving his name as J. L. Harris. This young lady is a woman of the highest type and character, and finally the relation of pupil and instructor was established between them, Booth, the supposed correspondent, going with the company from Enid to El Beno, Guthrie and Oklahoma City for the purpose of coaching, watching and training the young actress after his own peculiar manner of acting. Being satisfied the capability of this actress Booth, or Harris, as he was known to her, made her a proposition, saying that he (Harris) was writing a play to be put on the stage for the seasons of 1903 and 1904, entitled “A Life .Within the Shadow of Sin” (Booth’s life), and desired that she, the actress of his choice, should play the leading role in the presentation of this play, and that he himself would take an active part, as manager and actor. This agreement having been reached, preparations were being made in 1902 for the proper staging and putting this play before the American people, but some unforseen occurrence over which neither of them had control rendered it impossible to put the play on for the season of 1903-4. This was learned and understood between them through correspondence, and the matter was then given no further consideration. Mention is made of this fact to show the bent and inclination of George, Booth or Harris, the actor, and as a further incident in the identification of Booth.

Believing that if any living man would recognize John Wilkes Booth from the tintype picture of John St. Helen that man would be Joseph Jefferson, of whom I had heard St. Helen so often speak when discussing the successful peoples of the stage, and I sought this best authority at the first opportune time. Mr. Jefferson, who had known ‘John Wilkes Booth since his boyhood and from the time Booth first went on the stage at the age of seventeen, was in the same stock company with him. Among the members of this company being Mr, Jefferson, Ed­ward Adams and John Wilkes Booth, at the age of seventeen playing Hamlet, Mr. Adams playing Laertes, and Mr. Joseph Jefferson, then being twenty-nine years of age and playing the grave dig­ger. Learning that Mr. Joseph Jefferson was play­ing in Nashville, Tennessee, and that the next day he would reach Memphis, together with his com­pany for the same purpose, I wired him at Nash­ville for an interview on his arrival in Memphis, which was accorded me. And as per arrangement I called on Mr. Jefferson at the Gayoso Hotel, in the city of Memphis, on the 14th day of April, 1903, just thirty-eight years to the day from the assassi­nation of President Lincoln. We had a long and most interesting interview, and when I handed Mr. Jefferson the tintype picture, so often mentioned herein and recognized as John Wilkes Booth, he took the picture in his hand, saying:

“This is John Wilkes Booth, if John Wilkes Booth was living when this picture was taken.” He continued to hold the picture in his hand and in front of his eyes during the entire interview, which lasted more than two hours. I should not sajr, and do not mean to convey the idea that Mr. Jefferson kept the picture constantly before his eyes, but that he held it the entire time, making long studied examina­tions of it during the interview and finally said:

“This, sir, I should say, is John Wilkes Booth, but he is older than when I saw him last. I have not seen him since a short time before he killed President Lincoln, at which time I think he was about twenty-seven years of age.” After this Mr. Jefferson gave me the history of John Wilkes Booth, from his boy­hood up as well as the history of John Wilkes Booth’s entire family. And in this connection as a matter of history I deem it my duty to say that I was impressed with the idea that Mr. Jefferson was by no means surprised to see a picture of John Wilkes Booth at the age of thirty-eight, and gave expression to no more surprise than to ask, “Where did you get it!” My explanation to that inquiry, which was quite extended, was listened to with seeming great interest and approval by Mr. Jeffer­son.



While Mr. Junius Brutus Booth was in the city of Memphis, playing an engagement at the Lyceum Theater in support of Mrs. Brune, I sought an intro­duction to him, and by pre-arrangement was ac­corded an interview at my office, which lasted for several hours, being of much interest to myself as well as Mr. Booth. At this meeting, because of my former meeting and friendship for and close associ­ation with John St. Helen, I was enabled to recount to him much of the private history of the Booth family, which was enjoyed by Mr. Booth with an interest equalled only by his astonishment.

After conversing with Mr. Booth for some mo­ments I handed him the now famous tintype of John St. Helen and asked him-

‘Who is this man?”

Mr. Booth took the picture, held it in his hand several minutes, looked at it critically, walked over to the window to get a better light on it and looked at it long and earnestly, finally to my intense sur­prise he suddenly exclaimed, wringing his hands in. grief and excitement:

“Was my father’s confidence in me a lie, and did he indeed die with the secret that my uncle still lived untold on his lips?”

After several minutes he controlled himself with: great effort and said to me:

“This is a picture of my uncle, John Wilkes, Mr. Bates, and the best one of him that I have ever seen. There is much that I want to say to you, many ques­tions I must have answered, but this discovery has so astounded and shocked me that I must leave you now. I want to talk the whole matter over with my wife, who is with me in this city. She will under­stand me and my feeling in this matter. To have so nearly met my uncle, and to find that he has been dead less than a month is very distressing.”

Being again overcome by his feelings, Mr. Booth ended the interview, we separating with the promise to meet again the next morning.

The following morning promptly at the time ap­pointed Mr. Booth walked into my office. We talked long and earnestly. I told him again the story of John St. Helen’s long life in the West, of the story he had told me of himself, his crime, and his wanderings. Mr. Booth listened, intensely interested, with excitement and often with tears in his eyes, to the ricital, for the first time hearing the whole story, just twenty-eight days after the self-inflicted death of the uncle whom he had never seen, and had always believed to have been killed years before by Boston Corbett.

After much further conversation Mr. Booth re­quested me to call a stenographer, that he might furnish me a voluntary statement of identification of the picture as John Wilkes Booth. I called Miss P. Wolf, who took down the following interview, which was signed and delivered to me by Mr. Booth, whom I count it a pleasure and a privilege to have met, and shall remember with great kindness.


“Mr. F. L. Bates: ‘I hand you, Mr. Junius Brutus Booth, a tintype picture which was taken at Glenrose Mills, Hood county, Texas, on or about June, 1877, and which was handed to me by one John St. Helen, as a means of at some future time identifying John Wilkes Booth. Will you kindly examine this picture, and in your own way identify the same?”

“I, Junius Brutus Booth, of the city of Boston, Massachusetts, recognize the likeness of John Wilkes Booth, not only in comparison with other photo­graphs and pictures of said John Wilkes Booth, but I can also trace a strong family resemblance and a likeness to different members of my family in the said tintype.

“I am the oldest son of John Wilkes’ brother, Junius Brutus Booth, was born in Boston January 6th, 1868. Those now living having any direct re­lation to John Wilkes Booth are first, myself and my brother, Syndey Booth, 16 Grammercy Park, New York; Creston Clarke, 16 Grammercy Park, New York; Wilfred Clarke, New York; Dollie Clarke Morgan, Vendome Hotel, New York; Adrienne Clarke, Brighton, England, children of Asia Booth, the sister of John Wilkes. Marion Booth, daugh­ter of Junius Brutus, said John Wilkes’ brother, also being my half sister, New York.

“The family of John Wilkes Booth’s father, Junius Brutus Booth, the elder, and his wife, Mary Booth, consisted of my father, Junius Brutus Booth the eldest, Rosalie Booth, Asia Booth, Edwin Thomas Booth and Joseph Adrian Booth. Subsequent or prior to my father’s birth there was another son, who died in infancy.

“The Clarkes mentioned are connected with John [Wilkes Booth by the marriage of his sister, Asia Booth, to John Sleeper Clarke.


“Witness: P. L. BATES.”

“I, a stenographer, wrote the above on the type­writer at the dictation of one signing himself as above, Junius Brutus Booth.

(Signed) “MISS P. WOLF.”

“Personally appeared before me, a notary public in and for the county of Shelby and State of Ten­nessee, Miss P. Wolf, who after being duly sworn, made oath that she was the stenographer who wrote this hereto attached typewritten instrument at the dictation of one who signed himself as above, Junius Brutus Booth.

“Signed at Memphis on this 21st day of February, 1903.

“H. C. SHELTON, “Notary Public, Shelby County, Tennessee.” Mr. Junius Brutus Booth is the oldest living nephew of John Wilkes Booth.

By the authority of these identifications of the tin­type picture of John St. Helen as being that of John Wilkes Booth by his nephew, Junius Brutus Booth, and the late Joseph Jefferson, the veteran actor and the world renowned Rip Van Winkle, supplemented.



With the evidences contained in this book, I announce it as a physical fact that John Wilkes Booth was not killed on the 26th day of April, 1865, at the Garrett home in Virginia, but that he escaped, spent a roving life in exile, principally in the western part of the United States of America, and died by his own hand, a suicide, at Enid, Oklahoma Terri­tory, on the morning of the 14th day of January, 1903, at the hour of 6:30 o’clock a.m.

And thus the story of the life and fate of John Wilkes Booth, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln, is told.




  • Abraham Lincoln
  • John Wilkes Booth (Age 27)
  • Jefferson Davis
  • Andrew Johnson
  • Ford’s Theatre
  • The Home of Mr. Jones
  • Dr. Stewart’s Summer Home
  • Gen. D. D. Dana
  • The Surratt Tavern
  • Gen. C. C. Augur
  • Mrs. Surratt
  • Bryantown
  • David E. Herold
  • Gen. Lew Wallace
  • The Home of Dr. Mudd and Riding Boot of Booth
  • Edwin Booth
  • Clara Morris
  • Junius Brutus Booth, the First
  • John Wilkes Booth (Age 38)
  • Gen. Albert Pike
  • John Wilkes Booth (Age 64)
  • The Mumified Hand of John Wilkes Booth
  • Joseph Jefferson

FBI Documents pertaining to Booth escape

Click to access John_Wilkes_Booth_FBI.pdf

Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth

Click to access Escape-and-Suicide-of-John-Wilkes-Booth.pdf

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