Shades of trunk murders: You shipped what to Ogden?

I have related several fun episodes where someone shipped a dead body being in a trunk to Union Station — one in 1914 and the other about a decade later, but those were hardly the first.

Ponder this headline from the Dec. 7,1881 Ogden “Herald,” a predecessor to the Ogden Standard, whose coverage of life at Ogden’s Union Depot tended to be lively and fun. A Corps found? In a trunk?


And, really, what’s not to  like? As the reporter breathlessly wrote:

“After the arrival of the express train from the East, last evening, great excitement ws created by a fearful odor that emanated from a trunk which was taken from the baggage car by employees of the depot. Large crowds of people were attracted to learn the horrid contents of the box.”

Ogden, in 1881, was a pretty small town, so the excitement quickly spread. This was before TV and even radio, so any chance at cheap entertainment was quickly seized upon.

Typical steamer trunk from the 1880s

“The bystanders entertain serious suspicions that a foul murder had been committed, the corpse packed in the trunk and forwarded to Ogden from Cheyenne,” which was where the trunk had been picked up.

The Union Pacific baggage master, a Mr. John Earll, was called.He exercised his authority and forced the trunk open “when he and all the horrified spectators expected to see the corps of a murdered infant.

“But on lifting the lid, the nostrils were assailed by the offensive effluvia from the putrid carcass of a turkey. ”

Imagine the disappointment! Imagine the disgust!

Then imagine the joke. The trunk’s owner probably figured it was December, it was cold, the bird would be fine.

He figured wrong. As the story simply related, “the trunk was again closed and is now awaiting the arrival of the owner from the east.”

Let him deal with it.

Union Station in 1917.