Stanley Blair, Ph.D., associate professor of English, presented on August 17 to the Monmouth County Historical Association (MCHA) and the Monmouth County Library on “The Infamous Long Branch Murder of 1860, Solved.”
According to newspaper reports, the crime was committed on the Long Branch beach, behind the Monmouth House hotel, early on August 7, 1860. Hundreds gathered around the crime scene and watched investigators, while hotels and boarding houses were searched for anyone missing. In the eastern half of the U.S., dozens of newspapers reported the murder and speculated about the victim’s identity and the perpetrator’s motives. Within days, the papers reported that a second crime, related to the first, had occurred.
Newspapers covered the developing story in stages, Blair said, as telegraphed updates as well as New York correspondents’ on-site reports rippled across the country for almost three weeks. One local paper in Freehold suggested that something like a nationwide trauma had occurred.
Despite the public’s outrage and calls to punish the perpetrator, the murder victim was never found, and the perpetrators of both crimes were never identified. Blair’s presentation examined both crimes, and offered a solution.
The local literary connection is a sketch in an 1863 book, “Sprees and Splashes,” by Henry Morford of Middletown, NJ. Morford’s sketch accounts for the 1860 events in Long Branch, but lightly disguises the names of those involved. Based on clues that Morford provides, Blair asserts that the disguised names of two key personages in Morford’s his sketch can be decoded to reveal their real identities.
Blair credited the MCHA and Sherri Xie of Monmouth University’s Interlibrary Loan for their support of his research, as well as one of his Honors School thesis advisees, senior English major Nicole Mautone. Earlier in the summer Mautone had asked Blair to explain his research, providing him with an opportunity to rehearse how to present part of it to the public. Mautone attended the presentation and afterwards reacted to it. “To be honest right now, I’m still just in shock/processing mode. But really I just have to commend Dr. Blair for how well the presentation was put together, and how he set everything up. I loved that we uncovered the mystery along with him.”
Breanna Guinta, a senior English major, remarked, “I was shocked to learn about the second crime, despite all the evidence of the murder taking place. It’s unbelievable they never charged the person responsible.” She added, “It’s also interesting with Morford’s work being so similar to the real events and how it could be looked at as what actually happened. . . . It’s a shame they never caught who did it or punished them for it.”
Monmouth University alumna Nancy Koenig ’02 and student Lauren Doral Levine also attended. Levine, host of “Real Jersey Shore Show,” said “It was an extraordinary presentation. I am still awestruck by the passion and dedication put into the research and dissemination.”
A recording of the presentation is available through the Monmouth County Historical Association’s web site and on YouTube.