With an estimated 53 victims, Helene (or "Helen") Geisen-Volk, is New York City's worst serial killer.
Below the study notes you will find two long newspaper
articles on the case.
Angerer, Stephen – died; corpse abandoned in yellow satchel
in hallway of “tenement in the 70s” according to G-V.
Beale Faith – (possibly), died Jan. 13, 1925. (under false
name of one of twins?).
Beukess (“Bukers”), Baby – missing.
Bleitsche, Elenor – died.
Burton, Robert – malnutrition, Bellevue hospital
(substituted for Beukess (Bukers) baby). died Mar. 11 at Lenox Hill hospital.
Cooper, Patricia – 2 y-o; barely survived starvation; rescued
May 8, 1925.
Hughes, Bernice – died, Lenox Hill hospital; had previously
been substituted for Hirsch baby.
Snyder, Robert – died May 8, 1925 at Metropolitan hospital.
Toohey, Agnes – died Dec. 15, 1924; “natural causes.”
Twins (girl and boy) – died; the girl had been substituted
with Bernice Hughes?
Weiss, Louis – 6 mo.; “missing.”
Winters, William – 4-m-o, died Feb. 1925; fractured skull
(“cracked in half”).
Unnamed child – murdered by G-V, “years before” 1925 in
Croton; witnessed by Mrs. Soudieres.
• Seven children rescued on May 8, 1925 from the 86th St.
infantorium and sent to Bellevue hospital:
1) Margaret Mooney, born Feb. 1925; Mother, Mrs. Mary C.
Mooney, Erie, Pa.
2) Katherine Ramos, born Feb. 1925.
3) Mary McDonald, born Feb. 1925.
4) Irene Wild, born Oct. 1925.
5) Robert Berton, born Nov. 1924.
6) Anne Langley; mother, Mrs. M. H. Langley, 980 Bergen St.,
7) Nada Montich, care of Magnus, 14 E. 103d St.
• Four Children Claimed and restored to parents on May 8,
1) Pauline Schaale, born May 1923. Claimed by Mrs. J.
Gerber, 9533 Banton St., Elmhust, Lonng Island, N. Y.
2) Harold Wilson, born Feb. 1924. Mother, Mrs. H. Wilson,
347 W. 16th St.
3) Edward Ippolito; mother, Mrs. C. Ippolito, Bensonhurst,
Long Island, N. Y.
4) Patricia Brennan, 217 E. 19th St.
1917 – (“Helen Geiser”), first degree manslaughter charge;
abortion death of a mother; indicted; dismissed.
1922 – kidnapping (of baby) charge against G-V.
Dec. 15, 1924 – Agnes Toohey, 18 mo., dies.
Dec. 1924 – Beukess child placed with G-V; “disappeared.”
Jan 1, 1925 – (through Feb. 15) 4 deaths at G-V infantorium
Jan. 13, 1925 – death of baby (in hospital?), unnamed;
perhaps Faith Beale.
Feb. 1, 1925 – Stephen Angerer, baby, placed with G-V.
Feb. 1925 – William Winters, 4-mo., dies.
Feb. 28, 1925 – William Angerer (f) visits G-V; baby son,
Stephen A., not there.
Mar. 11, 1925 –Robert Burton dies at Lenox Hill hospital.
May 5, 1925 – William Angerer given substitute baby.
May 8, 1925 – G-V held at Jefferson Market jail on “child
substitution” charge; $35,000 bail.
May 8, 1925 – Mob of 500 women outside GV’s 86th street
May 9, 1925 – in Harlem Court Magistrate Vitale demands
disclosure of fate on missing William Angerer.
May 9, 1925 – “twenty-third victim,” a 2-year-old boy, dies
at Bellevue hospital.
May 11, 1925 – female mob at jail “Bridge of Sighs.”
May 12, 1825 – court orders for 2 exhumations; S. C. Justice
May 13, 1925 – exhumation of William Winters &
May 14, 1925 – autopsy of Agnes Toohey.
May 21, 1925 – unnamed baby (sold to Mrs. Nat Bass)
photographed by press at Bellevue hospital.
Jul. 16 – G-V pleads guilty to lesser charge.
Jul. 22, 1925 – G-V sentenced to 3 1/2 to 7 years; Auburn
Angerer, Mrs. – mother of Stephen, who died; nervous
breakdown, reason for placement of baby with G-V.
Angerer, Stephen – father of Stephen, died.
Angerer, William – 536 E. 147th st., Bronx.
Bass, Mrs. Nat – purchased unnamed baby.
Beale, Faith – baby daughter of Italian concert singer;
presumed dead (Jan. 13, 1925).
Beukess, Mrs. Mary – Philadelphia resident; placed
grandchild with G-V.
Birch, Mrs. Frances – witness.
Bleitsche, Mrs. Jacob – mother of Elenor, who died and son;
Branick, Mrs. – Catholic Big Sisters.
Camnitzer, Dr. Arthur – abortion killed Anna Seeburg;
indicted May 1918; dismissed.
Cassasa, Dr. Charles – S. D. asst. medical examiner.
Cooley, Edwin J. – Catholic probation officer; produced
Cooper, Mrs. Margaret – mother of Patricia (2); verbally
Cotillo – Supreme Court Justice; issued court orders for
Fielhart, Mrs. Rose – purchased 2-w-o girl for $100 from G-V
in Sep. 1924.
Flogel (Flozel?), Alfreda – 18-y-o, adopted daughter of G-V;
beaten by G-V.
Flogel (Flozel?), Adolph – father of Alfreda; resides
Maujer St., Williamsburg.
Gardner, William – neighbor of G-V.
Garrett, Esther – nurse (“attendant”); former employee of
Goldman, Dr. – responsible for “supervision” of G-V
Heaton, Dr. Mary – one of 20 women who with her lawyer,
Newman Levy, testified in favor of G-V.
Herrick, Jacob – undertaker, E. 86th st.
Hirsch, Mrs. Frances – employee of G-V; nursed own baby at
G-V’s; witness; described baby substitutions.
Hughes, Bernice baby, buried in Potter’s field.
Kass, Josephine – 86th st. bldg. neighbor of G-V; nervous
breakdown; moved to Ca.
Lagrino, Raymond – son of Mary Shimkus; the "Baby Raymond" substituted for deceased Stephen Angerer.
Levy, Newman – G-V’s trial attorney.
Lorsie, Mrs. Marie (Mazie) – attendant at G-V’s 86th street
McIntyre, John P. – trial Judge.
Meroff, Mrs. Irene – witness; formerly employed by G-V.
Mooney, Mrs. C. – child born at G-V’s place, Feb. 1925,
witness (?); resides in Erie, Pa.
Murray, W. John – Croton, N. Y.; a “home” where G-V worked;
and Mrs. Soudieres, attendant, witness.
Neustaedter, Isadore – G-V attorney.
O’Leary, Dr. – G-V claimed he had diagnosed Angerer baby.
Pecora, Ferdinand – Chief Assistant District Attorney.
Perlan, Jesse – Exec. Dir. Jewish Board of guardians.
Rosalsky – Judge, General sessions court; Grand Jury.
Ryan, William P. – Assistant District Attorney.
Schmidt, Rev. George F. – G-V’s pastor, Emanuel Lutheran
Church, supporter of her innocence claims.
Schultze, Dr. Otto M. – performed autopsy.
Seeburg, Anna – died from abortion; indictment for
manslaughter in May 1918.
Shimkus, Mary – mother of unnamed
Angerer substitute baby, Raymond Lagrino.
Smith, Dr. Elmer – Angerer family physician, confirmed baby
Snyder, Mrs. Helen – 226 E. 86th; mother of baby Robert who
Soudieres, Mrs. Annette – witnessed murder of baby;
threatened by G-V.
Sprague, Mrs. Mabel – probation officer; General Sessions
Toohey, Mrs. Margaret – mother of Agnes, who died.
Toohey, Agnes – 18 mo, died; exhumed.
Vilmer – nurse; in photo holding “Shimkus” baby.
Vitale, Magistrate Albert – Harlem Court magistrate; May 9,
Volk, August W. – husband of G-V.
Voshla, Florentina – midwife for “Fielhart” baby girl.
Weiss, Louis – 6 mo.; placed by parents with G-V; missing.
White, Charles – Assistant District Attorney.
Wilson, Harold – 15-m-o baby retrieved by mother on May 8,
Winkelman, Edward – Detective, Homicide Squad.
Winters, William – 4 mo., died Feb. 1925; skull cracked in
Auburn Prison – Auburn, N. Y.
Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Central Islip hospital for the insane – Mrs. Angerer
Jefferson Market Prison – Manhattan.
New Calvary Cemetery.
1056 Park Av. – G-V operated “maternity hospital” and nursery
St. Michael’s cemetery – Astoria, Queens.
235 E. 86th street – G-V residence in 1925, baby farm.
– G-V’s City license permitted 7 children.
– In the death certificates, the cause of the Toohey child’s
death was given as mastoiditis and that of the Winters baby as congenital heart
– On several occasions, a nurse and former employe of the
“farm” said Mrs. Geisen-Volk beat children whose parents were behind in the
payments for their care.
– Mrs. Geisen-Volk is held in $35,000 ball, charged with
having attempted to substitute another baby for Angerer’s missing son.
– Charges that Mrs. Helen A. Geisen-Volk augmented the
profits from her “baby farm” by selling cemetery plots to the mothers of
infants who died while under her care, are being investigated today by
Assistant District Attorney William P. Ryan.
– A report that the Angerer baby had died under a fictitious
name at Metropolitan Hospital late last January has been recovered by the
assistant district attorney.
– health records disclosed that 44 babies had died in them
since January 1, 1918. (May 15, 1925).
F. QUOTATIONS of
Mrs. Jacob Bleische, mother of Eleanor: “I made a terrible
row, and Mrs. Geisen-Volk said, ‘It’s all over now; the baby is dead. Keep
quiet and I will give you money.’ I told her no money would buy my baby.”
[Brooklyn Daily Eagle (N.Y.), May 10, 1925, p. 1]
“Babies and animals should be disciplined all the same. When
they become unruly, I hold them under water or push them in closets or bang
them. I’ve trained children for 20 years that way.” [Oreonta Daily Star (N.
Y.), May 27, 1925, p. 1]
figures in the case whose photographs have been published in newspapers.
Angerer, Mrs. William.
“Baby Elvira” – photo inset with G-V confession writing
photo (Elvira not yet connected with any newspaper text mention).
“Baby Raymond” - Raymond Lagrino, son of Mary Shimkus, substituted for Angerer
Bleitsche – group photo: Mrs. Jacob B., Eleanor, son.
Bass – Unidentified “Bass” baby.
Flogel, Alfreda – group photo.
Giesen-Volk, Helen (Helene) – many different photos.
Kass, Mrs. Josephine.
Levy - Newman – “attorney” photographed with G-V. and
Alfreda Flogel (pub. Jun. 5, 1925).
Schmidt, Rev. George F. – photo with G-V.
Shimkus, Frances – photographed with Nurse Vilmer.
Toohey, Agnes – her coffin photographed at cemetery just
after being dug up.
Vilmer, Nurse – photographed with Frances Shimkus.
Volk, August W.
7 rescued children – Margaret Mooney, Katherine Ramos, Mary
McDonald, Irene Wild, Robert Berton, Nada Montich, Anne Langley.
FULL TEXT: The tiny, emaciated body of the twenty-second
baby to die within a year under the care of Mrs. Helen Geisen-Volk in her
infantorium at 235 East Eighty-sixth Street lay in the morgue last night
awaiting an autopsy. The unofficial verdict was “acute malnutrition.”
The child, whose death followed almost immediately after the
disclosure of conditions of neglect and ignorance described by medical men as
“appalling,” was Robert Snyder, the son of Mrs. Helen Snyder, of 10 West
Ninety-Sixth street. He was taken to the Metropolitan Hospital by the first
physician called in on the previous day after a complaint had been entered
against Mrs. Geisen-Volk. He died early yesterday morning.
~ 500 Women Fill Street ~
Distracted mothers besieged the infantorium yesterday, and
in the street a milling crowd of 500 women chattered menacingly with
horror-stricken eyes on the conventional brownstone front front of the house
whose tragic hidden history has come to light.
Six fresh complaints have been received by Assistant
District Attorney William P. Ryan, of the Homicide Bureau. The body of a child
known as “Faith Bell,” reported to be the daughter of a harpist, will be
exhumed, and possibly others. There is ground for belief on part of the
official investigators that Faith may be a substitute baby, as William Angerer,
of 536 East 147th Street, claims the child given him to be. It was his
complaint that forced the investigation of the baby farm.
~ Mrs. Geisen-Volk Identifies Babies ~
Mrs. Geisen-Volk, a slender, hard-eyed woman, who served
with the German Red Cross during the war and was permanently injured in the
spine, was taken to her “farm” yesterday afternoon from Jefferson Market jail,
where she is being held under $35,000 bail on a charge of child substitution,
pending a hearing in Harlem Court this morning. She was accompanied by Mr.
Ryan, Dr. Schulz, Detective Edward Winkleman, of the Homicide Squad; Miss Mabel
Sprague, a probation officer, and two stenographers.
The work of identification of helpless babies, ill and
crying, was the purpose of the visit. While she fumbled and shook in pulling
back the blue and pink coverlets and pronouncing the children’s names with the
aid of a card index, a tall woman strode in with a baby in her arms. She was
Mrs. Margaret Cooper, a widow, living at 226 East Eighty-third Street and
earning $32 a week downtown as a secretary.
~ Returns With Sick Child~
She had come for Patricia, a two-year old, earlier in the
day.this was a return visit. For several minutes she watched Mrs. Geisen-Volk.
She heard the babies’ names pronounced and saw the physicians take adhesive
tale with the Christian name inscribed on it and fasten it to the children’s
Bitterly she watched, hugging her baby girl. She had been in
two physicians since recovering Patricia. They had found that her child’s mouth
was infected (Four of the children in all were found to be in this condition)
and that she was undernourished and seriously under weight. She had been paying
$8 a week for the child while she went to work, and extras for clinical
“You murderer!” she suddenly shouted at the pale German
woman. “Look at my child. You have killed her! I have been to two doctors and
both told me she was six pounds under weight. She is in a terrible condition. A
woman like you should be electrocuted!”
~ Starts Commotion ~
Immediately there was a hubbub in the basement kitchen,
where the children were being examined and identified. She was assured that
competent physicians were present who would look at her baby.
“None of your lies!” she snapped. “I know. You cannot
explain to me. I know you.”
A woman friend accompanying her volunteered to hold
Patricia, saying: “Why don’t you lick her?”
In a flash her tall, strong form swung threateningly over
Mrs.Geisen-Volk, who shrank back, clutching her heart. Vincent Pisarro, agent
of the Society for the Prevention of the Cruelty of Children, and detective
caught Mrs. Cooper, but she threw them off and made another lunge at the
shrinking object of her wrath.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Mrs. Geisen-Volk
yelled back at her. “I wouldn’t have accepted your child if I had seen her.
She’s only been here since Friday.”
~ Mrs. Geisen-Volk Faints ~
“A woman like you ought to be strung up,” persisted Mrs.
Cooper, who by now had been subdued by four men and was being rapidly backed
out of the kitchen. As she went the brown-clad figure of her victim suddenly
stiffened and the head of the infantorium slipped to the floor in a dead
Prior to their examination of the children an ambulance had
been summoned from Bellevue and two physicians assisted in the routine that
followed. The only attendants at the infantorium were Mrs. Esther Garrett and
Mrs. Mazie Lorzie. The babies were brought down to the kitchen wrapped in blue,
pink and white blankets, and as each appeared Mrs. Geisen-Volk consulted the
card index, after peeping under the coverings.
The physicians tagged each child and one mother arrived on
the scene just as her baby had been labeled – a fat, blond infant, with rosy
cheeks, whom she clutched thankfully, kissed and bore away. Three others who
had been clamoring for their children were given babies and left hurriedly.
Seven of the little ones were taken to Bellevue to await
claimants. Mrs. Geisen-Volk could give no particulars about some of them except
their names. The best she could could do on the list of those going to Bellevue
Margaret Mooney, born February 1925. Mother, Mrs. Mary C.
Mooney, Erie, Pa.
Katherine Ramos, born February 1925.
Mary McDonald, born February 1925.
Irene Wild, born October 1925.
Robert Berton, born November 1924.
Anne Langley; mother, Mrs. M. H. Langley, 980 Bergen Street,
Nada Montich, care of Magnus, 14 E. 103d Street.
~ Four Children Claimed ~
The children claimed and restored to their parents were:
Pauline Schaale, born May 1923. Claimed by Mrs. J. Gerber,
9533 Banton Street, Elmhust, L. I.
Harold Wilson, born February 1924. Mother, Mrs. H. Wilson,
347 West 16th Street.
Edward Ippolito; mother, Mrs. C. Ippolito, Bensonhurst, L.
Patricia Brennan, 217 East Nineteenth Street.
Later in the evening
Angerer went with his attorney to Bellevue, hoping to find the child for
whom he claims another was substituted. He failed to identify any of the seven
infants as his. His wife, who has had a nervous break-down, comes out of the
hospital to-morrow and he fears the effect on her of not finding her own baby.
Mrs. Geisen-Volk is sure, however, that the father is at fault and that as soon
as Mrs. Angerer sees the little boy she returned to him, she will recognize him
A Health Department inspector who examined the “farm” and
the children found that four infants and infected mouths. He said he would
recommend that Mrs. Geisen-Volk’s license be revoked. She had nineteen child in
the infantorium, while her license only allowed seven. The nurses were said to
be without training or experience.
~ No Sterilization Equipment. ~
Dr. Schultze said that he and Mr. Ryan failed to find any
equipment for the sterilization of feeding utensils or the pasteurization of
milk. There was no inspection of the quality of the food and milk bottle
nipples were freely mixed [soc]. Externally the house is very clean, with
painted furniture and a roomy back yard for the children. It bears a large sign
with the single word “Infantorium” across the front. The rates for keeping
children were $6 and $8 a week. Mrs. Geisen-Volk’s rental is $225 a month and
she has a four-year lease. She formerly conducted an infantorium at 1056 Park
The Bureau of Vital Statistics records show that seventeen
infants died at the “farm” last year, and four others between January 1 and February
15, 1925. Assistant District Attorney Charles White, attached to the Harlem
Court, has been conducting an independent investigation for two months as a
result of a complaint made by a nurse, who has been in Philadelphia since
severing her connection with the place, but is in town now and has been subpoenaed to appear for questioning this morning at the District Attorney’s
office. Physicians who have attended some of the babies also will be
Isadore Neustaedter, of 26 Broadway, attorney for Mrs.
Geisen-Volk, said that there was absolutely for Mrs. Geisen-Volk, said that
there was absolutely no foundation for the charges against his client. He knew
her well, he said, and she had conducted her establishment in the very best
way. He insisted that the child Angerer was his own.
Mrs. Geisen-Volk’s pastor, the Rev. George F. Schmidt, of
Emanuel Lutheran Church, Eighty-eighth Street and Lexington Avenue, also spoke
spoke on her behalf. He officiated at her marriage five years ago, he said, and
declared that her husband had been brutal to her and they had separated. She
did not get a divorce from him because she does not believe in divorce.
[“22nd Baby Dies As Mothers Storm ‘Farm’ – 500 Women Mill
Around East 86th Street House as Infant’s Death Is Laid to Malnutrition – Owner
Faints at Cry of ‘Murder!’ – Substitution Charges Increase; May Exhume Bodies
of Children,” The New York Herald New York Tribune (N.Y.), Late City Edition,
May 9, 1925, p. 1]
FULL TEXT: No more shocking case of its kind has come to the
attention of the New York authorities than that of Mrs. Helene Geisen-Volk, the
former German war nurse who dealt in babies.
According to the evidence, some fifty-three children
committed to her care died of one cause or another, usually of starvation.
Conditions at her infantorium – described as a baby farm – described as a “baby
disposal plant” – were called miserable and filthy in the extreme. A probation
officer reported after an examination of her career that she had “strangled or
frozen to death or otherwise disposed of babies left in her custody in order
that she might reap a profit through her acts.”
The woman came into notice after she had substituted a baby
for another whose fate never was discovered. After the body of another child
had been exhumed she was indicted for manslaughter.
“The reason why the defendant killed is understood when
advertence is made to the fact that it was to be the pecuniary advantage of
this cruel proprietor of this baby farm to destroy illegitimate children for a
consideration and non-paying babies because they were liabilities.
“Beneath her proud exterior and veneer of humanity the woman
conceals the callous fiendishness so common to her prototype, the undesirable
midwife. She has no maternal affections, at least with respect to babies of
other people. To her they are like puppies. To they are articles of merchandise
to be bartered, sold or exchanged. The defendant represents a revolting anomaly
The above is taken from a report on Mrs. Helene Augusta
Geisen-Volk, former German war nurse and keeper of a baby farm at 236 East 86th
street, Manhattan. The report was made public on the day she was sentenced to
serve three and a half to seven years. She had pleaded guilty to substituting a
strange child for another child whose fate was never discovered.
An indictment for manslaughter, in connection with one of
the fifty-three deaths of babies committed to her care, never was prosecuted
against this woman.
Will it ever be?
Mrs. Geisen-Volk, a sharp-featured woman of 41, came into
public notice early in May, 1925, when she was held in heavy bail as a result
of numerous complaints against her and her and her institution in 86th street.
As the story unfolded in subsequent days, she appeared more
and more the fiend incarnate, comparable even to the notorious “Madame Killer”
[Ann Lohman, AKA “Madame Restell,” abortionist], who flourished in New York
many years ago. Her infantorium was described as a baby disposal plant.” The
records, as they came to light, showed that dozens of children had died of one
cause or another either in the nursery or later in hospitals. Conditions at
her place were pictured as the last word in misery and filth.
Most of the children died, according to the evidence, of starvation.
Mrs. Geisen-Volk was brought into court on the complaint of
William Angerer, a steamfitter’s helper, who had placed his four-months-old
son, Stephen, in the woman’s care the previous February 1, after his wife had
suffered a nervous breakdown, and who never saw his child again.
Angerer paid $10 a week to Mrs. Geisen-Volk. On February 28,
when he called, the woman told him the child had heart trouble and had been
sent to Saratoga, N. Y., for treatment. A few days later, when he telephoned,
Mrs. Geisen-Volk told him the child had been taken to Chicago for further
treatment. He became suspicious. Finally she wrote him a letter saying little
Stephen was again at her place.
The father called and Mrs. Geisen-Volk handed him over an
infant which Angerer immediately knew was not his son.
“You are mistaken,” she stated positively. “I am sure this
is your son.”
But Angerer knew he was not mistaken, and to prove it he
brought the child to his family physician. Dr. Elmer Smith who had been present
at the birth. Dr. Smith agreed with him.
~ Incomprehensible Records. ~
Furthermore, the Angerer child had had two teeth this baby
Where, then, was his child? And who child was this the woman
had given him?
The woman’s records at her nursery were found to be for the
most part incomprehensible. In the case of the Angerer child no mention was
made in the records of the child having heart trouble, and there was no mention
was made in the records of the child having heart trouble, and there was no
mention of the baby having been sent to Saratoga and Chicago. Mrs. Geisen-Volk still insisted the Angerer
child had been returned to its father.
On the after she was ordered held the woman was taken to the
infantorium to identify the babies still there. As she entered, crowds gathered
in front of the place – just as they did in front of the infamous Madame
Restell’s place on a memorable occasion some sixty years ago. Inside, while
Mrs. Geisen-Volk sat at a table thumbing their vague records, one mother,
screaming that she would kill her, made a rush at her, but was held back.
Mrs. Geisen-Volk asserted that it was all spite work. Her
pastor, the Rev. George F. Schmidt, stoutly supported her, saying that all her
troubles could be traced to enemies. He said he had officiated at the second
marriage – her first husband was said to have been a Prussian army officer –
five years before and knew her to be a good woman. He characterized the whole
affair as an “outrage.”
The second husband, incidentally, had left Mrs. Geisen-Volk
some three years after their marriage. Whatever happened to the first husband
never became known.
The investigation moved on. And the babies continued to die.
Cause – acute malnutrition, more commonly known as starvation. One died in the
Metropolitan hospital May 8, and another died on May 9 at Bellevue. In
Jefferson Market jail Mrs. Geisen-Volk clasped a Bible and tried to look
On May 9 Mrs. Geisen-Volk and her counsel appeared in court
to hear Magistrate Albert Vitale plead from the bench for the complete truth
about the Angerer child. Mrs. Angerer had been sent to Central Islip hospital
for the insane. Angerer’s counsel stated that if the mother knew her child was
all right perhaps it might bring about her recovery.
~ For Sake of Humanity. ~
“For the sake of humanity,” said the court to the
Geisen-Volk lawyer, “if this child is dead or alive, let the parents know. This
mother is coming home tomorrow and if, for any reason, the child died she
should know it. This is not strictly according to the law, but there are times
when it is wise to disregard the law and use our common sense.”
The lawyer’s only reply was that what he had been told in
confidence by his client he was not at liberty to disclose in court.
Mrs. Geisen-Volk therefore retained her secret.
Later that day the district attorney’s office unearthed an
indictment charging first degree manslaughter against a “Helen Geiser” of 1066
Park avenue, in connection with an illegal operation performed upon a woman who
later died in the Woman’s hospital November 6, 1917. Mrs. Geisen-Volk had
formerly conducted an infantorium at 1066 Park avenue. The case had been
Another revelation from the district attorney’s office was a
charge of kidnaping against this same woman in 1922 – a charge which also came
to nothing. A young woman had taken her child to Mrs. Geisen-Volk’s place and
paid $10 a week. Later she called and the woman pushed her out of the place,
saving she could not have her child. The infant, she said, had been sent to
According to his complaint, her lawyer had talked
confidentially with Mrs. Geisen-Volk and then announced that he had lost all
the papers in the case. The authorities therefore had dismissed the charge “for
lack of evidence.”
With testimony pouring in from various witnesses to the
effect that one child at the nursery had died of other than natural causes, the
investigators decided to exhume several of the bodies to see if these little
graves might contain evidence of actual willful homicide.
The witness’ stories were shocking in the extreme. We will
outline some of them briefly.
First, there is the story of Mrs. Margaret Buker, of
Mrs. Geisen-Volk had identified a child at the infantorium
as Robert Burton. Mrs. Bukers, grandmother of Robert Burton, had examined the
child, which had been removed to Bellevue hospital, and stated positively that
this was not her grandson. Then she related her experience with Mrs.
She said that little Robert, born the previous August, had
been taken to the infantorium in December. The child’s mother, Mrs. Mary
Burton, died in January. Then during the following month the baby became ill.
The cause appeared to be malnutrition. Mrs. Bukers attempted to see the child,
but was prevented by Mrs. Geisen-Volk. The grandmother was informed that the
child was under the care of a heart specialist.
Mrs. Bukers continued to pay $10 a week to Mrs. Geisen-Volk.
Weeks later the authorities learned that little Robert had died at the Lenox
Hill hospital on March 11.
Next, there was the statement of Mrs. Annette Soudieres.
Mrs. Soudieres said that years before Mrs. Geisen-Volk,
under the name Miss Auguste Geisen, had worked in a home conducted by W. John
Murray at Croton, N. Y., Mrs. Soudieres, mother of two children, had been
employed as a nurse there. She said she had been threatened with reprisals
against her own children if she ever revealed things she had seen there.
“The night before one of the children died there, I was in
an adjoining room to that in which Miss Geisen and the child were,” she told
Vincent Pisarra, superintendent of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to
Children. “I heard a choking sound and tried to get out of my room, but was
unable to do so. The door was locked.
“I looked through a crack in the door and saw Miss Geisen
feeding the baby with a nursing bottle. She was forcing the bottle into the
child’s mouth. This caused the choking I heard. Then I saw her remove the
nipple from the bottle and again force the bottle into the child’s mouth.
“After a time the sounds ceased, and Miss Geisen left the
room. The next morning they told me that the child had died.”
~ Another Witness. ~
Assistant District Attorney William P. Ryan announced that
another witness, whose name he would not divulge, had told him of an
advertisement Mrs. Geisen-Volk had prepared, stating, “Wanted for adoption;
blond, blue-eyed baby boy; must have two teeth.” This was on May 2, when
William Angerer was insisting that the woman return the child to him.
The district attorney’s office also stated that a
woman named Mary Shimkus, 18 had identified the child given to William
Angerer as her child, Raymong Lagrino, born out of wedlock.
Mrs. Francis Hirsch, a nurse who lived at the infantorium
for ten weeks, testified that there were nine deaths in the place while she was
there. She said Mrs. Geisen-Volk had admitted many substitutions to her. She
told of a baby boy and a baby girl, twins, who had died in Bellevue soon after
they were consigned to Mrs. Geisen-Volk’s care.
The baby farmer was distressed by the deaths of the twins,
according to Mrs. Hirsch, because the parents were “good payers” and she hated
to loose the money.” She therefore substituted a deserted child for the dead
girl twin, and informed the mother that while the baby boy died, the girl was
out on Long Island being treated.
Eventually, the mother discovered the deception, after she
had paid some weeks’ rent. When the child died it was buried in potters’ field,
for the mother refused to accept the body.
Another witness, William Gardner, said he knew of between
twenty-five and thirty deaths at Mrs. Geisen-Volk two places, the one on Park
Avenue and this other one on 86th street. He said the baby farmer often
advertised for babies for adoption, to take the places of babies who had died
or had been sold.
On May 18, while Chief Assistant District Attorney Ferdinand
Pecora was preparing to submit his assembled evidence to the grand jury, Mrs.
Florentine Vasahlo, a nurse, came to his office with her lawyer and admitted
that she had signed a fake birth certificate at Mrs. Geisen-Volk’s solicitation
so that a girl baby could be sold to a couple anxious to adopt a child.
Mrs. Vosahlo’s story led to startling revelation by a Mrs.
Nat Bass, wife of a well-to-do clothing manufacturer.
Mrs. Bass state that she had purchased a baby from Mrs.
Geisen-Volk for $75, and that a fake birth certificate had been made out, so
that she might deceive her husband inbto believing that she had given birth to
a baby. She had carried on the deception for eight months, but as the
Geisen-Volk investigation was getting closer and closer to her plot, she had
finally confessed to her husband.
Beass refused to keep the child. It was sent to Bellevue.
By now several bodies had been exhumed, and in the case of
one of them, William Winters, the authorities decided that they had evidence of
Mrs. Geisen-Volk had given the cause of death as heart
failure. The autopsy revealed that the child’s skull had been fractured.
According to Dr. Otto H. Schultze, the occiptial bone had been featured clear
through a few hours before death. The child had died February 3 and the body
had been exhumed on information furnished by the mother.
Late in May she was indicted for substitution and for
manslaughter. She pleaded not guilty to the latter charge. Her appearances in
court were invariably marked by scenes of distress. The accused woman gave the
appearance of being terribly maligned.
~ Cooley’s Report. ~
On July 15 she pleaded guilty to the charge of substitution.
Her lawyer, Newman Levy, informed the court that the woman had been the “victim
of sensationalism.” The defense promised to tell the whole truth about the
Angerer baby at the next arraignment.
A week later Mrs. Geisen-Volk was sentenced.
Edwin J. Cooley, a probation officer, had investigated the
woman’s career and submitted a report, part of which we have quoted. The report
stated that since February, 1918, at least fifty-three infants intrusted to her
care had died. She was called “cruel and bestial.”
The report stated that she had “strangled or frozen to death
or otherwise disposed of babies left in her custody in order that she might
reap a profit through her acts.”
After reading the report, the late Judge John F. McIntyre
called her to the witness stand.
“What did you do with the Angerer child?” he asked.
“I died, and I left it in a hallway in a satchel,” she
“Why did you do that?”
She said one of the relatives of the baby had asked her to
“I think you are lying,” said the court. “This report
indicates that you are a fiend incarnate. I see no extenuating circumstances
Ordered from the stand, Mrs. Geisen-Volk screamed and had to
be carried out for a while. When she
came back, clutching her Bible, Judge McIntyre gave her the maximum sentence.
He sentenced her serve three and one-half to seven years in
So Mrs. Geisen-Volk went to Auburn, the authorities deciding
that it would be a difficult matter to convict her of manslaughter in connection with the death of the Winters child,
or in connection with any of the other shocking cases of her baby farm.
[“What Has Happened to Justice?” Atlanta Constitution (Ga.),
Apr. 29, 1928, The Sunday Constitution Magazine, p. 5]