Just after lunch time on 2 January, 1935, a young man entered the Hotel President in Kansas City, Missouri. He had no luggage and asked if he could have a room for the night. He signed his name as “Roland T. Owen” was given the key for room 1046. Shortly afterwards, the maid arrived to clean the room. As she opened the door, she found the man sitting on the bed in the dark. Even though it was still light outside, he had tightly drawn the blind. She recalled that the man seemed somewhat afraid or nervous. As she was cleaning, he put on his coat and left the room, asking her to leave the door unlocked because he was expecting a friend to arrive later on. At approximately 4PM, the maid arrived at room 1046 to leave fresh towels for the evening. The man was lying on the bed with a note beside him which read: “Don, I will be back in fifteen minutes. Wait.”
The following morning, the maid arrived once again to clean the room. Once again, she found the man sitting in the dark. As she cleaned around him, he took a call from “Don” and told him he wasn’t going to get any breakfast. Before she left, he began to question her about her role within the hotel and what duties she was to carry out. When she returned later on in the afternoon with more fresh towels, an unidentified male grunted that they didn’t need any. Later on in the afternoon, another guest reported hearing a woman’s voice coming from room 1046 and relayed that she sounded angry. At around 11pm that night, a man driving downtown saw a man running down the street in pants and a shirt - strange clothing choice for the brisk winter air, he though. The man asked the driver, who he initially mistook as a taxi driver, if he could give them a lift to somewhere that he could flag down a taxi. He noted that the oddly dressed man had a large wound on his arm and looked in a bad shape.
Back at the Hotel President the next morning, it was noticed that the phone in room 1046 was left off the hook. A bellboy was sent up to inform the guest. When nobody answered, he used a master key to enter the room. At first glance, he saw blood smeared over the walls and over the floor. In the bathroom, “Roland T. Owen” was on his knees with rope tied around his neck and wrists. He had been repeatedly stabbed and bludgeoned across the head. Still clinging to life, he said he had “fell against the bathtub.” He died later on that night. An investigation of the room turned up nothing. Not one piece of clothing could be found nor any complimentary hygiene products or towels. It was soon discovered that the man had given a fake name, thus his body was displayed at a local funeral home in the hopes that somebody could recognise him. The man who had picked up the bewildered hitchhiker the night before recognised him immediately. Multiple people from separate establishments, including other hotels and even a wrestling arena, came forward to identify him. However, each person that identified him said that he gave a different name.
As the weeks passed, the man remained unidentified, even though many could identify him by appearance. He was intended to be buried in the city’s cemetery for the unidentified but as locals caught wind of this, police received an anonymous letter from somebody who asked them to hold the burial off until they would be able to forward a hefty amount for a decent burial and funeral. Days later, the money came in and he was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery. A local florist also received an anonymous donation for a bouquet of flowers that were signed off with “Love Forever - Louise.” Other than a couple of investigators working on the case, nobody attended the funeral.
The case remained cold until 1936, when Eleanor Ogletree read about the murder in a magazine. She believed the description of the man sounded like her brother, 17-year-old Artemus Ogletree, who had been missing since 1934. The family had assumed he was okay because in spring of 1935 - months after “Roland T. Owen” died - they had received several typewritten letters from Artemus, claiming he was sailing to Europe. The family were initially suspicious of these letters because Artemus couldn’t type. A few months after these letters, they received a phone call from a man who told them that Artemus had saved his life in Egypt and that he was happily married to a woman he had met in his travels.
The Ogletree family were shown a photo of the murder victim. It was Artemus, they unfortunately confirmed. His identification led to even more questions. Why had he used so many fake names? Who was the woman in his room? Who was Don? What happened to him the evening he was picked up by the driver, looking dishevelled? Who paid for his funeral? Who was Louise? Who sent the letters to his family? And finally, who killed him and why?
Tonight’s Art Moment is “The Lonely Tower,” an etching by Samuel Palmer from 1879. Palmer was deeply pious and experienced a mystical beauty in nature. This late work shows two shepherds guarding their sheep as they watch a distant tower. To the left, a lonely traveler ascends a path with his cart. Palmer’s work is notable for his nuanced approach to the night sky, which includes the constellation of the Great Bear and the waning moon on the horizon. The etching was inspired by the poem “Il Penseroso” by John Milton (1608-1674), which describes a lonely poet working in his tower. Palmer wrote of his aim in this work to convey “mysterious suggestion. More meant than meets the eye….” From the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s Facebook page.
Jul. 8: Huntington Bank Pavillion - Northerly Island (CHICAGO, ILLINOIS) Jul. 10: Air Canada Centre (TORONTO, ONTARIO) Jul. 12: Blue Bank Pavillion (BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS) Jul. 13: Festival Pier - Penn’s Landing (PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA) Jul. 15: Québec City Summer Festival (QUÉBEC CITY, QUÉBEC) Jul. 17: Merriweather Post Pavillion (WASHINGTON, D.C) Aug. 11-13: Outside Lands Festival (SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA) Sep. 15-17: Meadows Festival (NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK) Sep. 18: Fox Theatre (DETROIT, MICHIGAN) Sep. 20: Roy Wilkins Auditorium (MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA) Sep. 22: Sprint Center (KANSA CITY, MISSOURI) Sep. 24: Life is Beautiful (LAS VEGAS, NEVADA) Sep. 26: Red Rocks Amphitheater (DENVER, COLORADO) Sep. 30: KeyArena (SEATTLE, WASHINGTON) Oct. 5: The Forum (LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA) Oct. 11: Infinite Energy Center (ATLANTA, GEORGIA) Oct. 13-15: Ill Points Festival (MIAMI, FLORIDA)