Did Leo Frank kill Mary Phagan? 106 years later, we might finally find out for sure by Steve Oney, Atlanta Magazine, July 2019

by Curator on July 30, 2019

Debunking the embarrassingly obvious con games which will be used to maliciously exonerate Leo Frank.

The assertion by Steve Oney in his 2003 magnum opus (And The Dead Shall Rise), and 2019 article (Atlanta Magazine, July 2019) of bite wounds on Mary Phagan’s body, being real material evidence which tends to exonerate Leo Frank, was originally a 1964 hoax, published by fake news Globe-Trotting journalist Pierre van Paassen in his final book “To Number Our Days”. Van Paassen was quite the prolific writer during his adult life as a foreign correspondent and author, between the 30-year span of 1934 and 1964, when he penned a considerable number of books. Modern analysis and fact-checking of his voluminous work tend to reveal the common tendency of him being an unreliable self-promoter and colorful huckster who served biased interests, using pushy or showy tactics.

Is Pierre Van Paassen Credible?

International Journalist-Author Pierre van Paassen is far from a credible source, he claimed in his autobiography to have seen on several occasions a poltergeist black dog which would magically appear and disappear at will. To make things even more unbelievable, he describes witnessing this same ghost dog using invisible, supernatural powers, which caused his own German Sheppard police dog to have a heart attack, and die on the spot (Days of Our Years, 1939, pages 248-251).

The first clue Pierre van Paassen is not a reliable source of factual information, comes from reading his 404-page book (‘To Number Our Days’, 1964), filled from beginning to end with egomaniac and fantastic tall tales, defying basic common sense, logic, and reason.

Pierre van Paassen stated in his recollections that while visiting Palestine, he dressed himself up in blackface as a minstrel-like character to feign being a Mohammedan, rubbing burned cork on his white face, and supposedly fooling Arab leadership staff managing the Dome of the Rock, so he could enter the famous golden-domed mosque in Jerusalem, (because only Muslims are ever allowed to enter Dome of the Rock). As if anyone would have been fooled by a White man smearing pitch-black make-up all over their face and thus looking like a racist clown, in an attempt to successfully pretend to be a faithful Muslim adherent and tricking learned-followers of the Islamic faith into believing him too. Doubtful such an outlandish and insolent approach by a White Canadian, who was not a Muslim, would have worked to hoodwink anyone.

The Tip of the Iceberg

His demonic killer ghost dog story and minstrel Mosque caper, cited above, and his now-famous ‘Mary Phagan Bite Wound Hoax’ are just a few examples of the incongruous juxtapositions which are found, literally by the dozens, throughout his books, and give the impression of being wildly unrealistic and too flawed to believe, but he presents them as factual recollections.

Origin of the 1964 Mary Phagan Bite Wound Hoax

Van Paassen first invented and promoted the Phagan bite wound legend in his last book “To Number Our Days” and since then Leo Frank defenders have been restating it in the mainstream media and through book publishing houses as part of their multigenerational arguments that Leo Frank was innocent by the weight of historical consensus.  However, none of the Atlanta daily news articles or autopsy reports from the state medical examiner of the day, mention bite marks on Mary Phagan’s shoulders or neckline, even pro-Frank sources, never mention the alleged teeth mark-wounds before 1964 (51 years after she was raped and strangled by Leo Frank in 1913).

Mary Phagan’s body was examined by police, the undertaker Mr. Geesling and several physicians for 2 days after she was found dead in the National Pencil Company factory on April 27th, 1913, and she was even exhumed from her grave on May 5th, 1913 (she was buried Tuesday, April 29th, 1913 and removed from her grave on May 5th before being reinterred afterward) for another autopsy, but none of these reports mention bite wounds on her body. Moreover, there was no conspiracy by state government officials in Atlanta Georgia to cover-up a black man’s guilt in the White cultural separatist Georgia of 1913, as many of Leo Frank’s defenders and coreligionists have suggested otherwise.

Harry Golden and Leonard Dinnerstein Mainstream the Mary Phagan Tooth Wound on Flesh FlimFlam in the 1960s that’s almost 6 generations in the making with at least 60 years worth of authors repeating the legend as a kind of truth

The repetition of this false assertion about bite indentations on Mary Phagan’s throat and shoulder area started spreading bay academic parasites with publications from Jewish activist Harry Golden in his book, A Little Girl is Dead, 1964 (page 53) and Leonard Dinnerstein, who did his substandard Ph.D. dissertation (based largely on academic fraud accusing the South of an anti-Semitism which did not exist) about the Leo Frank case in 1966

Dinnerstein also promotes the bite wound photograph bamboozle in his pseudo-scholarly book, The Leo Frank Case, 1968. Admittedly by objectivity, it’s an effective fraud to promote for tricking ordinary people into believing Leo Frank was framed, railroaded and wrongfully convicted. The average person is not going to read the dry pages of legal records and reports connected with the postmortem of Mary Phagan. And in the full sweep of legal records not a single mention of violent bite wounds anywhere on Mary Phagan exists in the 3,000 pages of trial and appeals records with regards to Leo Frank’s criminal debackle. Nor is there even a single mention that Leo Frank had X-ray photographs conducted on his teeth, by anyone, anywhere before 1964. Leo Frank never mentioned in any of his interviews with the Atlanta press organs or his high powered attorneys that we know of about X-rays and bite indentures on Phagan’s Dermal-skin layers and exterior. How can justice prevail for Mary Phagan when such fallacious legends are presented as true by so many members of Leo Frank’s rehabilitation team over multiple generations.

Summary of To Number Our Days by Pierre van Paassen

Pierre van Paassen, weaves together a lifetime of phantasmagorical personal stories, ostentatious tall tales, and deliciously embellished memories as a travel correspondent in his epic memoirs, ‘To Number Our Days’ (405 pages), published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York. Ground Zero for one of the most popular Leo Frank hoaxes.

Historical Notability

Pierre van Paassen (February 7, 1895 – January 8, 1968) is most often cited post-1964, for his unverifiable claim that in 1922, while he was investigating the Leo Frank case files at the Fulton County Superior Courthouse of Atlanta, Georgia, he made an incredible discovery of a sheaf containing human flesh X-rays of Mary Phagan and dental photographs of Leo Frank from 1913, suggesting it was “concealed evidence” which unequivocally proved Leo Frank was actually innocent of raping and strangling Mary Phagan.

The second clue Pierre Van Paassen is not a reliable source of factual history regarding the Mary Phagan murder, comes from the fact that when he published his book (4 years before he died at the age of 73 in 1968), he was supposedly recollecting memories from 1922, about 7 years after the Leo Frank affair concluded at the end of a hangman’s noose, and there was a separation of about 42 years of time, between the alleged event in 1922, and the publication of his book in 1964. How reliable is the memory of a man nearly 70 years old writing about something from his 30s? Any court expert or psychologist familiar with the reliability of human memory — especially concerning when someone near the end of their lifespan, reports something after more than half a lifetime had passed — can tell you the veracity is highly suspect and unreliable after decades transpired from the initial incident, especially in a politically charged case like this one. Whether his memory was good or not, the claim of bite wounds on Mary Phagan’s neck and shoulders does not comport with any of the autopsy reports. It is difficult to believe the Doctors who performed autopsies on Mary Phagan would intentionally omit bite marks from their findings and testimony at the trial of Leo Frank.

Frankites: Leo Frank’s Defenders Promote the Mary Phagan Neck and Shoulder Bite Wound Hoax

Several of the most notable Leo Frank partisan authors (Steve Oney, Harry Golden, Leonard Dinnerstein, Elaine Marie Alphin, Jeffrey Paul Melnick, and others) cite Pierre van Paassen’s alleged earth-shattering discovery as ineluctable proof that posthumously exculpates Leo M. Frank. These are people with academic credentials who are willing to promote falsified evidence which was invented half a century after the sex-murder occurred. This is what history is up against, a tribalist stacking of the deck and accusations of Anti-Semitism if you point it out! We now have more or less the grand library of everything notable said about the 1913 truecrime case up until 2019 by partisans and detractors of Leo Frank.

Leo Frank’s Detractors Debunk the Bite Wound Hoax

Leo Frank detractors have described Pierre van Paassen’s newfangled evidence as a deeply incredulous fraud, some dubbing it, “The Mary Phagan Bitemark Hoax”, because they believe this dubious material was never mentioned in any of the well documented legal proceedings concerning Leo Frank’s trial and appeals between 1913 to 1915 (see Leo Frank’s Georgia Supreme Court appears which include the trial brief of evidence), nor was the subject ever broached or taken seriously by legal scholars, during efforts to obtain a posthumous pardon for Frank between the years 1982 to 1986. Moreover, many history students of the Phagan-Frank legal proceedings, say, Pierre van Paassen is the only person who ever claims to have seen these non-existent medical images. As observers, we might ask: why would those who were supposedly trying to frame Leo Frank, put such obviously vindicating evidence among his official legal records, when they were never cited at any time between the full sweep of his legal travails between 1913-1915, and whatever happened to these alleged items after he supposedly reviewed them?

The excerpt that discusses the case of Leo Frank and Van Paassen’s discovery of photographic medical evidence, pages 237 and 238:

The Jewish community of Atlanta at that time seemed to live under a cloud. Several years previously one of its members, Leo Frank, had been lynched as he was being transferred from the Fulton Tower Prison in Atlanta to Milledgeville for trial on a charge of having raped and murdered a little girl in his warehouse which stood right opposite the Constitution building. Many Jewish citizens who recalled the lynching were unanimous in assuring me that Frank was innocent of the crime.

I took to reading all the evidence pro and con in the record department at the courthouse. Before long I came upon an envelope containing a sheaf of papers and a number of X-ray photographs showing teeth indentures. The murdered girl had been bitten on the left shoulder and neck before being strangled. But the X-ray photos of the teeth marks on her body did not correspond with Leo Frank’s set of teeth of which several photos were included. If those photos had been published at the time of the murder, as they should have been, the lynching would probably not have taken place.

Though, as I said, the man died several years before, it was not too late, I thought, to rehabilitate his memory and perhaps restore the good name of his family. I showed Clark Howell the evidence establishing Frank’s innocence and asked permission to run a series of articles dealing with the case and especially with the evidence just uncovered. Mr. Howell immediately concurred, but the most prominent Jewish lawyer in the city, Mr. Harry Alexander, whom I consulted with a view to have him present the evidence to the grand jury, demurred. He said Frank had not even been tried. Hence no new trial could be requested. Moreover, the Jewish community in its entirety still felt nervous about the incident. If I wrote the articles old resentments might be stirred up and, who knows, some of the unknown lynchers might recognize themselves as participants in my description of the lynching. It was better, Mr. Alexander thought, to leave sleeping lions alone. Some local rabbis were drawn into the discussion and they actually pleaded with Clark Howell to stop me from reviving interest in the Frank case as this was bound to have evil repercussions on the Jewish community.

That someone had blabbed out of school became quite evident when I received a printed warning saying: “Lay off the Frank case if you want to keep healthy.” The unsigned warning was reinforced one night or, rather, early one morning when I was driving home. A large automobile drove up alongside of me and forced me into the track of a fast-moving streetcar coming from the opposite direction. My car was demolished, but I escaped without a scratch…

Source: To Number Our Days by Pierre van Paassen (see pages 237, 238 about the Leo Frank case):
WWW: http://archive.org/details/ToNumberOurDaysByPierreVanPaassen

The Scholarly Debunking of the Mary Phagan Bite Wound Hoax

In reality, X-ray technology was in its infancy in 1913, and it was never possible to X-ray bite marks on the skin in 1913 or today (ask any X-ray technician). Vehicles had virtually no safety features to speak of in 1922, so the chances of someone walking away “without a scratch” from a head-on collision is a bald-faced lie. Was Leo Frank’s appeals attorney named “Harry Alexander” (false) or Henry Alexander (correct)? Leo Frank was not lynched before he had his trial. He was tried and sentenced to death by Judge Leonard Strickland Roan on August 26, 1913. The hanging took place nearly two years later on August 17, 1915. Leo Frank went on trial in Atlanta, not 125 miles away in Milledgeville where the hoaxer suggests the trial was scheduled.

Strangely enough, even though the Mary Phagan bite wound hoax has been thoroughly exposed as a fraud by modern research scholars and forensic scientists, 21st-century efforts to exonerate Leo Frank with fabricated evidence in the popular culture, continues, with Jews and to a lesser extent, politically correct Gentile liberals, citing the disingenuous rumors created by Pierre van Paassen as evidence of Leo Frank’s wrongful conviction.

Further Reading:

Golden, Harry, A Little Girl is Dead, 1964 and The Lynching of Leo Frank 1965 (Same book)
https://archive.org/details/ALittleGirlIsDeadByHarryGolden

Leonard Dinnerstein (born May 5, 1934 – died January 22nd, 2019) completed his Ph.D., Dissertation in History on the Leo Max Frank Case (1966) for the Political Science Department of Columbia University. One of the central themes of his dissertation is Anti-Semitism was responsible for railroading an innocent Jewish man, who was convicted for the murder of Mary Phagan in 1913. Dinnerstein’s dissertation became the species for his book, “The Leo Frank Case”, which would go through a number of editions in its evolution beginning in 1968 when the first edition was released to the public. In 1991, he released a revised edition which included information on the newfangled Alonzo Mann story and posthumous pardon of Leo Frank which ensued.

Dinnerstein, Leonard (1968), Leo M. Frank and the American Jewish Community, American Jewish Archive Journal, November 1968, Volume 20, Number 2: http://archive.org/details/LeoFrankAndTheAmericanJewishCommunity This is the major scholarly source of Leonard Dinnerstein’s academic dishonesty about mobs of anti-Semites outside the Fulton County Superior Court, who were allegedly screaming murderous and terrorist threats directly at the judge and jury, through the open windows of the building.

Dinnerstein, Leonard (1966) Leo Frank Case Ph.D. Dissertation in History for the Political Science Department of Columbia University: http://www.archive.org/details/TheLeoFrankCase1966Dissertation. The central thesis of his disseration is anti-Semitism was behind the suspicion, indictment, conviction, rejected appeals and hanging of Leo Frank.

Dinnerstein, Leonard (1968), The Leo Frank Case Book: http://www.archive.org/details/TheLeoFrankCaseByLeonardDinnerstein

Van Paassen, Pierre (1964), To Number Our Days (see pages 237, 238 about the Phagan-Frank medical evidence hoax): http://archive.org/details/ToNumberOurDaysByPierreVanPaassen

The Leo Frank Case Georgia Supreme Court Case Records Archive (1,800+ pages contains Leo Frank’s trial brief and appeals to the state supreme court of Georgia). http://archive.org/details/leo-frank-georgia-supreme-court-case-records-1913-1914

* * *

A review of the Leo Frank case could reopen old wounds—and exonerate an innocent man

STEVE ONEY

MAY 31, 2019

In early May, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced that he will reopen one of the most notorious criminal proceedings in American history: the trial of National Pencil Company superintendent Leo M. Frank for the murder of child laborer Mary Phagan. The review will be supervised by the newly formed Conviction Integrity Unit, a panel created to look into cold cases. Former Governor Roy Barnes will serve as a consultant. Standing at Howard’s side during a news conference, Barnes said, “There is no doubt in my mind that we’ll prove that Leo Frank is not guilty.”

If the judgment of time is the deciding factor, the unit will indeed find Frank innocent. In the years since the April 26, 1913 murder, a consensus has emerged about what happened in Frank’s downtown Atlanta factory that day: The killer was Jim Conley, a black janitor who was the state’s star witness against Frank. While researching And the Dead Shall Rise, my 2003 book on the case, I too reached the same conclusion. This is not, of course, how Georgians first saw it. An all-white jury accepted Conley’s word over that of Frank, his Jewish boss, and the judge sentenced Frank to die by hanging.

The spectacle of a Jim Crow–era court relying on a black man’s testimony to convict a white man of murder was remarkable, but the nation remembers the case because of what happened next. Following extensive coverage in the press and appeals that ran all the way to the United States Supreme Court, Governor John Slaton commuted Frank’s death sentence in June 1915. Shortly thereafter, a group of men from Marietta, Phagan’s hometown, abducted Frank from the Georgia prison farm in Milledgeville, drove him to Marietta, and lynched him. Several months later, the Ku Klux Klan, which had disbanded following Reconstruction, reestablished itself at a cross-burning atop Stone Mountain.

The Frank case opened a deep vein of anti-Semitism in America, unleashing furies that remain part of the national psyche. (The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to combat those furies.) As a result, any discussion of the subject is difficult. Emotions about it run strong, and, while a majority now believes the factory superintendent was guiltless, others resent what they regard as a knee-jerk acceptance of that fact. Howard’s investigators will need to keep this in mind if they are to vindicate Frank. The affair pitted Jew against Gentile, white against black, rural against urban. Regardless of the outcome, not everyone will be happy.

Attempts to clear Frank’s name are nothing new. In 1982, Atlanta lawyers Charles Wittenstein and Dale Schwartz sought a posthumous pardon for him. The application was based on the revelations of 83-year-old Alonzo Mann, who as a 14-year-old boy was Frank’s office assistant. In a deposition, Mann swore that on the day of the murder, he entered the factory lobby and saw Conley carrying Phagan’s body. Conley, Mann said, threatened that if he mentioned this to anyone, he’d kill him.

Mann’s story was not only dramatic, but it seemed to give the lie to a central part of Conley’s testimony. Conley asserted that Frank murdered Phagan, who worked for pennies an hour on the factory building’s second floor, after she resisted his sexual advances. He said that Frank then recruited him to cover up the crime and that he transported the body by elevator directly to the factory basement, where the police discovered it the next day. According to Conley, he was never in the lobby with the body. Mann’s statement refuted that.

Powerful as this was, the application for a posthumous pardon—which was opposed by the Phagan family and relatives of Hugh Dorsey, Frank’s prosecutor—failed. The Georgia Pardon and Paroles board announced, “After exhaustive review and many hours of deliberation, it is impossible to decide conclusively the guilt or innocence of Leo M. Frank. For the board to grant a pardon, the innocence of the subject must be shown conclusively.” The board felt Conley may simply have lied about the route he took to get the body to the basement and that Frank could still have committed the murder.

In 1986, Wittenstein and Schwartz reapplied to the board. This time, they sought an apology from Georgia for its failure to protect Frank from the lynch party. The board agreed, but the factory superintendent’s conviction remained intact.

Other efforts to vindicate Frank have proven just as futile. The first came in 1922 when Pierre Van Paassen, a young Dutch journalist working at the Atlanta Constitution, became obsessed with the story. While going through Dorsey’s files, he discovered what he determined to be a telling discrepancy between photos of bite wounds on Phagan’s body and Frank’s dental x-rays. The girl’s murderer, he determined, could not have been the factory superintendent: The photos and the x-rays did not match.

The Constitution, capitulating to pressure from Atlanta Jews fearful of stirring up anti-Semitic sentiments, refused to print Van Paassen’s findings. Not until the 1964 publication of his memoir, To Number Our Days, was the evidence that Van Paassen thought absolved Frank made public. But still, no action was taken.

In 1943, Atlanta lawyer Arthur Powell, in a book entitled I Can Go Home Again, asserted that he possessed material exonerating Frank, yet once more Georgia’s Jewish community argued against revealing the information, which was said to implicate Conley. “I accept full responsibility for advising Judge Powell to destroy the memorandum,” wrote fellow Atlanta lawyer Max Goldstein. “It would have merely resulted in renewing the agitation.”

Again and again, in other words, those hoping to prove Frank’s innocence have hit a wall, which leads to the question hovering over the latest attempt: Why is this time different from others?

The involvement of Roy Barnes could provide that difference. The former governor is a native of the Marietta area, and his wife is a granddaughter of a Frank lynch party member. Barnes has a deep understanding of the stain the affair has left on Georgia. He wants to confront the troubled past and bring the truth into the open.

The question is how. Conley disappeared from the public record after a 1941 gambling arrest. There is no death certificate for him. Dorsey’s dossiers on the case, which included the dental x-rays that intrigued Van Paassen, were lost or destroyed sometime during the 1960s following the suicide of his son, James, the family archivist. Even the trial transcript is missing.

There is, however, one promising source: a study conducted by Conley’s lawyer, William M. Smith. The morning after Phagan’s murder, the police found two strange notes by her body. Conley swore that Frank dictated the notes to him in hopes of directing suspicion at another black factory worker. The story was improbable, but in the heat of the moment, the jury and most Georgians believed it. Following the trial, Smith examined the notes, comparing them to other written and spoken remarks by Conley. He determined that the notes, contrary to Conley’s testimony, were not dictated by Frank. They feature Conley’s syntax, misspellings, and slang. According to Smith, they are Conley’s compositions.

Smith’s study of the notes is on file at the Georgia Archives. It persuasively points the finger at Conley, it played a role in Slaton’s commutation decision, and it convinced me. Dusted off and presented anew, the study could establish Frank’s innocence as not just a matter of opinion but of fact. Howard and Barnes should start there.

This article appears in our July 2019 issue.

Direct link: https://www.atlantamagazine.com/news-culture-articles/did-leo-frank-kill-mary-phagan-106-years-later-we-might-finally-find-out-for-sure/

Previous post:

Next post: