Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Jesse Harding Pomeroy


Years passed. A new century dawned and soon cars replaced the horses on Boston's streets. The living victims of Jesse Pomeroy faded into obscurity as they grew up and tried to live normal lives. The families of Horace Millen and Katie Curran moved on with their lives, to the extent that a parent who buries a child can move on.

Jesse Pomeroy (POLICE)
Jesse Pomeroy

Ruth Pomeroy lost a son as well, but once a month she was permitted to visit him in the Charlestown prison where he had been walled up. She was the only visitor Jesse ever received.

Jesse endured a mind-numbingly boring existence in his small world of concrete and steel. He ate alone in his cell, he exercised alone in a solitary yard and periodically was allowed to bathe. He was allowed access to reading material and, always a bright boy, turned into a voracious learner. He could write in several languages, but having no one to converse with, could speak only English.

With nothing else to do, Jesse put his mind to escape. Over the years he made several attempts to dig his way out, once stopping up the gas line in his cell to try to blow up the door (some claim this was a suicide attempt) and once even succeeding in getting out of his cell.

Jesse Pomeroy in 1917 (CORBIS)
Jesse Pomeroy in 1917

The only people he ever saw were the guards who patrolled by his cell door and once a month, his mother. When she died, he received no visitors.

But soon the time came when young men sent to Charlestown prison had never heard of Jesse Pomeroy and he became just another old face in the anonymous prison crowd. This was the ultimate punishment for a sociopath like Jesse Pomeroy, and gradually his health began to deteriorate.

In 1929, 71-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was removed from the general population at Charlestown and taken by automobile to Bridgewater prison farm, where he could receive better medical care. It was his first and only ride in a car and he showed no sign of excitement or curiosity. "This prison inmate ... is a deadened creature gazing with lusterless eyes upon a world that means nothing to him," one reporter wrote.

Jesse Pomeroy died at Bridgewater two years later. He was dismissed in the press as "the most friendless person in the world," and "a psychopath."

After 58 years in prison, almost all of it spent in solitary confinement, Jesse Pomeroy's final wishes were that his body be cremated and his ashes scattered to the four winds.

Jesse Pomeroy in 1929 (CORBIS)
Jesse Pomeroy in 1929

Periodically the story of Jesse Pomeroy would resurface in the papers and a reporter would call the prison to check on his condition. They were not allowed to interview him. Throughout his imprisonment, Jesse Pomeroy considered himself innocent of his crimes and believed he was wrongly convicted. He showed no remorse or pity for his victims.

Governors came and went, wardens were assigned to Charlestown prison, met their most infamous prisoner and moved on.

Forty-one years in solitary.

Finally, in 1917, four decades after he was entombed, Jesse's sentence of confinement in solitary was relaxed and he was allowed to move to the general population. For some time, he enjoyed being the prison's most notorious inmate. He loved approaching new inmates, introducing himself and asking them what they knew about him. Most had grown up hearing of the infamous Jesse Pomeroy and were either disgusted or frightened when they realized who this old-timer was. This pleased Jesse to no end, the fact that people still knew who he was and had heard of his exploits.

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