1923 The main witness to the prosecution of the Fritzie Mann murder case in San Diego was a woman named Wilma Minor, who five years later became the most prominent person in the case for involvement in a strange deception. No one in San Diego predicted this more than I would have thought Wilma was involved in a completely different but even more bizarre episode ten years ago. Judging from the news in the case, she didn’t look like a man capable of such things.
In the news report, Wilma encountered an unquestionably ordinary person, a simple person chosen by fate, who will play the most sensational criminal story in the history of the city. Her only noticeable features looked like bright beauty, stylish clothing, and the actress’ flair for drama – when Wilma came in, everyone noticed. It was no accident. Few people in San Diego would have known this, but before settling there in 1922. She traveled the country for many years as an actress in woodeville musical comedies. Her mother, Cora, led the vaudeville troupe, which included her husband, Frank.
Thirty-seven in 1923 Wilma made an impression of a younger age and, when asked about her age, would have answered something closer to twenty-eight or nine. She lied all her life about her age, including official documents. With each ten-year census, Wilma’s rate of aging slowed. She was listed as twenty-one in 1910, when she was actually twenty-four; twenty-seven in 1920, when in fact thirty-four; and thirty-one in 1930, when in fact there were forty-four. Her official age never corresponded to reality. It is unlikely that any of the men in her life, including the four men she married, knew her true age.
Wilma inherited some of her traits from her mother, especially the mesmerizing effects on men, the many marriages, and the over-sensitivity over time. But because Wilma was charming and sensitive, her mother, Mrs. Cora Mickle-Hoffer, was domineering, eccentric, and a sort of vulture.
Cora has at various times called herself an actor, singer, author, playwright, poet, medium, teacher, sir, in the title of the magazine. The world of thinkers, and the founder of a secret society in Chicago called the Society of Natural Sciences. The existence of the society became clear in 1913, when a dispute between Cora and one of her acolytes turned into a legal brohaha that shocked society.
“Doctor” Herbert Ross Bumpass, a “ruthless prophet” at the Natural Sciences Society, defended himself against accusations of disorderly conduct, revealing the special course of the organization. The self-described philosopher and destiny soldier Bumpass assured that Cora had hired him to write for his magazine about his war adventures in the Boxer Rebellion and the Spanish-American War, and then refused to pay him. Instead, she offered him to come to live in her house without rent as compensation. Bumpass agreed. At Cora’s home, which was the society’s headquarters, Wilma enchanted him.
“I learned that Mrs. Little is my kinship,” Bumpass said. “I thought I deserved the closeness, as well as my room and boards for working in the magazine.”
Of course, his kinship had much in common with the curved figure of Vilma, the gray-green eyes of the bedroom, and the flirtatious charm. Cora, more liberal than average on sexual matters, agreed that Bumpass deserved communication with her daughter. Also did Vilma’s husband Frank, who said he and Vilma were married by name only. Bumpas quickly moved into William’s room.
You see, Bumpass said in court, the Natural Science Society was not a spiritual society, as Cora claimed, but a cult of free love. Cora’s house was not the headquarters of a legitimate organization, but a “temple of love.” Then Frank, whom Bumpass mockingly called a “ham actor,” did not notice such an agreement, as if he had just discovered another man sleeping with his wife under the same roof. He forcibly expelled the prophet from Cora’s house.
Cora later accused Bumpass that he and his brother had planned to burn the printing company and Cora’s house. Bumpass defended himself against arson by blaming the reputation of his former guru and her daughter. Mrs Mickle-Hoffer’s so-called “science of nature,” he said, forgiving and even promoting free love. He debated his sexual affair with William for a long time, delving into such clear details that the judge had to warn him more than once to moderate his speech. On the bench, Wilma cried and denied all of Bumpasso’s contemptuous accusations. Cora, referred to in newspapers as the “high priesthood of the utopia of supposed love,” was not so easily worshiped. She dismissed Bumpasso’s accusations and hurt herself, calling him a madman. Finally, Bumpass was acquitted.
The strange episode in Chicago caused a great stir – after all, it was in 1913, long before the carefree age of jazz relaxed the moral code of Victorian times. The cults of free love were certainly not a thing and were certainly not talked about in public.
Until 1920. Cora and Wilma abandoned the watery lifestyle. Wilma lived with Frank in Long Beach, Ca, Cora with her newest husband, Chula Vista, in a small suburb near the southern end of San Diego Bay.
1922 Wilma initially moved to San Diego. That year, she brought out of her home a short-lived dress design company called My Lady’s Dressmakers. Around that time, she broke up with Frank and began her career as an associate editor and writer Southwest Magazine, now a defunct San Diego monthly publication. She wrote traits on light topics of human interest, such as Snooky, which Wilma described at the zoo as an “almost human” chimpanzee.
After participating in the Fritzie Mann case, Wilma became a part-time writer San Diego Union. For several years, she wrote the rubric “People in the Life of Side Lights”. Wilma, known for her distinctive purple prose, once described the book as “so full of fresh air and great fervor of life that it sounds pleasantly tired to the senses like muted violin strings.”
In late 1928, Wilma was in a second marriage. Encouraged by her supposed clairvoyance and admiring mother, utilizing her writing skills and maximizing her mesmerizing influence on men, she became a celebrity of the entire country overnight, being one of the most arrogant literary deception figures of all time.
She submitted an article “Lincoln the Lover” Atlantic Monthly magazine. Her allegations included letters that Abraham Lincoln allegedly exchanged with a woman named Ann Rutledge. The backup evidence was the Bible, which Rutledge allegedly presented to the future president and her girlfriend’s diary. Some historians thought Rutledge was Abe’s first love. Some Lincoln scholars claimed that her death in 1835. It led to depression that plagued him for the rest of his life. Vilma’s letters seem to confirm this theory.
Lincoln biographers Ida Tarbell and Carl Sandburg excitedly confirmed the letters. That was enough to convince the well-rated Atlantic Monthly editor Ellery Sedgwick. He quickly edited Vilma’s purple prose and divided her serial work into three parts. The magazine paid her $ 1,500 for the articles and another $ 1,000 as an advance on the book, considerable sums in those days. Wilma spoke and enjoyed the attention.
Soon Lincoln experts noticed the letters as they were – green fakes. The handwriting of the scriptures in the letters is not like that of Lincoln. Nor was it known that the composer of the “Gettysburg Address” would write sentences such as, “The night, like a black delicate panther, gently crawled across the unshakable, true tree-lined bank.” Excited, Sandburg and Tarbel abandoned their previous statements, leaving Sedgwick to whirl in the wind.
After months of stern denial, Wilma admitted to writing letters and a fake blog, but claimed it was not a scam. The spirit guide, she said, dictated the contents of the documents to her mother, now known as Cora Deboyer. Because the spirit guide interacted directly with Abe and Ann, now together in the afterlife, the materials were authentic. Needless to say, no one bought it.
Of course, Cora was the real inventor of the deception. Edward Weeks, editor of Atlantic Monthly Press, described her as “tall and hot-eyed, her age hair suspiciously black.” Her overall appearance “somehow reminded him of a sorcerer.”
LA private eyes Atlantic Monthly hired to investigate the deception, Cora described it as “… a hard nut from both … a hard-boiled old hen who doesn’t know what the word truth means.” Wilma, on the other hand, “was very disturbed and clearly demonstrated the trials she was experiencing. For a moment, Wilma seemed ready to faint. “
The strange episode imprinted a permanent black mark on Ellery Sedgwick’s otherwise distinctive career. Along with another man involved in this scandal, he was greatly deceived by the electric drive to the beautiful William.
Vilma’s celebrity caught fire as fast as she caught fire, and she sank back into ignorance. She married two more times, continued to write, became an artist and bookwriter, and lived quietly in the San Diego area until her death in 1965.
Her obituary, which does not mention Lincoln’s letters, indicates her age of sixty-seven. She was actually seventy-nine.