7 Cases of Deadly Pitchfork Stabbings

Getting fatally stabbed by a pitchfork does not only happen in B-rated horror movies. In fact, pitchfork deaths were once fairly common throughout Europe, and the United States. And while the pitchfork seems like it would be a rather awkward weapon to defend oneself with or to be used in an attack, it was often the handiest weapon within reach when the moment of rage would strike.

How One Man Faced Rejection

Many of the pitchfork murders of the past were committed over matters of love. For instance, in Pas-de-Calais, northern France, 1885, a young farmer named Alfred Gaudin fell in love with the daughter of a neighboring farmer.

The young woman, however, had no interest in Gaudin and continuously rejected his advances. When Gaudin’s obsession reached the young woman’s father, Gaudin was informed that he could not have the woman’s hand in marriage.

This forthright rejection from both the daughter and the father made Gaudin so angry that he threatened to kill the young woman on many occasions.

One day, after the young woman finished her work in the field, Gaudin approached her. He must have seemed calm because she agreed to allow him to walk her home.

Holding his pitchfork as they strolled, they reached a by-lane, and it was there that his rage for the woman overcame him. Hidden by the embankments, he stabbed his victim in the face, neck, and chest with the pitchfork.

After the horrible deed was completed, Gaudin returned to the village and publicly announced, “I have killed Augustine Sinot; she won’t worry me anymore!”

Gaudin was arrested and found guilty of murder. His sentence was ten years’ penal servitude. [1]

The New Woman

Men were not the only ones who used pitchforks as weapons. In fact, there are many cases in the past where women have grabbed hold of a pitchfork for use in self defense. However, there was a case in Virginia, 1895, where a woman used a pitchfork in the midst of a jealous rage.

It was a sensational bit of news at the time, being reported all across the United States. Mrs. Martha Wallen confronted the “other” woman, Miss Lane Wallace. It turned out that Martha’s husband was paying a bit too much attention to the very single Miss Lane and Martha was of a mind to put an end to the affair.

The two woman argued and as Martha’s jealousy became uncontrollable, she stabbed Miss Lane multiple times with the ever handy pitchfork.

Nothing was printed of her subsequent arrest or trial, but all the articles at that time stated that the husband had fled the country. [2]

A Matter of Property

Besides love, property was another underlying reason for many pitchfork murders from the past. People felt very strongly about what was theirs, or what once used to be theirs.

In 1870, Tipperary, Ireland, Kirwan was sent to take possession of a farm. The Gleesons had been evicted from their leased farm and Kirwan was the bailiff, acting on behalf of the landlord.

Amidst the turmoil of removing the Gleeson family from their residence, Mr. Gleeson asked Kirwan if he could enter the home office to grab a few of his personal belongings. Kirwan denied Gleeson’s request and returned to his work of locking the place down.

As Kirwan began locking down the outhouses, Gleeson grabbed hold of a pitchfork and brutally mutilated Kirwan with it. After Kirwan hit the ground, Gleeson grabbed hold of two rocks and finished the bailiff off by bashing his brains out.

The body of the bailiff was discovered a few hours later and Gleeson was questioned on what had happened. He confessed to his guilt and was committed to trial. [3]

The Mercer Island Pitchfork Murderer

Mercer Island in Washington state began to be settled in the late 1800s, but it did not take long for the island to experience its first real tragedy. In the summer of 1920, news of the “Mercer Island Pitchfork Murderer” made the front page of the Seattle newspapers.

As the story goes, Jim Sphyridis was with 11-year-old Mary Jane Pappas, when he started spouting off swear words. Mary, being young, chastised the man for using such hard language and, in one report, it was stated that the young girl tormented her father’s friend Jim as he worked in a hay field.

Jim eventually reached the end of his patience, grabbed hold of a pitchfork and, in retaliation, threw the pitchfork at her, javelin style, and speared her through the neck.

Realizing what he had done, Jim took off. A posse was formed to track the man down, but many believed that he had already escaped the island.

It is not known if Jim was ever discovered. One newspaper report claimed there was a rumor that the man had drowned himself and another newspaper article stated that the girl’s father went off in search of Jim to bring him to justice. [4][5]

The Servant Girl Nobody Liked

Clara Durose was a typical fifteen-year-old servant girl in Burton upon Trent, England, 1910. She did her work on the farm and nagged quite a bit according to one of the farm lads. However, the young woman also began to write to her older sister about being abused on the farm. She claimed that the farm hands would hit her and the mistress was cruel to her. In fact, Clara wanted to leave her work, but she was afraid she would be beaten if she attempted to leave.

One day, the farm lad who had complained of Clara’s nagging knocked her down. Clara complained to the mistress and the mistress questioned the lad. He admitted to shoving the girl, but said her nagging was good enough reason for him to do it.

The mistress accepted this answer and shortly afterwards, Clara was found dead. Her skull had been fractured and the wound in her head “went downwards and backwards, and continued into the brain.” One doctor suggested the weapon could have been a nail, but another doctor said the wound was made with a pitchfork.

The weapon was never discovered and those involved in the household circled round to protect each other from the accusation of murder. In the end, the verdict was “murder by some person unknown.” [6]

Angry Young Man

Eighteen-year-old Herbert Snell lived as an indoor servant on a farm in South Wheatley, U.K. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. George Hardy, were an elderly couple and were well respected in their small village.

One Sunday evening in 1882, Mrs. Hardy and two of the servants went to the 6 p.m. chapel service and left Mr. Hardy alone by the fireplace while Herbert ate his dinner in the kitchen. Upon their return, both men could not be found.

A search took place and the bruised and battered body of Mr. Hardy was found. He had a gash along the side of his head, several inches long, that penetrated deep into his brain. Other wounds showed on his head, neck, and shoulder. Beside his body were two pieces of wood and a pitchfork that had been broken into halves.

The Retford police were brought to the scene and, soon enough, young Herbert was in their custody.

While it was unknown what caused Herbert to murder Mr. Hardy that night, the young man was known to have quite a temper. A week previous to the murder, Herbert had assaulted a young maid and kicked her repeatedly in the kitchen. Mr. and Mrs. Hardy were aware of the event and told the young woman to take out a summons against Herbert.

A jury found Herbert Snell guilty of willful murder and he was given a sentence of death. [7][8]

Horse Stable

It is not surprising that there should be pitchforks in a horse stable. What is surprising is that so many people choose the pitchfork as their murder weapon, despite the fact that it is a long and awkward tool.

However, in a San Francisco stable back in 1893, the murderer chose the pitchfork over the other tools that were probably within easy grasp.

As the story goes, John Kelly worked in the horse stables. It was far from a friendly environment and John had many enemies among the other stablemen.

One night there was a boxing tournament and John entered the competition and somehow feathers got a bit ruffled amongst the men.

That night, John returned to his quarters in the stalls to settle in for the night. Suddenly, rocks were thrown against the outside walls and John went out to see what the fuss was about. Another man waited for him, possibly one of the jockeys, and attacked John with a pitchfork.

John’s face and neck were gashed by the pitchfork’s prongs and when the attack was finished, the pitchfork was left beside his lifeless body. [9]

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