Strange History: The Uncanny Death of George Melchior

A Ramble in Mental Telepathy

One of the many mansions that lined Chicago's Drexel Boulevard

On a cold winter night in Chicago in 1894, there occurred an incident most bizarre and remarkable. The authenticity of this event was vouched for by one of the witnesses, a doctor by the name of L.T. Potter, who was employed by the Chicago Health Department. It is a story that seems to prove the phenomenon known as mental telepathy.

On the evening mentioned, Dr. L.T. Potter and a number of his colleagues were sitting in the lobby of the Oakland Hotel, at the corner of Drexel and Oakwood boulevards, when a stranger entered the room. His fine attire suggested a man of means, but he seemed afflicted with depression and anxiety. Dr. Potter and his friends sized him up as a man who had been out drinking and needed refuge from the harsh winter cold. From his worried expression they gathered he had been caught in the storm without sufficient money in his pockets to pay for a room.

The young stranger, growing offended by the stares and speculative murmurs, addressed Dr. Potter and his friends.

"Gentlemen, I would like to explain my presence here and why I sit up in the office in preference to taking a bed. In the first place, let me assure you it is not a matter of money," said the young man, removing a large roll of bills from his pocket.

"For some years my father, who is a resident of New York, has had trouble with his family and has been a wanderer. He was at one time worth considerable money, but this has been lost, and a number of letters which I have of late received from him show me he is despondent. This afternoon I got a letter from him, dated in Detroit, saying he would arrive in Chicago tonight, take a room at this very hotel, and end his life by turning on the gas. He added that in the event of the gas failing he would send a bullet through his brains.
"Father had no idea I would get this letter today, as I have been out of town, and it was only an unexpected case of sickness in my family which brought me back. I am sitting up here to intercept him when he comes in and prevent the suicide which he contemplates. Fortunately I have means enough for both and can relieve his anxiety in this respect."

Dr. Potter was immediately fascinated by the young man's predicament, and all of the men offered to assist the stranger in any way possible. They continued to converse, but the young man refused to divulge his real name, insisting that he desperately wanted to protect his father's anonymity and reputation. "You may, however, call me Melchior. It is indeed awkward to address a man without a name, and Melchior is as good as any."

The evening passed by and around midnight the stranger's mood improved and he announced that he was taking his leave; no more trains were due to from Detroit until morning, and he took this to be a sign that his father had changed his mind about taking his life inside the Oakland Hotel.

Dr. Potter and his friends continued to talk in the hotel lobby for another hour. At around one o'clock they retired to their rooms. The night clerk retired a few minutes later, leaving an assistant in charge of the front desk. Around one thirty in walked an old gentleman with a traveling bag in his hand, who signed the hotel register with the name "George C. Melchior".

As the assistant at the desk had not heard the young stranger's story, he assigned the elderly gentleman a room. In the morning the chambermaid reported a strong smell of gas coming from one of the rooms. The door to the room was broken in and the hotel staff found George Melchior's lifeless body, with a pistol in his right hand and bullet wound in his head.

Upon hearing the news, the desk clerk who was present during the previous evening's conversation between the mysterious stranger and Dr. Potter and friends, assumed that the suicide victim was the father of the young man. The afternoon papers had a report of the suicide and later that evening the young man who refused to divulge his true identity returned to hotel asking to view the body.

Upon reaching the room where the body was being held, the young man looked at the corpse and said, "That's not father! I never saw this man before. He is not known to me."

But the young man was shown the dead man's effects, which included documents identifying the victim as George C. Melchior. The young man informed the clerk that Melchior was not his real name-- he had only used it the night before in order to protect the identity of his despondent father. He had no idea why he chose that name; it had merely been the first name that popped into his head.

No suitable explanation has ever been given for this strange incident, and the mystery of how a man giving the same name appeared at the same hotel on the same night, committing suicide in the same manner as predicted, remains unsolved. Was it sheer luck? Coincidence? Or did the distraught George C. Melchior somehow manage to "transmit" his very thoughts to a total stranger?

Chicago Daily Tribune, July 21, 1895. Page 33