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McHenry County Historical Society CSI Tour Unveils Infamous Sites

Local historians plot out tour Saturday, May 19, that will expose McHenry County's darker side.

James Dacey’s name is intertwined with McHenry County history as the only person executed in the county. He was publicly hanged in July 1886 near the old courthouse in Woodstock.

Ed Urban, a local historian, has done research into Dacey’s case, as well as other McHenry County criminal cases. Dacey was sentenced to death for the murder of a Chicago man. Local residents purchased tickets to watch Dacey’s execution — which was the norm in the 1800s, he said.

The location of Dacey’s death is one of about 30 locations throughout the county featured in the McHenry County Historical Society’s CSI Bus Tour this weekend.

Urban, a local police officer, and historian Craig Pfannkuche, will guide the tour and have researched some of the area’s most infamous crime locations from the 19th and 20th century.

The idea of a CSI bus tour came about during a meeting of the McHenry County Historical Society, said society Director Nancy Fike.

The historical society did a lecture on crimes and a joke was made that if you want an audience, you do a lecture on mayhem, sex or food, Fike said. Urban and Pfannkuche started talking about the popularity of crime shows like the CSI franchise and thought the historical society could do its own version of CSI, she said.

“We have the seamier side of history, just like every place,” Fike said. “There are going to be bad people, just like good people.”

Urban and Pfannkuche have been working on mapping the tour since the beginning of the year.

The tour will include stops at places throughout the county, including Fox River Grove, where the Crystal Ballroom was located. It was considered one of the most glamorous 1920s-era dance hall in the area, according to www.angelfire.com. Famous names like Glenn Miller performed there, and it drew a notorious crowd — like legendary bank robber John Dillinger and Lester Jospeh Gillis, known as George Nelson or Baby-Face Nelson, a bank robber and murderer.

Dillinger and his gang went to the Crystal Ballroom after fleeing from a raid and heading to Wisconsin to escape federal authorities, where a famous shootout occurred, Urban said.

Some sites obviously are different than they were 50, 60, or 100 years ago but the historians will tell the story of what happened at the site.

The cases, which date from the 1840s to the 2000s, which will be featured on the tour include:

The Wollert murder

Algonquin resident Hannah Wollert was convicted of shooting her stepdaughter, 13, in 1898. She was convicted of the murder and sent to prison.

The Eldredge murders

Illinois Department of Conservation Deputy Game Warden Earle Eldredge was killed in 1907 while investigating poachers near Ringwood, according to Officer Down Memorial Page’s website. His brother, Charles Eldredge, also worked as a deputy game warden, and he was murdered 24 years later with the same gun used to kill his brother, the site states. No one ever was arrested for the murders, Urban said. 

Albanese triple murder

Charles Albanese, of Spring Grove, was put to death in 1995 in the murders of three family members — his father, mother-in-law and his wife’s grandmother, Urban said. The motive for the murders was greed, Urban said.

“We are going to do a flavor of each kind of crime that can happen,” Urban said.

A military historian, Urban began gathering information about crimes in the county. He has found some of the crimes made national headlines and were featured in magazines such as True Detective, popular during the early 1900s.

Crime is always a popular topic to write about or to produce TV shows about, he said.

Tickets are still available for the tour. To register for the tour with a credit card, call the McHenry County College registration line at 815-455-8588 and use course ID NCC S01 002. The cost is $49.

The bus leaves McHenry County College at 9 a.m. Wear comfortable shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. Lunch is included. The tour ends at 4 p.m.

Sponsored by McHenry County College's Conference Center and the McHenry County Historical Society.

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