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Myths Debunked
in the Luetgert Case

Adolph Luetgert did not grind his wife up into sausage. It's understandable how this myth originated. Police charged Luetgert with killing his wife and dissolving her body in a vat, which happened to be inside the sausage factory he owned. The factory was shut down at the time, however, and officials never said he had made her into sausage. Even at the time of the trials, people made jokes about Luetgert turning his wife into wurst. The myth persists a century later. The ABC News Web site included Luetgert in a 2002 Internet article about cannibalistic murders, incorrectly noting: "In 1897, Chicago butcher Adolph Luetgert killed his wife and made sausages out of her, which he sold to unsuspecting customers."

The Luetgert sausage factory, where the murder allegedly occurred, did not burn down in 1902. In fact, the building is still there. A story about a fire destroying the factory has been repeated in many articles and books about the Luetgert case. I haven't been able to determine exactly where this myth originated; it appeared in some newspaper articles a half-century ago. At some point, a writer made an error about the year of the fire. And someone wrongly assumed that the fire had destroyed the building. Those mistakes have been repeated ever since by writers copying second- and third-hand sources rather than going back to the original reports.

There was a fire at the Luetgert factory, but it was in 1904, not 1902. The fire gutted the interior of the building, but did not destroy the structure. The former Luetgert factory was recently converted into condominiums. The building is located on the south side of Diversey just west of Hermitage and east of the nearby railroad tracks. (For many decades, this stretch of Hermitage had been vacated, but a sign for Hermitage was recently erected again at the corner with Diversey, marking the entrance to the condominium parking lot.) Read more about the history of the Luetgert building.

Luetgert did not go insane in prison, ranting that he was seeing his wife's ghost. This story has been told in several books and articles as well, but it is almost certainly apocryphal. None of the newspaper stories published at the time of Luetgert's death in 1899 say anything of the sort. In fact, it makes no sense that Luetgert would have seen his wife's ghost at the same time that he was insisting upon his innocence and claiming that his wife was still alive.

Robert Loerzel.

2003 by Robert Loerzel.