Posted by Matt Kuhns on Feb 4, 2015
Recently I happened to see a bit of a show called Ghost Stories, while I was at the YMCA, and was intrigued by one segment about the Burlington County prison. As this brought the show’s cameras to Mount Holly, New Jersey, I wondered whether the local crime fighter who sent many felons to said jail would be mentioned.
I didn’t get to catch the rest of the segment, though, so I have no idea whether or not it included any reference to Ellis Parker. Subsequent looking around online suggests that you can however go to the old prison, now a museum, and hear a good deal about Parker there. From the Weird New Jersey site: “Another character to have made his mark in Burlington’s, and New Jersey’s, history was the excellent detective Ellis H. Parker—who sounds like a Sherlock Holmes. Mike Reilly, chief guide at the museum, can fill you in on the details of Parker’s exciting life.”
As, of course, can Parker biographer John Reisinger… This might be a good time to mention that at some point, perhaps a year or two ago, the entertaining Mysteries at the Museum show also visited Burlington County Prison for a segment specifically featuring Parker. They interviewed Reisinger, and while I have never seen the episode he has written about the experience at his web site.
Posted by Matt Kuhns on Mar 18, 2013
The stars of Brilliant Deduction are “forgotten” figures in the sense that they were once prominent figures, regularly in the news, at least regionally. Isaiah Lees, once a name familiar to nearly the entire city of San Francisco, is now almost vanished; William Burns, in his day perhaps the most famous real-life detective in history, has thoroughly lost out to his great rivals the Pinkertons (the exception to the rule) in popular memory. Ellis Parker, though the last to depart the stage, has fared little better; despite a recent biography, my efforts to acquire a photo of the man via the same newspapers that regularly featured his picture within living memory met with zero recognition of him.
Still, it’s more accurate to describe the reduced profiles of Parker et al. as “obscure,” because none of them is entirely forgotten. Since publishing Brilliant Deduction, in fact, I have heard from various others interested in one or another of its heroes, beyond those biographers and other chroniclers I found during my research. Just recently, their number has been joined by two gentlemen working to restore a little of the faded reputation of The Garden State’s greatest sleuth.
The first of these, attorney and local historian George R. Brinkerhoff, has written an excellent feature article on Ellis Parker for JerseyMan Magazine. Having spent a good deal of thought and effort on how to condense down Parker’s life and career, myself, I feel I may say with fair qualifications that Mr. Brinkerhoff has succeeded admirably. Parker’s origins, key information about his most remarkable cases, a good sense of what he was like as a person, and a thoughtful analysis of his story’s unhappy ending; it’s all there.
Having also observed how published reminiscences of Parker grew fewer and farther between since his death, I’m glad to see at least one local periodical taking note of his fascinating story again. Better still, there may be more to come, from the second gentleman; as noted in the JerseyMan story, Parker grandson Andrew Sahol has been preparing to write his own account of “Pop” as few other living people could.