Harry T Hayward: Socialite, Arsonist, and Murderer

Harry T Hayward may have been a socialite, but he was also an arsonist and murderer. From a phrenologist’s point of view he was deemed at the time to be a “man of low type, the lower face being especially heavy, while the rear top head presents the gable conformation characteristics of the criminal class.”[1] Furthermore, after he was found guilty of murder he was dubbed “the most depraved, the most cold-blooded murderer that ever walked God’s footstool, [and] the most bloodthirsty soul that ever usurped the human frame.”[2]

Harry T Hayward

Harry T Hayward. Author’s collection.

Harry T Hayward’s story begins with his birth in 1865 in Macoupin County, Illinois, to William and Lodusky Hayward. As a child he attended public school and according to nineteenth century psychologist W.A. Jones, he was an unusual child from the beginning. Although he was a “visionary,” “highly imaginative,” and “talked of great deeds,” he was also depressed, moody, and devoid of “moral sensibilities.” In fact, according to Jones, “[Hayward] was recognized by his school fellows as a bully, brutal in his instincts, enjoying the sufferings of others, and delighting in the torture of domestic animals [deliberating impaling a cat on a fence].”[3]

In January of 1894, Hayward met Catherine “Kate” Ging. She was a tenant of Hayward’s parents, who owned the building where she resided called the Ozark flats. It was located on Hennepin Avenue and Thirteenth Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Ging was a well-liked dressmaker and businesswoman declared to be a devout Catholic, proud, and virtuous with a ladylike manner. People noted that she had a pleasant personality and a great desire to be successful in business. She was also described as 29 years old, “grand in figure, large of heart.”[4]

Harry T Hayward - Catherine Ging

Catherine “Kate” Ging. Author’s collection.

Ging was immediately drawn to Hayward upon meeting him. His good looks, enticing laugh, and smooth and suave manner were appealing. Moreover, she knew his favorable social reputation could help her further her business and being with him could also elevate her social status. When Ging told Hayward that she was falling in love with him, he encouraged her. She believed that he loved her and “that his regard for her was genuine, and … [she] consented to those long drives at night, to forming one of a quartet where wine and supper was the plan of entertainment.”[5]

This dinner quartet consisted of Hayward, Ging, a friend of Hayward’s named Thomas Waterman, and a Miss Vedder. The four had a lot of fun and one night the men claimed that they could win enough to pay for their dinners and so the evening culminated in them gambling. When Hayward won, Ging was supposedly “charmed” and that allegedly encouraged her to put in some of her own money the next time he decided to gamble.

“Catherine Ging saw in Harry T Hayward what the world saw, one of the most wonderful characters ever presented for the human mind to diagnose. To the world, that world in which he moved, he was a cheery companion, and of an open and rather careless disposition. Of a powerful build, and wonderful strength, he never boasted of it, was not given to any form of athletics, and not in the least quarrelsome. On the whole he was what would be termed timid, even cowardly in physical matters. To pick a quarrel with anyone would be the last thing in his thoughts, and he was careful never to allow his temper to carry him away, and force him into any trouble.”[6]

Catherine “Kate” Ging. Author’s collection.

No one had any reason to suspect that Harry T Hayward was involved when the dead body of a woman that was discovered in a lonely spot near the largest lake in Minneapolis, Lake Calhoun. The woman had been shot behind the ear. No one knew initially who the dead woman was but soon after the body was identified as Ging’s and because of Hayward’s connection to her, he was called in by police for questioning. The Saint Paul Globe reported:

“He was examined closely, and maintained stoutly that he knew nothing about the case, save that the woman was a friend of his, and that they had a number of business deals with each other … [and] that she borrowed money from him at various times and that the last deal amounted to a loan of $7,000.”[7]

Hayward’s insistence that he knew Ging only as a friend initially seemed plausible. Moreover, despite detectives trying to get information out of him, he insisted that he knew nothing more about the murder of Ging and that what he knew he read in newspapers. He was also able to provide detectives with a verifiable alibi that showed he had passed the evening at the Grand opera house in the company of a Miss Bartleson on the night that Ging was murdered.

Unfortunately, despite Harry T Hayward’s pleas of innocence, Hayward’s older brother, Adry, confessed that Hayward had indeed killed Ging. His confession came in the early morning hours of Saturday, 8 December 1894. It was then he told a tale of “brutal cunning, deep villany, and unspeakable horror.”[8] He admitted that Hayward had thoughtfully planned the murder of Ging on Monday, 3 December in order to cash in on her life insurance policy and that Hayward had come to him hoping he would help in her murder. Of course, once Adry’s confession was leaked to the press, it quickly created a “profound sensation” among Minneapolis newspaper readers:

“Every scrap of news was eagerly devoured, and the most intense satisfaction was expressed on all sides that the devilish assassin was known and safely behind bars. In fact, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that thousands of people neglected their daily avocations to revel in the gruesome details of the story of the atrocious crime.”[9]

Adry Hayward. Author’s collection.

It seems that the murder stemmed from the fact that Hayward developed a gambling addiction. Nothing could stop him from gambling incessantly, which also included him losing a piece of real estate given him by his father. Although sometimes Hayward won, more often he lost. In fact, Hayward soon spent everything that he had and began to borrow from Ging, little sums at first but rising to greater and greater amounts, so that Ging finally demanded that he repay her what he had borrowed.

Adry also provided another reason for his brother to have murdered Ging. He claimed that she had become pregnant and supposedly threatened Hayward that she would divulge the pregnancy if he didn’t marry her. However, according to Adry, Hayward procured an abortion for her about three weeks before the murder but then realizing that she had become a problem he resolved to get rid of her permanently.

Because Hayward was also short on cash, he also encouraged Ging to buy a life insurance policy. His intention was to murder her and collect on the policy, a scheme that another murderer, Dr. Edmond Pommerais, who ended up in Madame Tussaud‘s Chamber of Horrors, also employed. Hayward, like Pommerais, wanted the money to help with his financial woes. In the meantime, in order for Harry T Hayward to bring his plan to fruition he was also busy scheming how to accomplish the murder.

He talked to various people trying to find someone to kill Ging so that he wouldn’t be implicated and could provide an alibi. This meant that besides trying to convince his brother Adry to kill Ging, Hayward also talked to Claus A. Blixt, a janitor at the Ozark flats. He had been born in Sweden and had lived in Minneapolis for six years. He had worked as a bartender, machinist, and railway conductor, and those who knew him were not impressed:

“[He was ] a great coward, physically and morally, a man … without a vestige of principle. It is agreed by his acquaintances that he would commit almost any kind of crime for money.”[10]

Popularized in the press, Claus Blixt was known a Harry T Hayward’s “tool” to carry out “his hellish design” of murdering Ging. Author’s collection.

A friend of Blixt’s, Ole Erickson, was likewise cited by many people as a worthless character. Those who knew him claimed he would engage in any kind of dirty work. He reportedly eked out a living sweeping out saloons, cleaning spittoons, and mopping floors. Several times he had also been incarcerated in the workhouse for drunkenness and vagrancy.

In the meantime, more information about the murder was released. It became clear to authorities that Hayward had gone to great lengths to premeditate the murder and had done so with what was termed “nicety of exactness.” Moreover, although Adry, Hayward, and Blixt were initially arrested, authorities decided to charge only Hayward and Blixt.

Newspapers provided conjecture on how Ging’s murder possibly played out. It was thought that after Hayward devised the murder plan and convinced Blixt to murder Ging, Blixt used a ruse to get her to accompany him somewhere. They left in his carriage and along the way Erickson stopped them to converse with Blixt or Ging on some pretext. When Ging’s attention was elsewhere, Blixt then shot Ging under the lobe of the ear and upwards through the brain. 

“At any rate the next morning Erickson took Blixt’s bloody clothes and wrapped them in a newspaper. Then he went down town and for a blind pawned a cheap watch at the Washington avenue pawnbroker’s establishment. He took the morning train for Iowa Falls, where he washed the clothes and brought them back with him to this city. He sold part of the clothes to a second-hand clothing and the remainder he gave to Blixt, who thrust them into the Ozark furnace and burned them.”[11]

Other details of the gruesome murder were also published in local newspapers for curious readers. Some of the information that was revealed by authorities included the following:

“Sergeant Getchell of the Fifth precinct made a careful examination of the spot where the body was discovered. He found where the carriage had been driven about fifty feet from where the body lay and turned around. The seat of the carriage … was saturated with blood, and on one of the uprights of the carriage top were the marks of bloody fingers. There was [also] the imprint of every bloody finger, showing that the murderer had saturated his hands in the life blood of his victim, endeavoring possible to stifle her cries. The post-mortem examination showed that the woman’s skull had been fractured, and that her nose and upper jaw were crushed in and broken. The police are of the opinion that the murderer, after shooting the woman, struck her in the head with the butt of the revolver and then beat her about the mouth and nose with it, to insure the success of his crime. …  [A] buffalo robe was found under the woman. Apparently she had been lifted out [of the carriage] and laid upon the fur, after which the murderer got back into the carriage and drove back to town.”[12]

As more evidence about Hayward’s guilt was leaked to the press, the public became increasingly curious about everyone and everything surrounding the murder. Crowds began to appear at the jail hoping to get a glimpse of Hayward in his cell. The Ozark flats were likewise surrounded by curious crowds, and men were supposedly grouped together on nearly every street corner discussing Ging’s murder and Hayward’s involvement.

Because of all the interest, crowds, and rumors, fears began to build among law enforcement that Hayward might be lynched for planning Ging’s murder. Therefore, to protect him Sheriff Ege decided it was best to move him. A secured closed carriage was obtained, and a manacled Hayward was spirited away to the Ramsey county jail for his own safety.

The trial for first degree murder against Harry T Hayward got under on 21 January 1895 before Judge Seagrave Smith. Hennepin county attorney Frank M. Nye was the prosecutor. William Erwin, known as “The Tall Pine Tree of the Northwest,” and John Day, a Baptist deacon, Republican state senator, and one of Minnesota’s foremost death penalty abolitionists, served as Hayward’s defense attorneys. The trial last 46 days and involved 136 witnesses.

Prosecutor in Hayward’s murder case. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the trial, Blixt and others suggested that Harry T Hayward had somehow hypnotized or magically influenced them. That was because Hayward was touted as having great sway with others and it was stated that he could motivate people to do things that they might not ordinarily do. According to the Saint Paul Globe:

“Adry said in his confession that he appeared to be under his brother’s influence to such an extent that he believed he was hypnotized. It was the same way with the murdered girl. He exercised perfect control over the girl’s actions, and she appeared to do everything he desired her to do.”[13]

In the prosecution’s attempts to prove Harry T Hayward guilty, Nye called in the agents and bankers knowledgeable about Ging’s life insurance policy. The prosecutor also noted that Hayward was a gambler and had borrowed money from Ging. Blixt’s confession and testimony were also highly relied on by Nye. In fact, Blixt was on the stand for three days relating all the gory details of the crime and implicating Hayward in it.

Adry was also called to testify by Nye. Of course, the defense was unhappy that he was on the stand and alleged that Adry was “insane,” They also tried unsuccessfully to have his testimony ruled in admissible. However, Judge Smith was having none of it. He overruled their request stating, “Well, I don’t see that he is any more insane at the present time than the attorney is.”[14]

Hayward’s attorneys attempted to counter the arguments presented by the prosecution. For instance, they claimed that Hayward’s gambling was not pertinent to the case and that even if he gambled it didn’t mean he was a murderer. They also noted that Ging was not an “unsophisticated” woman and that she freely obtained the life insurance policy herself. The defense also pointed out that Blixt had admitted he was the person who committed the murder and they argued that Hayward could not have influenced or hypnotized Blixt, Adry, or Ging as Hayward was just an ordinary man. In addition, Hayward took the stand to defend himself against all the allegations.

The case went to the jury at 11:30am on Friday 8 March 1895. At 2:15pm the jury returned with a guilty verdict. Judge Smith did not immediately pass sentence. That happened three days later when he condemned Harry T Hayward and ordered that he be hanged until dead. However, Hayward made an appeal to Governor David Marston Clough to spare his life, but Clough refused and instead “signed his death warrant, fixing the date of execution for Wednesday, Dec. 11 [1895].”[15]

Harry T Hayward - Judge Smith sentencing him.

Judge Smith handing down Harry T Hayward’s sentence. Author’s collection.

With the guilty plea Allan Pinkerton, one of the greatest American detectives, dubbed Hayward “one of the greatest criminals the world has ever seen,”[16] which was also about the same time that Blixt’s trial was slated to begin. Perhaps fearful of what the outcome might be, Blixt decided to change his “not guilty” plea to “guilty.” So, when he went before Judge Pond, the judge sentenced him to life in prison.

Prior to his execution, Harry T Hayward gave a series of detailed interviews to his cousin, Edward H. Goodsell, that were recorded by the court stenographer. In these interviews Hayward showed narcissism, sadism, and lack of empathy. He also claimed to have “murderous impulses” and felt something “cover over him.” Besides admitting to his involvement in Ging’s murder, he also confessed to illegal gambling, arson, and three additional murders. Of these, the first killing involved a 20-year-old woman, Carrie Hass, whom he met in Pasadena, California, shot in the back of the head, and buried in the woods; the second murder was a consumptive whom he robbed near Long Branch, New Jersey and whom he disposed of in the Shrewbury River; finally, the last victim was an Asian man whom he met in gambling joint on Mulberry Street and got into an altercation with over a card game. In relation to this murder Hayward confessed:

“I just knocked the Chinaman down and kicked him right in the stomach. I knocked him down with my first or hand. I kicked him in the belly, and I took the round of a chair … And he was down and he was howling, and I took it in my hand and jabbed the corner in his eye, and his skull was kind of thin and I kind of sided it up to the top of his head and smashed it down there, and I got on the chair and sat on it and you know it went through, went down into him.”[17]

At the end of his confession he quoted a poem, “Happy the Man,” written by John Dryden, who was made England’s first Poet Laureate in 1668. Hayward said that the poem encompassed his philosophy on life. The poem in part stated:

“Happy the man and happy he alone ―
He who can call today his own;
He who sincere within can say
Tomorrow do thy worst for I have lived today.”[18]


  • [1] The Phrenological Journal and Science of Health: Incorporated with the Phrenological Magazine v. 101-102 (New York: Fowler & Wells, 1896), p. 24.
  • [2] The Ging Murder and the Great Hayward Trial (Minnesota: Minnesota Tribune Company, 1895), p. 25.
  • [3] E. H. Goodsell, Harry Hayward: Life, Crimes, Dying Confession and Execution of the Celebrated Minneapolis Criminal; Other Interesting Chapters on the Greatest Psychological Problem of the Century (Minneapolis: Calhoun Publishing, 1896), p. 195.
  • [4] The Ging Murder and the Great Hayward Trial (Minnesota: Minnesota Tribune Company, 1895), p. 25.
  • [5] ibid.
  • [6] ibid.
  • [7] The Saint Paul Globe, “Is a Mystery Still,” December 5, 1894, p. 1.
  • [8] The Saint Paul Globe, “Trio of Friends,” December 9, 1894, p. 1.
  • [9] ibid.
  • [10] ibid., p. 6.
  • [11] ibid., p. 1.
  • [12] The Saint Paul Globe, “Is a Mystery Still,” p. 1.
  • [13] The Saint Paul Globe, “Trio of Friends,” p. 1.
  • [14] The Ging Murder and the Great Hayward Trial (Minnesota: Minnesota Tribune Company, 1895), p. 151.
  • [15] Star Tribune, “Announcement Made Quietly,” December 8, 1895, p. 1.
  • [16] S. F. Peters, The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018), Kindle
  • [17] E. H. Goodsell. 1896, p. 80–81.
  • [18] Ibid., p. 148.

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