Who Killed Benjamin Nathan?

A New York Horror

“The story of the Nathan murder remains the greatest mystery of the age. ‘Murder will out,’ they say. If this be true, the query ‘Who killed Benjamin Nathan?’ will one day be answered. Men yet living, who were young and vigorous when it occurred, have never lost sight of it, and will never give up the search so long as they are capable of continuing it.” So with pardonable exaggeration wrote George W. Walling, chief of the New York Police, in 1887. Thirty-seven years have passed away since these words were penned, and the mystery remains as profound as ever. Mr. Walling’s prophecy has not been verified. The search has long ago been abandoned, but the enigma has not lost its interest.

The most remarkable feature of the Nathan murder is the confusion by which the tragedy is surrounded. At every step one encounters difficulties in placing what occurred in proper sequence, and in reconciling apparent discrepancies. All the way through are suspicions and surmises and theories, but the facts themselves are elusive. It is hardly possible not to come to the conclusion that the police were very loose in their method of enquiry. Indeed, there is ground for the supposition that this looseness did not arise from carelessness or incompetency, but from reasons and motives which have never been brought to light. Anyway, if the story could not be straightened out at the time, it is not likely it will be so after a lapse of more than fifty years. We will, however, attempt to give a broad outline of the affair, leaving the variations furnished by the evidence of the several witnesses to be dealt with later on.

About half-past six on the morning of July 29th 1870, the strange sight was seen of a couple of young men in their nightshirts​—​one of the latter heavily stained with blood​—​standing on the doorsteps of a mansion in West Twenty-third Street, New York, gesticulating and shouting for the police. The few passers-by ran to the spot, and shortly after came Mangan, a police officer. “My father’s been murdered,” cried one of the young men in answer to the officer. “Where is he?” asked Mangan. “Upstairs in his room.” Mangan, the two men in the nightshirts, and two or three persons from the little crowd outside, then ascended to the second floor.

On this floor were two rooms communicating. One was of a fair size, used as a reception room, the other was much smaller, and here Mr. Nathan kept his business and family papers in a small safe. In the centre of the larger room was a bed consisting of four mattresses piled on top of each other on the floor. No mystery attached to this bed, peculiar though the arrangement was. The house was in the hands of carpenters and decorators, and things were of necessity topsy-turvy. Benjamin Nathan was a Wall Street broker, and had a country house at Morristown, New Jersey. As a rule he stayed there, it being the summer season, but on the fatal night of the 28th he had elected to sleep at his town mansion in the makeshift bed described.

When the police officer, the two young men (they were Benjamin Nathan’s sons, Frederick and Washington) in nightshirts, and those outsiders who had pushed their way into the house entered the larger room on the second floor, they were faced by an appalling sight. In the passage-way between the two rooms they saw​—​but Patrick Govern, a porter at the Fifth Avenue Hotel, opposite which was Mr. Nathan’s house, may be allowed to describe the scene as told in his evidence given before the coroner:

“I saw the body lying in the bedroom, more of it in the bedroom than in the library (the smaller room); the feet were in the library, the left leg was drawn up in an angle to the body; the right leg was stretched out; the hands were clasped convulsively towards the head; the body was covered with blood. I then stepped up to the officer and passed into the library. I remarked a chair overturned; I turned to the safe; some drawers were out and some papers were in them; the key was in the lock; I remarked blood on each side of the chair and on the carpet.”

Blood in great quantities was on the body and on the ground. The old man had been savagely attacked, and the front and back of the head showed terrible wounds. These had apparently been inflicted with some blunt instrument. As if to help the police, the murderer had left behind him the weapon with which the murder was committed. It was an iron bar some twenty inches long, in use among ships’ carpenters and lumbermen, and known as a “dog.” The ends, for some technical purpose, were turned up.

This bar was found in the entrance hall, not by the police, but by Mr. Frederick Nathan, who, after admitting the officer, picked it up and showed it to him. It was smeared with blood and a few grey hairs were sticking to it. It was taken upstairs to the scene of the tragedy, for what reason does not appear. Round this bar a good deal of the confusion alluded to ranged, as will be seen.

To go back to what Patrick Govern saw. After looking round the library he returned to the bedroom and noticed that one of the officers had the “dog” in his hand. “Mr. Frederick Nathan was at the end of the bed kneeling down by his father; he took the head in his hands and said something about ‘Father, when I saw you last I did not think I should see you like this.’ Mr. Washington Nathan then took up a pocket book and opened it and took out a paper which he pronounced a bond.” A few minutes afterwards Mrs. Kelly, the housekeeper, and her son came into the room, and Govern described them as “horrified.” it is important to note that the four persons in the house at the time of the murder were Mr. Benjamin Nathan’s two sons, Mrs. Kelly and her son.

It was pretty clear that Mr. Nathan had been awakened by some noise, had got out of bed to ascertain the cause, and while approaching the smaller room, or library, had been struck down. The bed-clothes were very slightly disturbed and there was no blood anywhere on the bed itself. On the bed was a drawer taken from the safe.

In all probability the first attack was made when the old man was some four feet or so from the entrance to the library. On the walls at the corner of the big room, covering a space of four by three feet, were several blotches and smears of blood and the imprint of bloody fingers. One set of these finger-marks was as distinct as though the person whose hand had touched the wall had purposely dipped his hand in blood and placed it there. The other set differed greatly from the hand of the murdered man, and was long and ladylike, with well-kept fingers​—​in short, that of a gentleman. This is Walling’s account, and if correct it should have furnished a starting-point for investigation. But in the proceedings before the coroner as reported in the New York Herald there is no mention of the “long and ladylike hand.”

Walling also suggests that, while “struggling hand-to-hand with his assailant, old Mr. Nathan received a crushing blow and pitched headlong to the floor.” The supposition of a “struggle” is not borne out by Dr. John Beach, who, besides being a medical man, was also deputy coroner and presumably a trained observer. His opinion was that there was no struggle, and that Mr. Nathan never had any opportunity of giving an alarm. Dr. Beach’s theory of what happened was that death took place when Mr. Nathan was on his face in the smaller room. “I think,” said he, “Mr. Nathan was endeavouring to make his escape on his hands and knees; a man may have sensibility to endeavour to make his escape and yet not have any power to make an alarm; my theory about the succession of wounds is that the wound over the right eye was struck first, that the blow, not being direct but rather of a slanting character, simply produced partial concussion, rendering him practically unable to stand, but failing to make him unconscious. While he was down the wound on the right side of the head was inflicted; when the chair was thrown down, Mr. Nathan’s head came in contact with it while he was trying to get up; as Mr. Nathan still tried to get towards the door, the assassin, thinking his victim might very soon be able to give the alarm, just as he got into the large room dealt him a blow from behind, and the edge of the instrument, resting on the skull, produced the long wounds.”

All this is very circumstantial, but of course it rests upon supposition, and its ground for acceptance is considerably discounted by the doctor’s statement that “the whole appearance of the arms and body showed that the body had been removed after death,” and that the chair as it was placed was not seen by him but was shown to him by the police after it had been set upright. Another medical witness also stated that he thought the body had been “moved,” a point which surely should have had investigation, but it seems to have received none. It is difficult to avoid coming to the conclusion that the police all the way through were singularly inept. The important rule that nothing in the room of such a tragedy should be touched until examined by the coroner was quite ignored.

Whatever may have been the facts, two at least are without much doubt​—​firstly that the “dog” was the weapon used, and secondly that death had taken place some hours before the discovery of the tragedy. It is also feasible, as Dr. Beach suggested, that although the safe could have been opened noiselessly, the taking-out of the drawer might have been accompanied by a screeching noise, and while it was being removed Mr. Nathan was awakened. Other conclusions arrived at by Dr. Beach must not be overlooked, theoretical as they are. The first is that only one person need have been the assailant; the second, that he must have had stains on his clothing; the third, that the work was not a professional burglar’s, and that he was known to Mr. Nathan.

As to the object of the assassin, it was not unconnected with robbery, but whether this robbery was intended to conceal some other motive it is impossible to say. The murdered man’s keys had been taken from his pockets. The safe was unlocked and from it had been removed a wooden drawer, box-like in construction, which contained several rare old gold, silver and copper coins of value only to collectors. When the murder was discovered, this drawer, as already mentioned, was on the pile of mattresses, and the coins missing. Mr. Nathan generally kept in the safe money for housekeeping purposes. What ever there was, it was gone. From the larger room the murderer had taken a watch and chain and three diamond studs; a gold stud in the neck of the shirt was, however, left behind. This is Walling’s story, but so far as the three studs were concerned it does not find confirmation in the inquest report, in which one reads that Captain Burnell, a police official, said that the studs were in the shirt. If Captain Burnell spoke truly, it would appear either that the murderer was in a great hurry or overlooked the studs. Anyhow, he delayed sufficiently long to wash his hands, as blood-stained water was found in a basin.

The value of the property stolen was but moderate and did not warrant the pertinacious savagery of the robber. It may not be that he had murder in his mind when he started, but he was certainly prepared for an encounter, or why did he take with him the iron bar? This iron bar or “dog” was not such a weapon as a professional burglar would use. A “professional” would certainly be provided with a crowbar. A great mystery surrounds the “dog” which neither the police nor the coroner were able to solve. Its nature suggests that it was seized at random, but it was absolutely impossible it could have been in Mr. Nathan’s rooms previous to the entry of the assassin. This disposes of the supposition that when disturbed he found the “dog” ready to hand. Why, then, did he select so clumsy a weapon? It was of no avail for the forcing of a safe and he had no occasion to use force. Presumably he opened the safe with the key which he found in the old man’s pocket, and if so, he must have prowled about the bedroom for some little time before entering the “library.”

But where did he get the “dog?” The master carpenter, his assistant, and a bricklayer, all of whom had for some time been employed about the house and had been at work in every room, had never seen such an instrument, neither had Mrs. Kelly, the housekeeper. On the other hand, another workman, a mason, declared that he had noticed a bar like the one found lying in the stable at the rear of the premises, but he could not say it was the same. Why the murderer, after committing the deed, should have taken the weapon downstairs and have left it in the hall, and why policeman Mangan did not notice it when he entered the house, but had his attention called to it by Mr. Frederick Nathan, and why it should have been carried upstairs afterwards by a constable (whether Mangan or some other is not quite certain) are questions about which little can be said save that they add to the general confusion in which the affair is involved.

However this may be, there was no confusion about one thing​—​the police could not find that anyone had entered the house burglariously. The fastenings were intact and doors and windows exceptionally secure. This, on the face of it, threw suspicion on some of the inmates. Opposed to this suspicion was the suggestion that someone might have entered the house while the men were at work, and the doors or windows open, and then concealed himself. To support this theory there was not a tittle of evidence. Indeed, every theory that was started ended in a blind alley.

We may now proceed to deal with the history of the Nathans and their family relations, and also to trace the movements, not only of Benjamin Nathan, but of his sons Frederick and Washington, on the night of the murder.

As already mentioned, Benjamin Nathan was a broker, and also private banker of great fortune. He had retired from active business, but once or twice a week in the summer time he came to New York from his country seat in New Jersey, visited his office in Wall Street, and went on to his mansion in West Twenty-third Street, inspected the progress of the alterations and occasionally slept on the makeshift bed. July 28th was one of these occasions. He purposed sleeping at the mansion because the following day was the anniversary of his mother’s death and he intended to pass the evening at the synagogue. Mrs. Kelly, the housekeeper, knew that he was coming and admitted that she told her son so. Mr. Nathan’s two sons, who lived in the house, also knew that their father would be there, as a meeting between the three had been arranged in connection with the synagogue. These sons were in business, Frederick being a broker like his father, and Washington a commission agent, in partnership with another man. The reputations of the young men were widely different. Frederick was a steady and plodding man of regular habits, Washington was regarded as a man of pleasure, and his tastes in this respect were made the matter of much gossip during the investigation, but the reports concerning him were probably exaggerated. Washington’s proclivities occasionally gave his father anxiety, but their attitude was said to be quite friendly.

The weather on the evening of the 28th threatened to be stormy. Lightning flashed and the growling of distant thunder was heard, but there was no rain during the early part of the night, during which time Mr. Nathan was occupied in the little room called the library. Walling, writing in a sentimental vein, says: “The anniversary of his mother’s death grew nearer, and after gazing affectionately at the features of his beloved parent which were disclosed from the case of a miniature, Mr. Nathan replaced the case in a small safe which stood in the corner of the little room, locked the iron door, dropped the keys into his pocket and prepared for rest.” All this, of course, is purely imaginary. No one was with Mr. Nathan at the time and no one knows what he did. George Walling, in spite of his thirty years’ experience in detective work and in spite of his position as chief of the New York Police, is not altogether to be relied upon, at all events so far as the Nathan affair is concerned. He does not seem to have had personal connection with it, nor is there any sign of his having consulted the evidence given at the coroner’s inquest.

When Washington Nathan appeared before the coroner, intense curiosity was aroused as to what he would say, because all kinds of speculations had been indulged in as to how he had passed the evening after going with his father to the synagogue.

The murder, it was assumed, had been committed not long after midnight, and Washington had some three hours to account for. His statement was that he arrived at the house at a quarter-past six on the evening of the 28th. He saw his father and went with him to the synagogue, and returned home at a quarter-past nine. He then went out and called to see friends, going with them to various hotels. About twelve o’clock he returned to his father’s house, locked the front door and, to use his own words, “stayed a second to listen at my father’s room door, and finding that all was quiet I went to my own room and got into bed. It was then ten minutes past twelve.”

The sons’ bedrooms were on the floor above that of their father, and it was Washington’s custom to visit his father’s room when he rose and when he went to bed. One point in Washington’s evidence is not to be overlooked. Police officer Mangan told the coroner that a light was burning in the little room near the window when he entered, but that the bracket was turned towards the wall so that it could not be seen from the street. The words of Dr. Janvrin, the surgeon who was called to the scene, did not quite bear out Mangan’s statement. “The gas light,” said he, “was at the window next the little room; in the large room​—​that is, the side next Fifth Avenue. I think the shutter was turned partially back so that it cut off the glare through the place where Mr. Nathan himself was lying; the burner was turned on about one-third of the usual force of a gas jet. I think it could not have been seen from the street.” A detective named Farley also asserted that there was a light. Mr. Washington Nathan, however, declared that there was no light when he listened at his father’s door, which was ajar. As there was no light he supposed his father was asleep. He did not put his head into the room, but remained in the hall.

The discrepancy between the evidence of Mangan and Dr. Janvrin as to the position of the gas light is by itself of not much importance, but it goes to strengthen the impression that Mangan was deficient in the astuteness and accuracy of observation which should distinguish an efficient police officer. His evidence showed a dull brain and added to the general muddle. Washington’s assertion that there was no light in his father’s room when he looked through the partly open door is a much more serious point. If true, the explanation can only be that the intruder lighted the gas when he entered and left it burning when he quitted the room.

To continue Washington Nathan’s evidence. He went on to say that he awoke about five in the morning and went downstairs. “Just before I reached the second story,” said he, “I noticed the front door open; when I entered my father’s room I first saw something lying on the floor out of place near the library; immediately after I discovered my father lying as has already been described, I went and called my brother and we both went downstairs crying ‘Murder!’ and ‘Police’ … I think my brother had the key of the safe.… I locked the safe and I took the key.… I knew the safe did not contain any valuables.”

What the witness had to say concerning his father’s weak sight was not without significance. He did not think it was possible for the old man to recognise anyone without his glasses. If this were so, it might be argued that he was not killed lest he should be able to identify his assailant. If the gas were turned down as asserted, and he was not wearing his glasses, anyone to whom he was known would have taken the chance of recognition. There would hardly be ground for battering him to death. Stunning him to permit of escape would have been amply sufficient.

Washington was closely questioned as to his monetary relations with his father. He admitted borrowing 5,000 dollars which he had not paid back, but this, he explained, he was not expected to do. Whenever he asked his father for money it was always given cheerfully. He never had any misunderstanding with his father. When the latter had occasion to give him advice as to his habits, his manner was always gentle and kind. His father had supplied the capital to set him up in business, and he had had other sums from, time to time. These sums did not amount to 25,000 dollars. He had never been required to pay back any of the loans, but he had given security for them. He denied having spent 30,000 dollars upon a lady. He had never spent 3,000 dollars in a year in his life. On the whole it must be admitted that Washington said nothing which incriminated him or even led suspicion in his direction.

Frederick Nathan was very circumstantial as to his movements on the fatal night previous to the tragedy, but his evidence on these points has little bearing on the case, and he may be taken at once to what happened after he arrived home at a quarter-past eleven. Said he: “I opened the door of our house with my night key, and as the key was not in the lock knew my brother was still out.… My father’s door was open; he said, ‘Who is that?’ I said; ‘It is I, sir.’ He said, ‘If you want any ice water there is some on the mantelpiece.’ I said I had just had a drink; there was no light in the room; it was perfectly dark; the door was open sufficiently for me to go in a little to the side and stand at the extreme end of the door and speak to my father. I then immediately proceeded to my room and went to bed. I did not hear my brother come in.”

The next morning Frederick arose at about ten minutes to five; he put on his pants, walked to the window to see what kind of a day it was and went into his brother’s room. His; brother was “lying down in his bed apparently asleep,” and he did not wake him. Frederick Nathan then went into a room adjoining his own, and coming out met his brother, who said he was going downstairs and would awaken their father. Washington accordingly went downstairs and Frederick heard him yell. Frederick ran down and saw his brother standing at the door. “I rushed in,” said the witness, “and knelt down on the right-hand side of my father to see if he was entirely dead. I may also state that on reaching the landing before the second story, I saw the hall street door sufficiently open for a man to walk in sideways.”

This matter of the open door is not to be dismissed without comment. Frederick Nathan’s statement was corroborated by a newsboy, who at ten minutes past five or so was folding his newspapers on the steps of Mr. Nathan’s house. He declared that the door was then open for about two inches. He moved his newspapers away, and after that he heard shouts of “Murder!” The fact of the door being open would suggest that the murderer had made his escape that way after leaving the “dog” in the hall; but was the door open? Police officer Mangan swore that some four minutes before he heard the cry for help he passed the house and examined the door. It was closed. It is impossible to decide between these contrary assertions. As we have had occasion to point out, Mangan was very hazy in some portions of his recollections, and it is quite possible that when he passed the house, thinking all was well, he took very little notice of the door. It is not likely he would confess to any dereliction of duty.

Frederick Nathan’s statement, save as to the open door, did not add materially to the evidence given by the other witnesses. It is, however, fair to state that he further corroborated what his brother said concerning the absence of any quarrels with his father.

Only the testimony of the two other persons​—​Mrs. Kelly, the housekeeper, and her son William​—​who were in the house on the night of the murder remains to be examined. The tenor of the questions put to these two by the coroner and the district attorney showed that the authorities regarded them as suspected persons. The woman was subjected to a searching enquiry which caused her to be not a little angry, and with reason, as its irrelevance was patent. On any circumstance relating to the murder she had nothing whatever to say which helped the enquiry. She had no knowledge of the “dog” and had never seen such a thing on the premises. She admitted that she knew Mr. Benjamin Nathan was coming that night to sleep at the house and that she told her son so, but this went for very little. She also said that she had heard a slight noise about two o’clock in the morning of the 29th, but paid no attention to it and went to sleep again.

The examination of William Kelly was still more searching, but nothing bearing on the murder was elicited. The young man kept his head and was not to be confused nor tripped into contradictions. His past was severely investigated and he did not attempt to evade the questions. It was made pretty clear that he was not a particularly reputable person and that he had some questionable associates. He admitted that he had enlisted during the Civil War under a false name, and since the disbanding of the army had drawn service money. For four years he had been residing in Mr. Nathan’s house doing very little work and practically living on his mother. He cleaned the boots and went on errands, but Mr. Nathan paid him no wages. Like his mother, he knew nothing about the “dog.” His account as to how he spent his time during the night before the murder was not very satisfactory, but he could not be brought to say anything which in the slightest degree incriminated him. He was taking boots to the bedrooms on the morning of the 29th when he first heard of the murder from Mr. Frederick Nathan, who met him on the staircase, and he said nothing. His examination lasted a considerable time but, as will be seen, his evidence was as unimportant as that of his mother.

It seems strange that so violent a murder involving the fall of a body should not have made sufficient noise to arouse some of the inmates. If the deed was perpetrated before midnight, the storm which was raging at the time might have accounted for this, but there was no evidence to support this supposition. On the other hand a Dr. Peckham, who lived next door, asserted that somewhere about two o’clock both he and his wife heard strange sounds, but no noise like that of a body falling. Dr. Peckham’s story was somewhat vague and threw no light upon the mystery. Walling’s theory was that young Kelly admitted a confederate who committed the murder, but the theory was without the least support. It is somewhat curious, in view of the torrents of rain which fell, that the stairs bore no traces of muddy feet, but it would appear that the police never looked for any. What was seen on the stairs were footprints of blood. These footprints were all in one direction: they descended to the door. It was asserted that these marks of blood came from Mr. Frederick Nathan’s feet, which were bootless, and this assertion was accepted by the coroner. Possibly this was so, as it is not disputed that Frederick’s nightshirt and pants were considerably blood-stained from his having knelt by his father’s side. Washington’s night clothes, on the other hand, were quite free from any blood.

The inquest came to a somewhat abrupt conclusion. After another doctor had discoursed at considerable length on the nature of the wounds, chiefly in corroboration of what his professional confrères had already said, the coroner, without any attempt to consolidate the story, declared that it was useless to proceed further with the enquiry. He adjourned it sine die, and sine die it has remained to the present day.

Speculation is useless in the face of so much discrepancy and contradiction and of so little success in establishing essential points.

Few murder mysteries can be cited which exhibit such a lack of detective instinct on the part of the police as the Nathan tragedy. If they discerned a clue anywhere, they failed to act upon it. They were unable to trace a single stolen article. They were baffled in their attempts​—​if they made any​—​to find out the truth about William Kelly. The big reward of 45,000 dollars offered for the discovery and capture of the murderer did not stimulate them. They allowed the blood-marked garments of Frederick Nathan and the stained carpet in the room where the murder was committed to be taken away​—​the first to the laundry and the second to the cleaners​—​a few hours after the tragedy, and offered no explanation of their remissness. The extraordinary carelessness and indifference they showed in allowing the scene of the tragedy to be disturbed has already been commented upon. In a word, the affair was allowed to drift and they did not move a finger. To the very last their object seems to have been to get rid of everything connected with the case as soon as possible, for even the “dog” which is in the Crime Museum​—​answering to the one at Scotland Yard​—​is not the identical “dog” which figured so largely at the coroner’s inquest, but a substitute!

Walling insinuates that Jourdan, the head of the New York police at the time, knew something which he dared not disclose, and alludes to his changed manner after the tragedy and how he “pined away” and died soon after, winding up with the question, “Was he in possession of an awful secret?” With this supposition the matter must rest.

Three years later a confession was made by a well-known professional burglar, John T. Irving by name, of his complicity in the murder. Irving’s confession was extremely circumstantial, but its value was considerably discounted by the bargain he wanted to make with the authorities that he would produce the necessary corroborative evidence if they would promise not to prosecute him for two burglaries he had committed. Needless to say, this cool proposition was rejected. The salient features of his “confession,” whether true or false, make, however, instructive reading. The plan of breaking into Mr. Nathan’s house arose out of a chance meeting between Irving and two of his pals, McNally Grunnion and a fellow crook, Kelly. There was a good deal of talk, but nothing was done for some weeks, when all four met by appointment and Kelly instructed the others to follow one after the other a short distance apart, and to move up close together to the house by a signal from the man at the gate wiping his face with a handkerchief. The gang entered the house by the basement door, Grunnion and Irving going to the cellar to wait until Kelly, who had ascended the staircase, should call them. After some little time Kelly joined them, they took off their shoes and went up three flights of stairs. They entered a room and Irving noticed a person lying on the floor. In the small room Irving stepped on a pocket book. It contained bonds and stock certificates. The value was about 6,000 dollars, and in addition they took 273 dollars in money. Kelly washed his hands in the bathroom and Irving noticed fingermarks of blood on the jamb of the door. They left the house about half-past five in the morning.

There is nothing in the above which anyone could not have made up from the newspaper reports, but this did not satisfy Irving, who was good enough to solve the mystery of the “dog.” After dividing the spoil, Kelly suddenly exclaimed, “You know that dog I got from Nick Jones? Well, I left it behind.” The confession follows on with a tedious rigmarole concerning Nick Jones, and winds up with a conversation Irving had with Kelly about the murder. Kelly said that Mr. Nathan’s return was quite unexpected. Kelly, however, entered his room while the old man was asleep, got the key of the safe, and was opening the safe when Mr. Nathan woke and came towards him. Kelly lifted the “dog,” Mr. Nathan flung up his hands and received the blow on one of them. Kelly, after striking Nathan several times on the head, ran downstairs and, finding all was quiet, took his confederates back to complete the job.

It will be seen that Mr. John T. Irving does not tell us one single item with which we are not acquainted. The “confession” may be dismissed as bogus.