Transcribed and annotated by Julie Means Kane
On December 12, 1938, one of the most outrageous characters of the 20th century breathed his last in a bed in the Hospital for Defective Delinquents in Springfield, Missouri. Gaston Bullock Means had spied for the Kaiser before World War I, been accused of murder and acquitted, acted as bagman for the Ohio Gang during Harding’s administration, and chased imaginary Reds across the continent and back. He had been rich, and he had been dirt poor, but he had never lost the twinkle in his eye and his talent for constructing tales so tasty they tempted even J. Edgar Hoover to believe them.
At his side in his last hours was his wife, Julie Patterson Means, and crowding into the room were FBI agents dressed as doctors and nurses. They were there to learn if, on his deathbed, Gaston would reveal the location of the $104,000 originally intended to ransom the Lindbergh baby. They were disappointed.
Less than one year later, Julie Means found herself penniless, living in a rented room with her son Billy, just twenty-one and doing his best to earn a living for the two of them. That was when she put pen to paper to tell the story of her life with the spectacular rogue, Gaston Means.
Her story was published in five installments in newspapers across the country, garnering wide readership but leaving many questions unanswered. Now her grand-daughter prize-winning author Julie Means Kane has transcribed the original articles, adding commentary from her personal knowledge and extensive research.
Family photographs and anecdotes, published here for the first time, add color and context to this story of a roller coaster ride through American history before World War II. True crime aficionados and fans for HBO’s Boardwalk Empire will be pleased.
Like what you’ve read?
- Want to comment, share a thought or a critique? Please do! I value your input and promise to read and respond.
- Want to support my work? Here are a few ways to do that: