The Lindbergh Kidnapping
Parallel Threads, Continued
While Condon was initiating contact with the actual kidnappers, several other spurious efforts were underway. All four of these —the one legitimate and the three bogus —occurred during the same time period.
THE REAL KIDNAPPERS: JAFSIE AND CEMETERY JOHN
Who was John F. Condon, and how did he become involved? A retired physical education teacher, Condon was appalled by the crime against America's hero. He wrote a letter to the Bronx Home News, offering $1,000 of his own money to be added to the ransom demand of $50,000, and offering to act as a go-between. It appeared in the March 8, 1932, edition, exactly one week after the kidnapping. The next day he received a reply to his letter, accepting his services, and instructing him to place the message Mony is redy in the New York American. There was also a smaller envelope that was to be given to Col. Lindbergh. Condon immediately called Lindbergh and read him the letter that had been addressed to him, that is, Condon. He then asked Lindbergh if he should read the enclosed letter. Lindbergh said, "Kindly open it and read it to me." It read:
dear Sir, Mr. Condon may act as go-between. You many give him the 70000$. make one packet the size will bee about
Here was a sketch of a box, seven by six by fourteen inches. Condon described it to Lindbergh. The rest of the note read:
we have notify your already in what kind of bills. We warn you not to set any trapp in any way. If you or someone els will notify the Police ther will be a further delay After we have the mony in hand we will tell you where to find your boy You may have a airplain redy it is about 150 mil awy. But befor telling you the odr. a delay of 8 houers will be between.
"Is that all?" Lindbergh asked. Condon added that there was some sort of design at the right-hand bottom corner of the page, two interlocking circles, with three small holes punched into the design. Lindbergh became excited, and invited Condon to meet him at Hopewell.
After Condon's initial meeting with "Cemetery John" in Woodlawn Cemetery, the child's sleeping suit was mailed to Condon, as John had promised. After an additional exchange of advertisements by Condon and letters from John, a rendezvous for paying the ransom was arranged. Two packages of bills were made, both containing gold certificates, that is, currency that was still based on the gold standard. Gold certificates would be recalled by government edict a year later. The prescribed box contained $50,000, and a second package contained the additional $20,000 demanded by the kidnappers. The bills were not marked but the serial numbers had been recorded.
On the night of April 2, 1932, one day and one month since the Eaglet had been taken, Lindbergh drove Condon to the appointed spot. It was in another cemetery, St. Raymond's. Condon wandered among the tombstones while Lindbergh, armed with a pistol, waited in the car. No one seemed to be around. As Condon returned to the car to tell Lindbergh that John was not there, a voice called out, "Hey, Doctor!" Both Condon and Lindbergh had heard the voice.
The kidnapper called out again. "Here, Doctor. Over here! Over here!"
Condon returned to the graveyard, and saw a figure. He followed, lost him, then was startled when a crouched figure said, "Hello." It was John.
After a discussion about the whereabouts of the baby, Condon returned to the car to get the money. He had convinced John that there was only $50,000, and took only the box back to the kidnapper. He gave the box to John, who gave him a note, telling Condon that it should not be opened for six hours. The baby was all right, he told Condon, and was being safely kept on a boat called Nelly. John disappeared into the cemetery, and Condon returned to the car and Lindbergh. They drove away.
About a mile from the cemetery, Condon convinced Lindbergh that it would be all right to open the note. It gave the following instructions:
The boy is on the Boad Nelly. It is a small boad 28 feet long. Two persons are on the boad. The are innosent. you will find the Boad between Horseneck Beach and gay Head near Elizabeth Island.