The Man Who Sent Wilbur on the Wright Path

If any fact is known about Dayton, it’s that Wilbur and Orville Wright created their heavier-than-air Flying Machine in Dayton, Ohio. What many don’t know, is that it almost didn’t happen.

Wilbur had set his sights on Yale. A star athlete in football, skating, and gymnastics, Wilbur intended to leave Dayton behind. It was the Winter of 1886 that changed the course of history for Wilbur and the future of flight.

During a hockey game, 18-year-old Wilbur was smashed in the face with a hockey stick by neighborhood bully, Oliver Crook Haugh, severely injuring Wilbur’s face and jaw, and subsequently creating digestive issues, heart palpitations, and severe depression. It is not known for sure if the incident was intentional or accidental, but Milton Wright, Wilbur’s father, wrote in his diary that young Oliver “never was without the wish to inflict pain or at least discomfort on others.”

While recovering, Wilbur became reclusive, turning to books instead of athletics. During this time, Wilbur became fascinated with flight and a more traditional education. For the Wright Brothers, the rest is written in history.

Oliver’s life, however, took a different route.

Starting with a dependence on cocaine toothache drops, Oliver soon became addicted to drugs and alcohol and spent time in the Dayton Asylum for the Insane.

The first time Oliver was suspected of murder was in 1891 when his fiancée’s father died under suspicious circumstances. A link could not be proven in the murder, and Oliver was never charged.

Oliver studied medicine and became a doctor, opening a practice two years later. He eventually had to shut down his practice due to the suspicious and untimely deaths of some of his patients.

Facing severe financial troubles, Oliver is reputed to have married several women for their money, many of whom then died under suspicious circumstances. It is assumed that Oliver used drugs to control the women he later killed.

It is estimated that Oliver killed sixteen people in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. Of the sixteen people, it was the murder of the last three that caught up to him. On November 4, 1905, Oliver was convicted of murdering his mother, father, and brother after learning he was cut out of the will.

Oliver spent the rest of his life claiming innocence to the crime, referencing The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the Dec. 30, 1905 edition of the Clinton Mirror:

In his last statement, Haugh wrote:

“They say I murdered my father, my mother and brother with hyoscine for the sake of the money. Then they say that when I have taken enough of the hyoscine the man within me disappears, and Hyde is the power. It seems as though I must do something – destroy something. My only recourse is to get out into the street – out into the open country – away from men and women, lest I murder them. It is possible for me to have killed these people and know nothing of it. It is possible for me to have committed all the other murders of which they accuse me, and in my normal condition be in ignorance, for in my normal condition I am another man. All that I do know is, that if I die for these crimes, I shall have at least established the proof of the theory on which I have always insisted – that two beings, one of good, the other of evil, may exist in the same man, and in that respect at least I shall have rendered a distinct service to posterity.”

On December 17, 1903, Wilbur, along with his brother Orville, flew the first heavier-than-air Flying Machine. While Wilbur and Orville took the walk into the limelight, Oliver Crook Haugh took a walk down a different path. He was executed for murder by electrocution on April 19, 1907.

Special thanks to Bry Shillito for providing Dayton Unknown with this tip.

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