Winnetka’s Historic Mysteries, Murders, and Crimes


Bootleggers and Blind Pigs: The North Shore During Prohibition
Did you know that Winnetka was dry for 113 years? A provision in the 1869 Village Charter prevented the legal sale of alcohol, but that didn’t stop Hubbard Woods Restaurant owner Mary Curruti from illegally supplying it to customers. Read about Curruti’s bootleg operation, the 1926 raid on her restaurant, and her subsequent arrest. READ HERE!

Winnetka Talk article covering the 1926 raid on Mary Curruti’s restaurant.

No Man’s Land
Before it was annexed by Wilmette in 1942, the North Shore’s “No Man’s Land” was an unincorporated area along Sheridan Road that became a haven for illegal activity. Read this Chicago Tribune article to learn about the shady history of “No Man’s Land.” CLICK HERE!

Aerial view of No Man’s Land, 1928. Photo credit: Wilmette Public Library

Image of the Willson home, c. 1900.

“Murder Town”
In the late nineteenth century, a series of brutal murders earned Winnetka the unsavory nickname “Murder Town.” From the revenge killing of Cain Higgins to the unsolved murders of former Village president James Willson and his wife, watch this clip from the Winnetka Story documentary to learn more about this shocking and oft-forgotten period of Winnetka’s history. WATCH HERE!
To read more about the Willson murder, CLICK HERE!
Mysterious Disappearance on Linden Street
On July 2, 1948 at 7:30 pm, Winnetkan Orja Corns left his home at 421 Linden Street and never returned. Despite decades of investigations, no trace of Orja Corns or his car were ever found. Learn more about the circumstances surrounding “one of Chicago’s most baffling missing persons mysteries” to date. CLICK HERE!

Image of 421 Linden in the Chicago Tribune following the disappearance of Orja Corns, 1948.

Earliest known image of the Schmidt-Burnham Log House, c. 1890.

The Log House’s Murderous Ties
Did you know that the Schmidt-Burnham Log House has ties to a family murder? In 1872, Peter Schmidt, Jr., son of the Log House’s first known resident, was witnessed killing his brother-in-law, Michael Schaefer, at an auction in Gross Point. Schaefer, who owned the Log House at the time, died on the scene. Read this 1872 Chicago Tribune article to learn more about this “terrible murder.” READ HERE!

Mugshot of James Earl Ray before he escaped from prison, 1955.

James Earl Ray and the Indian Trail Restaurant
On May 3, 1967, the Indian Trail, a popular Winnetka restaurant, hired a new dishwasher named John L. Rayns. Unbeknown to the owners, the dishwasher was actually James Earl Ray, an escaped prisoner from Missouri who, one year later, went on to shoot and kill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Learn more about the Indian Trail’s unfortunate connection with Ray. CLICK HERE!


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