Visionary: John Skillman and his NYC Police Reports

While doing some research for work, I stumbled upon an old book entitled: Skillman's New York Police Reports.

The author, John Skillman, was a visionary.

He was one of the first to recognize the entertainment value in crime reports.

Skillman took excerpts from early 19th Century NYC crime reports and combined it with humor and/or wit for a book.

Unfortunately, his work did not sell well and stopped after one edition, but certainly every writer and reporter that features weird crime news owes Mr. Skillman a debt of gratitude.

The following is a sample from his book…


An odd looking "genius" presented himself, with his head plastered "up" and splintered "up" in a most unique manner, and set forth that another "genius" of about the same dimensions and calibre attempted to cut his throat. 

MAGISTRATE: What was the means he employed to cut your throat?

COMPLAINANT: He used a Portuguese knife.

M.: Did you know the person before?

C.: Yes sir.

M.: What was the provocation for his attempting such a horrible crime?

C.: Sir, I was tickling him a little.

M.: And he didn't like being tickled?

C. Not he!

M.: And so you would "tickle" a man contrary to his inclinations--what was your reason?

C.: Why I wanted him to laugh of course, and to quiz him a little!

M.: Did you succeed?

C.: Succeed! no, he wouldn't laugh at all, nor would he stand quizzing, as you will see by my neck!

M.: This will be a warning to you not to irritate a man's feelings, or attempt to quiz him, especially when "he's not in the humor." Now go about your business and "tickle" yourself with the idea that if people don't choose to be "tickled" you had better let them alone.


So what are criminal justice professionals doing today in big cities around this nation?

Probably handling similar neighborhood disputes--asking people to be nice and warning others to keep their hands to themselves.

I guess not much has changed with people since Skillman's observations in 1830.


Note: As a part of Lehigh University's "Villainy Detected" project, a group from the institution recently made this classic book free for all to browse online, and you can access it by clicking here


Pat Hatt said...

hahaha avoid tickling anyone with a knife, check

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm said...

Right. No tickling here.

Bob G. said...

I should really get me a copy of Skillman's book...wherever it was reprinted.
Sounds like a real hoot.

Stay safe.

lisa said...

HA! I would soo have loved that book. I think those stories are funny. Sometimes you just can't make up stuff better than real life.

messymimi said...

It's not smart to assume everyone is equally ticklish, as he found.

Brian Miller said...

ha. i have a hard time believing the cops would intervene these days in a tickle battle...but depending on who it is tickling me they might need an ambulance...haha

Blond Duck said...

I forgot to give you my new blog-- had to move because of a stalker.

Kristen @ Motherese said...

I better warn my kids about the dire repercussions that can come from tickling somebody. If they met up with this guy, they'd be toast! ;)

Heart Vintage Design said...

Great post!

Donna K. Weaver said...

The difference is probably only in how people handle their frustrations.

Maxi said...

Sounds as though John Skillman had a dry sense of humor. Love those reports.
blessings ~ maxi

Momma Fargo said...

Lol. Police work and contacts with people change very little.

Diane Estrella said...

Hahahahaha! It would add a little frivolity to the otherwise dire situations they find themselves in all day long.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Note to self: Start carrying a knife when around people who think tickling is funny.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I would have loved to have read that book. Sounds quite funny.