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Evil Spirits or Nazi Spy?

The story of the Phantom Barber of Pascagoula


By Dan Terry, Host of Most Haunted


    In some forms of Voodoo, we know that the hair or personal items of the victim is taken and used to make the connection between the Voodoo Doll and the target. But what if someone was breaking into homes and stealing hair from women and young girls? Could it be paranormal related, or some type of Nazi plot to damage a war effort?

        In June of 1942, in the city of Pascagoula, along the Mississippi coast, factories and shipyards were turning out weapons, food, and transport for the war. If you’ve spent any time along the southern coast, you would know summers are hot and humid, and at that time, air conditioners were a luxury the local workers could scarcely afford. Nights were long and uncomfortable, and now we’ll throw some fear into it.

        On June 5th, 1942, Mary Evelyn Briggs and Edna Marie Hydel awoke in the bedroom at Our Lady of Victories Convent and saw a man climbing out of the window. Each girl had a lock of their hair missing…

        A few days later, six-year-old Carol Peattie was sleeping next to her male twin and woke to find a man cutting her hair. He had made entry by cutting the screen. Only a footprint in the sand remained…

        The following Friday, the case took an ominous turn. Mr. and Mrs. Terrell Heidelberg was sleeping when a man made entry into their home by cutting the screen. This time, instead of scissors, the suspect carried an iron rod. He viciously attacked the couple, knocking Terrell unconscious and busting the teeth out of Mrs. Heidelberg. Due to the intensity and surprise of the attack, no description was available.

        While the Method of Operation was quite different between the types of cases, the pressure was building on the local police chief, A.W. Ezell. Bloodhounds were used to track the suspect from the Heidelberg home to the local woods, where a pair of bloody gloves were found. Police suspect he had some form of transportation waiting for him there.

        On June 23rd, Mrs. R.E. Taylor was sleeping in the same room with her husband and children and said she was awakened by something with a “sickening smell.” Mrs. Taylor passed out and woke up violently ill and with hair missing. The investigation revealed the screen had been cut, and a chloroform-soaked rag was found. Mrs. Taylor was quoted as saying she “had a vague feeling of something passing over my face, then woke up feeling ill.”

        In some newspapers, the Police Chief was quoted as saying there were 10 separate attacks, but these are the only ones I could find. Shortly after the Taylor assault, a 57 year old German born chemist, William Dolan, was arrested for the crimes. Surprisingly, the crimes did stop after the arrest. However, what did not make sense is the different types of crimes that had been attributed to him.

        Dolan operated a pharmacy in New Orleans before the war. He sold it and retired to Pascagoula. According to Chief Ezell, Dolan had a “coast to coast record” of charges before settling down in southern Mississippi, although no record of those charges was shown. The Chief claimed a witness saw him coming out of the Heidelberg home, but never produced the witness or named him.

        Police also stated they found a bundle of hair, either in Dolan's home or in a neighboring yard. In the days before DNA evidence, Chief Ezell determined it belonged to Carol Peattie.

        The primary claim against Dolan was acting on a grudge against Heidelberg, whose father was a judge and had refused to lower Dolan’s bond on a non-related trespassing case that had occurred months before the first appearance of the Phantom Barber.

        However, the main case against Dolan was that he was German. The U.S. was at the height of war production, and when asked why he broke into the other homes and cut hair, Chief Ezell reasoned that the other attacks were a way to disrupt a major military production area by causing fear and alarm.

        When that idea was questioned, the Chief found multiple witnesses claiming they had heard Dolan make positive statements about Hitler and the Nazis.

        Dolan plead not guilty, was found guilty, and sentenced to Prison. Six years later, a new governor of Mississippi had the case re-opened, and Dolan was given a lie-detector test which he passed. Dolan was given a conditional release and was completely released in 1951.

        But he was never found guilty of the hair-cutting incidents, and the evidence against him on the Heidelberg assaults was circumstantial at best. Was he guilty of any of the crimes?

     Did the Phantom Barber move to new locations, or did he exist at all? 

        There is little debate that people have been falsely accused and even executed due to their race, religion, or nationality. Muhammad Aziz and Khalil Islam, convicted of the murder of Malcolm X, spent 55 years in prison based on official misconduct and faulty eye-witness reports, even though one of the actual murderers denied they were involved.

Hurricane Rubin Carter spent 19 years in prison for murder before the case was overturned. And Richard Hauptmann, the alleged murderer of the Lindbergh Baby, was executed even though there are some very questionable acts by the investigators. 

        In all high profile, legal cases, from the Kennedy Assassination to the 9/11 attacks, appearances, especially if something makes the government officials look bad, may not be as they seem.

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