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Episode 17: Three Sisters in Black

Meet sisters Caroline Martin, Virginia Wardlaw and Mary Snead. They left a trail of devastation and death in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and on to New Jersey where they were implicated in the mysterious death of Ocey Snead, known as the Bath Tub Mystery

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On Nov. 27, 1909, police were called to a home in East Orange, New Jersey. A woman, wearing a black veil, opened the door and identified herself as Virginia Wardlaw. She led police upstairs to a bathroom where they found the emaciated body of the once beautiful 23 year old Ocey Snead. She was found nude, kneeling in the bathtub. Police believed this to be a case of suicide, due to a note Ocey left behind.

Ocey had been living in this run down home with her husband, Fletcher. A janitor told police that despite their obvious financial struggles, Ocey and Fletcher, seemed happy despite having lost their first child the year before. They seemed fine until witnesses noticed two older women, dressed in black, coming to visit. The women stayed. Soon after, Fletcher left. He would later tell police he left because he was frustrated by the women who invaded his home.  Five months later, Ocey had given birth to a baby boy, David. The baby was ill and had to be hospitalized. 

When she was alone with her doctor, Ocey told him she was being starved to death by her mother and aunt. She begged her doctor for help but she was never left alone with him again. The doctor would visit and find Ocey anxious and seemingly wanting to tell him something but he said the mother and aunt would not allow Ocey to talk. They refused medications he tried to give to her and wouldn’t allow him to remove the stitches from an operation he had performed on Ocey. 

Which brings us once again to a bathroom in Ocey’s home on November 27, 1909. A  note nearby read:  

“Last year my little daughter died. Other near and dear kindred too have gone to Heaven. I long to go there too. I have been ill and weak a very long time now. Death will be a blessed relief to me in my sufferings. When you read this I will have committed suicide. My sorrow and pain in this word are greater than I can endure. Ocey W.M. Snead”

Ocey Snead’s mother and aunts, The Three Sisters in Black, would be arrested and charged with murder. Did they kill Ocey? Or did Ocey take her own life?

Episode Sources
Newspaper Coverage of Bathtub Mystery
Historical Society account of Three Sisters Locke Box opened in 1930
Read Three Sisters in Black: The Bizarre Case of the Bathtub Tragedy

Music Credits
Theme Song: “Dark & Troubled” by Panthernburn. Special thanks to Phillip St Ours for permission for use.

Additional Music: Kevin MacLeod “Evening Fall Harp”, “Wounded”, “Atlantean Twilight”, and “Dark Times” Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution

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