Phantom Barber Menace Terrorizes Pascagoula
You may have heard the legends of phantom attackers — those fantastical beings that swoop in to cause a panic, only to disappear just as quickly. In some cases, the legend is based on historical events; for example, the London Monster was likely a real attacker who preyed on women in 18th century London streets. But occasionally, the mystery assailant is something completely different: a phantom assailant who stalks the streets of Pascagoula, Mississippi during World War II, preying on women and girls.
His particular perversion involved cutting hair, and so locals referred to him as The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula. The year was 1942. America was at war. As her men and boys went off to fight in foreign fields, her towns geared themselves up to produce the material the troops would need to win the war. The small town of Pascagoula was no exception. Indeed, the war was a boom time for the town—its population increased by 15,000 in just two years. However, with so many people moving in, tensions began to rise.
It was the perfect recipe for a panic–what with all the social upheaval and looming war threats. True to form, a panic soon struck Pascagoula; although it started with an odd series of haircuts at the scissors of The Phantom Barber, it quickly escalated into full-blown fear mongering. By June 12th, 1942 nearly every woman in town had received an unwanted haircut from him. For some, it was merely a nuisance; for others it was a scarring and life-changing event that changed their entire lives forever.
The town was understandably in a panic. It got to the point where the Army even modified its blackout regulations (blackouts were procedures to defend against air raids) in order to help police hunt the phantom Barber. The phantom Barber primarily struck on Monday and Friday evenings, and entered through a slit in window screens.
A week after the first attack, the phantom Barber struck the home of David G. Peattie, shearing his daughter Carol’s hair. The parents found a bare footprint near the window. The following Friday, the attacks became violent: the phantom allegedly entered the house of Mr. and Mrs. ST Heidelberg, and proceeded to beat them with an iron bar. The final attack happened on Sunday, two weeks later.
The Phantom Barber clipped a two inch lock of hair from the head of Mrs. RR Taylor. Mrs. Taylor reported a sickening smell and something being pressed to her face, which authorities assumed to be a chloroform rag. All told, about ten homes were broken into during the Phantom Barber’s reign of terror.
In August, the police apprehended a suspect that they concluded was the Phantom Barber. His name was William Dolan, a 57-year-old German chemist with reported German sympathies and a grudge against the Heidelbergs. Mr. Heidelberg’s father was a local judge who had refused to lower Dolan’s bail on a trespassing charge several months before.
Dolan was charged with attempted murder of Mrs. Taylor, but curiously he was never charged with one of Phantom Barber attacks despite the FBI finding a bundle of human hair behind his house, some of which belonged to Carol Peattrie who you will remember was fourth victim. Dolan denied being Phantom Barber. He received ten years for an attempted murder charge. After his arrest, Phantom Barber attacks ceased.
If that were the case and Dolan were the assailant, why keep his prizes in the backyard? Also, it doesn’t seem that the footprint in Carol Peattrie’s room was ever analyzed, providing investigators with a definite oversight on the part of the police.
As it often happens, there are no definitive answers in this case. It is certainly possible that a pervert with a hair fetish was stalking the streets of Pascagoula. Whether that pervert was William Dolan, or another man who decided to vanish once authorities caught wind of Dolan and his problematic history, remains unknown. The identity of the Phantom Barber of Pascagoula will remain an enigmatic mystery.
Source: Pajimans, Theo. “The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula.” ForteanTimes.com. November 2009. Fortean Times. March 17, 2014