That’s a lot of raisins


Nothing ruins a night out like coming home to discover your home has been burgled. Such was the situation, on November 15, 1919, for Clara and Albert Yost.

Missing from their Lockport, Illinois home was a small sum of cash, a suitcase containing old clothing and some groceries, including salt, sugar, potatoes and 25 pounds of raisins. 

That’s a lot of raisins.

Why would anyone, other than a commercial baker, have 25 pounds of dried fruit on hand. 

Could it have something to do with the passage of The Volstead Act on October 28, 1919?

Prohibition, soon to be the 18th Amendment to our Constitution, had been proposed before Congress on December 17, 1917 and was due to go into effect on January 17, 1920. President Wilson vetoed the Volstead Act but the US Senate voted 65 to 20 to override his veto.

The Volstead Act, known more formally as The National Prohibition Act, defined the laws prohibiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within the United States and its territories. 

Illinois was soon to be “a dry state.” 

The consumption of alcohol wouldn’t be illegal but once your stash ran out, you’d be unable to legally buy any more. 

However, the Volstead Act did allow individuals to make wine and cider, up to 200 gallons, but not beer in their homes.

Not that we know the Yosts were planning to manufacture cider for personal consumption but it certainly seems possible. However, it’s immaterial. No matter what was stolen, they were victims of a crime.

Following a Thanksgiving dinner shared with friends, the Yosts consulted a spirit board about a great many things. Someone in the group suggested they ask Ouija about the burglary. 

With no major breaks in the case, after leaving it in the hands of the police for 12 days, why not turn to a Ouija for clues?


The planchette hesitated initially but soon the Yosts had their answer. 


This was unbelievable. Frank Walter was a friend and neighbor.


Mr. Yost asked Ouija if Frank had acted alone. N-O

Was Frank’s wife Lydia with him? Y-E-S

This was hardly proof-positive so nobody contacted the police but the planchette had most assuredly driven a wedge between the two families.

News of what was revealed by Ouija began circulating in Lockport but the Walter family remained unaware of the rumors. 

For Lydia, the first sign of trouble in the friendship came weeks later when she decided to run for the position of Oracle in the Royal Neighbors of America. 

The RNA, founded in 1895 as a Ladies Auxiliary of the Modern Woodmen of America, is still in existence.

Members, then and now, devote themselves to goods works and female empowerment. 

“Royal” symbolizes the nobility of their work and “Neighbors” signifies neighbors helping neighbors. These days, the organization specializes in Scholarships, Insurance and Annuities.

Their logo, unchanged since 1894, is a flower with 5 petals. Each petal stands for individual qualities the members hope to embrace – Faith, Endurance, Courage, Modesty, Unselfishness. The center spot represents Morality.

Lydia expected her friend and lodge sister Clara Yost to support her fully in the upcoming election but what she got instead was a worthy opponent …. in and out of the organization. 

Clara won the election and Lydia soon heard the rumors being circulated about her and Frank. Lydia was outraged and demanded a public apology. 

“Apologize for what?” was Clara’s position. It was the Ouija Board and not the Yosts that called Frank and Lydia Walter thieves. There would be no apology.

Lydia wouldn’t let it go. Not that she wasn’t open to the idea of the supernatural or alternative thinking; Lydia herself was a member of a local Spiritualist Society but she felt she was the victim of slander. 

Rather than wait for an apology that was never coming, Lydia Walter hired an attorney and sued her former friend for slander and defamation. 

She was seeking $10,000 in damages. That’s $130,140.00, in today’s money.

The lawsuit, announced in early 1920, wouldn’t be put before the judge and jury until April 1921.

Lydia’s lawyer, State Representative and fellow Lockport resident, William R. McCabe, threatened to call Ouija as a witness and potential jurors were asked if they believed in messages received through this medium. 

Judge De Selm, 1914

Circuit Court Judge Arthur W. De Selm ruled that belief or disbelief in Ouija wasn’t a factor in the men’s ability to serve as jurors.

 After all the testimony was heard, Judge De Selm’s instructions to the jury included the following directive, “If there was malice behind Ouija’s declarations, the defendant must be found guilty. But, if Ouija manifestly was in a jocular humor and merely jesting, the defendant must be found not guilty.”

Over the course of two hours, the jury cast three ballots. The first being 9 to 3 in favor of the defendant, the second 11 to 1 and the third unanimous for her. 

The trial was over and Clara Yost was deemed not responsible for Ouija’s actions.

Lydia Walter announced her intention to appeal the verdict. 

On April 29, 1921, Judge De Selm granted Lydia Walter’s request for a new trial. 

Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find out if she went ahead with the second trial or let the matter drop. Perhaps there was an apology?

In 1936, after years of investigating corruption within the state, Lydia’s attorney William R. McCabe (1884-1958) left politics and his law practice behind him when he purchased The Joliet Spectator, a weekly newspaper. 

McCabe’s editorial stance made him more than a few enemies.

In fact, on April 16 1938, Deputy Sheriff Leahm Kelly assaulted McCabe on the street in protest of an article McCabe published calling for his removal from office. 

One day earlier, bricks had been thrown through the Spectator’s front windows. Leahm Kelly denied there was a connection. 

A much more serious and anonymous attack occurred on April 7, 1947 when McCabe was severely beaten and left for dead. He never fully recovered.

McCabe’s partner in publishing (each owing 48 shares of the newspaper) was a woman 25 years his junior – Amelia “Molly” Zelko. 

Molly’s long association with McCabe began in 1927 when she was 17 years old and she was hired on as McCabe’s secretary. 

In 1936, Molly followed him into the newspaper business. Molly was, by all accounts, a tenacious reporter/editor who, just like her mentor McCabe, took a hard stance on corruption and made enemies.

Molly mysteriously disappeared the night of September 25, 1957. 

Popular opinion holds that Molly had been targeted by mobster Sam Giancana.

Rather then take you down the very deep Molly Zelko rabbit hole myself, I  strongly
recommend the 8 part “Who Killed Molly Zelko?” podcast series, co-produced by the Joliet Area
Historical Museum and Joliet Public Library.

Here’s a link –

We can never know how seriously either the Yosts or the Walters took their consultations with the spirit world. Occultism was very popular in the early 1920s. 

Was it, for any of them, merely a lark or did they legitimately have questions for loved ones on the other side? It’s impossible to know.

Lydia Walter may have begun dabbling in spiritualism as a way to communicate with her brother Otto E. Lundstrom who had been shot to death by his morphine-addled wife Alberta Lundstrom aka Vera Lee on January 17, 1909. 

Alberta’s sentence for this crime was rather slight considering she’d killed a man – only 18 months, of which she served 16 months before being released. It was generally accepted that having kicked her drug habit, she could live a good life outside of prison walls. 

 Did Lydia consider turning to Ouija for answers in July 1922 when her 17 year old daughter Marie was “lured away” from home by a mysterious stranger?

The article to the left indicates “everything would be forgiven if Marie would come home.” 

Sounds like an elopement.

Is their daughter, Marie Louise Walter, who so readily performed at social functions in and around Lockport, Illinois as early as 1914, and who delighted her mother’s guests with “an impromptu program of instrumental and vocal music,” the same Marie Walter who later partnered with Edw. F. Williams and Madeline Smith to form the Marie Walter Company, which was actively touring the country in the early 1920s?

I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t know. It’s certainly plausible but I’m not sure.

This is another situation were I’ll let the readers decide for themselves.

Here are a few pictures from the company’s press kit.


Compare the woman in these photos with the one picture of the missing Marie Walter.

In photo 1, Marie would be the woman pictured twice and not sitting at the piano. I believe that woman is Madeline Smith.

Those two photos show Marie Walter and Edw. F Williams.

Whatever drama swirled around the Walter family in 1922 when Marie
disappeared, there is a Michigan marriage certificate for Marie Walter
and a Frank Schmidt, dated June 23, 1933, which states that they each had been
married once before. 

Frank’s age is listed as 56 and Marie is 29. 

The Schmidts
were still together in 1940, according to that year’s Census, and
living in St. Louis, Missouri with their 7 year old daughter. Elaine.

Lydia Walter (44 years old during the trial) died on November 3,
1927, at the age of 50. Her husband Frank died on January 13, 1934, he
was 74.

Clara Yost (35 years old during the trial) died in January
1959, she was 73. Albert lived the longest, dying on January 27, 1968
at the age of 92. 

Molly Zelko’s body has never been found. 

It may interest you to know that on October 13, 1946, former Deputy Sheriff Leahm Kelly was gunned down in his
driveway, in full view of his wife and 4 year old daughter. 

On April 2, 1947, Leahm’s
brother Dennis Kelly was ambushed and shot but survived. He wouldn’t be so lucky 6 years later. 

On March 5, 1953, Dennis Kelly was taken out by 2 shotgun blasts to his body, followed by 2 shots to his head with a .45 caliber handgun.

Both brothers were
described as “jukebox kingpins” and it was well-known that the mafia
was trying to control the coin-op business in Illinois. At the time of his murder, Dennis was also a business agent of the Joliet local 714  AFL bartenders union.

All of this and more can be found in the “Who Killed Molly Zelko?” podcast. 

Here’s that link again –


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