James H. Snook: Known for More Than a Hook

In a departure from our regular style of episodes, this one is a strange tale that I stumbled on by mistake. I was doing some wildlife photography in a cemetery in Columbus, OH and happened upon a grave marker upon which people had left all types of coins. When I googled the person’s name, I was shocked at the story. I tell that story in this episode, and then play the quick quiz with Magician, Erik Tait. 

James Howard Snook graduated from The Ohio State University in 1908. I got my hands on a copy of the Makio – which is like Ohio State Yearbook – from 1908 and Snook’s senior quote was “His friends – they are many. His foes – are there any?” He was a founding member of the Alpha Psi fraternity at Ohio State and was on the pistol team. In fact – he was so good with a pistol, he went on after getting his Veterinary Degree to be on the United States Olympic Pistol team and won two gold medals in Antwerp in 1920. 

He worked as faculty of the veterinarian school at Cornell for a short time, but settled down back in Columbus, Ohio. He was a Professor at Ohio State’s Veterinary School and was an accomplish equine surgeon. He invented a very famous tool called the “Snook Hook.” It was basically a little steel tool that aided in spaying animals and it’s still in use today. 

As far as his personal life – he was a quiet man. Not many of his colleagues knew him all that well. He had a devoted wife Helen and a child – a young daughter.

In the summer of 1926, Snook was 45 and he met a 22 year old medical student, Theora Hix. Snook was head of the department and a licensed veterinarian and she was an attractive young woman who studied under him and worked in the Veterinary building as a stenographer. The two held occasional conversations that developed into a friendship and eventually, Snook gave Hix a ride to her dorm room at Mack Hall. This led to more rides home, and developed into longer rides into the Columbus countryside. They’d go for joy rides, have picnics, and he would take her shooting, which she took a liking to. He even bought her her own pistol. Her dorm room had previously been broken into, so having this Remington derringer pistol helped ease her mind. They’d go to the New York Central shooting range on Fisher Road in Columbus to practice. Within 3 weeks, the two began a sexual relationship. She was more sexually advanced than Snook and often reminded him of this fact, telling him he should “study up” to be with her. And she meant that literally. She gave him sex books to study. Theora Hix was an aggressive young girl who wanted what she wanted. In fact, she had another lover, Marion Meyers and she often told Snook that Meyers was bigger and gave her more pleasure than he did. 

They started renting a small apartment on Hubbard Ave. to meet up for their affair, and while it was a complete secret to Snook’s wife, it was apparently a well-known secret among the Ohio State Veterinary Dept. – As the affair went on, Snook’s work started to suffer. He was smitten by the young student and started exhibiting erratic behavior just to be with her. 

She was a wild girl. She was demanding of his time and would demand he try things with her like drugs she would force him to steal from the vet school pharmacy. She was a sado-masochist and dominated Snook, asking him to be aggressive with her. 

This all culminated on the night of July 13, 1929.

So we’re in the summer of 1929. James Howard Snook and Theora Hix had been carrying on a secret affair for around 3 years. It was hot and heavy – mostly a physical relationship. She hadn’t been seen for a few days. Her roommates reported Theora missing and on July 16, 1929 two teenage boys were walking around the New York Central Rifle Range in Fisher Road and found a body. It had been badly beaten and slashed. Her skull had been crushed and her throat was cut. Well it turned out – the body was Theora Hix. 

At first, the police looked to Marion Meyers, who had been known to be Hix’s boyfriend. Well, he was quick released because he hadn’t dated Hix in over a year. Eventually, the word got around that they should talk to Snook. He denied everything. Now this was before Miranda rights and after 19 hours of quesstioning, eventually the City Prosecutor smacked Snook in the face and he started confessing to everything. Every detail.

Everything we know about this case, we know because of the court proceedings. This court case was one of the most notable of the time because of the insane amount of graphic detail that was reported. Here’s was reportedly happened. 

On the night of July 13th, the two lovers were looking for a place to sneak away to. Snook suggested they go to Scioto Country Club. Hix didn’t want to go there because people might hear them having sex. She said “I would like to go some place further where I can scream.” He thought of the rifle range where he had taken her to go shooting. It was secluded and out of the way. The two of them tried to have sex in Snook’s small car, but he was unable to perform. Snook’s words were “it was unsatisfcatory for both of us.” Snook was running out of time and needed to return home to his family. He had plans to take his family to his mother’s house for the weekend. 

According to Snook, Hix heard this and spun into a jealous rage. Now it’s important to remember this is Snook’s testimony about what happened. And it’s just disgustingly full of him blaming the victim. Sadly, we don’t have Hix’s version of the story because she’s dead. Snook said Hix yelled at him “Damn your mother! I don’t care about your mother. Damn Mrs. Snook. I’m going to killer her and get her out of the way.” So she’s talking about Helen here – James’s wife. He then said she threatened not only his wife, but his young daughter and to kill him too. Here’s his testimony of what Hix said:

“She said, ‘You have got to help me out.’ She grabbed open my trousers and went down on me then, and she didn’t do it very nicely and she bit me and got hold of my privates and pulled so hard I simply could not stand it. I got hold of something out of this kit (in the back seat of the car) and hit her with it. I finally got her loose, very nearly twisted her arm off and she sat up there a little bit and said, ‘Damn you, I will kill you, too.’
“She grabbed her purse and slid out of the [car.] I was in so much pain and when I tried to straighten up, all at once it flashed through my mind that she was getting out and I knew if she got out she would shoot me.
“I hit her once then, I hit her again and she slid right out on the ground and I followed her out. I got up behind her and hit her once more with the hammer and she went down and her head hit against the running board of the [car], and that is all I can remember of hitting her.”

So that’s all from the court transcript, but he then claimed he didn’t remember killing her or cutting her. The cut across her carotid artery was so precise that only someone knowledgeable in anatomy could have done it. Besides that, they had actually found quite a bit of evidence on Snook. At his home, they found a ball-peen hammer and a pocket knife, both spattered with Hix’s blood. He had washed his car out the dar after the murder, but they still found blood and bloody clothes in the car. His wife couldn’t account for his whereabouts on the evening of July 13th.

The jury deliberated for oh, about 28 minutes, and found him guilty. On August 14 of 1929, he was sentenced to death and was executed by the electric chair on February 28, 1930. 

He was buried in a sort of secret way. His wife and daughter were obviously ashamed of what he had done. So much so, they dropped his last name. And if you would visit Greenlawn Cemetery and asked for the information of James Snook, the cemetery office would find the following on a small burial record card: Snook. James H. No. 68204. Cause of Death: Legal Electrocution. Then in a hand-written note scribbled on the top of the card, “Do not give out location.” And that’s why, if you visit Greenlawn Cemetery and go to section 87 and happen to find plot number 243, you’ll find a stone that is purposely vague. A stone that was carved without a last name to prevent people from finding it. It simply says “James Howard. 1879-1930.”

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Forgotten history, bizarre tales & facts that seem too strange to be true! Host Michael Kent asks listeners to tell him something strange, bizarre or surprising that they've recently learned and he gets to the bottom of it! Every episode ends by playing a gameshow-style quiz game with a celebrity guest. Part of the WCBE Podcast Experience.


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