92 Years Ago Today -- George Remus Murders Imogene in Cincinnati's Eden Park

92 years ago in 1927, George Remus murdered his wife Imogene in Eden Park, just outside Cincinnati.

The gunshot that indian summer morning capped a tumultuous period of mayhem, betrayal, and embezzlement. The subsequent trial would be followed by millions worldwide!

The accompanying February 1928 insanity trial transcripts provide insight into what Remus thought about his wife and the murder.


Below is a portion of the February 1928 insanity hearing transcript. Remus answers questions about his early days with Imogene and admits that they engaged in “illicit relations.”

February 1928 insanity hearing transcript — George Remus answers questions about his early days with Imogene — “illicit relations”

February 1928 insanity hearing transcript — George Remus answers questions about his early days with Imogene — “illicit relations”

Remus admits that he hoped to catch Imogene and Franklin Dodge together — so he could kill them both!

Remus admits that he hoped to catch Imogene and Franklin Dodge together — so he could kill them both!

Remus admits that he hoped to catch Imogene and Franklin Dodge together — so he could kill them both!

George claimed he married Imogene to bring her up from poverty…and that she owed him as a result. The betrayal with Dodge was too much. The affair and that it became common knowledge in the criminal underworld, disgraced him, and — in his mind — forced action.

George claimed he married Imogene to bring her up from poverty…and that she owed him as a result. The betrayal with Dodge was too much…

George claimed he married Imogene to bring her up from poverty…and that she owed him as a result. The betrayal with Dodge was too much…

Given his ability to manipulate juries, Remus declared he would defend himself, giving him direct access to the 12 people who held his life in their hands.

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Given his ability to manipulate juries, Remus declared he would defend himself, giving him direct access to the 12 people who held his life in their hands.

 

5 Minutes to Murder: George Remus, The Bourbon King

5 Minutes to Murder: George Remus, The Bourbon King

Historian Bob Batchelor discusses The Bourbon King outside the former Cincinnati hotel where "Bootleg King" George Remus stalked his wife Imogene, before murdering her in cold blood at Eden Park.

 
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The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Murder, Video

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: The Murder, Video

The Murder, Part II: From Cincinnati, Historian Bob Batchelor, author of The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition's Evil Genius (Diversion Books), discusses how George Remus chased down his wife Imogene and murdered her in Eden Park and then retraces their steps!

There is a great deal of conflicting opinion about exactly where Remus and his driver, George Klug, ran Imogene and Ruth’s taxi off the road, even among eyewitnesses! I recreate the murder from the information I pieced together from those accounts. In any case, the murder took place along a 10 to 20 yard strip near Mirror Lake.


George Remus murdered Imogene in Eden Park, Cincinnati’s version of Central Park in the 1920s. The murder location is behind me in this photo, in this stretch of roadway.

George Remus murdered Imogene in Eden Park, Cincinnati’s version of Central Park in the 1920s. The murder location is behind me in this photo, in this stretch of roadway.

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: Imogene, Femme Fatale or Pawn in Remus’s Evil World?

 
Imogene Remus sits for a formal portrait in her finest fur shawl and feathered hat. Her stunning diamond wedding ring is prominently displayed, which may indicate that this photo was taken shortly after she and George were married in Newport, Kentucky, on June 25, 1920.

Imogene Remus sits for a formal portrait in her finest fur shawl and feathered hat. Her stunning diamond wedding ring is prominently displayed, which may indicate that this photo was taken shortly after she and George were married in Newport, Kentucky, on June 25, 1920.

The exterior of the Gatsby-like “Dream Palace.”

The exterior of the Gatsby-like “Dream Palace.”

Imogene Remus — Femme Fatale or Pawn in Remus’s Evil World?

Imogene Remus is one of the trickiest characters in The Bourbon King.

Imogene’s motivations and subsequent actions enabled her to easily transition to whatever a situation necessitated. Imogene could be browbeaten housewife or femme fatale at a moment’s notice. On one hand, her desires were base and gaudy, but she also masterminded a complex scheme to funnel much of her husband’s wealth to herself and family members.

Unlike other accounts of George and Imogene, my research revealed how devious she had been from the start of her relationship with her husband. Much of Imogene’s early life had never been uncovered, particularly the lengths she went to attract a modicum of fame.

Yet, at the same time, Imogene played a dangerous game, dancing on the edge of a cliff. She may have thought she understood George, but in the end, she had no clue to the depths of violence and anger Remus could unleash.

Imogene grew up in Milwaukee dreaming of a life bigger and more glamorous than her working class roots. What I found in researching her life is that she was constantly playing with her identity by using different names, from “Gussie” and “Gene” to “Susan” and others.

Trying these names and different identities on like masks, Imogene hoped to become wildly famous and rich, living out an aristocratic life that she saw around her. I also uncovered a number of crazy attempts Imogene made to get her name in the newspapers, which was one of the best ways to increase notoriety in the early twentieth century. She would send “news” to reporters, and for someone with no formal training, had several pieces picked up.

For example, around the time the story broke about her breaking up George’s first marriage, using the name “Gene Holmes,” she had a list of tips for a wife to follow to keep her husband from “becoming a wild man.” Reporters who ran the story did not miss the irony of the highly-publicized “love triangle” that had been in the papers for months.

Even more overtly, Imogene told a friend shortly after Remus moved in with her that she planned to “roll him for his roll” and that she “would marry him if I have to” to get his money. George was already famous, flashy, and probably looked like a great catch for Imogene. She won him over and eventually got all the riches in the world. However, she couldn’t have had any idea at that time what a depraved person he would become.

The Bourbon King, The Inside Story: Why Write about George Remus

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How did you discover the story of George Remus, and why did you decide to write a book about him?


Imagine having a topic in your head for 17 years!

I stumbled across George Remus about 17 years ago when Stanley Cutler, an esteemed American historian and scholar, asked me to write about bootlegging for the Dictionary of American History.

Remus’s story was so epic that I couldn’t get it out of my mind. The “Bootlegging” entry had to be concise, so I didn’t get much of an opportunity to expand on the Remus story, but I snuck him in, as well as mentions of Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Here’s that bit from the essay:

Given the pervasive lawlessness during Prohibition, bootlegging was omnipresent. The operations varied in size, from an intricate network of bootlegging middlemen and local suppliers, right up to America's bootlegging king, George Remus, who operated from Cincinnati, lived a lavish lifestyle, and amassed a $5 million fortune. To escape prosecution, men like Remus used bribery, heavily armed guards, and medicinal licenses to circumvent the law. More ruthless gangsters, such as Capone, did not stop at crime, intimidation, and murder.

— “Bootlegging” Dictionary of American History, 2003

Although researched and written so long ago, I still see bits of my personal writing style that persists. “Pervasive lawlessness” is a stylistic point, as well as the pacing of the sentence.

Later, in 2013, I published a biography of The Great Gatsby, which I had been researching and writing for years. Obviously, the work on the book forced me to continue thinking about this crazy bootleg king, particularly since so many people began writing that he was the inspiration for Jay Gatsby, rather than just one of several.

[Spoiler alert: the link between Jay Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and George Remus is an important discussion in The Bourbon King and the beginning of one of America’s great literary mysteries that readers will really enjoy.]

The more I thought about the bootleg king, the more it seemed that no one had really fully captured Remus or put him within the context of American history. His epic tale illuminates and interrogates the early twentieth century, Prohibition, Constitutionality, and many other topics that continue to confound people today.

George Remus also fit neatly into my cultural historian and biographer wheelhouse: big topic, historically significant, and interesting links from that era to what we are experiencing today. I found that there were still many undiscovered aspects to Remus’s story and there were untapped archives, so I barreled ahead.

Starred Review in Publishers Weekly!

The Bourbon King: The Life and Crimes of George Remus, Prohibition’s Evil Genius received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, one of the essential publications in the publishing industry.

Larger-than-life characters take the reins of this story, a rip-roaring good time for any American history buff or true-crime fan.
Batchelor’s action-packed narrative both entertains and informs with its tales of the corruption of President Warren G. Harding’s attorney general, the bootlegging trade, and the public’s oscillating views of Remus and Prohibition in general.

You can find the complete review at this link!

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