dealer in fires, for nearly an hour yesterday revealed to a group of newspapermen
the tricks of his trade.
The reputed head of the "arson trust" for whom the police searched for
nearly two years, toyed with a cigar and held himself up with boastful pride as
a "benefactor of Chicago", a man who by burning down a lot of "shacks"
had caused better buildings to be constructed. He pictured himself as one of the
greatest forces for a "Chicago Beautiful".
At times he moralized on the dishonesty of other incendiaries who had defrauded
him out of his just recompense as "torch bearer". He boasted of his
efficiency as an incendiary and proudly pointed to his record of about forty fires.
He told of the ups and downs of his business since 1893, when he started his criminal
career. He explained how the men higher up in the arson ring had told him he must
sacrifice himself for the sake of others.
Death in Pocket
He was given three
poisoned pills, he said, which he was to take rather than face the courts. He
was warned to shoot himself as a last resort, and yet to do it in a way that his
wife would be able to collect his insurance. He was to cheat the insurance companies
even in death.
Joseph Fish, millionaire insurance adjuster, now under indictment, guaranteed
him $5000 to keep out of the clutches of the law, he said. State's Attorney Hoyne
asserted that Fish is still more deeply implicated in Korshak's confession, all
of which the prisoner was not permitted to give out.
Mr. Fish was told of the confession. "It is the same olf story of the State's
Attorney's office making a grandstand play, making a criminala state's witness
to attack a prominent man," he said. "I am innocent, of course."
as to Profession
the same breath in which Korshak related how he had earned more than $50,000 as
a professional incendiary, he objected strenuously to being referred to as a "firebug",
saying he didn't care for himself, but that out of consideration for his family
he would rather be called just a plain "incendiary."
Korshak's career as a "torch bearer" began, he said, shortly after he
had gone into the grocery business in 1893.
"I first started in the fire business when I had my own fire," he said.
"That first 'accident' was so successful that friends began coming to me
and saying they wanted to have 'accidents', too. Some of the fires I set were
bad jobs, as they didn't do as much damage as was wanted. Sometimes I was paid
in cash for my work and other times I received notes.
"One of my best methods was the use of the time torch. This would give me
plenty of time to get away and frame an alibi. Usually I ran several blocks and
found a policeman or maybe two or three of them. Then I'd get drunk and invite
them into a saloon and buy drinks for them. Then I had a perfect alibi. A policeman
is the best in the world." Korshak then related his scale of prices.
rate varied according to the amount of insurance my customers wanted to collect,"
he said. "Then, too, if it was a bad job and the fellow couldn't collect
it all I'd let him off easy. I got all the way from $200 to $3000 for each job
and made most of my money in 1909 and 1910. I think I earned about $50,000 in
those two years. On one job I gave $1000 to the man who recommended me.
"I set fire to one place because the man thought his rent was too high and
wanted to take that means of cancelling his lease."
The prisoner complemented the Chicago Fire Department.
"It's the best in the world," he said. "Four minutes is the usual
time for the firemen to arrive on the scene. The time when I nearly lost my life
was when some children were playing on the steps of a building I had been hired
to burn. They stayed around there for an hour and a half after the time I was
to set the fire.
they left and I went into the basement but didn't put the time torch as I had
intended for fear the children would come back on the steps and be burned. When
the explosion came I hadn't time to get out of the place myself and had to climb
through a coal hole in the basement. I thought I would be killed, but managed
to squeeze out in time and got away.
Korshak came down to the time when he disappeared following the beginning of the
investigation into the arson trust.
"I ducked in 1911, just after they had caught me in Vancouver and brought
me back," he said. "Before I left there was a fund of $5,000 raised
for me. I got $500 when I left and my wife was guaranteed $200 a month. It was
understood I was to get from $50 to $75 a month while I was away. My wife was
present at the meeting with the man whose name I have given to Mr. Hoyne. Two
lawyers were present. It was at that time that Fish guaranteed me $5,000. Joe
Clarke promised me $2,000. I was advised to go away and not be a coward and if
I was caught to be game and to use a gun in such a way it would not look like
suicide so my wife could get my life insurance.
"Nathan Spira gave me three pills saying, 'Dave, if you ever get caught,
take these pills and commit suicide rather than come back and go to jail.' (Spira
is now under conviction in connection with the workings of the "trust".)
I kept those pills until all my money ran out in London and then I threw them
Carries a Message
I left Chicago I traveled under the name of 'A. Miller.' On Jan 2 I was told I
would have to leave America. I was in Memphis. My wife came to me with the news.
She gave me some money and told me what those fellows wanted. From Memphis I went
to Philadelphia with my wife and then to New York where I stayed one day. Then
I went to London.
"After my supply of money ran out in London I went to work in a perfumery
factory and later as a nurse to an invalid. It was about this time when I didn't
get any more money that I threw away the pills Spira gave me. I figured then that
no matter what happened to me I would not commit suicide. I was tired of being
a fugitive from justice.
Trial in Two Weeks
expect to go on trial with Joseph Fish in two weeks." "I have made no
promises of immunity to Korshak," said State's Attorney Hoyne.
Korshak takes the stand (Part I)
to the Korshak Chronicles