On July 11, 1916, the big news was the German submarine Deutschland that had just landed in Baltimore. That was one of several stories with plots, and sometimes sub-plots, published in The Lake County Times that day.
The submarine's arrival was of big concern. How should U.S. officials react to the ship?
If you thought World War I began in 1917, when the U.S. entered the war, you're mistaken. Europe had been embroiled for nearly two years by then.
In 1915, a German sub sank the RMS Lusitania, with 128 Americans among the dead. So the arrival of a German sub in American waters a year later caused quite a stir.
The captain and crew of the Deutschland said they were on a merchant ship, carrying mail and on a trading mission.
But what were they really up to?
It appears the sub actually was on a trade mission, not a secret spy mission. It made a second run to the United States, picking up cargo to take back to Germany, before it was captured by the German Imperial Navy and armed to become U-155, an instrument of war rather than commerce.
Dam plan blows up in their faces
A second plot reported on July 11, 1916, dealt with a plan to blow up a dam in Northwest Indiana. Fortunately, the dam plan didn't succeed.
John Tratebas Jr., of the Tratebas mill in Porter County, claimed credit for placing a mysterious call that thwarted a plan to blow up the dam over the mill pond.
"It was planned to drive over with an automobile, plant the explosive, and then get out of the way before the concussion came," The Lake County Times reported. "It is said that Gary and Valparaiso parties had conspired for the crime, because Tratebas had been strict with fisherman there."
Ah, so there's the dam reason for this plot!
"Over the long distance telephone from Indiana Harbor the other day came the voice of warning," the story said. "The informant claimed that the plotters had required him to join them. Instead of accepting their invitation he determined to block their plans. Tratebas then put out a watch, but nothing occurred. The informant even gave Tratebas the names of the alleged dynamiters."
The story played out for a while, perhaps even longer than the dam plot itself played out.
Nuts to soup
A third story that day was just two paragraphs, but also dealt with a mysterious plot, this one on Madison Street in Gary.
"Changes that her husband beat her up and then poured the contents of a bottle (which turned out to be copper sulphate, a poison) inter her soup and insisted that she drink, resulted in the arrest of Peter Wuirczus and his brother, Stanley," The Lake County Times reported. "Mrs. Wuirczus told the police the two were a rollicking pair and that Stanley was 'as bad as her husband.'"
An 11-year-old newsboy was found unconscious on south Broadway in Gary.
"Somebody Gives Newise [sic] Fire Water to Drink and He Nearly Dies," said the headline that effectively summed up the story.
"'That boy has taken either plain or wood alcohol,' said Patrol Sergt. Matthews," the story said. "The big sergeant at once began to work over the lad, sending for a doctor in the meantime as he was in a critical condition."
The boy was reported to be near death, but revived. The boy, who identified himself as Edward Bielewicz, told police another boy gave him whiskey to drink.
Then there was the mystery over the Nickel Plate Road to the New York Central.
Chicago railroad experts said the sale should have taken place long before, but "nobody appears to know the purchasers or any of those back of the new blood," the story said. "There are suspicious ones who sniff the air and believe it is another Northern Pacific deal — that is, that the stock has been sold by the New Your Central as a company, but that directors and heavy owners of the latter will continue to control the policy of the road with the circus names.
"The suspicious ones say that the Vanderbilts would never sell outright and allow the control of a parallel road, a line within a stone's throw, to get into independent hands."
There were plenty of railroad mysteries 100 years ago, and plenty of other mysteries, too. Some things never change, it seems.