Evelyn Nesbit’s Broken Wings

This is Part III of Evelyn Nesbit’s story. (Read Part I and Part II.)

Evelyn Nesbit married Harry Kendall Thaw at age 20, 18 months after she accused him of beating and raping her, while holding her prisoner for weeks in an Austrian castle.

At 17, Evelyn underwent an emergency operation for appendicitis. That was the official story, though it was rumored then and now that she had an abortion. While she was recovering, Harry Thaw convinced Mrs. Nesbit that her daughter’s return to health could be accelerated by a trip abroad. Chaperoned by herself, of course.

Whether Evelyn wanted to go to Europe is not clear. But in May 1903, the trio embarked for London aboard the S.S. New York. After a few weeks, they moved on to Paris. Within a short time, Harry escorted the Nesbits to Boulogne, but he returned to London. Then he came back and took Evelyn and her mother back to Paris, and then back to London.

Paris, 1903

Paris, 1903

Evelyn was frail, and the hectic pace did not give her an opportunity to recover. Mrs. Nesbit was tired and exasperated. Mother and daughter quarreled in London, and Evelyn boldly returned to Paris alone with Harry. The division between them was deep. Mrs. Nesbit sent an urgent request across the Atlantic, requesting the funds to come home. The response from Stanford White was swift, and Mrs. Nesbit set sail for New York less than a week later. She soon remarried, and did not see Evelyn again for many years.

Evelyn Nesbit

Evelyn Nesbit in 1902

Now posing as Mr. and Mrs. Dellis, Harry and Evelyn stayed for a while in Paris. It was there that a fateful conversation occurred. Harry Thaw again asked Evelyn to marry him. She declined, but this time she felt she owed him an explanation and told Harry she was not “pure”. Thaw questioned Evelyn in painful detail, insisting she repeat what happened with Stanford White again and again. He raged against White, against Mrs. Nesbit, against Evelyn. He cried and tore at his hair. Then he demanded they continue their trip.

Evelyn later explained what followed:

“After traveling for about five or six weeks, the said Thaw rented a castle in the Austrian Tyrol known as the Schloss Katzenstein, which is situated about half way up a very isolated mountain… 

Schloss Katzenstein

Schloss Katzenstein

I saw a butler, a cook, and a maid. They were the only servants there. We occupied one entire end of the castle… The first night we reached the Schloss Katzenstein I was very tired and went to bed right after dinner. In the morning I was awakened by Mr. Thaw…

“He said he wished to tell me something and asked me to step into my bedroom. I entered the bedroom, when Thaw without any provocation grasped me by the throat.

“I saw by his face that he was in a dreadfully excited condition. His eyes were glaring and his hands grasped a raw-hide whip. He seized hold of me, placed his fingers in my mouth and tried to choke me. He then without the slightest provocation inflicted on me several severe blows with the rawhide whip, so severely that my skin was cut and bruised.

“I begged him to desist, but he refused. I shouted and I cried. He stopped then for a minute to rest, and then renewed his attack on me, beating me with the rawhide whip.

“I screamed for help, but no one heard me… Thaw renewed his brutal attacks until I was unable to move. The following morning the said Thaw administered another castigation similar to the day before. He took the rawhide whip and belabored me unmercifully…

“He left me in a frightful condition. My fingers were numb, and it was nearly three weeks before I sufficiently recovered to get out of my bed and walk.

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