Horace and Geneva: The Wrong Way to Fix a Marriage

Living with another person is not always an easy thing.

Sharing your personal space with another human being always involves a learning process. People learn where to put things, how to organize around each other, how to divide household chores. The list is endless.

For many of us, our first experiences living with someone else – outside of our own family – is with a roommate. Personally, I only ever had one roommate. Luckily, he was a really nice guy and we got along very well. It also didn’t hurt things that he spent most of his time with his girlfriend.

With a roommate, things can be difficult at times, but people learn out of necessity. We need someone to pay a share of the rent, or maybe we don’t want to live alone in a more crime-prone part of town. Still, the situation isn’t meant to last forever. Eventually, the relationship comes to an end. You shake hands, share a few words, and then go your own separate ways.

When the relationship is something more intimate, however, things aren’t always so simple. When two people have made a decision to live together out of love, the situation is no longer a business arrangement. It’s now an entirely different animal. The couple is closer, with their feelings carefully and often messily intertwined.

This couple are serious about one another. They want to see if they can handle that day to day grind of sharing that space, of living with each other’s problems. Next, the two become engaged, and the level of the relationship’s seriousness gets cranked up another notch.

When you’re just dating, there’s always that parachute clause in the back of your head. If things ever start heading south, you can pull that ripcord and get away. Sure, it might hurt, but you’re going to survive relatively unscathed. You break up, you move on. Maybe get drunk along the way.

When you’re engaged, you and your significant other have agreed to a deeper, more long-term commitment. Sure, you always know that you can break things off and move on. But, to return to the parachute analogy, this time it’s more like pulling that cord just a little too late. You survive, but you hit the ground hard. Probably break your legs. Things suck way worse.

And then there’s marriage.

Marriage, to many people, is a sign of ultimate commitment. You’re going to be there for one another, no matter what. Whatever life throws at you, you’re going to stand firm and face it together. You’re going to make it work, no matter what comes along.

Obviously, things don’t always work out that way. Like ships on the ocean sailing through a hurricane, some marriages stay afloat, and others hit the rocks and sink. Geneva Angle knew that better than anyone in 1919.

Geneva and her husband, Horace, had gotten married in 1917. She had previously been married to a man named Theodore Johnson when she was only sixteen years old. The union bore one child, a daughter named Dorothy. After the couple had split up, Geneva retained custody of the young girl.

After their marriage, Horace and Geneva settled in Davenport, Iowa. From all appearances, the couple were happy together, and everything went very well. However, as time passed, things began to sour under the strain of day-to-day living.

The Angles’ marriage began to unravel. Like so many couples, they fought over bills. Geneva complained that Horace wouldn’t take her out anymore. She believed that he was so jealous of any other man that might even look at her that he couldn’t stand taking her out as a couple anymore. By April 1920, they agreed to separate.

Geneva took Dorothy, who was now fourteen, and moved to a small apartment on Perry Street. The two women began working as seamstresses and managed to earn a comfortable living.

The separation, as intended, allowed the pressures of their married life to calm down. Geneva and Horace began talking again. Things improved to the point that they were able to reconcile, with Geneva telling her estranged husband that she’d move back in with him on September 1, 1920. For whatever reason, Geneva was absolutely adamant on that date, and couldn’t be persuaded to change it. Horace, apparently just happy that his marriage had been seemingly saved, accepted it.

Or at least, he seemed to when he was with his wife.

Horace, now living alone, had a lot of time to think about his situation. Some people are able to sit by themselves and dwell on their problems. Eventually, they puzzle out a solution and put it into action. They face the issue, get it taken care of, and are better people for it. Horace Angle was not one of them.

During the day, he was alright. His mind was occupied by his work as an engine inspector for the Rock Island Railroad. Valves to check, gears to turn. When his job ended for the day, though, Horace couldn’t stop himself from wondering what Geneva was doing in her little apartment along Perry Street. He gave his imagination free reign, and before long it started to take him to dark places.

Alone in his apartment, Horace must have dreamed up every conceivable infidelity and indiscretion that Geneva might be committing. For him, there must have been a parade of nameless, shadowy men, all eagerly awaiting their turn to enter the dimly-lit opium den that must have been his wife’s apartment. There was nothing too lewd for this crowd, no sin not worth exploring.

It didn’t matter to him if these fantasies were actually true or not. What is important is that, to all appearances, he wanted to believe them. He chose to believe them.

Before long, his thoughts began to twist and warp. They became irrational, based only on the horrible images spawned by his imagination. In the dark recesses of his beleaguered brain, Horace puzzled and picked at the problem of his marriage until he finally came to his own bizarre conclusion. His mind made up, Horace Angle decided to murder his wife and then commit suicide.

He took his time, allowing himself to think over the problem like he would an engine issue on one of his locomotives. Horace convinced himself that everything was Geneva’s fault. He had repeatedly told her how he wanted things done, and she absolutely refused to step into the role of a dutiful wife and simply obey what he, her husband, told her to do. It was her fault that all of this had happened.

While he knew that a murder/suicide was the definitive answer to his problems, Horace was sure that there would be other people who would want to know the rationale behind his actions. He wanted them to understand, wanted to explain to them not only that he was right, but why. Sitting down one night, Horace carefully began to write out a suicide note, explaining his actions.

That part of his plan now finished, Horace went out soon after and purchased a .32 caliber revolver. Once he had the gun, though, he hesitated.

The awful truth at the center of all Horace’s problems was that he was still in love with his wife. Every fantasy, every horrible, torturous thought of her being with other men tormented him. It pained him day and night, and the hurt they caused stoked the fires of his anger.

But no matter how upset he got, he didn’t necessarily want to kill her. Surely, Horace thought to himself, those thoughts must have come to him in his darkest moments. There had to be another way.

Finally, he had a stroke of genius. Horace began to formulate a plan that he thought would get him exactly what he wanted.

At the end of July 1920, Horace went to the Davenport Police Department and told them that there was some bizarre and apparently deviant behavior happening at his wife’s apartment. He explained that there were several strange couples staying with her there. He may not have been able to furnish details, but whatever they were doing couldn’t have been good. Horace kindly suggested that it might be something worthwhile for the police to look into.

The police must have agreed. That night, a detective and an officer went to the address and began to watch the area for anything suspicious. The two men wouldn’t be disappointed.

As they watched the apartment building, they noticed a man in the area who was behaving strangely. They had come on the report that there were some odd people in the area, and it looked to the officers like they had just found one.

As they watched, the man kept moving from shadow to shadow in an obvious attempt to not be seen. The policeman probably had to stifle a laugh. The man’s attempts to move stealthily down the street were so bad as to be almost comical. Contrary to what he must have wanted, the man immediately attracted the officers undivided attention.

As they watched, they kept getting the feeling that they had seen the man somewhere before. Suddenly, it came to them: the man was none other than Horace Angle himself, the same tipster who had suggested that they go out there that night!

To satisfy his own delusions, Horace had skulked around the area that night, waiting for the police to arrest some nefarious character that only existed in his own strange fantasies. To help keep himself from begin recognized, he had even donned a fake mustache.

That was more than enough for the police. Granted, watching Horace dip and dive through the dark was funny, there wasn’t anything going on. The only person doing weird things in the neighborhood that night was Horace. With nothing more for them to do there, the officers left.

Horace was furious. How could they leave? How could they not find anything? He was so convinced that something was going on with his wife that he must have been sure the police would see something. When they did, he’d have known that he was right all along. Horace’s theories and fantasies would be completely vindicated.

His anger grew. Horace had spent so many long evenings stoking it with his delusions, adding fuel to it with his fantasies. Something was going on with Geneva. He knew something was going on. If the police weren’t going to give him satisfaction, then he would have to find it himself.

At about half past midnight, Geneva heard someone banging on her apartment door. She was immediately concerned. This wasn’t a bad neighborhood, but that didn’t always matter. She was home alone with Dorothy, and the last thing that she wanted was some lunatic knocking on her door.

Tentatively, she asked who was there. Horace, her husband identified himself through the closed door. Relieved that it was only him, Geneva unlocked the door and let him in.

Horace stomped in, obviously angry. He immediately stated shouting at her, making accusations about her and other men. In his fury, Horace turned his long-held ideas about Geneva’s infidelities into outright accusations.

Geneva was no shrinking violet. She had survived on her own just fine without Horace, and she wasn’t about to be talked to like this by anyone. Geneva hadn’t been having any affairs, no matter what Horace thought. He had no right to bully her, and she let him know it.

The argument went back and forth, their voices getting louder and their tempers burning hotter. Without warning, Horace reached into his pocket and took out the revolver that he had bought to kill his wife. He had brought it with him, and now, in his rage, he was determined to use it. He pointed it at Geneva, screaming that he was going to kill her.

Bullying and shouting was one thing, but staring down the barrel of loaded gun was another. Geneva felt ice-cold fingers of terror along her spine. She didn’t think of anything, just reacted. There wasn’t any time to process any of the madness that she had fallen into, and Geneva gave in to what her instincts were screaming at her to do. She ran into the next room of the apartment.

Horace went right after her, screaming and waving the gun as they went. Geneva ran everywhere that she could, looking for a place to hide, to escape. She saw nothing, making her even more desperate. Finally, in a split second of clarity, Geneva saw a way out.

Without hesitation, she ran at the second story window and jumped straight at the plate glass. Geneva passed through easily, feeling a momentary weightlessness before landing heavily on the street below.

Almost miraculously, she was unhurt. Geneva hadn’t even been cut by any of the glass that glittered on the concrete all around her. Still desperate to escape, she shook off her momentary shock and began running towards the nearest police station that she knew.

Breathlessly, Geneva told the police what had happened. Officers were immediately sent out to find Horace. A short time later he was in their custody and brought back to the jail. When he was searched, police found the revolver and a box of bullets in his pockets. They also discovered the suicide note that he had written earlier that year.

The following morning, police questioned both Geneva and Horace about what had happened. Unsurprisingly, they started arguing all over again. The officers were in no mood to be patient with their bickering, and forced them to control themselves.

Before long, all of the underlying issues that had been plaguing the Angle’s troubled marriage came to light. Horace said Geneva nagged him and complained about their finances. Geneva wanted to go out, but Horace was never willing to take her. And, of course, he had just tried to kill her.

But, in spite of all that had happened the night before, Geneva could not bring herself to press charges against Horace. It didn’t matter that he had just threatened to kill her. None of the other marital strife they had mattered. The only thing that mattered to her in that moment was that she still loved him.

And Horace, despite months of deluded fantasies and his murder/suicide plot, still loved her.

The police were much less touched by the couple’s newly re-kindled love. Horace Angle had just attempted to murder his wife, no matter what her feelings of good will were. There was a price to pay for breaking the law.

Ultimately, Horace was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Later, the judge deliberately set Horace’s bond at $5000, which was far above what everyone knew he could afford. Unable to pay the price, Horace was sent back to the Scott County jail.

Jail isn’t any fun for anyone, and a few days later Horace was eager to get out. He promised his defense attorneys that he would never attack his wife again. His bail was reduced to a more affordable $300, which Horace gladly paid.

Horace and Geneva continued to love one another – for a time. Their marriage didn’t last, and the two of them went their own separate ways.

Marriage is a hard thing.

Sometimes they last, sometimes they don’t. Like so many things in life, they require a lot of work, a lot of understanding, and more than a little patience. And it never hurts to show your significant other that you love them.

However, never show your love by chasing them through a second-story window at gunpoint. It may seem like a good idea at the time, but it’s probably not. Just ask Horace.

I am an author and historian who writes about long-forgotten and out of the way events and places. I love the bizarre, the unusual, and the downright weird. I write a regular blog at my website, www.johnbrassardjrcom.wordpress.com, and also manage a facebook page about things of historical interest called The Kitchen Table Historian.

2 thoughts on “Horace and Geneva: The Wrong Way to Fix a Marriage

  1. Probably not the best thing to read considering I just booked a date for my wedding today, but we’ve been living together for 12 years, so we hopefully won’t run into these problems! And this story had a sort of happy ending, at least relative to many of your posts!

    1. Congratulations! I’m sure that you two will be just fine! And yeah, it seems that so many of my stories have a horrible ending that not only people look for something awful to happen at any moment, but they’re always shocked when something turns out okay.

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