March 2, 1890
Dorset Kidnapping Leads to Backwards Ransom
By Manya S. Goldstein
At 8:32 PM, last Tuesday, Johnny Dorset, son of well known townsman, Ebenezer Dorset, was reported missing from his home in Summit. The next day, a ransom note was anonymously delivered, demanding $1,500 for the return the boy. It was signed “Two Desperate Men”. Those men were later identified as “Sam and Bill”. Ebenezer Dorset sent a letter back with a surprising counteroffer. It demanded that the kidnappers pay him $150. That night, at midnight, the boy was returned and the $150 was paid in full by the kidnappers. Baffled? Here are two exclusive interviews from the people involved in the situation that will help make the story clearer.
Interview #1- Kidnapper- “Sam”
R: Good morning, Mr. Sam, first off, why did you and your friend kidnap the son of Ebenezer Dorset?
S: Well, ya see Ma’am, we, uh, needed some money and what better way to get it than kidnapping a kid for ransom.
R: I see, how would you describe the kidnapping?
S: Well, we rode onto his street and saw him throwing rocks at a cat. And then we just snatched him.
R: Did he put up a fight?
S: Yes, he put up a big fight.
R: Where did you take the boy?
S: We took ‘em into the mountains and stayed in a cave.
R: How did the boy act?
S: He was a wild child! He gave himself the name “Red Chief” and drove my partner, Bill, and me crazy! He even was able to scare both of us to death!
R: So, then, I understand, you wrote the ransom note?
S: Yes, we did. We asked $1,500 for the boy. I delivered the ransom note and then went back to the cave. Some time later, we received a note back with a counteroffer.
R: What was the counteroffer?
S: Well by that time we were at our wits end! We wanted to get rid of him! His father must have known this would happen too…He asked for us to pay him $150!
R: Did you accept?
S: You bet we did. The boy was returned at midnight, no harm done.
R: Thank you
Interview #2- Father-Ebenezer Dorset
R: Hello, Mr. Dorset. How are you doing?
D: I’m fine, thank you.
R: I have some questions for you about the kidnapping of your son. When did you realize that he was kidnapped?
D: I believe a good amount of time after the kidnapping. My boy is a very…busy child; has a lot of spunk. It is not uncommon that he is not home when he should be.
R: I understand that you then received the ransom note.
D: Yes, that was the next day. It demanded $1,500 for the return of the boy. Those kidnappers made a big mistake…
R: What do you mean by that, sir?
D: That boy would make anyone, including me, want to pull their hair out! He has a large imagination and is very rambunctious.
R: And then you wrote a letter with a counteroffer,
D: That is right. I demanded that the kidnappers pay me $150. I knew that they would accept because by that time, they would want to get rid of the boy for good.
R: And as you predicted, they did accept the offer and returned the boy.
D: Yes Ma’am. At 12 AM that night, the boy was returned. He was fine and dandy, just like he always is.
R: How does the boy describe the kidnapping?
D: Little Johnny says it was amazing. He says he wants to get kidnapped again! He tells these wild stories about some “Red Chief”…what a kid, what a kid…
R: You can say that again, Mr. Dorset. Thank you.
Reflection: I am very pleased with this piece of work. The assignment was part of a Readers Choice project. I read “The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry, a story about kidnappers who kidnapped a boy for ransom and ended up paying money to return the boy because he was an extremely difficult child. I wrote a newspaper article about the event which includes a summary of the “who, what, where, when, why, and how” of the story and made-up interviews with two of the main characters in the story. I enjoyed putting myself in the mind of the characters to write this article. I have always been interested in writing newspaper articles. It can be challenging to summarize all of the important information and make it interesting in a concise first paragraph. Overall, I enjoyed this assignment and believe that it helped strengthen my writing skills.