Belmar, NJ Boys Burned to Death Playing Indians, Aug 1923


SPRING LAKE. N. J., Monday, Aug. 27 — Charles Spindler, 11 years old, and William Hubbard, 16 years old, were tied to a tree in Belmar yesterday afternoon by two other boys, one of them the Hubbard boy's elder brother, and "burned at the stake." Both boys died in the Ann May Hospital here last night.

Swathed in Vaseline gauze and under the influence of a hypodermic, the boys, before their deaths a few minutes apart, refused to tell just what happened. Dick Forman, 16 years old, and Taylor Hubbard, 18, who, according to the police, are responsible for building the fire which caused the deaths of the younger lads, are under arrest in Belmar.

The police at an early hour this morning were still questioning them. The hospital authorities got the impression from young Spindler and Hubbard that the older boys "had it in" for them. But the youngsters bravely laughed at any leading question and refused to the last to blame Forman or Taylor Hubbard.

Told of Playing "Indians"

"They said they were going to have some fun with us and took us out and tied us to a tree," the Hubbard boy said when dying. "They then got some excelsior. They set fire to the excelsior. It burned fast. We couldn't get away and they could not reach us without getting burned themselves. That's all I remember."

One version of the tragedy was that the boys were playing "Indians." Another was that they were playing at "Ku Klux Klan." Belmar is one of the strongholds of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in New Jersey. The Klan, in fact, made its first appearance in public in the state here. There was a large meeting of the organization in Belmar last night.

When the blazing excelsior had reached the feet of the boys both screamed, the police said, but the older boys did not think the others would be injured. But they had not calculated upon the grass around the tree, having been soaked with oil that had seeped from the Coast Gas Company's plant adjoining the vacant property where the "stake" was located.

Suddenly, the ground for ten or more feet about the tree leaped into flame. There arose a pungent smoke. The screams of the "victims" grew louder, but neither Forman nor the elder Hubbard could plunge through the dense smoke. So they ran to a brook and attempted to get water. But they had no pail or other contrivance in which to carry it. They did not know what to do.

Meanwhile, the flames leaped up, engulfing the two and burning the clothing from Spindler and Hubbard. Both soon were unconscious, burned from head to foot. Both wore caps, so that their hair was not touched, but the caps were nearly burned away. Then the ropes which held the boys to the tree broke and both fell to the blackened ground. Grass near them still was burning when the other two boys returned empty-handed. They scarcely could recognize the scorched bodies of their playmates.

But Charles Goff of Belmar had heard the boys' first screams, and sighting the flames from the yard of his home, sev- eral hundred yards away, ran to the scene. He found Forman and Hubbard attempting to pull the other boys toward the road. Goff got help from home and brought an automobile. With a robe covering them, the boys were rushed to the Spring Lake Hospital, more than a mile away.

Aug. 28, 1923 edition of "The New York Times"