The Judge Potter Murders

History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern IllinoisFrom History, Mystery, and Hauntings of Southern Illinois by Bruce Cline.

Murder suspect: Judge W.O. Potter. Victims: Myrtle Spiller Potter /wife/ Age 52, Eloise Potter /daughter/ Age 16, Mrs. Lucille Potter White/daughter/age 28, Phyllis White/granddaughter/age 4, Cynthia White/grand daughter/age/3 weeks old.

The bodies of the family members were found at the Potter’s residence at 807 N Market St. Marion by Judge Potter’s surviving son Maurice as he returned home from a business trip around the time of 2:00 AM on the date of October 24th, 1926. All members of the family were dressed in night clothes and were all believed to have been killed sometime around 1:00 AM, the weapon is believed to have been a 20 lb furnace shaker which was secured from within the basement of the house itself. Judge Potter himself was found in a cistern in the rear of the house where he had entered head first into 3 feet of water.

It is believed due to blood patterns and footprints found that Eloise (daughter) was killed first. The killer then surprised Lucille (daughter) in the bathroom and she was then killed by means of crushing her skull. Blood stains then lead across the hall to the room in which Lucille and the 2 young children were staying, Mrs. Potter is believed to have heard the children screaming, ran to help them and in doing so was also struck down by the killer.

Eloise is thought to have not been killed immediately and was able to make her way to the bedroom where she died along side her mother and the children. Bloody footprints were then followed down the back stairs. In the hours before the murders there was nothing out of the ordinary about Judge Potter, his conduct was normal at the evening meal, and after dinner he read quietly while his granddaughters played around him. His son and daughter were dancing while a little granddaughter played a phonograph.  As the surviving son was heading out for the night Judge Potter reportedly asked him to “come home early tonight”.

To those close to Judge Potter his deep depression was no secret, two of his brothers in law reported that he had relayed his despair unto them on the very morning that the family was found dead. Judge Potter had met Judge D.T. Hartwell in the lobby of the First National Bank and offered to help out, he spoke about how he had had a very bad night and that he had been about to harm his little girl, “wouldn’t that be awful” Potter had said of the incident, and mentioned that he did in fact feel better. Conversations Potter had had with friends at the time led them to believe that he judge was going through great financial troubles. In his last weeks of life Judge Potter was known to have lost close to 30 lbs and he would frequently break down crying.

The controversy is that Judge Potter was convicted of the murder of his family members and of having taken his own life by means of drowning before the evidence in the case was even examined and the autopsy on Judge Potter revealed no water in the lungs and deep lacerations in his head. Although the location is now a vacant lot, I can personally verify that the house itself was very haunted, I used to work in the Funeral Home across the street and would hear people talk about the “weird stuff” that would happen there.

Copyright Bruce L. Cline, 2014. You do not have permission to copy this post.



  1. Bruce Cline says:

    Be sure to look for this story and more in the new book by the LITTLE EGYPT GHOST SOCIETY, “HISTORY, MYSTERY and HAUNTINGS of SOUTHERN ILLINOIS”. The book is published by Black Oak Media and will be available soon.

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