Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Thurman and Beulah Varnadore -- A Penny for Their Thoughts

On the afternoon of July 20, 1927, occupants of a rooming house at 3832 West Pine Boulevard in St. Louis, Missouri, notified police after smelling gas seeping from a locked third floor apartment.  Kicking in the door, police discovered the emaciated, shabbily dressed bodies of Thurman Varnadore, 38, and his 37-year-old wife, Beulah, on the floor near a rubber hose attached to an open gas jet on the stove.  The keyhole, windows, and other openings in the sparsely furnished room had been stuffed with rags and paper.  The couple, in the final stages of drug addiction, each weighed less than 100 pounds and, according to their landlady, could not walk without supporting one another.  In the room, authorities found several hypodermic syringes, a quantity of morphine, and an undated Variety clipping announcing that Varnadore, known onstage as "Bud Varn," was presenting a new blackface vaudeville act.  The clipping further identified him as a doctor of divinity and an evangelist, a claim substantiated by Varnadore's landlady.

Shortly before the double suicide, Varnadore told the woman that his promising career as an ordained Baptist minister had been devastated when chronic asthma ruined his voice.  Turning to morphine to ease the pain, he quickly became addicted as had his wife.  Before becoming too weak to walk, Varnadore had tried to make a living selling books door-to-door.  At the morgue, a search of Varnadore's pockets uncovered a one cent piece and a wedding ring.

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