Jennifer Wilber is an author and freelance writer from Ohio. She holds a B.A. in Creative Writing and English.
A Local Legend and Real-Life Murder Mystery
What would you think if, right in your own hometown, someone who never hurt anyone was brutally murdered for their money? Back in 1974, that happened not too far from the quiet village of New London, Ohio. Joseph and Edward Hooker, two wealthy brothers who lived just outside of town, were murdered in their home. Of course, legends surrounding the brothers and their murder were bound to surface within 30 years of the incident. Some people believe that the spirits of the brothers still guard their land and the remainder of their money, if any exists, while others are still too shocked that such a thing could have happened in their little town to even consider such legends. This was the worst murder ever to occur in the little village of New London, so naturally the story became a local legend of sorts, but do the rumors of hauntings and hidden treasure hold any merit?
The Men Behind the Legend: Who Were Joseph and Edward Hooker?
Joseph and Edward Hooker, who were already wealthy, were forced by the Village of New London to sell 80 acres of their land for the new reservoir. The new reservoir was badly needed to prevent further flooding of the local farmland (Ormbsy 40). There were two other sites that the village had considered for the new reservoir, but the Hooker brothers’ property was the preferred location because construction there would cost significantly less than on the other two sites (Greene A1). Their land was the most important thing to them, and they did everything in their power to prevent having to sell it. Eventually, a condemnation lawsuit was filed against them, but even then, they didn’t want to let their land go. The day before the hearing, however, the brothers finally settled out of court for almost $80,000. After that, they grew to resent the village and threatened to shoot anyone who trespassed on their remaining land (Ormsby 40). They never socialized anymore and the only place that they could ever be seen was at the A&P store in town. They were never even seen going to the bank, which lead to rumors that they didn’t trust banks and kept their money hidden in their home (Questionnaire 1). This rumor would ultimately lead to their deaths.
The Murder of Joseph and Edward Hooker and Arrest of Jere Crawford and Thomas Hedges
“It was rumors that killed those boys!” claims one New London resident (Questionnaire #1). The Hooker Brothers were murdered in their home on the night of January 18th, 1974, by Jere Crawford and Thomas Hedges after they had heard rumors that the Hooker brothers kept their money hidden in their house. The murderers got away with five guns and around $5,000 (Ormsby 41). The next day at 11 a.m., Herbert Allen, a friend of the brothers, found them dead in their home and called the police (Greene A1). Both of the murderers were arrested within days. Hedges was caught after returning to Indianapolis when he went into the police station to complain about the police cars that were surrounding his house and the officers that were asking his family questions about him. Crawford, on the other hand, evaded police for four days until he was captured while attempting to check himself into the Tiffin State Hospital (a mental health facility) (Ormsby 62). If it weren’t for rumors and greed, the Hooker brothers would have lived much longer.
Update: The original version of this article stated that the murderers had been released from prison, based on an interview with a local New London, OH resident. Upon further research, it appears that this interviewee was mistaken. Both of the murderers are still behind bars, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
Jere D Crawford is serving a life sentence at Pickaway Correctional Institution in Pickaway County, OH. His next parole hearing is scheduled for January, 2022.
Thomas J Hedges is serving his life sentence at London Correctional Institution in Madison County, OH.
Was There Any Truth to the Rumors of Joseph and Edward’s Fortune?
The rumors that the brothers didn’t trust banks and kept their money hidden in their home proved not to be entirely true. While they did keep quite a bit of money in their home, most of it was kept in a Greenwich bank. In fact, the $80,000 from the sale of their land for the reservoir was deposited directly into their bank account. The banker told reporters that $10,000 was the most that they would ever keep in their possession at one time. What is more ironic is the fact that the murderers didn’t even get all of the money that was kept in the house. Over $2,000 was found taped to the bottom of the kitchen table, mostly in ones, fives, tens, and twenties. More was found hidden under other furniture, making the total a little over $4,000 (Ormsby 40-41). Perhaps it was the fact that the two men never socialized and rarely left their property that allowed rumors that they didn’t trust banks to surface (Questionnaire 5), or maybe they were doomed either way simply for the fact that they were wealthy. Even 40 years after their death, similar rumors about the brothers still persist.
Continuing Rumors of Hauntings and Hidden Treasure
The rumors about the Hooker brothers continue to this day, though they have changed slightly since their death. People today not only wonder if there is still money hidden in the house, but also if perhaps the spirits of the Hooker brothers remain to guard their property and remaining money. Some people are deterred from entering their property because of the barbed wire in front of the driveway, making it difficult to trespass (Questionnaire 4) or simply because they get scared before they have a chance to investigate (Questionnaire 5). The spirits of the Hooker brothers most likely are not still guarding their property, for ghosts have no need for money (Questionnaire 6). The claims that there is still money hidden in the house are also most likely false, for investigators have thoroughly searched the house for any remaining money (Ormsby 41). Joseph and Edward Hooker lost their lives because of rumors and greed, but it seems that people still haven’t learned anything from their deaths and continue to spread rumors about them to this very day.
Big News in a Small Town
The murder of Joseph and Edward Hooker was the worst murder ever committed in the tiny Village of New London, and it happened because of rumors. They lost most of their land, and then lost their lives because of the money they received and rumors that the money was kept in their house. Even though the rumors that caused their murderers to kill them proved to be mostly false, people continue to spread rumors about the Hooker brothers even to this day. Even after 40 years, no one in New London can forget the tragic murder that took place in their village. The story of the Hooker brothers will remain a legend for generations to come.
I originally wrote this paper in 2006 for a high school English assignment about local urban legends. It has been updated to reflect that these events happened about forty years ago, rather than thirty. The black and white photos were from The Ashland Times-Gazette, Jan. 21 1974 edition, which was provided to me by the New London Historical Society. I took the color photos of the house when I visited in 2006. I tried to find the house again several years later but couldn’t find it. I’m not sure if it has been torn down, or if I simply forgot the exact location near the reservoir. I no longer live in this area.
Greene, Dave. "Bachelor Brothers Murdered." Ashland Times-Gazette 21 Jan. 1974: A1.
Legend Project Questionnaire. Personal Survey. 3. Nov 2006.
Ormsby, Bill. "Mysterious Murder of the Wealthy Ohio Bachelors." True Detective Feb. 1975: 38-41, 62-64.
Questions & Answers
Question: Are the murderers of the Hooker brothers case still incarcerated?
Answer: According to one of the people I interviewed in 2006, Jere Crawford and Thomas Hedges had been released from prison, though this interviewee appears to be mistaken. Government records show that both men are still incarcerated in separate prisons in Ohio.
Upon further research, I have discovered via the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections website that both of the murderers are still in prison.
Jere Crawford's next parole hearing is scheduled for 2022. He is currently serving his sentence at Pickaway Correctional Institution in Pickaway County OH.
Thomas Hedges had his most recent parole hearing in January of 2018. He is still incarcerated at London Correctional Institution in Madison County Ohio.
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber