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   xoxoxoBruce  Tuesday Dec 22 01:17 AM

December 22nd, 2015: Foolkiller

In November of 1915, a professional diver named William Deneau was laying underwater cable in the Chicago River, when a dredging shovel uncovered a submarine, the Foolkiller, beneath three feet of mud. Today the cops FBI, NSA, a three news helicopters would be all over that place, but back then Deneau got permission from the Feds to salvage the vessel, and the following February he put it on exhibit at 208 S. State for 10 cents a look.

There had been a daredevil named Peter Nissen, who had done a bunch of stunts naming all his contraptions Foolkiller, until one of his stunts killed him. Locals speculated this was one of Nissen’s contraptions and the papers bought it, so Foolkiller it was.

Much has been written about this find in that last 100 years, in books newspaper stories, poems and historical diaries, but most of it is contradictory. So Straight Dope took on the challenge of finding the... well... the Straight Dope.

On January 16, 1916, the Tribune ran another story about Deneau's find with the headline SKULLS FOUND ON FOOLKILLER, OLD SUBMARINE. The tale told this time was slightly different:
An unwritten tragedy of the Chicago River was brought to light after twenty-five years yesterday when the bones of a man and the skull of a dog were taken from the mud-coated "Foolkiller," the ancient submarine that occupied a berth in the river bed since 1870 … The craft was built in the early '70s by an eastern man and floated. Its first submersion was its last but one. It remained down for twenty years and then was purchased and raised by William Nissen. He made some experiments with it, but one day about twenty-five years ago it disappeared and was not seen again.
Notice the date on the photograph of the salvage operation, Dec 20, 1915.
SD discovered exactly one year later...
(1) Deneau had money troubles. On December 20, 1916, the Tribune reported:
"Capt." William M. Deneau, diver, who aided in recovering the bodies of 250 Eastland victims, and who discovered the submarine Fool Killer in the river, faced commitment to the county jail for failure to pay alimony to his wife, Frances Deneau, yesterday … Owing to the nearness of Christmas and Deneau's plea of hard luck, Judge Thomson gave him two weeks' more time.

(2) Deneau had more than a little of the Barnum in him. Initially referred to in the Tribune as "Frenchy," he adopted the title "Captain" when the Foolkiller was put on exhibit, and kept it afterward. He seems to have enjoyed cultivating reporters.
The deeper SD dug, the more evidence surfaced the whole thing was a scam. Not a hoax to fool people, a scam to make money. It's a good thing that can't happen today. Why just yesterday my friend the Nigerian Prince said....

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