Monday, October 09, 2006

The Confidence Woman

Oct. 9, 1907
Los Angeles

She was known as Trellis C. Harris or Trellis Blessing—or Edna Hall. But her method was always the same. She would commit some theft, then fake an epileptic fit, spitting up blood from a capsule hidden in her mouth.

On a train to Los Angeles, Harris stole claim checks from another woman and made off with two trunks. When officers tracked her down in Pasadena, she fainted and was taken to a physician. At the doctor’s office, she faked one of her fits and was transported to the county hospital. She finally admitted taking the trunks, but blamed the theft on her illness and pleaded with authorities to send her to Kansas City.

Police discovered that Harris was well-known to authorities and had worked her scam in Arizona, with stops in Phoenix, Bisbee and Prescott, and in Kansas City.

“In Prescott, she secured from oversympathetic persons considerable money,” The Times said. “It is stated that she spilled blood over herself and the bedclothes in her room and then sent for a physician. After she had gone, it was learned that she had secured a bucket of blood from a butcher shop.”

In fact, Harris had staged a scam in Los Angeles several months earlier. In February 1907, she claimed to have been hurt by a trolley at 4th and Spring streets, but ran away from county hospital, charging that doctors kept her under the influence of opiates.

“Suffering from an operation made necessary by the accident,” The Times said, noting that she had no money, “the young woman applied to the police yesterday afternoon for help. She had been vomiting blood and was put to bed in the women’s ward of the Receiving Hospital.”

After her latest fraud, Harris was taken from the hospital to the County Jail, but there is no further word on her fate.

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