Theodore Edward Coneys
|Theodore Edward Coneys|
November 10, 1882|
|Died||May 16, 1967
Cañon City, Colorado
|Parents||T. H. Coneys
(first name unknown) Elam Coneys
"Denver Spiderman" was the name given to Theodore Edward Coneys (November 10, 1882 – May 16, 1967), an American drifter who committed a murder in 1941 and subsequently occupied the attic of the victim's home for nine months.
Theodore Coneys was born November 10, 1882 in Petersburg, Illinois to T. H. Coneys, a Canadian immigrant who owned a hardware store in Petersburg, and his wife. After the elder Coneys died in 1888, Mrs. Coneys and her son moved to a farm near Beloit, Wisconsin, then to Denver, Colorado in 1907, where she worked as a housekeeper at the Denver Democratic Club. She died in 1911.
Coneys suffered from poor health and had been told by doctors not to expect to see his 18th birthday, so he did not finish high school. As an adult, he worked as a bookkeeper at the Denver Brass Works and in advertising and sales, yet spent much of his adult life homeless. Coneys resented the way he was treated by others for his frail condition, later expressing that he wanted a place where he could be alone and free from the judgment of others.
In September 1941, 59-year-old Theodore Coneys intended to ask former acquaintance Philip Peters for a handout at his home on 3335 West Moncrieff Place in Denver, Colorado. Coneys broke into the house in Peters' absence to steal food and money. In the ceiling of a closet, Coneys found a small trapdoor that led to a narrow attic cubbyhole and decided to occupy the small space without Peters' knowledge. Coneys lived in the house undiscovered for about five weeks. On October 17, 1941, Peters discovered Coneys at the refrigerator. Peters struck at Coneys with a cane he carried, but Coneys clubbed him with an old pistol he had found in the house. After the gun broke apart, Coneys continued the battery with a heavy iron stove shaker and bludgeoned the 73-year-old Peters to death. Coneys then returned to the attic cubbyhole.
Peters' body was discovered later the same day after a neighbor, concerned Peters had not come by for dinner, called the police. The police found all of the home's doors and windows locked, and there was no other sign of forced entry. They noted the trapdoor but believed a normal-sized person could not fit through it. Peters' wife, who had been in the hospital recuperating from a broken hip during and prior to Coneys' occupation of the attic, returned to live in the house with a housekeeper. Both women would often hear strange sounds in the house. The housekeeper resigned after becoming convinced the house was haunted and Mrs. Peters moved to western Colorado to live with her son.
Coneys remained in the vacant house with the occasional signs of his occupation written off as an apparition or local pranksters. Police continued to make routine checks, when on July 30, 1942, one of them heard a lock click on the second floor. Running upstairs, the police caught the sight of Coneys' legs as he was going through the trapdoor and pulled him down. He was taken into police custody and confessed to the crime.
Local newspapers dubbed him the "Denver Spider Man of Moncrieff Place" after police detective Fred Zarnow remarked "A man would have to be a spider to stand it long up there." Coneys was tried and convicted, then sentenced to life imprisonment at the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City, Colorado.
Death and afterward
Two episodes of popular American television shows appear to have been inspired by the Denver Spiderman story, the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Stalker" and The Simpsons episode "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner".
- Lowall, Gene (1946). "1942: the spider man". In Casey, Lee. Denver Murders. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce. OCLC 1446053.
- Sifakis, Carl (1982). The Encyclopedia of American Crime. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 0-8317-2767-5. OCLC 9377647.
- "Theodore Coneys". Entry in Social Security Death Index. SSN 523-72-8252.
- "The Spider Man". Museum of Colorado Prisons. Archived from the original on 2004-02-13. Retrieved 2007-07-26.
- "City Was Birthplace of Confessed Denver Slayer of Aged Friend". Petersburg Observer. 1942-08-07.
- Melrose, Frances (1992-08-16). "Denver's 'Spider Man' Murderer Hit Out In Victim's Attic". Rocky Mountain News. p. 4M.
- Melrose, Frances (1992-09-30). "'Spider Man' And A Web Of Tales". Rocky Mountain News. p. 5M.
- A stove shaker is a tool used to restoke the fire and/or remove the ashes in a wood stove.
- "'Spider Man' Murder Made Attics A Spooky Place To Be". Rocky Mountain News. 1999-09-12. p. 19D.
- "Rookie Cop Assigned To The Case Has Vivid Memory Of 'Spider Man'". Rocky Mountain News. 1992-09-20. p. 4M.
- 'CSI Files - Stalker', http://www.csifiles.com/episodes/csi/season2/stalker.shtml