From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka

Natasha sheldon - June 4, 2018

Young, attractive, and respectable, Evelyn Romadka seemed to have everything. Married to Charles Romadka, the millionaire owner of The Romadka Brothers Trunk Manufacturing Company, she had wealth, status and a young child. However, by the end of 1907, Edith’s marriage and reputation were in ruins. For earlier in the year, following a traumatic operation that changed her personality, Mrs. Romadka suddenly disappeared from her family home. In October 1907, her husband finally rediscovered her in Chicago: under arrest with her black ‘lover’ and charged with burglary.

Over the coming month, a scandalous- and extraordinary story began to unfold of an unhappy wife with a growing obsession for romanticized crime stories that led her into crime for kicks. When discovered, those ‘kicks’ cost Evelyn Romadka her marriage, her child and her liberty as well as her wealth and good name. However, even though she was down, Evelyn Romadka was not out, and on her release from prison she resurrected herself as the “Queen of the Vampire Women of Chicago.”

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka
The Romadka Brothers Trunk Manufacturing Company. Google Images

The Lady Vanishes

Evelyn Romadka nee Caine was born in Winnebago sometime in the late nineteenth century. She was the daughter of P J Caine, the owner of a rubber plant in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and before her marriage, she worked as a schoolteacher in a small, local town. One day, on her way to school, she met wealthy businessman Charles Romadka who was on a hunting expedition in the nearby woods. The couple flirted, then courted and finally decided to marry.

Not long after the marriage, Evelyn fell pregnant, and a year later, a daughter was born to her and Charles. However, the birth affected Evelyn badly, and she fell ill. After consulting specialist doctors, Mrs. Romadka underwent an operation. However, she did not fully recover from the trauma of the procedure, and her personality underwent a drastic change. Evelyn herself at her trial described how she developed an obsession with the over romanticised accounts of criminals she encountered in Blake’s yellow pages. According to Evelyn, the stories made her “want to meet real crooks.”

Whatever the cause, Evelyn became disillusioned with her pampered, shielded life. So, in 1907, when her daughter was just five, she left her family and her home and fled to Chicago where she made the Victoria Hotel her base. It was in the Victoria that Evelyn met Albert Jones, a hotel cleaner. According to Evelyn’s account, one day she chanced to ask Jones for the time. In response, he drew a lady’s pocket watch from his pocket. The inappropriate item and Jones’s furtive look were not lost on Evelyn. “A strange thrill crept over me, ” Evelyn explained at her trial, “Here I was, face to face with my dreams.”

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka
The Victoria Hotel, Chicago. Google Images.

Meanwhile, that September Labor Day, a Mr. and Mrs. Beck of 5520 South Park Avenue, Chicago chanced to leave their home without adequately securing the front door. Unknown to them, someone had observed their slip up, and they returned home to discover every room ransacked and a substantial alligator skin pocket book containing more than $1000 worth of jewels missing. The Becks immediately notified the Chicago police and furnished them with a description of the missing items. A Lieutenant Larkin was assigned to investigate the crime.

It was while Larkin was dining in the fashionable Baltimore Inn that he chanced upon the lead that led to the culprit’s arrest. For he happened to notice something odd about the couple at a nearby table. On the face of it, they were nothing unusual for the Baltimore, just a Chicago businessman dining with a well-dressed lady companion. However, the lady was carrying a pocketbook that exactly matched the description of the one stolen from the Becks. Larkin followed the lady once she left the café and discovered her to be Mrs. Evelyn Romadka.

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka
Dejeuner by E Phillips Fox, 1911. Public Domain

Maid for Crime

Larkin arrested Evelyn Romadka on October 16, 1907. Initially, she claimed that the pocketbook and jewels found in her possession were a gift from her husband. However, when this proved to be untrue, Evelyn confessed to the burglary at the Beck house as well as several other unsolved Chicago thefts. Evelyn described how she had taken a position as a maid in several Chicago household to locate valuables and steal them before disappearing.

At the same time, Evelyn admitted her obsession with Albert Jones. She described how initially she merely wanted him to regale her with his crimes. However in the same way, as she was drawn to the fictionalized tales of criminals in her magazines, Evelyn became drawn to Jones himself. Fascination quickly turned to infatuation. Jones became Evelyn’s mentor and Fence, teaching Evelyn how to steal, thus actualizing her deepest fantasy to ‘steal without detection.’

Evelyn told the police she no longer cared for her husband or the disgrace her actions would cause him because she loved Jones. She refused to give them his name. Nor did anything in Mrs. Romadka’s rooms give away his identity. However, the police did find several telephone numbers and by process of elimination discovered the number of Albert Jones amongst them. A woman claiming to be Jones’s wife told them that he had moved on. However, the police wired the phone and intercepted a call from the woman warning Jones to go into hiding and dispose of the contents of a trunk on the premises.

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka
Joliet State Prison. Photograph by David Wilson. Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

The police raided the premises, confiscated the trunk and found it to contain many of the stolen items from the Chicago robberies. Caught red-handed, Albert Jones confessed and readily implicated Evelyn as the thief. In all, Evelyn had stolen, and Jones processed around $25,000 worth of jewelry from the Chicago elite. Both were committed for trial. Charles Romadka was contacted and told of the discovery of his wife. He hurried to Chicago only to learn the shocking news that Evelyn had taken a black lover, worked as a maid and burgled several well-respected households. Unsurprisingly, he immediately began divorce proceedings

Evelyn Romadka and Albert Jones were tried and found guilty on November 15, 1907. From start to finish, the trial only took eleven minutes. The court sentenced both to between 1-20 years in prison. Evelyn’s counsel complained that in her case, the court case was rushed to spare Wisconsin Society from embarrassment. Clearing Evelyn Romadka quickly off to prison certainly proved of no help to Charles Romadka. Because of his former wife’s actions, his family tried to oust him from his company, and in 1912 The Romadka Brothers Trunk Manufacturing Company went bankrupt due to the scandal. As for Evelyn, she was escorted to Joliet prison by her father who left her at the prison door.

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn RomadkaMrs. Romadka “Queen” of the Band: headline picture from the “Chicago Examiner”July 25, 1911.

The Vampire Queen of Chicago

Evelyn Romadka’s behavior in prison determined the length of her sentence. Clearly, she was a model prisoner because, after just over three years in custody, Evelyn was paroled on January 5 1,910. She was released into the custody of Major M Messlein of the Volunteers of America and initially placed in a Chicago’s women’s refuge. However, local criminals began to make overtures to her, so Major Messlein found her a place as the companion and nurse of a wealthy gentleman. On January 4, 1911, Evelyn Romadka passed her probation. She left for Chicago for her sister’s home, before moving onto Canada.

Or so it was thought. However, Evelyn had not moved to Canada. Nor was her life of crime over. Instead, she remained in Chicago where she reemerged as the leader of a group of “Vampire women” who maintained themselves in “luxurious style” by duping, drugging and robbing unsuspecting gentlemen. The gang hit the headlines in July 1911 when a Kansas City millionaire, Edmund C Gaitlin became their victim. Gaitlin had met and became enamored with a ‘demure and handsome” young brunette who he met outside a hotel. The pair began talking and were quickly joined by a friend of the young lady and a Mr. Sweeney.

From Respectable Wife to the Vampire Queen of Chicago: The Scandalous story of Evelyn Romadka
Cartoons from The Chicago Examiner, July 25, 1911, depicting the crimes of Evelyn Romadka and her Vampire Girls.

The group decided to go on a “Slumming Party”; a tour around Chicago’s less salubrious districts. However, when Mr. Sweeney complained he had no companion, the young brunette introduced him to another friend of hers, a Mrs. Graves. So the party of set off. Sweeney was abandoned at some point in the evening (probably because the ladies had worked out he was not worth robbing.) However, Gaitlin was another matter, and at some point in the evening, the gang laced his drink with sleeping powder.

When he regained consciousness the next day, Gaitlin discovered he had been relieved of $800 worth of jewelry and $100 cash. He immediately reported his robbery to the police. Over the course of that weekend, the police arrested thirteen girls who all admitted the mysterious Mrs. Graves was their leader. But the police already had their suspicions about the real identity of the vampire’s “Queen.” When they showed Gaitlin and some of the Vampire’s other victims a photograph of Evelyn from the police mug shot book, all the men agreed she was Mrs. Graves.

However, while the police had the vampire girls, they never caught their leader. For this time, Evelyn Romadka evaded arrest. It seems that she had checked out of her hotel, the Auditorium on that Friday evening and disappeared. Perhaps she had taken her ill-gotten gains and decided to make that new life in Canada after all. Either way, she was never heard of in Chicago, or anywhere else in the USA again.


Where Do we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

Vintage Detective Story: Mrs. Evelyn Romadka’s Scandalous Downfall, 1907, Historical Crime Detective

“Mrs. Evelyn Romadka Taken to Penitentiary” San Francisco Call, Vol 102, No 175 November 22, 1907, from Californian Digital Newspaper Collection.

Evelyn Romadka,

“Prison for Mrs. Romadka,” New York Times, November 16, 1907