|The Ross House, as seen in the book "One Hundred Years"-|
In my line of work, over the years I have had to debunk many television program's so-called facts, in order to set a story or two straight, when certain paranormal programs have literally shared false history or inaccurate history of a certain person, place or thing. In a recent episode of "The Dead Files" the program featured a certain costume shop in Modesto that is purported to be haunted. I have known the owner of this shop, Dana Walters for almost a decade, and I have been friends with Eva Foreman, an employee at that shop for just as long, so naturally, when I heard about the upcoming episode I wanted to see what it was all about and just what the "show" was going to say about the location.
Again, I am not a fan of paranormal shows in general, because I can see through the smoke and mirrors, to view it for what it is: blatant sensationalism. Time and time again, as I stated above, I have literally debunked or "fact checked" many of these types of shows over the years, only to reveal the actual stories that they either told completely wrong, or set stories straight when various stories had been fabricated and hadn't even taken place to begin with. So, when the episode brought local history into the mix, I was intrigued to see if the television show actually got it right. (Which in 99% of the cases, they don't).
After watching the episode, and after having taken extensive notes, I went deep diving into the archives in search for the facts behind one particular story that the tv show mentioned regarding Andrew Sorensen. Sorensen was said to be the man who allegedly attacked his wife with a butcher knife and then slit his throat in the Maze Hotel in Modesto. According to this television program, that event was a "possible" cause for what could be the dark energy haunting the shop, since the stars of the show claimed this particular location where this horrific story had occurred was literally within feet of the costume shop itself.
The Maze Hotel was not even remotely close to the costume shop!
The costume shop is on 7th Street, between L and M Streets, whereas the incidents that took place in 1910 involving the Sorensen's at the Maze Hotel, was located on the corner of 9th and I Street.
Now that I have cleared up the misinformation that this event in history DID NOT actually take place anywhere near the costume shop, now I am going to give you the history of the Maze Hotel and share with you all the particulars surrounding the incident that took place on December 30, 1910.
History of the Maze Hotel
Originally, the first structure on the corner of 9th and I Streets was The Ross House, which was "for many years Modesto's leading hotel, and the scene of the town's big social soirees. It was built originally in Paradise City by Frank Ross, the man who gave it his name. In 1869, realizing that its days were numbered with the arrival of the railroad in Modesto, Ross sold out to James Cole, who formerly ran a stage station on the way to Sonora." -(A Hundred Years, Modesto 1870-1970)
As the book goes on, it mentions that Cole had the building moved to Modesto on November 20, 1870. It was moved in two sections, with the second part arriving the following week.
"The Maze Hotel, mentioned in the Modesto Irrigation Jubilee of 1904 as the headquarters of Governor and Mrs. Pardee and their party, was the name then given to the old Ross House at Ninth and I on the present site of the Claremont Hotel." -- (The Claremont is no more, and it appears that later the site was Mead's Bakery & Restaurant, and even later, it is now a parking lot on the southeast corner, across from McDonald's.)
|Google Street View (looking East on I Street/9th Intersection)|
The Maze Hotel was owned by none other than the Maze family, a prominent family in Modesto. When they purchased the property and changed the name from the Ross House is unknown to me. I couldn't find that in any of the records I searched. I did however find that the Sweet family managed the property around 1908, before Marie Sorensen decided to jump into the hospitality business and took up as the proprietor of the hotel sometime around 1909.
From the looks of everything I could find in records, newspaper clippings and census records, it appears that Marie Sorensen was very much the social butterfly, and (in my opinion) I believe she was more than likely the dominant one in the relationship. The newspapers noted she was "lively and vivacious", but what really gave it away was the 1910 census record.
When the census taker listed the couple, they listed Marie as the "Head" of the household. That was not common for that time period. In fact, unless a woman was alone, such as a widow with children she wasn't listed as the head. The husband, or whatever man in the family was always listed as the head of the household, at least back during that time period, anyway. And in this case, Mr. Sorensen took the #2 slot on the census list for their "household."
This listing alone gave me the impression that Mrs. Sorensen was a very independent person, and didn't think conventionally as the subservient sort of wife. All the newspaper clippings I could find relating to Andrew Sorensen spoke of him as the more quiet, reserved type. Although a later article threw in the idea that he was of the "jealous disposition."
Marie came from one of Modesto's more prominent families, being the daughter of W. S. Stone. While Andrew also came from another prominent family, his father being M.I. Sorensen, the late Deputy County Recorder.
Andrew Sorensen, was financially invested in the grocery business, having been working in that field for well over 10 years. By 1909, he was one of the owners of the A. Stiefvater & Co. Store, but sold his interest in it, as well as his interest in the Diamond Grocery Company, in order to help his wife manage the Maze Hotel.
It seems that perhaps they were having some sort of financial troubles, because by August of 1910, Marie Sorensen had decided to tell her landlady, Mrs. Maze that she was no longer going to keep the Maze Hotel open for customers, and instead was planning on running the Plato Hotel which was literally behind the Maze on the other side of the city block on 10th Street. Apparently, Mrs. Maze, the landlady had decided to raise the rent and Mrs. Sorensen decided that she did not want to continue managing the hotel. Still, by December, the Sorensen's were still there, going back and forth between the Maze Hotel and the Plato Hotel, literally having had an "annex" put in between the two properties that connected back to back.
Interestingly, the Plato Hotel (823 10th Street) was once just an Opera House that was on the 2nd floor of the Plato's Menswear building on 10th Street (just south of I Street). In 1910, Marie Sorensen somehow managed to get proprietorship of this spot when the old hall was converted to a lodging house which consisted of 13 rooms.
It was on December 30, 1910, when the unthinkable occurred.
According to the Modesto Bee, dated 12/30/1910 it stated:
“While Temporarily Insane Sorensen Makes Murderous Attack Upon His Wife and Then Cuts His Own Throat; Wife in a Critical Condition
Modesto was shocked out of all reason shortly after two o’clock this afternoon by one of the most ghastly tragedies which ever happened in this state, when Andrew Sorensen, one of the best known and most respected business men of this city, after a fiendish attack upon his wife, in which she was seriously wounded, slashed his own throat from ear to ear with a butcher knife, dying a few moments later.........
Sorensen, who was undoubtedly temporarily deranged, has been acting rather strangely for the past few days, but had shown no signs of violence before, so far as has been learned. Today, however, his mind appears to have been upset, through some little disagreement with his wife; but the attack this afternoon came without the slightest warning.
The assault occurred at the head of the stairs of the Maze Hotel. Mrs. Sorensen was met at the head of the stairs by her husband, who struck her several times, hitting her on the head and arms, using the large carving knife which he had taken from the kitchen. The act was witnessed by carpenters who were working nearby, and whose cries served to stay the assault. The screams of Mrs. Sorensen attracted others about the house, who appeared upon the scene immediately, and directed their attention to her.....
When Deputy Sheriff’s Dallas and Swatzel came to the door of his room they found it locked. The door was quickly opened by the men, and they entered the room to find Sorensen lying on the end of the bed in a pool of blood and still alive. Dr. F.R. DeLappe arrived at this moment, and an effort was made to get Sorensen to talk, but he was unable to do so, as his windpipe had been completely severed, the larynx being in plain sight. He died as he was lifted from the bed by Deputy Sheriff Swatzel and others.
From the position of the body on the bed, and the marks of his bloodstained hands on the foot and head of the bed, it was evident that Sorensen had made three slashes with the large carving knife, the blade of which was over 12 inches long. While he was still alive when the officers arrived on the scene, and probably conscious, he was unable to make any sound, and sank very rapidly."---
According to an even more detailed account by the Modesto Morning Herald, dated January 5, 1911, more pieces to the puzzle came to light. According to Edith Simon, of Stockton (who happened to be Andrew Sorensen's cousin), Miss Simon stated that Andrew had just come back from the post office when he began choking his wife. Miss Simon struggled with Andrew to let her go, and he did, and walked away. Mrs. Sorenson, being terrified of what just happened, locked the door to the room she was in and left out another exit to the hallway towards the room of Mrs. Leiter. At this point Andrew Sorensen had went to the kitchen to get the 12 inch butcher knife. As Mrs. Sorensen was standing at the head of the stairs that led from the street, her husband grabbed her at the waist and started slashing at her head.
Her screams immediately got the attention of Mr. Tucker and Mr. Dawes who were working on repairs in the hotel. Dawes grabbed hold of Andrew Sorensen and attempted to restrain him, while the latter attempted to raise the knife at him. Tucker yelled, and Andrew Sorensen was able to break away and run out the back towards the Plato Hotel "Annex" which connected through the back yard of the hotel.
This was when Mr. Gullickson, a 33 year old Carpenter from Norway, who was working in the yard in the back of the hotel heard the commotion and rushed up the stairs of the hotel. According to the newspaper Mr. Sorensen retreated to the upstairs of the Plato, more than likely where the couple were actually staying, as the other newspaper accounts claim it was "his room."
This is where the story gets very strange. The inquest and all newspaper accounts claim that when Sorensen was found, in a locked room at the Plato Hotel, that he had slit his throat from ear to ear, and that the cut was so deep, he had nearly decapitated himself.
According to Sheriff Deputy Swatzel, he knocked on Sorensen's door, and found that it was locked. He stated that he climbed up onto the transom (it is a small window that is above the door, usually used to allow air and light into the room) he could see that Sorensen was "kneeling at the side of the bed with blood gushing from his throat.....I tried again to gain entrance through the door, but failing in that, I forced an 'inside" window and entered the room. He was beyond all hope, however, as an examination disclosed that his head was almost completely severed from his body. Death must have been instantaneous, although I felt of Sorensen's pulse and detected a feeble action, which Dr. De Lappe, who arrived soon after I did, said was not unusual in a death of this nature."
As the newspapers started to report the story, and the inquest came out, more and more speculation arose. Was Andrew a jealous man who went suddenly insane? Or did he have an inherited condition that left him mentally deranged?
"It has been known to his family and friends for some time that Mr. Sorensen was mentally deranged, but as the spells were merely temporary, it was not believed that he would do any harm and his wife refused to have committed to an institution as was advised by some of her friends. To this state of mind can be attributed the tragedy on Friday. On two previous occasions, Mr. Sorensen attacked his wife, choking and otherwise maltreating her, but as soon as the spell passed he was full of remorse. He is said to have stated recently that should he harm his wife during one of these spells he would take his own life. Their four years of married life had been most congenial and Mr. Sorensen was greatly devoted to his wife.
A few weeks ago Mr. Sorensen's mother, Mrs. Anna Sorensen, took her son to the well known specialist Dr. Moffat of San Francisco. The latter told the mother that Andrew was suffering from paralysis of the brain and that it was doubtful if he would live more than two months. The physician also stated, it is said, that the nature of the disease would render him incapable of harming anyone. His father, who died some years ago, was a victim of the same malady."
Even with all of this information, the idea that Andrew Sorensen had the physical ability to slice his throat so deeply that it was nearly severed from his body made me want to dig deeper.
The medical report "Homicidal Cut Throat: The Forensic Perspective," details the differences between suicidal, accidental and homicidal cut throat deaths. It explains how in homicidal cases, when the assailant is behind the victim and restraining the head, that is how the deep penetrating gash would be possible. In a suicide, the person would not have the strength to penetrate as deeply, and a lot of the time they will have a spasm where they die with the knife in their hands. This did not happen with Andrew.
This story just didn't sit well with me, and that is why I had to go back.....back to the story.
Now, normally I am not one for speculating, as I am always the one seeking facts. But in this story, we cannot bring Andrew back to ask him what happened. However, the physical evidence that was made available to the public was there to review all along.
****It is the author's personal "educated guess" that one of the men that was working at the hotel that day, in a selfless act of defending Mrs. Sorensen after what had just happened to her, this person went back to where Andrew Sorensen was at the Plato Hotel (upstairs) and fought with him, held him down on the bed from behind and slit this throat. The person could have walked away, locking the door behind him without any blood on him, and even so, he could have easily stated it was Mrs. Sorensen's blood from coming to her rescue. By the time the Deputy Sheriff arrived, he found Andrew bleeding to death. With a gashed throat he would have never been able to tell him what happened, and so he died there on the bed.****
I believe that any question of what happened to Andrew, if they had initially suspected someone had attacked him in his room, was swiftly dismissed given the circumstances of what happened to Mrs. Sorensen, and since the perpetrator of the initial incident was now dead the coroner could rule it a suicide and be done with the matter.
After the attack, Mrs. Sorensen was quickly sent to Evans Hospital where she was treated for cuts to her head and neck. She also had a severe wound to her wrist. Both the bone and tendons had been cut so badly, she nearly lost her hand, a severed finger, and she had two "split" fingers. She was listed in critical condition, but within a day the newspapers stated that she would survive.
Saturday morning the inquest was held and it was determined that Andrew Sorensen's death was "caused by a knife wound inflicted while in a state of insanity." It was revealed that a note was found in Sorensen's room which was addressed to his mother. It consisted of two lines, which the coroner claimed was "illegible."
Mrs. Sorensen was notified of her husband's death while she was convalescing at Evan's Hospital. The newspaper stated, "Although greatly shocked and grieved, she bore up bravely and showed a fortitude that was remarkable in view of her condition."
Mr. Sorensen's body was held at Bowker & Wood, where a private service was held and officiated by Reverend J.J. White. The pall bearers were Native Sons and the Knights of the Pythias, where he was a member of both lodges. He was taken to the Odd Fellows Section of the Modesto Pioneer Cemetery where he was buried and forgotten.
Sadly, Marie only lived four more years, dying on December 29, 1925. Ironically, her obituary was published on December 30, 1925, exactly 15 years to the day that her first husband had attempted to end her life. Marie was buried at Acacia Memorial Park which is in the same vicinity of where Andrew Sorensen is buried in the Odd Fellows Section. You see, there are several cemeteries that are combined on Scenic Drive in Modesto, so it is like one huge cemetery in all.
Going back to the story
Sadly, I believe that something terrible was afflicting Andrew that caused him to attack his wife that day. Do I believe it was an evil entity that was influencing Andrew? Absolutely not! I believe it was something medical. Especially since it was within his own family history to have been afflicted with mental illness. I also do not believe that he is haunting the costume shop, as the television program insinuated.
Based solely on his injuries alone, I do not for one second believe that Andrew Sorensen
killed himself. Despite the fact that Andrew went off the rails and attacked his wife, which was ghastly to say the least, I do believe that someone killed Andrew Sorensen and it was covered up as a suicide.
What he did to his wife was wrong, absolutely. Still, the idea that all these years he has been labeled as having committing suicide feels wrong to me because the evidence says otherwise. I guess, though, we will never know who else was involved in this heinous incident in 1910.
Just as I believe in sharing the stories of all the forgotten, I also believe in making sure each story is told accurately, and if I find something that doesn't fit, I will question it and ponder over it until I find a reasonable conclusion. I have reached mine.
|The grave of Andrew Sorensen|
Happy History Hunting!
(Copyright 2021- J'aime Rubio, www.jaimerubiowriter.com)
Modesto Bee, 8/1/1908
Modesto Bee, 12/30/1910
San Francisco Call, 12/31/1910
Stockton Independent, 12/31/1910
Modesto Morning Herald, 1/5/1911
Modesto Morning Herald, 8/3/1921.
Modesto Bee, 8/8/1911
Modesto Bee, 6/9/1920
A big "Thank You" to Roland Boulware for allowing me the use of your book for photos and information:
"One Hundred Years: Modesto, 1870-1970" by Jeanette Gould Maino, 1970.
Polk's Directory Co's Modesto, Volume 6 - 1915
"Modesto"- by Carl P. Baggese, Page 33
Census records, 1900,1910,1920.
Death records, 1910,1925.