C R Van Houten, “Feloniously using high explosives”, 26 Oct 1938

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William Mattingly’s car exploded outside his house at 4 o’clock in the morning. His housekeeper, the first to leave the house and see the car in flames, noticed a man standing in the trees nearby. She shone a torch on him and he ran away.

A stick of dynamite or a heavy charge of powder had been placed on the car’s gas tank and ignited. Mattingly couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to blow up his car, and couldn’t think who might have done it, but the police questioned him until they came up with a suspect: Carl Van Houten, with whom Mattingly had “had some difficulties over a bill.”

Carl was arrested on a charge of malicious mischief by use of explosives. He pled innocent, but was found guilty and got a $1 fine and two to four years in the penitentiary.

Sources: New Castle News (26 Oct 1938, “Charge Attempt To Wreck Auto”; 29 Dec 1938, “Court Imposes Heavy Penalties”).


  1. Kendall says

    If I’d been Mattingly, I’d have been very worried about what this guy would do when he got out! I’m guessing there’s nothing further about Van Houten, Mattingly, or Mattingly’s housekeeper in any of your sources?

  2. Beats me. These bizarre $1 fines come up in quite a few cases, though. My guess is that Pennsylvania had a system that included mandatory fines for certain offences, and the courts imposed nominal fines in cases in which the sentence also included jail time, but I have no idea if that’s right. I’ll have to find an old Pennsylvanian lawyer to ask…

  3. Angelo says

    What a find! This guy is my great-uncle, no joke. His sister Hazel DiSalvo (Van Houten) was my maternal grandmother. I showed this pic to my mom and she positively ID’d as Carlton Roy, who went by the nickname ‘Bud’. I was never able to find out when or where he died, but a story floating around is that he died in prison in the late 50’s after being sentenced for being in possession of pornography. I can’t verify it, though.

    • Oh, I wish you could! This is one of the most mysterious stories I’ve come across. I mean, who blows up someone’s car? It would be great if you could find out more…

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