Part three:
If you read a lot about Betsy Bigley/Lydia Devere/Cassie Chadwick, you quickly notice writers waste an inordinate amount of words analyzing her appeal to men. Most claim she wasn't attractive, even hint she was unattractive, even ugly or scary.

From photos I've seen, I'd say those people made their judgment on the basis of her looks in 1900, or a few years later, about the time her world came crashing down. But the photo here, taken in 1889 or 1890, when she was clairvoyant Lydia Devere in Toledo, with a prison sentence in her near future, shows an attractive woman in her early 30s, who would have no problem attracting men, especially since almost all of the men she conned were older, and you know what they say — "There's no fool like an old fool." And when she was known as Betsy Bigley, in her 20s, if the illustration for part 2 in an indication, she definitely was attractive.

However, there was widespread belief — supported by this photo —that through her life what men couldn't resist were her hypnotic eyes. And, yes, people were convinced Betsy/Lydia/Cassie actually hypnotized people against their will. That was especially true during her years as Lydia Devere, who separated men from their money for a fews years, and did it mostly without resorting to forged checks.

After her Andrew Carnegie scheme was exposed in 1904, there was still talk about about Cassie Chadwick's hypnotic eyes, which prompted Alice York to say of her sister/half-sister, “She never indicated that she was possessed of any hypnotic power. In Toledo, it is said, she hypnotized a man named Joseph Lamb, an express agent. The papers were full of it at the time, and all the talk was hypnotism. The hypnotism talk, I repeat was nonsense."

It wasn't nonsense to a deputy sheriff named Porter who accompanied Cassie Chadwick to jail in 1904. "The first time Mrs. Chadwick got a good square look at me," he told reporters, "I began to blink under the piercing gaze, until I was forced to turn my eyes in an opposite direction. I grew dizzy from the effect, but some strange power caused me to return my gaze to hers."

Maybe so ... or maybe Porter, like a lot of folks who are interviewed for true crime shows on television, told reporters what he thought they wanted to hear.

* * *

At first, it may have been sex
Her sex appeal, as Lydia Devere — or in her twenties and teens as Betsy Bigley — is seldom mentioned by those who write about her. In fact, most stories seem to dismiss her as having no sex appeal at all, although I found some people quoted in old newspaper stories as calling her "a beauty" right up until the time she married Dr. Chadwick.

You'll also find occasional claims she briefly was a prostitute and may have been operating a brothel in Cleveland when she met her final husband, Dr. Chadwick.

However, it was only in George Condon's chapter on the woman that I found the following incident, which may or may not be true, but in view of how she carried on later in life, I tend to think it contains more truth than fiction. If so, it's an interesting indication of the workings of Elizabeth Bigley's mind, even as a teenager.

The first suggestion that Elizabeth was not an ordinary teenager came when, at age fifteen, she engaged in a little barnyard dalliance with a hot-eyed young farmer who lived nearby. This in itself is not extraordinary or outside the common chronicle of human weakness, but Elizabeth was said to have held off the swain until he had mortgaged his land to purchase her a diamond ring. Touched by this gesture, she then conferred her favors upon him.

Fast forward more than 20 years. She's 39 years old and calling herself Mrs. Cassie Hoover when she abruptly marries 44-year-old widower Dr. Leroy S. Chadwick. His friends are stunned. Here is what friend told reporters when authorities were closing in on Mrs. Chadwick, and her husband and his daughter by his first marriage were touring Europe:

New York Herald, December 1, 1904
[Special dispatch to the Herald]
CLEVELAND, Ohio, Wednesday — Dr. Byron D. Viets, an old friend of Dr. Chadwick, who has known him many years both socially and professionally, tells a remarkable story of his first meeting with Mrs. Chadwick.

“I want it understood that I consider Dr. Chadwick one of the most honorable gentlemen as well as one of the most able physicians in my acquaintance. It is my knowledge of him that makes me consider his marriage so remarkable,” said Dr. Viets.

“The Chadwick home is only a few doors from my own. I saw the doctor nearly every day. Naturally we have much in common. Also, Dr. Chadwick is musical, and my twodaughters are musical. Two, three and even four times a week he would come to my house and he and my daughters would play. He plays the flute very well.

“One evening about seven years ago,, he called, accompanied by a wooman. He introduced her as his wife. She was the woman whom all this talkk is about.

“I had known Dr. Chadwick was a widower. I did not know he was keeping company with or was attentive to any woman. Yet there he was introducing a woman as his wife whom none of us had ever seen before.

“Naturally we were surprised. We expected an explanation, but none was vouchsafed. Things were a trifle embarrassing, but it did not last long. I saw much of Dr. Chadwick after that, but he never referred to his sudden marriage.”

Whatever the initial attraction, it soon waned and after two years the couple spent more and more time apart. Dr. Chadwick and his daughter, Mary, spent much time traveling, while Mrs. Chadwick went on wild shopping sprees, not only in Cleveland, but in Toronto and New York, occasionally in Europe.

But she also drew attention for the supposedly wild parties she held at the large house she managed to expropriate from her husband. It is said she preferred the company of young, attractive women, and employed "French maids," as they were described, who provided the entertainment at her parties. In 1904, there was a suggestion from a former servant that Mrs. Chadwick had more than a professional relationship with the banker who was most instrumental in the success of her scam.

Buffalo Courier, December 12, 1904
CLEVELAND, December 11 — “A good woman who has been maligned! Why, she is one of the wickedest women alive, and one-thousandth part of her wickedness has not been told.”

Thus spoke Mrs. George Somers of Lucia Street tonight, in referring to Mrs. Cassie L. Chadwick. Mrs. Somers, formerly Miss Della Rowe, was for years confidential maid and companion to Mrs. Chadwick.

“Did banker Iri Reynolds appear to be a close friend of hers?” interrogated the reporter. She leaned back in her chair and laughed.

“I should think so,” she said, “for years Iri Reynolds and Mrs. Chadwick have been as close close almost as two peas in a pod. On an average of two or three times a week for years he used to call at the house, frequently dining there, and most of their usually long talks were behind the doors of her boudoir, and if the doctor or I happened to be there, we were sent away to some other part of the mansion.

“During the time I was with Mrs. Chadwick, it was but rarely that a lady called, but there was a very large number of substantial looking men who called to see her, and when I go down the street now I often see them in big concerns in banks and other places, or in their automobiles, and most of these men Mrs. Chadwick received in her own private rooms, sending away the doctor if he happened to be at home, or me, and sometimes she would be in her boudoir with a caller for several hours.”

Granted, many dismissed Mrs. Somers' remarks as foolish gossip, because Cassie Chadwick in 1897 had made an effort to look different than she had as Lydia Devere (see top of page), and had created a seemingly pleasant woman whose eyes did not appear hypnotic at all. But Cassie Chadwick was aging quickly, and, as stated earlier, it is the way she looked by 1902 that (I think) led biographers to conclude men could not possibly be physically attracted to her. And, by then, they probably weren't. But some were drawn to the woman because she was willing to borrow large sums of money on terms that were favorable to the lender. Or so these men thought.
* * *

What was she like?
In "The High Priestess of Fraudulent Finance," Karen Abbott says Betty Bigley lost her hearing in one ear and developed a speech impediment, which conditioned her to speak few words and choose them with care. Her Canadian schoolmates had found her “peculiar” and she turned inward.

George Condon in "Cassie Was a Lady," says, "Nothing really notable occurred in Elizabeth Bigley’s childhood. She was a heavy reader, it is known, and her favorite kind of literature had to do with successful women. Her parents were heard to complain at times that she was a child with entirely too much imagination.

"She always seemed absorbed in thought," said Alice York of her sister., and would sit in silence by the hour. She seemed in a trance and never would pay attention to anyone. She would come out of these thinking spells as if bewildered. At such times she would not reply when questioned. She would have melancholy spells and nothing would rouse her."

Contrary to what Condon wrote, Mrs York said, "Cassie was not a great reader."

"In speech," Mrs. York added, "she talks slowly and lisps slightly."

My favorite description of Cassie Chadwick was written by an unidentified reporter who talked o the woman the night she was arrested in New York City, which is why I trust his impression more than those second-hand descriptions I've read elsewhere:

New York Herald, December 14, 1904
Meeting at close range, Mr. Chadwick conveyed to her hearers a very different impression from that they had expected to receive, judging from the chronicles of her alleged exploits. Although dressed in good taste, her accent was of the distinctively Cockney type, she dropped her H’s constantly and in almost every sentence used bad grammar. It was observed, however, that she kept the so-called hypnotic eyes in almost incessant movement.

Her attire consisted of a blue waist of shot satin, appliqued with lace, a brown skirt and a large brown picture hat, and when she left for the station, this costume was augmented by a long brown coat of loose fit, brown kid gloves, a fur boa and a brown veil. Her features are sharp and her lips thin, but she bears evidence of beauty at an earlier period.

It's the Cockney accent that most surprised me. Others had mentioned the bad grammar, concluding she had been poorly educated, which would be more a reflection of the school she attended in Eastwood, Ontario, than on Betsy Bigley, because it was written that she was the smartest student in her class, but not popular because she seemed to live in her own little world.

But when she grew up, and, especially, when had money, Cassie Chadwick reportedly carried on like Ebenezer Scrooge after he'd been visited by the Christmas spirits. She spent money freely and was perhaps too generous to those around her, even people she'd just met, which may have hastened her downfall.


1. A multiple choice biography
2. Have card, will swindle
3. My, what big eyes she has
4. Temporarily transgender
5. Kindness is costly
6. Lydia had a little lamb
7. She finds a perfect husband

8. Mansion makeover
9. Time for her big scene
10. Deep pocket fishing
11. He's never heard of her
12. A friend in Pittsburgh
13. Back behind bars
14. Her spirit lives on