In this photo of the Village of Saranac Lake, taken around 1923, the Riverside Inn stands out in the center, with the Spaulding Block to the left of the inn. The home of Dr. Nelson Johnson, where the first killing in the triple tragedy occurred, appears to the left of the former St. Bernard's Church. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 22, 1986

Will Straight's grocery store on Broadway is visible behind the fire wagon. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 22, 1986

Born: c. 1896

Died: October 16, 1934

Married: Helen Long

Dr. Nelson Johnson was a dentist with a practice at 9 St. Bernard Street. He was murdered by his stepfather, Will Straight, who subsequently killed Mrs. James W. Moody, and then himself.

Lake Placid News, October 19, 1934

Dr. N. W. Johnson Buried Thursday

Funenal services for Dr. Nelson W. Johnson, 38, first victim of Tuesday's triple tragedy at Saranac Lake, was held Thursday afternoon at the residence, 9 St. Bernard street.

Rev. Frank W. Bevan, pastor of the Methodist Episcopal church, read the service, interment following in Pine Ridge cemetery. Pall bearers were Dr. Henry Leetch, Dr. Edward S. Welles, Harold Eckart, F. Ferris Hewitt, Peter A. S. Haase, Richard A. Tyrell, E. S. Bellings and Henry Hakines.

Dr. Johnson was a native of Saranac Lake, the son of the late William Johnson, and the present Mrs. Mary Straight.

He graduated from the Saranac Lake high school in 1916. Graduating from the University of Buffalo in 1919, his professional training was interrupted by the World War. He attended the dental school of the University of Rochester, later interning at Bellevue hospital, New York. He was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.

In 1922, Dr. Johnson returned to Saranac Lake and established a dental practice. In that year he married Miss Helen Long of Rochester, who survives him.

Dr. Johnson's interests in the village were many. He was an enthusiastic golfer, hunter, fisherman and sportsman and had friends among devotees of those activities. He was well known in bowling and golfing circles in Lake Placid.

He was a member of the Saranac Lake Golf club, the Saranac Lake club, the American Legion and the Adirondack Dental society. His only immediate survivors are his widow and his mother.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, August 22, 1986

When a man's anger rocked an entire community

Saranac Lake's Triple Tragedy



In the year of 1934, Will Straight was a retired grocer after operating his store on Broadway, across from Dorsey Street, for some 30 years. He was well-known in the community and, according to all reports, he was also well liked.

At the same time, George Downing owned a three-story commercial building just down the street at the corner of Broadway and Woodruff streets. The two men were not only business neighbors, but were frequent hunting partners as well. The pair hunted together on that fateful day of Oct. 16th, 1934.

Dr. Nelson Johnson lived in a fine combination home and dental office at the River Street end of St. Bernard Street, just a stone's throw from where Brown had shot Berkeley. He was Will Straight's stepson. Johnson was prominent in the village; he had a lucrative practice, a beautiful wife, the very latest automobile, and was an ardent golfer. He had everything to live for!

Mrs. James Moody lived with her husband at 103 River Street next to the old State Armory. She owned several parcels of real estate in the village and held mortgages on other properties. It was alleged that one such mortgage was on Straight's home. She had an invalid sister and had employed Mrs. Straight to care for her. She also displayed a strong dislike for Mr. Straight for some unknown reason.

On that afternoon of October 16th, Dr. and Mrs. Johnson were entertaining with a cocktail party at their home. Among the guests were: Henry Haines, owner of the Whiteface Inn in Lake Placid; Mrs. Goerge Townsend, of Upper St. Regis Lake; and Aaron Carpenter, of the Hotel Saranac. At precisely 6:20 p.m. the conviviality was shattered by a shotgun blast through the glass of a window. Dr. Johnson, who had been talking to Haines, fell to the floor. Dr. Welles was summoned immediately but Johnson had expired.

After firing the shot, Will Straight placed the shotgun in his car and drove to 103 River Street. As fate would have it, Mrs. Moody was also next to a window. She was seated in her rocking chair reading the newspaper when the shotgun roared again and Mrs. Moody fell dead. Straight then went to his car which was parked in a driveway at the rear of the house. He climbed into the rear seat where he traded the 12 gauge shotgun for a .35-caliber rifle. Placing the muzzle of the gun in his mouth, he pulled the trigger.

Naturally this double murder and suicide shocked the entire village and the burning question in everyone's mind was, of course, what brought it on. At the investigation George Downing testified that Will Straight seemed perfectly normal during the hunt earlier in the day and gave no indication of any sinister intentions. He did state that for some time there had existed bad feelings between Straight and his stepson. Straight had loaned money to Johnson to finance his education and now that the dentist was well off, he expected to be repaid. He currently was in need of cash and was dunning Dr. Johnson for repayment of the loan. Johnson flatly refused. In fact, during the cocktail party, he had mentioned to Henry Haines that Straight asked to see him that very afternoon but was told to stay away. Mrs. Straight apparently sided with her son which caused a certain amount of marital strife and added to Straight's hostility. Mrs. Moody was evidently encouraging Mrs. Straight to evict her husband from their Terrace Street home since the house was in Mrs. Straight's name: This intervention added fuel to the fire and no doubt triggered the fatal visit to the Moody residence on that evening.

The final analysis which resulted from the investigation showed that Straight was in need of money and that he felt very strongly that Johnson could well afford to repay the loan. When his stepson shunned him completely, a strong resentment had built up-which undoubtedly culminated in the violent events of that Tuesday afternoon. Although Downing's statement at the hearing claimed that Straight's manner was completely normal during their hunt, it can be assumed that he probably harbored deeply troubled thoughts. It could very well be that as he sat on his watchground in the woods his mind concentrated on an entirely different quarry.

A sad sequel to the tragedy appeared in the Enterprise on the anniversary of the unhappy date:


STRAIGHT, W. F—IN LOVING memory of my father who passed away one year ago, October 16, 1934.

While you, dear Father, rest and sleep, your loving memory, I'll always keep. Your loving Daughter.