Old Timers Fair May 6-7

Great committee meeting. Matlock Old Timers Fair May 6-7

We had an awesome, unbelievable time with the Tornow committee last night at Rich and Tracy Travers new "saloon" on their property. Great turnout of 10 folks, including three new Tornow enthusiasts: Welcome to Kyle, Cari and Terry. We set plans for the Matlock Oldtimers Fair May 6-7. Discussed plans to get our three DVDs melded into one inexpensive one to sell. We hope to have it for the Fair. Discussed possible plans for a Tornowland Tour likely in the fall. Bill introduced Paul, who is seriously working on a script to turn the Tornow story into a movie. The cat is out of the bag now. This is very exciting. Oh, and great, great food. Elk meatballs, elk summer sausage, beat casserole, little smokies wrapped in bacon, baked potatoes and fixins, pie, cake and other stuff. Rich started the meeting by singing his John Tornow song, and for me, I've never heard him do it better. Thanks to all who came. Paul was mightily impressed by the gathering and the amazing enthusiasm we have.

John Tornow, the movie? Step 1

There's something magical about tramping around in the snow and ice at the Tornow Victims' Memorial on a brisk winter day. Makes you wonder how John was able to endure two of the worst winters ever in the area in 1911-1913. When you are doing it with a guy who might possibly elevate the story to the big screen, it's more enjoyable. At noon yesterday, I met the man who wants to write a potential movie script based in part on my book. Eight hours later, after visiting all the Tornow sites, we were still talking. He has the same zeal for this project as I do, and as many of you. I can say step 1 in a likely five-year project was a resounding success. I can't reveal much, but I will say he has connections with one of the biggest names in Hollywood, and he is absolutely on the same page as I with respect to how to portray Tornow, the man. Stay tuned.

Hardcover photo by Bob Dick, design by Amy Ostwald, shows Tornow (aka Justin Madanifard) in the forest during the re-enactment videoed by Mark Woytowich in 2013. Small image shows the 3 Lathrop great-grandsons at the memorial dedication in 2013.


Bill Lindstrom Author "John Tornow: Villain or Victim?"

August 2014 

Murder. Incest. Sex. Intrigue. Implausible situations. Enigma. Unsolved mystery, a century later.  “Victim or Villain?” is the true story of events a century old. It sounds trite, but it’s true: you can’t make this stuff up.

John Tornow’s family follows the early American dream as they emigrate from Germany in the late 1800s and wend their way to the Olympic Peninsula’s Satsop Valley. Young John is fascinated with the deep virgin forest as we follow him through his youth and early adult years. He is a deadly shot and his skill with a knife is practically unmatched. John is big, strong, fit and increasingly reclusive. He is not someone to trifle with in town. In the Satsop Valley wilderness of 1910, John is either a peculiar loner or an apex predator. Or both.

My Godfather, Lem Nethery, was an early Grays Harbor homesteader, timber cruiser and close friend to my father, Malcolm. “Uncle Lem,” also was one of the folks detailed to bring out Tornow’s body after he was shot and killed in the upper Wynooche Valley. I heard the legend of John Tornow dozens of times as Uncle Lem told me the story every time we visited.  John Tornow grew up with me.

As is often the case with a legendary story, many memories are suspect. In John Tornow’s case a whole lot is suspect beginning with his own family. A botched abortion and subsequent trial in which no one seems capable of telling the truth, a questionable trip to an asylum, greed over assets left by deceased parents set the stage for John. He becomes more reclusive and seemingly unstable as his family self-destructs. The deep woods become his refuge from the family’s bizarre actions.

Then it all goes south. John’s beloved twin nephews, John and William Bauer, are shot, killed and buried. Circumstantial evidence clearly indicates John. He becomes the chief, no, the only, suspect and from that day forward is hunted by posses and bounty hunters. A novice crime writer could sniff out at least two or three legitimate additional suspects. Two deputies are later murdered and the manhunts intensify, yet John never is charged with a crime. Tornow, meanwhile, shadows the men looking for him and steals food and clothing from settlers and receives handouts from those who have known him as an odd, but decent, man.

John survives the next two years by being better at woodcraft than those paid to find him who, themselves, are very good. The odds, however, are not in his favor and he eventually is killed, taking two more deputies with him. Those two sentences cover an incredible story of survival of the fittest, woods skills by the best in the business, good luck, bad luck, and, in the end, tragedy that leads the reader to wonder, “Why? Why did all this have to happen to an unfortunate human being and the brave men who did what they were paid to do?”

Author, Bill Lindstrom, does a masterful job of leading us through the Tornow family’s life and times, the daily routines and tragedies that create the story that endures to this day. Bill spent a lifetime researching multiple versions of events. He found himself reading century-old court documents, transcriptions, contemporary news articles, interviews, all needed to produce the best account possible of our friend, John. Bill left no stone unturned to tell the story as best it can be told. He added dialogue so we can follow the family, the lawmen and a reporter, not just the tragic events. It is one of those books that, when you must put it down, makes you want more. When it is done, you want to go back and change it to make a better ending. Alas, we can’t do that and the ending is well known to all: John is gunned down in a brutal shootout in which two other decent men are killed, too. Bill does the job he must do to bring us the facts as best as they can be determined through diligent research, even if we don’t like them.

Bill Lindstrom’s thorough research cannot dispel the multiple riddles left behind. Who actually shot the twins? Did Tornow really shoot Deputies Elmer and McKenzie? Did Tornow stay in the upper Satsop and Wynooche drainages or did he venture to one or more of the places where people swear they saw him? Was John sent to an asylum? If so, was it done to access his wealth? Was John responsible for the never-explained disappearance of several folks who ventured into his country never to be seen again? John was a prudent investor, viewed with envy by family members. What happened to his substantial holdings, his bank accounts?

Lindstrom does his best to answer the questions. He can’t answer them all. We are left to form our own opinions of the man. I choose to believe Tornow murdered his nephews in a case of mistaken identity. Further, he likely murdered Deputies Elmer and McKenzie. But I don’t know that. Neither does anyone else and there are several plausible alternatives. Remember, Tornow was never charged with, much less convicted of a crime.

I also believe, had Tornow been left alone, he would have become one of those peculiar people at the fringe of society ─ and civilization in those days ─ who would have died of natural causes having caused no harm.  But, instead of being a footnote in history, John Tornow left a huge footprint and at least seven dead men. Bill Lindstrom tells a great story which I hope you enjoy as much as I did.

Malcolm R. Dick, Jr.

Shelton, Washington








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Carla Salter | Reply 08.03.2017 13.31

We are interested in selling this book in our bookstore at
The Coastal Interpretive Center. Can you tell me where to buy wholesale?

Paul | Reply 15.01.2017 21.49

I can't put the book down.

Bill Lindstrom | Reply 28.05.2015 20.20

Tom, I don't have specific info of John in Quinault, but I suspect he was because rangers reported on him and he was known to be in Pac. Beach.

Tom Melton | Reply 28.05.2015 00.18

The reason I ask is that I have a place on South Shore Road in Quinault and on rainy, dreary nights I often wonder if JT ever trekked around my property, spooky

Tom Melton | Reply 28.05.2015 00.14

Hi Bill: Do you know if John ever spent much time up around Quinault? Seems I've heard of him getting food handouts from Eudie's mother (of Eudie's Lunch)

Samuel Johnson | Reply 15.05.2015 12.09

Where was the bicycle photo found of John and Edward ?

Bill Lindstrom 28.05.2015 20.28

Sorry been in Europe for 18 days. The pic was in the April 20, 1913 Tacoma Ledger

Samuel | Reply 15.05.2015 07.07

I love the book.I found out about John in a real wes magazine in the early sixties.

Bill Lindstrom | Reply 29.04.2015 14.23

Edward wasn't killed. He moved to South Bend, later to Longview. Some did believe he was involved in the killing of the views. He was involved in land dispute.

Samuel Johnson | Reply 28.04.2015 23.02

I know Edward dissapeared.Did John do the world a favor?

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Latest comments

08.03 | 13:31

We are interested in selling this book in our bookstore at
The Coastal Interpretive Center. Can you tell me where to buy wholesale?

15.01 | 21:49

I can't put the book down.

18.09 | 02:32

No. 1 is campsite, No. 2 where Tornow stood behind a hemlock tree. No. 3 where Blair and Lathrop fell, No. 4 where Giles Quimby stood when he killed Tornow.

18.09 | 00:53

Bill Lindstrom, My husband & I love your book, thank you. We visited the memorial & are wondering exactly what the # posts mean??

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