Helen Tiernan (1930 - 1937)

A photo of Helen Tiernan
Helen Tiernan
1930 - 1937
Long Island in New York, United States
Helen Tiernan was born in 1930, and died at age 7 years old in 1937 at Long Island in New York United States. Family, friend, or fan, this family history biography is for you to remember Helen Tiernan.
Updated: January 15, 2023
Biography ID: 192807368

Helen Tiernan's Biography

Family, friend, or fan this Collaborative Biography is for you to show & tell Helen's life so that she is always remembered.
About Helen


In 1937, little Helen Tiernan was murdered by her mother, Helen (age 25), when the child was only 7 years old.

Helen's brother, Jimmy who was five at the time, was also badly injured in the attack.

Supposedly, the mother wanted to kill her children so that she could be with her new lover. Their mother had been widowed 3 yrs before the attack.

She stated to authorities that the lover said that he would be with her if she didn't have children. However, even more of a plot twist, the lover may have already been married.

Scroll down to read an article 'Who's Haunting Lakeview Cemetery? Long Island Stories' about the case and about the interesting and supposedly haunted history of Lakeview Cemetery on Long Island where the 7 yr old girl is buried.

The article also contains an update on what happened to Helen's mother and, perhaps, her brother.
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Helen Tiernan passed away at age 7 years old in 1937 at Long Island in New York United States. Helen Tiernan was born in 1930. Family, friend, or fan, this family history biography is for you to remember Helen Tiernan.

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Helen Tiernan lived 65 years shorter than the average Tiernan family member when she died at the age of 7.
The average age of a Tiernan family member is 72.

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Helen Tiernan
Tombstone for Helen Died too soon
Helen Tiernan
Helen and brother Jimmy a couple of years before their mother killed Helen and injured Jimmy.
Helen Tiernan
Little Helen Tiernan a few years before her mother murdered her.
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So sad....
Helen Tiernan
Mother Helen Tiernan, daughter Helen, and son Jimmy earlier in their family life.
Helen Tiernan
25 yr old Helen Tiernan who murdered her 7 yr old daughter and injured her 5 yr old son.
Helen Tiernan
The gravesite of Helen Tiernan in Lakeview Cemetery on Long Island. She was murdered by her mother in 1937 - does she haunt the cemetery?
Who's Haunting Lakeview Cemetery?
The following was written by 'Long Island Stories' (fantastic author and website!) and appears at [external link]

Lakeview Cemetery in Patchogue has been the subject of countless tales of ghosts and haunting's since the early 1800’s. I discovered that its reputation as one of the most haunted places on the Island is well deserved!

Lakeview Cemetery runs along Main Street and Waverly Avenue in the western portion of Patchogue. It is actually a combination of 5 separate cemeteries, with the oldest graves dating back to the late 1700’s. These cemeteries include the Episcopal, Waverly, Gerard, Rice and Lakeview cemetery. All are now commonly referred to as the Lakeview Cemetery. The actual Lakeview portion of the cemetery is the youngest portion, having been opened in the late 1880’s. This land was donated by Ruth Newey Smith, one of the four well to do Smith sisters of Patchogue.

The oldest graves are found in the Episcopal, Gerard and Waverly portions of the cemetery and date back as late as 1794. The original church building built in Patchogue (The Congregational Church) was built on the edge of the cemetery in 1794 and was located on the northeast corner of Main Street and Waverly Avenue. It is probable that the cemetery was located in this area because of the church.

The combined cemeteries contain the remains of over 1200 souls including at least 13 Revolutionary war veterans, 9 civil war veterans, 12 World War 1 veterans, 6 WW 2 veterans and 3 Vietnam Vets. For many years, the cemetery had been abandoned and over grown despite the efforts of some dedicated individual Patchogue residents such as Hans Henke (also the town historian) who valiantly attempted to keep up with the work. But like Patchogue itself, the cemetery is now in a period of revival. Under the leadership of Steve Gill, the Lakeview Restoration Committee was formed and with the help of many volunteers, the cemetery is being restored and maintained.

I first learned of Lakeview Cemetery when reading "Long Island’s Most Haunted, A Ghost Hunters Guide" written by Joseph Flammer and Diane Hill (9). This very interesting book gave some background on the cemetery and referenced articles from the Brooklyn Eagle written about a ghostly sighting that occurred there in 1895 (9). My interest peaked, I decided to research the story and the cemetery. Using the Brooklyn Eagle articles referenced in the book as a spring board I began to dig for more information on the cemetery, events and people that were mentioned in the article. I was surprised by what I found. I went into the project thinking I was researching a single ghost story but found something much more fascinating.

After countless hours in various libraries and Internet searches, I discovered that the hauntings attributed through the years to Lakeview Cemetery could have come from any number of fascinating real life people whose remains reside within its confines. These stories opened a fascinating window into many of the events and people that shaped the history of Patchogue and in some cases Long Island.

I soon discovered that a tavern once stood on this property and a President had dined there. Elizabeth Oakes Smith, a famous 19th century poet and one of the original crusaders for the rights of woman was buried here, next to her equally famous husband Seba Smith. Seba was one of our countries original political satirists, a newspaper editor and an author, whose works included the well known Jack Downing series that poked fun at the American political process and those that were in it. Very near to Seba and Elizabeth lie the bodies of the crew of the schooner Louis V. Place, a doomed ship that had in February of 1895 floundered off the coast of Patchogue in a wintry storm. Unable to be rescued, the crew of the ship died a painful and eerie death. Resting side by side with the crew of the Louis V. Place rests the similarly doomed crew of the Nahum Chapin which sunk off the coast of Patchogue in 1897.

Directly across from the sailor’s graves can be found the monuments to the eccentric Smith sisters who are buried in Lakeview and who donated much of the land where the new portion of the cemetery sits. The wealthiest people in town, the Smith sisters also donated the plot where the sailors were buried and used the Lakeview Cemetery to build a number of memorials to their family. They too add to the mystery of this cemetery as one of the sisters, Augusta, was so afraid of being buried alive her will stipulated she could not be buried until 5 days after her death! (see Patchogue Stories)

Also residing in Lakeview Cemetery is the body of a little girl who was cruelly murdered in the 1930's and buried in a lonely grave on the corner of the property. Her story and the mystery behind her murder were the subject of national attention, and her restless and sad spirit has been reported through the years wandering the grounds.

And finally, there is the long told story of the “Haunted House On Blood Hill”. It was this story involving the old mansion which was located on the property that originally gave Lakeview Cemetery its reputation as one of the most haunted places on Long Island. This house dated back to the late 18th century and occupied a prominent place on the hill found on the southeast brow of the cemetery. This house stood until the late 1800's and was the subject of terrible secrets that form the basis of its haunted history that persists to this day.

The following is an accounting of three of the more detailed stories of who may be haunting Lakeview Cemetery.

The Haunted House on Blood Hill

Lakeview Cemetery rests on the top of a small hill in a portion of western Patchogue that for many years was ominously referred to as "Blood Hill". The origin of this name is somewhat unclear and adds to the mystery of the place. Most articles I could find, which are very few, note that this name was given the area because of its reputation as the site of constant drunken fights engaged in by sailors visiting the port of Patchogue. It was said that these fights were so bad that the streets were often” running with blood". Other accounts credit the name coming from the atrocities that occurred in a house that existed here in the early days of the village. The Haunted House on Blood Hill. Whatever the source, the "nick name" persisted until sometime in the 1920's, when local business men worked to eradicate this negative image by convincing the public that the area had changed and that its blood soaked reputation was a thing of the past.

Today, as you travel west bound on Main Street in Patchogue leaving the main business area and passing the YMCA, you will begin to ascend a small hill. This rise is what remains of the infamous "Blood Hill". It is on the brow of this hill (on what is now Lakeview Cemetery) that sat for many years and old mansion. Newspaper accounts of the late 1800 hundreds describe it as an "ancient house" dating back to the revolutionary war. This was the Haunted House of Blood Hill. (Picture left - current day view of "Blood Hill")

The house has been a source of controversy. Some accounts I have found state the house had been built and owned by the famous revolutionary war hero, Nathaniel Woodhull. These reports cannot be accurate as it is well established that Nathaniel Woodhull lived his entire life in the family manor located in Mastic. This historic manor house and much of its original land still exists today as a museum. Records do indicate however that the House on Blood Hill was once owned by a Squire Brewster Woodhull. In fact, records show it was a B Woodhull who sold the house to the famous Seba Smith and his wife Elizabeth in 1860. An 1858 map of the area shows the house with the name B. Woodhull written next to it. Perhaps Brewster Woodhull was a relative of Nathaniel which may account for the miss-identification. Or perhaps Nathaniel owned the property but did not live there.

Seba and Elizabeth were the most famous occupants of the house, and after moving to it in 1860 they thoroughly renovated it and named it "The Willows". This name reflected the fact that many lovely willow trees graced the property. Sadly, Seba died in the house in 1868.

We get a fascinating glimpse of what the old mansion looked like in an interview with Elizabeth Oakes Smith in the September 10th,1873 Brooklyn Eagle ("Madame Elizabeth Oakes Smith"). The Willows is described as an old three story rambling house built in the revolutionary war times. It had balconies off of the windows facing the street and was surrounded by willow trees. The inside is described as old, and musty. As this interview had taken place after the death of her husband Seba, the article implies that perhaps the house had become run down as a result of Elizabeth being a widow. The interior is described as having old wooden beams, bookshelves filled with old manuscripts and walls covered with peeling wall paper and paintings. This description gives us our only glimpse into what this strange and storied mansion looked like, and reinforces the image of the houses appearance as something out of a Victorian ghost tale. You can imagine it sitting alone, on the breast of the hill surrounded by an ancient grave yard.

Like many accounts found in newspapers of this time, the details seem a little confusing. The interview takes place with Elizabeth in 1873 within the house. Yet we know from other accounts that Elizabeth Oakes Smith moved out of the Willows in 1870. This leaves us to assume that the interview was actually conducted earlier and published in 1873 or that the interview simply contains accounts of Elizabeth Oakes Smith reminiscing about the house and describing it to the author.

Perhaps the most controversial part of my research however is the evidence that has been uncovered that points to the fact that this house may also have been Harts Tavern, famous for having been a stop off for George Washington during his tour of Long Island after the Revolution. Harts Tavern had been reported to have stood somewhere alongside Main Street on the cemetery property, but the exact location of the house has long been a mystery. There is a plaque placed by the DAR in the 1920’s marking the approximate location of the house. This plaque is near the "Rice Cemetery" portion of Lakeview, which I believe is incorrect. In fact, I believe Harts Tavern, the old Oakesmith House and the legendary Haunted House of Blood Hill are all the same houses. More on this later.

The early stories of the haunted mansion of Blood Hill are mentioned in articles in the Brooklyn Eagle, New York Times and The New York Sun (1). There is more on those stories in the section on the Louis V. Place. What is unusual about this is that few stories of hauntings make it into the pages of such respected newspapers. These stories did. The New York Times even did an editorial on the event. (2) Why? I believe they received so much coverage because of a few factors. First, a number of people claimed to have seen the ghost. This was not the tale of a single individual. Secondly, for Long Island, Patchogue was a fairly big town and tourist destination. This was not an isolated town that no one had heard of. Patchogue was well known to the readers of these papers. Thirdly, this was not a one- time occurrence. The rumors and stories of the haunting of this cemetery went back decades and had become part of the towns own story. And lastly, the tragedy of the Louis V. Place made the newspapers all over the United States and thus the reports of sightings of spirits of its crew members was news!

All three papers relate the same basic events. They tell of the location of the ghost sighting as near a cemetery where a house that had long been rumored to be haunted had stood long ago. Residents of the town claimed this cemetery had originally been haunted as a result of it having been the site of a house that contained a "slave pen" in the corner of its basement. The story went that until the abolition of slavery in New York in 1827 the "pen" was used to hold and punish slaves who were disobedient or who attempted to run away. It was said that local citizens could often hear the screams of these poor individuals coming from the basement and it was rumored that some of the detainees never left the house alive. Some thought that under cover of darkness bodies were dragged from the basement and buried in unmarked graves in the old portions of the cemetery.

Long after slavery was abolished in New York, town’s people continued to tell of screams and cries coming from the basement of the old house, even when it stood vacant from time to time. Stories persisted that these screams were from those who were tortured and killed in the basement.

Adding to the ominous reputation, there was persistent reports throughout the 1800's of a "dark ghost" walking the cemetery near the house. It held a 'blue flamed lantern" and generally tended to appear during rain storms. At night, the people of the town instinctively moved to the opposite side of the road to avoid the danger of this haunted area and its wandering ghosts.

The newspaper articles of 1895 speak to a specific sighting of a "headless ghost" wandering the cemetery. The towns people believed the ghost was one of the sailors from the Louis V. Place, the ship whose unlucky crew were buried in the cemetery only weeks before.

As noted before, the most famous individuals to live in the haunted mansion was Elizabeth Oakes Smith and her husband Seba. Elizabeth is pictured to the left. They moved into the house in 1860 and EOS moved out in 1870, no longer able to support the house on her own after the death of her husband in 1868. A succession of families moved into the house after she left, but as was the case in the early years, they all quickly moved out complaining of noises and strange occurrences coming from the basement. The same basement where the slave pen was said to have existed.

In later years, the house was abandoned. Town’s people would still move to the other side of the road at night to avoid passing too close to it, and the stories of strange apparitions and noises coming from the area persisted. In 1893 the house was destroyed by fire and its haunted legacy only grew as stories circulated that it had been hit by a bolt of blue lighting and left to burn to the ground by the townspeople because of its reputation as an evil place.

Although this account would certainly add to the legend, it is doubtful it is true. An 1881 note in the Brooklyn Eagle states that the "Oakesmith mansion in Patchogue was burned to ashes by fire". There was no mention of the house being hit by lightning. Instead the article noted that prior to the house burning down, it had been inhabited by over 100 Italian railroad laborers who had recently abandoned it and left it in a state of infestation and disarray. (3) Perhaps it was this use of the house that led to the fire, but no definitive explanation is given. An interesting side note to this story. In a 1903 article in the Brooklyn Eagle discussing the history of the Patchogue Fire Department and one of its charter members, William E. Simpson, it is mentioned that the first fire the newly organized company responded to was a fire at the old Oakesmith mansion and cotton mill. They were only able to save the cotton mill (4).

From what I have read and seen, I believe that the Haunted House on Blood Hill stood to the right of the entrance gates of the cemetery. Where the house once sat is now an open field on the edge of the cemetery with a large depression in the middle of it. I believe that beneath that ground still sits the basement of the old mansion. Filled in after the fire, but still there. The basement where those poor souls were tortured and abused so many years ago. And perhaps the basement that still holds the tortured souls that haunt the cemetery.

To the casual passerby, there is nothing to indicate what once stood there. One only sees a grassy field boarded by the headstones of those who have passed to another life. But perhaps it is not what you can see that makes you uneasy. Perhaps it’s that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach that tells you that you may want to move to the other side of the road.

The Ghosts of the Louis V. Place

Although the original stories of haunting s at Lakeview Cemetery come from the Haunted Mansion on Blood Hill, it was the strange happenings that began to occur after the sinking of the Louis V. Place that brought the cemeteries reputation as one of the most haunted places on Long Island to state wide prominence.

The cruel fate of the eight crew members of the Louis V. Place has been well documented. Sailing off the coast of Long Island and trying to make it to safe harbor in a freezing, gale driven storm, the ship ran aground off of Watch Hill opposite Patchogue. The "Life Savers Unit" that was situated near by immediately responded to the scene, accompanied by many people of the town who ran to the beach to try and help. But the winds, high seas and freezing weather prevented the life savers repeated attempts to launch rescue ropes to the deck of the ship. Getting a boat over was impossible. From the shores, the rescuers could see the crew of the ship clinging to the rigging's of the masts, in a fruitless attempt to stay out of the freezing water. Ice formed on every inch of the ship and crept into the masts and the rigging's. As the sun went down, all the rescuers could do while they waited for the morning was listen to the screams and cries of the sailors as they fought for their lives.

As day broke, the storm had subsided and rescuers were able to reach the boat. Of the eight who were on the ship, two were found frozen in the rigging's and two were found on the deck wrapped in the masting and clinging to life. The others, including the Captain, had fallen over board during the night and drowned. The two survivors were bundled in blankets and rushed to shore. One, Soren Nielson, died of tetanus within days.

The other, Claus Stevens, survived his ordeal and returned to sea soon after. It was through his firsthand account that we have gleaned a terrifying view of the crew as they struggled to survive. His official report noted that Captain William Squires was the first to die as his frozen body disappeared over the side of the ship. Next was the cook, Charles Morrison, who also appeared frozen as his body was washed overboard. Charles Allen was the third to die, though he fought valiantly to survive before giving up hope and "letting go" to be washed into the sea. The forth to die was a big Swede, Gustave Jiby, who at over 200 pounds fought throughout the night to stay alive but finally succumbed to the wind and the cold and was lost over board with the others. Fritz Ward and August Olsen had both climbed into the rigging's of the masts to stay dry, and their cries could be heard throughout the night as they begged for help. It was there that they were found the next morning, frozen in place where they had died.

Claus Steven’s was interviewed for a number of years after the incident and gained some notoriety as the sole survivor. A copy of a postcard he would hand out is shown to the right. It was reported however that later in life he was so effected by the tragic incident that he was committed to Central Islip Psychiatric Hospital where he spent the remainder of his life.

The bodies of the dead were brought to shore in Patchogue and taken to the village undertaker, John Ruland. The people of the town were so fascinated that Undertaker Ruland displayed the bodies in his establishment so they could be viewed by all (Ruland’s establishment was in what is now Reece’s 1900 restaurant). But along with the morbid curiosity came charity. Audrey Weeks, one of the leading patriarchs of the town immediately donated plots in the newly created Lakeview Cemetery. Ms. Weeks was one of four sisters whose family amassed a fortune in the fashion industry of New York City. The sisters were leaders in the village, and were well known for their charity. As you will see later, they were also very odd. Although details vary, it is certain that not all of the sailor’s bodies were buried in Lakeview Cemetery. Accounts of who is actually buried here vary from one to the next. Gustave Jaiby however is mentioned in all accounts along with a bizarre detail. He was reportedly buried in the cemetery with a piece of rope still frozen in his hand.

By the time of the sinking of the Louis V. Place, the old mansion on Blood Hill had been gone for years. The land both around and where the mansion had sat had been purchased by Ms. Weeks, and she generously donated some of it to provide burial plots for the unfortunate crew of the Louis V. Place. She wanted them to have a proper "Christian burial". Within two weeks of the burials, sightings of ghosts and apparitions at the cemetery increased dramatically.

The most famous accounts of the haunting of Lakeview Cemetery occurred soon after the burial of the crew and as discussed earlier were written about in the New York Times, the Brooklyn Eagle and the New York Sun. The story involves the report of two sisters who were returning late at night from work at the Lace Mill adjacent to the cemetery. As had always been their custom, they had instinctively moved to the other side of the road, looking to avoid passing too close to the site of the old haunted mansion. The sisters were startled by wailing coming from the cemetery. There they saw what they described as a headless apparition waving its arms and hovering around the graves of the recently buried sailors of the doomed ship. The ghost than began to float towards the ruins of the old Oake Smith House, where it rested by a tree. The girls let out a scream and ran for home, where they told their friends and family. All rushed back to the cemetery, but were unable to find any traces of the ghost.

The girls story soon began to circulate about the town. A nightly watch was instituted to try and catch a glimpse of what they felt could be the ghost of one of the poor unfortunate sailors. Finally, a week after the sisters sighting, a young man named Gerard, while waiting with his friends for a glimpse of the ghost, found what he was looking for, as at 10PM they spotted the headless ghost floating in the river that ran besides the cemetery. There it hovered in the freezing waters for close to an hour, while Gerard and his friends hid by the bank waiting for their opportunity to spring at the spirit. Their chance came when the apparition seemed to float from the icy water and move into the gravestones of Lakeview Cemetery. The newspaper account tells how they gave chase, but could not catch up with the headless ghost who seemed to be able to move among the graves in total darkness without any trouble. Finally, the newspaper account says the chase ended as the ghost neared the boundary of the cemetery along Waverly Avenue, dropped what seemed to be some type of cloth, and disappeared into the woods behind the cemetery.

Some claim the cloth was a covering for a prankster bent on scaring the girls of the town. They say the prankster dropped it while being pursued by the young men. Others thought that impossible. How would any human be able to spend an hour in the icy waters of a river and then not only manage to survive but outrun a group of young men through a dark cemetery with a cloth over his head? They also noted the cloth that was found was made of old muslin which they pointed out was used by sailors. Instead of a prankster, most people of the town felt the boys had come face to face with the ghost of one of the unfortunate sailors of the Louis V. Place who had dropped a small piece of his ghostly belongings.

In 1914, almost ten years after the original articles appeared, an interesting note about the haunted cemetery appeared in the Brooklyn Eagle under the heading; "Blood Hill Ghost Appears Again!"(7). The article tells of the local residents of Patchogue reporting the return of the headless ghost of Lakeview Cemetery, who once again had been seen wandering about the gravestones and freighting those who came upon it. The article ends with the town constable assuring the public he would be lying in wait for future visits.

A secondary story that is often related to the Louis V. Place revolves around the ghost of a "dark skinned" cook who was supposedly aboard the Louis V Place. The story goes that when the life savers found the bodies of the crew, they brought all of them back to the cemetery with the exception of the dark skinned man. Because of the prejudices of the time, it was believed that because of his skin color he was most likely from a country of "non-believers" and thus could not be buried on consecrated ground. Instead, they buried him at the beach back in the dunes in an unmarked grave. When they returned to the town they found that the cook was actually a Christian, so they returned to retrieve the body for proper burial, only to find it was gone. It is the spirit of this man that is rumored to roam the beach looking for his fellow crew members, and occasionally visiting Lakeview Cemetery to take his place alongside those given a proper burial.

Alas, I feel this is but an interesting tale as there is no evidence that a "dark skinned" cook was ever on the ship.

The Ghost of Helen Tiernan Updated 2/2019 - See end of story

May Savage, a 16-year-old girl from Brookhaven Hamlet east of Patchogue, was walking through the woods near her home on a lovely spring day. This area is now part of the Wertheim National Park. The date was May 16th, 1937. As she walked she was scanning the ground for flowers in hopes of putting together a small bouquet to give to her teacher. But in an instant, her life changed forever when she stumbled across the badly burned body of a young girl lying in the weeds. It was clear that her throat had been cut. It was a grisly discovery she would never forget.

The story that would unfold from this senseless and brutal murder would grab the attention of the
entire nation and make newspaper front pages and wire services from coast to coast. It also added another chapter to the strange and fascinating history of Lakeview Cemetery.

After her gruesome discovery, May Savage ran for help, returning to the site with her friend Warren Brady. When originally confronted with the story Brady had thought that the girl may have mistaken a dead animal for a human. When he came across the body, they immediately knew this was no animal and they both went for help returning with the local police. There they found the body of a seven-year-old girl whose throat had been slashed from one side to the other. Her body had been badly burned. It was apparent she had been dead for a few hours. As the police spread out around the area looking for clues, one member of the party thought he saw something moving in a patch of weeds. When he called out to his fellow searchers for help, the head of a young boy popped up from the weeds. He stared blankly at the officer, obviously dazed and disoriented. As they rushed to his side they realized he too had had his throat cut, but the wound was not as deep as the young girls. He was covered with bumps and bruises and was mumbling incoherently about his mother. Thinking they may find the mothers body nearby, they continued the search while others rushed the young boy to Patchogue Hospital. The search turned up no other bodies, but instead a bloody knife and hatchet along with a half empty bottle of gasoline which was found in the weeds a short distance from where the children were found. It was obvious the police had located the weapons used in this horrible attack and the gas intended to cover the evidence.

An investigation was immediately launched and pictures of the surviving little boy were plastered in newspapers from coast to coast along with the grizzly details of the event. The boy was still too traumatized to relate much of what happened, but babbled conflicting accounts of seeing his mother hitting his sister. He could not identify his mothers or his last name. Within days of the murder, a Mrs. Emma H. McGowan came forward and identified the little boy as a 5-year-old student in her establishment, the West Side Nursery in New York City. She had recognized him from his picture in the newspaper. The boy’s mother, Helen Tiernan, was immediately located and the horrible story of the death of the young girl and the brutal beating of the young boy soon began to unravel.

After initially denying she knew anything about the death of her daughter and attack on her son, she soon confessed to having been the culprit. Helen was 25 years old and had been widowed for three years. She had recently met a new lover whom had moved in with her and her two children, 7-year-old Helen and 5-year-old Jimmy. She had demanded they both call the man "father". The new man in her life was George Christy, a restaurant worker from New York City and a former boxer. It seems that Christy had expressed to Helen that he was not too excited with sharing the house and his life with two young children and that he was considering leaving. In a panic at the thought of losing her lover, Helen Tiernan hatched her plan to eliminate the problem.

Having visited Brookhaven Town on Long Island before as part of a church retreat, she was familiar with the area to which she would travel. Both children were loaded on to the train in New York City under the guise of going on an outing to the country, and accompanied by their mother they traveled far out to Long Island. They got off the train at what was then known as the Brookhaven Train station (it no longer exists). Helen proceeded to guide the children down Yaphank Avenue heading north bound towards Montauk Highway. Three quarters of the way to the highway, she veered off into the woods on the easterly side of Yaphank Avenue, proceeding approximately 150 yards into the forest. There, the horrible attack commenced, as Helen had decided that to save her relationship, the children had to go.

Helen immediately attacked both children, presumably with the blunt side of the hatchet, leaving them dazed and laying on the ground. She then turned her attention to her daughter, Helen, strangling her first before cutting her throat with the knife she had brought. It was this horrible site that young Jimmy later recalled. Once she was dead, she turned her attention to her son Jimmy, whom she pounded on the head with the blunt side of the hatchet before taking her knife and slitting his throat. Then, thinking both were dead and wanting to destroy any evidence, she took her bottle of gasoline and poured the liquid on the bodies, setting them on fire. After the deed was done, she calmly left the woods and proceeded to the train station where she caught the first train back to New York City.

It is estimated that this brutal attack most likely took only 15 to 20 minutes. Because Jimmy's neck wound was not deep enough to cause death, he was able to survive the attack. Police theorize that he was able to drag himself from the scene of the attack into the weeds where he was found hiding.

Later accounts and newspaper articles related that the day after the attacks, Helen Tiernan went to the beach with her lover George Christy. After originally being considered an accomplice in the attacks, Christy was later acquitted of any involvement. He testified that Helen had told him she had sent the children away to live with her brother. Christy disappears from history after being cleared, although it was later rumored that unknown to Helen, he had been married during their affair.

Jimmy was brought to Patchogue Hospital to recover and was showered with attention from the people of the town. His only known relative was his grandfather, George Smith of New York City. He would come from time to time to visit him. The full details of Jimmy's attack never fully returned to him, with his memories of it containing only vague snippets of his mother hitting his sister. A number of people came forward that considered adopting Jimmy. One was an uncle from out on the Island that had not known him but was considering taking him in. Another was a couple from California who had read about the incident and sent word that they would be very interested in adopting the young boy. No mention was made in any of the accounts that the grandfather showed any interest, and in fact, Jimmy disappears from all records after the initial publicity around the attacks subsided. There is one final article that notes that after his recovery Jimmy was taken into an orphanage in New York City until a proper home could be found. There his story ends. Who if anyone adopted him and what ever became of him is a mystery.

Helen Tiernan was convicted and sent to Bedford State Prison for Woman in New York to serve a 20-year sentence. Before leaving, she expressed remorse and asked that money from her account be used to provide for a proper burial for her daughter. The money was used for flowers and a casket. I have found no records of when Helen died or if she ever got out of prison. Like Jimmy and George, she disappears quickly from history as time passed on.

And little seven-year-old Helen Tiernan? Her body was sent to CW Ruland's undertaking establishment, as so many bodies had been before her. There she was prepared and sent to Lakeview Cemetery for burial on a piece of land donated by the town. Her grandfather, George Smith, was the only mourner at her lonely funeral. Jimmy was not well enough to attend. A few days afterwards, some workers at the Lace Mill adjacent to the site decided they would chip in and purchase a headstone for the little girl. They wanted it plain and dignified, and ordered that only her name and dates of birth and death would appear on the stone. It is that stone that is there today, containing no mention of the horrible fate that befell this poor child. Most people have long forgotten this sad story and when they pause to look see only the grave of an unknown little girl.

For years after Helen’s death, bouquets of flowers could be found at her grave. No one was ever sure who put them there. Some thought it was Jimmy who would return to mourn the sister he had lost. Some said it might be the grandfather. No one ever saw who was placing these flowers. They just seemed to appear. As the years passed, the flowers stopped and Helen’s grave, like many in Lakeview Cemetery, fell into disrepair and neglect. Over grown weeds and wild trees covered the site. Fortunately, the same renaissance that has retaken the rest of the cemetery has restored Helen’s resting place. Volunteers have cleaned up the grave site and installed a small bench in front of the headstone. And the flowers have returned, place there by the wonderful volunteers that now care for the cemetery.

And oh yes. Through the years there have been numerous reports of the sounds of a young girl crying coming from the cemetery. From time to time concerned people enter the cemetery to see if there is a child in distress only to find nothing. Reports to the local police are investigated with the same empty result. There have also been scattered reports of the form of a young girl wandering through the grave stones who seemingly vanishes into mist. Perhaps the ghost of a young girl brutally murdered many years ago.

Post Mortum

So who is haunting Lakeview Cemetery? I'm not sure. Through the years however, there are numerous reports from those who claim to have seen and experienced the ghosts that roam the cemetery. Is it the ghosts of the Louis V. Place? Could it be “the dark ghost” who has been reported to roam the cemetery for hundreds of years or perhaps the restless souls of the slaves tortured and enslaved in the basement of the old mansion? Or maybe it is the spirit of a young girl brutally murdered by her mother and looking for her younger brother who she lost so many years ago?

Or do they all haunt the cemetery, taking turns roaming its grounds and seeking something that will allow them to finally rest at peace?

I have walked Lakeview Cemetery during the daytime looking at the graves and trying to make some type of connection with those who lay below. I have walked it at night looking for some glimpse of a restless spirit. Alas, I have neither seen nor heard anything that is not natural to the surroundings. But I do get a very uneasy feeling when I am there. It’s a sense that there is something unusual going on, just beyond my ability to see or feel it. It sends a chill down my spine.

UPDATE: February 2019 - I was disgusted and upset to discover information that Helen Tiernan, the monster that killed and burned her own daughter and attempted to do the same to her son, was paroled on August 27th, 1951 with a final discharge from jurisdiction granted in 1964 (10). I think that most would agree with feeling outrage over this. In addition, I believe that Helen's son, Jimmy, who survived this horrible attack was still alive late into his 80's (and may still be alive) and lived to see his mother released from jail. My research has not been able to determine what happened to Helen Tiernan when she was released or how and where Jimmy lived the rest of his life. Any information anyone could shed can be relayed via the email provided.

Family Tree & Friends

Helen's immediate relatives including parents, siblings, partnerships and children in the Tiernan family tree.

Helen's Family Tree

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1930 - 1937 World Events

Refresh this page to see various historical events that occurred during Helen's lifetime.

In 1930, in the year that Helen Tiernan was born, as head of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, William Hays established a code of decency that outlined what was acceptable in films. The public - and government - had felt that films in the '20's had become increasingly risque and that the behavior of its stars was becoming scandalous. Laws were being passed. In response, the heads of the movie studios adopted a voluntary "code", hoping to head off legislation. The first part of the code prohibited "lowering the moral standards of those who see it", called for depictions of the "correct standards of life", and forbade a picture from showing any sort of ridicule towards a law or "creating sympathy for its violation". The second part dealt with particular behavior in film such as homosexuality, the use of specific curse words, and miscegenation.

In 1937, in the year of Helen Tiernan's passing, on May 6th, the German zeppelin the Hindenburg caught fire and blew up. The Hindenburg was a passenger ship traveling to Frankfurt Germany. It tried to dock in New Jersey, one of the stops, and something went wrong - it blew up. Thirty-six people were killed out of the 97 on board - 13 passengers, 22 crewmen, and one ground worker. The reasons for the explosion are still disputed.

In 1938, by the time she was merely 8 years old, on June 25th (a Saturday) the Fair Labor Standards Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt (along with 120 other bills). The Act banned oppressive child labor, set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents, and established the maximum workweek at 44 hours. It faced a lot of opposition and in fighting for it, Roosevelt said "Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day, ...tell you...that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry."

In 1939, at the age of only 9 years old, Helen was alive when on the 1st of September, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. On September 17th, the Soviet Union invaded Poland as well. Poland expected help from France and the United Kingdom, since they had a pact with both. But no help came. By October 6th, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany held full control of the previously Polish lands. Eventually, the invasion of Poland lead to World War II.

In 1940, by the time she was only 10 years old, on September 16th, the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, was enacted - the first peacetime draft in U.S. history. Men between 21 and 36 were required to register with their draft boards. When World War II began, men between 18 and 45 were subject to service and men up to 65 were required to register.


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