Noir Crime: A Shooting In Southampton


In the summer of 1912, Mrs. Hugo Schultz was looking for another barber.

Ms. Schultz was the proprietor of a barber shop in Southampton Village. In anticipation of the seasonal crowd, she hired George Bersenger from Manhattan to come work for her over the summer.

Schultz’s Barber Shop had become somewhat of an enigma over the past three years. The shop had been the scene of two terrible tragedies, one of them ending in suicide. Ms. Schultz might have been wondering if her place of business also housed a ghost or an evil spirit.

Even if that was the case, she ignored her feelings and forged on with her plans.

She also hired Mr. Bersenger’s wife, Anna, to assist her in her housework and in the shop so that the couple could earn money and spend time together.

It seemed like a winning situation for them all, however something loomed in the background of the Bersengers’ seemingly normal lives. Ms. Schultz would be oblivious to the fact that by hiring the couple she would be inviting a third catastrophe into her shop, and yet another death.

In 1912, Southampton was an idyllic spot for city dwellers to come and vacation. But the Bersengers would unwittingly bring their problems with them, with deadly consequences.

Not much is known about Ms. Bersenger. According to the reports, she was a charming woman, but believed by some to be a femme fatale. And she had an ardent admirer by the name of Otto Obsen.

Mr. Obsen was a 35-year-old married engineer who was living in Manhattan. His wife had left him several years earlier, after which he attempted suicide.

In the years following his suicide attempt, Mr. Obsen would meet Ms. Bersenger and the two became close. At some point in their relationship, he became obsessed with her, pleading with her to elope with him and pursuing her relentlessly, even after her marriage. In modern day language, he was stalking and terrorizing her.

It was the Bersengers’ hope that by leaving the city and working for Schultz’s Barber Shop they would elude Mr. Obsen and he would eventually go away.

That is not what happened.

On November 15, 1912, Mr. Obsen took the Long Island Rail Road out to the Southampton station. He intended to issue an ultimatum to Ms. Bersenger: “Leave your husband or I will kill you.”

It was Friday afternoon, somewhere en route to the barber shop that Mr. Olsen decided to change his plan of action. He entered the shop and fired two shots at Ms. Bersenger, which she was able to dodge. He then fired two shots at her husband, one of which hit him in the arm.

Mr. Obsen then shot himself in the head.

He was taken to Southampton Hospital but died before an operation could be performed, making it the second suicide and third tragedy to take place in Schultz’s Barber Shop during a three-year time span.

One might imagine that after Mr. Obsen’s terrible death, Ms. Schultz would have been convinced that a malevolent spirit occupied her place of business, though there is no information available concerning the aftermath of the shooting. But, one could be certain that no one living in Southampton Village at the time would ever forget the shooting at Schultz’s Barber Shop.

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