Adventures in Yellow Journalism The Curious Myth of Amos Virgin




Image of Amos Virgin from San Francisco Examiner

By Joe Livernois

The myth of Amos Virgin, the sainted church mouse turned vicious criminal from Pacific Grove, sold newspapers back in the day. Virgin was the region’s own Jekyll-Hyde story, a mild-mannered family man by day who terrorized the good citizens of the Monterey Peninsula by night during a high-profile crime spree in the mid-1890s.

It didn’t take much to embellish Virgin’s story to make it even more sensational than it really was, but the imaginative reporters at William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner milked it for all the sensational titillation they could. It was the heyday of Yellow Journalism, and there was no story too sordid or too mawkishly sentimental not to tell. Grieving-widow tragedies were always fodder for front-page coverage. Socialites in distress were favorites. So were the cautionary fall-from-grace tales, and the Amos Virgin tale fell into that category. 

Editor’s note: This story is from Where the Bodies Are Buried, a true-crime and history publication established to support Voices of Monterey Bay. Click here to read more about Amos Virgin on our Patreon page. 

Joe Livernois

About Joe Livernois

Joe Livernois has been a reporter, editor and columnist in Monterey County for 35 years.