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Volume 7854

Charles Reinsel

The Troubled & Tragic Life
of a Pioneer Fanzine Editor
"Fanzine Editor, Convicted Murderer"
By Laurence G. Dunn
Shortly after the Second World War was over, Vern Coriell, still only 27 years of age, immersed himself into fandom with such magazines as Startling, Thrilling Wonder, Amazing, Argosy and many more. Many of these issues contained letters from fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs work, requesting more of his stories or at least could they reprint his earlier works. He wrote his own letters to these magazines and to his delight, they were published. Encouraged by this, he began to write articles about Burroughs and they too saw print. In the ensuing years, he made contact with other fans of the time such as Darrell Richardson, John Harwood, Stan Vinson and Maurice Gardner. At this point he thought to himself, if there is so much interest in Burroughs, why is there not a fanzine devoted to this author? In one of the letters that he had written to Richardson, he suggested as much. Richardson replied that he was too busy and added the words, “Why don’t you?”

So in 1947, putting pen to paper again, Vern wrote to Burroughs about the idea and requested permission to do this. Burroughs gave his assent in his reply. Vern had already decided he should name his zine ‘Burroughs Bulletin’. It was to be the very first ERB fanzine that would be followed by many other similar zines over the next 70 years or so, of assorted titles that gave no doubt as to their content. The one stipulation given by Burroughs was that Vern could never sell any copies, they had to be given away for free.

The first issue was published and was reviewed in a column for the Chicago Tribune, which as a member of International News, the story was picked up in other papers and soon afterwards, Vern was receiving requests from all over the world. Domestic postage was 3 cents and by issue #7, he was finding it very expensive to keep up this hobby if he wanted to keep his promise to Burroughs who by this time, had passed.

In between issues of the Bulletin, Vern started to publish a newsletter called the Gridley Wave to keep fans up to date with the latest news. In the meantime however, other fanzines began to appear such as The Amtorian, The Barsoomian, Erbania and 27th August 1986 The Indiana Gazette, all of which were being sold, while Vern still tried to honour his word and publish his zine for free. The kicking stone proved to be the emergence of Camille ‘Caz’ Cazedessus and his fanzine ERB-dom which he sold and was making a financial success of the venture.

The idea of a club had been pushed around for several years and with the help of Bob Hyde who was also a member of the Pittsburgh Convention Committee that had just won the right to host the 1960 18th World Science Fiction Convention, decided on having a meeting to set up such a venture. Vern was keen to have the name ‘The Burroughs Bibliophiles’ which he had discussed with Burroughs in 1949 and given approval. However, work commitments at the last moment kept Vern from attending the event, so Bob was left to do the hosting.

The meeting was set for Monday, September 5th, 1960 at 11:00am. About 30 fans showed up and it lasted for almost two hours in which time after lively discussions, they had approved Vern’s club name and set up elected officers with Bob as President, Stan Vinson as Vice President, Vern would remain Editor, Robert Horvath as Secretary, and Charles Reinsel, given that he was a maths teacher, was appointed the role of Treasurer.

Born in Clarion, Pennsylvania, 17th November 1930 to Norbert Joseph (1895-1963) and Anna Josephine (Cyphert) Reinsel (1896-1969), Charles Reinsel was the fourth youngest of five children having two sisters and two brothers. He attended the Immaculate Conception school and also the Clarion Junior and Senior High schools, and finally graduated at Clarion State College in Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the U.S. army and served in Korea with honourable discharge coming in February 1952 after four years’ service. He also served for a while in civil defence as a policeman, with the rank of constable. Upon returning to civilian life, he began his career as a teacher at Forest Area in Marienville, Pennsylvania teaching mathematics and science. At one stage, he put forward his candidacy for Democratic nomination as a representative for the Pennsylvania General Assembly. It is unknown if he was elected. He met and married his wife Barbara Jeanne nee Selkar and together they had four daughters.

Reinsel’s nomination may have come as a bit of a surprise to Coriell as he had had disagreements with him as early as June 1960. Reinsel was 29 years of age at the time of the meeting He was said to be short and stocky being just 1.5 metres (five feet) in height. At the time, little was known about him personally by the other committee members but afterwards, he became widely known for his short temper and throwing things around when he didn’t get his way.

The Bibliophiles committee started out with all good intentions; however, the problem was that they tried to organise it like a business having all the players in one place. But the difficulty with this was, they were spread across the country and had to rely on the postal system to pass receipts, documents and money from one person to the next. According to a letter sent to Tom Rookes from Bob Hyde dated July 7th 1962, members sent in their subs to Bob Horvath and though he kept a record from who had paid, he never kept a record of the date they were received. He would save them up over a two to three week period and then make out a list of receipts on the day that he would pass them onto Reinsel, with no real sense of order. This did not suit Reinsel as he wanted to issue membership numbers in the order the dues had arrived. On one occasion, Horvath held onto $3 for his mailing expenses but this made both Hyde and Reinsel unhappy as Hyde was supposed to approve expenses before Reinsel would pay out. Coriell in the meantime was inundated with well over 100 letters a week after each publication of the Bulletin and could spare little time sorting out the problems that were arising around him.

Of all the members of the committee, it would appear that Reinsel was really the only one qualified to run the business having worked with school committees and local politics, everyone else was enthusiastic about their role, but very poor book keepers. Reinsel it can be said, attempted to bring order to a disorganised room but unfortunately rubbed others up the wrong way in doing so.

A major disagreement started on what may seem petty now, but was a big deal at the time. Members were each assigned a number with Vern Coriell being #1 as founder, then the officers in succession, followed by those that subscribed to the club and were considered Charter Member’s. However, Vern thought the 50 or so fans that had responded to wanting a copy of Burroughs Bulletin #12 be given priority, which downgraded Reinsel from #6 to #13. In the meantime, Reinsel in his role as Treasurer, had distributed his own membership listing that differed with the ‘official roster’ published by Vern. More can be read of this argument in the Gridley Wave issue #5 that is available on line at:

After a year in his new role and a lot of in-fighting with the other committee members, Reinsel decided to leave the Bibliophiles but not without casting a kick in the teeth. Despite being a non-profit organisation and officers considered their roles as purely voluntary, Reinsel took a fee of $5 for the work he had carried out up to that point. In producing the official Xats (minutes) that appeared in Dum-Dum #2, Vern showed that $5 was paid to Reinsel on August 8th, 1961. After Reinsel’s departure, his position of treasurer was filled by Bill Thailing, appointed by Bob Hyde.

It would appear that Reinsel thought about the idea of creating his own club to rival the Bibliophiles as he wrote to many fans in an attempt to garner support. In June 1961, Reinsel had begun what turned out to be almost a five-year self-publishing era with a fanzine he decided to call Norb’s Notes – a name taken from his middle name Norbert. For the most part, they were published monthly using a mimeograph machine, but they were interspersed with Annuals, the occasional Spring and Summer issues, and on one occasion, a Christmas issue. 1962 was particularly productive with no less than 23 issues. If it had not been for his numbering system, it was also the most confusing as the dates of the issues would go back and forth over the ensuing months.

By this time, the knives were really out between Reinsel and Coriell, as Reinsel filled the last two pages of NN issue #5 with his reasons for leaving the Bibliophiles despite some members urging him to stay. Most of it relates to the membership numbers, but he does also take a swipe at Coriell’s proud statement that his fanzine is the only one given permission by Edgar Rice Burroughs himself. Reinsel retorts that it is “not necessarily required” as long as it “is formed on a non-profit basis”.

Collectors of Norb’s Notes will have discovered that there are two issues of the fanzine numbered #15. One put out by Reinsel and the other by the McGeehan brothers, Tom and John. Piecing the background to this puzzle is neither easy nor clear, but it would appear that an argument broke out between the McGeehan’s, Reinsel and Coriell, and at some point, Reinsel had attempted to force Tom and John McGeehan to drop their membership from the Burroughs Bibliophiles. They refused.

At roughly the same time, Vern had put out a message that turns out was misconstrued by the McGeehan’s. They thought Vern was referring to them when the passage states “they are not true fans of ERB and therefore not entitled to receive all the publications of the Burroughs Bibliophiles”. (Quote taken from the unofficial NN #15).

Why the McGeehan’s thought they were being targeted is unknown, but in light of this, John and Tom then decided to publish their own version of NN #15 (the next number due), stating 65 copies were made and sent out to those “as they see fit” which included Charles Reinsel (a trait of Norb’s Notes was to name a selected few that would receive a copy). Their editorial made reference to “a certain big mouth leader… self-centred, untruthful, unkind ego-maniac…” which one can only assume they were referring to Coriell, and added that as they had paid their dues each year, their membership was intact and was something Vern had not considered.

At some point, Coriell must have then gotten in touch with the McGeehan’s to clear the air and put things straight and said that he was not referring to them, but another whose name would not be mentioned. Vern then promised, and sent the latest copies of the Gridley Wave to them and that they would continue to receive all future copies of the BB publications.

Despite the McGeehan’s editorial supporting Reinsel, it would appear that Reinsel saw this as the brothers interfering and driving a further wedge between himself and Coriell, and promptly dropped the McGeehan’s from his circulation list.

By other means unknown to this author, the McGeehan’s continued to have access to Norb’s Notes and realising they were not alone in being excluded from Reinsel’s distribution, decided to put out their own fanzine called House of Info Unauthorised Reprint of NN #?? (whatever the issue was). In this, they would retype any article that would appear in the issue, but leave out all illustrations and Reinsel’s for sale lists. This was then freely distributed to any who requested it.

An interesting aside to all this, is a comment by John McGeehan to Tom Rookes in a letter dated April 10th 1961, is that Ralph Rothmund, Burroughs secretary, was commonly referred to as “Ratman” amongst fans at the time because after ERB’s death, he did all that he could to prevent Burroughs stories from being published, “…he thinks all science fiction and fiction is trash and that he is doing the world a favour by keeping the people from reading it.” What McGeehan did not know was that Rothmund was continuing to allow British publishers to print Burroughs work throughout the 1950s and 60s. The fact that no U.S. publisher had approached ERB Inc. had left McGeehan and other fans at the time, with an inaccurate opinion of Rothmund.

A common complaint or story that is often circulated amongst Burroughs fans over the years, is that Reinsel had a policy of making sure no one ever got a complete run of his fanzine, even if they made a donation towards receiving a copy. He was known for his short temper as qualified by the police report on his Wanted poster, but reading through some of his travelogues, meeting other fans along the way, it would appear that he was also eager to meet his readers. As Reinsel distributed his fanzine for free and would run off a set number of issues, but at the same time, he would often receive requests from all over the world requesting a copy. One could assume from this that he would oblige, but that someone would have to forego their copy that time round.

Norb’s Notes is not an exclusively Edgar Rice Burroughs fanzine, but relates to other areas that Reinsel had an interest in such as Bantan (a series of Tarzan-esque style novels written by Maurice Gardner), Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Tom Mix, All-Star Comics, and to any other item of interest that befell the editor.

Reinsel distributed his fanzine for free but did accept contributions that were offered to defray costs. However, after almost five years, Reinsel decided that he had had enough. In issue #97 he announced to all that Norb’s Notes would end with issue #100 as he could no longer continue distributing it for free.

Reinsel certainly had an interesting distribution list as it includes some very notable names such as: Stan Lee, Paul Gambaccini, L Sprague de Camp, Hal Foster, John Celardo, Jack Kirby, Sam Moskowitz and Richard Lupoff to name but a few.

Little is known about Reinsel over the next twenty years although from 1966 to 1973, he published a gaming zine called Big Brother, which is a play-by-mail game of Diplomacy, a strategic board game. Later in 1974, he developed his own game called Balkan Wars set during the Great War. He remained a teacher but his marriage to Barbara had broken down and they were divorced. His ex-wife moved on and got re-married to a Herman Motter, who was a labourer, on June 21st 1985. Together they set up home in Morgan Avenue, Ridgway, Pennsylvania.

Charles however did not take their separation so well. At this time, he was renting an apartment in E. First Street in Sanford, Florida, probably having moved there as part of a teaching assignment. Whatever was still festering in his mind at the time, it caused him to drive north to the home of his former wife, now a school librarian, in Pennsylvania.

On February 2nd 1986, Reinsel arrived in the town of Ridgway PA but by mistake, went to a house on Penn Avenue, approx. a kilometre from where his intentions lay, that turned out to be the home of Herman Motter’s ex-wife and her boyfriend, Glen Forsythe. Forsythe answered the knock at the door and managed to convince Reinsel that he was not Motter but offered to show him where he lived as Reinsel had claimed that he wanted to pick up some furniture. It would prove to be a lucky escape for Forsythe as Reinsel obviously took the course of asking questions first. A short time later, a neighbour saw Reinsel walk up to the house where the Motter’s were living and without knocking, he entered the home of his ex-wife Barbara Motter now aged 50, and her husband Herman Motter aged 52. A few seconds later, armed with a .32 calibre handgun, shot both of them three times. Dead.

Note. An autopsy was performed on both of the deceased that revealed Barbara received wounds to her abdomen, the back of her chest, and right buttock. The wound to her chest went through her heart and aorta causing haemorrhage and death. Herman’s wounds were to the thigh, his abdomen and his chest. Although Herman was alive when police arrived, he died a short time afterwards.

He then returned to his vehicle and drove to Dubois PA, 30 miles away where he abandoned his vehicle and boarded a Trailways bus to Harrisburg PA 150 miles in a south easterly direction.

Reinsel is described in a Wanted poster as being five feet tall, stocky build, weighing 200lbs, walks with quick short steps and is known to have a violent temper (which may give some clue to the cause of his divorce). Evading arrest, Reinsel made it back to Florida but the police were onto him. Information came to the police probably from his brother-in-law, who lives in nearby Longwood, Florida. This relative then arranged with Reinsel to give himself up. After two months on the run, a time and place were set and Reinsel surrendered to Seminole County police officers at 5:30pm on 27th March 1986, at the junction of State roads 434 and 427 in Longwood. He was 55 years old at the time.

He was held without bail at the Seminole County jail and then transported to Elk County jail in Pennsylvania before his murder trial and subsequent sentencing. In a plea bargain before Judge Gordon Daghir, Reinsel pleaded guilty to first degree murder of his ex-wife, and third-degree murder for the killing of her husband. He was sentenced to five to ten years for the husband’s murder, but life imprisonment for shooting his ex-wife at the State Correctional Institute* in Pittsburgh. The two sentences ran consecutively. It was also revealed at the trial that Herman’s daughter Laura aged 20, was at home at the time of the shootings. She had just had her birthday party and was in her bedroom on the phone when she heard a scream from downstairs and went to investigate.

According to the Find a Grave website, Reinsel died in Laurel Mountain Village, Pennsylvania, that would have suggested he may have been given parole in later years and where he would spend his last days. However, given the gravity of his crime, parole would seem unlikely, particularly as Pennsylvania law states life sentence for first or second degree murder means the term of their natural life. Reinsel died on 20th October 2004 aged 73.

Vern Coriell profile.
Bob Hyde: Odyssey of a Tarzan FANatic.
Gridley Wave #5.
Xats #2. Burroughs Bibliophiles accounts.
John McGeehan letter dated April 10th 1961 to Tom Rookes.
Bob Hyde letter dated July 7th 1962 to Tom Rookes.
Norb’s Notes #15 A (McGeehan version).
House of Info Unauthorised Reprint #15.
News clipping in Oil City Derrick newspaper August 21st 1953.
Pennsylvania State Police, Harrisburg PA. Wanted poster March 4th 1986.
Capture report Orlando Sentinel March 27th 1986.
Reinsel case goes to court.
Trial report in Pittsburgh Press August 27th 1986.
Find a grave.

*The author Charles Dickens visited the original prison known as Western Penitentiary, that was built at the same location during a visit to Pittsburgh in March 1842. Scholars believe he based his story, A Christmas Carol from conditions he found at the facility.
It was also famous for housing 118 Confederate soldiers in 1863 after their capture at Morgan’s Raid during the American Civil War.
The newer facility was built in 1882.

(Click for full size)
Charles Reinsel (standing)

Detroit 1970 (10 years after the initial meeting): Bill Thailing,
Vern Coriell, Bob Hyde, and guest of honour, Philip Jose Farmer

Detroit 1970 (10 years after the initial meeting): Vern Coriell, Bob Hyde,
Stan Vinson at the podium, and Philip Jose Farmer

A selection of Norb's Notes

(click for full size)
Pennsylvania State Police, Harrisburg PA.
Reinsel's Wanted Poster March 4th 1986 

News clipping in Oil City Derrick
newspaper August 21st 1953.

Reinsel case goes to court. 

Trial report in Pittsburgh Press August 27th 1986.

(Click for full size)
Man Sentenced After Guilty Plea
27th August 1986 The Indiana Gazette

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