Sailors trusted him with their money and their lives. That was a mistake. The lucky ones woke up with headaches in the holds of ships headed to China. The others never took another breath.
Billy Gohl robbed, shanghaied, and killed sailors across the Pacific Northwest. Grays Harbor in Aberdeen, Washington, was so full of bodies that newspapers dubbed it a "floaters fleet". His trapdoor of death was famous. In his time, Gohl murdered over 100 people, making him one of the most prolific serial killers in American history.
What members say
It's pronounced "Billy Goul", not Billy Gah-ool
My grandfather fled to Aberdeen in 1903 at the age of 18 after a fist fight with his father in Michigan. My grandfather won which necessitated leaving, When he reached Aberdeen, he went to work for a time for Billy Gohl. He never shared with the family exactly what work he did, but my mother, his daughter (born in 1921 in Aberdeen), shared that "he said he didn't much care for the work." He quit Gohl and went into logging which was the family trade back in Michigan and before that New Hampshire. Fist fighting was one of my grandfather's favorite pastimes in the Hoquiam and Aberdeen saloons, a popular recreation for that time and place. Life was not easy in Grays Harbor. I have read that during the first decade or so of the 20th Century in the Washington and Oregon woods, there would be a fatality in logging somewhere about every three days. This gives context to the kind of town Aberdeen was at the time Gohl was there.
To give an more of an idea of what Aberdeen was like then, Gaitha Campbell, the man who married my mother's cousin in the early 1920s, after his family in Tennessee died of typhus, went to the train station near where he lived in the East Tennessee mountains and asked for a train ticket to the roughest town in the West. He was given a ticket to Aberdeen.
I have read everything I can find on Billy Gohl to get clues about what my grandfather may have been involved in. This is the most complete account of Bllly Gohl I have found. Well done. By the way, my mother and her Aberdeen cousins pronounced the name "Goul," not Gohl, which is fitting.