The Story of Martha Haney

In 1897, one of Michigan’s grisliest murders occurred in the quiet town of Williamston. It was the address of Alfred and Martha Haney, who lived with Alfred’s 80-year-old mother, Mariah at 320 Elevator Street next to a set of railroad tracks.

Alfred left for work one morning unaware of the trouble that would occur at home. Returning home for lunch, Alfred was met with a grisly sight—instead of is meal of the day on the table, was the head of is mother that had been chopped off with an axe on a dinner plate, with silverware next to the plate.

On the floor was the remains of his mother, in flames, when Martha poured Mariah’s body with kerosene and set it on fire. And then Alfred saw Martha sitting calmly by herself in their bedroom.

Alfred immediately left the house and went straight to the police. But when police arrived at the Haney house, Martha was nowhere to be seen. Just outside the back door, Martha was found digging a hole with only her bare hands. Having been found insane at her trial, Martha was sentenced to years at Michigan Asylum for the Criminally Insane.

The question remains: what drove Martha to lose control and kill her husband’s mother?

After an argument over Martha replacing a photo of Mariah’s dead husband with a photo of her kids turned violent and Martha went insane, grabbing and axe and, as Martha claims to authorities, her dead mother told her to kill her mother-in-law.

Rod Sadler profiles the case in is book, “To Hell I Must Go”, taking the title from the Martha would repeatedly sing in her jail cell:

“O, I can’t go to heaven,

To hell I must go.

Murderers don’t go to heaven,

And that is where I’m bound to go.”

Martha Haney died on September 24, 1898. Her burial is unknown. The Haney house at 320 Elevator Street was burned down by the Williamston Fire Department in 1990.

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