Wigs by Joan

In preparation for this evening’s interview with Gregory A. Fournier about his new book, Terror in Ypsilanti, I’ve been reading as much as I can about the case of EMU student turned serial killer John Norman Collins. And, last night, as I starting thinking about all the locations in town that are associated with the series of murders, which started in July of ’67, and continued until July of ’69, it struck me that the AM 1700 studio, where I’ll be talking with Fournier, is just feet away from the spot where 18-year-old EMU student Karen Sue Beineman, Collins’ final victim, was last seen alive, and where everything began to unravel for the undergraduate killer… Here’s a photo of Wigs by Joan, the store that had been at 18 1/2 North Washington Street, outside of which Beineman was seen driving away with Collins on his motorcycle.


Here, to give you some context, is a relevant clip from Fournier’s book.

…The motorcyclist swooped into a parking space in front of the Chocolate Shoppe next to Wigs by Joan. He parallel parked and offered to take Karen back to her dormitory aren climbed off the bike and walked into the wig shop to pick up her hairpiece. The shop owner, Diana Joan Goshe and her wig stylist, Patricia Spaulding, were on hand to show Karen how to wear her hairpiece. As an aside, Karen mentioned she had done two foolish things that day-buying a hairpiece and accepting a motorcycle ride from a stranger.

Hearing this made the hair on the back of the women’s necks stand on end. By this time, everybody in Ypsilanti was on alert, especially women. They young coed standing before them fit the victim profile released by local law enforcement. She was a petite white female with brown hair… Their maternal instincts warned them something was not right about he young man waiting for the girls’ return. Joan Goshe stepped outside her shop and took a good look at the person. When he noticed her, the motorcyclist lowered his head and tilted his face away. Goshe went inside her shop and cautioned Karen not to get back on the motorcycle.

Maybe it’s not really that odd, given how small of a town this is, and how many places here are linked in some way or another to Collins, but I find it incredibly creepy that, as I’m talking with Fournier this evening, we’ll be looking out on that very spot where the so-called Michigan Murderer not only picked up his last victim, but also made the mistake of being seen, leading to his arrest shortly thereafter.

Tune in tonight at 5:00, if you’re interested in hearing more about the events that unfolded outside of Wigs by Joan, and how, thanks to the incredible police work of young EMU patrol officer Larry Mathewson, Collins was finally identified as a suspect. Details on how to listen can be found here.

[Collins, for what it’s worth, refuted the claims of the wig store employees in an 1988 episode of Kelly & Company.]

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  1. Gregory A. Fournier
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    The ghosts of the past are everywhere in Ypsilanti.

  2. Citywatch
    Posted October 1, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I remember this place and even more coincidental is the fact that if this is the space I think it is, it is owned now by someone who knew JNC.

  3. Posted October 1, 2016 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I think it’s the “YES” space, right behind Mix, Citywatch. Directly across the alley, according to Fournier, where the gym is now, was a chocolate shop where the woman worked who identified the motorcycle… And, thank you, Gregory, for coming on the show tonight. I just wish we’d had more time together.

  4. Posted October 2, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    My mother claims that Collins gave her a ride to a gas station once after having car trouble. I don’t know whether it is true or not as there is no photographic evidence to prove the encounter but this story is quite similar to the one my mother tells. She would have also fit the profile at the time.

    She claimed that the man who gave her a ride was nervous and it bothered her, but she was able to get out at the gas station and he took off.

  5. XXX
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    The Wigs by Joan space is presently inhabited by “YES” (the ypsi experimental space).

  6. Barry LaRue
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    Taken the day Collins was arrested. The cops were searching his room and interviewing the landlady, roommates and hauling his motorcycle away. It was in the little one-car garage off College Place.

    Photo: http://imgur.com/a/1nEcW

    Caption: 619 Emmet. The home of Catherine Baker, a widow who rented rooms out to students. One of those students was John Norman Collins. His room was on the second floor facing west. Nice bay window actually.

  7. Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Did you have any run-ins with him, Barry?

  8. Barry LaRue
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Too young. I lived up on Sherman Court in Normal Park. My grandmother, at College Place and Emmet, was kind of in the epicenter of some of Collins’ activities. One victim lived right across the corner from his house and another lived in an apartment at Perrin and Washtenaw. Dawn Basom was over on LeForge but went to West Junior High. Seems like she was killed the year before I transferred to West from Roosevelt. His landlady, Mrs. Baker, never really recovered from the shock of the whole thing and died not too long after the trial.

    It was a terrifying period, particularly for young women.

  9. Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    As I said on the show last night, I was conflicted about booking him as a guest. Part of me doesn’t want to give Collins any airtime. You can’t deny, however, that he had a huge impact on this community. Like it or not, it’s part of our history.

  10. Kerri Pepperman
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    It was a great interview.

    I hope you don’t feel badly for having him on. Like you said, it’s an important point in our history. I also think it’s always a good reminder for people to be aware of their surroundings and strangers who seem ok. He certainly benefitted from being accepted as “normal” because he was the clean cut, boy next door who people were apt to trust. Never hurts to be cautious even if something seems ok.

    And I thought you and Greg were both very sensitive in how you discussed the victims.

  11. Posted October 2, 2016 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I didn’t feel too bad about the way that the interview played out. I think it was good. I did, however, cringe with Fournier went into detail about what Collins had done to his last victim. He was just stating the facts of the case, but I’d wanted to steer away from the more salacious aspects.

    Also, if anyone is interested, that photo of Barry’s linked to above isn’t just something he found online. He took that photo as a kid. Here’s what he has to say about the the collection of photos, which he’s shared on Facebook: “I was a bored kid with an old bellows Kodak that used 620 roll film. My grandmother called me midday and said ‘you should come over to see what’s going on out my dining room window. The police have blocked off the street.'”

  12. Sandee French
    Posted October 2, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    I remember the police picking me up and driving me to my apartment when I was walking home from the library. They warned me to be extra careful because I had dark hair and fit the profile of the women being targeted. I didn’t know it at the time, but he went to a couple of parties Bill had when he lived above what is now Maiz. The FBI traveled to Fort Bragg to interview him but he didn’t really know anything. Barry’s right, it was scary, but I don’t remember being worried… my parents, however, would call almost every night.

  13. Lynne
    Posted October 3, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    For years I lived in an Apt on College Pl. Even though this was much before my time, it is still kind of creepy to think that at one time such a murderer and rapist was so close at one time. Luckily, I didn’t really learn about the guy until later. It is weird too how one’s mind will go to weird places in order to make one feel safe. When I was listening to your show, I kept thinking, “I am too afraid of motorcycles to even consider accepting a ride from a guy on one so I wouldn’t have been once of his victims.” Which is weird since the main reason I am not going to be one of his victims is that he was caught and is in prison.

One Trackback

  1. By #DocumentYpsi2017 is now underway on October 7, 2017 at 10:08 pm

    […] [A screaming baby Trump face stares out the window of the Ypsilanti Experimental Space on North Washington Street, in what used to be the storefront occupied by Wigs by Joan.] […]

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