A horse-trader during the early days of Stalin, Vasili Komaroff was known as “The Wolf of Moscow” for his unbridled reign of terror. A peasant, Vasili typically killed for money. His first victim was uncovered in 1921. Many others followed with frightful regularity. There were 21 in all: strangled, bound, doubled-over and dumped in vacant lots around the Shabolovki District. Authorities linked the killings to the horse-trading market un Moscow that happened every Wednesdays and Fridays. As authorities soon discovered, anyone who left with Vasili to see his horses was never seen or heard of again. When police went to his home to question him they found his latest victim stuffed in a sack in the stable. Panicked, “the Wolf” jumped out the window and escaped. Several days later he was picked up and confessed to the tune of 33 killings, 11 of which were not under investigation. Over the next few days he uncovered five new corpses for the authorities. The other six victims he dumped in the river and their bodies were never recovered. Vasili implicated his wife Sofia as an accomplice. They were both found guilty of multiple homicides and sentenced to death. On June 18, 1923, they went to the “big horse-show in the sky” via firing squad.
“ In 1906 The Journal of the English Folk Song Society published a piece on the old English ballad ‘Death and the Lady.’ Some enterprising female entertainer encountered the article and realized the story might be used as a great vaudeville piece about the evils of card play and alcohol. Touring performers were always searching for material that would play well in the sticks. The city folks would enjoy the Grand Guignol staging, the traditional song, and the vocal technique.
Here Joseph Hall, the Brooklyn born photographer who had made a career on baseball pictures and theatrical production stills, captured the sequence of the action, providing a peculiarly detailed—and rare view—of the progress of a single vaudeville performance. ”