Rights offering detail :
DEEP IN THE WOODS: The 1935 Kidnapping of 9 year old George Weyerhaeuser --Film/TV Rights
Dec. 8, 2021
Bryan Johnston
Non-fiction: True crime
On a sunny Friday afternoon, May 24, 1935, curly haired nine-year-old George Weyerhaeuser was snatched off the streets less than three blocks from his house, while walking home from school. George was not just any boy. He was a Weyerhaeuser, heir to America’s mightiest timber dynasty. To this day, his great grandfather, Frederick Weyerhaeuser, is still considered the 12th richest man in American history. Bill Gates is 11th.

The ransom note contained 21 demands, the first being that the kidnappers wanted $200,000 – over three million in today’s dollars – in small, unmarked bills, and the money had to be paid within five days. Or else. The family was instructed to communicate with the kidnappers through personal ads in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, using the code name “Percy Minnie.” While the family scrambled to raise the money, the kidnappers kept George sealed in a trunk, locked in a closet, manacled in a dirt pit in the forest, and chained to a tree.

When the Weyerhaeusers produced the money hours before the deadline, they received a letter with exacting instructions for the drop. The payoff played out like something ripped from a Dashiell Hammett novel with the kidnappers driving off with a king’s ransom.

The kidnappers, true to their word, released George. They took him deep into the woods and left him by a timber road in the rain with a blanket and one dollar. After waiting two hours in pitch darkness George took it upon himself to find his way home. He hiked for miles until finally coming upon a farmhouse.

The farmer piled him into his Model-T and headed for Tacoma, stopping in the town of Renton, to call the family. The telephone system the FBI had set up in the Weyerhaeuser home failed miserably: the farmer’s call never made it through. Frustrated, the farmer then called the Tacoma police. At that very moment, a Seattle Times reporter was in the police station and overheard the call between the farmer and the police. He hailed a taxi and instructed the cabbie to race to Renton while keeping a weather eye out for a Model-T. The cabbie and reporter spotted the car and managed to get the farmer to pull over. The reporter insinuated that he was with the police, gave the farmer five dollars for his trouble, and the farmer handed George over, no questions. The reporter then instructed the cabbie to drive back to Tacoma on back roads, while he sat on the backseat floorboards, out of sight, and interviewed the boy.

With George home, thus began, as the New York Times called it, The greatest manhunt in Northwest history.
The kidnappers were William Mahan, a career criminal bank robber and the mastermind of the caper, and the husband and wife team of Harmon and Margaret Waley. Harmon was a 24-year-old petty thief, and Margaret was a 19-year-old Mormon girl who had never been in trouble and who, according to her faith, did whatever husband told her to do.
The FBI managed to register the serial numbers of all 20,000 ransom bills. It took 4,200 person-hours accomplished within three days. The list was then spread across the land. When Margaret tried to pass a five-dollar ransom bill to purchase a twenty-cent cigarette case for her father at a Woolworth’s department store, the FBI swooped in. Harmon was apprehended hours later after he burned several thousand dollars of the money in a potbellied stove.

After the Waleys were busted, William Mahan managed to evade the law. He was almost captured the following day on a one-in-a-million chance encounter in Butte, Montana. While standing on a street corner, he locked eyes with a police officer who, remarkably, recognized him because he had arrested Mahan years earlier. After a chase on foot, Mahan escaped when a guard dog got between him and the cop, and the cop refused to shoot the dog. As a result, Mahan remained on the lam for another year.

In the meantime, the Waleys went to court. Harmon pled guilty and was sentenced to 45 years at Alcatraz, rubbing elbows with the likes of Al Capone. Margaret tried to plead guilty – even though she never once saw George during the entire duration of the kidnapping – because she couldn’t imagine her husband behind bars while she remained free. The judge refused to allow her to plead guilty, based on the evidence, and she went to trial. And what a trial it was, becoming one of the most sensational and high-profile cases in the region’s history, the courtroom packed to overflowing. While the courtroom drama was playing out, a different drama was taking place on the streets. The Northwest was in the grip of a massive lumber strike, complete with riots, bayonet-wielding National Guardsmen, smoke grenades, and buildings dynamited.

Margaret’s lawyer was the former mayor of Seattle, and as her defense he chose to characterize her as the stupidest woman on the planet. It didn’t work. She was sentenced to 20 years on a Michigan work farm. On the day she was sentenced she vowed she would count the days, the hours, the minutes before she and her beloved Harmon would be reunited. A day later she blamed him for all her misery.

One year after the kidnapping, Bill Mahan’s luck finally ran out. He was captured in San Francisco, pled guilty and was sentenced to 60 years in Alcatraz.

Twenty-eight years after going to prison, Harmon Waley was released. By then, George Weyerhaeuser was a grown man, and one of the top brass in the Weyerhaeuser organization. Waley, now 52-years old, called his former kidnap victim and had the gall to ask George for a job. George Weyerhaeuser, in a breathtaking display of grace and compassion, hired him.
Rights available:
Rights sold:
Published 9/14/2021 -Post Hill Press
Other Information:
See Sizzle Reel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlzPyOvJGTg

Contact Sharlene Martin for copy of the book.
Martin Literary & Media Management
phone: 206-466-1773
Offering #:
<< Rights Board
home  |  contact us  |  FAQ  |  site guide  |  help