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Challoner, Humphrey. Humphrey Challoner was created by R. Austin Freeman (Danby Croker, Phyllis Dudley, Romney Pringle, Doctor Thorndyke, Dr. Wilkinson) and appeared in “The Hunter of Criminals” (Pearson’s Magazine (UK), Apr-Oct 1913); the stories were collected in The Uttermost Farthing (1914).
Humphrey Challoner is a Killer Vigilante. Challoner is a large (read: fat) man who dies of a brain tumor. After his death, Challoner’s best friend Wharton goes through Challoner’s effects and reads his diary, in which Challoner reveals his past. His wife was murdered in his house as he slept, and the devastated Challoner set out to capture and murder his wife’s killer. Toward that end he made his house into a trap for criminals, several of which are caught and killed in the house. After each criminal’s death, Challoner shrinks their head, using the methods of Amazonian headhunters, and adds the head to his collection, above a card listing the criminal’s crimes. (His house has a private museum of animal and human skeletons). Eventually Challoner captures and kills his wife’s murderer, and then is diagnosed with the tumor and dies. Wharton describes Challoner as a “criminal anthropologist” and a “great savant spoiled by untimely wealth.” Challoner is usually sad and grave, gentle and sympathetic; he sometimes flashes a morbid wit, but when confronted by a habitual criminal displays a ferocious vindictiveness.
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