69-year-old Hermann Strathmann, of Los Angeles, passed away on January 11, 1934. About five weeks prior to his death, Hermann told his close friend Mrs. Ellen Gotts to take special care of a step ladder that was in his house.
After his passing, no will could be located. Then Mrs. Gotts remembered the strange advice Strathman had given her. She found the ladder, to it out to the backyard, and scrawled on the bottom rung were the following words: “I love her. I give my all to Mrs. Gotts. She my good spirit.”
Not long after that, a man named Henry Montinola showed up with a second will, which stated that he was the beneficiary of Strathmann’s $10,000 estate. It was soon proven to be a forgery and Montinola was sentenced to 1 to 14 years in San Quentin, after which he was to be deported to his native Philippines.
Then, Mrs. Gotts found another will that had been written on the back fly-leaf of a Bible. Once again, it named her as the sole beneficiary. Relatives of Strathmann questioned the authenticity of the writing on both the ladder and the Bible.
While this was all being argued in court, Mrs. Gotts found a third will that had been written on a window shade. The two more wills were found written on dollar bills, followed by three more that were on scraps of paper.
Ultimately, the court ruled that the last will – will number 9 – was the legitimate will and awarded the entire estate to Mrs. Gotts.