PICK Me Up Theatre’s eagerly anticipated York premiere of Stephen Dolginoff’s musical Thrill Me – based on the true story of teenage American killers Leopold and Loeb – will feature one uncannily authentic prop at the York Medical Society this month.

The York company has managed to track down the exact same make and model of portable typewriter the pair used in 1924 to type out a ransom note they sent to their victim’s father.

York Press:

The Underwood typewriter acquired by Jo Hird for Pick Me Up Theatre's production of Thrill Me

The typewriter provided detectives with one of the key clues to link the two wealthy and highly intelligent Chicago law students to the murder of 14-year-old Bobby Franks, dubbed at the time "the crime of the century".

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb had set out to commit the “perfect crime” – murdering the son of a millionaire and demanding a $10,000 ransom for his “safe return” – but their plan started to unravel when the body was discovered before they could collect the money.

York Press:

The ransom note typed out by Nathan Leopold

A typewriter expert told detectives the ransom note had been typed on an Underwood portable typewriter. Leopold was taken in for questioning, after a pair of his glasses were found near the murder scene, and enterprising newspaper reporters asked the expert to compare some of Leopold’s typewritten law-class notes with the ransom letter.

The expert could see both had been typed on the same machine. On both the class notes and the kidnap note the letter 't' was faint and slightly higher than the other letters, and the 'm' and the 'i' were also slightly out of line. Detectives were now sure they had the killers, but they could not find the evidence – until the pair confessed to the murder and said they had thrown the typewriter into a lagoon. Police divers retrieved the typewriter as huge crowds gathered to see Leopold and Loeb show them where to look.

York Press:

State Attorney Robert Crowe and diver Frank P. Blair with the typewriter recovered from the lagoon

Jo Hird, from Pick Me Up Theatre, was doing some internet research on the story and could not believe her eyes when she spotted someone had just put the exact same model of typewriter up for auction on eBay.

"It’s an Underwood Standard Portable Typewriter from 1923, the year Leopold and Loeb stole the one they used from a fraternity house at the University of Chicago," says Jo. "I put in a bid and crossed my fingers no-one else with an interest in the story would spot the connection.

"It’s in perfect working condition, which is good as the typewriter is used in two of Thrill Me’s key scenes, including one of the most memorable moments when Nathan Leopold types out a written contract between the pair. He swears to be Loeb’s willing partner in crime in return for Loeb’s love and promise to do anything Leopold wants.

York Press:

Sam Hird, left, as Nathan Leopold and George Stagnell as Richard Loeb in Pick Me Up Theatre's Thrill Me

"Though it’s based on a terrible true crime, Stephen Dolginoff’s musical focuses on the twists and turns in the relationship between the two teenagers. The music is wonderful and the storytelling tight and intense," says Jo.

Thrill Me: The Leopold And Loeb Story will star George Stagnell as Loeb and Sam Hird as Leopold, with Sam Johnson on piano, at the York Medical Society, Stonegate, York, from January 15 to 18. Tickets are on sale at pickmeuptheatre.com.