Thanks very much to everyone who entered PlanetSlade's competition to win one of Chrome Dreams' new Music To Die For double CDs. All the entries are now in, the draw's been made, and we know who the winners are.
I asked you to tell me whether Tom Dooley's real surname was spelt (a) Doolah, (b) Dula, or (c) Dulah. The answer of course was (b), and that's exactly what most of you replied.
The five lucky names drawn from Pearl Bryan's blood-stained hold-all are:
Lowell McManus of Texas, USA;
Maggi Vesey of Yorkshire, UK;
Joe Offer of California, USA, and;
Emily Jorrey of Colorado, USA.
Letters to Planet Slade: November 2011
August 28, 2011. Randy Adams of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, writes: "I've just read your fascinating account of the Pearl Bryan murder. I actually live on Alexandria Pike, just a few houses down from where the orchard was.
"Is there any way you can let me know specifically where Pearl's body was found? I know the orchard was in the area bounded by Fort Thomas Avenue, Alexandria Pike and Grandview Avenue, and I'm familiar with the Lock farmhouse.
"I gather from your story that Jackson and Walling got out of the carriage along Alexandria Pike and entered the orchard there. Do you remember any landmarks that would lead me to the spot? Or, even a crude map would be helpful.
"Again, I really enjoyed your writing - well done and very thorough."
Paul Slade replies: Thanks very much for the kind words. I'm particularly pleased the people round Fort Thomas seem to like my piece, because I wanted the local community to feel I'd done Pearl's story justice. As for your question...
John Mendell, who now owns the Lock farmhouse, took me out to the murder spot when I visited Fort Thomas last September. We were only there for a few minutes, though, and I'm afraid I really don't know the area well enough to give you any detailed directions.
For what it's worth, the spot showed nothing but some overgrown trees and bushes from the road, and was pretty much opposite the road sign pictured here. Of course, there must be an awful lot of those route markers along Alexandria Pike, so I'm not sure how helpful that alone is likely to be. I've sent you a copy of the only map I have, which comes from a fifth-generation photocopy of an old newspaper clipping, so the reproduction's not great. It may be some help all the same.
If you do decide to visit the spot yourself, please drop me a line again and let me know how you got on. I'd love to hear about any adventures you might have out there, and I'm sure PlanetSlade's readers would be interested too.
August 29, 2011. Randy Adams writes:
"Thanks for the info. I know exactly where that sign is. I pass it every day on my way home from work.
"I live about 300 yards south of that sign on Alexandria Pike, so I may take a walk down there this weekend. I may even ask John about it. I've never met him, but I've met Cyndi and see her out on dog walks all the time."
"I believe it was her grandfather and uncle who worked on a barge on the Ohio River. The night of the murder, they had seen a buggy coming across the river toward Cincinnati and seen the people inside throw something off the bridge. After they heard the story of the murder and the missing head, they felt sure they had seen the head go into the river."
Paul Slade replies: That's a nice story, Debbie, and I certainly don't want to ruin anybody's family legends. I have to ask, though, if it really was the head those barge workers saw go into the river, then what was the round, heavy item inside Pearl's bag which Scott Jackson was seen carrying round Cincinnati's bars next day?
My own view is that Detective Crim was probably right when he concluded Pearl's head went into the furnace at the dental college which both Jackson and Walling attended. That building was just a few blocks from the bar where Pearl's bag was last seen with something very like a severed head inside it, and Crim confirmed there was ample time to walk there and back to the other bar, where that same bag was discovered to now be empty.
Jackson did tell police he’d dumped some of Pearl’s clothes in the Ohio River, though, so perhaps that was the bundle they saw thrown over the edge. Does your former sister-in-law know if her grandfather ever told police about what he’d seen and, if so, how they treated the information?
"Most of them are illustrations of Pearl, and her two killers. Would you happen to know if those illustrations were drawn during or after the trial and would you know the source for most of them? We would love to license them for our show and wanted to know if they were in the public domain. Any help would be much appreciated."
Paul Slade replies: Your best bet would be to try the newspaper files at Cincinnati's Public Library. I found lots of useful stuff there, particularly in the issues of the Cincinnati Post and the Cincinnati Enquirer which you'll find listed in my sources.
The reproduction of these pics isn't always very good, because most of the newspapers themselves are over a century old now, and the microfilm, the readers and the printers are all a little past their best. I think that adds a bit of character to the pics if anything, but whether they're sharp enough for your purposes is another matter.
If there's any particular pic you're interested in, just let me know and I'll try to be a bit more specific. If it's at all appropriate to give PlanetSlade a mention anywhere as one of your sources, that would be much appreciated of course.
"The card shown on your site is actually recropped from the original version I saw in the 1970s, which was a landscape view with more children off to the right. The new version to me looks even more like child sacrifice, and I've always wondered if that was intentional.
"Love your site and looking forward to delving further into it."
Paul Slade replies: "Thanks for that, Toni. My own portrait version of the card is the only one I've ever seen, but now I really want to track down the landscape version too. I'm always delighted to hear from people with their own memories of the Easter Fire Pageant, because even I sometimes start to suspect I must have hallucinated the whole thing.
"After having a look around the internet, I found this: "Gaiman's Ordeal. The Comics Journal. Feb. 1992, No 148, Pg. 26. Half column article about the Reflex magazine interview where Neil talks about a real murder made to look like a Sandman-inspired suicide."
"I hope it helps. I'll let you know if I find anything else. Anyhow, good luck with your work."
Paul Slade replies: Xavier's letter was prompted by my half-remembered Neil Gaiman anecdote on PlanetSlade's May 2011 letters page. What I said was this:
"My memory's hazy, and I'm having no luck with Google, but as far as I can recall, it involved an American teenager who shot either himself or some classmates. Gaiman's Sandman comics turned out to be one of things the kid had been reading, and that dragged him into the whole media circus that followed.
"Again, as near as I can recall, Gaiman's response to reporters was to remind them that disturbed people would always find something to push them over the edge. Given the distorting lens that this particular young man brought to everything around him, his own trigger could just as easily have been a soap powder commercial or a random sitcom plot as anything Gaiman had written. So, did he feel responsible? No."
Thanks to Xavier, I've now been able to find the Journal's coverage of this sad episode, so I can correct the many errors my original summary contains.
On September 8, 1990, Michael McGarvey, a student at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania strangled his boyfriend Michael Houseknecht from what seem to be motives of romantic jealousy. He placed a copy of Sandman 19 near the body and faked a suicide note which read: "The piper has been paid. The Sandman brings darkness and sleep to the world". McGarvey signed this note "The Sandman" and, a week after the murder, hanged himself in an apparent fit of remorse. Both men were just 19 when they died.
My description of Gaiman's reaction seems to be my own garbled conflation of three Journal quotes, all of which I would have read there at the time. One comes from Gaiman himself, and two from the fellow professionals who tried to console him when police and journalists still thought Houseknecht's death was a genuine suicide.
* First, we have Sandman artist Kelly Jones, who said: "I told Neil, 'If it wasn't this, it would have been something else'." (The Comics Journal 139, December 1990).
* Then there's horror writer Clive Barker, who told Gaiman: "Look, you are not a gratuitous creator. You have to be responsible for what you create; you cannot be responsible for everybody who reads it." (The Comics Journal, 148, February 1992).
* And, finally, from Gaiman himself: "I actually wound up after that [Barker's advice] incredibly indignant about the whole thing for a month. I felt like somebody had tried to frame me for a murder - which, in some ways, yes, they had." (The Comics Journal 148, February 1992.)
The upshot is that, while I may have got the spirit of the story right, I got almost every salient fact wrong. I warned at the time that my original summary should not be taken as gospel, but this remains a salutary lesson that you should never trust your memory alone when trying to recount something you read about 20 years ago.
"I wonder if you can help me with this one: I'm trying to find the title, text and music of the ballad which was apparently published on 1605 shortly after the Calverley murders in Yorkshire (subject of the pamphlet entitled Two most unnatural murders... and of Middleton's A Yorkshire Tragedy and Wilkins's The Miseries of Enforced Marriage).
"I guess all it would take is a trip to the British Library, but I'm in France now, unable to move for a while, so I thought I'd ask your advice. Maybe you could recommend some online resources?"
Paul Slade replies: I'm glad you're enjoying the site. I don't know the particular ballad you mention, I'm afraid, but there are several online sources that might help you:
As As I said, I'm not familiar with the Calverley murders, but from a quick Google search, they certainly look intriguing.
Wikipedia's Calverley Hall entry has this: "The hall was witness to dreadful violence in April 1605, when Walter Calverley murdered two of his sons, William and Walter, in a fit of madness. He was tried in York for murder, but refused to plead and was therefore pressed to death. Because of his refusal, his property could not be seized by the state, and passed to his surviving baby son.
"The murder inspired the Jacobean play A Yorkshire Tragedy, the authorship of which was attributed to William Shakespeare in the first printed edition (1608) but which is now thought to have been written by Thomas Middleton."
Message board round-up
The sources for my latest selection of blurbs (Many masterful messengers...) can be found below. Sometimes there's quite an interesting discussion attached.
The Comics Journal
Fort Thomas Matters
UK Game Shows