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Pearl Bryan: chapter four continued

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Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

Keeping Jackson and Walling in the cells beneath Cincinnati's City Hall was no simple matter either. Everyone in town wanted to see Pearl's killers for themselves, and huge crowds gathered anywhere people thought this might be possible. "The corridors of City Hall and the streets outside police headquarters were thronged each day by persons eager for even a glimpse of the youths accused of Pearl Bryan's death," Doran writes. Things became so impossible at City Hall during Jackson and Walling's initial questioning that police had to clear the crowded public corridors there by force. Nothing like this had ever been seen in Cincinnati, Barclay adds.
Faced with all this, the Ohio police decided to transfer Jackson and Walling to Hamilton County Jail, a lower-profile location on the edge of Cincinnati, where feelings against them ran less high. They were safely installed at Hamilton by February 11 but, even there, they continued to attract attention. The new jail allowed them to have visitors, and thousands of people trekked out there just for the opportunity to stare at two such notorious figures. "On one day alone, Jackson received 505 visitors," Doran reports. (26)
Accross the river in Fort Thomas, John Lock's orchard was still packed with souvenir hunters. Albert Stegman, whose grandfather was one of the first Newport residents to visit the scene on the day Pearl's body was discovered, never forgot the tourist trade that sprung up there.

'Rob and I rode our bikes to the end of the trolley line, where we dug for the lady's head.'

"Many enterprising entrepreneurs set up roadside stands along the Pike, and apparantly sales were brisk," he writes. "With the new merchants from the recently-established Midway operating these places, Mr Lock decided to give them some competition by having souvenir and food stands along his own little lane. As he was in the grocery business, with a very successful store in Newport, he had an advantage. He not only sold Pearl Bryan souvenirs, but also offered lemonade, sandwiches, soft drinks and candy." (27)
At least one of these stores was still trading in 1910, when William Foster Hopkins visited the spot as a boy. The trip was organised by Hopkins' father - known as "the Governor" - and William's brother Rob came along too.
"Off to Fort Thomas on the little green streetcar we went: me, Rob and the Governor," Hopkins writes in his autobiography. "At the end of the line, we got off. He led Rob and me into a dark and dusty but cool little store, that sold just about everything. He fed pennies into the kaleidoscope there for us, told us to look in, and there, flickering before our very eyes, unfolded quick segments of the Pearl Bryan drama. After looking at the pictures, we went out back to where they found her body. [...] Several times after that, Rob and I rode bikes to the end of the trolley line where, with shovels, we dug, looking for the lady's head. We never found it." (28)
Hopkins adds that his dad organised the trip because he wanted the two boys to share his own fascination with the case. It seems to have worked, because Hopkins credits the visit with prompting him to persue a career in the law - and that decision eventually led to him becoming Cincinnati's most famous criminal attorney.
Debbie Buckley shook her head in amazement when she came to this part of the tale during my own visit to Fort Thomas. "I'm just amazed that this this story drew so many thousands and thousands of people over the years to see the scene of the crime," she told me. "The fact that John Locke was able to sell sandwiches and cookies and lemonade and make a buck! It's hard for us to imagine in this day and age that it would be such an entertainment." (29)
Lock eventually tired of the disruption so many visitors were causing to his farm's main business, and also realised that his own souvenir store might make even more money if its female customers didn't have to struggle through such an overgrown lane in their long, thick skirts to get there. His answer was to relocate the store to a more convenient spot a little further up the hill, and assure anyone who didn't know better that this was the authentic scene of the crime. By 1910, I should think most of the other souvenir stores would have moved on, so it was probably Lock's relocated store that the Hopkins family visited.

Jackson and Walling were formally indicted for Pearl's murder by a Kentucky grand jury sitting in Newport on February 12, 1896. Ohio's authorities still didn't trust Kentucky to keep them safe, though, so they changed their own state documents to define the two men as "fugitives from justice". That meant Kentucky would have to obtain and serve official requisition papers before it could force Ohio to hand over the prisoners, and Cincinnati viewed that as a useful delay. At the very least, it would give Newport time to complete the building work needed to strengthen its tiny jailhouse.
"From the start, it was evident a big legal battle was on," Barclay writes. "The attorneys made the claim, and attempted to prove it, that the lives of their clients would not be safe in Kentucky." William Bradley, the state's governor, countered this by saying he'd make the entire Kentucky state militia available to Sheriff Plummer to ensure Jackson and Walling were safe from lynch mobs there. As the lawyers hired by Jackson and Walling's families prepared their case against Kentucky's extradition plans, police in Cincinnati continued to press the two men for a full confession and to reveal where they'd dumped Pearl's head.

Greencastle: continued

I asked the older groundsman why all the folklore about Pearl's grave specified that it was Lincoln's head pennies which people left there. Lincoln had been assassinated a full 30 years before Pearl's murder, and I couldn't for the life of me see any reason to associate her death with America's 16th President.
    I suppose I'd been hoping for some folkloric twist which would add yet another element to Pearl's tale, but the keeper had a more mundane explanation. It was not Lincoln himself which prompted this choice, but rather the low denomination of the coin he happened to decorate. "People are cheap," he said.
    They left me to it after that and I fished out another film canister from my bag, this one full of the US pennies I'd been saving for the day. I arranged a handful of these coins on the empty stone, and then asked Walt to step out of the car for a moment to take my photo posing next to it.
    I'd told him the story behind the pennies ritual on the way out here, and Walt gave the stone a rueful glance as I packed up my stuff and we prepared to leave. "She sure is going to have a lot of heads come Judgment Day," he said. I smiled at this, imagining a Hydra-headed Pearl rising from the grave in Ray Harryhausen's jerky stop-motion.
    Back at my hotel that evening, I got an e-mail from a friend in the UK, asking if I'd been out to Pearl's grave yet and, if so, whether I'd thought to leave a British coin on the stone too. The Queen's head, he pointed out, would not only leave the UK represented there, but also give Pearl a female head to supplement all the bearded male ones she was used to. I wish I'd thought of that at the time, but sadly I didn't.