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Pearl Bryan: chapter four continued

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Pearl Bryan
Secret London
Murder Ballads

It was around February 15 that Pearl's mother Susan, her sister Mabel and her brother Fred all arrived in Newport. They were allowed to take her body over the river to John Eppy's funeral parlour in Cincinnati so it could be prepared for shipment to Greencastle, where the family had a cemetery plot waiting. They gave Pearl a casket covered in white cloth, trimmed with cord and tassle, plus silver handles and a silver plate carrying her name on the lid.
"The body was clothed in a cream white silk dress, the same the girl had worn when she graduated from high school in Greencastle," Barclay writes. "Inside, the casket was full satin-lined and handsomely trimmed. The absence of the head was made scarcely noticable by the placing of a square satin pillow in the head of the casket down to the shoulders of the corpse." (30)
Jackson and Walling were each still telling the police that the other had murdered Pearl and disposed of the head alone at a secret location he'd never revealed. Jackson in particular was determined to insist he knew nothing whatsover about the head's disposal, presumably because he knew that any hint of knowledge he offered on this subject could only incriminate him further.
Knowing the body would soon be lost to them, and that Pearl's family probably wouldn't be in town for long either, the police took drastic measures to discover the head's location at last. They asked Mabel and Fred Bryan to stand next to Pearl's open coffin at Eppy's, and then brought Jackson and Walling in to confront the horror they'd caused.
"Detectives Crim and McDermott arrived with the prisoners," Barclay writes. "Crim had Walling in charge and McDermott Jackson. The latter was placed at the head of the coffin, and Walling near the foot. Both faced the brother and sister of the murdered girl, who were on the other side of the casket.

'The girl's family begged Jackson to return her missing head or reveal its hiding place.'

"Jackson was terribly excited, and nervously clasped and unclasped his hands. His eyes roved from one end of the body to the other, and he shook his head and sighed deeply. His face was terribly flushed, and he looked as though he might break down every second. On the other hand, Walling was to all appearances the coolest man in the room. He gazed at the corpse without a shiver, and looked around on the faces of those present. His only noticable display of agitation was to tap his foot nervously on the floor."
Deitsch was there too, and began the encounter by questioning first Walling, and then Jackson, as they stood round the coffin. Both confirmed they knew the body in front of them was Pearl Bryan's, Walling saying he based this on what Jackson had told him, and Jackson that he recognised her relatives beside the casket. Deitsch asked Walling who had killed her, and he replied: "I think, from what I have been told by Jackson, that he did". Jackson's answer to the same question was: "I think Walling did. I am reasonably sure of it from what Walling has told me." (31)
All this time, Crim was looking on. "I have seen survivors and relatives of the victims of disasters in the agony of their grief, seen men executed, and I guess I am a rather hard guy," he later wrote. "But the one scene that remains in my memory and got under my crusty surface was that enacted in the funeral parlour on Ninth Street when Scott Jackson was brought in. The family of the dead girl, fully believing that he was responsible for the girl's death, pleaded with him to return her missing head, or reveal its hiding place."
Doran's account has this episode as first-hand dialogue, though his source for this is not clear. The papers seem to have been given extraordinary access to every other phase of the investigation, however, so it's possible that at least one reporter was allowed to watch and take a shorthand note as Mabel Stanley stepped forward to question Jackson for herself. Here's how Doran quotes what followed:
Mabel Stanley: 'I ask you, Scott Jackson, to tell me what you have done with poor Pearl's head.'
[Jackson did not answer]
MS: "For the love of Heaven, tell me what you have done with poor Baby's head. Think of her mother if nothing else! I am going to her tonight, and I want to tell her where her baby's head is!"
SJ: "I can't tell you anything about it."
Jackson's reply came in what Doran calls "an even voice". When Mabel confronted Walling with the same question, Doran says, "he also refused to answer".
This scene is vividly depicted in what seems to be the first bespoke Pearl Bryan ballad to emerge. Oscar 'Doc' Parks, then aged 71, sang an extract from this version for the song collector Pat Dunford when Dunford visited his home in Alton, Indiana, back in 1962. Parks said he'd first heard the song when he was "just a little boy" which, given that he must have been born in 1890 or 1891, suggests it was already in circulation by the turn of the century. Olive Woolley Burt agrees it was "probably the original ballad of Pearl Bryan".
Here's the crucial verses as Parks sang them:

Then in came Pearl Bryan's sister,
Falling to her knees,
Pleading to Scott Jackson,
For sister's head, oh please!

Scott Jackson sat there stubborn,
These are the words he said,
'When we meet Pearl in Heaven,
There'll be no missing head'.

Parks' family had lived in Kentucky, about 130 miles from Cincinnati, and they knew the song as Pearl Bryant. "I remember my daddy a-comin' from Livingston, sitting by the fireside after he got his horse put up, and telling Mom that story about Pearl Bryant and about them killin' her," Parks explains. "And then not too many years after that, the song come out. You see, people back there in them hills then, they never got any news unless they went to some town. Newspapers didn't float out in the country, they had to go to some town before they could get any news." (32)