Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART THREE: The third surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation)
As with ancient Greek comedies and so many old movies from the Silent Era, it is terrible that so few of the original Fool Killer Letters have survived. The author of those mock letters from the homicidal vigilante called the Fool Killer was Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, editor of The Milton Chronicle.
In the two previous surviving letters, one from 1857 and one from 1859, we saw that the Fool Killer – like his creator Evans a member of the dying Whig Party – bitterly opposed secession. And like his fellow Southerner Sam Houston condemned the fools bringing on a destructive Civil War.
After this 1861 letter Evans retired the Fool Killer for a time by having the darkly satirical figure stating that he was washing his hands of this nation of fools who had unleashed such a catastrophe. By 1870 Evans brought back the vaguely supernatural figure, who claimed he had been hibernating in a cave since 1861 and had emerged to resume killing corrupt politicians and societal nuisances.
JUNE 28th, 1861 – From “Down about Norfolk, VA.” (The Fool Killer wandered North Carolina and Virginia – which back then still included what is now West Virginia – and the dark-humored Fool Killer Letters were syndicated in several newspapers in addition to his North Carolina “birth place” the Milton Chronicle.)
This letter started out with Jesse Holmes – the name the fictional murderer claimed was his real identity – railing to Editor Evans:
“When the historian comes to record the cause of the downfall of this once proud and mighty Republic, tell him, for me, to put in these words, to wit: It fell by the hands of Fools!
“I tried my best to avert the dire calamity – I wielded my club (* With which he slew his victims) by day and by night – I bathed it in the blood of demagogues, designing politicians, fanatics, rapscallions and scoundrels” … “I called loudly for help to demolish the fools that seemed to be everywhere springing up like the green grass of this Mother Earth on which you and I tread but alas! alas! too few heard my warning and came to the rescue.”
In this letter the Fool Killer adds a collection of Bowie knives to his arsenal alongside his ever-present club/ walking stick/ cudgel. Future incarnations of the Fool Killer in folk tales, short stories, novels and plays will assign him various axes, guns and even a scythe. Comic book depictions will add weapons like a sword and a high-tech “Purification Gun” which shoots white energy blasts of undetermined nature.
(Steve Ditko’s short-lived superhero Killjoy might have been able to capture the Fool Killer spirit if the character had been handled correctly.)
We rejoin the homicidal vigilante’s account of his recent activities and the victims who fell to his club and his knives, each blade inscribed with the words “Fool Killer.” Continue reading →