Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
PART FIVE: The fifth surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation.)
February 16th, 1876 – From “Pace’s Rock, NC”
The Fool Killer began this letter to Milton Chronicle Editor Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans by saying he had been hibernating in his hidden cave again and had just woken up and emerged in December of 1875. The references made by Jesse Holmes (the name the Fool Killer claimed was his real identity even though the letters were written by Charles Evans himself) confuse the previous timeline.
Either Evans was doing what fiction writers now call ret-conning (imposing retroactive changes to continuity, if you’re new to the term) or he may have just felt “who cares” if the Fool Killer was contradicting previous letters. Evans may have reasonably felt nobody would ever bother paying such strict attention to fictional letters from a nonexistent vigilante.
This letter has Jesse Holmes claim he is waking up from a nap begun AFTER the Civil War ended. Previous letters had the Fool Killer begin his hibernation in 1861 or 1862, motivated by disgust at the fools who brought on the Civil War. Under that initial timeline Holmes emerged from his hibernation around 1870, dressed in up to date men’s fashion, to resume his killing spree by preying on Ku Klux Klansmen and northern Carpetbaggers alike.
(A May, 1870 letter – the fourth Fool Killer Letter, previously reviewed – has the homicidal vigilante striking at a nominating convention during the imposition of martial law in Alamance County over excessive Klan violence. )
So did Jesse Holmes begin a second period of hibernation after his anti-Klan and anti-Carpetbagger activities in 1870? His reference to returning to his hidden cave AFTER the Civil War is vague. It doesn’t have to mean 1865 (during which period he was supposedly in his 1861/2-1870 sleep already).
We’ll probably never know and may be giving it more thought than Charles Evans himself did. So, on to the murders that the Fool Killer confesses to in this letter.
Holmes stated he emerged from his cave on December 22nd, 1875, and, in disgust at all the foolishness he sensed running rampant in the nation, smote the ground with his club. In fact he struck the ground SO hard with his primary fool-killing weapon – his skull-topped walking stick – that it was recorded in newspapers of the time as an earthquake. (This is a joking reference to a real-life earthquake of that date which was felt as far north as Baltimore, MD and as far south as Greensboro, NC.)
Deciding to get busy, the Fool Killer set forth with his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and his set of Bowie knives to seek fresh victims.
In wandering around North Carolina between December 22nd, 1875 and when he posted this letter in February 1876 our roaming murderer preyed upon many, including the loud, annoying killjoys at Temperance Meetings. Feeling thirsty himself at one point, the Fool Killer roughed up an obviously drunken man who claimed to be a teetotaler. After Jesse beat most of the alcohol out of the red-faced drunk’s system he told our “hero” where to find his hidden stash of booze so he could quench his thirst.
Next the Fool Killer got caught up in an ugly family squabble in which a dozen members of a landed family were fighting over the division of an estate whose patriarch had passed away.
Strangely enough, Jesse claimed not to have killed any of the family members. Instead he said he waded into the conflict, knocking heads around until he got to the bottom of it all, then set things right and made the family promise not to be torn apart over money. (Is he the Fool Killer or Mary Worth?)
Eventually wandering into Bethel Hill, NC, Holmes batted around a foolish storekeeper who accidentally spilled molasses all over the floor of his establishment. The man mistakenly thought he was opening a whiskey barrel and that the whiskey inside was frozen, hence him knocking the head off and causing the molasses mess.
This storekeeper also had a name for getting so drunk at parties that his potential customers couldn’t wake him up when they needed to buy supplies the next day.
For his final adventure recounted in this letter the Fool Killer slew a wealthy tobacco planter who was stiffing the local Milton market to sell his crop elsewhere. Jesse, like his creator Charles Evans, staunchly supported the local economy and criticized tobacco blue-bloods who undercut Milton by taking their crops elsewhere.
The victims in this letter all lack a certain oomph compared to the gravitas of the Fool Killer’s prey in earlier letters. It was much more riveting when he battled Klansmen or war profiteers or pre-war lynch mobs and such.
FOR PART SIX CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE THE NEXT LETTER SOON. KEEP CHECKING BACK FOR UPDATES.
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
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