Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE
These final Melungeon variations for now came midway between the original Melungeon Fool Killer legends and the WPA’s 1940 recording of the Shep Goins version in which the real Fool Killer never even puts in an appearance.
Now we’re in the 1880s and 1890s. The Fool Killer lore of the Melungeon people was absorbing traces of Mormon influence from the wider culture. The Melungeons were NOT Mormons but their Fool Killer tales took on pseudo-religious elements from Mormon lore, like the notion that the Melungeons may be even older than the previously held legends about pre-Columbian Portuguese explorers or ancient Phoenicians.
These versions incorporate a belief that the Melungeons were really a lost Biblical race whose ancestors came to the New World thousands of years earlier. The Fool Killer’s main weapons in these tales are guns and no longer his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and set of Bowie Knives.
The nature of the Fool Killer himself changed as well, from a figure protecting the Melungeons from outsiders to a disciplinary figure enforcing acceptable behavior among the Melungeons themselves.
FINAL MELUNGEON VARIATIONS FOR THE 1800s – In the context of these tales God has made the Melungeons his “true chosen people” and the Fool Killer now slays Melungeons who stray from “the word of God.” Outsiders are now referred to as lost causes who are sure to burn in Hellfire after death anyway, so the Fool Killer focused on inflicting fatal punishment on Melungeons who darkened their people’s name with sinful or unethical behavior.
His interest now lie in striving for “moral purity” among the Melungeons.
The legendary character took on a Judge Dredd/ Angel of Death aspect as he knocked off Melungeons straying from God’s rules. From there the tales evolved to feature the Fool Killer pumping bullets into almost any secular influences, including school teachers, outside entertainers, etc.
Of necessity the homicidal vigilante came almost full circle in the Melungeon tales, bumping off more and more non-Melungeons who dared try to lead “the Hill Portughee” astray.
Gone now was any mention of a supernatural craftsman fashioning weapons for the Fool Killer. However, the murderous figure’s “jurisdiction” still ranged from Tennessee to Kentucky to Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
“Fool Killer Sightings” would periodically be reported, with the character described as a stern-faced gun-toting man dressed in black. On rare occassions he’d supposedly be traveling in a horse-drawn wagon and would ask questions about people assumed to be on his list of fools to kill.
Next time I’ll examine a 19th Century Fool Killer tale from a new state.
FOR PART THIRTEEN CLICK HERE
I WILL EXAMINE MORE FOOL KILLER LORE 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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