Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore.


Banjo Player by Maynard Dixon

Banjo Player by Maynard Dixon

PART TWENTY-SIX: THE FOOL KILLER (1918) – Last time around I posted plenty of quotes from Mak’s incarnation of the Fool Killer, quotes that would upset both the political left AND the political right here in the 21st Century. FOR THOSE QUOTES CLICK HERE

This time I’ll look at the uniquely stylized America that Mak depicted his Fool Killer traveling through, delivering poetry recitations and lectures plus sharing recipes (?) during down time between slaying fools. Mak’s America seems like a Frank Baum-influenced alternate reality filled with beautiful scenery but marred by politicized religion plus the tyranny of callous tycoons and the elected officials they have in their pockets.

The Fool Killer is followed on his meanderings around the country following the harsh winter of 1916 into 1917 and up through late 1917. Our title figure takes on quasi-chivalric airs and his escapades an urbanized Faerie Queen feel. He spouts original poetry at the drop of a hat but retains the jarring element of violent judgmentalism that afflicts every incarnation of the Fool Killer.    

The Klarenc Wade Mak version of the figure seems to regard his mission in a Darwinian way, like he’s a natural force cleansing the land of fools the way that harsh, unforgiving nature inevitably weeds out those too weak to survive. As ever, the delusions of a serial killer taint the high-minded objectives that the Fool Killer pays lip service to.

Fool Killer by Klarenc Wade MakNot that our folk figure’s targets don’t deserve to be opposed. This Fool Killer battles the abomination of Child Labor, the profit-mongers who sponsor it AND the Judges who perpetuate it through their decisions striking down attempts to eliminate the ugly practice.

He also champions women’s suffrage and fights for the working class against both the bloated rich pigs who exploit them AND the sleazy Union Leaders who sell out the workers in exchange for privileges that only management can hand out.

Here’s a fuller examination of this Fool Killer’s adventures as he wanders Mak’s Surreal States of America:

*** Geographically, this book is set mostly in Missouri, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. 

*** He encounters fish ice-skating on the under-side of the ice-choked rivers during the harsh winter of ’16 into ’17.

*** With the arrival of Spring the Fool Killer spouts volumes of verse glorifying nature taking back the land from the dead of winter. 

*** The folk figure mentions using side-winding “smart” bullets tipped with cyanide and rattlesnake venom.

*** Our title character takes on the atrocity of Child Labor in a big way.

*** The Fool Killer calls for “the hardest and swiftest punch” against Food Speculators, whom he blamed for patches of starvation in America.

*** He encounters an extravagantly accommodating hotel in western Nebraska that doesn’t even charge its customers. No sinister catch, it’s just part of the surreal nature of Mak’s America, a homespun Twilight Zone.

*** The Fool Killer attacks people shooting buffalo just for the hell of it on the Great Plains.

*** In a quasi-Post Apocalyptic sequence our “hero” comes across the devastation wrought on the Nemeha River by industrialization.

*** A dinosaur tooth recently discovered was so huge the Fool Killer joked that it proved dinosaurs were ancestors of ex-President Theodore Roosevelt.

*** The Fool Killer gleefully recounted the dispatching to Hell of traveling salesmen who lied about being single just so they could seduce innocent young women on their sales route.

*** Like Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ Fool Killer in the 1800s this version of the character attacks men beating their wives and children. 

*** On a lighter note the folk figure attacked merchants who slipped gravel in with their salted peanuts to make the packages weigh more without really containing the advertised amount of peanuts.

*** When not walking, our title character rode the Frisco Railroad (the St Louis to San Francisco railroad) around the country.

*** Our wandering vigilante is at his busiest in Oklahoma, which for some reason he feels is the cesspool of the country. He calls it “the victim of the Profit System and the Democrat Party.” In the Sooner State the Fool Killer attacks:

… gougers and grifters 

… evangelistic religious fanatics that the Fool Killer describes as “600 percent Christians”

… land-grabbers and Highway Robbers 

… gamblers and casino owners and loan sharks 

… white-slavers, train robbers and bank robbers

… white-collar criminals ripping off the Indians on reservations

… pro-German sympathizers (America had entered World War One in April 1917)

*** Mak’s Fool Killer feels that Oklahoma is in danger of collapsing into “a Primeval Jungle.” Unable to exterminate an entire state, in the end our title character decides on a return to Kansas City, Missouri, the favorite haunt of this Fool Killer, just as North Carolina was for the 1850s-1880s incarnation.

           This throwing up of his hands at his inability to depopulate an entire state is reminiscent of a much earlier incarnation of the Fool Killer who abandoned his “God-appointed” role to kill all the fools in Kentucky. (In some versions it was Tennessee or other states.)   




© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.




Filed under Mythology, Neglected History



  2. Christine

    So odd like you said.

  3. Krystal

    These Fool Killer pieces of yours are excellent!

  4. Sudie

    Some of those old sayings were interesting.

  5. Herman

    I’m glad you could make out what was going on in this crazy book.

  6. John

    Excellent articles! Thank you so much for these posts. I am an avid collector of all things fool-killer. I am so glad that I have found your articles; they are an invaluable resource for establishing a coherent timeline of the major contributors to the lore. I have spent my life running into the myth of the fool-killer, even before I knew that was his moniker. Thanks again.

    As a child raised in Sophia, just about 8 miles south-west of Greensboro, NC; I’ve had some introduction to Jesse Holmes. Specifically my grandparents had a terrifying clockwork face that would wag its tongue and laugh menacingly from high up on the wall of their den. My great-grandmother warned that it was the herald of ol’ Jess. It’s laughter surely meant he’d be seeking my brother and I for lying or any other childish foolishness. Perhaps more interestingly my great-grand mother’s home place (deep within the Uwharrie Mountains) still, to this very day, tells of a true to life fool-killer (I prefer the hyphen) known as Lo-Dan’l (my spelling because his history is an oral one). I have sat in the presence of a couple who recounted that they would suffer driving him and his dog into town at times. He reportedly traveled throughout rural North Carolina and Tennessee. He did time in both states for killing various people. He merely shot his wife’s right arm off with his shotgun because she was holding their child in the left. This was because she and her sisters entertained men while he was about his business. He did not object to her enterprise but he had warned her not to serve his shine to the men. One night he found them all drunk and laid them to waste. The road to his home was so rough and remote an ox and cart was needed to retrieve the bodies. The victims, as they fell, all piled against the door and so the men had to collect the bodies by pulling them through a window. Another time, while in Tennessee, he came upon a Church holding a loud meeting. As he peered in he saw lasciviousness that turned his stomach. He stepped in and warned the congregation to show reverence for the house of the Lord. He returned another night to find the same foolishness and relieved seven members of the congregation of their corruption, in doing so, sobering the others. For his crime he was sentenced to a Tennessee prison. By report of the folk he escaped at reluctantly slain two boys that stumbled upon him as he was hiding in the NC/TN mountains. They were part of the search party that was pursuing him and he reported having no choice but to silence them. He did state that he had prayed that they would turn back. A Randolph County Revenuer reportedly went missing after poking around Eleazer, inquiring about any moonshine operations making use of the blessed local water (it is actually considered to have medicinal qualities). Of course most inhabitants ran a still, after all, Eleazer, to this day, is so rural that sunshine must be pumped in, and moonshine gets pumped out. Suffice to say no one made a fuss about one official gone missing. These are but a few of his exploits. Interestingly his is not a lost account. I know people to this day that apparently knew him well. As curiously familiar as his account sounds; he is as close to a living, breathing, fool-killer as any North Carolinian has ever been.

    • Thank you for the nice comment and that terrific lore about Lo-Dan’l! More on that in a moment but first I noticed you stopped at the 26th Fool Killer and saw that I didn’t include links to parts 27, 28, 29 and 30. I have now added the link at part 26 (look now) so that you can read up through Part 30 where I left off. More will be coming,

      Getting back to Lo-Dan’l I had never heard of him so this a great intro to his antics. Thanks a lot!

      • John

        Thank you for your reply. It is nice that you are so approachable. I am reading through the remaining posts and look forward to reading other topics you have covered.

      • Thanks again! I know what you mean, some people on the web are inexplicably hostile even to nice comments. I hope you enjoy the other items.

  7. Bobbie

    Good post. This book was too confusing for me.

  8. Kiley Q

    Glad to see somebody could make sense out of what this Mak guy wrote.

  9. Gaston

    There sure is a lot about this guy!

  10. Johnny V

    Will you be reviewing the Foolkiller movie?

  11. Janet

    Jon Malin or somebody should do this Foolkiller series of adventures in graphic novel form.

  12. Jacob

    What was this guy smoking?

  13. Rena

    I’m glad you understand this guy’s writing. I couldn’t make any sense of what was going on.

  14. Wilfred

    Oklahoma may turn into the violent postapocalypse from these Foolkiller writings after that Supreme Court decision.

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