It’s April Fool’s Day! This time around Balladeer’s Blog will forego its usual Aleister Crowley item and holiday-themed slasher reviews for a breakdown on the assorted depictions of the neglected American folk figure called the Fool Killer.
A. THE MILTON CHRONICLE YEARS – Late 1840s (?) to 1880 (?) – In the earliest WRITTEN versions of American Fool Killer lore the homicidal vigilante wrote letters to Milton Chronicle Editor Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans regarding his victims and why he chose them. (Evans was the real author of the letters.)
Surviving Letter One (February 1857): The Fool Killer used his trusty club/ walking stick/ cudgel to slay trigger-happy slave hunting patrols, some “foolish” University of North Carolina students and faculty, a would-be lynch mob, a ruthless land speculator, a vain Southern Belle and her panting suitors plus political figures abusing their positions for partisan purposes. CLICK HERE
Surviving Letter Two (March, 1859): The Fool Killer whacked a turkey thief, some Don Quixote Invincibles, a fortune-hunting conman, partisan newspaper “journalists” and corrupt politicians in the North Carolina State Legislature. CLICK HERE
Surviving Letter Three (June 1861): In this last surviving Fool Killer Letter PRIOR to his Civil War hibernation period, the wandering killer bumps off slave-owning Democrats who avoided military service, war profiteers, General Benjamin Butler plus a phony “witch” and her clients who were trying to railroad some innocent victims. CLICK HERE
Surviving Letter Four (May 1870): This is a very incomplete and partially illegible item. That is particularly tragic since this Fool Killer Letter deals with some of the figure’s actions against Ku Klux Klan Democrats and Carpetbagging Republicans, especially at a nominating convention during the period when Martial Law was imposed in parts of North Carolina because of rampant Klan violence. CLICK HERE
Surviving Letter Five (February 1876): The Fool Killer bumped off killjoys at a Temperance meeting, greedy heirs fighting over the estate of the dead family patriarch and a wealthy tobacco planter who was stiffing the local market to sell his crop elsewhere. CLICK HERE
Surviving Letter Six (September 1877): This time around the Fool Killer preyed upon pretentious “intellectuals,” Nouveau Riche snobs of the Gilded Age, an ungrateful employee who helped criminals steal from his employer, a wife-beater and a man who abandoned his intended bride at the altar. CLICK HERE
Surviving Letter Seven (February 1879): The Fool Killer slew three men pushing an odd kind of Millerite apocalypticism, crooked musicians who had robbed candy from some Negro children plus a lecherous sleigh-riding man who tried to force himself upon three drunken women. In addition he whacked some former soldiers of Company “Aytch” who had turned to marauding. CLICK HERE
Southern Literary Messenger Fragment (1861?): The fragment of a Fool Killer Letter covered in this issue depicted the figure killing some more war profiteers and some Pittsylvania County, VA con artists running a mail scam on soldiers and their families. CLICK HERE
Oxford Torchlight Mock Letter (August 1878): A.W. Davis’ “tribute story” to Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ Fool Killer presented victims like a sore loser of a political candidate, a drunken abusive husband and a superstitious Printer’s Devil. CLICK HERE
B. MELUNGEON FOOL KILLER VARIATIONS (Oral traditions from the 1830s to 1890s)
ONE: The “Hill Portughee” origin myth of the Fool Killer, plus his role killing non-Melungeon “fools” who came prospecting for Melungeon gold. CLICK HERE
TWO: For the first time, the Fool Killer began using firearms on his victims, no longer just his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and Bowie Knives. He preyed upon Federal Agents who tried stopping the Melungeons from minting their own gold coins and upon cuckolded husbands. CLICK HERE
THREE: Religious fanaticism now characterized the Fool Killer as he shot or scythed Melungeons who disgraced themselves and their people by sinning. The figure now traveled in a supernatural horse-drawn wagon which would suddenly arrive in hill towns after dark but was never sighted on any of the roads in daylight. CLICK HERE
C. GEORGE ADE FOOL KILLER: In 1899 Alabama, the Fool Killer encountered a supernatural carnival which may be a combined Brigadoon/ Purgatory for fools. CLICK HERE
D. O HENRY FOOL KILLER: A man inadvertently summoned the Fool Killer to 1908 New York City. CLICK HERE
E. BUFFALO, NY FOOL KILLER: In 1909 Buffalo the Fool Killer unleashed his wrath on a plethora of victims including a malevolent little boy who hanged his sister, a Deacon who collected funds for his church at gunpoint, a tycoon who was scornful of the poor and a crazed Old Maid who constructed a wooden mate for herself. CLICK HERE
F. JAMES LARKIN PEARSON – From 1910-1917 and 1919 to 1922 Pearson’s 4-page semi-monthly publication The Fool-Killer unleashed the figure on nationwide malefactors.
January 1910: The targets of the Fool Killer (I prefer no hyphen) included Frederick Cook for his false claim of reaching the North Pole, a professor who planned to spend 10 million dollars to communicate with Mars and corrupt Federal Appeals Court Judge Peter S Grosscup. CLICK HERE
February 1910: The Fool Killer targeted crooked businessman Charles Wyman Morse, newspaper publishers who were propagandists for the wealthy (some things never change), children who smoked cigarettes and the participants in high-stakes poker games in Saint Louis. CLICK HERE
March 1910: The Fool Killer swatted the vile Benjamin R Tillman, who was an actual White Supremacist, Henry Osborne Havemeyer and his Sugar Trust plus John D Rockefeller and his Standard Oil monopoly. CLICK HERE
May 1910 (There was no April issue): Our folk figure targeted the political bosses of Albany, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, turncoat attorney Jim Beck, bullfight patrons, Mary Baker Eddy and cotton millionaire Jim Patten. CLICK HERE
June 1910: A variety of intended victims this time around, including boxers and boxing patrons, human traffickers, Speaker of the House “Uncle” Joe Cannon, Coca Cola Corporation, boozers and early nudists. CLICK HERE
G. KLARENC WADE MAK FOOL KILLER – Published in 1918, Mak’s Fool Killer was a wandering poet, singer and musician, too. No club/ walking stick/ cudgel nor Bowie Knives, axes or scythes mentioned for this incarnation of the Fool Killer. Just guns which fired “smart” side-winding bullets dipped in rattlesnake venom and/or cyanide.
PART ONE: Mak’s Fool Killer would infuriate both leftists and right-wingers today. CLICK HERE
PART TWO: The Fool Killer wandered a surreal Frank Baum-influenced America while opposing child labor, the Judges whose decisions enabled it AND the profit-mongers who benefited from it. He also tackled people shooting buffalo for sport and all the menaces in a darkly stylized hellhole version of Oklahoma, including federal agents ripping off Indians on reservations. CLICK HERE
H. BALLADEER’S BLOG’S FOOL KILLER – The Fool Killer still lives and has taken to corresponding with Balladeer’s Blog.
A NEW FOOL KILLER LETTER: An “Interview With The Fool Killer” type letter in which the homicidal vigilante provided a lot of autobiographical information. CLICK HERE
FOLLY, TEXAS: The Fool Killer recounts how, on December 31st, 1899, he found himself in a west Texas town called Folly and wracked up an apocalyptic body count of criminals and the depraved. CLICK HERE
LAKE ERIE: In this Fool Killer Letter to Balladeer’s Blog he woke from his latest hibernation in October of 1900. He commandeered the “vanished” Fool Killer boat from Niagara Falls and piloted the vessel around Lake Erie, slaying fools and criminals on the waters as well as in port cities like Cleveland, Detroit, Lackawanna and Buffalo. He even clashed with the emerging Mafia empire of Angelo “Buffalo Bill” Palmieri. CLICK HERE
FOR MY LOOK AT JOE MAGARAC, THE STEEL MILL VERSION OF JOHN HENRY AND PAUL BUNYAN, CLICK HERE
© Edward Wozniak and Balladeer’s Blog, 2019-2020. 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.