Tag Archives: American folklore


Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer grayPART FORTY-EIGHT: Some of the Fool Killer’s targets in the July 1911 issue of James Larkin Pearson’s publication –

*** J.P. Morgan and other “plutes” (plutocrats) who were buying up every news outlet that did negative stories about their abuses. In a way this started us on the path of our present-day situation in which bloated rich pigs like the Silicon Valley Robber Barons own all the news media and social media outlets to control what information gets out.

*** Smokers. Pearson and his version of the Fool Killer considered them stench-ridden, wheezing and coughing losers with yellow fingernails.

*** William A Clark, former Democrat Senator from Montana, who was disputing the tax assessment on his multi-million dollar property on New York’s Fifth Avenue. He claimed it was too high and wouldn’t pay it. 

*** Astrologers, astrology in general, and horoscopes.

*** People who drank, since Pearson’s bizarre puritanical crusade calling for Prohibition continued.

*** “It’s a bug-hunt, man.” William Benton Miller of the American Museum of Natural History, who was setting off on a 4-month expedition into North Carolina’s Black Mountains to look for new bugs for the museum’s collection. Pearson couldn’t resist joking about the undertaking and about its financier, Samuel V Huffman. Continue reading


Filed under Mythology


Fool Killer illustrationIt’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.)

              Fool Killer picSurviving 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   Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History


Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer 1920sPART TWENTY-SEVEN: Here is a look at some of the Fool Killer’s targets from James L Pearson’s April of 1920 issue. As always we find an intriguing mix of attitudes, some of which would please us today or anger us today.

** Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General A Mitchell Palmer (as in the Palmer Raids) and his fellow self-appointed censors of supposedly “dangerous” political ideas. Ironically, in 1920 the ideas under assault were Socialist ideas, today it is people espousing Socialism who want OTHER philosophies censored.

           The Fool Killer complained “a little handful of self-appointed bosses around Washington think they must be the sole judges of what a hundred and ten million Americans may read or hear.”

** The New York State Assembly – as usual called “the ASS-embly” – for refusing to seat the five elected members of the Socialist Party. Pearson and his Fool Killer saw this as invalidating the votes of the 60,000-odd New Yorkers who had voted for the candidates. The Assembly refused to seat the elected representatives solely because of the political party they belonged to.

           The Fool Killer pointed out that there were still parts of the South in 1920 where it was considered as disgusting to be a Republican as it was to be a Socialist. The point being “how would the country feel if the state legislatures in the South took it upon themselves to unseat elected Republicans like New York had unseated the Socialists?” Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History, opinion


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: Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History


Kid Russell

Self-portrait by Kid Russell

With the Frontierado Holiday coming up in just over a month and a half, Balladeer’s Blog decided to whet readers’ appetites with this look at a gritty cable western series based on the real-life gunslinger turned artist Kid Russell (Charles Marion Russell).

As always, Frontierado is about the myth of the American West, not the grinding reality. This ties it in with Balladeer’s Blog’s examinations of myth and folklore and the ways in which the human tendency toward embellishment crafts everything from religious lore to heroic legends.

Even in the 1800s the exploits of real-life gunslingers were being exaggerated in Dime Novels or overblown newspaper accounts to the degree that the surviving tales of Western figures often bear little resemblance to their actual lives. Television added another layer of distortion as the need for weekly stories saw Western shows presenting the likes of Doc Holliday, Wild Bill Hickok, Bat Masterson and many others in adventures that dropped all pretense of being based on anything “real.”

Even a figure like Annie Oakley, who actually saw no action against outlaws, was depicted fighting crime out west in a weekly series. In that same spirit here’s my presentation of how the framework of fictional adventures can be used to familiarize modern audiences with occasional facts about the adventurers themselves.

William Smith good Kid RussellKID RUSSELL (Cable Series) – “Before he made the art, he LIVED it!” would be the kind of eye-rolling advertising tagline that one could picture being used for a show like this. I’m not implying any disrespect to Kid Russell or his artistic legacy. Regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog are familiar with my regard for the man. (FOR MY LOOK AT THE KID RUSSELL LEGEND CLICK HERE )

I can’t help but speculate that the Kid’s fondness for “windies” would make him smile at the kind of concentrated embellishment I’m about to bring to his real-life adventures. Russell’s famously coy line about how he “… never said how law-abiding I was or wasn’t” made many of the wildest legends about the man seem like there might be more than a kernel or two of truth to them.     Continue reading


Filed under Fantastic Movie Reviews, FRONTIERADO


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


PART TWENTY-FIVE: The 1918 one-shot publication called The Fool Killer was written by Dr Klarenc Wade Mak, poet, author and socialist political candidate for mayoral office in Kansas City, MO around 1918. Mak had also written Ekkoes (sic) from the Hart (sic) and Mental Dinamite (sic).

Mak’s 1918 work is sometimes confused with James Larkin Pearson’s 1910-1917 and 1919-1929 publication called The Fool-Killer. Both Mak and Pearson wrote poetry, both published works using the Fool Killer name and both were open about their sympathy with socialist politics of the time period.

Fool Killer condensedPer the surviving correspondence of Eugene V Debs, Dr Mak once invited Debs to speak in Kansas City, MO at an event where Mak and other socialist candidates would be appearing.

Despite the “socialist” label, Klarenc Mak’s Fool Killer had that quality I have appreciated about nearly all the Fool Killer items I’ve come across: Attitudes which would outrage BOTH the political left AND right here in the 21st Century. Even the socialist label as Mak’s writings define it refers to workers, NOT “people who want something for nothing” as he calls them. (He also calls them parasites.) So even that brand of “socialism” would offend both right-wingers and left-wingers of today. For different reasons, of course. 

Mak’s Fool Killer expressed disapproval of capitalism AND disapproval of abortion, so again we see that both the Left and the Right of today would be hard pressed to force a quick and easy label on this Fool Killer. Pretty refreshing!

Before returning to Pearson’s monthly publication I wanted to post some examples of Mak’s incarnation of the Fool Killer expressing sentiments tweaking both ends of the political spectrum by today’s standards:   

Fool Killer by Klarenc Wade Mak“When a man has lived long enough to have tried all the bad things in this world he generally wants to hang on a little longer just to see if the Republicans and Democrats won’t invent some NEW evils.”

“The highest part of an education is finding out how much of it isn’t so.” (In the distant past this would have applied to right-wing domination of the educational system, but for decades now it has applied to left-wing domination of the educational system.)

“Wrong ideas are not an education, they are mental weeds, the base materials that prejudice is made out of.”

“If your religion can’t stand being criticized it is in the same class with the gold ring that’s afraid of acids. Such a ring is not gold at all – only a base pretender; and the same with the religion that can’t stand the acid test of criticism – it’s just as spurious and should be rejected.” (Left-wing zealots try to censor all criticism of Islam, right-wing zealots try to censor all criticism of Christianity and Judaism. At present, however, the left-wing book-burners have the help of the Silicon Valley Robber Barons/ Techno Fascists to help them in their censorship jihad.)

“The misdeeds of Democrats are about as plentiful as the drops of water in all the oceans, while the crimes of Republicans are as numerous as the seconds in Eternity.” Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History


Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer cop USEPART TWENTY-FOUR: October, 1900. I just received another emailed Fool Killer Letter from the actual supernatural figure himself.

Eddie or Mr Wozniak or Balladeer or whatever you go by:

At present I’m here in Oregon smacking around Antifa scumbags. I fought the Democrat KKK thugs in the 1870s and I’ll be damned if I’ll let these masked Democrats prey on people. What is it with Democrats and hiding behind masks? Antifa’s name is nonsense. Like the old saying goes “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.”

Steampunk Fool Killer copAnyway, since you and I are agreed that both Democrats and Republicans are criminals and worse I got to thinking about my last missive to you. That communication ended with me entering another period of hibernation on New Year’s Day 1900 after dealing with the town of Folly, Texas.

Like I mentioned then, my supernatural inheritance on my Daddy’s side causes me and my belongings to somehow transport back to my hidden cave til it’s time to wake up again. This time I woke up in early October of 1900 wearing that blue, buttoned outfit that lets me pass as anything from a boat pilot to a policeman – like in Facts for the Fool-Killer, that book from my time in and around Buffalo, New York.

I emerged from my cave, yawned, stretched and relished the crisp autumn air and then set out for Buffalo, NY. I mentioned last time that while I hibernate, events in the real world come to me like dreams, so I’m always up to date on the national zeitgeist. I also know where I’m meant to go when I wake up. 

Peter NissenBy mid-October, mostly using trains, my favorite means of travel, I arrived at Niagara Falls just as that Peter Nissen character made his final voyage in the custom boat he had named The Fool Killer. He and his First Mate were forced to abandon it in the dark and neither they nor any search parties ever found it.

That was because I stepped in after they had fled that night and hauled the boat free to commandeer it for my own use since Nissen had commandeered my name without my permission. With my more than human strength it was no real problem, of course.

I had brought along some of my Daddy’s eldritch tools from the days of his blacksmith business in the early 1800s and by daybreak I had improved on Nissen’s custom craft to make it suitable for my purposes. I could even pilot that boat up or down or behind the falls – though I usually waited until there were no prying eyes about for those particular maneuvers.

Anyway, I spent almost ten years dispensing justice to fools all along the Niagara River and Lake Erie. Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History


Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer 1920sPART TWENTY-THREE: Here is a look at some of the Fool Killer’s targets from James L Pearson’s February of 1920 issue.

*** People supporting Prohibition.

*** The Fool Killer crashed and slammed a Protestant conference in Boston. The Protestant Preachers were discussing the time period’s shortage of young men willing to become Preachers, a shortage the Fool Killer often took “credit” for since he claimed it was fear of meeting his (the Fool Killer’s) wrath that helped scare a lot of men away from the pulpit. (The fictional vigilante went after Elmer Gantry-like corrupt Preachers long before Sinclair Lewis’ novel Elmer Gantry had been published.)

              This conference was endorsing the use of phonograph records as “canned” sermons and – since J.L. Pearson’s version of the Fool Killer had an unfortunate preoccupation with religion – this use of such canned sermons found the homicidal fellow unleashing some non-fatal wrath on congregations around the country IF they lazily used the pre-recorded sermons. (Remember, in the 1800s part of the Fool Killer’s Bogey Man aspect was that he would supposedly kill fools who fell asleep during mass.)

*** Supporters of the Red Scare being pushed by Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s Attorney General A Mitchell Palmer (as in the Palmer Raids).

*** Supporters of Republican General Leonard Wood.

*** “Spiritualist” con artists who took money from people for pretending to put them in contact with their dead loved ones in the Afterlife. Sometimes the Fool Killer also preyed upon the foolish victims of the con artists, depending on his ever-changing moods.  Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History, opinion


Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer 1920sPART TWENTY-TWO: After a two-part examination of the newest Fool Killer Letter (CLICK HERE ) and the revelation of the vigilante’s activities in Texas in December of 1899 it’s back to looking at the 1919-1929 Fool-Killer presented by THE James Larkin Pearson.

The targets of the Fool Killer (I prefer no hyphen) in the January, 1920 issue:

*** Major newspapers which chided American Labor for bringing attention to the unscrupulous activities of the bloated rich pigs who ran the management side of America’s industries.

              It’s reminiscent of today’s battles with the Robber Barons of Silicon Valley, like Mark “Skippy” Zuckerberg, Jack “White Male Privilege” Dorsey and their fellow corporate fascists at Google and elsewhere. (And check out the documentary The Creepy Line which exposes Silicon Valley fascists at their worst.)

*** Ever since aircraft were proven to be workable the fictional Fool Killer seemed to have moderated his instinctive assumptions that people trumpeting scientific breakthroughs were fools and/or liars. By 1920 if an inventor or tinkerer boasted about their amazing discoveries or devices the homicidal vigilante had shifted to a policy of investigating the claimant and their scientific breakthrough.

              If the claims held up to the Fool Killer’s scrutiny he took no action. But if the claims seemed ridiculously wrong OR like a con or scam to trick people out of their money the folk figure unleashed his weaponry on the “fool” …

*** The Fool Killer investigated a recent claim from “a young feller up north in New York” (no name given) that he invented a “gas vaporizer” to replace carburetors. The young inventor claimed that his device would let your car get “ninety miles per gallon.” Since no such device ever hit the market it would seem the claimant was a con artist and was subjected to the Fool Killer’s usual brand of summary “justice.”

*** In Kansas City the roaming vigilante looked into another inventor’s claim that he had invented “an all-new type of engine” that was “sixty percent more efficient” than the engines currently in use. This, too, seems to have been a scam and the self-proclaimed inventor was dealt with.    Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History


Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the many facets of Fool Killer lore. FOR PART ONE, INCLUDING THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, CLICK HERE

Fool Killer garbPART TWENTY: I need to interrupt my look at the 1910-1917 and 1919-1922 Fool Killer items for this time around. In a surprising development Balladeer’s Blog was contacted by THE actual Fool Killer. Using Jimmy Neutron-level science I determined that this correspondent was indeed the actual supernatural figure who had been at large in America since the 1830s.

After some introductory email exchanges the Fool Killer confirmed for me that Jesse Holmes was not his real name but he often used it as his alias going back to Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ original publication of The Fool Killer Letters from roughly 1850 to around 1880.

The roaming vigilante stated that since there was absolutely nothing that I or any other mortals could do to stop him from slaying whenever and wherever he pleased he was happy to answer assorted questions for me. He did so in the following email:

Fool Killer condensedComing to you as I wander in search of fools to kill, as usual a murder of crows following in my wake to feast upon the ample corpses I leave behind me in my travels.

Eddie, or Mr Wozniak or Balladeer or however you prefer to be addressed, I noticed from your queries that you have that modern-day obsession with wanting definitive answers. I’m not able to provide them regarding my exact nature nor would I if I WAS able.

Your tracing of my origins to the Tennessee Hills of the 1830s was part of the reason I contacted you. I figured your perseverance and your perceptive comments about the Hill Portughee or Melungeons importing tales of Longstaff from Portugal showed you deserved to be my new correspondent. You’re no Charles Evans or James L Pearson but I’ve been a mighty long time without a confidant so you’ll do.

My birth around 1830 was roughly as recounted in Mountain Legends. I can correct the record on one particular item, though. My Daddy, whatever he really was, was not the Devil. Not even I could have overcome Satan himself like I did and driven him from the Tennessee Hills. He may have been “A” devil or demon or maybe something from another world. Maybe he was just a relic from Earth’s distant past or some unknown thing that walked up from the very bottom of the ocean.

Whatever he was he wasn’t human, that’s for certain, but he sure had a taste for the ladies of the mountains. Whenever any of the Hill Portughee or folks like them needed some of my Daddy’s otherworldly metalworking or medicinal cures or any other products of his arcane arts and sciences the men and the uncomely women always had better come across with some Melungeon gold to pay for it. Continue reading


Filed under Mythology, Neglected History, opinion