Tag Archives: folklore

FOOL KILLER: PART FIVE – FEBRUARY 16th, 1876

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 HorsleyPART 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.

Skull walking stickThis 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).

Fool Killer Horsley 2We’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. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART FOUR – MAY 29th, 1870

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

Fool Killer illustrationPART FOUR: The fourth surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation.)

This letter is the first surviving letter after the fictional Fool Killer had emerged from his self-imposed hibernation in a cave since 1861, driven there by his disgust at the fools who had brought on the Civil War. Jesse Holmes (the name the Fool Killer claimed was his real identity) had emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon and was dressed in up to date men’s fashions. Wielding his usual club/walking stick/ cudgel and the set of Bowie knives that he adopted shortly before hibernating, the Fool Killer resumed his deadly attacks on corrupt politicians and societal nuisances.

These letters were really written as dark-humored commentary by Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, Editor of the Milton Chronicle newspaper.

May 29th, 1870 – From “Hillsboro Township, NC.” –

Fool Killer garbThis Fool Killer Letter saw its first revived publication in November of 1978, making it the last of the surviving letters to come to light but the fourth chronologically. 

The homicidal vigilante turned his attention to the corrupt Democrat political practices in Reconstruction-Era North Carolina. As always the Fool Killer preyed upon the favorite targets of the Milton Chronicle and its courageous Editor Charles Evans – the Ku Klux Klan AND the northern Carpetbaggers.

It’s very easy for us Independent voters of today to relate to the position taken by Evans and his fictional Fool Killer. We often feel caught between two irrational and destructive breeds of fanatics just as Evans and “Jesse Holmes” were caught between the Democrats of the Ku Klux Klan and the Republicans running the Carpetbagger forces.    Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART THREE – JUNE 28th, 1861

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

Matthew as the Fool Killer would be perfectPART THREE: The third surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation) 

As with ancient Greek comedies and so many old movies from the Silent Era, it is terrible that so few of the original Fool Killer Letters have survived. The author of those mock letters from the homicidal vigilante called the Fool Killer was Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, editor of The Milton Chronicle.

In the two previous surviving letters, one from 1857 and one from 1859, we saw that the Fool Killer – like his creator Evans a member of the dying Whig Party – bitterly opposed secession. And like his fellow Southerner Sam Houston condemned the fools bringing on a destructive Civil War.

After this 1861 letter Evans retired the Fool Killer for a time by having the darkly satirical figure stating that he was washing his hands of this nation of fools who had unleashed such a catastrophe. In the early 1870s Evans brought back the vaguely supernatural figure, who claimed he had been hibernating in a cave since 1861 and had emerged to resume killing corrupt politicians and societal nuisances.

North Carolina and Virginia before the Civil WarJUNE 28th, 1861 – From “Down about Norfolk, VA.” (The Fool Killer wandered North Carolina and Virginia – which back then still included what is now West Virginia – and the dark-humored Fool Killer Letters were syndicated in several newspapers in addition to his North Carolina “birth place” the Milton Chronicle.) 

This letter started out with Jesse Holmes – the name the fictional murderer claimed was his real identity – railing to Editor Evans: 

“When the historian comes to record the cause of the downfall of this once proud and mighty Republic, tell him, for me, to put in these words, to wit: It fell by the hands of Fools!

“I tried my best to avert the dire calamity – I wielded my club (* With which he slew his victims) by day and by night – I bathed it in the blood of demagogues, designing politicians, fanatics, rapscallions and scoundrels” … “I called loudly for help to demolish the fools that seemed to be everywhere springing up like the green grass of this Mother Earth on which you and I tread but alas! alas! too few heard my warning and came to the rescue.”

Bowie Knife PatternsIn this letter the Fool Killer adds a collection of Bowie knives to his arsenal alongside his ever-present club/ walking stick/ cudgel. Future incarnations of the Fool Killer in folk tales, short stories, novels and plays will assign him various axes, guns and even a scythe. Comic book depictions will add weapons like a sword and a high-tech “Purification Gun” which shoots white energy blasts of undetermined nature.  

(Steve Ditko’s short-lived superhero Killjoy might have been able to capture the Fool Killer spirit if the character had been handled correctly.) 

We rejoin the homicidal vigilante’s account of his recent activities and the victims who fell to his club and his knives, each blade inscribed with the words “Fool Killer.” Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART TWO – MARCH 10th, 1859

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 illustrationPART TWO: The second surviving Fool Killer Letter. (See Part One for an explanation)

MARCH 10th, 1859: From “… the right side of the Richmond & Danville Railroad” – This letter from Jesse Holmes, the fictional Fool Killer to Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, Editor of the Milton Chronicle, was, like the others, written by Evans himself as dark-humored political and social commentary.

The Fool Killer began this letter by stating he was abandoning his murderous campaign to help the citizens of Leasburg, NC in their Quixotic battle with the Postmaster General in Washington, DC. The people of Leasburg objected to the mail delivery schedule established by the Postmaster General. January of 1859 was when the relevant postal route contracts were awarded.

Skull Walking Stick 2(My fellow geeks for 19th Century American history will recall that these routes – sometimes referred to as Star Routes because they were indicated by three stars on the route indexes – were often at the center of bidding scandals.)

The fictional Jesse Holmes stated he had decided to let the people of Leasburg fight their own postal battles. That was because the only way he could have rendered a decisive blow on their behalf would be to visit Washington, DC, and he feared having his own morals corrupted if he set foot in the District. (Hey, tell it to Billy Jack, Jesse!) 

The Fool Killer instead decided to head to Raleigh, NC to force the adjournment of the notoriously corrupt Democrat-dominated legislature (The Fool Killer, like Editor Charles Evans, belonged to the dying Whig Party). Enroute he was distracted, as so often happens in the Fool Killer Letters.

1850s north carolinaIn this case the distraction came in the form of “a venerable and mighty clever man” who asked Holmes to find out who had stolen his prize turkey. Armed as always with his club/ walking stick/ cudgel the Fool Killer began his investigation.

Presently he came across a parade of the Don Quixote Invincibles, a sort of southern, Raleigh-centered version of Mummers. The Invincibles would march in colorful, anachronistic costumes on special occasions.

Jesse spotted a DQI member wearing a colorful costume made of freshly-plucked turkey feathers and knew he had found his man. The Fool Killer struck down the turkey thief and was then attacked by the dead man’s fellow DQI marchers. Holmes wielded his weapon to deadly effect as usual, fighting off all of them (“Tarheel Fu” I guess). When a marcher costumed as a Chinaman was smacked down dead the other DQI’ers finally gave up their attack and fled the scene. 

The Fool Killer then resumed his journey toward the state house to fulfill his plan to confront the crooked politicians of the General Assembly.  Continue reading

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BLACK PANTHER: PANTHER’S RAGE

 

Black PantherHere’s Balladeer’s Blog’s examination of Don McGregor’s 1973-1975 Black Panther story Panther’s Rage. I’m no comic book expert but in my opinion Panther’s Rage surpasses much of the work done by the overrated and overpraised Alan Moore.

As always, since I’m neither a liberal nor a conservative I was surprised by some of the intense political reactions to my reviewing this Black Panther story. Many people who call themselves conservatives seem to think this Marvel Comics character has some connection to the hate group called the Black Panthers.

Actually this figure came BEFORE the Black Panthers. In fact Marvel flirted with changing the character’s name a few times – once to just simply “the Panther” and once to “the Black Leopard” – to keep their character separated from the racist hate group.

Erik Killmonger

“Memes … memes, everywhere.”

On the other side many people who call themselves liberals huffed and puffed indignantly that I was covering a 13-part story written by (GASP) a white guy about a black character! Hey, a white guy even CREATED the character. I wonder if that invalidates the Black Panther entirely in their narrow minds.   

Anyway, here are chapter by chapter links to my review –

ONE: PANTHER’S RAGE – Prince T’Challa, the Black Panther, returns to his isolated African kingdom of Wakanda to try to put down a violent rebellion led by a Wakandan calling himself Erik Killmonger. CLICK HERE 

TWO: DEATH REGIMENTS BENEATH WAKANDA – The Black Panther battles Venomm, the supervillain in charge of Killmonger’s operation tunneling toward Wakanda City while simultaneously mining and stealing the nation’s vibranium reserves. CLICK HERE 

THREE: MALICE BY CRIMSON MOONLIGHT – Killmonger sends a super-powered woman called Malice to help Venomm escape from the Royal Palace’s prison on the same night that T’Challa is undergoing his renewal of the Panther Herb ritual. CLICK HERE   Continue reading

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MORE PALADINS OF CHARLEMAGNE

CharlemagneYes, it’s round two of this Christmas-time tradition of examining the folklore surrounding Charlemagne and his Paladins (Knights). For the first installment click HERE   

And remember, this is the folklore, not the historical facts about Charlemagne and his empire.

Archbishop TurpinARCHBISHOP TURPIN OF RHEIMS – This Paladin was the legendary “Battling Bishop” who fought alongside Charlemagne and his other men in the field.

Turpin would take part in the battles, then clean up, don his robes and conduct masses of thanks to God for delivering another victory. Sort of a more badass version of Friar Tuck from Robin Hood legends.

OgierOGIER THE DANE – Though he would go on to serve as one of Charlemagne’s most storied Paladins, Ogier was born to Geoffrey, the first Christian King of Denmark. Shortly before the child was to be baptized, six beautiful fairy maidens appeared and took turns holding the infant in their arms before kissing him and passing him on to the next maiden in line.    

The first Fey gifted Ogier with bravery, the second with ample opportunities to serve in war, the third granted that he would never be vanquished in battle, the fourth gave him the gift of being pleasing for women to look upon and the fifth granted him the capacity to return the love he would inspire.

Morgana and young OgierThe sixth and youngest maiden was Morgana le Fey, who has a much different history in the legends of Charlemagne than in Arthurian lore. Morgana told the baby Ogier that she claimed him for her own (“imprinted” on him, you Twilight fans might say). She decreed that he would never die until he had come to visit her on the Isle of Avalon.

When Ogier was in his early teens emissaries from Charlemagne arrived in Denmark to demand a pledge of loyalty to Charlemagne as all the other Christian kingdoms had done. Geoffrey refused and so Charlemagne launched a military campaign which soon saw Geoffrey defeated and humbled.

To ensure Geoffrey’s continued loyalty his son Ogier was taken to live in Charlemagne’s court at first as a hostage, but soon the young man charmed Charlemagne and his nephew Roland. Ogier served alongside Roland as a Squire and eventually as a full Paladin.   Continue reading

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NON-DILLINGER: QUICK TAKES ON OTHER GANGSTERS OF HIS ERA

With John Dillinger folklore given WAY too much attention, Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at some of the legends versus the ugly reality regarding some of his contemporary gangsters. 

Two Gun Crowley biggerTWO-GUN CROWLEY

Real Name: Francis Crowley

Birth – Death: October 31st, 1912 – January 21st, 1932

Lore: Crowley was supposedly born out of wedlock to a German-American woman and a New York police officer who refused to marry Crowley’s mother. This supposedly accounts for his intense hatred of the police.

Reality: Such shallow, Pulp Magazine thinking doesn’t seem likely. The young man was adopted by a family in which Francis grew up alongside a cop-killing older brother named John Crowley. John himself would be killed in a battle with police.

This background seems a more likely explanation for Francis’ issues than some mythical hatred of an unknown father who abandoned him and his mother. 

Two Gun Crowley in bedCriminal Career: By age 19, Crowley had a reputation as a competent holdup man and hit & run armed robber who never slipped up enough for a conviction. He might have escaped suspicion entirely if not for his excessively belligerent attitude when questioned by authorities.     

On February 21st, 1931 Crowley, packing the omnipresent pair of hand-guns that earned him his nickname, crashed an American Legion dance in the Bronx. Two-Gun was accompanied by a pair of male accomplices, one of whom was believed to be frequent associate Rudolph “Fats” Durringer.

When the Legionnaires attempted to expel the uninvited trio Crowley whipped out his pair of firearms and opened fire, wounding at least two innocent men before fleeing. With charges of attempted murder now hanging over his head, Two-Gun was about to enter the busiest period of his career. Continue reading

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THE GREEN HUNTSMAN: CHRISTMAS HORROR FOLKLORE

green-flamesTHE GREEN HUNTSMAN – The Green Huntsman is an interesting example of the many figures who started out as folklore before being committed to the printed page in horror stories.

Long before the short stories featuring the Green Huntsman began to appear around the 1830s the figure was already being conflated with the Wicked Huntsman of Basque folk tales. Joseph Holt Ingraham’s 1841 story titled simply The Green Huntsman is arguably the best known of the short stories.

The figure eventually known as the Green Huntsman has its origins centuries ago. Originally a mortal man, this huntsman was a Castilian nobleman who had a perfect body but a very ugly face. As the tale was inevitably embellished it got to the point where the man freakishly had just one large green eye above the nose of his otherwise handsome face. 

green-flames-2The nobleman was obsessed with tracking down and marrying a mythical woman called the Christmas Bride who could only be found on Christmas Eve. This woman was incredibly beautiful but blind. The Green Huntsman wanted her as his bride not only because she would not be able to see how hideous he was, but, more importantly, she was destined to give birth to a son who would become the New Charlemagne, who would unite all Europe under one ruler. 

Clad in his all-green hunting outfit the Green Huntsman would ride forth every Christmas Eve accompanied by his hunting dogs. One year the whip he used to urge his horse onward contained a hair from the head of the Virgin Mary herself. (Remember, there was a lucrative business long ago in selling fake relics like pieces of wood from the “true” cross, plus the bones or other items from various saints.)

That hair from Christian mythology’s Blessed Mother supposedly would act as a divining rod, and the bristles on the whip would point the way to the Christmas Bride. The Green Huntsman had paid an enormous amount of money to the Pope himself to obtain the hair. Continue reading

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