Tag Archives: Melungeons

FOOL KILLER: PART TWELVE – FINAL MELUNGEON VARIATIONS

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

Melungeon Fool KillerPART TWELVE 

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.

East Tennessee MountainsNow 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.      Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART ELEVEN – MORE MELUNGEON VARIATIONS

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

Fess Parker as the Melungeon Fool KillerPART ELEVEN: MORE MELUNGEON VARIATIONS

In the previous installment I took a look at the Melungeon origin myth for the Fool Killer and the way it bore some resemblance to a figure from Portuguese folk tales that the so-called “Hill Portughee” brought with them. That tale also dealt with the creation of the club/ walking stick/ cudgel that the Fool Killer carried with him in many of his incarnations.

I finished off with the legends of the Fool Killer slaying “fools” who entered the East Tennessee Hills intent on mining or stealing Melungeon gold.

MELUNGEON VARIATION TWO: We’ll pick up this time with more of the oral traditions which supposedly started in the late 1830s or 1840s but weren’t set down in writing until the 1880s and later so there’s no way of verifying when they really began.

Skull walking stickThe area covered was still Eastern Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia and North Carolina. The Fool Killer roamed those regions, wielding his iron club/ walking stick/ cudgel topped with a skull crafted from Melungeon gold.

By now his mission had evolved to killing foolish Federal agents sent into the hills to try to shut down what Washington, DC saw as the “counterfeit” minting of gold coins by the Melungeons. The Fool Killer finished off any Feds that he caught confiscating those coins from merchants or arresting said merchants. Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART TEN – MELUNGEON VARIATIONS

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 condensedPART TEN: MELUNGEON VARIATIONS

In the previous installment I wrapped up my review of the various surviving Fool Killer Letters recounting the folk figure’s homicidal adventures in North Carolina, Virginia (including what is now West Virginia) and Kentucky.

Those tales presented the Milton Chronicle‘s Fool Killer from the late 1840s or early 1850s on through the late 1870s or possibly as late as 1880. That figure slew fools with his club/ walking stick/ cudgel and his set of Bowie knives, each blade inscribed with the words “Fool Killer.”  

The very first Fool Killer Letter by Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans’ fictional Jesse Holmes has not survived, so if Evans made reference to being inspired by any older Fool Killer traditions we have no way of knowing it.

East Tennessee MountainsIf he had, one possible source would be the Fool Killer figure from Melungeon folklore in East Tennessee and other Appalachian areas. Or, since we have no way of checking exact dates, Evans’ darkly satirical tales may have influenced the existing Melungeon lore since Melungeons at the time were scattered from Tennessee to North Carolina, Kentucky and Virginia.

If you’re not familiar with the Melungeon people their origin is shrouded in centuries of folklore. Since I’m covering Fool Killer legends specifically here, I will simplify Melungeon origin tales for the sake of brevity.

The Melungeon origin traditions relevant to Fool Killer lore: a) Pre-Columbian Portuguese sailors became shipwrecked here in the New World and intermarried with Native Americans of the area to produce the Melungeons … b) Ancient Phoenicians arrived in the New World while sailing in search of new lands to colonize, so Melungeons are descendants of those Phoenicians … and c) Satan (“Old Horny” as he’s called in Melungeon folk tales) bred with Native American women to produce the Melungeons. (Only NON-Melungeons told this tale.)    

FOOL KILLER VARIATION ONE: I’ll begin with the Melungeon Fool Killer tradition which states that the Devil/ Old Horny coupled with already existing Melungeon women who happened to be witches OR who were victims of his forced affections. One of those women gave birth to his son. Continue reading

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