Tag Archives: mythology

FOOL KILLER: PART TWENTY – A NEW FOOL KILLER LETTER

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 1919-1929 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 condensedEddie, 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

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FOOL KILLER: PART SEVENTEEN – AUGUST OF 1919

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 1910-1929PART SEVENTEEN: Resuming my look at James Larkin Pearson’s Fool Killer (Or Fool-Killer as he wrote it). In August of 1919 Pearson brought the Fool Killer (I prefer no hyphen) out of his latest hibernation with the words “After resting for two years the Fool-Killer goes on duty again.”

This time around the figure had nationwide exposure and with the enormous number of railroads criss-crossing the country by now he could get around more quickly than ever. 

In the previous installment I provided the background information on Pearson and his Fool Killer. This time around we can jump right into the “fools” who were the fictional figure’s August 1919 targets:

Fool Killer Gray Beard*** People still pushing Democrat President Woodrow Wilson’s claim that the World War (1914-1918) was fought to “Make the world safe for Democracy.” The Fool Killer would swing away at such people while pointing out the less-than-democratic nature of some of the Allied Powers governments from the recent conflict, especially England, Italy and Japan.

*** Bloated rich pigs – “plutes” as this Fool Killer called them, short for plutocrats – who try to blame the “class consciousness” of American laborers wanting better working conditions on the fairly new Bolshevik government in the emerging Soviet Union. (An especially idiotic claim by the plutocrats, since American workers had been striking, etc, for decades before the Bolsheviks took power.)  

Skull walking stick*** A preacher who publicly said that he “almost wishes sometimes that Jesus would come already.” The Fool Killer added a joke wondering how that preacher would feel if he was on a trip and his wife said that she “almost wishes sometimes” that he would come back from his trip already. (Pearson was, sad to say, very religious and often took shots at clergy members he found insufficiently “devout.”) 

*** White Russians (The fallen Russian aristocrats and their supporters).

*** Mossbacks (Narrow-minded conservatives. Think of the clueless, stuffy white guys in suits at National Review for just one example.) Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART SIXTEEN – JAMES LARKIN PEARSON

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 1910-1929PART SIXTEEN: James Larkin Pearson, poet and newspaper man, carried on the Fool Killer tradition from 1910 to 1917, then again from 1919 to 1929. Pearson’s fellow North Carolinian Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans had written the Fool Killer Letters of the 19th Century so it’s appropriate that another Tar Heel continue the lore for so many years of the 20th Century.

James Larkin PearsonIn August of 1917 Pearson’s nationwide publication called The Fool-Killer changed its title and format because of America’s entry into World War One four months earlier. That change from the hard-hitting satire of Fool Killing was made to show solidarity while the war raged.

In August of 1919 Pearson changed the name back to The Fool-Killer and resumed the hard-hitting political satire. For us fans of Fool Killer lore we can put tongue in cheek and assume that the figure had gone into hibernation for a few years, like he had during the Civil War.   Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART FIFTEEN – O HENRY

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 FIFTEEN: Last time around I examined Joel Chandler Harris’ 1902 story Flingin’ Jim And His Fool-Killer, set in Georgia in October of 1872, plus Ridgway Hill’s Facts For The Fool-Killer, set in and around Buffalo, NY in 1909.

Now we back up a year for the great O Henry’s story The Fool-Killer, published as part of The Voice of the City in 1908. In his younger years O Henry (William Sidney Porter) had personally known Charles Napoleon Bonaparte Evans, the editor of the Milton Chronicle.

Evans was the man behind the earliest written examples of Fool Killer stories and published them as if they were letters from the “real” Fool Killer himself, who claimed Jesse Holmes was his actual name. O Henry started his short story The Fool-Killer by recapping the fame of the folk-figure, claiming he was known “from Roanoke to the Rio Grande.” 

In apparent deference to his old friend Charles Evans, Porter kept Jesse Holmes as the Fool Killer’s “real” name, but introduced some of his own innovations to Fool Killer lore.      Continue reading

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ZACA: VOODOO GOD WHOSE DAY IS MAY FIRST

HaitiVoodoo mythology is a fascinating hybrid of Yoruban, Dahomey, Fon and Christian mythology intermixed with touches from Caribbean belief systems.

Haiti is the central location of the Voodoo belief system but naturally it has spread throughout the world as have other faiths.

Here is a VooDoo god whose Holy Day is today, May 1st.

ZACA – The god of agriculture and the harvest, making him the patron deity of farmers and fieldworkers. Zaca is the friendliest and most approachable of the gods and may be addressed as “Cousin Zaca” if spotted in the fields. He dresses in denims and a straw hat just like the rural Haitians do. In addition,  Continue reading

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FOOL KILLER: PART THIRTEEN – FABLES IN SLANG (1899)

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 on cowcatcherPART THIRTEEN: FABLES IN SLANG (1899)

George Ade, who can be glibly described as a minor league Mark Twain or Ambrose Bierce, was a newspaperman and humorist. All of his work is worth checking out, and I may very well do a series about his writing in the future, but for now I’m dealing only with his use of the Fool Killer in his 1899 work Fables in Slang.

Fables in the Vernacular would be a more accurate title, but that nit-pick aside, Ade’s collection of short fables were wryly humorous. They were written in a sort of “prose haiku” and anticipated Flash Fiction by nearly a century.

Fables in Slang“The written word equivalent of political cartoons” might be another way of describing the fables. In any event Ade did accompany the fables with assorted illustrations.

The Fable Of How The Fool Killer Backed Out Of A Contract is the Ade fable we’re concerned with in this blog post. This tale of the Fool Killer finds him in Alabama, thus adding another state to the territory covered in the travels of the homicidal vigilante. Previously I examined Fool Killer stories set in North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia (back when it included what is now West Virginia).   Continue reading

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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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