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