Criminal: Episode 24: Pearl Bryan
August 11, 2015 2:40 PM - Subscribe

In February of 1896, a little boy discovered a woman's headless body in a farmer's field in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. No one knew who she was, or what had happened.

Folklorist Sarah Bryan (no relation?) is interviewed about the legacy of Pearl Bryan. The band Elephant Micah on Bandcamp and iTunes, and their guide: How to bring a murder ballad back to life.
posted by Gin and Broadband (5 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Loved this episode.

From How to bring a murder ballad back to life:

- Keep the antiquarian impulse confined to song selection.

- As Tom Scharpling of The Best Show once observed about the concertina, “there is a reason why we replaced those things with electric guitars.”

posted by Gin and Broadband at 2:42 PM on August 11, 2015

I love Criminal, but I'm not sure how I felt about it exactly. Didn't quite grip me, although I'm not sure why.
posted by radioamy at 7:10 PM on August 11, 2015

I thought the episode was quite interesting; I like being reminded how much folk music served as a folk record of real events, and how nowadays it can tell us something about how the past understood itself.
posted by maxsparber at 10:38 AM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

According to Wikipedia, the ghost of Pearl Bryan is still supposed to haunt Bobby Mackey's Music World. (More.) This also became an episode of Ghost Adventures, where they claim to have contacted one of the murders.

I just found a story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer fromThursday, August 5, 1897, called "'Hant' Please for Sympathy" claiming that the spirit of Scott Jackson appeared at a spiritualist meeting and begged the people in attendance to allow him to complete his journey to the afterworld, which had been halted by so many feelings against him as a result of the murder. The story claims the same group had contacted Pearl a year earlier and she had said that Jackson and Walling were not her murders.

The Ghost Adventures people claimed Jackson had confessed to the murder, but maybe he was just sick of waiting in limbo.
posted by maxsparber at 1:56 PM on August 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Pearl Bryan story (and really, the show was more about murder ballads as a genre than her murder itself) could actually have gone several ways. I actually thought the fact that the two boyfriends became celebrities and that women would make up alibis for them was really interesting. That's not an uncommon phenomenon, but it's weird as hell to me.
posted by radioamy at 11:13 AM on August 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

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