Friday, January 2, 2015

The Murder and Ghost of Pearl Bryan, Part l

A Haunting

Bobby Mackey’s Music World is a nightclub in Kentucky. It is often billed as the most haunted bar in the USA.

Pearl Bryan
It is stated that two murderers and their victim haunt this building.

The victim, Pearl Bryan was murdered in 1896. This crime was touted by newspapers of the time as “The Crime of the Century.”

A Gruesome End

Early in the morning of February 1, 1896 seventeen year-old Jack Hewling was walking along an abandoned lane on the Locke farm where he worked in Wilder, Kentucky. This area was right across the river from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Through the morning mist he spotted what he thought was a bundle of clothes. As he drew closer he saw the outline of what appeared to be a person.

He then realized he was looking at the body of a dead woman. A sense of horror overcame him as he saw that just above the shoulders of this corpse was a bloody stump. The head was missing.

Hewling had just stumbled upon one of the most heinous murders of the 19th century.

Residents who lived in the 3 mid west states involved in this crime: Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio became obsessed with newspaper reports that described every gruesome detail.

Unfortunately, a lot of these reports were more “myth” than reality.

Below are some examples of these sensationalized myths and rumors along with some true facts that newspapers across the U. S. fed to the American public.

Prominent Families

Pearl Bryan was the twelfth child of a prosperous farmer who lived in the small town of Greencastle, Indiana. By the age of 22 Pearl was considered “a catch.”

Scott Jackson
When her cousin, William Wood introduced her to a student, Scott Jackson who attended the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati, she fell in love.

Scott Jackson was a student but he was much older than Pearl.

He came from a prominent family so her folks did not object to his courtship.

In a whirlwind romance Jackson managed to seduce Pearl. She found herself pregnant and hiding this fact from family and friends.

She did confide in her cousin, William and he then alerted Jackson to the fact that he had “a problem.”


Newspaper reports mentioned Jackson was not a typical dentist.

They mentioned he was a member of an occult group that met in a former slaughterhouse in Wilder, Kentucky.

In these reports it was stated that this group often sacrificed animals to pay homage to the devil and then threw their bloody bodies down an old well located in the basement of this building.

Rumors stated that this group also sacrificed mentally delayed children.

It was on this slaughterhouse site where Bobby Mackey’s Music World would be located years later.

Jackson upon hearing the news Pearl was pregnant told William to arrange for Pearl to come to Cincinnati to have an abortion.

Pearl told her parents that she was going to Indianapolis. She then met Jackson and his roommate, a man by the name of Alonzo Walling in Cincinnati. Walling was also a member of the occult group.

Pearl was 5 months pregnant. This would be the last time Pearl’s parents would see her alive.

A Botched Abortion

More sensationalism…

Unbeknownst to Pearl, Jackson intended to perform the abortion. He first gave Pearl chemicals hoping this would work--when it didn’t he took some of his dental tools and went to work.

But this second attempt did not work either. Pearl was now frightened and bleeding.

The two men then took her across the Ohio River into Kentucky where they murdered her in a secluded area near Fort Thomas and the abandoned slaughterhouse.

Using dental tools they ruthlessly severed her head from her body while she was still alive. This fact was determined later because of the presence of blood at the murder scene.

Her mother identified her body later by her clothes.

Depiction of Scott Jackson
murdering Pearl Bryan

The Trials

The investigation led to the arrests of Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling.

Their trails were two of the most bizarre trials in U.S. history.

During these court cases thousands of citizens from far and near stood outside the courthouse clamoring to gain entrance.

Many of these spectators believed all the myths and rumors that had been reported.

William “Will” Wood, Pearl’s cousin, was arrested as an accomplice to this murder but when he agreed to testify against the other two men the charges were dropped.

Walling testified that it was Jackson that had the idea to cut off Pearl’s head so they then could dispose of it in the Cincinnati sewers.

Another myth put forth was that Jackson kept a morbid souvenir of the murder. During the investigation Pearl’s long beautiful blonde hair was discovered in his valise in his room. Her head was never found.

Jackson and Walling were quickly found guilty and sentenced to death in 1897.

At one point, “life sentences” were offered to both men if they would tell where Pearl’s head was located. Both refused. 

Both Jackson and Walling were hanged behind the Newton Courthouse in March of 1897. These were to be the last two public hangings in Campbell County.

Jackson and Walling's
More Bizarre Myths

Many speculated that Jackson used Pearl’s head in a satanic ritual at the slaughterhouse. When he was finished he dumped it down the old well in the basement of this building.

Because of this it was stated that Jackson went to his death rather than to stir up the “devil’s wrath” by revealing this sacrifice.

Along this same line people felt if he had revealed the location of her head he would have also been forced to reveal the names of other members of the occult group and their secret meeting place--the slaughterhouse.

After the trial one Kentucky newspaper account stated that an “evil eye” or curse had befallen several of the police officials and attorneys that were involved in the case.

It seems that they all had a great deal of bad luck and met with tragic ends.

In Part ll of The Murder andGhost of Pearl Bryan, information is shared that the newspapers at the time glossed over. As well as an account of the murder closer to the truth.

No comments: