Gloriana's Crime Blog

Ballads of Murder not Love

Although all of the ballads involved someone killing someone else it was actually hard for me to take some of them seriously because some of the lines didn’t quite work for me. In the Belle Gunness reading for example, the line “she weighed about three hundred pounds, and that is quite some weight” made me laugh and then I found out that she killed a ton of people and we never found out how many.

I had to reread the Omie Wise ballad a couple times to fully understand it. The switching between the tenses confused me, one line says “I got up behind him, and straightway did go” and then further down “he wretch then did choke her, as we understand”. I couldn’t figure out who was telling this story.

I did like how much detail they were able to get into the poems though. I basically knew who killed who or who did what  all while the authors kept a rhyme scheme, which is pretty impressive.

I really enjoyed the Stackalee ballad especially since he killed Billy Lyons because he “dun ruint [his] Stetson hat.” I also liked the warning the author put into the end of the poem, it reminded me of the warnings people would give before being hanged in our previous readings like Esther Rodgers.

On Trial for Lunacy

This reading reminded me of some other readings we have done because of how theatrical and dramatic it was, even though this reading goes beyond the other ones. At first I wasn’t even sure how true crime would fit into the story that was unfolding and then in the last few pages it got crazy.

Like Paul the quote of  “But who would have remembered it then, a man killing his wife?” stuck out to me. It makes me think about how because it seems murderers who are women are more rare, their stories are everywhere and are very popular.  If it was a man killing his wife or lover, we might hear about it but certainly not with the same attention to the actual love story. Instead the author might write about the childhood of the man and how he grew up. I think it was especially popular because of the forbiddenness of the relationship between the two girls.

I also thought it was strange that the girls were encouraged to have relationships with each other because “it kept girls from good families from ruining themselves with men before marriage.” However the instant two girls became serious with their relationship it was completely unacceptable and seen as lunacy. Alice was on trial for lunacy for loving Fred and not murdering her.

Let’s Learn About Murder

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I saw this on tumblr and thought it was pretty interesting and worth sharing!

Violence and Cinderella

When I first read the name Nat Turner, I thought it sounded really familiar and then as I read his confession I remembered we learned about him in school. We didn’t talk much about the actual slave rebellion; it was mainly about the impact of the rebellion and it was a page at most in the text book. It got me thinking how much violence is glossed over in the history books. It may tell you 55 people died, but it doesn’t tell you how many little kids and babies were killed or the fact that some of the slaves made a woman lay next to her husbands corpse before shooting her. The text book also did not mention how smart Nat Turner really was. I don’t necessarily thing that the book should be graphic in its details but I barely remembered the rebellion, it didn’t make much of an impact on me. However the confession will stick with me for a while.

One line that really stuck out to me was “I was not addicted to stealing in my youth, nor have ever been—Yet such was the confidence of the negroes in the neighborhood…that they would often carry me with them when they were going on any roguery.” To me it sounds like stealing was what was expected from African Americans in his time period. He doesn’t say a group, he says “the negroes” which also makes me think it was very prominent because it was expected.

Another thing that stuck out to me was the slave that protected Miss Whitehead and then gave evidence against some of them during their trial. The slave could very easily see why what Nat Turner and his following were wrong while Turner thought it was his calling from God to kill white people.  Violence to end violence only leads to more violence.

The Murder of A Daughter reading really upset me. Not only did they treat the daughter horribly resulting in her death, but they had extremely light punishments in my opinion. To be burnt in the hand hurts, but its not as bad as being given “her own Excrement to eat” when she cried for bread.  The judge expected the realization of what they had done to “be more terrible and shocking to them, than the Punishment they were to undergo.” It of course reminded me of Cinderella as I was reading it. Except in most stories of Cinderella I have read, the father is either dead or just very passive allowing the step mother to torture Cinderella. In this tale the father has a bigger role and helps cause his daughter’s death.

Strang and Swearingen

I feel like almost every crime show has an episode like Jesse Strang’s. A guy falls in love with a girl who makes him kill her husband or boyfriend for money or whatever other reason and most of the time she didn’t love him in the first place. Its unclear to me if Elsie Whipple loved Strang or not but on page 212, he is told that “Mrs. Whipple herself had furnished sufficient proof of his guilt for conviction, and that his case was hopeless.” This leads me to believe that she had no affections for Strang and was just using him. Mrs. Whipple was acquitted even though she may have been the one who came up with the plan to kill her husband in the first place.

It was also strange to me how much the person who wrote down George Swearingen’s story insulted Rachel Cunningham so much. None of the other things we have read put someone in such a bad light especially considering she wasn’t the one who committed the murder.

Some examples: “She was an ignorant, vulgar prostitute of the lowest grade, with no other attraction than a very moderate share of personal beauty” pg 44; “…Cunningham had no more pretension to beauty than the female orangutan lately brought over. Indeed the ape is insulted by the comparison” pg 48; “…and hurt his ignoble mistress” pg 45; “His intercourse with this abominable woman…” pg 47; and “we shall give her answer to his first letter, as it was written, to a comma, to correct the impression that she was well educated and accomplished” pg 62. The letter mentioned in the previous quote is then called “elegant” but I have a feeling that it was called that sarcastically or it was just not meant that way at all.

I don’t know if the author of Swearingen’s story has something against Cunningham personally or if he just disliked all prostitutes but its definitely something to look at considering she did less wrong that Mrs. Whipple did but is treated a whole lot worse.

I thought it was funny how Alexander White believes that he “was harmless to anybody but [himself]” but in the very same page he kills somebody.

No Remorse, Not Much Religion

Its very interesting to me how in all the confessions we have read so far, religion was a main portion of  it and very important to the person even if they believed God could not forgive them and they were going to hell. However religion seems almost an afterthought to Thomas Powers, Joesph Mountain, and William Fly.  Fly refuses to give the “person that had been the instrument of bringing him to justice” page 115 Mountain even uses religion against people making them swear on a bible not to say anything about the crime for eight or ten hours.

Another thing I thought was interesting was how Joesph Mountain spoke of his profession. From page 293, “…I aspired for a more honorable employment, and therefore determined to join my self to the gang of highwaymen…” and from page 292 “…Hyde and Wilson were near at hand; but they did not discover themselves, leaving me ‘to play the hero alone.'” Its obvious Mountain thought very highly of his lifestyle and enjoyed it very much. He never had any remorse for his actions or even pretended to have remorse.

Thomas powers seems very insincere when giving his confession. He wasn’t sorry for his crimes the entire reading but in one sentence we are supposed to believe he is sorry for raping the woman and that he thinks his punishment is just. On page 347, “after a little reflection, however, I fainted , and could not speak for some time. At length I came to myself…” He then sends a letter confessing his crimes to her and “begged pardon” but to me I don’t think he was sorry for what he did and he would have probably done it again had he not been caught and hanged.

Its intriguing that all three men we read about did not have much remorse, if any, for their crimes and they also didn’t seem to have too much religion in their lives either. People who we have previously read about seem sorry for their crimes and wanted God’s forgiveness but I’m not these three men did.

Black Veils and Desensitization

First of all, I wanted to say I thought it was funny that I can handle watching shows as graphic as Hannibal but when I was reading the first chapter and the extremely detailed description of the torturing I had to put the cupcake I was eating down. I think it has to do with the fact that Hannibal is fake; all the blood and gore is just makeup combined with props. The show doesn’t leave much to the imagination its all laid out in front of you and then its gone.  When I was reading the chapter I imagined everything and it stuck with me.  I had to reread some parts to fully understand what had happened and each time I did more details popped out to me and made the scene in my head that much more realistic. I may be desensitized to violence in movies or TV shows but I can’t watch the news because most of the stories depress or horrify me and it was hard for me to read the intro. When the violence and the crime is real I am not desensitized.

The quote from page 14, chapter 1 “…that crime must be faceless. The more monstrous a criminal was, the more he must be deprived of light” reminded me of the story that was talked about briefly in class called The Minster’s Black Veil. I inserted a link to the story here in case you had not read it yet but wanted to. The minister wears the veil to symbolize secret sin and make the people in the town aware of the sins they themselves were doing. I thought it was interesting that in real life the criminal’s face was hidden to deny the criminal light and hide the face of the crime.

Another Meaning for Blood

Going into the readings I was thinking about how blood is used in Pillars of Salt. It shows up in Esther Roger’s story and in Patience  Boston’s story. The line that stuck out to me the most in Esther’s story was “I hope I have hated the evil of my ways; and do hope to have my Soul washed and cleansed in the Blood of Jesus Christ” on page 98. Esther talks mentions the blood in a way that makes me think it represents forgiveness or possibly the holy spirit.

In Patience’s story blood is talked about on page 124. “…when the jury sat on the Body, I was ordered to touch it: This terrified me, lest the Blood should come forth, to be a Witness against me; and I then resolved in my Heart, that I would be a Witness against my self, and never deny my Guilt; so I tho’t God would not suffer the Child to bleed; then I laid my Hand on it’s Face, but no Blood appeared.”  Its a long quote but I feel its an important one when it comes to finding out how and why the word blood is used.  Patience uses blood in a different way than Esther. Instead of cleansing and forgiving her, it proves her guilt.

I also find it interesting that certain words are capitalized. It could just be random but blood is capitalized in both stories and I feel that the capitalization could be pointing to how much importance the word blood carried.

Even though blood might have carried different meanings for people in that time, it obviously held great importance.


Fighting fire with fire

As I read the introduction to Pillars of Salt and about the hanging it got me thinking about the phrase fight fire with fire. I also started thinking that often to stop violence and crimes, we commit violence and crimes. However, if you fight fire with fire you’ll end up with twice the amount of fire to deal with. The harsh punishments are supposed to try to discourage crime and violence but it doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, especially during the time of hangings, it became a spectacle and a way for those who were hanged to become infamous. It also raises the question of why is is okay for the government to kill people when it isn’t okay for normal people to kill people. Why is it justified when a judge or a room full of people decide that a person should be put to death? Killing people because they sinned against God doesn’t make the act of killing someone not a sin. All throughout history there are cycles of crime and violence leading to crime and violence. Because of the human race’s need to be right and our fascination with violence I don’t think it will end anytime soon.

On a somewhat unrelated note; if you don’t watch the show Hannibal I highly encourage it. It is a show based off of the movie and the book Red Dragon. The movie is sort of a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs. The main character is Will Graham and he is so empathetic that he can put himself in the shoes of the murderer and figure out how they committed the crime and why. Its a really interesting concept for me because as a person who is interested in serial killers, I always want to know why they kill people and he is able to figure it out almost effortlessly although it affects him greatly.  Here is the trailer to try to pique your interests. It is graphic so if you can’t handle that I would recommend staying away from it though.

True Crime Response

It took me several hours longer than it should have to read the introduction,  the interview, and watch the video last night. Not because I did want to and procrastinated but because every time I read about a crime that I haven’t heard about or don’t know enough about I had to research it and learn everything I could about it. I looked up plot synopsis to horror movies that I had been to scared to watch because I found out they were biased off of a real crime and read about different serial killers and murderers whose names previously meant nothing to me but the mention of now makes me shiver a little. Especially Ed Gein and everything biased off of him; The Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Psycho, and even a character in the recent show American Horror Story: Asylum.

It reminded me of what we talked about in class, how we are so obsessed with crime and violence and why that is. I personally cant answer that for myself yet even though it has become a big thought in my mind. Whenever I read or watch anything that has violence in it I ask myself why I am so interested yet disgusted at the same time and why many other people if not all feel the same thing. Some people are interested because they want to know how a person could do such atrocious things. Other people live vicariously through these stories. However, there are still many other answers that I have not thought of yet.