Murder of Pearl Bryan

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Pearl Bryan was a 22-year-old pregnant American woman from Greencastle, Indiana who was found decapitated in Fort Thomas, Kentucky in 1896.[1] Her head was severed below the fifth vertebra. Due to the murder's gruesome nature, it achieved significant notoriety at the time.[2] More recently, there have been claims that her ghost haunts Bobby Mackey's Music World located in Wilder, Kentucky.


Bryan's body was found headless[3] just behind what is now the YMCA in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. Her body was identified by the tag in her custom-made shoes from Greencastle, Indiana.[3] Pearl Bryan's headless body is buried in the family plot at Forest Hill Cemetery in Greencastle. Scott Jackson was soon arrested for the murder and later implicated Alonzo Walling.[3] Jackson and Walling were later convicted and hanged in early 1897[3] behind the Newport Campbell County Courthouse on York Street, just south of the Taylor-Southgate bridge. They were the last people hanged in Newport. The gallows located behind the courthouse were torn down following the execution. The case was very popular nationally at the time, provoking citizens to take souvenirs from the crime scene (even branches), and buy Pearl Bryan "merchandise" from a store near the Newport Courthouse. One report says the trial was "theatrical." The actual double-hanging was urged to be done hastily due to the threat of a public lynching by friends and relatives of Bryan. Jim Reis, author, historian and well known reporter and columnist for the Kentucky Post, in an article titled "Pieces of the Past," relates that even during a jail break, the two men remained in their cell in fear of being lynched and were heavily protected.

Popular culture[edit]

An episode of Ghost Adventures explored Bryan's murder and claims of supernatural activity at Bobby Mackey's Music World. The Ghost Adventures crew claim an Ovilus device allowed them to contact the spirit of Scott Jackson and hear him confess to the murder.

The case was also featured in an episode of the PRX podcast Criminal, which focused on the many versions of a folk song about the murder.[4]


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