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Legend of the Pearl Bryan Murder

Excerpts from Troy Taylor's book
No Rest For the Wicked


Wilder, Kentucky is a small town that is located just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. For many years, the town has been subject to visits from curiosity-seekers, tourists, paranormal investigators and media reporters. They come here in search of a place called Bobby Mackey’s Music World, a night club and tavern that may be one of the most haunted, and most sinister, locations in America!

The building where the nightclub is now located has a long and bloody history in the area, from its origins as a slaughterhouse to its tangible link to one of the greatest ghost stories of southern Indiana. It was constructed back in the 1850’s and was one of the largest packing houses in the region for many years. Only a well that was dug in the basement, where blood and refuse from the animals was drained, remains from the original building. The slaughterhouse closed down in the early 1890’s, but legend has it that the building was far from abandoned. According to the lore, the basement of the packing house became a ritual site for occultists. The well was used to hide the remains of small animals that were butchered during their ceremonies.

Apparently, a small satanic group made up of local residents gathered at the empty building, managing to practice their rituals in secret. However, they were exposed in 1896 during one of the most spectacular murder trials ever held in northeast Kentucky. It was so large that tickets were sold to the hearing and more than 5,000 people stood outside the Newport, Kentucky courthouse for information about what was taking place inside. The trial, and the murder that spawned it, has become an integral part of Bobby Mackey’s haunted history.

Pearl Bryan, the daughter of a wealthy farmer, was an attractive, young woman who lived in Greencastle, Indiana in 1896. Unknown to her friends and the polite members of Greencastle society, Pearl was pregnant. She had been seduced by her boyfriend, William Wood, who was the son of a local Methodist minister. Confused and unsure of what to do, Pearl let Wood convince her to have an abortion. Wood had made arrangements for the operation with a friend of his named Scott Jackson, who was then attending the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati. Unbeknownst to Wood, Jackson was an alleged member of the occult group that met in the former slaughterhouse in Wilder.

Pearl left her parent’s home on February 1, 1896 and told them that she was going to Indianapolis. Instead, she made plans to meet with Jackson and his roommate, Alonzo Walling, in Cincinnati. It would be the last time that her parents would ever see her alive. She was at that time five months pregnant.

Jackson’s medical skills were apparently much more inept than he had led his friend William Wood to believe. He first tried to induce an abortion using chemicals, apparently cocaine. This substance was later discovered in Pearl’s system during an autopsy. After that, he tried to use dental tools, but botched that as well. After an hour or so, Jackson and Walling had a frightened, injured and bleeding young woman on their hands and that’s when the story takes an ever darker turn.

A newspaper Illustration of Pearl Bryan

The three of them left Cincinnati and traveled across the Ohio River and into Kentucky. Jackson took them to a secluded spot near Fort Thomas and here, he and Walling murdered Pearl Bryan. Using dental instruments, they severed her head from her body. It was a "clean cut", according to the testimony of the doctor who later examined the body. He also determined that Pearl had been alive at the time because of the presence of blood on the underside of some leaves at the murder scene.

Pearl’s body was found about two hundred feet off the Alexandria Turnpike and less than two miles from the abandoned slaughterhouse. As her head was nowhere to be found, Pearl was identified by her shoes. They bore the imprint of Louis and Hays, a Greencastle shoe company that was able to confirm that they had been sold to Pearl Bryan. During the trial that followed, Walling testified that it had been Jackson’s idea to cut Pearl up and distribute her body in the Cincinnati sewers. Only the head was taken, for which Jackson apparently had other uses. Pearl’s luxurious blond hair was later found in a valise in Jackson’s room.

Pearl’s head was never found and legend has it that it was used during a satanic ritual at the slaughterhouse. It was then dumped into the well of blood and was lost. Jackson and Walling were brought to trial in 1897 and were quickly found guilty and sentenced to death. William Wood was later arrested and charged as an accomplice. Charges against him were dropped when he agreed to testify against the other two men. According to reports, Jackson and Walling were both offered life sentences instead of execution if they would reveal the location of Pearl’s head. Both men refused. They went to the gallows behind the courthouse in Newport on March 21, 1897. It was the last public hanging in Campbell County.

The stories spread that Jackson and Walling were afraid of suffering "Satan’s wrath" if they revealed the location of Pearl’s head. The slaughterhouse was then a closely guarded secret and other occultists would have been exposed if the two men had talked. One reporter commented later that Walling, as the noose was being slipped over his head, threatened to come back and haunt the area after his death. The writer also stated a few days later, in an article in The Kentucky Post newspaper that an "evil eye" had fallen on many of the people connected to the Pearl Bryan case. Legend has it that many of the police officials and attorneys involved in the case later met with bad luck and tragic ends.

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