Saturday, October 30, 2010

Needles in the Haystack: Trying to Sift Facts from Natchez Democrat Archives

Chris J. handed off copies to me of several of the items he found in the Armstrong Library archives, of Natchez Democrat articles.  I have studied them from a law enforcement investigation standpoint, and list for you just a few of the notes I came up with in my initial review:

1) The articles from The Natchez Democrat contradict one another (surprise - surprise!), and not just in minor details.  Example, an article from 3/13/1977 states that "it (the dagger) was found in 1932 when repairs were being made on the building and a fireplace collapsed.  The dagger, along with three skeletons were unearthed."  Just three months later, almost to the day, on 6/12/1977, a separate article states that "there were skeletons found back in 1930 when sewage lines were being installed in what is now the restaurant.  The skeletons were buried without ceremony in potter's field.  Later, a jewel encrusted Spanish dagger was discovered when a chimney near the skeleton's former grave, partially collapsed..." 

2) Both do seem to indicate strongly that the skeletons were dug up, and not found in some cavity in a fireplace or chimney, which is alluded to in most of the "ghost stories."

3) It also seems fairly clear now, that the dagger was not even found directly with the bodies or even at the exact same time, but somewhat separate (see items 1 & 5).  Some of the "ghost stories" even say that the dagger was found sticking in the chest of the female.  There is no indication whatsoever, from what we have found so far, that these bodies were even the victims of murder.  It may likely be that they were, but it certainly leaves room for other possible explanations.  For example, these could be the remains of Indians buried there before the white man even came to the territory. For that matter, we have yet to find conclusive evidence that bodies were found at King's Tavern at all.  We have far more evidence of a dagger than any bodies (see photo of Anabel Maxie holding dagger in 3/13/1977 article, and item 4 below).

4) One article states that the dagger was sent off to the "Mississippi Department of Archives" for a study.  In this article (the one from 3/13/1977), Annabelle Maxie (a third article has her name spelled Anabel Young Maxie - which I think is the accurate one) says that the archives department had determined that the dagger was of Spanish origin.  Action Step: get to the MS Archives and locate that study.  Also, keep looking for the dagger itself.

5) A third Democrat article from earlier, on 2/23/1974, which focuses on Anabel's father Thomas Young, says that "the old Spanish dagger was found embedded in the mortar" when "the fireplace in the 'big cellar' was being closed up and some work being done on the chimney...".  Murder or Mortar?  Was this dagger simply being used as a trowel and got misplaced, or was it indeed a murder weapon?  [Something that has always puzzled me:  I know the story in Edgar Allen Poe's The Black Cat is spooky and amazingly clever (except that he bricked up the cat in the process), but can you see someone actually trying to hide bodies that way - bricking them up behind a wall?  How long it would take and all the effort, when all you have to do is go bury them in some dirt?  I mean, think about it.  This is two hundred years ago or so.  You don't just run to Home Depot and buy bricks and mortar and go to work.  Where did they get the bricks, and lime, cement and sand to make the mortar?  Back then that was a HUGE undertaking just to come up with the materials to do something like that.  Meanwhile these bodies are rotting and decaying.  It just never made sense.  

6) A fourth even earlier Natchez Democrat article from June 1949, which seems very detailed, doesn't mention the dagger or bodies being found at all!

I could go on and on.  Those are just a few things we must consider.  It appears that the most real "ghost" of all, in this case, may be the "ghost" of real, factual historical evidence!

1 comment:

  1. My only comment is on point number 5 - it has been done before: bricking bodies, or even live people up behind walls. There are cases where remains have been found like this, but - and this is a pretty big but - as Mike pointed out, in the days before Home Depot and Lowes, you couldn't just go out and buy the bricks, mortar, ect ect., bring'em back to the house and have the job done by the end of the day. I would think that if bodies were found there, and were, in fact bricked up behind the fireplace, then it was probably more a crime of an opportunistic nature, rather than a pre-meditated one; Something happens to precipitate the deaths of these 3 people, and there person or persons responsible are left wondering what to do with them. Maybe there was construction or renovation going on at the time, and they simply seized upon the opportunity. If it was a crime at all. There's no proof that these people died of anything other than natural causes - maybe some kind of outbreak took them, although if they were placed behind a wall afterward, that does raise a few questions in my mind.
    Just my thoughts :)