Based on newspaper accounts from the nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, many from the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal,
the bizarre incidents of the South prove that death can be both surprising and macabre. Inspired by articles from the late 1800s to the 1930s, these true tales retain their accuracy but still aim to tell a good story. The stories vary in theme from Graveyard Gossip and Murders of Egregious Atrocity to Gore Galore and Tales of the Hangman.
From body snatchings and grave robberies to disturbing murders and suicides, these happenings have the potential to inspire horror and humor equally. The ridiculous and apt final sayings attributed to the dead in the section Last Words remind you that joking about death can be a serious offense. Stealing bodies in the nineteenth century became so prevalent, because of the money that could be earned, that relatives of the deceased would spent days in cemeteries guarding their loved ones. One ingenious man from Tennessee even suggested that people fill graves with cement to prevent body snatching.
The medical expertise of physicians at the time did not include knowledge of the subtleties of supposed lifelessness; many times the presumed dead were buried alive only to wake later and attempt to claw their way out of the ground. Mourners in South Carolina had the interesting habit of decorating graves with common items, such as soap dishes, coffee cups, and cigar boxes. Some people did not respect the solemn and timely nature of memorial services: Rev. Dr. Nathanial Pridgeon of Georgia insisted on preaching his at his own funeral, and a woman in West Virginia turned her husband’s tragic death date into her new wedding anniversary.
Covering occurrences from Virginia to Louisiana, North Carolina to Mississippi, these ghastly and sometimes ghostly tales are grossly entertaining and historically unique in that the collection is focused solely on unusual instances of death and dying down South. The book also includes a section listing incidents of the unbelievable phenomenon of black crowds lynching black criminals from the 1870s to the 1940s.