You may be familiar with Bobby Mackey’s Music World. The honky-tonk performance venue, located in Wilder, Kentucky which has been a popular feature on many ghost hunting programs and certainly claims a foreboding back story. But are you familiar with the story of Pearl Bryan, the catalyst for much of the purported paranormal occurrences?
To recount the story of Pearl we must first go back to the mid 1800’s. Back then, the lot where Bobby Mackey’s now sits was home to a slaughterhouse and meat packing company that serviced the Cincinnati area beginning in 1850. In the deepest part of the basement of the slaughterhouse an area was dug deep into the ground, a “well” of sorts where the slaughterhouse workers would place the blood and unused entrails of the animals vanquished within its walls. It is this area that is often referred to as the “portal to hell” in Bobby Mackey’s now famous Ghost Tours and is often described as the portion of the building with the most paranormal activity.
It seems that once the slaughterhouse closed for good in the 1890’s the lore surrounding this property just kept coming. Which leads me to the next creepy claim to fame- it is often suggested that throughout the 1890’s and into the next century the former slaughterhouse was left abandoned and reportedly used occasionally by a satanic group for sacrifices as well as a ritual site for area occultists. It is said that the “well”, previously reserved for slaughterhouse entrails became a proverbial “death reservoir” brimming with the hidden remains of small animals that were butchered during their ceremonies.
It is this bit of information that brings us to the horrific events that befell Pearl Bryan. Pearl was just 22 years old when she made her way to Cincinnati. The youngest of 12 children, she was born into a prominent farming family in Greencastle, Indiana. Pearl was a very popular, well educated young lady who had many suitors, however, when she met the well-to-do Scott Jackson seven months earlier through a cousin who attended university with him, she was smitten. Scott Jackson, originally a college student in Indiana, had now gone on to attend graduate school at The Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati. When he made plans for Pearl to come to visit him, she thought she was running off to be married. A secret wedding so to speak. You see, unbeknownst to her family and friends, Pearl was 5 months pregnant with Scott’s baby. She had told her parents she was going to spend some time in Indianapolis but it was all a ruse she had concocted to make her way to the Cincinnati area to rendezvous once again with her love. When she left her family home on that dreary first day of February, 1896 it would be the last time that they would ever see her alive.
Pearl arrived in Cincinnati and she was greeted by her love, Scott Jackson and his roommate, Alonzo Walling. The three of them soon left Cincinnati and ventured across the Ohio River into Kentucky. It was there that Jackson took Pearl to a secluded spot and informed her there would be no wedding- he and Walling would be performing an abortion. Jackson first tried to induce her labor by forcing her to ingest cocaine but when that failed things became much more sadistic. He then tried to use his dental tools in a botched surgical attempt but that too was unsuccessful.
By now Pearl was bleeding and hysterical and it is at this point the story takes an ever darker turn, Jackson and Walling decided to murder Pearl Bryan. The young woman who thought she was going to marry her beau in a secret ceremony, instead, had her head sliced cleanly off- fully decapitated by the man she loved at the 5th neck vertebra with dental instruments.
Not long after the horrific event Pearl’s decapitated body was found in that field near the slaughterhouse, less than a mile and a half from where Bobby Mackey’s sits today.
Walling and Jackson thought removing her head would render her unidentifiable however the well-heeled Pearl Bryan was wearing a pair of custom boots from Louis & Hays, a bespoke shoe store in Greencastle. Because of those one-of-a-kind shoes she was able to be quickly identified by her family.
The coroner at the time reported that Pearl was likely alive during the beheading due to the amount of blood on the underside of leaves gathered around the murder scene. Her head was never found and legend has it that it was used during a satanic ritual at the slaughterhouse and later dumped into the “well of blood.”
Alonzo Walling and Scott Jackson were brought to trial in 1897 and were quickly found guilty and sentenced to death. During the trial it was disclosed that Pearl’s blond hair was found in a valise belonging to Jackson, was that also the mechanism used to secret her head away from the scene?
While on the gallows waiting to die, Alonzo Walling vowed to haunt the area forever. Interestingly, the two were the last men to be publicly hanged at the gallows behind the Newport Courthouse on March 21, 1897. The gallows were torn down soon after. Pearl was returned to Indiana where she was buried at her family cemetery, without her head but impeccably dressed, nonetheless.
Pearl Bryan: A Murder Story. Putnam County Public Library
Legend of the Pearl Bryan Murder excerpted from Troy Taylor’s book No Rest For The Wicked