Pearl Bryan

Scott Jackson and Alonzo Walling were hung, in Newport, having been convicted of the murder of a young woman named Pearl Bryan, from Greencastle, Indiana. Neither Jackson nor Walling, both dental students, ever admitted guilt. Jackson accused Walling; Walling accused Jackson.  They were the last two people to have been hung in Campbell County.

Miss Bryan's headless corpse was found in the general area of the triangle now formed between Fort Thomas Avenue, Grandview, and US 27 in Fort Thomas on February 1, 1896.  At that time, the area was an orchard owned by one J. B. Lock, and was at the end of the streetcar line.  Consensus is that Jackson and Walling, both dental students in Cincinnati, botched an abortion, tried to kill her with cocaine, and beheaded her to keep anyone from identifying her. They brought her to the end of the Kentucky street car line to do the deed. While she may not have been conscious, medical experts of the time concluded she was probably alive at the time her head was severed.

Local investigators were able to trace her through the identification of her shoes, which led them back to Greencastle.

It was a case which garnered national publicity at the time, generated its own folk song, The Ballad of Pearl Bryan, (words here) and is said to be the first known instance of the actual use of the name "Fort Thomas" as a byline.  Because the city of Fort Thomas didn't exist at that time, and because there was a lot of rivalry between the north, central, and south parts of what is now Fort Thomas, there was much dissension in the area, and much blame placed on what was interpreted as the general hooliganism of the Fort, and its inhabitants, by the other parts of the Highlands area.

Twenty years after the hanging, a local paper reported that twenty people per day still visited the site.  The man who owned the farm where the body was found, Farmer Lock, charged a dime to visitors to show them his collection of gruesome pictures, and he also asked them to sign his guest book.  One in twenty five signed the guest books.  Twenty years later, he had four notebooks with 50,000 signatures, including people who came in organized tours.  By that math, there were over 1,250,000 morbid sightseers in the 20 year period.

Forty years after the fact, the Times-Star would call the case "The most sensational criminal case in the local police annals," surpassed today only by the arson at Beverly Hills.

Jackson and Walling were hung in Newport on March 20, 1897, in the front yard of the Newport Courthouse. 

Pearl's body is buried here in a cemetery on the south side Greencastle, Indiana.

Oh, and they never have found the head.


To get to this page, you probably came in, and want to go back, either to the Alexandria page, where there is an image of the jail where Walling and Jackson were held, or the Fort Thomas page where there is a page devoted to Pearl Bryan images.