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The Miracle of Mortality (Murder Ballads)

Billy the Bowl
The Gruesome Ballad of the Lamentable Demise of Klaus Störtebeker and His Executioner
The Ballad of Lady Mondegreen
The Home of Scarlet O’Malley
The Death Wave of Cuil Irra
Jackie the Midwife (Jack the Ripper)
Getting Even with the Lord
The Slaughter of the Innocents (The Bloody Benders)
The Ballad of Belle Gunness
Beyond a Reasonable Doubt
(Carlos De Luna, Johnny Frank Garrett and Cameron Todd Willingham)

The Funny Death of Zig McGown
Windigo Children
The Ghosts’ Asylum
The Mum of Halloween
The Warrior Murders (Queen Maeve)
Avenging the Children
The Wedding of Jo McDaid

Billy the Bowl

There is someone lies dead in the bushes,
left with naught save his body and soul;
someone else arms it down to the Liffey
with the loot of the night in his bowl.
One can still hear the rusty wheels screeching
as his silhouette rolls out of sight,
and the corpse of his victim grows colder
as he vanishes into the night.

He was born on the wrong side of Dublin
without legs, which made him stand out;
a compassionate blacksmith provided
a wheeled bowl so he could move about.
He was liked and renowned as a beggar,
but since begging does not pay a bill,
he exploited alternative incomes,
not depending on people’s good will.

All those silver-spooned folk in their coaches
did not know of a mendicant’s strife,
and as life had been tough with young Billy,
young Billy got tough with life.
Every night he would down a few whiskeys,
then the legless vagrant would lie
in the thicket and wait for a lady
or a nobleman to pass by.

With his plaintive voice he’d be calling
out for help to get out of the ditch;
when a victim bent down to assist him,
he’d be grabbing their throat and hitch
their head in his bowl where he’d strangle
them till all signs of life had ceased,
take their money and other possessions
and return to the bottle, well pleased.

Before leaving the scene, as his trademark
he’d roll over their head once or twice,
and then swiftly return to the shelter
to indulge in his gambling vice.
So whenever you hear someone calling
in distress when you’re out on a stroll,
run away, don’t look back, and remember:
none escaped who met Billy the Bowl!

In 1786, Billy the Bowl was convicted of (a rather crude case of) attempted robbery. However, many people believed that this was not his first time; some suspected that his previous victims had been too embarrassed to come forward, others supported the more morbid theory that they didn’t live to tell the tale, creating the legend of the mass-murdering invalid.


The Gruesome Ballad of the Lamentable Demise of Klaus Störtebeker and His Executioner

Near Stockholm an acquainted captain
sent warnings to all privateers,
and Captain Störtebeker gathered
his dedicated crew of peers.

‘Queen Margaret has defeated Albert
of Sweden who inanely led
his troops to slaughter, and his letter
of marque is worthless now,’ he said.

‘Shall we get settled in East Frisia,
find work and give up everything,
or shall we do what we’ve been doing
without permission from a king?’

‘Get settled? Surely you are joking,’
they mocked Klaus Störtebeker’s call.
‘We will go on as North Sea pirates -
God’s friends and enemies of all!’

And as, for more than one more decade,
the jolly crew attacked and seized
the ships and cargoes of the Hanse,
their wealth and ruthlessness increased.

One morning as their ship was anchored
in Heligoland to stock more ale,
a fleet of cogs approached their vessel,
and Klaus decided to set sail.

One of the pirates had, however,
at dead of night when darkness loomed,
cast molten lead onto the rudder,
and so their enterprise was doomed.

After a short but bloody battle
the captain and, succumbed in style,
six dozen of his men were captured
and brought to Hamburg to stand trial.

And there he offered the lord mayor
a tempting ransom for them all:
a golden chain that could be fitted
around the extensive city wall.

His generous offer was rejected:
‘We shall save more by killing you,’
and after six long months in prison
last meals were served for Klaus and crew.

Grasbrook beside the harbour bustled
with life: magicians could be seen,
musicians, minstrels, jugglers, actors
and children playing on the green.

The prisoners were then escorted
to the location near the dock;
Klaus was the first of all the pirates
to put his head upon the block.

‘One last request?’ the mayor asked him.
‘But don’t request that you be spared!’ -
‘Free all the men whom I succeed to
run past after my neck is bared.’

All the spectators burst out laughing,
including Störtebeker’s crew -
even the members of the Senate.
The mayor said, ‘That we can do!’

The axe came down, and Störtebeker
got up, ran like a headless hen
and, by the time the headsman tripped him,
had passed eleven of his men.

And soon the crowd saw, loudly cheering,
seventy-three men’s heads impaled
along the Elbe, a deterrent
to demonstrate the law prevailed.

The mayor thanked and paid and lauded
the executioner whose smirk
still hadn’t vanished, ‘You, my fellow,
must be exhausted from your work.’

‘Oh, not at all,’ he told the mayor,
‘I have sufficient energy
left over to behead the Senate,’
the headsman jested artlessly.

The Senate lacked the sense of humour
required to let him live, and so
their youngest senator was honoured
to strike a busy day’s last blow.

And where the chopping hill at Grasbrook
spread rampant fears of vengeful dead,
you now can walk along the river
where people rarely lose their head.

But every now and then a chopping
sound can be heard from an obscure
locale, most likely from the harbour...
but then again, you can’t be sure.


The Ballad of Lady Mondegreen

‘Oh highlands mine and lowlands, tell me where you have been?
You’ve slain the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen.’
King James caressed the corpses, ‘Was all my love in vain?
My world is dead, I feel like a miteside in the rain.’

Her heart was light with passion under her stiff baleen:
amongst the dappled roses walked Lady Mondegreen.
This must have been the happiest day of her carefree life,
because King James had told her that he would kill his wife.

The bonny birds were singing in oak and chestnut tree,
the sun dispersed so brightly his rays on land and sea,
the jasmine spread its fragrance, and soon she would be queen:
a spring in every step had Lady Mondegreen.

The Lady was a tomboy when no one looked, and as
she rode out in the country, she swapped her satin dress
for her beloved kilt which her lover disapproved
of in strong terms – however, the girl remained unmoved.

‘I want to meet the Lady,’ the King said to his aide,
but no more in the palace because I am afraid
the Queen might smell a rodent. Fetch Huntly, he will ride
out to the Earl of Moray where I shall meet my bride.’

Huntly received his orders, ‘Go tell the Earl I need
his house; first fetch the Lady from Rathven, and make speed!
I want her kilt torn, mangled! Then bring a candle and,
once lit, a cross. His faith will serve me well, my friend!’

The loyal Huntly saddled his horse; he was not keen
on this foul task but hurried to Lady Mondegreen.
He brought her to the Earl who obliged and took his coat,
and then he grabbed the Lady and cut her pallid throat.

He gently lit a candle and held it in one hand
while stabbing with the other the Earl, the monarch’s friend.
He cut his face severely, and what he – there’s no doubt –
did to the Lady’s body I shall not write about.

The King arrived in very high spirits at the scene
to greet the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen.
‘What happened?’ he lamented as he broke down and cried.
‘I carried out your orders,’ his trusted friend replied.

I want her killed, torn, mangled! Then bring a candle, and
one slit across his face will serve me well, my friend!
’ -
‘Oh highlands mine and lowlands, tell me where you have been?
You’ve slain the Earl of Moray and Lady Mondegreen.’


The Home of Scarlet O’Malley

With the Bishop of Galway I walked down the alley;
we came from the fields and were covered in mud,
as a hovering shadow approached from the valley,
half human, half viscous and covered in blood.
My companion grew pale at the sight of this creature,
and I did the same; she uncovered her face,
or what it once was, and, ignoring the preacher,
she entreated me, ‘Won’t you come home to my place?’

The bishop was gasping for breath and narrated
the story of Scarlet O’Malley who dwelt
in this area decades ago and created
a picture of love as a profligate felt:
she was being considered the ultimate sinner,
and everyone claimed that she was a disgrace
to her village; she haunted the pubs after dinner
and looked for a man to take home to her place.

One evening they found her remains in the Shannon
and brought what was left of her corpse to her house.
Her funeral has been arranged by a canon
who had pity on her; then her furious spouse
was ploughing her grave in a rampaging spell, he
demolished her tombstone and left not a trace,
but Scarlet O’Malley still haunts yonder valley
and looks for a man to bring home to her place.


The Death Wave of Cuil Irra

The August sun unclosed his gates
and smiled on Sligo Bay
where six young women from the States
enjoyed their holiday.

It wasn’t since their childhood that
they saw their native land,
and with a blithe innocuous chat
they sauntered towards the strand.

And there they all tied back their curls,
preparing for a swim,
when an old man approached the girls,
his mien upset and grim,

'Don't swim today! No one is safe;
out on the sea, not far
from here I saw a dark black wave -
the Death Wave of Cuil Irra!'

The women giggled, and they said,
'Old men are so naive -
there's not a myth or legend that
these folk would not believe!'

And as the sound of his heavy boots
was slowly fading away
they slipped into their bathing suits
and headed for the bay.

One stayed behind - she didn’t heed
the others who’d beseech
her to join in; she’d sit and read
and watch them from the beach.

And further out, and further out
they ventured like the erne:
they didn’t hear their comrade shout
who urged them to return.

And where the water nymphs abide
in the shadow of Queen Maeve
they saw a tall blonde lady ride
upon a sombre wave.

Her hair was shining like the sun
that framed her naked breasts,
and with her gentle smile she won
the affection of her guests.

Her eyes were blue as is the sea,
the spray pearled off her skin
as she commanded, ‘Come with me
to the Island of Maguin!’

The women watched her, willingly
and keenly following,
but halfway to the island she
became a different thing.

Her golden locks turned into snakes,
foul scales appeared beneath
her waist, and like a row of stakes
she showed her canine teeth.

The frightened women turned away
in terror, and they fought
to escape her grip, but soon the bay
claimed what it long had sought.

And seconds later they were gone
to share the icy grave
of all who e’er laid eyes upon
the Sorceress of the Wave.

No one encountered her of late;
she hides from sun and star,
but somewhere she still lies in wait –
the Death Wave of Cuil Irra!


Jackie the Midwife

Jacqueline, a midwife in London,
shrunk back and grew pale as a ghost:
of all the things she was scared of,
a breech birth she feared the most.

She carefully pulled, and she twisted
until she delivered his head;
she saw his blue face as she severed
the cord, and she knew he was dead.

And Tess, his unfortunate mother,
was smiling, ‘I have to admit
this child would have been quite a burden:
thank God you got rid of it!’

Back home Jackie hung her head, sighing,
‘I’ve made a mistake I despise
myself for, but how could a mother
delight in her baby’s demise?’

She tried to forget it, but people
would shun her or spit in her face,
the pub down the road wouldn’t serve her,
she was out of work within days.

One night Tess’ friend Polly approached her,
‘I am in a terrible mess!
I hope you’ll be able to help me;
you were recommended by Tess.’

She guessed what the woman expected.
If not me, she thought, someone else
will do it. I won’t save the baby,
so I’ll do as my conscience compels.

‘No problem, my dear,’ Jackie answered,
‘I’ve got all my tools,’ and she smiled,
‘I’ll do it right here in that gateway,’
slit her belly and ripped out the child.

A week later she ran into Annie
who’d liquidised most of her wage,
‘Oh, can you imagine the shame of
getting pregnant again at my age?

‘Tess said you could fix it,’ she babbled
and was dragged to a yard. In the space
of seconds she lost her intestines
which were scattered all over the place.

Long Liz delivered a message
to Jackie one evening, ‘It’s Kate.
Tess told her about you; she’s hoping
you’ll help her before it’s too late.

‘She’ll wait in the yard or the driveway
of the workers’ club around one,’
so Jackie got out her equipment
to get yet another job done.

The yard was pitch-black. In the darkness
she tried to find Kate anyhow.
A voice said, ‘I’m here,’ and she answered,
‘Let’s get this over with now!’

She grabbed her shawl, and she wrestled
the woman down to the ground
and cut her throat in an instant,
because she could hear a faint sound.

A carriage rolled into the driveway,
showing Jackie that she’d been remiss:
in the flickering light of its lantern
she noticed the woman was Liz.

On Mitre Square half an hour later
she froze as she ran into Kate.
‘I’m sorry, I was with a client;
did Liz not ask you to wait?’

‘The square,’ Jackie answered, ‘is quiet,
I think we can do it right here.’
She took out her guts and her baby
and cut off her nose and her ear.

One day Mary Jane went to Jackie,
‘Tess told me how helpful you’ve been...’ -
‘I’ll meet you tonight at the stable,’
she replied with a bitter grin.

‘I’ve got my own lodgings. Please see me
tonight between three and four.’
When Jackie arrived with her toolkit,
Mary Jane came to answer the door.

‘I’m glad I’ve my room,’ she told Jackie
as she carelessly kicked off her shoes
and undressed from the neck to the ankles,
‘with that terrible man on the loose.’

She spread her legs on the mattress,
unaware of her pending doom,
and Jackie, with well-placed incisions,
removed her child and her womb.

Since then, no one else came to Jackie,
yet no one informed the police;
henceforth the Whitechapel harlots
have lived in relative peace.


Getting Even with the Lord

The church was empty, dark and cold as he knelt down to pray
after his dad, his wife and their five children passed away,
killed on Croagh Patrick by a fierce enormous avalanche,
dealing the sudden deathblow to the Lawless family branch.

And as he looked up from his prayer, seeking the Saviour’s grace,
he saw the crucifix and found a smirk on Jesus’ face.
So Murphy shook his fist and said, ‘You’re not a god who cures -
you’ve taken seven of my people, now I’ll take seven of yours!’

He then sought out the seven men and women in the church
who were more pious than the rest and followed this research
with studies of their weaknesses; they all could be enticed
to have their poor immortal souls taken away from Christ.

First he approached Miss Molly Dwight, a mousy teenage girl,
and told her, ‘You are beautiful! If you would only curl
your hair and wear some fancy clothes, I’m sure you’d turn the head
of every single man in town – and every single lad.’

That day Miss Molly got a perm and bleached her hazel hair,
she bought a short pink dress, and now she basks in every stare
that’s thrown her way. She holds her head up high, and she looks down
on all the other teenage girls whose colour still is brown.

He went to Mrs Miggins who, as she did every year,
was baking cakes for charity and said, ‘Why are you here?
Your cakes and biscuits are superb - why waste your gift? I am
surprised you feed the church instead of simply selling them.’

Today old Mrs Miggins owns a busy bakery
in town, and it’s been said that she gives nothing away for free.
She piles up money while her staff get less than minimum wage,
and any talk of charity will put her in a rage.

Then there is Mr Brown, a man who’s friendly and polite,
a model husband with a crush on little Molly Dwight.
He had confessed to Murphy once, ‘I’d love to take her out,
but at our age we’ve got no chance,’ and Murph replied, ‘No doubt.’

But one day Murphy asked the girl to play a prank on friends,
and so they passed Brown’s house at night, laughing and holding hands.
And through the window he saw Brown grow pale and clench his fist
and bang his head against the wall as he and Molly kissed.

McSharry was a misanthrope and hated dogs as well,
especially the ones that crapped at his front door. He’d yell
at anyone who came too close, he’s cross and has been known
to throw a beer can at a man or the occasional stone.

So Murphy took his favourite cow out for a walk nearby,
and at McSharry’s door he let it drop its little pie.
The landlord came out with a gun; the two did not persist,
yet he kept shooting after them but fortunately missed.

Mr O’Malley had five kids and, as he claims, no more
encounters with his wife, for he thinks intercourse is for
this purpose only, and his wife confirms he never glanced
at other ladies, never drank and never ever danced.

But Murphy caught him after Mass and pulled him to the side
and showed him Molly’s photographs. His pupils opened wide,
and with a new-found lecherous grin upon his face he said,
unaware he spoke aloud, ‘I’d love to get my hands on that!’

Then there was dainty Mrs Walsh who hardly touched a bite;
as she would say, ‘To eat much more than needed isn’t right.’
However, she did have a weak spot for banana bread –
one trip to Mrs Miggins, and her temperance would be dead.

So Murph invited Mrs Walsh to biscuits and to tea.
‘I’ll have a nibble,’ she complied, tried a variety
of different types like bánh chuoi, and in the little space
of minutes she had lost control and stuffed her temperate face.

To make the world a better place, Jim Carr had volunteered
to help the homeless, feed the poor and, though the others sneered,
to spread God’s word. They did forget his birthday, this is true,
but those who want to save mankind will say, ‘It’s not ‘bout you!’

‘There’s agony throughout the world, but God and church don’t care,
and you won’t make a difference; they don’t even know you’re there.’
He thought about what Murphy said, withdrawing more and more
from all his tasks, stays home and does not even answer the door.

‘You’re seven down,’ Murph told the Lord when back at church. ‘You’re mince,
for your most virtuous children have committed deadly sins.
I see your smirk has disappeared; don’t ever mess with me
again!’ - But then his mobile rang; it was his wife’s GP.

‘I didn’t let you know before to let your grief subside,
but I must tell you that your wife was pregnant when she died.’
Murphy sat down and caught his breath, close to a heart attack;
he looked up at the crucifix, and Jesus’ smirk was back.


The Slaughter of the Innocents

Desperate and greatly flurried,
Colonel York approached the store’s
entrance with some fifty worried
riders and got off his horse.

Kate, the owners’ sensual daughter,
greeted him and asked him in,
offered him a drink of water
and revealed a bit of skin.

Affably he was positioned
in the ‘honour seat’ before
one large curtain that partitioned
living area and store.

As Ma Bender started cooking,
Kate remarked, ‘If you allow,
John, my husband, will be looking
after all your horses now.’

With a side glance to her mother,
Kate enquired, ‘What brings you here?’
Colonel York replied, ‘My brother
vanished earlier this year.

‘He was looking for a party
who themselves had disappeared,
and they’d all stayed here.’ The hearty
woman said, ‘This town is feared.

‘There have been a lot of cases
since the Indians were removed;
they still lurk around these places,
and their methods have improved.’

Then she claimed, ‘I hear your brother,’
closed her eyes and raised her head.
‘She’s a medium,’ her mother
pointed out, ‘and calls the dead.’

Old Pa Bender grimly uttered
something, but there was no way
of deducing what he muttered.
‘And, what does my brother say?’ -

‘Sir, he wills you to locate and
execute the Osage who
robbed and killed him; hesitate, and
they’ll be out of reach for you.’

Right behind him, undetected,
John stood ready but withdrew;
psychopathically connected
to his spouse, he got the cue.

Colonel York then left to question
other homesteads near the site.
‘I’ll consider your suggestion,
but the thugs may well be white.’

Soon a meeting of all decent
men was hosted to propound
their ideas about the recent
disappearances around.

Brockman said, ‘What ails our village
are the Osage, doubt me not!
Since they were removed, they pillage,
and they kill. Let’s slay the lot!’

John and old Pa Bender strongly
nodded, but one neighbour’s claim
was, ‘The Indians are wrongly
feared - the Benders are to blame!’

‘Which is possible if awful,’
York concluded. ‘We should look
at all homesteads, but the lawful
way; we’ll do this by the book!’

As he waited for the warrants
which, he hoped, would turn the tide,
all the Osage suffered torrents
of abuse and homicide.

After days he was alerted
that amidst the township’s fears
Bender’s place had been deserted,
so he sent some volunteers.

As they pulled the place asunder,
they were in for quite a treat,
for they found a trap door under
the suspicious ‘honour seat’.

An unholy smell ascended
from the bloodstained pit below,
and the Colonel recommended
they start digging high and low.

Finally he found his brother
in the field as evening fell;
in the morning hours, eight other
bodies were unearthed as well.

They’d been bludgeoned through the curtain
with a hammer to the head,
and their wide-slit throats made certain
they were genuinely dead.

One girl had been spared that trial,
though she, too, did not survive;
sadly, there was no denial
that they’d buried her alive.

When the story broke, the vendors
sold more papers and supplied
details since the Bloody Benders
now were wanted nationwide.

Following these revelations,
scores of vigilantes killed
them in dozens of locations,
as their victims would have willed.


The Ballad of Belle Gunness

Quite merry and unmarried, Brynhild
put on her dancing shoes,
went to the ball with her rich lover
and told him the good news.

He snapped, threw Brynhild on the dance floor,
shouted at her and spat
her in the face and kicked her stomach,
turned round and grabbed his hat.

She got up early one bright morning,
sneaked to his door and smiled:
his breakfast milk, spiced up with strychnine,
avenged their unborn child.

She went aboard an ocean liner
thereafter, said farewell
to Norway, travelled to the States
and changed her name to Belle.

And there she married, had four children
and ran a little store
with Mads, her spouse, and bill collectors
who lined up at the door.

Alas, the store caught fire one evening,
the flames she could not douse,
but they were paid by the insurance
and bought a bigger house.

That house burnt down as well, and with the
insurance money paid
they bought an even better home
where their children laughed and played.

One day two of their little children
just after lunch turned white,
complained of stomach cramps and fever
and died that very night.

Belle cashed her children’s life insurance
and for a little sum
adopted a girl called Jennie Olsen
who gladly called her Mum.

Yet all too soon she’d spent the money;
her husband in his mild
manner announced, ‘It seems we’ll have to
trade in another child.’

But Belle had other plans. Her husband
died on the only day
when two insurance companies
were liable to pay.

She bought a farm and met Pete Gunness,
a rich man from La Porte
with his two daughters. They got married;
their marriage was quite short.

His younger girl died in Belle’s arms.
While working in the shed
to fix a chair, a sausage grinder
fell on Pete Gunness’ head.

Gust Gunness heard the news and rushed to
his brother Pete’s estate
in time to save his other niece
from a corresponding fate.

As Belle cashed in the life insurance
(the best she’s ever had),
Jennie confided in her classmate,
‘My mum has killed my dad.’

Jennie then faced the coroner’s jury
but blatantly denied
her accusation; Belle was pregnant,
and so they let it slide.

Belle then employed and became engaged to
the farmhand Ray, and when
Jennie was gone, she advertised in
the papers for a man:

Comely young widow with large farm
seeks gentleman nearby
to meet with view of joining fortunes.
No triflers need apply.

The suitors came with loads of money
to prove their wealth; they found
a massive woman in her forties
but chose to stay around.

They did succeed in joining fortunes,
of this there is no doubt:
dozens of men walked into her farmhouse,
but only one walked out.

George Anderson had gone to bed
after a glass of wine
while Ray was digging at the hog pen
and Belle was feeding swine.

But he awoke to quite a nightmare
in the middle of the night:
his sturdy hostess standing over
him in the candlelight.

With a foreboding stare, a cleaver
and a pad of chloroform
she looked to him like the Grim Reaper,
lit by a thunderstorm.

He screamed, she ran – he made his lucky
escape. Since this went wrong,
the pigs went hungry the next evening,
but not for very long.

The men kept coming and signed over
deeds and cashed cheques for Belle;
some relatives were asking questions
but disappeared as well.

Annoyed with him, she fired her farmhand
who strove to be her spouse
and told police that he had threatened
that he’d burn down her house.

She hired a farmhand and a dainty
housekeeper who would fill
Ray’s place, emptied her bank accounts
and then drew up her will.

That night the farmhand woke up smelling
a fire, ran down the stair
and called for help and kept on running
in his white underwear.

But meanwhile the entire building
was burnt right to the ground;
amongst the debris soon Belle Gunness’
remaining kids were found.

Belle’s tiny corpse lay right beside them;
they never found the head.
‘Look how the fire has shrunk her body,’
the County Sheriff said.

The gruesome story spread like wildfire,
and anyone who read
it in the L.A. Times might also
have come across this ad:

Comely young widow with large farm
seeks gentleman nearby
to meet with view of joining fortunes.
No triflers need apply.


Beyond a Reasonable Doubt

This court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is 'actually' innocent.
(Meaning: It is not unconstitutional to have an innocent person executed.)
- Judge Scalia, US Supreme Court

It's worse than you thought, Frank. It's darker in here than you would have imagined.
- John Bennett Allen, US juror and author who assisted me in my research

'No, it was Hernandez' - climbing
in the car, Carlos De Luna
realised his awkward timing,
took a breath and then declared,
'I saw him leave!' - 'And didn't tell us sooner?' -
'I drank, though on parole, and I got scared!'

'That's why you were hiding under
pickups? No one will defend you!
Where's your shirt and shoes, I wonder?' -
'When I scaled a fence, the shirt
got stuck.' The cop replied, 'I understand you.
If I were in your shoes, I, too, would spurt!'

Minutes earlier a station
had been robbed; the clerk was calling
9-1-1, the situation
escalated, and the man
stabbed her repeatedly. When she was falling,
passing another customer, he ran.

Wanda Lopez died. The fitness
of police made sure to capture
their sole suspect, and the witness
was brought over to the car.
'Are you quite sure that's him?' one asked with rapture
and added with a smile, 'I'm sure you are.'

One was sceptic, 'I'm recalling
that you mentioned a Hispanic
with a moustache; was it falling
off? And can you answer me:
where's his grey shirt?' - The witness didn't panic,
'It was quite dark, I didn't really see.'

The police force trampled through the
bloody footprints, not faint-hearted,
and took photographs. 'Let's do the
paperwork. - That's all, I guess.'
They took the knife, five dollars and departed,
telling the day shift clerk to clean the mess.

As De Luna's eyes grew misty
from a few detectives' roasting,
the police in Corpus Christi
soon were swamped with many a call,
claiming Carlos Hernandez had been boasting
about the Lopez murder in a brawl.

The authorities kept searching
for the driver who'd warned Wanda
of a man whom he'd seen lurching,
and who caused her to alert
police; meanwhile a man discovered under
a bush De Luna's shoes and clean white shirt.

Without evidence that placed him
at the scene, they were dependant
on that witness; once they traced him,
he, asked whom he saw that night,
made two attempts to point out the defendant
in court - the second time he got it right.

'If you demonstrate repentance
and plead guilty during trial,
we will give you a life sentence;
you won't have to die.' - 'I guess
you didn't take the time to read my file -
I'm innocent, and I shall not confess!'

Prosecution, without cessation,
said, 'Confess it, we implore you!
You were running from the station,
you were present at the time!
You've been identified by two who saw you:
one at the door, and one commit the crime!'

'No, it was Hernandez, won't you
listen, please!' De Luna blurted
out. 'We look alike; why don't you
bring Hernandez here - you'll see!' -
'Hernandez is a phantom,' they asserted,
knowing the phantom was in custody.

After his arrest for robbing
yet another store with shocking
cruelty, Hernandez, gobbing
blissfully, talked of the day
he'd murdered Wanda Lopez and kept mocking
Carlos De Luna who would have to pay.

Though De Luna kept enquiring,
all his statements were neglected,
and the jury were retiring.
When the jurors came back out,
the verdict was announced, just as expected,
'Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.'

In the prison yard, an inmate
asked him, 'Carlos, will you grace me
with your presence? How've you been, mate?
You have stabbed a clerk, I heard?' -
'It was Hernandez; they can't even place me
inside the station where the crime occurred.

'They've no evidence, and chiefly
all they have are two misguided
witnesses who think they briefly
saw me in the dark that day.' -
'Welcome to death row; Uncle Sam decided.
I'm Joe, and I will be your guide today.'

Both discussed their murder cases
in the years that followed, talking
of their apprehensive chases,
of appeal and of reprieve,
and every time the two of them were walking
the yard, they wondered who'd be first to leave.

'Who is this? It seems that guy is
far too young for this solution.' -
'He is said to be impious;
that is Johnny Garrett, son,
who was a minor when, as prosecution
convinced the court, he raped and killed a nun.'

When his time had come, De Luna
met the chaplain. 'God has sent us
many trials, and the sooner...' -
'Will I suffer?' he enquired.
'You'll be unconscious once the needle enters -
it's swift and painless, just as you desired.'

He was strapped into the gurney
and the needle was injected.
Going on his final journey,
Carlos never closed his eyes,
stared at the chaplain, turned his head and acted
as if he tried to speak, to his surprise.

Once again his head was moving
to the side as if he'd ponder
over something. Disapproving
of his fate, De Luna tried
to tell the world once more who murdered Wanda,
and with that name nobody heard he died.

Joe befriended Johnny hours
after Carlos went, ungrieving.
'I've been framed by mystic powers,
but the system can not fail
the innocent on death row; I'm believing
that in the long run justice will prevail.' -

'Oh, the system's gonna fail you!'
Joe's approach seemed very buoyant.
'Tell me, son, how did they nail you -
polygraph or crystal ball?' -
'I was accused by Bubbles the Clairvoyant,
a girl whose dream revealed my guilt to all.

'Ten old women in my city
have been raped by a Hispanic
man who showed no shame nor pity
as he brutally fulfilled
his sick desires, less human than satanic,
and Narnie Bryson was the first he killed.

'She'd been raped and badly beaten,
suffocated with her pillow,
and then strangled by the cretin
till her life had slipped away:
the devil had arrived in Amarillo,
and still remains there to this very day.

'Halloween the culprit gambled -
raped another geriatric,
leaving her for dead, and ambled
to the convent in my street
where he proceeded to pursue a hat trick
by butchering a nun as trick-or-treat.

'Just like Narnie Bryson, Sister
Tadea Benz had long been working
with the refugees; when Mister
Hill, DA, was called and came,
a witness claimed he'd seen a Cuban lurking
around - Hill said the killer was the same.

'Everything the perpetrator
left behind was soon collected:
semen they disposed of later,
blood and bundles of black hair
from bed and nightgown, others were detected
upon her face and body - everywhere!

'Afterwards police were catching
their main suspect; from the station;
since the blood types weren't matching,
they released him, and no gleam
of hope encouraged their investigation
till Bubbles saw the murder in a dream.

'She described a brown-haired slender
teenager with facial features
like Abe Lincoln; the offender,
as she said, lived in a small
white house nearby and drove his mum and teachers
insane by being as slow as he was tall.

'So policemen chauffeured Bubbles
round the town until she spotted
our white house; that's when my troubles
slowly started to unfurl.
I was arrested, and since then I've rotted
in prison for the vision of a girl.

'True, my fingerprints were lifted
at the scene; a few days prior
Tim, my friend, and I had sifted
through her drawers to collect
some necklaces. They're calling me a liar,
though Tim has testified to that effect.

'They condemned me without viewing
evidence, called me a demon,
said they knew what I'd been doing,
never matched my blood or hair
to that found at the scene, threw out the semen,
and dared to tell me that my trial was fair.

'They did not believe my mother,
and they weren't even trying
to connect me to the other
murders. Not a doubt about
the jury's verdict who will have me dying:
"Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."'

'Some last words?' - The man inflamed him;
Johnny, while the clock was ticking,
put a curse on those who framed him.
'Anything besides this?' - 'Yes,
I thank my friends and family for sticking
with me. The rest of the world can kiss my ass!'

When they started to deliver
the injection, he turned stiller,
couldn't scream nor breathe nor shiver
till the toxin's work was done,
twelve years before they captured Bryson's killer
who also bragged he'd raped and killed a nun.

After Johnny's death, the callous
Joe approached another churning
prisoner. The men at Ellis
liked to mix, but none of them
was talking to the man accused of burning
his children: Cameron Todd Willingham.

Will the state continue killing
without evidence, I wonder?
Will the system keep on spilling
innocent blood to please the crowd,
or close a case, or cover up a blunder? -
They will, beyond a reasonable doubt.


The Funny Death of Zig McGown

He left the pub; his footing was unstable,
and he could feel the drink in every limb.
He crossed the street as far as he was able,
and then he saw the car in front of him;
he scrutinised the driver through his lenses
before he crushed the windscreen with his head,
lay on the bonnet and dismissed his senses.
One of his friends was sure that he was dead
and argued that it was too late
to help him, but another mate
called, while some helpers took him down,
an ambulance for Zig McGown.

Onlookers gathered, and a lot of jealous
lads talked quite disrespectful and uncouth;
the ambulance came flying, and the zealous
young men jumped out and gave him mouth-to-mouth,
opened the back and threw their patient in it,
swiftly switched on the siren and were gone.
They reached the hospital within a minute,
but as the oxygen had been left on,
the ambulance blew up; the men
recovered from the shock and then
went to the back where with a frown
they rescued parts of Zig McGown.

The daisies blossomed, and the tart aroma
of disinfectant spread across the ward
where Zig McGown lay in a months-long coma,
halfway between the doctor and the Lord.
One afternoon his caring wife nipped over;
her lover hid behind the screen,
and as she kissed her husband, she tripped over
the cables of the life-support machine.
One groan, one jerk - then all was still
save the alarm clock on the sill,
and they bemoaned all over town
the funny death of Zig McGown.


Windigo Children

‘Children, even though we’re famished,
be not tempted to resort
to the custom we don’t speak of
lest your souls be torn athwart.

‘With the rotting corpses lying
all around us in the mud,
don’t eat anybody’s body,
don’t drink anybody’s blood.

‘If you do, you’ll have a nightmare,
and the Windigo will rise
from your dreams and wake you roughly
to an odious surprise.

‘You will smell his desiccated
suppurating yellow skin,
see his lipless face and antlers
and his diabolic grin.

‘With his massive claws he’ll grab you,
claws to penetrate and slash,
till he finally will sink his
jagged fangs into your flesh.

‘Growing as he eats but never
full, his stomach an abyss,
he is forced to keep on feeding
while remaining ravenous.

‘Once he has devoured your body,
he will prey on those nearby,
and it’s only by starvation
that the scrawny beast can die.'

‘twas a gloomy Sunday evening
and the children were in bed
when the Windigo came reaping
both the living and the dead.


The Ghosts’ Asylum

When spirits are evicted
from their locations,
with tribulations
and worries they’re afflicted.

The ghost then roams the mountains
and haunts the highlands,
the plains and islands,
the holy wells and fountains.

Without a home, he’s screamin’
in woods and valleys,
in yards and alleys,
the shadow of a demon.

But Father Flynn of Baygrant
once met a witty
ghost and took pity
on wraiths displaced and vagrant.

He made their plight his mission
and helter-skelter
provided shelter
for many an apparition.

His kindness and his labours
were soon rewarded;
his spectres hoarded
the chattel of the neighbours.

He granted absolution
and kept the plunder;
his flock felt under
unearthly prosecution.

But those who chafed the parson
incurred the visits
of grisly spirits,
committing theft and arson.

The lavish cleric nourished
God’s sheer creations;
for generations
the Ghost’s Asylum flourished.

Still preaching and forgiving,
he reaps his perks here;
though he still works here,
God knows if he’s still living.


The Mum of Halloween

As the local crime reporter
once I had my time of glory
when they captured Psycho Corter,
and I was there a the scene -
since then I haven't had a thrilling story
until I found the Mum of Halloween.

It all started when Jane Rafter,
journalist, fell past my office
on the thirteenth floor. Thereafter,
with a thud, she hit the ground;
they gave the story to some callow novice
and left me once again with Lost and Found.

She was popular and wealthy,
she had seen all lands and nations,
was successful, young and healthy
while I struggled fruitlessly:
a miracle with lavish decorations
could have sufficed to keep my job - maybe.

As I walked back home, the city
was engaged in speculation,
and her suicide caused pity
everywhere. Back home from town
I found a parcel; with anticipation
I lit the fire, unwrapped it and sat down.

In a note Jane Rafter told me
how she loved my work on Corter,
that she hated how they sold me
out, and that she wanted me
to publicise her scrapbook as reporter
who does not bow to pleb nor bourgeoisie.

In her scrapbook she admired
old Liz Bathory, the lady
by whose deeds she was inspired
and whose record she would break,
'Six hundred fifty is not bad, My Lady,
but you got caught for making a mistake.

'I got thousand, unsuspected,
and won't hear the condemnation
of the masses. I corrected
flaws that caused the others' fall:
they chose one type of victim, one location,
and just one single way to kill them all.

'Children, men and women perished
by my knife, my hands, my pistol,
poison, rope and my most cherished
baseball bat that bears my name,
from Nuuk to Perth and from Okhotsk to Bristol;
nobody thought the killer was the same.

'No one ever killed as many
as I did by constant moving,
and I do not think that any
other person ever will.'
She had attached the victims' pictures, proving
she was the one who made each single kill.

'Why pick me?' - I felt like crying.
Suddenly the air grew chiller,
and the fire was nearly dying;
not supporting her desire
to be the world's most famous serial killer,
I threw her note and scrapbook in the fire.


The Warrior Murders

Once people built their homes with stones they took from
the cairn where legend says Queen Maeve
lies buried with her sword; when they were carried
away somebody robbed the grave.

And on the day that followed storm clouds gathered
heavily over Sligo Bay;
the fearful farmers soon brought in their cattle
and stowed their carts and tools away.

Chief constable McGuire was disappointed:
he knew he caught the highwayman,
but as no loot was found in Murphy’s cottage
he had to let him go again.

That night he stumbled homewards through the tempest,
hoping the fire had been put on
for him already, but on his arrival
he found his wife Edel was gone.

Man will break up; he’ll talk about the reasons
and slam the door right in your face -
woman sneaks out; she’ll leave the back door open
and disappear without a trace.

For days, for months or years she’ll keep you guessing
what happened since you last have met;
forever you will wreck your head, not knowing
whether to worry or forget.

A crowd of peasants woke him after midnight,
entreating him to lose no time;
they said the old McGuires had just been murdered
and brought him to the scene of the crime.

It was the first time that he saw his parents
who always vaunted their success
since they had disinherited their offspring
for marrying a local lass.

He was appalled when looking at their bodies,
cut clean in half from head to crutch,
and he remembered how they used to fawn on
their better half they loved so much.

The witnesses' reports appeared fantastic,
but their accounts were in accord:
the murderess was a tall and handsome lady
on horseback with a golden sword.

He searched for evidence which indicated
who sent his folks to Fiddler’s Green,
but while investigating he was summoned
to yet another murder scene.

Murphy lay cut in half beside the main road,
though armed, he couldn’t save his life;
he wore the hat and mask he’d worn that evening
he stopped McGuire and robbed his wife.

Many a suspect woman was arrested,
interrogated and then sent
to gaol, but just before she hanged, another
murder would prove her innocent.

Although McGuire appointed posts and watchmen,
the homicides continued still:
his wife who had been living with a farmhand
was found in and beside a rill.

The county lived in fear, firmly believing
that darkest forces were unfurled,
and the engrossed chief constable was left now
without an enemy in the world.

One morning he had all his men assembled,
his face was pale, his voice was grave,
‘I found the answer to the Warrior Murders -
I think we’re looking for Queen Maeve!

‘There is a postulate,' the chief remembered,
‘that has been taught since ancient Greece:
the soul of one whose body is not covered
by earth can never rest in peace.

‘Who rose her from the grave controls her spirit,
and she will act at his command;
wherever hidden, she will trace his victims -
no one can stop her if we can’t!'

Hundreds of volunteers swarmed out to help them
and combed the hill, the glen, the strand;
they found her stately skeleton in the woodland,
her bloodstained sword clasped in her hand.

Once more the Queen was buried by the peasants
who piled up stones and made the vow
not to disturb her bones upon the mountain,
and there she rests in peace - for now.


Avenging the Children

Khrabanas and his wife Khrabina strutted
across the cornfield as the sun stood high,
but when a burst of gunshots barely missed them,
they sought the shelter of the woods nearby.

After the shock, they made their journey homewards
and checked that all their young ones were all right,
and, to be safe, the two stayed on the lookout
throughout the evening and throughout the night.

Next day their oldest one announced, ‘I’m ready
to leave the nest and Mummy’s apron strings,’
but Father said, ‘It’ll be another fortnight
before the lot of you can spread your wings.’

‘Don’t get your glossy feathers in a ruffle,’
his son replied, got up and stood upon
the threshold of their elevated eyri
‘Watch, I can fly!’ he shouted and was gone.

He flapped a little on his travel downwards
and landed in the bushes on his back;
the farmer’s drooling dog came running over,
considering the raven chick a snack.

It soon let go as the protective parents
kept pecking at its head and fled in fear;
the chick was brought to safety, but they worried,
‘Let’s hope it doesn’t lead the farmer here!’

When later on they found a rabbit’s carcass
amidst the field, Khrabanas played it safe,
‘The farmer may have laced the corpse with poison;
let’s feed the dog to find out if it’s trafe.’

And so he soared above the shabby doghouse
and dropped a bone beside the creature’s head;
as he returned to it a short time later,
the troublesome revolting dog was dead.

One morning as the mother fed the young ones,
the foaming farmer shouted, ‘You are done!
Now that I’ve found your nest, you bloody ravens
will go to hell!’ spat out and aimed his gun.

The parents swooped at him, but at that moment
the gun went off and killed the chicks; they flew
around their blood-stained eyrie as the farmer
kept firing, smirked and swore, ‘I’ll get you, too!’

When realising there were no survivors,
the broken-hearted couple did depart
to find another place to build an eyrie,
and far away they heard an engine start.

‘We won’t be safe as long as there’s the farmer,
nor will our future chicks, and it seems right
that I take vengeance for our murdered children,’
Khrabanas croaked and left the building site.

Later that evening he returned in triumph,
‘The hated farmer joined his filthy dog;
as he was chasing me, the nasty human
took his own life and now lies in the bog.

‘I guessed whatever hits us leaves his weapon
through holes which I blocked off with pebbles, so
the thing exploded in his face and killed him.’ -
‘I’d like to see it for myself.’ - ‘Let’s go!’

They found an empty scene. ‘He must have sunken
into the bog,’ he said with hopeful heart.
‘I reckon so,’ Khrabina told her husband
as far away they heard an engine start.


The Wedding of Jo McDaid

The playful young girls of Kilkenny
all adored the grim man who had left
their poor fathers without a penny
and their mothers of honour bereft.

A short man with a much shorter temper
the old scrooge was the dream of each maid,
but the one to put clothes in his hamper
was none other than Jo McDaid.

On her wedding day people got nervous
as did Jo McDaid and her spouse;
of the guests that attended the service
only half went back to their house.

The stars of the Major Arcana
gently smiled upon those who had fled,
and Death wore a velvet bandana
the night Jo McDaid was wed.

As the newly-wed couple were tutting,
the big chandelier fell down
between the two dancers, cutting
big holes in his suit and her gown.

And soon someone found Nirvana
while looking for needle and thread,
for Death wore a velvet bandana
the night Jo McDaid was wed.

The surviving guests left the party
while mumbling ‘It’s getting quite late,’
and the best man bade them a hearty
farewell as they rushed to the gate.

The bridegroom, in shorts from Montana,
lay alone in his bridal bed,
because Death wore a velvet bandana
the night Jo McDaid was wed.

Now you know the bride’s name and how purely
her young heart kept the love that compels;
if you find out her husband’s, you surely
will be blessed by the virgins of Kells.


© Frank L. Ludwig