Quickly approaching is the 121st anniversary of the murder of Pearl Bryan, the young woman whose head was allegedly thrown down the drainage well in the basement of what would become Bobby Mackey’s Music World in Wilder, Kentucky. It is a well known story with paranormal enthusiasts and helping make the basement of the establishment a spot that many ghost hunters desire to investigate. But with only minimal research, the relationship between Pearl and Bobby Mackey’s breaks down.
Pearl Bryan was a lovely young woman from Greencastle, Indiana. She was describes as having bright blue eyes, auburn hair highlighted with blonde, and a flawless, unsoiled complexion. Pearl was the youngest daughter of a large, wealthy farming family. She was a high school graduate, something that was an accomplishment for young women at this time. Pearl also served as a Sunday school teacher, did volunteer work at the Methodist church where her and her family were members, and assisted in the raising of the children left orphaned by her deceased sisters. Openly, Pearl appeared to be the perfect Victorian lady.
Pearl had another side. She was unwed and pregnant, which was truly scandalous at this time. Through her cousin, she had met a dental student by the name of Scott Jackson. Jackson had moved to the area after encountering some trouble with the law further up north. While he had befriended Pearl in 1893, it was not until 1895 that their relationship became intimate. Scott left Indiana for Cincinnati to attend dental school, and Pearl discovered her delicate position. Many attempts were made to abort the baby with various concoctions Scott and Pearl’s cousin discuss through telegraphs, but these were not successful. Pearl was unaware of these attempts and wanted to marry Scott. She lied to her parents, telling them she was going to Indianapolis to stay with a school chum and headed off to Cincinnati. Poor Pearl trusted that she was getting married and being made an honest woman, but she was terribly mistaken. She had no idea what typed of man Scott actually was.
Having Pearl there with him, Scott, along with this dental school peer and roommate, Alonzo Walling, sets out with more attempts at conducting an abortion. One of these is by injecting her with cocaine, which was legal and available at the corner drug store. The men also attempted abortions with dental tools before deciding to drug her, take her into Kentucky, and then kill her. The trio traveled by stagecoach to Fort Thomas, where the men proceeded to decapitate poor Pearl. The coroner stated it appeared she was alive when they started working on her with their dental tools. Scott and Alonzo placed Pearl’s head in a valise, threw her dress over her upper torso, and fled the scene, leaving Pearl’s body lying in a field.
While Pearl’s head was never found, the two men were brought to justice. With her head missing, Pearl was identified by a manufacture’s tag in her shoe being from a cobbler in her home town. Her relationship with Scott was quickly brought. After the autopsy showed that she was pregnant, it was shown that he has a reason to dead. Scott named Alonzo as his accomplice in the deed. The two were tried and being found guilty, were hung.
In Pearl’s time, there was an abandoned slaughterhouse located on the spot where Bob Mackey’s Music World now stands. When the slaughterhouse was in operation, they had three drainage wells located in the basement of the to take away blood and water used in meat processing. After operation there ceased, the building was left as it was, and the wells were left open.
The abandoned building soon developed a reputation of being the home of occultists. It was said that the deserted basement was used for satanic rituals, and the remains of animal sacrificed here were tossed down the wells. Many believed that as these actives progressed, that one of the wells actually became a portal to Hell.
When an act as heinous as Pearl’s murder was committed in this typically peaceful area, it was believed the occultists were to blame. Upon arrest, Scott and Alonzo were automatically believed to be a part of the cult, and that their only need for possessing a human head was to use it in the worship of the devil. A popular theory was that after the two used the head in a ritual, it was tossed down the well, and perhaps, even to Hell itself. Officials searched the area in which the head would have washed from the well, but it was never found.
The media at the time was enjoying the paranoia that the crime was committed to appease Satan and reported items such as Alonzo cast the evil eye onto the crowd at the hanging, and the men stated that they would be back to haunt the area after their demise. Reporters also state that the head would never be founded because if the truth was told, Satan would punish the men.
It is true that Pearl was carrying Scott’s child and that he was determined to get rid of the child by any means necessary. The coroner reported that Pearl was five months pregnant at her time of death. After this news was brought to light, her cousin shared to the secret relationship between the Pearl and Scott. The messages between Scott and the cousin where they were attempting a chemical abortion were found and presented at trial. The men were found guilty of the crime, but this is where the accuracy of the legend ends.
There was proof present that Scott and Alonzo left with Pearl’s head. Mainly, it was missing, and Pearl’s hair was found in a valise owned by Scott. But both men claimed that the head had been thrown into the river, not into a portal to Hell. The head was removed not to give to the devil but to hide the identity of the victim. It was also theorized that the men may have burned the head in the furnace at their dental school. It was common for bodies to be burnt here, and Pearl’s remains would have just mixed with those of the dental specimens.
Bob Mackey’s Music World is four miles from the place where Pearl’s body was found in Fort Thomas. The group had to travel by stagecoach to the crime scene, and the driver testified at the trial that he dropped the three off and went along his way. This means that the killers would have had to walk four miles in the cold and probably covered in blood to dispose of the head. The Ohio River is much closer.
A bloody handprint was found on a reservoir somewhere between the crime scene and the slaughterhouse, there was no way to connect it to the crime. The reservoir was drained, but Pearl’s head was not found.
There was no proof that Scott and Alonzo was a part of any occultist group other than what was published. It seems that the news media grabbed this idea to sensationalize that story and sell more papers.
There are three open wells that were part of the slaughterhouse below Bob Mackey’s. If any of the legend is true, which one is the gate way to Hell.
While there has been a great deal of evidence streaming from Music World that is haunted, it seems that it is not haunted by Pearl Bryan. It is stated that she may have seen the old slaughterhouse in passing while on her last ride, but that would have been as close as she ever got.
Plenty has happened between the walls of the actual building that stands there today. Enough that it would clearly justify a haunting. But it doesn’t seem like any of these would be Pearl.
Let Ghost Hunters Fans know what you think. Leave your comments below…
BethAnn Williams, Paranormal Journalist and Ghost Hunter at Large is happy to be continuing her role at Ghost Hunters Fans and looks forward to sharing tales of the paranormal with you in the upcoming year.