The Ghost of John Neville

In 1871 a grisly and grotesque murder was committed in Western Kentucky, along the Metcalfe and Barren County line, near Randolph. The body of Lucy Perkins was discovered on the evening of August 25 in a wooded spot not too far from her home. She had gone out earlier in the day to do a little shopping. When she hadn't returned after several hours, her family set out to look for her, and soon discovered a horrifying sight.

Lucy Perkins had been violently murdered. Her head was almost completely severed from her body, only hanging on by a few tendons and a bit of flesh. A deep gash had been made in her body from neck to navel. It was a brutal, violent, and particularly sadistic crime.

Suspicion immediately fell upon her son-in-law, John Neville. In a complicated caucus of family politics, Neville had been at one time in love with and courting Lucy Perkins, back when she was Lucy Franklin. She had rejected his pleas for marriage, and so in a fit of pique he married his friend Bill Perkins' much younger daughter, though he card little for her. Shortly after the marriage, Perkins' wife died and he soon began courting Lucy Franklin. Neville was soon in the agonizing position of being trapped in an unhappy marriage, with the woman he still passionately loved as his mother-in-law. Neville had made no secret of his resentment at Bill and Lucy Perkins' happiness.

These were lawless days in Kentucky. The chaos that followed the Civil War had plunged large portions of the state into mob rule, where violence and lynching were the best the state had to offer in terms of justice. Neville was arrested and taken to jail in Edmonton, but the next day a mob rode up and demanded he be given over to their custody. They rode John Neville back to where Lucy Perkins' body was found and hanged him on a dogwood tree.

Ever since then, it's said that when travelers pass by the site of where the murder and the lynching took place, a ball of pale fire will spring up from the ground, and then disappear when the traveller has passed. Many people have seen this strange and uncanny sight. Is this the ghost of John Neville calling out from the grave?

Neville never confessed to Lucy Perkins' murder, and there was never a chance for any trial at which evidence for or against his guilt could be presented. When it comes to fairly dispensing justice, lynch mobs aren't always right. Did the citizens of Barren county that night hang an innocent man? The particularly brutal nature of the crime and the way the the unfortunate Lucy Perkins' body was mutilated would probably have modern police investigators looking for an experienced, dedicated sadistic killer. But with over a century having passes, we will never know what really happened to Lucy Perkins, and if John Neville really was the murderer. Unless someone can finally understand the ball of fire that appears beside the spot of the double murder is trying to tell us.

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