1. The Carroll County Courthouse Massacre
Susan C. Allen/© scwallen 2016 - Used with permission. May not be reproduced or reposted without permission.
On March 17, 1886, area residents filed into the Carroll County Courthouse for the trial James Liddell, who was being charged with the attempted murder of Ed and Charley Brown. Shortly before the proceedings began, a group of 50-100 armed men stormed the courthouse, firing a barrage of bullets on the Brown brothers as well as the other African American citizens in attendance. The murderous mob rode out of town as quickly as they had rode in. The surprise attack left 10 dead. Another 13 would later die because of their injuries.
2. Rhythm Night Club Fire
Referred to as "The Natchez Dance Hall Holocaust," this deadly fire took place at the Rhythm Nightclub on Tuesday, April 23, 1940. The club was unusually crowded for a Tuesday since the famous Walter Barnes Orchestra from Chicago was performing that night. Once the fire broke out, it quickly engulfed the building. Frantic guests stormed the only exit but with everyone trying to leave at once, it quickly became blocked. In an effort to calm the crowd, Walter Barnes and his band continued to play music. With over 200 victims, this was one of the worst fires in the history of the United States.
3. Illinois Central Railroad Train Accident
On April 30, 1900, in the small town of Vaughan, MS railroad engineer Casey Jones lost his life when the train he was traveling in collided with another that was stalled on the tracks. Moments before impact, Jones instructed his fireman, Sim Webb, to jump from the train. Webb did just that, and because of such, survived the crash along with all the other passengers. Sadly, Jones died at the scene. The horrific accident and Jones' heroic efforts have inspired songs by several artists, including Furry Lewis and Mississippi John Hurt.
4. 1979 Easter Flood
In April of 1979, central Mississippi experienced severe thunderstorms that continued for about 36 hours, causing some areas to receive as much as 20 inches of rain. On Friday the 13th, the rain finally stopped but as the date suggests, the bad luck was just beginning. The massive flooding forced about 17,000 people from their homes with damage totaling approximately $500 million!
5. Shubuta’s Hanging Bridge
An abandoned bridge with a dark past, the Shubuta Bridge was the site of two documented hangings. The first occurred in 1918 and claimed the lives of brothers Major and Andrew Clark and sisters Maggie and Alma Howze, both of whom were pregnant at the time.
The second hanging took place in October of 1942 and led to the deaths of Ernest Green and Charlie Lang, both 14-year-old African Americans. Charged with the attempted rape of a white girl, the two were being held in the Quitman jail. Eventually, a mob of "irate, unidentified men" forced their way inside and kidnapped the boys. The bodies of Green and Lang were eventually found hanging from the Shubuta Bridge by local authorities.
6. Goat Castle Murder
In August of 1932, Jane "Jennie" Merrill was found murdered in her home - a mystery that would unravel one of the strangest tales in Natchez. After purchasing her home, Jennie became somewhat of a recluse, only accepting visits from her cousin and suspected lover, Duncan. The two began to have issues with neighbors Richard Dana and Octavia Dockery, who lived in a home known as Glenwood. After discovering Jennie's body, police immediately suspected Richard and Octavia.
When police arrived at Glenwood to question the couple, the mansion was in total disarray. In addition to structural issues, such as caved in ceilings and broken windows, the home had an infestation of fleas, mites, and cockroaches. Chickens, geese, and goats were actually living inside the home, earning it the nickname "Goat Castle." Eventually, authorities cleared Richard and Octavia of the murder and allowed them to return home, which they opened for tours.
7. Mississippi’s Lizzie Borden
Pictured above is the McNeill Class of 1910, including Ouida Keeton, who is the first person on the second row.
The story of Ouida Keeton, who some have dubbed "Mississippi’s Lizzie Borden," is by far one of the strangest in state history. After Ouida’s father mysteriously died in a railroad accident, she and her mother, Daisy, moved from McNeill to Laurel. In 1935, the two women made national headlines when Ouida and her businessman boyfriend, W.M. Carter, were found guilty of killing Daisy.
Though the murder was horrible in itself, it was the details that shook people to the core. After killing Daisy, the couple made efforts to cover up their heinous crime. They disposed of most of the remains by burning them in a fireplace and flushing them down the toilet. The strangest part of all was that Daisy’s lifeless legs were simply left on the side of the road. Following her mother’s murder, Ouida was sent to Whitfield Mental Hospital, where she stayed until her death in 1973.
8. Ole Miss Riot of 1962
After the Supreme Court ruled in his favor, James Meredith became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi; however, when he arrived to register for classes in September of 1962, protestors wouldn't allow him on campus. Tensions were at a high point and eventually led to a violent campus uprising in which two men lost their lives. In response, Attorney General Robert Kennedy had hundreds of U.S. Marshals accompany Meredith to campus and that was in addition to the military police, troops from the Mississippi National Guard, and officials from the U.S. Border Patrol sent by President John F. Kennedy.
9. The Phantom Barber
During the summer of 1942, several strange home invasions took place in Pascagoula. Dubbed the "Phantom Barber," the culprit would sneak into the homes of unsuspecting residents and then cut the hair from their heads while they slept. Word of the break-ins spread like wildfire. Panicked residents refused to go out at night and began applying for pistol permits. Eventually, the Phantom Barber changed his pattern. He broke into the home of the Heidelburgs and brutally assaulted them. After some time, William A. Dolan was found guilty with the attack on the couple; however, he vehemently denied that he was the Phantom Barber and had no link to any other attacks.
So, have you ever heard about any of these incidents? Know of another that should’ve been included? Tell us in the comments section.