In 1929 in a remote corner of the Arkansas Ozarks, a man was murdered and his fiancée raped. The firestorm of national publicity generated by those crimes left Americans with an impression of the Ozarks as a hotbed of superstition and ignorance that lingers to this day.
Author Brooks Blevins examines the crimes and their fallout in Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South on Sunday, May 20, 2012, at 2 p.m. at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.
When word got out of the murder of harmonica-playing drifter Connie Franklin and the brutal rape of his teenaged fiancé in Stone County, Arkansas, reporters from throughout the country were dispatched to the Ozarks to cover the story.
For weeks the newspapers were filled with sensational stories about night-riding moonshiners, powerful "Barons of the Hills," and a world of feudal oppression in the rugged isolation. The ensuing arrest of five local men for both crimes and the confusion and superstition surrounding their trial gave Stone County a dubious notoriety.
Closely examining how the story and its regional setting were interpreted by the media, Blevins recounts the gripping events of the murder investigation and trial, where a man claiming to be the murder victim -- the "Ghost" of the Ozarks -- appeared to testify.
Local conditions in Stone County -- which had no electricity and only one long-distance telephone line -- prompted reporters' caricatures of the region: accusations of imposture and insanity, revelations of hidden pasts and assumed names, and threats of widespread violence.
Locating the past squarely within the major currents of American history, Ghost of the Ozarks: Murder and Memory in the Upland South paints a convincing backdrop to a story that, more than 80 years later, remains riddled with mystery.
A native of the Arkansas Ozarks, Blevins is the Noel Boyd Professor of Ozarks Studies at Missouri State University. His other books include Arkansas/Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol' Boys Defined a State and Hill Folks: A History of Arkansas Ozarkers and Their Image.
Admission is free. RSVP online  or call 816.701.3407. Free parking is available at the Library District Parking Garage at 10th & Baltimore.
This presentation is part of the Missouri Valley Sundays series, a program of the Missouri Valley Special Collections at the Central Library. The series is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.