Shadow Chasers: The Woolfolk Tragedy Revisited, by Carolyn Deloach

(First, please let me make a lame excuse for not posting more lately – wedding planning sucks all the life out of the world-don’t expect much out of me this fall. Now, back to our regularly scheduled review.)

Shadow Chasers, by Carolyn Deloach is a startling tale and one most casual true crime buffs are not familiar with.

But this is a hauntingly chilling tale of a man accused of annihilating his entire family with a short axe handle – nine in all, including his father, step-mother, six siblings (two boys and four girls) and an elderly aunt of his step-mother in one frightening evening in Bibb County, Georgia on August 6, 1887.

(This is a very rough online timeline of the events. This is a small overview of the murders.)

Though only tried and convicted for the murder of his father, he was quickly indicted for all nine murders shortly following the discovery of the bodies – by Thomas himself and inquest. Woolford is found guilty of the murder of his father in just 45 minutes by the jury empaneled in the case.

He is hanged on October 29, 1890 in front of a crowd of 10,000. He maintained his innocence until the end.

Many details of the murders ARE troubling – a common one in family annihilations is how one person managed to subdue an entire family, and in this case, is particularly troubling given the number of people killed and the age of Thomas’s brother, Richard Jr., who was 20 years old at the time of his death.

This is a mediocre book about a very, VERY intriguing case. Part of what turns me off is the heavy use of license in creating a constant dialogue that runs throughout the book. It’s stilted enough that it’s always in the back of my mind that these conversations are largely the work of the author (albeit based on true events.)

Even so, the book is compelling and well worth a read. Deloach has obviously done more than her share of work researching this book – and that shows in the details that one would think would be long-gone in a case that’s 120+ years old, and for that she should be praised.

Oddly enough, even though it has been thought to have burned down, remains of the Woolfork home still exist-very, very decrepit as they are, in case you are looking for some place to go on Tuesday for Halloween.

Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 3:10 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Scary place to visit on a Friday night. I lived about 15 miles from the Woolfolk site. An eerie place, but worth a visit…Midas Wilder

  2. Sandra Dalene VanAlstine – Wanted to introduce myself

    Thanks
    Sandra Dalene VanAlstine

  3. I usually don’t post on Blogs but ya forced me to, great info.. excellent! … I’ll add a backlink and bookmark your site.

    I’m Out! :)

  4. Where are the ruins of the house actually located in Macon? I live here and would be interested in knowing the exact location.

  5. I am startled by the similarity to other ax murders at the turn of the century and I have wondered if they were the work of a serial killer, done at a time when serial killers went unrecognized as such.

  6. DeLoach’s use of dialogue is NOT at all contrived. I interviewed the author and verified her claim that all of the dialogue was taken from text published at the time of the events in the papers and magazines that carried these stories. The only dialogue that was created for the book were the automatic responses of static characters such as servants. She researched this book for 20 years before its publication. FYI, I have absolutely no personal interest in the book or the author. I have only my respect for the work DeLoach did. Just thought you should know. -Don Gerstbauer, Indiana University of South Bend.

  7. I wish I’d have known that. Or perhaps it did say it and I missed it. Or perhaps it did say it, I read it, and disregarded it. It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read the book, but it’s definitely one that’s stuck in my head where others have not. So it’s got that going for it. :)

    I’d actually love to reread it now, a few years down the road, and with that information. Hopefully it’ll be available for Kindle someday.


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