J.W., Where Are You When We Need You, Pal? – Part 1
One of the most reviled villains our nation has ever produced is John Wilkes Booth. His assassination of President Abraham Lincoln is a tragic part of our national story that has been told and retold for almost 150 years, and the actor’s image is forever cast as that of a monster who caused great harm to a fragile and divided nation in its time of greatest need.
Please don’t send hate mail, for I am not one of those revisionists of history, and I am certainly not an image consultant trying to revitalize the image of a rogue. There are, however, some elements about the life (and even the afterlife) of John Wilkes Booth of which you may be unaware…elements that could be of great benefit to those of us who would like to defeat the socialist menace that is devouring our nation and our way of life. Some of us who dwell on the right side of political center are becoming desperate in our fight to save the American way of life, and we look for help wherever we can find it.
The following is a true story:
In the late 1880s, a dapper and well-liked bartender in the small town of Granville, TX became ill and missed work. John St. Helen had come to Granville a few years after the Civil War had ended, and proved himself to be a dependable and trustworthy worker, and a friendly man who always had a smile and a kind word, but was something of a recluse who spent most of his nonworking hours alone. His employer, Finis Bates, had noticed that St.. Helen was a teetotaler except for one day each year. On April 14th, the bartender would start drinking early in the morning and spend the entire day in a drunken stupor. He may have been anticipating the federal income tax filing date, which would not become law for a few more decades, but Mr. Bates took note of the fact that April 14 was the date of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.
Mr. Bates went to the home of John St. Helen to find the bartender in bed with a high fever. He spoke incoherently for a few minutes before grasping his employer’s arm and saying, “There is something I need to tell you…something I need to confess before I die.” He went on to explain that he was John Wilkes Booth, the man who had assassinated Lincoln. He told Bates to go to another house in Granville and look in a secret place to find proof. Mr. Bates left immediately and, just where St. Helen said it would be, he found a small pistol of the type used to kill President Lincoln, wrapped in a newspaper dated the day after the assassination that reported the tragic event. He hurried back to St. Helen’s house, but the man was gone. John St. Helen was never seen in Granville again.
Was John St. Helen really John Wilkes Booth? The mystery continues. On January 13, 1903, a man named David George, who was basically the town drunk in Enid, Oklahoma, made a deathbed confession to his landlord. “I am John Wilkes Booth,” he said, “I killed President Lincoln.” His confession was reported to the local newspaper, and was published a week later. The proprietor of the local mortuary recognized the possibility that federal investigators might be interested in seeing the body, so he decided to mummify rather that traditionally embalm the corpse. Government authorities had no interest in the story, but Finis Bates, the former employer of John St. Helen, who had since retired and moved to Memphis, Tennessee, heard of the mummy and decided to make the trip to Enid and see if the corpse was that of his friend and employee.
Bates identified the mummy as the man he had known as John St. Helen. He acquired the corpse from the mortuary and took it home with him to Memphis, where he reportedly kept the mummy in the garage of his home for several years. In 1908, Bates wrote and had published a book titled The Escape and Suicide of John Wilkes Booth, in which he laid out his case to prove that the mummy was, in fact, the assassin of President Abraham Lincoln.
Were John St. Helen, David George, and a mysterious mummy kept in a Memphis, Tennessee garage, really the reviled assassin, John Wilkes Booth? Could Booth really have escaped his many pursuers and created new lives for himself? For that matter, what can this story possibly have to do with helping the conservative cause battle the evil forces of socialism in America?
I hate to do it to you, but I have already exceeded my 700 word limit and there is still a great deal more to this mystery. Stay tuned next week for Part II, The Strange Career of the Mummy of John Wilkes Booth.