In the Netflix adaption of Shirley Jackson's classic horror novel The Haunting of Hill House, the ghostly Poppy sings a gory old murder ballad to a member of the trapped family - a scene which I believe also appears in Jackson's source novel. That song has many names, but Jackson herself knew it as The Grattan Murders, and sometimes sang it to her delighted children as a lullaby. One of those children recently read my PlanetSlade piece about the real-life 1893 Indiana family massacre which inspired the song and got in touch, offering to sing it for me in her mother's trademark style. Here's the video.
I've been writing about murder ballads on PlanetSlade for a while now, but this essay's a little different. It's all about the 1893 murders of the Wratten family in Daviess County, Indiana. You may recall the folk song about these killings being used in the final episode of The Haunting of Hill House, where Poppy Hill's ghost recites its lyrics to a terrified Hugh. PlanetSlade's research into the real killings behind this song began with a couple of readers letters, sparked a full-blown investigation on Matt Aukamp's Every Folk Song podcast and has now produceded a new PlanetSlade essay. To unravel it all in some kind of logical order, start here. [more inside]