The Purpose of Terror

Even if most of Knoxville was no longer interested in the Night Marauder, he did not need to terrorize the whole city to achieve his aims. He really only needed his victims to be terrified. His next attack, however, would revive the city’s attention while also traumatizing the only witness for the rest of her life.

On August 1st, 1921, the Tilson home at 420 W. Baxter Ave was invaded by the Night Marauder. It was a house with three rooms in a row and one room, the kitchen, off to the side where a door opened onto the backyard. Ida (21) and her sister Georgia (15) shared a bed in the front room, where a door opened onto the front porch. It turns out, Georgia normally slept with her sister Ruby in that room, but Ida joined her that night because Ruby had fallen asleep in Ida’s usual bed. Newspapers would say it was her “kindness of heart” towards her little sister that put her in the room where the marauder would kill her. Just after 1:30 a.m., the sisters awoke to find a man in their room, holding a pistol and shining the light of a flashlight into their eyes. He told them to be quiet and tried to climb into bed with them, making “indecent proposals” all the while. Ida fought with the man, telling him she would rather die than give in to his demands. He whispered fiercely that he would not hesitate to kill her, but she continued to resist. He indicated he would simply take her younger sister, and, at that, she redoubled her efforts. He struck her several times with the gun but even then, she did not stop. Finally, he shot her and left the house. Their father, James Tilson, got to the room to see Georgia holding her bloody sister and crying. Ida died a few hours later at the hospital.

Knoxville Sentinel, August 3, 1921

Georgia was spared. He did not stay to assault her, and she was not physically injured at all. But she remained damaged by the encounter. On the day after the attack, newspapers reported Georgia suffered from “nervous prostration” and was unable to give any account of what had happened. Georgia remained in “a state of collapse” for quite some time. She was under a doctor’s care and was medicated but could not sleep and had fainting spells during the day. The rest of the family—their father, grandparents, younger siblings and two uncles who lived nearby—came running only as Ida lay dying and the intruder had fled out the front door. No one but Georgia could have said what the man looked like. Even days later, the courts postponed the inquest twice because Georgia was still in shock and was sent out to the countryside to recover. In the meantime, some in the family said Ida whispered it was a Black man who had fought with her while others disputed that. Police and the courts held out hope that Georgia would recover enough to testify and asked reporters to leave her alone.

Rufus Tilson, one of her uncles, said they were close and that she trusted him. She was willing to tell him all that had happened, and he claimed at first that her statement would shed no more light on the matter. He told the Knoxville Sentinel that he went to see her and found her “troubled, disorganized, and almost frantic.” He was the one to recommend she be taken away from the city for some peace and quiet. He said she also told him she trusted him to protect her if the marauder came back. Georgia said the intruder had warned her that he would kill her if she ever identified him, and she took that threat to heart.

By August 16, 1921, Georgia was recovered enough to testify at the inquest. She stated with absolute certainty that it had been a white man who attacked her and her sister and she named him. She said it was someone she had never spoken to but who was often around their neighborhood.  The newspaper did not print the name of the man, and the coroner and the judge decided her word was not enough for them to arrest the man. They do not explain why they decided this when they had not not hesitated to name, arrest, and then have to release other white men in the previous week. (Ernest Connor, who worked with Ida at the Brookside Mill and had paid attention to her and Edmund Dowling, who had been to church with Ida the evening of her murder.)  Chief of police Haynes offered to arrest the man anyway if the girls’ father wanted them to do so. It appears he did not request the man’s arrest at that time.

During the first dragnet of the city, rumors circulated that the police had given a free pass to some well-respected, unnamed man. He had been found armed and dressed like the intruder on a night during which someone had been killed. And now, once again, someone identified by the only possible witness was going to be ignored. And the attacks would continue.

Years later, with the private investigator hired in Alcoa, TN, Georgia would pick the killer out of a photo of 20 men and confirm that he was the one who had shot her sister. The investigator was thrilled because she had picked out his number-one suspect and he was building a case against the man.

Georgia said that the marauder had entered their home three weeks before August 1, perhaps as part of his July rampage, and had threatened her. However, others in the house heard him and he ran away. They found a mark on her temple where the stranger had pressed the muzzle of his pistol. She believed he returned on August 1 to finish what had been interrupted in July. Furthermore, three weeks after Ida was murdered, Georgia and her uncle were returning to the house, and they saw a man hiding in nearby woods. She was sure it was the same man, returned to get her. Her uncle sent her into the house and went to find the man, but he was gone. Georgia’s whole family was very careful of her, but she never felt safe again. She said she could never forget his eyes, his face, or his voice and she shuddered every time she remembered him. And, having named him in court in 1921, only to have him hunting her a week after that, confirmed that the Night Marauder meant it when he said he would return.

When the investigator went to see her in February 1925, Georgia was a married woman with a child. Nevertheless, she would only speak to the detective with her whole family present. She was willing to look at the photo and the investigator instructed her to take it to her room and take her time before speaking. Her mother objected, saying Georgia might have a panic attack if she even saw a likeness of the murderer. That is how fragile Georgia had been since the attack. But Georgia insisted she could do it and she picked him out of a group photo. She was even willing to sign an affidavit confirming her identification. However, Georgia said with some regret that she could not possibly testify in court. He had said he would kill her if she did and so she could not help build a case against him. That was the extent of her involvement in the case and the investigator noted his frustration. He was worried that the signed affidavit would not be enough to arrest the suspect and hold him for very long.

Georgia Tilson Hill lived a full life but a descendent told me “Great Aunt Georgie” went to her grave having never identified the Night Marauder to anyone else.

The World Goes On

If there was tension in Knoxville after the Night Marauder attacks in May 1921, you couldn’t tell so from the Knoxville Sentinel.  As in all good urban papers, every issue included a mix of international, national, and local news alongside advice and pop culture gossip. There was a good amount of farm-related news, acknowledging that several family farms still operated within the city limits, and a lot of ads for local stores and dubious cures for a variety of ailments.

A series of reports in the first part of the summer dealt with a “mysterious howl” many had heard coming from an abandoned house, widely believed to be the work of a ghost. It was common to see society posts, such as “Miss Louise Johnston, the attractive daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. H. Johnston, will return from New York, where she is attending school, the first week in June.” (May 21, 1921) Post-WW I European recovery reports dominated, alongside sports news about Jack Dempsey’s incredible feats in the ring and Mary Pickford’s role in the latest film “Through the Back Door.”

The Knoxville Sentinel, July 4, 1921

More serious headlines throughout June 1921 followed the Tulsa race massacre as the story unfolded. The front pages of city papers for weeks featured the scandalous trial of a rich woman in Cleveland, Ohio, for the attempted murder of her husband. The Kaber case was a scandal that made the news nationwide. The biggest local story involving violence concerned a posse trying to find four white men who had murdered a man in Harriman, TN, leaving his bound and gagged body in the woods. The killers evaded arrest until June 16th. Meanwhile, Marion Wilson, the police chief of Johnson City, TN, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in an arrest gone wrong. An 11-year-old girl was found murdered in a baseball park in Kingston on June 6, her body “outraged” after her death. While the suspect in Kingston went on trial, that city enacted a strict curfew. The only reports in Knoxville related to the Night Marauder were updates on Maurice May’s ongoing appeal of his conviction and capital sentence for the Murder of Bertie Lindsey.

The Night Marauder went on a bit of a rampage in July, breaking into five homes over two nights. First hit was the home of John Condon at 207 Laurens Avenue: in the early hours of Tuesday, July 5, Condon interrupted an intruder attempting to assault his young daughter. The stranger fled and later entered the home of Mrs. Lonas Yates at 915 North Central, who was threatened with death if she screamed: she screamed anyway and ran out of the house and the marauder left quickly leaving Mrs. Yates unharmed. It would have been a 47-minute walk from Laurens Ave (now Laurans) to North Central, but this brings the Marauder back to his favorite neighborhoods. The next home, somewhere on Jackson Ave, was located in what is now known as the Old City. Miss Donna Daniels, the third person to find an intruder at her home that night, lived only 17 minutes from Mrs. Yates. Miss Daniels screamed and jumped out a window as a shot was fired at her, but neither she nor her roommate Annie Haynes were ultimately harmed.

The three failures must have frustrated the marauder because he returned later Tuesday to try again. Around 8 p.m., unusually early for the Marauder attacks, J. T. Leidenhammer found a man in his house at 2727 Jefferson Avenue and shouted at him. The man fired a shot, striking Leidenhammer in the arm, and then left. Leidenhammer called the police immediately, convinced the shooter was still hiding in the space under his house. Police found no one there, but Leidenhammer crawled under the house himself and found his own pistol with one round missing. He didn’t remember when he last used his gun but clearly it was stolen by the intruder and then discarded. Just after 2 a.m. on Wednesday morning, Miss Ethel Wilson awoke to an intruder in her home at 603 Chamberlain Street. She was instructed to remain silent and go to the kitchen, where the man assaulted her on the floor. Wilson’s mother was a deep sleeper and never heard a thing and there were very few clues left behind. Nevertheless, Chief Detective O’Conner told reporters that he felt sure they were on the verge of an arrest, and he credited the recent lack of attacks on the vigilance of the night patrolmen. Chamberlain St. no longer exists but it was not far from W. Fifth Ave near the Old City. Jefferson Ave is not very close by, but of course the Night Marauder had all night to get there from Leidenhammer’s place and needed to be careful to select a target where the patrolmen did not pass frequently. Chamberlain ran alongside a rail line and Second Creek so it was isolated in spite of its proximity to busy urban areas.

The Night Marauders activities in Knoxville were far from over. However, the strangest thing about his attacks in the summer of 1921 was the waning interest of the public. Only a few months earlier, headlines screamed of a populace in terror, armed to the teeth. The report of July’s incidents were on page 14 of the Knoxville Sentinel and the Journal and Tribune didn’t carry the story at all. The Night Marauder was becoming boring.

Changing the Pattern or Inspiring Copycats?

In preparation for a case in Blount County in 1924, a private investigator attempted to create the definitive list of every Night Marauder attack since 1919. We have alluded to him before, especially when the original reports of an incident did not line up with what witnesses later told the P.I. In some of these cases, break-ins and attacks were often similar enough to the typical pattern that one could chalk up the differences to trauma and the power of suggestion. In such cases, the attacks could have been the work of the Night Marauder. Other cases in 1921 included details that suggest someone different was to blame for the violence.

Hazel Giffin told the investigator in 1924 that on the night of April 20, 1921, someone broke into her family’s home at 510 Clinch Ave. Hazel told the private investigator that a man had attacked her during the night as she came out of the bathroom in her home. The P. I.’s report says simply that the intruder “assaulted her and accomplished his task” before fleeing from the house she shared with her parents and siblings.

However, the Knoxville Sentinel reported a very different kind of attack on that night. On Wednesday the 20th, the Sentinel reported that the daughter of Robert Giffin was accosted by two Black men as she passed an alleyway near the First M. E. Church. Hazel was 15 at the time and on her way home in the evening. She told the police one of the men grabbed her and tried to clamp a hand over her mouth while the other seemed to be reaching to open a nearby car door. She managed to scream, and the two men fled. On that night, she was left uninjured though she was hysterical while talking to the police. Her dress was torn. The Knoxville Journal and Tribune did not even report the attack.

The unfortunate Hazel, however, seems to have conflated two attacks into one. On May 12, 1921, the Knoxville Sentinel reported that “a fifth attempt” had been made to break into the Giffin home.  Someone attempted to open a window from outside the small house around 2:30 a.m. and the noise awoke the teenager, who shared a bed with her little sister, Eva. Hazel ran to her parents’ bedroom and that movement was enough to dissuade the intruder from entering. Police found tracks outside the window, but a hard rain made it difficult for the bloodhounds to get a scent. Selma Giffin, the girls’ mother, said that similar attempts had been made over the last year.

In either case, there was no report of sexual assault within the house. It’s possible a sixth attempt was made successfully and that all these memories ran together in Hazel’s mind. The attempt at breaking into a teenaged girl’s bedroom certainly matches the Night Marauder’s usual pattern. However, in this case the intruder had targeted the home of a married couple, their six kids, a son-in-law, and a boarder. The possibility of confronting three grown man would have been a risky proposition for the Night Marauder. If there had been multiple attempts to enter the Giffin home, the would-be intruder had to be familiar with how many people lived there. The attack in this case would have been in the early hours of a Thursday when the most recent attacks had all been on Tuesdays. Finally, Clinch Ave is downtown and therefore also a bit outside the Marauder’s usual hunting grounds. That could reflect the increased vigilance in neighborhoods where he’d already been active, but it could indicate the work of a copycat.

The next case actually took place prior to the attempt to break into the Giffin home, but the investigator listed it as having happened after, accepting Hazel’s statement about being attacked in the month of April. W. B. Davenport told the private investigator in 1924 that during the early hours of Friday, May 6, 1921, someone broke into his home at 647 Dandridge Pike and attempted to assault his two daughters. He claimed the man fled after the girls began to scream and he jumped out of bed.  On a modern map of Knoxville, E. Summit Hill Dr SE is what used to be the beginning of the Dandridge Pike, so depending on how houses were numbered at the time, this could have been walking distance from the Old City. That would mark a return of the Night Marauder to his usual grounds. However, today 647 Dandridge Ave is now somewhat remote. If that is where the attack actually happened, it might signal that the intruder was taking pains to avoid areas prepared for his attacks.

Image taken from Pitner’s 1930 map of Knoxville (Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection) https://cmdc.knoxlib.org/digital/collection/p15136coll4/id/3331

In a strange reversal of Hazel Giffin’s tale, the newspaper reports at the time of the attack state that both Rose (18) and Josie (15) Davenport were sexually assaulted multiple times before their father woke up. Oddly enough, the Knoxville Sentinel report connected this assault to two others in which arrests had already been made. A white man with bright red hair named John West had been arrested on charges he had broken into a home on Clyde St. and attempted to assault some house guests. But, the guests were acquainted with West and had positively identified him. In addition, bloodhounds had led police from the Clyde St. home to the house where White was staying. The very next day, an African American man was arrested following an attempt to enter a Lonsdale home just before sunup.  Chief O’Conner took advantage of the opportunity to remind everyone to remain vigilant and protect their homes and families.

On May 9, 1921, The Knoxville Sentinel reported that Robert Huskey had been arrested in conjunction with the assault of Rose and Josie Davenport. Huskey had formerly boarded with the Davenports and knew the home well. In fact, Mrs. Davenport’s maiden name was Huskey and Robert may have been a relative of the family. Huskey and West were in jail awaiting trial, but the newspaper reported that the African American who had been detained earlier had been released when the witnesses agreed he was not the man they saw.  Huskey’s trial was set for Tuesday, May 10, and he claimed he would be able to furnish a solid alibi.

On May 11, the Sentinel reported that Huskey had given proof that he was in Sevierville the night the Davenport girls were assaulted. Huskey then turned to the girls and told them if he had been guilty, he understood why they would have turned him in. At that point, in the courtroom, the girls broke down and exonerated Huskey, saying he was not the man in their room that night. Their father then threatened them, right in the courtroom, saying he would withdraw all financial support of the girls and kick them out if they did not admit who had been with them. No one else was ever tried for the crime committed in the Davenport home and both women were still living with their parents in 1930.

Rose Davenport went on to marry Randolph Pace. Josie was briefly married but divorced and returned to the home of her parents. She died of tuberculosis in 1935. Their father was the one who met with the investigator three years after the attack, still hoping for closure.

Knoxville remained on alert but the nights would remain quiet until July, when the Night Marauder would outdo himself.

The Lull Between Storms

The situation in Knoxville was getting too hot for the Night Marauder. If the city truly had become, as the papers reported, an “armed camp”, it would explain why three months passed before another attack was attempted. In September, KPD had begun their dragnet of the streets each night and special detachments of night Patrolmen were assigned to the neighborhoods frequented by the Night Marauder.

Law enforcement was certainly kept busy. Following the murder of Alice Burnett, police made good on their promise to arrest every “dope fiend” they could to clear the streets. Dozens of vagrants and drug users were arrested and sent to the county workhouse. Some citizens criticized the dragnet, saying some men had become addicted following treatment for illnesses and were too feeble to face the strain of working. Psychiatrists and physicians repeated their statements that morphine and cocaine addicts were generally physically weaker and only likely to steal, not attack like the Night Marauder did. Nevertheless, dozens of drug users were arrested and some were desperate when captured. On September 26, the Knoxville Journal and Tribune reported that John Vanderbeck, an awning maker, had been picked up for loitering and would soon be charged with a federal narcotics violation. Upon hearing this in the city court, Vanderbeck ran past other prisoners in the dock and leapt out a window. He fell 20 feet to the ground and took off across Market Square, where he ran through one store and then through another store on Gay St. before he was intercepted by Patrolmen Hatcher, Lee, and Tyree. Venderbeck was well-known around Knoxville for his drug use, though he was well liked and always nattily dressed. Police found “a considerable quantity of cocaine” in Venderbeck’s hotel room. The Chief of police made it clear that Vanderbeck was not a suspect in the Marauder case but they wanted to increase pressure on all known criminals. Emergency vehicles and squad cars were even kept with their engines running between midnight and 4 a.m. most nights in case they needed to respond quickly.  However, he also had to admit they had no clues to follow and were nowhere near a solution.

There was a cryptic note in the Knoxville Sentinel reporting a rumor that on September 24 “a prominent young man” had been stopped on the Washington Pike the night of the murder. The young man had matched a description of the intruder from witnesses in the Cox and Key cases and had a flashlight in his pocket. Police released him and did not reveal his name. Chief of Police Haynes insisted that no such thing occurred. “If such a person had been under arrest, his name as well as the names of all others taken up in the dragnet would be announced to the public.”

Police followed up on every report or complaint, responding in person every time someone spotted a stranger. They did not, however, take seriously an anonymous letter threatening violence on behalf of Bolsheviks. It was printed in pencil in all capital letters, and it said, “Chief of Police Haynes, Between September 23 and 25 will be Knoxville’s Red Days. Remember Wall Street! Chief, a tip to the wise, they say is sufficient. Better put a few extras on at some of the more important places. Remember Wall Street!” Police turned the letters over to federal authorities.

Police maintained the high alert for several weeks. They arrested vagrants, prowlers, drug users, and thieves but they never found the Marauder. And the Night Marauder stayed away, biding his time. Perhaps, in the dead of winter, the streets were bare enough to risk venturing out. Perhaps the police had let their guards down.

Mrs. Lillian Bales lived at 204 Bearden Place with her two daughters, Ada, aged 19, and Cleo, aged 16. On the 4th of January, 1921, a man entered their home in the early hours of a Tuesday morning. Bales woke up because someone with a flashlight tried to pull back the blankets that covered her and her sleeping daughters. Mrs. Bales cried out and woke her daughters. The intruder shined a flashlight in Mrs. Bales’ face and ordered her to stop crying. However, by then, all three women were screaming. This frightened the Marauder enough that he ran out of the house, leaving them unhurt. Bales was the widow of Fred Bales, a former Deputy Sheriff, and their two daughters were described as “responsibly employed.” Chief O’Conner assigned Detectives Day and Swaggerty to investigate the break-in.

Detectives traced footsteps from the Bales home to two other homes on Bearden Place, with no signs of entry, and then to the home of Clay Henry at 815 Irwin Street. The Henry home was entered through a locked door, leading police to suspect he had a skeleton key. No one was awakened in the Henry home, but some money was taken. The police were puzzled, however, because the Henry home was the same house where Maude Maples was disturbed on August 10. They could not make sense of it. However, it does suggest that the same man was responsible for all these attacks. Maude Maples was the woman who had been drinking and almost willingly left with the intruder. On that night, the Marauder left 815 Irwin and killed Lula Robinson while assaulting her sister-in-law. Perhaps, then, Maples had lingered in the mind of the Night Marauder as the one who got away. When he entered the home where Clay Henry slept, the intruder realized she was not there and left.

An African American man named Leonard Wilson was shot as he tried to enter a home at 617 Randolph St. at 5:30 a.m. on January 4. The homeowner, Mrs. Maloney, did not hear anything. Her son-in-law, Robert Zoloman, was the first to notice anything and fired as soon as he saw someone trying to get in. Chief O’Conner sent his detectives to interrogate Wilson as soon as he was able to talk. While awaiting their report O’Conner told reporters that he did not believe all the crimes to be committed by the same person. Rather, he thought there was a crime wave returning to Knoxville after months of quiet. As he had done in September, O’Conner said his officers have orders to “shoot to kill” and he advised the citizens to follow the same policy. “That is the only way such criminals can be eradicated and the homes of the city made safe from the depredations of these criminals. Citizens should have firearms in their homes for protection against such a dangerous and daring menace.”

Southern Honor Culture: The Backdrop of the Night Marauder Mystery

This post was written by contributor Eleanor Forester (MC’21). The post was edited by N. Locklin.

Knoxville Sentinel article, “East Knoxville Woman is Shot” Sept. 21, 1920

In her study on the culture of violence and homicide in the US South, Pauline Grosjean of the University of New South Wales reported that there is a correlation in regions with a large percentage of Scots Irish ancestry to higher rates of homicide.(Journal of the European Economic Association, October 2014) Grosjean claimed that in the US South, settlements made by 18th century Scots-Irish herders and Scottish Highlanders continued traditions of violence as emboldened by honor culture in Britain. She attributes this trend to agrarian customs surrounding land protection in the homeland. Grosjean’s academic background is in economics rather than history or sociology, and we may or may not find her thesis ultimately convincing. The study does, however, provide a useful starting point for an exploration of honor culture as the backdrop of our grand tragedy: the Night Marauder murders.

Bertram Wyatt-Brown provides an extensive definition of honor culture which is relevant to early 20th century East Tennessee. His book Honor and Violence in the Old South begins, “Under honor’s law those who have power to demand, and to hold, esteem and authority are able to do so because the entire social order has sanctioned their rule and called it moral.” Wyatt-Brown continues to describe the “cultural matrix” of honor culture which consists of binary oppositions such as the protection of Southern hospitality in the domestic sphere paired with the public performance of strength and brutality. Bertram Wyatt-Brown argues that the white South developed a system of honor that depended heavily on these factors of opposition at play with one another.

In the Modern South of the 1900’s, honor culture took on a new dimension. Influencing the Progressive Era of social, political and industrial reforms, the social purity movement in evangelical spheres placed much weight on Christian morality. In this age of modernism, honor culture set the stage for masculine aggression rooted in evangelicalism because men were viewed as either protectors of women’s virtue or detriments to their purity. Women were viewed as natural, inherent possessors of purity and morality; there was a supposed moral superiority of women over men.

Thus, the crimes of sexual nature against women by the Night Marauder are all the more socially transgressive. While Knox and Blount Counties rest in the foothills of Appalachia rather than the Deep South, the history of Protestant Christian culture still influences social customs. Honor culture, which may excuse (and even promote) public displays of masculine aggression and violence between men, vehemently condemns sexual violence against women because of their supposed purity and morality. The terror caused by the Night Marauder and the public response is perhaps more interesting in light of this context. The relevance of honor culture extends into language and community relationships, which becomes clearer when we look at how a community responds to violent crime. A victim summary composed by police detectives and local newspaper accounts reflect what the community members believed were most sinister.

Many news articles related to the series of crimes recalled that the Night Marauder “attempted to commit criminal assault” upon various women but fail to specify the nature of the assault; readers understood the implication of sexual assault. At other times, euphemisms such as “outrage” communicated what was attempted without going into any detail. “Marauder always sought to prey on women,” states a police summary. The victims in these East Tennessee crimes are described as prey to carnal, animalistic, and impure acts of brutality. Later attacks in which the shooting victim is a woman’s husband offer up another way of promoting the values of honor. The husbands of assaulted women are reported to have died protecting the virtue and lives of their wives – the highest praise in honor culture.

While the purpose of journalistic and police summaries was to help investigators distinguish victims and keep track of their experiences and personal information, there is evidence to suggest that the record keepers struggled to remain objective. Throughout the summary, the acts of nonsexual physical violence are described in greater detail: “while grappling he pulled the trigger of the gun which he had three times the cartridges failed to explode,” “the murderer had a flashlight and pistol a 38 caliber,” “the marauder entered this home and assaulted (the woman) by striking her upon the head and causing a scalp wound.” The violence caused by the perpetrator’s gun clearly were considered separately from the sexual offences which are described only as “unspeakable demands,” “lustful desires,” and “indecent proposals.” While the intent of the police and media summaries was not originally to make moral judgements on the crimes themselves, the language used in this victim summary certainly displays some subjectivity. The summaries were a way to track the pattern of attacks, perhaps with a goal to assist in the investigation and provide fodder for a future prosecution.

Honor culture permeated the U.S. South for centuries, and East Tennessee was not spared. Honor culture places great significance on an individual’s reputation and creates unspoken rules for public behavior according to gender-based and racial binaries (to name a couple). After transgressive acts against socially respected women, men could restore familial honor by engaging in community action to defend feminine virtues of purity and hospitality. The violation of these feminine virtues, in addition to the sexual violence itself, can explain why details of the Night Marauder’s rapes, the “unspeakable acts,” are excluded from reports. We know that defending public honor was important to the citizens of East Tennessee when the attacks took place.

Additionally, these sources were compiled at a time when Protestant Christianity held a tight grip on Southern culture. This deep connection to Protestantism generated a belief in divine control and religious determinism among Southerners. Reporters and investigators, then, would not only have been concerned with the physical safety of residents in Blount and Knox counties — the Night Marauder’s concentrated acts of sexual and fatal brutality pointed to a loss of this divine control and posed a threat to the system of religious determinism that was sovereign over religious and social life for many Protestant Southerners.

Police Desperate After Triple Event

Exactly six weeks after the intruder accosted Maude Maples and then killed Lula Robinson while assaulting her sister-in-law, the killer struck again. Many elements were the same—it was the early hours of a Tuesday in Knoxville when an intruder entered a home and attempted to assault a sleeping young woman.

On September 21, 1920, at around 2:15 a.m. 16-year-old Ruth Cox awoke to find a man by her bed, shining a flashlight in her eyes. Miss Cox lived with her father, J. M. Cox, at 2003 Linden Ave in East Knoxville. Police say the attacker had put a chair from the neighbor’s porch under Ruth’s window and entered the room. Ruth, who slept beside her little sister, cried out to her father and the intruder immediately shot her and fled. The bullet entered her shoulder, but surgeons were able to remove it and she recovered. To the best of her memory, it was a white man, and he wore a felt hat. Mr. Cox ran out in pursuit of the attacker who, realizing that the streetlights on Linden Ave would allow Cox to see him clearly, escaped through the back yard. Mr. Cox told reporters that he believed the motive for the intruder must have been robbery because he couldn’t imagine any other motive.

Just after 2:30 a.m. an intruder threatened Annie Key in her home on the corner of Luther Ave and Kellar St., barely a block away from the Cox home. Her father, J. R. Key, was home at the time of the attack. Annie woke up because of a flashlight being shined on her face, and she immediately jumped to her feet. That’s when the intruder showed her the pistol and threatened to shoot her. She screamed for her father, who came running. The marauder ran to a door to escape, though it appeared he had entered the house through a window. Mr. Key wondered how long the man had been in their home since he was certain he had locked the door before going to bed. However, the intruder was able to open the door very quickly as he fled meaning he must have unlocked it before waking the girl. They did not see where the man went after he got out of the house.

At about 3:30 a.m., the intruder moved on to a Nelson Ave home where Alice Burnett and Eula Henry were staying as guests of a friend, Mrs. R. C. Hamilton. Miss Henry woke up when she felt hands on her body and was immediately blinded by a flashlight. The intruder said “Be quiet, be quiet” in a hoarse voice end showed her a pistol as he climbed into bed with her. He told the two women he would kill them if they did not do as he said. Miss Henry, looking up at him, tried to grab the gun out of his hand and struggled with him. The two rolled out of the bed onto the floor. Miss Burnett leaped on top of the pair and got hold of the gun herself briefly. The two women tried to overwhelm the man and force him back onto the floor, but he was too strong. Two shots were fired in the struggle—one passed through the sleeve of Burnett’s nightgown and the second hit her in the side. The intruder broke loose and fled out the back door which had been left open when the women retired, with only a hook holding a screen door closed. He had easily lifted the hook with use of a knife blade. After the man left, Burnett stumbled into the other bedroom and said “I’m shot” before collapsing on the floor. She was rushed to the hospital where doctors discovered the bullet had entered her left side, tore through her body, and was lodged in her right hip. The shot seriously damaged her intestines and surgeons did the best they could to save her, operating for three hours. Alice Burnett hung on for two days before she died.

Mrs. Hamilton was deeply affected by the attack that took place in her home. Alice Burnett had been engaged to marry Ross Hamilton, Mrs. Hamilton’s son. However, the young man had been killed in a work accident at the L & N Rail yards several months earlier. He was working as a switchman and was caught between colliding cars at the depot and crushed. United in their grief, Miss Burnett and Mrs. Hamilton remained close friends and that is why Alice Burnett and her friend Eula were visiting that night. Mrs. Hamilton had lost her husband in 1912 and her daughter Effie in 1914. And now, in quick succession, she had lost her son and then his bride.  Hamilton had been helpless to stop the intruder even though she entered the room before the shot was fired.  She caught a quick glimpse and said he had a dark complexion and possibly a mustache but nothing else. Eula Henry could not give a clear description of the man who had attacked them even though they had been close together during the struggle. It was a tragedy in every way and the police were desperate for information.

The intruder left behind the knife he had used to open the screen door of Mrs. Hamilton’s house. Chief O’Conner of the KPD Detectives brought the knife from the Hamiltons’ to the Keys’ residence. The Keys said it matched the remains of a set that was still in the kitchen, with one missing. Chief O’Conner was certain the same man carried out all three attacks that night and was responsible for earlier attacks as well. He reasoned that the length of time between the second and third attacks on September 21st was not simply a matter of the distance between the homes. He thought the delay suggested the Marauder had paused to think out a better plan. Having failed to complete an assault twice in a short time, the attacker was frustrated and determined to succeed. As in the August 10 attacks, frustration at having been interrupted led the Marauder to greater violence.

Alice Burnett’s brother offered $100 reward to anyone who could provide information about the man who had killed his daughter. The city of Knoxville added an additional $500. Others donated funds so that the amount reached $1200. In 2021, that amount is equal to a reward of more than $16 thousand dollars.

Police were frustrated by the lack of clues in this string of attacks and particularly by the inability of victims to provide a clear description of the intruder. Though all the victims and survivors described identical tactics and behaviors, none could agree on skin color or build. Police were growing more certain every day that one man was guilty of all these attacks but could not identify a suspect. A day after the triple event on September 21st, Commissioner of Public Safety N. B. Kuhlman issued a statement to Police Chief Ed M. Haynes. It read, “Be advised and instruct the police department as follows: Beginning this date at midnight, I want the police department to dragnet the city of Knoxville and search for, arrest, and lock up in the city jail any and all persons found on streets and in alleys, unless they have credentials and show good reasons why they are on the streets at that time of night.”

Knoxville Mayor E. W. Neal oversaw a vote on the proposed curfew during a city commission meeting. The dragnet and reward were unanimously supported. After the meeting, Commissioner Kuhlman remarked that the city had been criticized in the past for having too large a police force. On the contrary, he continued, “It is plain that our police force is not large enough to cope with the situation.”

By September 23, the city was in turmoil. Newspapers described the city as an “armed camp” with few out and about after dark. There was a boom in gun sales and most families saw a trend of men staying up all night to remain vigilant. Law enforcement was shifted almost entirely to night shift so there were few officers available during the day. The county Sheriff’s office and KPD both decided to target drug addicts, though medical and psychiatric experts claimed drug addiction had little to do with the kind of thrill sought by the Night Marauder. Nevertheless, law enforcement struggled to make sense of the Marauder’s motives. They settled on “dope fiends” because those people might be acting under a drug-induced hallucination. It would be years before criminal profilers would sort out the domination fetish that might drive a serial rapist.

Officials also feared that even if they did catch a meaningful suspect, it would simply lead to the kind of mob violence that had rocked the city when Maurice Mays was arrested. They were willing to round up every drunk and vagrant they encountered on the streets and pursue suspects in even the least violent robberies. Somehow, the Marauder had evaded them at every step, and catching him would require heavy-handed action.

Profiling the Night Marauder

This post was written by contributor Cooper Lawson (MC’21). The post was edited by N. Locklin.

In the 1920s, there lived a monster that brought terror to Knox and Blount Counties at night. This criminal was blamed for a long list of break-ins, sexual assaults, physical assaults, attempted homicides, and homicides that have left his victims silent forever. However, from the list of the dead and the statements of the survivors and witnesses of the crimes, one can create a criminal profile that will help answer the question: what kind of person was the Night Marauder and why did he do what he did? The case remains unsolved, and it has haunted the investigators, the courts, and the inhabitants of the two counties for over a century. In this essay, investigative practices of the era will be compared to those of the modern day as the details from this case are revisited again a century after the Night Marauder vanished from east Tennessee.

The Knox County and Blount County Sheriff’s departments saw a pattern in the crimes that clued them in to the fact that these were serial crimes rather than unrelated ones. The perpetrator always entered the home in the middle of the night armed with a flashlight (to blind his victims) and a nickel-plated revolver. His victims were chosen due to the lack of electricity in their homes so that they could not see/identify him in the dark. He targeted women for sexual purposes, maintaining control using his gun and verbal threats.

Criminal profiling has evolved a lot in the past century, but the basic instincts of law enforcement and strategies that they employ in serial crime investigations have largely stayed the same. Investigators approached this case using inductive reasoning. This means that until they caught the attacker in the act or found conclusive evidence of his guilt, they had to pursue a case based on supporting reasons and premises that lead to a likely conclusion rather than a certainty. Officers matched crimes that included the same signature behaviors to suspects who had criminal histories that were similar to the style and motive of this series of crimes. The Marauder was familiar with the areas where the crimes were being committed, which makes it likely he was local. Law enforcement used the concept of “distance decay” to explain that someone with urges such as these would not want to travel very far to fulfill them. It is also important to note that the perpetrator is classified as a Marauder, meaning he specifically commits his crimes within a certain radius of where he lives and works.

After the conviction and execution of Maurice Mays, there would be two more men charged with the crimes before the Marauder attacks ended in 1926. The only thing missing in each case was conclusive evidence generated by deductive, rather than inductive reasoning. By modern standards, this would require forensic evidence or security footage that could prove the identity of the perpetrator. However, by standards of the era, the best they could do was to get multiple positive identifiers, such as physical descriptions and voice identifications that matched potential suspects. This was made impossible due to the Marauder’s consistent use of a blinding flashlight and the cover of darkness to hide his identity. Many victims claimed that they could identify the perpetrator’s voice, but for now, there is no evidence to tell us that they did. When suspects were brought to trial, the inconsistent and dubious descriptions and the fact that the evidence the prosecution had was merely circumstantial, made it impossible to prove a given suspect was guilty.

Looking back on the Night Marauder case a century after it went cold, one can point out signature behaviors as indicators that could help build a modern psychological profile for the perpetrator of the crimes. Despite the fact that formal criminal profiling did not come into play until the development of the Crime Classification Manual (CCM) by the FBI in 1978, the basic investigative strategies that build into modern profiling were already in use in the 1920s.

In his book Serial Crime Theoretical and Practical Issues in Behavioral Profiling, Wayne Petherick outlines what a criminal profiler would conclude if the Night Marauder were at work today. The fact that the attacks include a sexual assault or attempted assault can be attributed to a fetish motive for dominance over the woman. This pattern of behavior is then repeated again and again until the Night Marauder’s behaviors become more practiced as he masters his craft. In the cases where the victims call out for help and a man comes to their rescue, the Night Marauder typically responds by fleeing, sometimes with parting shots from his gun. However, if the Marauder catches the man unaware like he does with his female victims, he will respond either by immediately shooting the man or threatening that he will kill them both if they fight back. This shows the detective that his motive is not to kill his victims. The murder is not the Marauder’s end-goal, rather it is a tactic he will take if he faces resistance. From this, the detective can theorize that the perpetrator does not gain pleasure from the murder as much as he does from the terror that he inflicts.  Finally, in more than one case, the Night Marauder takes a methodical approach to the crime by casing the victim’s home and hiding firearms and light sources before attacking. This tells the detective that the Night Marauder is an organized criminal who commits his crimes after a great deal of premeditation and planning, which implies a methodical nature. This hypothesis is further evidenced by the Marauder’s cool-down pattern sometimes remaining inactive for months. It could be theorized that the Marauder simply leaves the area during these times but given the patterns of his crimes during his active months being so close together, it is more likely that he had a practical reason for such long respites. With the information that we currently have, the detective may theorize that the Marauder took advantage of summer heat when windows and doors would be left open during the night. Winter attacks were rare but usually more deadly.

The fact that the crimes all happen within a relatively small area tells the detective that the Night Marauder is either a young man or is simply inexperienced as a criminal. This is because older, more experienced criminals often know how the police investigate their crimes and will try to throw them off their trail by committing their crimes further away from home than they usually go.

To Summarize, the modern detective’s criminal profile of the Marauder includes: a fetish motive for serial rape that stems from the need to terrorize and dominate his victims, the willingness to kill but not a fetishistic need to, a fixation on women as his victims, and that he is likely a young man with a methodical nature. From here, the modern detective will then look for someone who fits this description and who may already have a history of deviant behaviors fitting the crimes. With the advancements in criminal psychology and criminal justice procedures, if the Night Marauder had begun his attacks in 2019 rather than 1919, it is likely that his criminal career would have very quickly ended.

Making the List

It should come as no surprise that the defense team for Maurice Mays, facing the death penalty after having been charged with the murder of Bertie Lindsey, pulled out all the stops. The crucial evidence, that the assaults and murders kept happening even as Mays was incarcerated, never made it to the jury’s ears. That long list of attacks would continue to grow well past the execution of Mays in 1922 and it would be resurrected and enhanced with every telling. Two more men would face trial before the killing stopped in 1926, each suspected of being the Night Marauder.

But were all the attacks on that list really the work of the same man?

Many of the early attacks raise questions, particularly when the victims identified someone else as the violent intruder. Della Cunningham Wagner was attacked in 1919, months before Bertie Lindsey was killed, and she accused a preacher who had been following her around. She later dropped that accusation. When Ida White first reported a night-time intruder in September 1919, she had not been at all afraid and did not mention any threats of violence. Dacie Ward and Nettie Pinkum described attacks in late September and early October 1919, respectively, and the details they reported certainly match the pattern established by the Night Marauder. However, the threats each woman remembered the intruder making did not match one another and did not at first make any reference to Bertie Lindsey. Even so, beginning with the legal defense of Maurice Mays, the attacks on Wagner, Ward, and Pinkum would be cemented as part of the series and evoked in the press every time a suspect was brought to trial.

There are several possible explanations for this phenomenon. The most cynical explanation is that defense attorneys for Mays and later suspects coached the women to include details explicitly connecting their crimes. Mind you, this would not mean that Mays or the later suspects were actually guilty. Clearly, attacks kept happening even while the accused were in custody and even after two of them were dead. Someone was responsible for those crimes. Yet, one could imagine a defense attorney suggesting that the intruder must have been referring to Bertie Lindsey when he threatened to shoot the women.

Another possible explanation, also cynical, is that the women realized that adding their tales to the narrative that haunted Knoxville kept them in the center of attention. None of these women were very powerful and a couple of them were in the midst of dysfunctional family drama. Being asked to testify repeatedly, being featured in news stories, and being visited by private investigators must have made them feel special, even vindicated.

But perhaps it was simply the result of having survived a traumatic event and hearing about similar attacks and sister survivors. It may have brought relief and a sense of closure to count themselves among the victims of the Night Marauder. And let’s not forget the power of suggestion. Memory is hazy, even under the best of conditions. In the aftermath of a terrifying assault and, in some cases, a gunshot wound, it is possible that they “remembered” the intruder saying something about Bertie Lindsey. It would make sense if they suddenly realized the intruder must have had a flashlight, even if they did not mention it at first.

One case that will make it on to the list of Marauder attacks at first appears to be entirely unrelated.  At 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 10, 1920, a man entered the room where Maude Maples slept, fired a shot, and then ran away. Maude Maples was separated from her husband and living with her father but was eager to find someplace else to stay.  On this occasion, she was simply staying over at the home of a friend. Maples told police she woke up because someone pulled the covers off of her. She looked up at the man who told her, “Lay still, Maude, and be quiet or I’ll shoot you.” Frightened, she ran around the bed to wake up her roommate, who told her to leave with the man and be quiet. It was at that point that a shot was fired into a wall and the man turned to leave.

Maples insisted that the shooter had been none other than the man of the house, Henderson Radcliff. Radcliff and his wife Katy owned the home at 815 Irwin St. in Knoxville, and they had some rooms they let out to boarders. Hazel Brummet (sometimes Biles) was living with them at the time, and Maude was a friend of hers. The Radcliffs and Miss Brummet testified at the preliminary hearing that the intruder was a stranger, and that Maude was confused.  Their accounts of what happened that night certainly explain how Maude could have been so confused.

Late Monday afternoon, Maude came to visit Hazel and she gave Radcliff a dollar to get them some whiskey. He did so, though he said she had clearly already been drinking, and and then he went back out to have dinner with a friend. Hazel and Maude spent the evening drinking whiskey with lemon extract, making a cocktail similar to a whiskey sour. They then walked around the neighborhood in the company of two unidentified men. After that, they returned to the house and Hazel insisted Maude spend the night in her room. The Radcliffs testified that Maude Maples seemed intoxicated but that they thought nothing of it and went to their room. Hazel Brummet testified that she awoke to see a man talking to Maude at the side of the bed in low tones. When he noticed her looking at them, he chided Maude for waking up her roommate. At that same moment, Katy Radcliff shook her husband awake and told him there was a man in the house. He looked and saw a man in a white shirt standing at the foot of the bed where the two young women had been sleeping. Henderson heard the man threaten to shoot Maude. Henderson then spoke out loud, saying “Perhaps I’ll just shoot him,” hoping to frighten the intruder. He succeeded because at that point the strange man fired a shot towards the Radcliffs’ room before turning to run out of the house. Radcliff then fired a round into the floor to make sure the intruder left.

This testimony was bolstered by strong character witnesses who spoke in favor of Mr. Radcliff. Statements by Detective Gibson, who had visited the scene of the crime, absolutely cemented the man’s innocence.  There were two bullets recovered from the house—one in the wall and one in the floor, but Radcliff’s gun was missing only one round. Initially, no report made reference to a flashlight, but the detective searched for one anyway. The only flashlight in the Radcliff home was covered with dust and did not contain any batteries. Combined, the evidence led to the dismissal of the charges against Henderson Radcliff. This left the identity of the intruder unsolved.

It seems likely that Maude Maples, having had too much to drink, looked like an easy mark in the eyes of a predator. It may have been one of the men who accompanied the two young women on their walk, or it could have been someone else who saw them together. Whoever it was entered the room and tried to persuade Maude to leave with him. That would explain why Hazel was not at first very frightened and why she told her friend to be quiet and leave. When Maude refused to leave and the Radcliffs interrupted him, the stranger fired a shot and fled. The next day, having sobered up, Maude insisted that the man at her bed had to have been Radcliff because “he was the only man in the house.” The Knoxville Journal and Tribune reported that Maples became heated and “appeared sullen” on the stand, sticking to her story that Radcliff had tried to assault her. However, the testimony of the other three witnesses made it clear she was not being truthful. Maples admitted in court she had been drinking with Hazel, but she denied going for a walk with two gentlemen. She might have been impaired enough that she was having trouble reconstructing exactly what had happened.

With no other suspects to pursue, the police and the press added the attack on Maude Maples to the list of unsolved Night Marauder cases. If the intruder in this case was the same man who had preyed upon so many women before, Maude had no idea how fortunate she was. The initial accusation against Henderson Radcliff delayed recognition that this attempt was part of the series. This case was included in the list several days after the horrific murder and assault at the Robinson home, but it had happened just a couple of hours prior. The intruder was in the Radcliff home at 1:30 a.m. and the Robinsons were attacked just after 3 a.m. This would mean that the Night Marauder, frustrated by the way he had been interrupted at the Radcliff home still yearned for that elusive thrill. He was determined to find satisfaction.  The Robinson home at 1321 Van St. (now Val St. at Baxter) was less than a mile from the Radcliff home on Irwin. It would have been a fifteen-minute walk, less if the man walked through the Old Gray Cemetery. That determination to fulfill his urge could explain what tipped him over the edge, to the point where he would shoot Lula Robinson and then stay to complete his assault on her sister-in-law Elizabeth.

Image taken from Pitner’s 1930 map of Knoxville (Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection) https://cmdc.knoxlib.org/digital/collection/p15136coll4/id/3331

What Makes a Murderer?

This post was written by contributor Riley Cook (MC’23). The post was edited by N. Locklin.

Over 3,000 serial killers have been identified in America since 1900. Approximately 10,000 lives were taken as a result of their actions. There are an estimated thirty serial killers operating every year in the United States. What makes a person want to harm and/or murder others? Through the years of 1919 to 1926 a serial killer terrorized towns in East Tennessee. There were a number of suspects, but no one was ever convicted for these crimes.

In the brain of a murderer, the area that controls violence is not typical. Researchers have found that the brain of a murderer has a deficiency in the frontal lobe. There are several circumstances that can cause this weakness in the frontal lobe, such as a mother smoking and/or drinking during pregnancy, shaken baby syndrome, or an abusive childhood. If a child does not get enough nutrients or has little or no attachment with their mother, the brain may not fully develop. In the early stages of development, an infant craves attachment and may become distraught when taken away from the caregiver. Attachment is the first sign that a baby is a human being and is dependent on others. Many serial killers never develop this feeling and do not see themselves as a part of the world. “A serial murderer has no feelings,” according to Dr. Helen Morrison, quoted in a 2012 interview with Business Insider’s Abby Rogers. “Serial killers have no motives. They kill only to kill an object.” The Night Marauder would not kill his victims unless they screamed because he loved seeing fear in women’s eyes. Some serial killers will perform experiments on their victims because they do not recognize their victims as fellow humans. “The complete lack of humanity is more than just being a psychopath because at least the psychopath has the capacity to express emotion,” concludes Morrison.

Morrison’s goal is to learn what causes serial killers to kill and how these people develop. The main trigger is a chromosome abnormality that starts showing during puberty which is also when people begin to express violent/murderous behaviors. There has yet to be a certain gene named, but scientists believe there is a change in the male chromosomal makeup. Heart rate can also be an indicator of a future serial killer. Statistics show that humans who act out through violence have a low resting heart rate. Scientists believe that low resting heart rates lessen the fear felt by the individual committing a crime. The fear holding other people back from committing crimes is absent in these people with low resting heart rates.

In the brain of a murderer, there is low to no activity in the frontal lobe. Their amygdalae are also shrunken, causing a lack of emotion. But not everyone with a weak frontal lobe is going to be a murderer. If there was a way to repair the damage done to the frontal part of the brain, murders, to some extent, could be stopped. Dr. Raine, a pioneer of neurological research at the University of Pennsylvania says that doctors now have the ability to scan children’s brains and predict which children are at risk of becoming future criminals.

Using motivational science to research murderous behaviors reveals certain common characteristics in violent individuals. When a psychopath is struggling in daily life, for example, they take their frustrations out through ways that are not socially acceptable. “These strategies are described as ‘self-handicapping’ behavior by psychologists and can take many shapes and forms, including self-harm, substance abuse, and even murder”, according to Bobby Hoffman, author of “Why We Kill, According to Motivational Science” in Psychology Today (2017). Goal attainment is a basic human need. When this cannot be reached, some people feel as if they have failed themselves. Normally people try again to achieve a goal with a different technique, but some do not and become frustrated. Frustration, in some individuals, can lead to murder. Murder is not that hard of a task. “One trigger-click and the unfulfilled killer has met a sordid goal”, says Hoffman. Emotional regulation, or emotional intelligence, is needed to solve problems that occur in modern life. Emotional intelligence has three aspects: Individuals with emotional intelligence have productive methods to cope with emotions, individuals with advanced emotional intelligence are more successful personally and professionally, and emotional regulation strategies that can be learned. Typically, violent people do not have ways to cope with emotions.

Emotions also continue with revenge in mind until the frustration is put to an end. In the mind of a criminal, murder might be the only source to relieve aggression. Despite someone’s motives, normally they invest time and effort in something for a rewarding outcome. When murder is committed there is almost instant gratification. The marshmallow test proves that most people want instant gratification. The test presented one marshmallow directly after accomplishing an assignment, or two marshmallows after waiting fifteen minutes. The experiment led to decades of research proving that those who have self-control are more successful, healthier, and wealthier than those who lack self-control. Humans seek recognition and compliments from others. Without these, people can develop negative views of themselves and inadequacy. Recognition for killers can come from the media, law enforcement, etc. after they commit crimes. When people feel competent, they are motivated by the appraisal of their skills. “Accounts of many psychopaths, murderers, and serial killers rarely show a pattern of traditional competence and the associated recognition for their achievements”, according to Hoffman. Killers’ needs are fulfilled when they kill others and hear about it on the news, radio, etc. They could not succeed in a typical fashion but they get attention and recognition for their violence.

Dr. Al Carlisle, author of I’m Not Guilty: The Development of a Violent Mind: The Case of Ted Bundy, believes that the infamous killer, Theodore Bundy, “crossed the line from sexual fantasy to murder and necrophilia”. This brings another aspect to a serial killer. Carslisle suggests that strength to constantly kill people and still be able to act as a normal human being is explained by three processes: fantasy (the person imagines scenarios for entertainment or self-comfort), dissociation (the person avoids uncomfortable feelings and memories), and compartmentalization (the person relegates different ideas and images to specific mental frames and keeps boundaries between them). Serial killers can act normal in public but when in private, they can show a dark side. When unpleasant memories present themselves in a serial killer’s mind, they begin to fantasize to bring relief to their discomfort. Some even cultivate a new persona that can cause them to feel more powerful.

Psychological factors, in the end, cause people to become serial killers more often than environmental factors. This could have been a leading factor in the Night Marauder’s life which caused him to enjoy hurting and killing people. People’s environments can be altered which can reduce the number of serial killers in the world. Scientists have not yet found a way to change people’s brains and chromosomes but hopefully, in the future, this will change resulting in a safer world.

The Fiend Becomes a Monster

While Elijah McGill faced trial for the murder of his wife, the Night Marauder went on a rampage. Over the course of the summer of 1920, several women in Knoxville were attacked easily as their doors and windows were left open to let in the cool night air. Circumstances, however, would lead the marauder to discover a new and disturbing thrill by summer’s end.

Miss Joy Thomas was attacked on May 24 when she was about 14 years old. She lived on University Ave with her parents and shared a room with her two little sisters. Miss Thomas woke up around 2 a.m. because she felt hands on her body. The light from a flashlight shined in her eyes and she could see the man held a pistol. He told her she was too young to kill but that he would not hesitate to shoot if she screamed. He instructed her to get out of the bed and lay on the floor. Petrified, she silently did as he said, and he assaulted her while her parents slept. Years later, while speaking to a private investigator, she would leave out the part about the assault, claiming that he simply turned away and left. On the night of the attack, she was able to tell the police the man was “low and heavy”, with a “red” complexion. Bloodhounds sent out that night followed a trail from the Thomas home to the Euclid avenue street car line.

On June 1st, Miss Alma Booker slept alone in a downstairs room in a house she shared with her mother and brother on Burwell Ave. She woke up because she felt a man’s hands on her body. She immediately tried to push his hands away and jump out of the bed. He told her to be still and he would not hurt her. He made “an indecent proposition” to her and threatened to kill her. The man pressed the gun firmly against her temple and flashed the light in her eyes so that she could not see him. She could not even tell if he was white or Black, but she thought she felt his jacket against her skin and it seemed to be corduroy. She screamed and then fainted. When she regained consciousness, she ran to her mother’s room. However, she was still so shaken she could not speak for some time. When they returned to her room, they saw “the prints of his feet” on the bed. Newspapers at the time of the attack did not publish her name because she was only 13 at the time. Apparently, she was unharmed because her scream alerted the household and the intruder left quickly.

On July 22, 1920, the same edition of the Knoxville Sentinel that announced the conviction of Elijah McGill reported the latest Night Marauder attack. Mrs. Mattie McCall awoke just after midnight in her home on Lawrence Ave to find a man in her room, holding a pistol in one hand and a flashlight in the other. She remembered thinking that he had gloves on his hands as he pushed the gun into her face. He whispered something to her in a harsh tone, but she could not understand what he was saying. The light from the flashlight was blinding and the man kept it pointed towards her eyes the whole time. He forced her back on the bed and assaulted her, though she struggled to resist him.

The man did not stay long but McCall stayed laying in bed for several minutes after he had gone because she was terrified that he would return.  She lived alone with her 22-year-old son who was away from home on the night shift at the Brookside mills. Eventually, McCall made her way to a neighbor’s house and the police were summoned. No clues were found, as was the case in so many of these attacks. McCall could only describe the man as “probably white” and that his trousers felt like corduroy. The newspaper did note that, at 54, Mrs. McCall was “the oldest” victim so far.

Mrs. Mildred Young was attacked on July 30 in a 3-room house on Maria Street. She was alone because her husband worked for the railroad and they had been separated for some time. Sometime after midnight, the signature flashlight shone in her eyes, causing her to wake up, and she screamed. The man holding the flashlight told her if she screamed again, he would kill her. She screamed again and the intruder shot her in the abdomen before running away. He climbed out an open window which was presumably the way he had entered. Mrs. Crawford, a boarder, and her daughter were asleep in the second room, and they quickly came to Mrs. Young’s aid. They took her to the hospital where the bullet was removed, but surgeons discovered it had perforated her intestines in eleven places. Mildred Young would spend the next six weeks recovering from the gunshot wound. While there, fearing she would die soon, Young said the man who had shot her was someone who had become infatuated with her and had seen her out with another man. She described the intruder as a “deserter from the U.S. Army” named Carl Stephens. Stephens was arrested and held without trial pending Mrs. Young’s full recovery. However, Young dropped the charges at some point and Stephens never stood trial. Years later she would claim that she never got a good look at the man who shot her.

On August 10th, Lula Eunice Robinson was attacked and killed in her home on Van Street. Her husband, Mannie, had left to work at a mine in Claiborne County, and Lula shared the room with her sister-in-law Elizabeth.  About 3 a.m. Elizabeth woke to see a man with a flashlight and a gun standing at the foot of Lula’s bed. She could not recall if she woke up because of the gunshot sounds or Lula’s screams but it was terrifying. The intruder kept telling Lula to be quiet but she kept screaming. The man shot Lula three times—twice in the leg and once in her side.

The clamor of the screaming and the gunshots did not frighten the intruder away on this occasion. He did not turn and run after shooting his victim. Instead, with Lula groaning and bleeding out on the bed, the sick intruder turned his attention to Elizabeth. He assaulted Elizabeth while her sister-in-law lay dying in the same room. The Knoxville Journal and Tribune called it “the most heinous of the similar tragedies that have swept the city in the past few months.”

Lula would cling to life for two whole days, but there was no saving her. This would be the dawn of a more chilling pattern as the Night Marauder began to target two people. Perhaps hoping to recreate the thrill of the attack in the Robinson home, he sought out a home where two people slept and shot one of them before raping the other. The horror of the attack was amplified, as the first victim was helpless to help the second, and the person being assaulted could not save their sister or spouse. There would still be the occasional attack on a solitary woman, but even these were more likely to end in death. The serial rapist and burglar was now a dedicated killer.