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The Wild Man, The Goat Woman & the Mississippi Miser

Southerners didn’t write the book on eccentricity, but we’ve certainly supplied literature with more than our share of audacious characters and plots. From the Lesters of Tobacco Road and Boo Radley, to Ignatius J. Reilly and the denizens of Yoknapatawpha County, Dixie has produced a bumper crop of picaresque folk. Fiction, however, rarely eclipses fact. The real-life 1932 Goat Castle Murder in Natchez, Mississippi, was the perfect paradigm, screwy and sensational enough to demand, for the first time in American history, two special tourist trains to a crime scene. It seemed few could resist murder mixed with madness, wealth, incest and dizzying falls from grace, not to mention the quirky charms of the Wild Man, the Goat Woman and the Mississippi Miser, plus a...

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Tragedy In Spades

Of all Natchez, Mississippi’s grand suburban villas, Glenwood surely suffered the longest, fell furthest from grace and died the most shameful death. The poor, unwelcome bastard had finally left the family reunion. –The Goat Castle Murder Built in 1841 and surrounded by 45 forested acres, Glenwood was a capacious, columned affair with a two-storied veranda and graceful parapets. Not one of Natchez’s more grandiose suburban villas, its simple charms nevertheless convinced the Reverend Charles Bacchus Dana to purchase the house in 1866. A Northerner with imposing bloodlines, he was related to Charles A. Dana, Editor of the New York Sun, and Richard Henry Dana, famed maritime attorney and author of the best-selling Two Years Before the Mast. Dana and his wife...

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Moonlight, Magnolias & Murder

One of Natchez’s smaller architectural gems, Glenburnie Manor was built in 1833. A handsomely proportioned, one-story raised cottage with a gracious, columned veranda, it was enhanced in the classic colonial style in 1904, just in time to welcome its most celebrated—and infamous—owner: Jane “Jennie” Merrill (1864-1932). As the daughter of cotton baron Ayres Merrill, Jennie boasted blood that was among the bluest in Mississippi. She was a newborn when her Unionist father took the family to New York to wait out the Civil War. Jennie was raised in luxury on Washington Square, and when her father was named Ambassador to Belgium by his friend President Ulysses S. Grant, Jennie was presented to Queen Victoria at the Court of St. James. It was said that the tiny monarch...

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