Since Halloween is nearly upon us, it’s that time of the year when restless spirits and the dead walk among us—allegedly. Of course, this depends on whether you actually believe in ghosts or not.
And if you live outside of Cincinnati or Northern Kentucky, you may not be familiar with Pearl Bryan—a doomed young woman that would never become a mother or hold a grandchild in her arms.
The backdrop is a former slaughterhouse with an old well that is believed to be a gateway to Hell. The players include: a former Cincinnati dental student, a devious roommate and Bryan herself. Although the murder occurred more than 100 years ago—people still discuss the murder as if it happened yesterday. Today, the old slaughterhouse property is now the home of Bobby Mackey’s Music World, a local hotspot for country music lovers and ghost hunters.
Before Bobby Mackey’s time, a legend began in 1896 when the headless corpse of an unknown woman was found in a remote area along the river banks of the Licking River in Wilder, Kentucky near an abandoned slaughterhouse.
Formerly, the slaughterhouse used a well in the basement to drain the blood from dead animals into the nearby Licking River. The discovery of the headless woman made headlines in Cincinnati and Kentucky. Eventually, authorities identified the headless corpse by her Louis and Hays shoes; a Greencastle, Indiana shoe company that confirmed the dead girl’s purchase. The deceased was a young woman named Pearl Bryan.
Not only was she murdered, but her head was severed from her body with a knife. And to this day, no one knows what happened to the missing head because the killers were executed without disclosing what they had done with it. Authorities at the time believed that the killers had thrown it into the old well in the slaughterhouse basement, where it was carried away by the Licking River.
Law enforcement focused on two men: Alonzo Walling and Scott Jackson, who was Bryan’s former lover. After a trial, both Walling and Jackson were convicted of killing Bryan. The Kentucky Post had reported at the time that Walling and Jackson were offered life in prison if they would reveal the whereabouts of Bryan’s missing head.
As admitted Satanists, Both Walling and Scott refused the offer because they feared the wrath of Satan if they revealed any details about the murder. Both chose to be executed instead of facing Satan’s wrath. Reportedly, they offered Bryan’s head as a sacrifice to Satan, most likely in the slaughterhouse well. Today, believers claim that the well is an actual “gateway to Hell.”
On March 21, 1897 both men were hanged in Campbell County Kentucky for murdering Bryan. Before his execution, Walling vowed to return from the grave and torment those who would execute him. Legend has it that several law enforcement officials involved in the case died tragic deaths—but this can’t be positively confirmed.
So who was Pearl Bryan? She was the attractive and popular daughter of a wealthy farmer. She was from Greencastle, Indiana and had many suitors. But unknown to family and friends, she was pregnant by Scott Jackson—a dental student attending the Ohio College of Dental Surgery in Cincinnati.
Pearl had met Jackson through William Wood, her cousin and close friend. Jackson also came from a successful family so he was accepted as a legitimate suitor for Pearl. Unfortunately, for Bryan and Wood, neither knew that Scott Jackson was an alleged member of an occult group that used to meet at the old slaughterhouse. Bryan confided to her cousin Wood that she was pregnant. A decision was made to solve the problem—an abortion in Cincinnati.
While five months pregnant, Pearl left home on February 1, 1896 after telling her parents that she was going to visit Indianapolis. In reality, she met with Jackson and Alonzo Walling, who was Jackson’s roommate. After Bryan left, her family never saw her alive again.
As a student with medical training, Jackson attempted to perform the abortion himself. He tried to induce birth with Cocaine and complete the abortion with dental tools. But his medical skills weren’t proficient enough to complete the abortion. The unsuccessful abortion left Bryan frightened and bleeding. Walling, Bryan and Jackson then left Cincinnati and traveled to a spot near Fort Thomas, Kentucky where Jackson and Walling murdered Bryan. The autopsy later showed that Bryan was still alive when her head was severed.
Bryan’s cousin Willie Wood was also arrested as an accessory to the crime, but later released after testifying against Jackson and Walling.
Today, there have been rumors that the ghost of Pearl Bryan and Alonzo Walling haunt Bobby Mackey’s. It’s also been said that these ghosts may have been exorcised from the building.
It’s unlikely that anyone will ever know for sure.
Author Douglas Hensley, wrote a book about Bryan and other ghosts that are believed to still haunt Bobby Mackey’s. The book is called Hell’s Gate: Terror at Bobby Mackey’s Music World. Additionally, Bobby Mackey’s has been featured on Jerry Springer, Geraldo, Hard Copy and other media. Over the years, there have been many testimonies of people that have experienced the supernatural within the walls of Bobby Mackey’s.