DVD review by K. Robert Einarson

Christmas Day 1929. Three months after the stock market crash that kick-started the Great Depression, respected tobacco farmer Charlie Lawson brutally murdered his wife and 6 of his 7 children before committing suicide; one of the most horrible and mysterious mass murders in North Carolina history. The Charlie Lawson murders became immortalized in a classic bluegrass murder ballad, ghost stories, tours of the crime scene, and legends known coast to coast. The crime remains one of the most horrible and mysterious mass murder/suicides the nation had ever witnessed.

This documentary is actually more like three movies in one. The story begins outlining the event and the legend that formed around it. There is discussion around the role of telling and preserving tragic stories though music in this area of the states as well as how family members exploited the story and how, at one point, the murders were a sideshow attraction at fairgrounds.

The second story is the account of the events and people who knew the family. This often-sad retelling shows us a family destroyed and the aftermath that remains to today. The documentary explores a few possible theories but the motives of Charlie Lawson remain mysterious even today.

The finally part is a discussion of domestic violence and the toll it took on this family as well as another family featured in the film. The film production company is also donating a percentage of all proceeds from the video to domestic violence agencies in the North Carolina area.

The movie was very interesting and for anyone familiar with the story, it explores the mystery thoroughly and gives a balanced analysis. My only complaint was that the story was a little uneven during the last third of the movie.

I would recommend this documentary for anyone interested in more information about this crime and also for anyone who wants to see an example of how society handles a tragic event and how these events become, for better or worse, part of popular culture though song and story.

Check out the website for further information: www.bodproductions.com.


Kevin Einarson is the publisher of Spinetingler Magazine. His short fiction has appeared in Mouth Full of Bullets, Flashing in the Gutters and Spinetingler.

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