December 29, 1927
Angelenos have stellar opportunities for entertainment this week—the Brothers Marx are performing in Sam Harris’ The Cocoanuts at the Biltmore Theatre (why, and future Marx cohort Thelma Todd can be seen on screen in The Gay Defender at the Metropolitan!), and Jolson’s Vitaphone picture The Jazz Singer, whose thrilling sound production presages a new era for motion picture sound effects, had its magnificent grand opening last night at the Criterion…but where was everyone this week? At the Pantages.
December 24, 1927
Dominating newspaper headlines for the past several days has been the slaying of twelve year old school girl, Marion Parker. Her killer, William Edward Hickman, is currently in Oregon awaiting extradition. He’ll return by train under heavy guard to Los Angeles, where he faces the death penalty for the horrific crime.
Long before newspapers were delivered to the doorsteps of most American homes, information was spread by song – and it’s a practice that continues to this day. Ballads have been written about floods, mining disasters, shipwrecks, and murder. Marion Parker’s tragic story inspired prolific song writer Reverend Andrew Jenkins of Atlanta, Georgia to pen the poignant “Ballad of Marian [sic] Parker”.
The Ballad of Marian Parker
'Way out in California,
A family bright and gay
Were preparing for their Christmas
Not very far away.
They had a little daughter,
A sweet and pretty child.
And everyone who knew her
Loved Marian Parker's smile.
She left her home one morning
For her school not far away.
And no one dreamed that danger,
Was lurking near that day.
But then a murdrous villain,
A fiend with heart of stone,
Took little Marian Parker
Away from friends and home.
The world was horror-stricken,
The people held their breath,
Until they found poor Marian,
Her body cold in death.
They hunted for the coward,
Young Hickman was their man.
They brought him back to justice,
His final trial to stand.
The jury found him guilty,
Of course they could not fail.
He must be executed
Soon in San Quentin jail.
And while he waits his sentence,
Let's hope he learns to pray
To make his black soul ready
For the great judgement day.
There is a great commandment
That says, "Thou shalt not kill"
And those who do not head it,
Their cup of sorrow fill
January 23, 1927
Following up yesterday’s story about whether one Ray McCoy was lynched for looking too much like Edward Hickman…
The verdict of the Coroner’s jury? Jail officials and other prisoners, all vindicated. Nevertheless, it seems that Ralph “Ray McCoy” Fuller raised the ire of Angelenos in the grip of Hickman fever, whose Hickmanmania (Hickmania? Hickmentia?) led an angry mob to chase down and beat Fuller something fierce, believing the twenty year-old to be Hickman, after Fuller robbed a store at 242 South Main and was chased two blocks on foot.
Fellow prisoner Fred Meadows told the Times that once in the hoosegow, the sullen and reserved Fuller was regarded as just another popped burglar. Meadows related how he and the boys started playing “Sundown” in an outer tank and when he returned, Fuller had hanged himself with Meadows’ scarf. (Must be nice to have scarves. And pianos.)
In other lynching news, any and all information regarding Hickman’s departure and route from Pendleton (where he was exhibited in a cage like a circus animal) to Los Angeles County Jail is being kept under strict secrecy.
December 22, 1927
Let’s put up our feet and see what’s gone on in the world this day. Not much. The odd curiosity or two.
According to our concerned friends at the paper, it seems the Mexicans are making a menace of themselves, using flowers of the “hemp” plant as some sort of habit-forming drug (they’re such a resourceful people!). Apparently the Imperial Linen Products Company has blanketed the Imperial Valley with the stuff. Well, I’m sure the State will sort this one out to everybody’s satisfaction.
Oh dear, here’s another fellow who just couldn’t resist a final cigarette. Seems J. B. Smith left the wife at his Glendale home and checked into the LaViolette Hotel on North Maclay in San Fernando. He brought with him a stack of goodbye letters indicating his fears about going mad, and a loaf of bread—not for snacking, but for soaking in water and wadding into the wafty windows and drafty doors (my hat off again to the resourcefulness of our Southlanders). Of course, no-one banks on the dang’d jets taking so long. Thankfully J. B. also brought along a pack of smokes to pass the time…the hole blown in the wall was six feet in diameter. J. B.'s smoldering remains lived long enough to say goodbye to his wife at the hospital, but not much longer than that.
And oh my, it seems one of my favorite attractions of the stage, Sidney Barnes the Human Ostrich, has expired in New Orleans. After complaining of stomach pains, the Homo Struthio underwent an operation to remove a cigar box full of bolts, carpet tacks, razor blades, washers and nails from therein—Barnes did not emerge alive. Guess growing up to be a carnival side can be rough, kids!
And what do have we here…a Coroner’s inquest will be held at 1:30 today to determine whether Ralph McCoy, in City Jail on suspicion of robbery, actually hung himself in his cell or was killed by fellow prisoners—it seems McCoy bears (well, bore) a resemblance to one William Edward Hickman.
Oh yeah. Hickman. Some mention in the paper about him, too.
December 20, 1927
As police scour the Bellevue Arms apartment*of "Donald Evans" (an alias for Marion Parker's purported slayer Edward Hickman, otherwise known as The Fox), they find portions of a chocolate cake, broken golf clubs, and dirty dishes suggesting a hurried departure. Marion's father Perry, upon discovering that the suspect is a former employee at his Seventh and Spring Street bank who he dismissed on fraud charges, says that the voice on the telephone demanding the $1500 ransom was similar to Hickman's peculiarly blasé speech patterns when discussing his offense, but that at no time did he believe the young man meant harm to him or his family.
Little Marion's outraged body lies in the morgue, a tiny, heartbreaking bundle with her missing limbs, hollowed core and unseeing eyes sewn open in doll-like pretence of life. In one small mercy, the Parker's neighbor is the Autopsy Surgeon, and it's this Dr. Wagner who makes the identification and pieces his little friend together from the parts that are brought in, wrapped in newspaper, from where they were scattered in Elysian Park.
The reward for The Fox' capture has swelled to $62,400, with new pledges from outraged citizens, radio stations and fraternal organizations arriving hourly. Will The Fox be snared, or will he slip away to menace other cities, other daughters? Tune in tomorrow to find out!
*attention, modern readers: the Bellevue Arms is the partly boarded up, expansive brick apartment building flush against the 101 freeway heading north out of downtown. The Fox' lair was upstairs in the middle rear of the Western, burned-out wing. If you decide to visit, you'll come via Sunset Boulevard, and via... MARION.
Holt excused Marion Parker from school on Thursday, December 15 when a slender man came to the desk and asked for "P.M. Parker's youngest daughter," saying that her father had been in an automobile accident. Holt hesitated, knowing that Marion was a twin. However, the man persisted, saying, "I am an employee at the bank where Mr. Parker is chief clerk, and if there is any doubt in your mind, here is the bank's telephone number. You may call there."
Convinced, Holt sent an office assistant to get Marian from class. "Marion was nervous and excited when I told her that her father had been injured. The news completely broke up a little Christmas party the children were having in their room, and Marion had some of the refreshments in her hands when she came into the room. But at once she forgot about everything but her father."
Marion was excused from school, and left with the man who would, three days later, end her life.
After the kidnapping, Holt said, "Oh, I can think of many things I could have done now. I never would have let Marion go but for the apparent sincerity and disarming manner of the man."
Private funeral services for 12-year-old Marion Parker were held today at the Little Church of Flowers at Forest Lawn Cemetery, after which her body was cremated. The search for her killer continues, with police and citizens as far away as Denver and Portland on the lookout for the Fox.
December 14, 1927
The holiday is nearly upon us, and all across the city, citizens are Christmas mad. The Pacific Electric Hollywood car stalled, halfway through the First Street tunnel, and when the wire fell down and sent sparks arcing across the darkened windows, scads of package-laden shoppers panicked and stampeded, despite attempts by train staff to calm them. Several passengers suffered bruised knees, ankles and backs.
There's naught but sadness at 4528 Amber Place, where the John Vernon Rosses mourn the death of their only child, John Vernon, Jr., aged 4. Mother was working days and father nights in downtown shops, to save enough to give the tyke his best Christmas ever, while a neighbor, Mrs. J.W. Loyal of 4600 Topaz Street watched the babe. When mother called for him around 1pm, he was dead in his cot, victim of some mysterious internal hemorrhage. An autopsy was ordered, but if any cause of death was found, it was never reported in the papers.
And down on Wilton Place, the Parker Twins, Marion and Marjorie, whisper together about what to give their father Perry for his birthday tomorrow. They cannot know that tomorrow Marion will be kidnapped from her school by The Fox, and that despite the ransom Perry pays, she will never come home again.