Response #44: Saying Goodbye

I was pleasantly surprised that I loved this course as much as I did. I have only even taken classes on campus at AUM so the hybrid class was new to me. I really enjoyed being able to take things at my own pace. Sometimes with a routine class meeting  it’s easy to fall behind in the readings and not be able to participate in class discussions, but this class allowed me to read the books at my own pace and still be able to interact and talk about the reading with my classmates.

This class really opened my eyes to a lot of different methods of learning. I loved that we were encouraged to watch different TV shows and movies to compare with the books we read. This class really felt more like a book club than a college course and I loved that.

As an aspiring writer, I loved the chance to use a blog as the medium through which we expressed our thoughts on the readings. It was a great alternative to writing papers, which can be dull and too formal. The blog allowed us to show our creative sides and have freedom over our writing style. I was really able to learn so much from other students as well. The Facebook groups while at times overwhelming was ultimately such a huge component for learning in the class. Everyone was so active in posting and so open to share their true thoughts and feelings on the stories, which is something that not everyone would have been comfortable doing in a regular class setting.

I would definitely take a hybrid class again. though I’m not sure I will enjoy it as much as this one. The bar has been set very high by Dr. Woodworth.

Response #43: Solving Charles Walton’s murder

When Lane and I first began researching this mystery, I wasn’t sure what role I wanted to play in the investigation. With it just being the two of us in our group, there were so many angles and roles to consider for solving the mystery. Lane decided to go with a journal entry from Charles Walton the day before he died. At first, I wanted to write an interrogation between Detective Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard and the person I would set up as the murderer, but when I began to write the blog post, it didn’t really seem like I was going anywhere. I decided to change my perspective up a little and instead write a letter from Robert Fabian to Richard Whittington-Egan, an author and criminal historian, explaining Fabian’s feelings towards the case years after it occurred.

I wanted to take this angle because I read a lot of different articles about how Fabian seemed disappointed by the unsolved mystery, like he had let himself and the small town of Lower Quinton down by not being able to close the case. As I was researching the case, I found there to be several possible suspects, but none that could be proven with evidence. This was the same problem Fabian ran across those many years ago.

I started to suspect that Walton’s niece might be responsible for the murder, but every account I read stated that she was at work until 6 pm. There was no way it could have been her. Then, there was the mysterious Italian POW who was found wandering the grounds where Walton was killed, but this also led to a dead end. Finally, I decided to place the blame on Alfred Potter, the owner of a farm where Walton was working the day he was killed. I came to this conclusion after reading an account where Fabian told someone about his suspicions of Potter, but since he could not produce evidence of Potter being the killer, he had no case against him. Fabian kept saying that he knew Potter was to blame.

After reading all about what Fabian said about Potter being the killer, I came to the same conclusion. I felt Fabian’s frustration with the case. It seemed like the town wanted the murder to be forgotten as soon as the next day. Walton was well-liked in the community, but many had suspicions that he was involved in some sort of witchcraft. The investigations dealt heavily with signs of Walton’s death being a witchcraft sacrifice that it seems they completely ruled out the possibility of an ordinary person being responsible.

Response #39: Agatha Christie

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Agatha Christie is only the second author we read this semester who I had any previous knowledge of as a writer (the first being Arthur Conan Doyle), but I had never read any of her works. I chose to read And Then There Were None simply because the cover of the book lured me in more so than the cover of The Mysterious Affair At Styles, but judging by my love of the former, I’m sure the latter will end up on my reading list sometime in the near future.

I was really surprised by how fast I read the book. I could not put it down. The way it was written and how the story centered around the events of a poem really fascinated me and kept me wanting to read. I really appreciate an author who can hold my attention for the entire book. Christie is very different from the other detective writers we have read this semester. She adds her own flair to the genre and creates a more interactive way of reading the story. In And Then There Were None, there is no detective who swoops in and solves the mystery. Instead, all of the characters take on the role of detective to figure out why people in their group keep gradually dying in the same fashion listed in a poem posted around the house they are staying in.

In the epilogue, the murder reveals their identity and the way in which they carried out their master plan of slowly killing off everyone in the group including their own self.

I spent the entire novel shifting suspicions between the characters. I could never figure out who it was and in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. The murder ends up being the first character introduced in the story. I want to read the novel again just to see if I can see any hints or slips with the murderer. I feel like novel would make a great basis for a murder mystery party.

Response #38: A Note from Robert Fabian of Scotland Yard

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This letter was written to author and criminal historian Richard Whittington-Egan a few weeks before Robert Fabian passed away. In the letter, Fabian explains to Whittington-Egan his true feelings about the case of Charles Walton. 

May 25, 1978

Many years ago, I was put on the case of Charles Walton. Twenty years to the day to be exact. It was quite a peculiar case indeed and one that I’ll never forget. I spent many weeks trying to discover and physical evidence to convict the murderer, but I failed. To this day, I am still in awe of how spotless the murder scene seemed to be. Not one piece of evidence to lead us anywhere. We questioned hundreds of people. No one in the town volunteered to answer my questions, but they all politely agreed when I came knocking. A small town always keeps its secrets. Too bad this secret was one worth sharing, but obviously the residents of Lower Quinton thought otherwise.

To this day, I know who killed Charles Walton, and it kills me to know that the murderer never received the punishment he deserved, but there was simply no evidence to prove it. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about that case and the haunting town of Lower Quinton. The people there were wrapped up in folklore, which eventually led me to believe that witchcraft was the reason behind old Walton’s murder. I know better now. A small town like Lower Quinton can use an excuse like that with ease to protect their own.

The people were so convinced that Walton had threatened the livelihood of their crops by letting toads loose on their property.

Alfred Potter killed Charles Walton. I don’t care what kind of witchcraft mumbo jumbo they feed you. It’s not true, none of it! Potter led Edith, Walton’s niece, and Harry Beasley, her neighbor, straight to the murder scene. I don’t think that was any coincidence, but how does one prove that? Potter was the last person to see Walton alive. They always had a sort of feud about them too. Something about money lent and owed. Potter just wanted to get rid of Walton so he wouldn’t have to pay off his debts. Throwing the witchcraft theory on Walton’s death was an easy fix and in Lower Quinton, an easy story to buy.

I’m just so sad that I could never prove the murder, but I’m telling you that I know for a fact the man did it. Now, he’s rotting in a grave somewhere, hopefully getting a dose of what he deserves in the afterlife. Maybe the witches will have their way with him now. I wanted to tell you all of this so you would let the world know that I bought the witchcraft story for a while. I never had the courage to come clean about my suspicions because there was no hard evidence and my reputation as an upstanding detective at Scotland Yard was on the line. Now that I am on my deathbed, I have nothing to lose. Do with this letter what you will. Once again, there is nothing more I can do, but maybe by these words, someone else will find the will power to prove Potter guilty.

Response #34: Ngaio Marsh & the Lampreys

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I did not know what to expect before reading A Surfeit of Lampreys. I had never heard of Ngaio Marsh before  so I wasn’t sure what her reputation as a writer was, but I knew she had to be a significant detective writer if she was on our reading list. Her background in theatre really shows in her writing especially in Frid, who is an actress. The whole family could be described as prima donnas, though. They’re full of drama and put on such a show for the readers.

I was quite surprised by the novel. It’s the first book since the Sherlock Holmes stories that I have truly been captivated by. I found most of the characters lovable and entertaining. It definitely wasn’t a boring read. I loved the character of Roberta. I found her to be a very interesting character because she is as much of an outsider in the story as the reader is. Roberta is watching all of the action of the story take place just as we are. I found the Lamprey family to be funny and charismatic, but also extremely annoying at times. Their lifestyle of borrowing money and spending it all until they run out again was difficult to sympathize with especially when none of the family members seemed to make any effort to help out or cut down on unnecessary spending like having a housekeeper and butler.

I thought it was interesting to find that the novel was one of 32 featuring detective Roderick Alleyn because Alleyn doesn’t even appear until around the middle of the story. I did enjoy his time in the book though. I just wish he had appeared earlier. I’m just going to have to read some more of Marsh’s novels in order to get my Roderick Alleyn fix. He is the first detective since Holmes that I have actually enjoyed reading.

 

Response #33: The Unsolved Murder of Charles Walton

When Lane and I began researching unsolved British murders, we were not sure what to expect. We scrolled through the Wikipedia page aimlessly, glancing over each case for maybe 10 seconds each. We came across the case of Charles Walton and immediately knew it was the one we wanted to begin investigating. The factor that pulled us in was the way in which Walton was murdered. His body was found pinned to the ground in a field by his own pitchfork, a trouncing hook (also known as a slash hook) in his neck and a large cross carved into his chest. (The cross was believed to be the mark of witchcraft.)

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Walton, a 74 year old farm laborer, was born and raised in Lower Quinton, Warwickshire, not far from Stratford Upon Avon where the great playwright William Shakespeare was from. He lived with his niece, Edith, whom he adopted as a child after her mother passed away. Walton was well-known and loved in the village although many thought he was rather strange because he was a bit of a loner who had what some would call an odd relationship with animals. He could get wild birds to eat out of the palm of his hand and had a strange bond with his horse.

On February 14, 1945, Walton set out to tend to a field at Firs Farm. This was a normal day for Walton, who often took odd jobs around town. When his niece arrived home that night, she knew something was wrong because he was not there to greet her. She ran to a neighbors house and the two set off for Firs Farm to find Walton. They searched the field where he had been working that day and came across his body, brutally murdered.

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Superintendent Alec Spooner of the Warwickshire Criminal Investigation Department led the hunt for the murderer, but because word had spread about the peculiar death of Walton, Robert Fabian, a famous officer at Scotland Yard at the time, was called in to lend a hand. The detective crew searched for clues and questioned every townsperson about their whereabouts the day of the murder. An Italian POW was charged for the murder after he was found near the crime scene with blood on his hands. It is said that he had escaped his camp earlier that day and had been hunting for rabbits (oh please!). Soon, the POW was let go of the charges and returned to his camp.

Earlier in the investigation, a book called Folklore, Old Customs and Superstitions in Shakespeareland by J. Harvey Bloom had been brought in as evidence. In the book, Bloom outlines the strange incident of a plough boy named Charles Walton who was seen exiting the woods one day with a black dog and a woman’s headless body. Another account in the book describes “a weak minded young man killed a woman named Ann Turner with a hayfork because he believed she had bewitched him.” Are the two accounts connected? Is the Charles Walton described in the book the same man who was brutally murdered? These questions and more were taken into account when Fabian decided to turn to the witchcraft theory after a black dog was found hung next to the murder scene.

With no other lead in sight, Fabian returned to London and the murder investigation was put to rest.  However Superintendent Spooner was not going to give up so easily. Spooner returned to the town every year on the anniversary of the murder to visit the crime scene and see if there was something he initially missed. Even after he retired from police work, Spooner continued his yearly visit, but still never got any closer to closing the case.

This is one of the most mysterious murders I have ever read about, and I cannot wait to begin writing my piece from the perspective of Robert Fabian interrogating the person I believe is the murderer.

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Side note: This is a picture of the slash hook just in case you were wondering what it looked like. In several descriptions of Walton’s murder the weapon is referred to as a trouncing hook. I googled the phrase and could find no kind of picture to show me what the weapon looked like, but upon further research, I found articles that used “slash hook” or “bill hook” in replace of trouncing hook and I was finally able to put a picture with the word! Thank goodness!

Sources:

http://www.whitedragon.org.uk/articles/charles.htm 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Walton_(murder_victim)

Response #29

The woman’s role during World War I was almost as important as the men who were fighting in the war. While their husbands were off at battle, the women were taking care of things on the home front. Many women went to work in order to support their families.

In Gaudy Night, we see the result of this WWI working woman. The women in the novel are asserting their independence, especially Harriet. She does not want to give up her successful career to become a wife to Peter. She has gotten used to relying on herself and may feel a sense of pride in that. Giving up her independence would seem like a loss for her, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Peter does not seem like the type of guy who would force Harriet to stay at home and be a housewife. I think he would be very supportive of her continuing to have a successful career as his wife.