Crowefoot's Prologue

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Meet Edward Crowefoot:devil worshipper, the most notorious murder in Scottish history.

Submitted: April 21, 2015

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Submitted: April 21, 2015

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~~CROWEFOOT’S PROLOGUE.


The last time I googled “Crowefoot”  it brought up 129,397 entries. Each time it yields more. So many places supposedly offering a piece of the man but how tiny are each of the fragments? His name turns up in dozens of sites for admirers of true life murder where they boil his entire sixty year life down to the events of its final year.  They reliably get everything (even things that are a matter of public record, date of birth, date of execution, etc) wrong. Then there are the horror fans who assume that he is a fictional character. Before there was an internet Crowefoot lived in ghoulish pub and street corner conversations, his crimes and motives twisted and changed in every telling. At one time everyone in Glasgow had a parent who was there in the crowd for his public execution (He was, in fact, hanged behind looked doors in Barlinnie Prison).
I bet if you have heard of Crowefoot –and who hasn’t- you will think of the pulp novels, the TV shows, the movies. But I bet also there is no particular one you think of. There is no definitive version. No novelist that has used him as a character has created one Crowefoot we all think of. No actor has made the role their own. The most successful film he ever inspired Satan’s Sorcerer (1926) is, like most silent films, lost. Only the poster, with Rudolph Valentino mesmerising his victim –and true life fiancé- Pola “the Polish Wildcat” Negri, is salvageable.
One of the most promising looking films Edward Crowefoot (1933), a British effort starring Charles Laughton, went uncompleted thanks to the bankruptcy of Talisman studios. Crowefoot fans who manage to track down the handful of scenes shot on the gargantuan art deco sets are always pleased with themselves. After that most of the movies plummet to the trashier end of the market, straight down to Z-features without even pausing at the upper reaches of the alphabet. The last Crowefoot film I watched was on Horrorzone at 2 AM; an Italian gorefest where Crowefoot had his bare breasted victim quivering in fear from his bad dubbing and terrible 1970’s sideburns. 
There is not much his fictional versions agree on. A lot of the foreign stuff loses him in the foggy streets of London, slotting him in somewhere between Dr Jekyll and Jack the Ripper. Those that are aware he was Scottish feel obliged to house him in an imposing castle overlooking a dark highland glen, like in the Blake and Mortimer cartoon Le Châteaux Diabolique (E.P. Jacobs 1954). That story’s Dr. Ravenclaw is a blatant Crowefoot imitation. (As is Edmund Bloodwolf who turns up in an episode of 60’s TV show, Adam Adamant). 
He gets buffeted around in time anywhere from the modern day to the Regency. They usually use the satanic stuff but not always. Sometimes they add new evils to him, like in the Basil Rathbone starring, Sherlock Holmes feature, Cloak of Evil (1943) where he acquires Nazi sympathies. He is usually old and bearded but not always. If not old then he is hideously scarred and ugly or hook handed or even hunchbacked.
Actual artefacts of the man’s real life aren’t much more helpful at getting closer to any kind of defined truth. There is the court record of his trial of course but Crowefoot declined to explain himself at it. It was only three years earlier that the law had been changed to allow an accused to testify at there own trial. Many at the time had been hoping he might start this new legal novelty off with a bang but Crowefoot sat silent and glowering in the dock throughout. The best written account of the trial Devils Advocate  (Letitia Younghusband 1929) is gripping entertainment but is choked by the disdain of the thoroughly modern 1920’s for their Victorian predecessors and can provide no more answers to Crowefoot’s motivation than the Procurator Fiscal could. One Crowefoot anorak has purchased every letter of complaint ever written to the Dean of the Faculty of Advocates about him. Their contents, however are not exactly illuminating: truly appaled…have never HEARD of such behaviour…with ladies present..can only bring the Faculty into disrepute….dismayed …horrified. They described behaviour that is certainly out of its time but hardly evidence of madness and murder.
(The final letter to sent to him by the Faculty was recently sold at Christie’s auction house for $108,200. He received it two days before his execution. Its message was Crowefoot’s conviction for murder meant that they must “regretfully inform that your conduct can no longer be regarded as compatible with the standards expected of a member of the Faculty and your expulsion is effective worthwith.” The letter is believed to have provoked Crowefoot’s last laugh before the death).
Don’t whatever you do attempt to find any kind of truth in Crowefoot’s own writing. I still suffer migraines from my own attempt. His histories were not well received at the time and are completely unreadable now, especially the later, longer, madder books. In the Court of Montezuma: A Critique of the Development and Modifications of the Religious Rituals of the Aztecs (1871) 328 pages, A Life of Julian the Apostate (1879) 698 pages, The Millennium of Dominance of Zoroastrianism  (1888) 823 pages, A History of Non-Judeo-Christian Worship from Mesopotamia to the Present (uncompleted) 1354 pages. Even his pamphlets and articles are wilfully impenetrable and require massive reserves of endurance to fight through their dozen or so pages. His piece in Blackwood’s Magazine “Treatise on the Principles of  Jurisprudence”, contains long stretches of untranslated Etruscan. His pamphlet, “Science of Mercantile , Movable and Hereditary  Property Rights”, refers to the fish headed Philistine god Dagon, Jacoppo Sannazaro’s 16th century poem In Arcadia, Lot’s incest with his daughters [Gen 19:30-38] and the Third Crusade.
Crowefoot now exists not in any recognisable human form but as a mosaic of tiny fragments. The mosaic changes as pieces are added and others are taken away but vague themes remain throughout: Victoriana, madness, foggy streets, quivering victims, devil worship. The man himself is almost entirely obscured by the idea of evil that he represents.
The known snatches of his life that are known are the merest wisps of who the actual man might have been. the former actress mother with her stream of late-night gentleman callers. The adoring acolytes. The venomous enemies. The brilliant then ruined career. One surviving portrait of the beautiful boy. One photograph of the hideous old man, days before the noose. The genius. The lunacy. The all defining, crippling, life long fascination with evil.
The frustration for those of us obsessed with him is to know that he was not just a gothic idea but a man who lived and breathed. He must have had hopes and fears the same as all of us. He must have had a reason, no matter how twisted, for what he did. But as you reach out to that mosaic  to examine the tiny pieces and  try to and build up an image of the true man you will find the picture just becomes more confused than ever, the true man moves further out of view and that idea of evil he represents is all you can see.


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