The Case of The Voodoo Shotgun

The year, 1908. The place, Little Rock, Arkansas, The crime? MURDER!

The strange case of Louis Hursch and the Voodoo shotgun is one of those curiously mind-boggling incidents when so much nonsense came together it became parallel to reality and therefore, at least semantically, paranormal.

An Arkansas man by the name of Sam Haywood was shot and killed one morning and lacking any significant clues police arrested Louis Hursch. Townsfolk had seen the two men argue earlier in the week and so officers assumed Hursh to be a decent suspect in the crime. Nearing the end of the trial jurors were about to find Hursch not-guilty and yet one man on the jury, asked the judge for an outrageous request. The juror requested that Hursch’s shotgun be fired and told the judge that if he, Hursch, was guilty the shotgun would bleed from its barrel.

Now get this.
The judge allowed the gun to be shot into the air and then pointed at the defendant Hursch.

Now get this too.
It seemed to bleed.

And also get this.
Hursch was so scared he slit his own throat and killed himself.

Case solved.
Wait, what just happened?

Oh yeah, and I assume the trial was being held outside since they fired a gun in the air and before he killed himself Hursch ran into a chicken coop.
Wait, what just happened again?

Read the full newspaper transcript below.

Little Rock. Ark., Nov 21. Tried by an old “Voodoo” ordeal, Louis Hursch’s inexorable conscience convicted him of the cowardly murder of Sam Haywood. Hursch was his own executor. Ashen faced, quivering from fear, he cut his throat so desperately that he died without a groan.

Sam Haywood lived on “Doc” Wooden’s place, four miles north of Baxter, Green county, in southeast Arkansas. Haywood, his wife, and their brother, Edward, were about to go to bed when he was called to the door of his cabin. He opened the door. There was a flash, a report and a load of shot tore Haywood’s left breast. He fell dead.

News of the murder was telephoned to Monticello, the county seat. Justice of the Peace Henry Lewis, Deputy Sheriff Tom Biggs and a couple of officers rode to Haywood’s cabin, and a coroner’s jury was impaneled. No direct clue to Haywood’s assassin could be produced, but a report was afloat that Haywood and Louis had met and quarreled at Dermott, a hamlet near Baxter, last evening. Hursch was arrested but established a perfect alibi.

There was not a particle of evidence of Hursch’s guilt. The Jury was about to bring In a verdict of “death at the hands of an unknown party.” A negro juror, shaken probably by the memory of frightful scenes he had witnessed or which had been described to him, said: “Judge, your honor, if you want to know the truth; if you want to know if this man put a load of shot In Mister Haywood, bring this man’s shotgun here, load it, and fire it. If he killed Mister Haywood the gun will sweat blood, just as sure a the devil’s after you all.”

His fellow negroes on the jury chorused:
“Try him by voodoo, Judge.Voodoo never lies.”

Incredulous, of course, only to gratify his jurors, Justice Lewis said to the deputy sheriff:
“Go ahead, Tom.”

Biggs found that Hursch’s shotgun was loaded. He fired it in the air; then, with it at his shoulder still turned its muzzle toward Hursch. Its barrel glistened as clean as a hound’s foot, but on the very tip of the muzzle flecks of rust, which Hursch could never have seen before, shone red in the sunlight

“It leaks blood,” he yelled.
He dashed into a log chicken house whipped out his knife, and cut his throat before the deputy sheriff could jump through the door.

Download the original newspaper article here.

1 Comment

  1. Raven Storm

    Cortland Standard (NY)
    Little Rock, Ark., NOV. 18. 1908 — Sam Haywood, a prominent farmer near Monticello, was called to his door Sunday night and assassinated by a man standing at the gate, who emptied a charge of buckshot Into his body. Louis Hursch. arrested on suspicion Monday night that he was the slayer, committed suicide in a dramatic manner. Last night he was taken before a coroner’s jury and denied his guilt A negro juryman demanded the “voodoo test,” calling for Hursch’s gun. Saying if it was discharged, and Hursch was guilty, it would “sweat blood at the muzzle.” The gun was discharged, and Hursch, mistaking the rust on the barrel for blood, plunge a knife into his throat, expiring before the jury, without uttering a word.


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