Our resident true crime buff Cheryl sends us this chilling holiday DVD review:
It was on last Christmas Evening;
A snow was on the ground.
His home in North Carolina
Where the murderer was found
His name was Charlie Lawson,
And he had a loving wife.
But we’ll never know what caused him
To take his family’s life.
The Lawson Murder
From North Carolina Folklore, Henry
Collected from J. C. Folger, NC, I937
It was a cold Christmas day in 1929 when Charlie Lawson, a well regarded farmer and family man in Germanton, North Carolina, brutally murdered seven members of his family before killing himself in an outburst of violence that is infamous in the annals of southern true crime.
A new documentary, “A Christmas Family Tragedy: Legends of the 1929 Lawson Family Murders,” relates this grim yet fascinating story through the use of interviews, folk music and re-enactments. Friends and descendants of the Lawson brood tell what they know of the incident, including some scandalous family gossip that adds an interesting personal touch to the story. The homicide itself, in all its gory detail, is brought to life through re-enactments that are a bit cheesy but nevertheless disturbing, and the killer’s motives are much speculated upon.
Also covered is how the crime affected remaining Lawson family members and local townspeople throughout the years, and the many folktales, including some ghost stories about the supposedly haunted murder site, that have been inspired by it. Several mournful country ballads were written about the murders, one of which went to #5 in the music charts back in 1931, and their inclusion adds a melancholy touch to a tale that’s tragic enough to begin with.
Just a few of notes. It’s a low budget production so the sound is a bit tinny. Also, complete information about the crime is not given until partway through the documentary so unless you are familiar with the case, there may be some slight confusion in the beginning. However, the problem isn’t severe enough to interfere with enjoyment of the story. The special features section has an uncut interview with Charlie Lawson’s nephew that is interesting.
Recommended for people with an interest in True Crime or folk tales of the South.
Check the WRL catalog for A Christmas Family Tragedy