December 25, 1929 ~ Germanton, North Carolina
Ahhhh Christmas, a festive, joyous time of year spent with family and friends, gorging ourselves with food and treats, exchanging of gifts, being a little nicer to everyone that we encounter.
For one family, this joyous holiday was abruptly cut short because of a fathers murderous rage. On December 25, 1929 Charlie Lawson murdered 6 of his children, his wife and then committed suicide several hours later. The only surviving member was Charlie’s eldest son Arthur, who was sent on an errand by Charlie shortly before the murders.
Charlie was married to Fannie Manring in 1911, together they had 8 children, however their 3rd child died of an illness in 1920.
The Children were: Marie (age 17), Arthur (age 16), Carrie (age 12), Maybell (age 7) James (age 4), Raymond, (age 2) and Mary Lou (age 4 months).
The bodies of the family members were found with their arms crossed and rocks under their heads. All had been shot and bludgeoned to death.
Charlie had been in he woods nearby when he shot himself. Police found letters written to his parents, yet were stumped as to why he took the lives of his beloved family. Many rumors began to swirl through the town about what caused this man to go on a holiday murderous rampage.
Some said that Charlie had witnessed something having to do with organized crime, and his family was murdered because of it, while others believed that he had molested his eldest daughter Marie and had subsequently gotten her pregnant. In fact a cousin, Stella Lawson who was interviewed for a book about the murders in 1990 provided information supporting that idea and said that Charlie had in fact gotten his eldest daughter pregnant.
A friend of Marie’s, Ella May also stated that shortly before the murders Marie confided in her that her father had gotten her pregnant. A neighbor and close friend of the Lawson’s, Hill Hampton said that he was aware of some serious problems in the Lawson home yet he never did elaborate on what those might have been.
The police never released the details of the letters that they found with Charlie and Marie’s alleged pregnancy was never actually proven. Some also speculated that Charlie had sustained some type of head injury months prior to the murders and that it altered him mentally an autopsy and analysis of his brain at Johns Hopkins Hospital found no abnormalities.
Sometime after the murders, Charlie’s brother, Marion Lawson, opened the home on Brook Cove Road as a tourist attraction. A cake that Marie Lawson had baked on Christmas Day was displayed on the tour. Because visitors began to pick at the raisins on the cake to take as souvenirs, it was placed in a covered glass cake dish and thus preserved for many years.
Charlie Lawson and his family were buried in a mass grave in nearby Walnut Cove. Because of the strict baptist beliefs at that time, the mass grave in which the bodies were buried are actually located just outside of the hallowed ground of the church. Because of that many believe the spirits of the Lawson family can’t find peace in death.
It’s been rumored that sometime after the home was closed to the public, the floorboards of the cabin were supposedly pulled up and used to build a bridge across the creek that ran through the land, and down through the county. After the construction of the bridge was complete stories of supernatural happenings began to spring up.
One story is that when driving across the bridge, an eerie fog will reportedly surround the car, and the vehicle shuts off for no apparent reason. Condensation will appear on the windows, then small hand-prints will begin to cover the windows and windshield.
When the driver finally does get the car started, an early 1930’s model car chases the car, following closely, driving erratically, through the winding roads of the county before disappearing into the night.
The home is no longer standing but it is said that the land the home was on is still haunted by the family.
We may never truly know why it was that Charlie Lawson murdered his family that Christmas so long ago, we know simply that the lives of his children were brutally and unfairly cut short.
May all of you have a Safe and Happy Holiday!
Cristal M Clark