Friday, January 22, 2016

The Lafayette Famulus, Part II

I've delved a bit deeper into the history of the Lafayette Famulus.

According to what little documentation is available it was created by Joseph Thibodeaux sometime between 1911 and 1914.  At the time he was heavily involved, if not the leader, of a fringe cult called the "Sacrifice Church" or "Church of the Blood" that practiced black magic rites fueled by blood sacrifices.  Over a period of months in 1911 they engaged in multiple murders/sacrificial rites that eventually lead to the arrest of Clementine Barnabet.

This article at Real Crime Daily has a good overview of the case.  I posted one newspaper account of the killings earlier.  Here's another, from the April 3, 1912 edition of the San Francisco Call.

What becomes readily apparent from all of these accounts is that Barnabet and the other participants were firmly under the control of Thibodeaux.  More tellingly, the murders continued after Barnabet was taken into custody and behind bars.  

One particular detail I want to draw your attention to is the "hoodoo charm" being used by Barnabet and the other participants in the killings. They believed it shielded them from discovery or capture. Obviously, it failed in that regard. But what if that wasn't it's real purpose? What if Thibodeaux provided them with a charm that was part of his own, very personal ritual?

I now believe that Thibodeaux was quite honest with the members of the "Church of the Blood" when he told them blood sacrifice was the path to immortality.  What he didn't tell them was that he was talking about his own life span.


CoastConFan said...

The newspapers and the public were unsophisticated in terms of looking at the murders in the form of an organized cult. These days, the readers would want to look at the whole matter as single phenomena, understanding that they were much more than simply the explosive outpourings of a irrational, ecstatic blood frenzy. Paternally, the period press and the people just put it down to the excesses of a simple people. Strangely enough, there also seems to a lack of extreme (Christian) outrage and the whole thing eventually gets shrugged off.

Yes Propy, somebody wanted to live forever or at least get eaten first. There’s a lot of clues in the rituality of these murders that just begs for forensic analysis. Also did you note the way the hands of the children had their finger spread apart with sticks?

I’m kind of interested in what happens to the top people in the cult because I don’t find much about them. Everyone wants to focus on the wild-eyed crazies, who were so predictably colorful in court, but there are a number of persons of interest that just seem to melt away. I have to wonder if Lovecraft indeed knew of this case and incorporated elements into the CoC story. If so, it would diminish part of the aura of his racial stereotyping as being atypical for the period. But that’s another matter

This article has some location photography of interest as well

A 34 page PDF download of another ax murder of the same period, which people tried to link and failed.

gndn said...

Man, a real-life Voodoo axe-murder cult. What more could you ask for? Sounds like the teens version of the Manson Family.

This was, what, 15 years before COC was written? It's possible there were so many of these things popping up in the papers, on a yearly or monthly basis, that HPL just started with the 'pop cultural' image of the 'usual' Voodoo murders that everyone who read the papers would be familiar with, and built whatever he wanted on that foundation. Conversely, if there are _suggestive_ similarities in any of these articles, I would love to hear them. A particular phrase or locale, or name or something?

Aside from his commonplace book(s?) did he keep any kind of scrapbooks of weird events? Folder of clippings? Locked box like professor Angell?