Imagine a simpler Christmas. Before streets were decked out in light displays, before television Christmas specials, and wayyyy before Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas.” Just family, friends, food, and simple gift exchanges.

On December 23, 1881, in Ashland, Kentucky, siblings Fannie and Robert Gibbons were joined by their friend and next-door neighbor, Emma Carico in what was simply supposed to be a cozy evening in. Fannie was described as a handsome girl with a “cheerful disposition and winning manners.” Her brother, Robert, had lost a leg some years back in an “awful event.” And Emma, known to others as Emma Thomas, was a “fine-looking girl who was loved by all who knew her.”

The trio were all settled in, preparing for Christmas Eve when tragedy struck.

George Ellis, William Neal, and Ellis Craft entered the Gibbons home and proceeded to beat the three teenagers to death with axes. Afterwards, the murderous threesome decided to set the Gibbons house on fire and fled the scene.

Not very Christmassy of them.


Upon seeing the flames, Emma’s mother sounded an alarm and the neighborhood descended on the property. Inside, they discovered the charred remains of Fannie, Robert, and Emma.

Shortly after the crime, Ellis confessed to police and implicated his accomplices, Neal and Craft. The three were put on trial on January 16 the following day. Neal and Craft were found guilty after a ten-day trial and sentenced to death. Craft was hanged on October 12, 1883, and Neal on March 27, 1885.

Ellis, however, was given only a life sentence. But an angry mob would make sure that he got the same sentence as his accomplices. The night Ellis was sentenced, a mob broke into his jail cell and dragged him out where he was promptly lynched.

The legacy of Fannie, Robert, and Emma has since been immortalized in the form of a song that you probably won’t hear amongst the other Christmas hits.