Charlie Lawson’s big Christmas surprise for his family of nine began with a trip into town. Sparing no expense, Lawson agreed to buy everyone an outfit of their choice before taking them over to a local photographer and having a family portrait taken. Quite a costly affair for a modest tobacco farmer.
Several days later it would be Christmas day 1929. 17-year-old Marie had been in the kitchen preparing a cake for after dinner that night, while her sisters, 12-year-old Carrie and 7-year-old Maybell, made their way to their aunt and uncle’s house to celebrate. Fannie Lawson had been tending to her and Charlie’s younger children and Charlie and his oldest son, 16-year-old Arthur, had planned a hunting trip for the day.
As Charlie and Arthur set out on their hunting trip, they soon realized that they needed more ammo. Charlie sent Arthur up to the store, while he waited in the tobacco barn. When he saw Carrie and Maybell walking down the path to their aunt and uncle’s home he raised his gun and fired. He walked over to his daughters’ bodies and bludgeoned them to make sure they were dead before he dragged them into the barn.
Charlie then set off towards the house with his shotgun in tow. Fannie, who had been out on the front porch, attempted to run, but there was no escape. Hearing the gunshots from outside, Marie screamed at the top of her lungs, before her father shot her in the kitchen. The younger children heard what was going on and attempted to hide. Charlie bludgeoned them to death. Even 4-month-old Mary Lou’s life wasn’t spared. He then placed rocks under the heads of his dead wife and children and made his way to the woods.
Neighbors went to the home to wish the family a merry Christmas. Instead they stumbled across the grisly scene. Before they could set out to find Charlie they heard a single gunshot in the woods. Charlie had shot himself.
By the time Arthur made it into town his entire family had been dead. People at the general store had gotten word that something awful had happened and someone in town offered to give Arthur a ride back to the family farm. When he reached his home the police had already arrived and a crowd began to gather. In the woods, police found footprints indicating that Charlie had been pacing around a tree for some time before taking his own life. Next to his body were letters to both his parents.
To this day no one is certain what drove Charlie Lawson to kill his whole family, with the exception of Arthur, before taking his own life. Some believe that Lawson may have been sexually abusing Marie and that she may have been pregnant with his child at the time of her death. Others have speculated that Charlie could not have committed the heinous acts that occurred on the family’s farm that Christmas day and that the entire thing had been staged to frame Charlie.
Stories of a family curse also ran through the rumor mill. These rumors persisted after Arthur, the only Lawson to survive the massacre, died in a freak accident at 30-years-old.
The house became a macabre tourist attraction after the murder-suicide and Charlie’s brother decided to open the house to the public. Still on the counter sat the cake that Marie had been making. Even after the house had been closed, the cake made its rounds in traveling dime museums. Protective plastic had to be used to cover the cake after several onlookers swiped some raisins. The cake toured for at least a decade, before surviving family members buried the cake, along with the awful memories that came with it.