There's never a good time to die violently, but Christmas tragedies are especially heinous.
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Christmas is a time for Peace on Earth and Good Will Toward Men. Holiday bloodshed feels like a sacrilege, but it does happen. Whether by accident or deliberate malice, scores of people have been killed on December 25 or the days surrounding it.

This volume contains seven accounts of unnatural deaths that occurred on or around Christmas Day:

? The Ashland Tragedy: On December 24, 1881, three burned corpses were pulled from a house in Ashland, Kentucky. They belonged to teenagers Robert Gibbons, Fannie Gibbons, and Emma Carrico, who had all been bludgeoned to death. The girls had also been sexually assaulted. A formerly quiet Kentucky town was plunged into a nightmare fueled by grief and lust for revenge.

? Christmas Eve Combustion: On Christmas Day, 1885, Patrick Rooney and his wife were found dead in their home in Seneca, Illinois. Rooney died from smoke inhalation, caused by his wife's body suddenly bursting into flames. It is an early and sensational case of spontaneous human combustion.

? Delia's Gone: Early on Christmas morning in 1900, fourteen-year-old Moses "Cooney" Houston murdered his lover, Delia Green, who was the same age. Because Georgia had no youth justice system, Cooney Houston was charged as an adult. The senseless crime shocked the citizens of Savannah, Georgia, and inspired songs later recorded by Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan.

? The Holyhead Horror: On Christmas Day, 1909, a horrific murder took place in North Wales. Gwen-Ellen Jones was killed by her ex-soldier lover, William Murphy, in a manner so depraved that even in an era when domestic violence was commonplace, people were shocked. The murder and subsequent execution of William Murphy are still talked about in Holyhead today.

? Changing of the Guard: Early on the morning of December 26, 1920, New York underworld legend Edward "Monk" Eastman, was shot down by a crooked Prohibition agent, ending a thirty-plus year career marked by murder and mayhem. Eastman, who had once ruled the roost in Manhattan's Lower East Side, died in a freezer gutter.

? The Adonis Club Massacre: December 25, 1925, was the last Christmas on earth for Irish gangster Richard "Pegleg" Lonergan. He and his White Hand gang had taunted, abused, and killed their Italian rivals for years. Finally, when Lonergan and his boys went to the Italian-owned Adonis Social Club, their resentful enemies got even.

? Lawson Family Massacre: On December 25, 1929, North Carolina tobacco farmer Charlie Lawson murdered his wife and six of their seven children. The reason for this brutal act is a subject of debate even today, but may be attributable to a terrible family secret that remained hidden until 1990.

All of these events took place in the distant past. People who knew the victims remembered the circumstances of their demise, or were directly involved in the investigations are dead. That's why these cases were chosen for this book. The passage of time has transmuted them into tragic mysteries, ensuring that they arouse astonishment, sympathy, and indignation instead of the grief and personal loss that is at odds with the holiday season.

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