Today’s Countrified Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
One of the most popular variety shows in the US was “Hee Haw,” which ran from 1969 to 1992. It featured country music and comedy sketches with a country or Southern theme. Even for the relatively G-rated TV environment at the time it began, “Hee Haw” had a decidedly cornball style of humor, but it consistently received high ratings and helped many country musicians get needed exposure.
One of the regular performers in “Hee Haw’s” early days was David Akeman. Known as String Bean due to being six-foot two and skinny, Akeman was an accomplished old-style banjo player, and augmented his playing with funny songs and a recurring skit where he was a scarecrow in a field who uttered one-liners, only to be shouted down by the crow on his shoulder.
Akeman had grown up during the Great Depression and as a result, he and his wife Estelle lived very frugally in a small cabin in Ridgetop, Tennessee. They distrusted banks and it was rumored that they kept thousands of dollars hidden on their property.
On the night of November 10, 1973, two cousins, Doug and John Brown, both 23, went to the Akemans’ cabin and ransacked it looking for this cash. They found very little money and decided to wait for the couple to return home and make them reveal the money’s location. Stringbean was that night performing live at the Grand Ole Opry, and the cousins listened to the show on the radio in order to keep track of their victims’ expected arrival time.
After ten P.M., the Akemans arrived home and immediately noticed that the homemade burglar alarm — a fishing line stretched across their driveway — had been displaced. Akeman retrieved his gun from his bag and started toward the house, only to be confronted by the intruders and shot where he stood.
Estelle Akeman screamed and tried to run away, but was chased down and was also shot to death. The Browns left with only a little bit of money, a chain saw and some guns. They missed over three thousand in cash that Stringbean had in his overalls, and another two thousand hidden in Estelle’s bra.
The bodies were discovered next morning by the Akemans’ neighbor and fellow “Hee Haw” and Opry regular “Grandpa” Jones. The Browns were both convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Doug Brown died of natural causes while still incarcerated in 2003, and John Brown was paroled in 2014.
Morbid Art Du Jour!
I often wish I had the talent to make die-o-ramas. If I did, they’d probably look a lot like Abigail Goldman’s! (Thanks to Anna for the link.)
Oh, some of her work is for sale too! Wish I could afford them…