No matter how festive and joyous the occasion, Murderinos will never stop fulfilling their insatiable hunger for true crime entertainment!
Instead, they find themselves tuning into special holiday episodes of their favorite true crime podcasts, snuggling under a cozy blanket, and thoroughly spooking themselves whilst their less crime-savvy pals sing merry songs. To get ya’ll started on your holiday true crime journey, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite podcast episodes covering the infamous Lawson Family Murder case of 1929. Enjoy!
Two weeks before Christmas, Charlie Lawson took his family shopping for new clothes and to see a photographer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In the resultant photograph, the family looks stoic and stiff and the patriarch is sporting a stony yet undeniably proud expression. At first glance, the portrait appears to be no different from other photos taken during the early 20th century — however, the closer you look at each of the Lawsons, the more eerie and unsettled the portrait will make you feel. In fact, unbeknownst to the family, this portrait has lived in infamy for nearly a century as the last photo the Lawsons would ever take together.
On Christmas Day, nestled in the snowy woods of Stokes County, Charlie Lawson gave his family a “Christmas Surprise” that they would never expect. That afternoon, after the Lawsons dressed in their new outfits from their portrait, Fannie baked her family a cake while her eldest son, Arthur, went into town to buy shotgun shells for hunting.
In the time that his son was away, the tobacco farmer shot and bludgeoned the remaining six of his seven children and his wife before laying them to rest in a peculiarly loving and formal manner. Afterwards, Charlie went into the woods and shot himself, thereby leaving behind a scene so gruesome that it is deemed the “saddest and bloodiest crime in [North Carolina’s] history” some 90 years later.
Shortly after the horrific crime scene was discovered, local curiosity was piqued and people began streaming onto the Lawson farm to sneak a peek at what Charlie had done. Disturbingly, the house was left just as it had been on Christmas Day — complete with Fannie’s cake sitting uncut on the table.
Family members began to charge a small admission before allowing people to view the terrible sight, and soon the Lawson family’s murder scene became a popular tourist attraction. In 1930, Walter “Kid” Smith wrote a ballad titled “Murder of the Lawson Family” and recorded it with the Carolina Buddies for Columbia Records. The song quickly rose in popularity, and several renditions followed throughout the subsequent decades.
Intrigued yet? Luckily for you, you can spend your holiday break diving into the nitty gritty details of the Lawson Family murder via these fabulous podcasts!
Once Upon A Crime takes a deep dive into the Lawson Family Murder and provides ample background information on Charlie’s younger days as well as his family’s life leading up to that fateful Christmas Day. If you love to ponder why killers decide to kill (nearly) their entire family on an otherwise cheery holiday and are eager to put on your “psychoanalysis hat”. . . then this one’s for you!
Criminal began their investigation into the Lawson case with the hopes of better understanding the popular folksong, “Murder of the Lawson Family.” However, after Phoebe Judge visited Stokes County herself, the Criminal team discovered that there was much more to the story than the famous murder ballad had revealed. In this episode, Judge speaks with several locals about their experiences with growing up around this story and what they think Charlie’s motive was for committing such a horrific act.
Judge also interviews Trudy Smith, the author of two books on the Lawson Family murder (White Christmas, Bloody Christmas and The Meaning of Our Tears) and folklorist Sarah Bryan. Judge doesn’t come to any new conclusions concerning the case itself, but she does do a great job at centering the narrative of the story around the arts and capturing how the Lawsons’ tragedy has influenced music, theater and more over time.
Deadly Secrets: The Lawson Family Murder examines the mass murder in a three-episode series that covers both the time period leading up to the killings and the aftermath following the deaths. In the second episode of the series, Chad Tucker looks into how the slayings impacted the sole surviving child, Arthur Lawson, how the farm and family home became a tourist attraction, and how the story made its way into the music world in 1930.
In the third episode, Tucker tackles the alleged paranormal connection to the case. Specifically, he explores the mysterious occurrences that have been happening in the former funeral home that prepared the Lawson family for burial — ever since the building became a museum, strange and spooky things have been happening. Might the Lawson family be haunting the property? You have to listen to find out (and maybe after Covid-19 is over, you can pay the family a visit yourself)! Although Tucker sounds a little like Chris Harrison (of the Bachelor franchise fame), his information is top-notch and the episodes are filled with incredible interviews with people who were there on that horrifying Christmas day. What’s more immersive than that?