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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Weekend Curiosities and Wonders: B is for Bud and Beulah

Here's your bit of odd text for the weekend.

I've recently been preparing for another Los Angeles true crime program at the library focusing on historic crimes of passion. And it's hard to talk about L.A. crimes of passion without spending some time on the lurid, notorious, god-awful trial of Bud Gollum and Beulah Louise Overell, never mind the fact that the pair were acquitted and that the trial took place in Orange, not L.A., County.

It is the quintessential big nasty of love gone bad.

To sum up, on March 15, 1947, a yacht belonging to Beulah's parents exploded in the Newport Beach Harbor while the teenager and her boyfriend, Bud, sat ashore eating hamburgers. An investigation revealed that the adults were beaten to death before the explosion, and dynamite was rigged aboard the yacht. Bud and Beulah were charged with the murders (a brief, but informative summary is available here).

While the pair awaited trial in their respective prisons, they exchanged a series of sometimes steamy, mostly hysterical, melodramatic letters, which were subsequently snatched up by prosecutors and leaked to the now-defunct Los Angeles Examiner. Other L.A. papers quoted the juicy bits (e.g. "If necessary, I'll kidnap you and carry you off somewhere so that no one will ever be able to find us and there I'll make passionate and violent love to you," and "Oh my darling, oh my Pops, Popsie, darling, my beautiful, handsome, intelligent Pops. I adore you, always, eternally. Your slave, Louise"), but the Examiner actually printed images of the letters.

Well, I had to see that. So, I rolled up my sleeves, dug out the microfilm, and went to town.

I particularly admire Bud's sketch of a proposed jailbreak route, as well as his turn of phrase: "Please draw the route to your cell from the elevator. I love you, my dear. I adore you."

Unsurprisingly, the couple's love affair did not survive the trial.

In most cases involving grisly death, I refrain from making light. However, the sensational trial, and even more sensationalized news coverage it received make it hard to take seriously. Additionally, without reasonable guardians to keep a lid on her, the behavior of the teenage Beulah Louise was frequently shocking. She somehow seemed to interpret all the attention as "good" attention, and flirted shamelessly with the press and signed autographs. Other times, she had odd emotional responses, like this picture, taken while she views the site where her parents died.

A guilty party, or merely a 1947-era Britney?

I've added other selected portions of the letters on Flickr for interested parties. Honestly, if the circumstances surrounding them weren't so grim and awful, they'd fit right in at Mortified or PostSecret.

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