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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Waning of Mrs. Moon

The Waning of Mrs. Moon 

by C.A. Asbrey

The Moon Mausoleum, Caddo, Oklahoma

Molly Moon must have been a remarkable woman. At least we assume she was, despite knowing very little about her in her lifetime. We do know that she committed suicide in 1904, while her husband was away on a 'hunting trip'. We also know that her husband liked her to wear expensive clothes and jewelry. Perhaps she was lonely. By the time her husband returned to Caddo, she had been dead and buried for a full two months.

We know that there had been domestic troubles between them and that he left hurriedly on the hunting trip. While he was away she drank an ounce of carbolic acid. She had turned back the covers on her bed, but never made it there. She was found on the floor by neighbors. In the note she left, she stated that she was of sound mind and felt justified in the actions she had taken. She also felt sure that 'He', with a capital 'H' would forgive her and would be the final judge. Apparently her husband took that to mean himself.     

Mr. Moon had been generous to his wife, financially, if not with his time. When he arrived back from the hunting trip, he came back with two expensive dresses, traveling implements, and gifts of jewels. The bereaved husband was said to have sent them back unopened.

Mr. Moon was distraught. He asked a local undertaker if she could be embalmed. He was doubtful, after such a long time underground, but Will Hatton, a fellow businessman and undertaker, agreed to take a look.

Mr. Moon wrote to The Cincinnati Enquirer  asking for a retraction of their initial reporting of the circumstances surrounding his wife's death and burial. They published Mr. Moon's letter along with an accompanying letter from Denison funeral director and embalmer, W.H. Halton. It's clear from the letter that Mrs. Moon was unhappy and mentally unwell. True to the times, Mr. Moon found any suggestion of poor mental health to be unedifying. He sought to project a different image of his late wife.

Whether his next actions were due to guilt, undying love, or a mixture of both, we will never know. W.J. Moon built a brick mausoleum. It wasn't pretty, and would later be compared to industrial installations such as telephone exchanges or electricity sub stations.

Inside the mausoleum was a glass coffin, where the now embalmed Mrs. Moon  was placed. She was dressed in the beautiful gown he had bought for her birthday. He appealed to the respectable women of the town, and succeeded. They assisted him in taking his wife from her grave, washing the body, and re-dressing her in a way he saw fit.

The locals saw him as a grief-stricken husband, and looked on in sympathy as he brushed her hair, attached jewelled pins, and laid her in as grand a manner as he thought possible.

All a little strange, but this is when it got even stranger. In a week or so he repeated the process. Then he did it again, and again, and again. It became a regular ritual, and was seen as so strange that the white people of the town refused to assist him any longer. He then paid poor black women. They also found the whole thing very uncomfortable, and complained of the spooks and spirits. They also eventually backed off, despite the money being very good. The mausoleum had a good through breeze, and the drying wind was perfect to mummify the corpse. There were small windows though which the body could be viewed, but the walls were twelve inches thick and the building had steel doors. He employed a caretaker who wound his wife's watch, took people on tours, and cared for a bunny he kept there. Once the bunny died he closed the building.

W.J. Moon then continued these rites on his own. He washed and redressed the body until it ended up mummified. He had been a successful local businessman, but he was reported as being obsessed with his late wife, and could talk of little else. It wasn't long before he was being avoided, and very soon after that he was ostracised.         

Moon Hotel, Caddo

William Judson Moon never got over his wife's death. There are some who say that he was not hunting, but on an extravagant and hedonistic buying trip for his stores. The dresses and jewels he brought back might support this version of events.

Despite his apparent obsession, W.J. Moon married again only two years later. That marriage to Pearl Bedtelyon, of Michigan, ended in legal action when it broke down, and he claimed she had married bigamously. It's notable that Pearl accused him of beating her and that "he forced her to go on her way to the home of her parents in the State of Michigan, and so insufficiently was she supplied with ordinary and necessary wearing apparel in which to travel in a public conveyance that she was forced to stop at the town of Muskogee on her way to the home of her parents and from lady friends borrow the necessary clothing in which decently to travel on the railway."

In this report we may have some inkling as to why he felt so guilty about Molly's suicide. We also have to bear in mind that while his in-laws left his sons with him, they insisted in taking his daughter and brought her up themselves.

He tried to prove that Pearl's divorce wasn't valid as residency requirements weren't met. A judge found against him and awarded Pearl alimony of $1,000 a month. Quite a sum back in the early 1900s. He was, however, a rich man. He owned a number of stores and a large hotel.

He was then met Lula Mae and married her in 1909. They moved to Dallas and opened a store. He died of cancer in 1923. Lula Mae had his body returned to Caddo and had him interred beside Molly.

Older residents of Caddo still say that they have seen Mrs. Moon's body. It's a mummified skeleton with long flowing hair. It was seen as a rite of passage for local youths to pluck up the courage to look at the corpse, for a time. Nowadays the windows are opaque and dirty. Molly Moon gets to rest in peace at last.

This tale only proves that there are some stories you can't make up.

Innocent Bystander EXCERPT

A vacant-looking man with prominent yellow teeth walked into her field of vision, striding beyond the blinding sun and dragged her roughly from the horse. She had expected to be searched and had ruthlessly bound her body with bandages to try to flatten and conceal her breasts, but the man merely patted down her sides before turning his attentions to her jacket. He pulled out the pistol which had been loosely placed in her pocket and slapped his way down her legs. She was instantly glad she had foregone the Derringer she usually wore at her ankle. A concealed weapon was too risky.
“He’s clean.”
“Well, boy. It seems like you’re gonna get your wish, but if you’ve been messin’ with us and you ain’t Quinn’s kin, you’re gonna regret it. He don’t like to be messed with.”
Abigail felt her arms grabbed as she was roughly turned around and her carefully dirtied hands were bound behind her back, the rope biting deeply into her skin as it was pulled tight. They must have seen her wince as it provoked a chorus of laughter which rang in her ears.
“Looks like this life’s a bit too rough for you, sonny.”
 A thick, smelly bag was thrust over her head, obliterating the world, before she was lifted back onto her little colt and she felt herself led off to face the rest of the gang.



  1. This is a very strange tale! Why do I think Mr. Moon had some mighty control issues? And it's very strange that he returned from a hunting trip with such fine gifts. The rabbit may be the most puzzling thing about this story. How did you ever find this one? Thanks for an entertaining post, as always.

    1. Isn't it? I did a blog post on strange 19th century burials on my own blog, and this one was so strange, I thought it deserved a post all of its own. I was curious about the rabbit too. I wondered if it had been a pet, but all I could find out about it was that it lived there for a while. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Wow, what an interesting story, very sad, actually. Mr.Moon suffered from a similar mental malady, perhaps brought on by guilt? I get the impression he was a controlling man, yet at the same time showered Molly with expensive material things and was his only "love" because he didn't show that same generosity to wife #2. I think every community has at least one eccentric. We certainly have had a few of those where I live now and even in the town where I grew up. And you're right...just can't make this up. I couldn't help but compare this mausoleum to the pristine elegance of the Taj Mahal. Your excerpt has me wanting to read much more.

  3. There's definitely a whole lot more to this story. I wanted to know so much; like what was he really doing? Why did the wife's family take his daughter away, and why did he allow it? What was their last row really about. I think we'd know more now as the press would ask those questions, but in those days people didn't pry into the privacy of the wealthy.

  4. Ewww. Just ewww. ;-) When the mind jumps tracks, odd (bizarre?) behaviors certainly make for great reading. Thanks for this tale.

    1. You are most welcome. It's too strange not to share.

  5. What a weird story. I have to agree with the townspeople that Mr. Moon must have been a good time on his travels and not hunting at all when his wife took her own life. This was as strange as William Faulkner's "A Rose For Emily" where a woman killed her lover and slept with his body every night. EEK!
    Thank you for this unusual true story, C.A. You're right; truth can be stranger than fiction.

    1. Thank you. Maybe I should have saved it for halloween? Yes, it's so strange I can't see me managing to top this one.

  6. A most intriguing story. I've found a number of women who were second wives, after the death of the first, tend to return the husbands to the burial sites of the original wife. Most intersting. Doris

    1. Thank you. Yes, a very peculiar story. I wonder if moving away from his fixation helped his third marriage?