Dark Carnival


Between 1923 and 1925 stories of fraudulent business deals and crimes of passionate betrayal filled the front pages of city newspapers. In Louisville there were the sexual disasters of Dr. Lewis, a drug addict who had murdered his wife; of Richard Heaton, a commodities broker who had tried to castrate his best friend; and of William Zinmeister, a soft-drinkstand owner who had shot his daughter. There were the stories of the bunco schemes of Madame Dinier, who stole Josephine Traub’s savings, and of Mr. Defough, who robbed generous Mr. Coravitous. Each year there were stories of business frauds on a grand scale. The papers told of how the Home Telephone Company was acquired by the Cumberland Telephone Company through the connivance of bankers, businessmen, and elected officials who told the public a series of lies. There were constant stories of partners against partners, brothers against brothers, death at opportune moments, and marriages of convenience. The papers reported how Elmer Schmidt had signed an insurance suicide pact with William Werdeman, whom he planned to murder. They reported how William Haldeman had sued his brother Bruce to sell their father’s newspapers to Robert Bingham, and how Bingham had bought the papers with money inherited from a woman who had died nine months after he’d married her.

The people who had learned about all these things remembered them as they read about Floyd Collins, the small businessman who was trapped by his own greed, failed by his own partner, betrayed by his own father, and libeled by his own neighbors. They hoped that a young prince would save him, but they understood when Skeets proved as helpless as the soldiers, the businessmen, and the experts.

When Floyd’s audience read about him, they thought about themselves. Four years later it became evident that his story was a prophecy.

“It was my first trip into a cave…”