Monday, December 14, 2015

The 1930 Ouija Board Murder

The following newspaper account is an example of blatant racism towards Native Americans in society and the press during the 1920's 1930's. The two woman in this incident used a Ouija board to communicate with a deceased husband. As a result, they believed they were given the name of the killer, then proceeded to gain revenge. The murder was blamed on witchcraft. Be warned of the content that follows:

Ouija knows all the answers. Weird and mysterious. Surpasses, in its unique results, mind reading, clairvoyance and second sight. It furnishes never failing amusement and recreation for the entire family. As unexplainable as Hindu magic—more intense and absorbingly interesting than a mystery story. Ouija gives you entertainment you have never experienced. It draws the two people using it into close companionship and weaves about them a feeling of mysterious isolation. Unquestionably the most fascinating entertainment for modern people and modern life.” — William Fuld, known as the “Father of the Ouija Board”


Secret romance between Henri Marchand, noted artist, and Lila Jimerson, his Indian-girl model marked by gutsy passions and climaxed by the murder or Mrs. Marchand

BUFFALO, N.Y. March 27 – Stranger still than the practice of primitive Indian witchcraft that resulted in the murder of Mrs. Clothilde Marchand in metropolitan Buffalo in 1930, is the story of the secret romance of her husband and his Indian-girl model.

Henri Marchand, 53, art director of the Buffalo Museum of Natural Sciences and world famous as an artist and sculptor, was carrying on a clandestine love affair with an Indian reservation girl, Lila Jimerson. Both of them now admit it.

It was the dark-eyed Seneca model’s jealousy for Mrs. Marchand that led her, so the state contents at her murder trial, to play upon the superstitions of Nancy Bowen, aged pagan Indian, until Nancy slew Mrs. Marchand in her Buffalo home, using a 10-cent hammer as a tomahawk.

Lila convinced Nancy that Mrs. Marchand had bewitched old Sassafras Charlie, her husband, and thus caused his death.

Lila and Nancy were charged with first degree murder and Marchand, after his love letters to Lila had been discovered was jailed as a material witness.


Here is a closeup of the principals in this queer romance:

HENRI MARCHAND – Sculptor, artist and musician. Born in Paris in 1877, the son of a woman who have been a countess had the monarchy lived. A descendant of General Jean Gabriel Marchand of Napoleon’s staff. Graduate of several European academies, possessor of many medals for art, including gold medal and grand prize awarded at Paris Exposition.

Came to America 30 years ago, to Buffalo five years ago.

LILA JIMERSON – A Seneca India, 35 years old and looking every day of it. Tall, thin, Flat-chested, sallow and said to be in advanced stages of tuberculosis. Dowdy, even seedy in appearance. Has spent entire life among Indians on reservation near Buffalo. Six grades in an Indian school. Worked as berry picker for cannery.


Lila lacks a lot of being a Pocohontas. Why Marchand ever “fell” for her remains unexplained. Alienists have pronounced her sane, but with a “witch complex”.

When I talked wither in the Erie county jail she wore a cheap black dress with soiled lace collar. Her long black hair was braided and tied, in a club knot on the back of her head. She wore large shoes, vislbly in need of repair, and cotton stockings that wrinkled around her sparrow-like legs. She appeared in court in the same garb.

Marchand had a cottage near the reservation and Lila had posed as his model for some time, but, according to her story, their real friendship did not begin until September 1, 1922. Lila wanted to go to the village and Marchand offered to take her in his car. She says he kissed her.


More auto rides followed, the romance grew. Marchand, with entrée to every art salon in Europe, apparently enjoyed playing a caveman lover to a primitive Indian girl. Then they began making overnight trips out of town together.

“He said he could get along better with an Indian girl that he could with a white woman,” Lila says. “She chased me; I didn’t chase her,” replies the highly excitable and voluble little Frenchman. As the affair continued the Indian girl’s jealousy caused her to scheme to get rid of Marchand’s wife, District Attorney Moore says. The witch plot with superstitious old Nancy followed.


Months ago, Marchand has recalled since his wife’s murder, Lila asked him to make her a present of a lock of Mrs. Marchand;s hair. A friend advised him against it, however, saying it smacked of witchcraft. Marchand insists he knew nothing of the Indian plot against his wife.

With his wife and children, Marchand lived in Buffalo near the museum. Lila lived in a little cabin on the reservation, 30 miles away, with her aged father and mother. The former is an Indian farmer, the latter an old squaw who can hardly speak English.

In their dilapidated and crowded cabin, Lila had a rickety old piano. She had never taken a music lesson but she played “by ear.” She learned on the piano in the little church on the reservation that the Christian Indians attended.


Despite her poverty, Lila had her pride of ancestry. She is a descendant of Mary Jemison, famed in the history of the Niagara frontier as the white woman of the Indian tribes. Lila’s name, Jimerson is apparently a corruption of the original Jemison.

Mary Jemison;s life in history, a few years before the Revolutionary War her Scotch-Irish parents, came over and settled in the wilderness. When she was 13, Indians raided the home and massacred all the family but her, whom they kidnapped.

Mary watched the Indian braves as they cured the scalps of her own mother and father over a camp fire. She recognized her mother’s hair, she said in the story of her life, because it was long and red –“and beautiful”.

The little girl grew up as a member of the tribe. She married three Indian warriors in succession, leaving numerous descendants among the Indians. Lila is said to be a great-great-granddaughter.


Mary Jemison rose to be a power among the tribes and upon her death at an advanced age in 1831 and owned thousands acres in the Genesee Valley. Her cabin with all its equipment is preserved and a heroic statue of her stands in what is now a state park near Buffalo.

Little is known of Mrs. Clothilde Marchand, the little French wife and mother whom Marchand married in Paris and brought here. She was an artist too, but never exhibited her paintings.

If she was aware of her husband’s illicit romance she suffered in silence. She had few acquaintances as she couldn’t speak English well. She left four children, two married, and the youngest a boy of 12, who almost stumbled over the body of his murdered mother when he returned from school that afternoon an hour after witch-ridden old Nancy had left the house with her blood-stained hammer. - MARCH 1930 - BRANTFORD EXPOSITOR

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