Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Revisiting Kirtland...18 years later

It isn’t often songwriters get any real world feedback on their songs. The other day I got an email from Sgt.Ronald K. Andolsek that read (in part)
“I was the police investigator of the Kirtland Cult Killings, immortalized (I'm not sure a song about murders can be 'immortalized', but, why quibble?) in your Kirtland Murder Barn,.......Lake County, Ohio. I really enjoy your song and your music. I played it for others at work and passed out the lyrics. Everybody enjoyed it.
There were actually five (5) bodies. We did not dig up skeletons, but decomposed bodies (which were from actual skin tone to latter stages of putrification.). There were seven arrested in Kansas City, Mo……Your song brought back visuals of the scene back in January 1990, when the roadside was lined with the media and people slowed down along Rt 6. (my italics)

Conjuring up that image of that day in 1990 when that bleak stretch of country road was turned into a dark circus was what I was trying, in my own small way, to convey.

As a result of this letter I told Ronald that, although I couldn’t change what I had already recorded, I would change the version of the song that I now sang. The last verse now goes:

“They arrested one person in Bay City
seven others in Kansas, Mo.

The cops found five bodies
Buried under the floor.
Me, I don’t understand,
The people come and go:

Pointing out their windows at the Kirtland Murder Barn.”

Odd music seemed to swirl around this trial. During the trial of cult leader Jeffery Lundgren (who was ultimately convicted and executed for the multiple murders) the secretary of the Lake County Public Defender's Office wrote this little ‘ditty’. (It goes to the tune of ‘The Ballad of Jed Clampet’)

The Ballad of Jeff Lundgren

Come and listen to a story bout Jeff Lund-gren.
He moved his friends to Kirt-land and made them all his kin.
He formed himself a cult on the Kirtland Farm,
where they all set out to do Avery’s deadly harm
Well, the next thing ya know olde Jeff’s got a gun.
The cult membeers said, “Jeff, you’re the only one to take us to the promise land from this locality,
he loaded up his gun and shot the Av-er–ies

Well, they thought they’d get away from it and you can bet, but the feds got a call and they called Steve La-Tour-ette. Said we think we got your man, it’s time to go. They picked up ole Jeff five (5) miles from Mex-i-co.

Well, we all thought that Steve was such a great guy, but he went on NBC and said, “They’re gonna fry.” Now there are things you can say Steve and things you can’t. Just ask your old boss, R. Paul LaPlante (Lake County Public Defender and LaTourette’s former boss)

Now Alice (Lundgren) was the first one to state her case with prosecutors Dray and Lawson right up in her face. Her fate was sealed by a jury of her peers and the judge said “Alice, here’s a hundred and fifty years.”

So…all this stuff is interesting in a creepy kind of way, but, really, what does it tell us, utimately about ourselves? I think it says that the real evil is in men, the real evil is the destruction and ruined lives these people leave behind them.
And, of course, life must go on and music will out.


Gary said...


Did you ask the good Sgt. if he plays the uke?


Anonymous said...

Craig, very well and tastefully written. I will send you a panaroramic photo I took of the barn and farmhouse for the trials. The song, "Balad of Jeff Lundgren," and others were sung to reduce the tension of the trials. I watched the video of uke playing and I don't think that I can manuver my fingers that well :)

Craig said...

"the song, "Balad of Jeff Lundgren," and others were sung to reduce the tension of the trials" People sing for all reasons, but I think we sometimes forget that singing is very catharthic, it removes our minds from the present and makes us blissful.
In other words, it's fun.

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