(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): I’m Todd Matthews. This is Missing Pieces and tonight we have Darla Jackson. Welcome, Darla.
DARLA SAYLOR JACKSON (Guest, Author of ‘Harlan County Haunts’): Thank you.
TODD: How are you doing?
DARLA: I’m doing great.
TODD: You’re a Southerner, right along beside of me, Harlan County.
TODD: I’ve been there a few times; I didn’t know you were there, actually, and I didn’t know you had a Jane Doe.
DARLA: Oh, yeah. Yeah, we do. Harlan County has its own Jane Doe.
TODD: Well, nobody else knew it, is one of the problems. I actually saw a newspaper article that featured you and your book, ‘Harlan County Haunts’ and that’s what did this; that’s what changed everything. That book and that newspaper article brought this to the attention of a lot of people. I actually saw the article posted; I didn’t know you had a Jane Doe and I contacted the medical examiner, Dr. Emily Craig, anthropologist for the state, you know they didn’t know, this has not been fully reported. This was before the current State Medical Examiner system was in place and basically it’s outside the jurisdiction…
TODD: …so I have contacted your coroner, and I think there is a possibility with ‘Caroline,’ as you guys call her…
TODD: …and a lot of it is just because you finally got somebody’s attention. There was a passage in your book that says, “I have spent hours going over every Jane Doe network and cold case website on the Internet. I have posted messages in Fayette, Ohio forums and basically exhausted all Internet sources. This murder is not listed with the Kentucky State Police Cold Case website. The ‘Tent Girl’ found near Lexington is a popular Jane Doe case and so is the ‘Lady in Black’ found murdered outside a hotel in Harrodsburg in the 1830s, but no one seems to be interested in Caroline.” Well, I am! (Chuckles) Actually, I did work with the ‘Tent Girl’ and that’s what actually began my work with missing and unidentified persons, was the ‘Tent Girl.’
TODD: So I was really glad to see this.
DARLA: Yeah, that is one of the most amazing things is that this is such an intriguing story and it just seemed that absolutely no one knew about it and I just couldn’t believe it.
TODD: Well, you had a great account. Now, from what you wrote in your book, you know the vital statistics are there, and were able to get quite a bit of information from that. You know your coroner doesn’t have a lot of data, it seems to have been lost over time…
TODD: …but there are so many possibilities, and I’m working with NamUs now, that the national missing and unidentified persons database, it’s part of the Department of Justice, NamUs.gov. There are possibilities out there for this Jane Doe, when I ran it through as a trial for that system, there are women that basically resemble this, but without proper dental records, DNA, there’s no way to make any kind of match…
TODD: …so I’m hoping that we can convince your coroner to basically exhume this body at some point in time, gather DNA samples, and process it. Hopefully it can be handed over to the state and passed along to that jurisdiction; that would be my hope, so that possibly we can identify her.
TODD: I’m surprised I didn’t hear from you earlier, as a matter of fact, or seen you earlier.
DARLA: You know, I saw your website, because every time I would search for ‘Caroline,’ or search for someone, searching for this girl, I would always come up with the ‘Tent Girl,’ and then I’d always see where you solved that and I nearly sent you her information, I bet a half a dozen times, but then I kept thinking, “You know, I really don’t have enough information,” you know, I have a ghost story, but as far as just really great information, I didn’t really have any…
DARLA: …so I didn’t know what to do. I tried to get anyone locally, that I possibly could, interested, but I never could get anyone interested really in this so, you know, the book…creating a book for this, was really my only hope of getting the word out to people who would be interested.
TODD: Well, I think you did that with this, so that was really impressive. You went to a lot of lengths with that and I understand where you’re coming from with it, and you might be surprised to know, I read quite a bit of your book, basically mainly this part of it and I do intend to read the rest of it. I love ghost stories more than anything, but a lot of the things, and I know you’ve probably…this is quite a wild story, at times, but I had a lot of similar experiences with the ‘Tent Girl.’
DARLA: Oh, okay.
TODD: And I’ve always been reluctant to tell people about some of the experiences because I don’t know if it was obsession, I don’t know what happened to me, but there were similar events that happened with me when I tried to research the ‘Tent Girl’ and it went on for a number of years and there were times that I thought, “I’m going to completely lose my mind…
TODD: …but when I read that, you know when I first saw the article, I thought, “Wow, you know, Jane Doe,” and then I got to looking at the ghost story involved and I thought, “Well, hmm, I still have a lot of things I’ve never really told anybody.”
DARLA: Yeah, well, you know I’d always…I had heard of this…I grew up very near where the body was discovered…
DARLA: …so I’d always heard my family speak of this.
DARLA: I was born in 1969, so I have absolutely no recollection whatsoever, because that’s when she was discovered, but in 2000, when my aunt called me and told me about what my uncle was experiencing, while living beside of her grave, now that is when it just really…it really has really become a part of my life for the past 8 years now.
TODD: You know, I’ve struggled talking about my experience with a lot of people; I’ve blurbed it out with a few media and I’ve gotten to do quite a few things; I’m working as the Media Director for Doe Network now, we have a forensic reconstruction project (Project EDAN), which I started; I work with ‘Outpost For Hope’ and NamUs.gov., you know, there are so many doors opened, and not always easy doors, but I always didn’t want to risk my credibility by explaining what happened at that time. And, you know, now I feel like I got to a point where I feel comfortable telling the rest of the story, because I’ve never really explained what happened exactly to myself and my connection to the ‘Tent Girl.’ I never really knew, and it’s forty years ago May 17th of this year, that my father-in-law found her body…
TODD: …so this is an important time. So, seeing this, at this time, is a really interesting to me, to see this, and I’m really glad. I feel like you’re a long-lost relative.
DARLA: Well, great. Well, great. That is so good to hear, and that is…I totally agree with you, I’ve had…I’d even considered contacting you at one point. I have attempted to contact the detective, but what I didn’t want to get into, is all I had basically, which was a ghost story.
TODD: Which, basically, that was the ‘Tent Girl’ too. You know, there was not enough data to exhume that body and no reason to exhume the body back in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s until the tentative ID had come up and that gave Dr. Craig enough of a reason to do that. But, now, things have changed even more because this is 10 years ago now, and good enough reason now is to possibly gather DNA for a future match while the DNA is still there.
TODD: So, we’ve got a good enough reason to do it, and you know, I’ve talked to your coroner and I think he’s willing to look at some opportunities to do that and I think it would be a good thing. What I faced with the ‘Tent Girl,’ when I dug her up, she was gone. You see, that grave that I visited for so many years, suddenly she was gone, and it bothered me, and I was so glad when they put her back in that same grave. It was a relief, and I didn’t know that it would bother me that much when we would pick her up and give her to her family, and I thought, “But, wait a minute, I’m losing her if I do that,” and so you can imagine the relief I had, and I know that sounds crazy to a lot of people listening, but she was family.
DARLA: Right. Well, you know, I don’t know if this gets…if she gets identified, one of the strongest messages my uncle received is, that this young girl does not want to be in that grave. She wants to go home, and if she was ever identified, I think I would…I think I would be more comfortable…
TODD: …to send her where she’s supposed to be?
DARLA: Yeah, or where she wants to be.
DARLA: But she showed…she showed discontent there, and I guess just her whole situation, you know, such an injustice. You know, unidentified girl, killer never brought to justice, and just simply forgotten on the side of a hill in Harlan County.
TODD: I think she’s very identifiable if we get the proper data; the dental records, you know, and the coroner did tell me he did want to make an effort. And don’t get me wrong, Kentucky is the most excellent state, as far as their State Medical Examiner system, I can’t find one that I would say is any better than that state.
DARLA: I’ve heard that before. I’ve heard that before, I sure have.
TODD: And I actually got quoted in another article about another subject at one point in time. I thought the interview was over for a newspaper, the quote that he took away was a quote that I made after the interview I thought was over. I said, “I hope if anybody kills me, they throw me out in Kentucky.” That was the quote he used, but…
DARLA: That’s great.
TODD: …you know, I was afraid I was going to be in trouble for that, but apparently everybody took it well and, you know, it’s the truth. You know I could have been a little more tactful in the way I presented it, but it was the truth.
DARLA: Well, yeah, I have heard that there is a very good system here in Kentucky. Another thing that happened with this young girl…this happened in 1969…
DARLA: …and Harlan County is still a secluded area, but back then, it was totally secluded…I think the articles that I have printed in my book, is the only media coverage it got, and I had even heard…I had spoken with people just in surrounding counties; Leslie County, Bell County, these border counties and they had never heard of it before, so it got little, if any, media coverage.
TODD: I feel like it’s the ‘Tent Girl’ all over again. You know I didn’t know that it was possible that another existed so cut off from the system, you know I just assumed Kentucky, beside ‘The Lady Who Danced Herself To Death,’ and I think you called her ‘The Lady In Black’…
TODD: …you know I thought, well, she’s a little, you know, genealogically, it is still possible to make some type of identification on her, and then there’s ‘Some Mother’s Boy’ buried near the ‘Tent Girl’ and he’s from much earlier in the 1900s, you know I still think there’s hope for those, maybe not in the current DNA, fingerprint and dental record system, you know it’s not going to happen that way, but maybe we can find somebody missing somewhere from a spot in time in genealogy records that they could be this person.
DARLA: Yeah, check census reports…
DARLA: …and when that person is absent.
TODD: And there is a possibility for ‘The Lady Who Danced Herself To Death’ or ‘Molly Black’…
TODD: …there is a possibility, you know, but will we ever know? Does it matter? Who cares? I don’t know, but to me, I do care, and it adds to the legend, but I don’t want the Harlan County Jane Doe to become…to fade away into urban legend. I think there is still a lot of a possibility. I was told with the “Tent Girl,’ when I was looking, when nobody wanted to listen to me, “There’s nobody alive that remembers her.” Well, her daughter is only slightly older than me, and I’m 38, and she’s not much older than me, she was an infant when she (‘Tent Girl’) died, so with this one it’s the same thing, there’s very likely somebody alive that remembers her. She might have a very proper missing person report and this is the other end, it never went into the system properly. I’m going to try to do that. I want to try and help make sure that that happens and hopefully I’ll get to meet you some time soon.
DARLA: Oh, great. Absolutely. Yeah.
TODD: And your coroner, and there are things and maybe I can help create some opportunities for you guys and make this happen.
DARLA: Well, that would be…that would be, really me reaching my goal. The goal, when I wrote the book, that was goal, is to get someone capable…I’m not…I really don’t feel capable. I’m not an investigator. I’ve never done anything like this before, and until this incident, until I became interested in this young girl, you know I’d never really had any experience with anything like this before. So, to have someone that has done this before, successfully, is just…it’s a dream come true really.
TODD: Well, I mean, you definitely got the word out. You might have done it in an easier way, but you took the long road and it worked. Now, your coroner, he’s a really nice man, and I don’t think he’s done this before; I don’t think many people have done this before, but he’s very open to, you know, telling me what needs to happen and what are the possibilities. But in Kentucky, the coroners are not MDs, they’re not medical doctors; they’re elected officials, and they’re not necessarily somebody that would have the knowledge in hand to deal with something like an older case like this. And Emily Craig told me that this was a case that she hadn’t been aware about before now, so that was interesting too because you know that lady’s got it all together in Kentucky, and this was just never brought enough to the surface so that she could have heard about it until now.
DARLA: Very few people know about this…
DARLA: …and many, many people have come up to me after reading the book and said, “You know, now I do remember this, but I had forgotten about it,” and that seems to be almost what everyone did, I guess, except for maybe just a handful of people; me and my family, and then I have had some other people, Joe Mahan, who recovered her body, he owned Colonial Chapel Funeral Home at the time, he says he thinks about her ‘most every day.
TODD: And it’s the same thing that happened, you know, a casket was donated, a tombstone was donated, you know so many different things happened, just so much the same.
DARLA: Yes. It really is to a point that it’s unusual because, like I said, every time I searched for my girl, I would always…on the Internet, I would always get the ‘Tent Girl,’ and so I was interested because it was so similar, and I totally agree that the era and how it all seemed to happen, it’s just so similar and really, the Lexington-Georgetown area is about 3 hours away from here, so that’s not all that far away.
TODD: Well, if it hadn’t have been…you know, if the ‘Tent Girl’ would have been in a more isolated place, but she was near the bigger town of Lexington, and that helped.
TODD: You know it helped. There were a lot more people that could contribute, you know they got her a headstone, which really struck clear into my heart when I saw it, and her faced was etched on it, you know. I remember the first time going there and it was just like you walked into your own destiny somehow. She was so strangely familiar when my wife, (she was then my girlfriend), first told me about it back in ’87, it was all…and she moved to Tennessee from that area of Kentucky, and it was like she was telling me something that was already familiar to me, and I don’t know why, but I feel like I’ve known her forever. I feel like I knew Lori forever, she was so familiar to me. It was just odd. It was just like I started a ‘déjà vu’ that lasted for…I’ve been married 20 years this year, and it just went like that forever.
TODD: So, I’m hoping, I think you’ve definitely got some opportunities for your Jane Doe opened up, and it’s amazing work. You’ve certainly put a lot of time and effort in it.
DARLA: Well, thank you. I really…I wanted the novella ‘Caroline’ to be its own book…
DARLA: …but, you know, quickly into it, it didn’t have an ending, of course…I wanted to have an ending, I wanted to find her and I wanted to have the book complete, and after five years…six years, I thought, “You know, people are getting older. Her family is getting older.”
DARLA: “I need to make a move.”
DARLA: So, I began creating a book that I thought people would be interested in, and made sure that she was the feature of the book, because this girl…someone knew of this girl’s existence. That’s what’s so maddening. You cannot live your life, I think maybe 19 or 20 years, without someone knowing of your existence.
TODD: No, it’s just…
DARLA: Someone knows her.
TODD: Man, you’re going through the same things that I went through, you know. It’s just so strange to encounter something like this again.
DARLA: Yeah, it is. It’s just…you can become obsessed over it. I mean, it just becomes part of you, because you just know that, you know, this young life was just taken…she was so young, and she was somebody’s child.
TODD: Well, you know, you’ve got a paranormal investigator, and I don’t usually…this is not something that I just loosely recommend, Patti Starr, (Episode 9), and she is a paranormal investigator and she’s based in Lexington, Kentucky. You know, we’ve talked about the one I call, ‘ The Lady That Danced Herself To Death,’ you know, there are so many different cases that we tried to look at, especially the older ones, and she’s a really nice lady and she hadn’t heard of this one. I showed it to her and it was definitely interesting to her to read that.
DARLA: Well, good. Yes, I think any help…I think psychics can be extremely accurate, amazingly so, and I do put a lot of faith in that sort of thing because psychics have solved many a crime…
DARLA: …which, you know, the scientific investigation could not.
TODD: Well, anything is possible.
TODD: You have to look at everything, you know. It’s not the first thing that I suggest to somebody, but if somebody has findings, you know, I rarely go and say, “Hey, I need a psychic on this,” but usually I’ll hear from that person, the psychic, that says, “Hey, I think this could be this,” and you know, it either checks out or it doesn’t. I’ve seen things that have been like very possible, and then other things, it’s just way off base and you don’t know what’s motivated that person, maybe they just wanted some attention…who knows?
TODD: You know, so you have to get somebody who has a credibility built up, and you know, somebody that just woke up and had a vision, you know it’s hard to believe that person and say that person’s good. But now, you have an account that you’ve actually written all of this stuff out so, I mean, to me it’s worthy of a look, and if nothing else, you have got statistical data on this Jane Doe put out to a spot to where I could actually get to it, whereas otherwise, I didn’t even know she was there.
DARLA: I tried to put every bit of fact that I knew, which is very little, but everything that was actually printed in the newspaper…
DARLA: …I tried to put every bit of that I could. I put the speculation in it, and then I also put a psychic account, but I wanted the facts out there. And, you know, the other information, it may not be correct; some of it may be, some of it may not be, but she gave quite a story and really, I guess, maybe this was her goal too. Maybe, you know, the information that was actually psychically given, it may not be correct, but it got a story out there.
TODD: It helped. I mean…
DARLA: It gave me a story.
TODD: …that’s going to be interesting. What if what she said was correct? How will that make you feel?
DARLA: Well, I don’t…I’ve thought about it before and I saw it both ways. What if it’s all correct?
DARLA: How completely eerie would that be? And then I thought, “Well, what if it’s all wrong?” But, you know, either way, either way it doesn’t really matter to me.
DARLA: I would just like to see her found. Some people pick up wrong messages. Some people are just simply so overwhelmed, that they’re just so touched by something, that they feel like they’re picking up things. I feel like my uncle picked up something, no doubt. You know, I wouldn’t be talking to you if he did not, because that was…it gave me a way to get this story out there. It’s a good story and it’s true. This actually happened to my uncle; he actually lived just with this grave in his yard for nearly a year, about 8 months, and he really did experience this.
TODD: Well, I can tell you, it’s absolutely solvable. It is. I mean, like I said, the other end of the spectrum, the missing person, can have every report known to man done, everything done correctly, 100% DNA in the DNA database just waiting, and none of it means a hill of beans until this lady’s data goes into that system, so at the very least, we can work to make that happen. You know, like I said, the system kicked out during a trial entry, a couple of possibilities, and I don’t know if it will play out or not, but I know we’ll never know unless it’s looked at, you know. So, I definitely want to work with your coroner a little more and try to make her a little better off and give her hope for the future, give whoever she belongs to, hope that she can be put back in the future. I’m sure it will happen at some point in time, and we’ve just got to get the data up and out there.
DARLA: Okay. Sounds good.
TODD: And I definitely…I’ve not told anybody what it is yet, but I do have a new media opportunity that’s going to go beyond the radio show a little bit. I’m going to get a writing job for a national media outlet that’s going to be a weekly thing and this is going to be…I’ve already written a draft for this particular story, to be used in that, and hopefully I’ll have more information that I can actually tell people about this week, but it will definitely get the information out to the entire planet. So, hopefully, fingers crossed…I’m so glad to have read your article and I’m so glad to have read your book, and to have met you and talked to you now.
DARLA: Well, I am so glad you found the article too.
TODD: And next time you think about emailing somebody, go ahead. (Laughs)
DARLA: Okay. (Laughs also)
TODD: But, you know, maybe this book needed to be written. Maybe a shortcut wasn’t meant to be. Who knows?
TODD: I rarely look back and regret. I try to look forward and think, “You know, maybe I did all that for a reason and maybe it was important for a reason,” and just try to be positive, and try to never think I wasted my time doing anything.
DARLA: Well, you know, I’m a firm believer in ‘everything happens in its own time.’
DARLA: For years, and it just seemed that the book was released at the perfect time. You know, maybe I was supposed to take the hard road, and that’s okay. That’s okay.
TODD: Well, I’m hoping that if anybody else out there in your counties, in Tennessee, Kentucky, or whatever state you’re in, if you’ve got a Jane Doe like this one, that seems to be completely forgotten, especially from the ‘60s or ‘70s, where it’s very, very solvable if the data is out there, you know, ask, inquire, write to somebody, talk to your county coroner if you have a coroner; talk to somebody. You know, write to the show if you want to, and definitely, surely, I will know somebody that I can help connect you up with, but if there is a case like this out there, they do belong to somebody, and they are solvable. We’ve seen it happen time and time again. I had people laugh at me with the ‘Tent Girl’ and I felt like a fool, you know, when I would even try, and I won, though. It worked out, you know, so I won’t ever feel like that ever again, and you definitely did a lot of justice to this girl. Nobody will ever forget that girl because of what you were able to do now.
DARLA: Well, that’s…I hope so. I hope so. If that is the case, then I’ve done…I’ve done what I needed to do.
TODD: Things will happen. That’s for sure. I can’t say that we’ll get to send her home, but I definitely…I am positive that we can put her in a better situation, at least have a proper report made and get her into the right hands, and have the data in the right hands. We’ve just got to work together, but you’ve kept the candle burning, and finally somebody saw it and we’ll work on it.
DARLA: Okay. Great.
TODD: And, hopefully, I’ll get to meet you in the near future; I plan on coming up there.
DARLA: Okay. Sounds good.
TODD: And I hope everybody will check out your book. We’re going to add a link to your book, where people, if they want to purchase this book, it’s got a lot of heart and soul in it. I guarantee you, it’s a good book to read, and hopefully a few people will pick that up, it’s well worth it. It’s well worth it. There’s an online version, you can get a hard copy version, and I hope people will take a look at it. And we’ll be in touch, and I’ll send you the link to this show. It’ll be transcribed and you can use it in any way you want to, to try to promote your efforts, it’s for you to do what you want to with.
TODD: Well, hopefully I’ll be back in touch with you by email and get some updates from you and we’ll maybe redo this interview and add to it as news changes and hopefully get to see you really soon.
DARLA: Did you say you were 38?
DARLA: I’m 38.
TODD: Yeah, but you’re older than me.
DARLA: Oh, really?
TODD: Yeah. You were born in the ‘60s; I held out ‘til the ‘70s.
DARLA: ‘Til the ‘70s?
DARLA: You’ve been married 20 [years]; I’ve been married 19 years.
TODD: Wow, we’re 20 in July, so we’ve hung in there really good.
DARLA: That’s great. That is great.
TODD: Well, hopefully we’ll see you soon then.
TODD: All right. And thanks for being here.
DARLA: Okay, thanks.
TODD: All right-y. Bye-bye.
1969 Harlan County Jane Doe Vitals:
Date Found: June 05, 1969
Location Found: Harlan County, Kentucky
Estimated Age: 20's
Height: 5' 3"
Weight: Unknown, medium build.
Medical: Healed broken collarbone.
Other Information: May be from Ohio or visited the Cincinnati Ohio area. Order ticket from Cincinnati Ohio restaurant was found near the body.
"I have spent hours going over every "Jane Doe" network and cold case website on the internet.
I have posted messages in the Fayette, Ohio forums and basically exhausted all internet sources.
This murder is not listed on the Kentucky State Police cold case website. The "Tent Girl"
found near Lexington is a popular Jane Doe case and so is the "Lady in Black"
found murdered outside a hotel in Harrodsburg in the 1830's,
but no one seems to be interested in Caroline."
~ Darla Saylor Jackson ~
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