The Strange, Sad Death of Lucinda Mills: An examination of Appalachia’s only known case of ritual murder.

In February, 1933, in Tomahawk, KY, at the culmination of a week-long Pentecostal revival that included fasting, dancing, incantation, and speaking in tongues, church members decided to offer up human sacrifices. An elderly woman, Mrs. Lucinda Mills, was selected as the first offering and her son, John H. Mills, choked her to death in front of the congregation. The church members were preparing to burn Mrs. Mill's body on the altar when the local police, either tipped off by a neighbor or attracted by the commotion, burst into the church and began making arrests. Three other women had already been selected as additional offerings. Church members claimed they were held in thrall by a supernatural power and prevented from intervening. John H. Mills was the only person brought to trial. Charged with the murder of his mother, he was convicted and imprisoned. While well-remembered within the community, and widely covered by newspapers of the time, the event is now forgotten by the world at large. This study combines oral history and archival research techniques to document the death of Mrs. Mills in regional folklore and history. In addition to recording the story as remembered, it places the death in the context of the spread of the Holiness movement through the mountains of east Kentucky, examines the surviving documentation associated with the crime, and analyzes the media’s depiction of the events. It preserves s an overlooked aspect of Appalachian history and contributes to a richer understanding of the region’s culture.