This sweet little old 76-year-old woman from Kalamazoo was an avid church-goer, loved telling stories to the neighborhood children, loved cats, was loved by friends and neighbors, had a great sense of humor, was kind to one and all, was married to the Reverend Madison Fairchild, (who had passed away in 1904), lived her whole life in Kalamazoo.....and was brutally slaughtered by being bludgeoned to death by her neighbors, Eugene & Pearl Burgess, who had been her friends for 15 years.

The murder of Etta Fairchild back on the afternoon of July 18, 1929 has been known locally as the 'Witchcraft Murder' or 'Hex Murder'.

It was a Thursday afternoon in July when Etta dressed up, ready to go out to see her friends and  neighbors, the Burgess family, for a friendly visit. The Burgesses were just one of the community families who saw to the health and well-being of Etta. Etta was fond of the Burgess children, in particular their 17-year-old daughter, Eugenie. When she asked if she could see Eugenie, she was uncharacteristically and gruffly told “NO, she's gone for the day!” So what was going on?

99.1 WFMK logo
Get our free mobile app

1) The stories Etta loved telling were the scary kind, like the type you would hear on Halloween which had planted a negative seed in the minds of the Burgesses.
2) As they sat at the dinner table, Etta mentioned that she would like to move back to the neighborhood, and asked if it was alright if she moved in with them, along with her cats. Mrs. Burgess felt Etta was threatening her family.
3) The Burgesses had joined a cult called “Higher Thought” that taught telepathy.
4) Pearl believed Etta was a witch who kept her family under the 'evil eye' and could kill people by just using her mind.

As they sat at the table eating dinner, Eugene and Pearl grabbed a hammer and a pipe and bludgeoned Etta to death, right there at the dinner table. The incident broke Etta's arms, nine ribs, and crushed her skull. The Burgesses rolled her up in a rug and dumped her body in their backyard cistern. They were proud of their deed, thinking they really rid the world of a terrible person.

Eugene and Pearl were arrested and charged with the murder. While in his cell block shower, Eugene hanged himself from a shower pipe in September 1930. His body was discovered when another inmate bumped into the hanging body as he entered the shower.

The Witchcraft Murder of Etta Fairchild, Kalamazoo


Channel 3 Clubhouse, Kalamazoo

Oakwood Amusement Park, Kalamazoo: 1907-1925

Wendy's Dave Thomas, Formerly of Kalamazoo

More From 99.1 WFMK