According to a Hood County legend from before the turn of the century, Booth was not killed by federal troops in 1865, but escaped to Granbury, where he assumed the St. Helen alias. An accomplice was said to have been buried instead in Booth's grave.
St. Helen confessed at one time to Granbury attorney Finis Bates that he was Booth. St. Helen later moved to Oklahoma, where legend says he assumed the identity of house painter David E. George. George committed suicide in 1903. Bates had George's body mummified and displayed it as Booth's. The mummy has disappeared. Tennessee resident Ken Hawkes is a student of the Booth/St, Helen legend. He's been searching for the mummy for years.
If the mummy's found, scientific tests can be done to confirm if the George mummy is indeed that of Booth, says Hawkes.
In an effort to determine if Booth is really buried in a Baltimore, Md. cemetery, Booth descendants and researchers filed a petition in Baltimore court in October 1994 seeking the exhumation of Booth's grave.
They wanted to exhume the body to look for two major indicators--a broken left ankle and a dislocated right thumb, said Hawkes. Booth suffered a broken ankle when he jumped from the balcony of the Ford Theatre after shooting Lincoln. Booth suffered the dislocated thumb in a stage accident, said Hawkes. Researches also wanted to exhume the body of Booth's mother to determine if the DNA of both bodies is the same.
A judge denied the request in May 1995. He stated he was not convinced by the petitioners' theory that Booth escaped after assassinating Lincoln and moved to Granbury. Booth's descendants appealed the ruling, but an appeals judge also rejected the petition in May 1996. Plans to exhume Booth's grave are now apparently dead. Hawkes says that means the search for the mummy is now even more important. If found, the mummy can be examined for the same injuries, he states. Much of Hawkes' search for the mummy has involved on checking out reports of mummies across the country. "I've heard it's in someone's home," he stated.
The mummy has periodically shown up in carnivals all across the country in the last 70 years, says Hawkes. The Mummy was reportedly last seen at a fair in New Hope, Penn. in 1975.
Whoever has the mummy may be afraid to come forward, Hawkes believes. They may be afraid they'll lose the mummy, he says. All researchers want to do is borrow the mummy for tests, Hawkes stated.
The Booth/St. Helen legend has gained national prominence. Accounts of the legend have appeared in newspapers across the country. It has also been featured on NBC's Unsolved Mysteries and ABC's 20/20 news magazine. Persons with information on the mummy are urged to call Hawkes at his Memphis, Tenn. home at (901)4587356.
From Hood County News, Granbury, Texas