This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the murder of Franklin resident Frances “Frankie” Bullock. On July 26, 1963, the pretty socialite visited her mother and then a friend. Once she returned to her home, the events become unclear. From that night until her body was discovered the following Monday, speculation is that someone she knew entered her home, sat with her at a dining room table for a period of time and then brutally killed her. The exact details of her death may never lead to an explanation or closure for those who knew her — many of whom have since passed away, but her legacy still haunts the residents that live here.
“Each town has a story that can almost be represented like a tapestry and Frankie's murder left a stain on Franklin's tapestry,” said Gregg Clark, a local English teacher and storyteller, who with his wife Pauletta, own and operates Where Shadows Walk, Franklin's Haunted History Tour. “But as time has passed, it has become another color in the tapestry. Her and the mystery that surrounds her death are always going to be with us.”
According to Clark, the Bullock murder is one of the stories that still piques people's interests to this very day.
Bullock’s husband was killed in an occupational accident while employed by Nantahala Power and Light Company some years earlier making her a young widow. In the summer of '63, she was 40 years old, almost 41, operating an antique shop from her home. She attended social happenings in town and often visited friends. On that fateful weekend, neighbors noticed a hallway light on in her house and that her car had been left outside. Both of these occurrences were not of character for Bullock.
“She was a lady, in the image of a Jackie Kennedy. She was well dressed. She had lots of friends and she loved her family,” says Clark. “This is a small town and it was even smaller back then. When nobody heard from her for three days, people began to worry about her.”
Neighbors and friends had come by the house, but were not greeted as expected. At the urging of some of those concerned, Bullock’s brother and business partner, after some resistance, finally gave in and walked around the house, but he did not attempt to look into the windows or enter the home.
“This raised some concern. He basically tried to avoid the situation as if he did not want to be involved at all. It's probably one of the reasons he became a suspect once the body was discovered,” Clark said.
She was found the following Monday by a friend who finally looked through one of the windows in the home. Upon entering, authorities discovered that Bullock had been brutally stabbed seven times in her kitchen and most likely died in the dining room. Since two chairs were found pulled out from the table, they assumed that she knew her assailant. The State Bureau of Investigations almost immediately took over the case, looking at several suspects.
“There were a lot of suspects. In that time period, when somebody was murdered people immediately thought, 'it was a man,' but there were suspected women too. There was also a boyfriend that she had broken up with the week before, there were family members considered like her brother. There were quite a few suspects, but from the very beginning there was a cloak of mystery that surrounded her death,” said Clark. “As time went by, even evidence would become lost for years. It was all very odd.”
To this very day, the murder has not been solved. The majority of the people who were involved in the investigation or questioned, have since passed away, and time continues to pass. There are still many around who think about the murder and remember Bullock's story, the one that began with a childhood bout of tuberculosis that would leave her with only one lung, the one that would later be punctured in a brutal attack that would end her life and leave the town on edge and citizens locking their doors at night in fear.
This weekend, which marks the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, Clark will be telling the full detailed account of the events that occurred before, during, and after Bullock's death. Housed in the Macon County Historical Museum, Clark, his wife, and the Where Shadows Walk team, will give attendees a memorable night out. The tickets have sold out fast, but there will be an encore on August 2 and 3. More information can be found at www.whereshadowswalk.com.
“It may not be the legacy she would have hoped for, but she will never be forgotten. My family is deep-rooted here and my dad was the assistant chief of police in the early '70s. I heard things from him that he heard from the original investigators. I've also heard pieces of information that have never been published. I plan on using this as an opportunity to get her story out there. I'm hoping to help give her some closure,” said Clark.