I have written extensively on what seems to be growing evidence that John Wilkes Booth did not die in the early morning hours of April 26, 1865 as stated in the official record. Booth, according to the accepted historical narrative, was shot by a soldier from the Union's 16th Cavalry named Boston Corbett while hiding in a Virginia farmer's tobacco barn. John Wilkes Booth's family members do not believe this version of their forefather's death, and they say someone else died at Garrett's farm and that their ancestor escaped. Booth's descendants filed suit in 1996 to force the exhumation of the body that the government claims is Booth's. DNA tests could answer definitively whether the body was Booth's, and that is what the Booth family desired--an answer. However, the cemetery's attorneys argued before the judges that if an exhumation of the body took place, the processs would violate what was supposed to be an inviolable written contract between Green Mount Cemetery and Booth's mother (signed in 1869) that her son's remains would never be disturbed. The courts ruled in favor of the cemetery and the body was not exhumed. The family continues to press in their efforts to obtain DNA testing.
One such family member is stage actress Blanche Debar Booth (1844-1930). Blanche was considered "the most beautiful woman on the American stage" in her day, and she was Booth's favorite niece. In March 1922, just eight years before her death, Blanche swore that she had an encounter with John Wilkes Booth in Enid, Oklahoma (some newspaper accounts say El Reno) in the early 1900's. Again in 1925, Blanche swore that her uncle approached her while she was getting to perform in Enid--35 years after the government said he died. Even when Fred L. Black--the investigator assigned by automobile magnate Henry Ford to look into the matter--attempted to dissuade Blanche Debar Booth from her testimony, she stood firm.
"I exchanged but a word or two with him, letting him know I was too fatigued to see anyone."
According to her sworn testimony, she didn't know the man calling her name on the other side of the dressing room door was her aged uncle. She told the inquirer who wished to see her that she was preparing for her performance and he needed to go away. Blanche said that her uncle then slid a card under the door of the downtown opera house dressing room with these handwritten words on it, "Wouldn't you like to meet your Johnny?" using the name John Wilkes always used when referring to himself with family members. Blanche did not immediately pick up the card, but continued getting ready. When she saw the card and read the words printed on it, she flung open her door, looking frantically for her uncle. Booth was gone. She swore that the distinctive handwriting and signature was that of her uncle's. She wouldn't budge from her views--particularly because she had heard from her other uncles and her own grandmother of personal meetings they had with Booth over the years.
Blanche DeBar Booth was the daughter of Junius (Jr.) Booth, John Wilkes' brother. After Lincoln was assassinated, Blanche was interviewed by a Missouri state law enforcement officer who described her as "an unmitigated rebel" and "possessed of considerable personal attractions, of a vigorous mind and marked histrionic ability." After Lincoln's murder, she dropped her last name to dodge her uncle John's infamy. She retained her striking looks. She created a sensation in Chicago in 1871 when she put on the first play there after the city was all but destroyed by fire.
Blanche Debar Booth is one of just a handful of 19th century stage actors from whom we have a recording of her talents. In the YouTube audio below, you can hear how Blanche would have dramatically portrayed her craft on stage in the 1800's and early 1900's. The audio is her actual voice quoting a poem appropriate for the mystery surrounding her brother's death. Whether or not Blanche Debar Booth is telling the truth about meeting her uncle in Enid is up for debate, but nobody can question that as the Booth family continues to press for DNA testing of vertebrae from the "body in the barn," until answers are given to them, the mystery of John Wilkes Booth death will continue.
At some disputed barricade...
At midnight in some flaming town...
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.
Performed by Blanche DeBar Booth (1844-1930)