Chronicle 3, Part 24: Standing in Two Worlds, 25: The Lost Manuscript, and 26: Blood Cries Out  

24. Standing in Two Worlds 

Grann attends a performance of Wahzhazhe, an Osage ballet, in 2013. It offers a history of the Osage Nation, including the Reign of Terror, and stresses how difficult it is to live between two worlds and two cultures. After the performance, Grann sees Red Corn, who asks him to visit the museum. There she shows him a letter Hale sent from prison, explaining what a good friend he was to the Osage. She also shares that her grandfather died abruptly in 1931 and, before he did, he told people that he was being poisoned by his second wife, a white woman. Red Corn tells Grann that many more people died during the Reign of Terror than the official figures include. 

Although there are many unsolved deaths, Grann decides to investigate the death of Charles Whitehorn. Investigators had previously looked into it, but no one was ever charged with the killing. What surprises Grann, though, is that there was sufficient information to solve the crime. Whitehorn’s wife, Hattie, remarried a man named LeRoy Smitherman. Detectives believe this was a ploy to gain access to Whitehorn’s headrights., It appeared that Hattie and Smitherman plotted the crime with the help of a woman named Minnie Savage. But then Smitherman abandoned Hattie, who fell into the clutches of J. J. Faulkner. Faulkner blackmailed her, and she became very ill. She might have plotted to kill her husband, but Hattie only escaped being killed herself when her sisters took her out of Faulkner’s care. Grann concludes the death toll for the Reign of Terror is significantly higher than the official records.  

25. The Lost Manuscript 

In 2015, the Osage sue an Italian energy company for violating the terms of the 1906 Allotment Act with their wind turbines. Changes to the energy industry have profoundly affected the Osage. Grann turns the chapter’s focus to a manuscript called “The Murder of Mary DeNoya-Bellieu-Lewis.” Compiled by the great-great-grandniece of Mary Lewis, it gathers information about Lewis’s life and disappearance in 1918. Lewis’s body is discovered in 1919, and one of her male companion’s confesses to killing her with a hammer with the eventual aim of collecting her headright payments. Grann notes that a murder in 1918 antedates the start of the Reign of Terror. If the dates were changed to include Lewis’s 1918 death and the poisoning death of Red Corn’s grandfather in 1931, the number of Osage people killed would be even more horrifying.  

26. Blood Cries Out 

Back in the National Archives, Grann searches by guardian to discover how many of each person’s wards were listed as deceased. The numbers stagger him, especially as most of the deaths were never investigated. Even if some people died of natural causes, he sees the pattern of widespread murder. Case after case emerges of a ward dying abruptly, allowing his or her white guardian to claim their fortune. The official death toll of the Reign of Terror might be 24 but given Grann’s additional research into the unspecified volumes of Osage with guardians who died during the Reign, the actual figure undoubtedly runs much higher. Others research this period and its victims, including William Stepson and Dennis McAuliffe Jr. There seem always to be more victims needing justice. Grann’s last visit is with Mary Jo Webb who hopes to learn what happened to her grandfather, Paul Peace. Peace thought he was being poisoned by his second wife, a white woman. Although he escapes from her, he is struck by a car and dies. Grann promises to help, and the book ends with her recitation of a passage from Genesis, that the land cries out with the blood spilled on it. 


This section establishes that dance—first traditional and now ballet—is an important element of Osage culture, one they have already shared with the rest of the world as two Osage sisters, Maria and Marjorie Tallchief, were exceptional ballerinas. Grann explains that Maria is considered the first major prima ballerina from the United States. The section also builds on previous reflections on what it means to narrate history when Grann attends which presents the history of the Osage. In both form and content, the performance expresses what it has meant to the Osage to live in and between two cultures. Poems about the murders communicate similar themes. By introducing other ways of presenting history, Grann invites readers to think about how these different genres shape the engagement with history. Martin Scorsese’s 2023 eponymous film based on the book also participates in this larger reflection on historical storytelling. 

Yet the question of how to live between cultures are not only the subject of art or historical narrative, however. It also shapes the lived experience of the Osage people in the twenty-first century, who still struggle with the effects of historical trauma and feelings of alienation. Compounding the losses they suffered through forced migration and the destruction of traditional practices, deliberately enacted through the systematic destruction of the buffalo herds on the central plains, the challenges faced by the Osage today are similar to those their ancestors confronted and radically different from them. They must still fight to protect their rights, as in their lawsuit against Enel, an Italian company charged with violating their tribal sovereignty, and to win recompense for the harms done to them, reflected in the lawsuit against the U.S. government. Cultural change, including regulations around oil extraction, and regional migration have emptied previously prosperous towns. Yet, as an elderly Osage woman says in the book’s final pages, some remained linked to this land because, saturated with the blood of their ancestors, it cries out for justice still. 

Getting full justice may well be impossible, however. Time has erased evidence and hidden connections, as even the descendants of witnesses and perpetrators pass away. Although Grann says in this section that history can be merciless, the chapters also show that it is fallible, dependent on humans for its content and for its continuation. Where once these murders were widely known, in the twenty-first century they had been mainly forgotten, lost through indifference or racial prejudice or just drowned out by the press of other, seemingly more important, events. It takes vigilance to keep history alive and to enable it to do the work of justice that is its most important function, the book argues. 

There is another reason, though, that it might be impossible to get full justice for the Osage murders. As Grann discovers, it is not clear that the actual number of murders has ever been known. Although the Reign of Terror is typically associated with the 1920s, he discovers crimes that fit its general pattern in the 1910s and 1930s. The official tally—24 victims—is undoubtedly wrong and may only represent a small percentage of the actual number of people killed, or allowed to die, during this period of organized and systematic crime. William Hale may be the most prominent villain of Killers of the Flower Moon, but he is only one of many killers. Some were husbands and wives, who slowly poisoned their mates, others were guardians, who denied medical care to the ill. The greed which drove Hale as he ran a vast conspiracy also motivated others, whose crimes may have been less elaborate but were no less deadly. The land of Osage County may cry out for justice but, the book sadly concludes, it seems unlikely to receive a fit response.