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The Murders that Inspired "Killers of the Flower Moon"

Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)
Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro in Killers of the Flower Moon.

It really happened.

Starting around 1918, a community in Oklahoma became the target of an increasing amount of suspicious deaths. The worst of these years, from 1921 to 1926, are referred to as the "Reign of Terror," where many refused to leave their homes at night.

As it turns out, members of the Osage First Nations community in Oklahoma were being systematically murdered.

Greed and corruption were the prime motivators, as they often are, but the strategy was to take advantage of a legal loophole.

Here's the deal: The Osage Nation Reservation was located on a lucrative oil field - one of the largest in the US - and the Osage people owned all "subsurface" mineral rights. These paid handsomely in dividends; for example, the community earned $30 million in royalties in 1923, the equivalent of over $400 million today.

But other non-Osage residents in the area saw a way to (A) cash in and (B) take over. This plan involved marriage and murder.

Each member of the Osage tribe was paid an equal share of the royalties, and when a person died, the share(s) would be automatically transferred to their immediate legal heirs. So if you married someone with shares, and your spouse suddenly - *ahem* - died, you could be a very rich person.

It was a strategy that worked, until it didn't.

In 1923, worried Osage leaders asked the U.S. government to investigate the untimely deaths, and undercover agents from the U.S. Bureau of Investigation (now known as the FBI) came to get some answers.

Arrests were made and the trials, which started in 1926, made national headlines.

Watch the film adaptation of the Osage murders and their aftermath in Martin Scorsese's new film, Killers of the Flower Moon, showing at the Jewel Theatre November 3-9. Please check for showtimes before arriving - and note there are no matinees on Saturday the 4th or Sunday the 5th.

See you at the movies!


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