Laura D. James

The Blair Witch Project_Quote / Fair use doctrine.
That’s the simple yet chilling premise of The Blair Witch Project, one of the most successful horror movies of all time.

It started with a website showing news articles about the missing students and footage of police and search parties looking for them. “Missing” flyers were distributed at festivals where the film was shown. The Sci-Fi Channel aired a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch and the students who had gone into the woods to find her. The movie was number two at the box office for the first several weeks after its release and the story’s momentum persisted. Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, and Mike Williams were all listed as “missing, presumed dead” on movie databases and the Frederick police department was flooded with calls from people asking why more wasn’t being done to find the students.

While watching The Blair Witch Project, you see enthusiasm turn to despair and curiosity to fear. Hunger, exhaustion, and paranoia sharpen the senses until innocuous things piles of rocks, stick figures, and handprints on a wall invoke terror in the actors and the viewers. The found-footage style of the movie makes the viewer assume the role of the characters as they trudge disoriented through the woods and barrel screaming down the stairways of a decrepit abandoned house.

Blair Witch Experience, a weekend-long camping trip started in 2013 by Blair Witch aficionado Matt Blazi, takes things a step further, letting attendees visit the filming locations in chronological order.

2017’s trip took place on October 20th and 21st. The first stop was the Burkitsville Cemetary in Burkittsville, MD. We saw the scenery and various gravestones from shots in the beginning of the movie and the sign for historic Burkittsville. The sign was stolen and put back up several times since the original movie came out. It was left down last year, anticipating the release of the latest Blair Witch movie but put back up since then and was the site of the first of many group pictures for the trip.

Next was the Knights Inn in Knoxville, MD, where the actors spent the first night of filming. Matt Blazi even rented room 118, the same room where Heather, Josh, and Mike stayed.

After that, we went to the locations where Heather interviewed locals about the legend of the Blair Witch. The Silver Rail Diner had closed since the filming of the movie, but people were waiting when we arrived. Susie appeared in The Blair Witch Project, holding her toddler daughter Ingrid, who became distressed when Susie told the story of the witch and covered her mother’s mouth to make her stop talking. Susie eagerly told us about the circumstances of them being included in the filming, and she and Ingrid took pictures with fans and thanked everyone for their support of the film. We also visited Stupp’s Market, where a man was filmed explaining the story of Rustin Parr murdering children under the influence of the witch, and Staub’s Country Inn. Staub’s is now a lawn and garden supply store, but we were graciously welcomed into the building by the proprietor of the business.

Susie and Ingrid reenacting their interview in front of the Silver Rail Diner.

Susie and Ingrid reenacting their interview in front of the Silver Rail Diner.

From there, we went to the woods.

Everyone met at Black Rock Mill in Seneca Creek State Park. We headed up the same road that took Heather, Mike, and Josh into the wilderness, but before we got too far we were halted by a bloodcurdling cry of “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!” and a figure running past us wearing all white with a white stocking cap distorting its features. It was a stuntman from the scene where Heather, Josh, and Mike ran through the woods and Heather saw something that terrified her and made her scream “What the fuck was that?!”

Suitably freaked out, we went to the rock in the river where Heather interviewed two fishermen who begrudgingly told her the story of Robin Weaver, a girl who was abducted by the witch. Two men were fishing off the rock when we got there. It was Ed Swanson, one of the fisherman from the original movie, and Dan Karcher, the social media director for Haxan Films, the movie’s production company. We also met a woman named Ingrid, who lived around Seneca Creek State Park. She let Heather, Mike, and Josh into her house to use her phone one rainy night during filming when they lost contact with the rest of the crew. Her hospitality earned her and her husband a section in the movie’s “special thanks” credits. We were rejoined by Susie, Ingrid, and director Eduardo Sanchez. The meeting had special significance because that was the first time Eduardo had seen Susie and Ingrid since the filming twenty years prior.

Director Ed Sanchez talking to Susie and Ingrid for the first time since the filming of The Blair Witch Project.

Director Ed Sanchez talking to Susie and Ingrid for the first time since the filming of The Blair Witch Project.

We went back into the woods with Ed Swanson, Dan Karcher, and Eduardo Sanchez. We stopped at Coffin Rock, the site where, according to Blair Witch lore, a group of men was found ritualistically slaughtered and a part of the woods where Heather, Josh, and Mike found piles of rocks on the ground and in makeshift baskets in trees.

Stickman Forest

Stickman Forest

The final stop for the first day is the “stickman” woods. Replications of the movie’s simplistic but sinister totem hang from tree branches and vary in size. Eduardo made the biggest one last year, about seven feet long, but decided to outdo it this time. He, Ed, Dan, and several fans constructed a stickman that was almost as tall as a tree and required seven people to pick it up and lean it against a tree to support its weight.

The first day of the trip ended with Matt Blazi being named by Eduardo, Ed, and Dan as an honorary member of Haxan Films. It was a fitting gesture to recognize a fan who is so dedicated to the movie that he turns his love of it into a one-of-a-kind experience for so many others. The attendance of the trip grew from three people its first year to almost 20 this year and included attendees from all over the country and even Europe.

Matt Blazi being honored as a member of Haxan Films by Ed Karcher.

Matt Blazi being honored as a member of Haxan Films by Dan Karcher.

The second day of the trip involved going to the site of Rustin Parr’s house. The actual house was destroyed in 2004 when Hurricane Sandy hit. All that remains now is some foundation and debris. Attendees combed through the tall grass to find bricks and stones. They found the corner where Mike stood unresponsive to Heather’s shrieking. The spot is overgrown and almost unrecognizable but still evocative of the grim final shot of the movie.

All directors aim to make their movies seem real to their viewers but none were as convincing, both within the context of the movie and without, as Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez with The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch Experience enables fans to immerse themselves in the world of the film and become part of it physically as well as emotionally.

Check out Matt Blazi’s Blair Witch Experience on Facebook.
Laura D. James has written two novels – Revenge in Blood, and Demon Flesh – and is the co-author of the horror-themed children’s book series Spooky Skwerl Stories, all of which are available on Amazon. She lives in New Jersey and enjoys metal concerts and true crime podcasts.
Blair Witch Experience

Blair Witch Experience

The Blair Witch Project_Quote / Fair use doctrine.
That's the simple yet chilling premise of The Blair Witch Project, one of the most successful horror movies of all time.

It started with a website showing news articles about the missing students and footage of police and search parties looking for them. “Missing” flyers were distributed at festivals where the film was shown. The Sci-Fi Channel aired a documentary about the legend of the Blair Witch and the students who had gone into the woods to find her. The movie was number two at the box office for the first several weeks after its release and the story's momentum persisted. Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, and Mike Williams were all listed as “missing, presumed dead” on movie databases and the Frederick police department was flooded with calls from people asking why more wasn't being done to find the students.

While watching The Blair Witch Project, you see enthusiasm turn to despair and curiosity to fear. Hunger, exhaustion, and paranoia sharpen the senses until innocuous things piles of rocks, stick figures, and handprints on a wall invoke terror in the actors and the viewers. The found-footage style of the movie makes the viewer assume the role of the characters as they trudge disoriented through the woods and barrel screaming down the stairways of a decrepit abandoned house.

Blair Witch Experience, a weekend-long camping trip started in 2013 by Blair Witch aficionado Matt Blazi, takes things a step further, letting attendees visit the filming locations in chronological order.

2017's trip took place on October 20th and 21st. The first stop was the Burkitsville Cemetary in Burkittsville, MD. We saw the scenery and various gravestones from shots in the beginning of the movie and the sign for historic Burkittsville. The sign was stolen and put back up several times since the original movie came out. It was left down last year, anticipating the release of the latest Blair Witch movie but put back up since then and was the site of the first of many group pictures for the trip.

Next was the Knights Inn in Knoxville, MD, where the actors spent the first night of filming. Matt Blazi even rented room 118, the same room where Heather, Josh, and Mike stayed.

After that, we went to the locations where Heather interviewed locals about the legend of the Blair Witch. The Silver Rail Diner had closed since the filming of the movie, but people were waiting when we arrived. Susie appeared in The Blair Witch Project, holding her toddler daughter Ingrid, who became distressed when Susie told the story of the witch and covered her mother's mouth to make her stop talking. Susie eagerly told us about the circumstances of them being included in the filming, and she and Ingrid took pictures with fans and thanked everyone for their support of the film. We also visited Stupp's Market, where a man was filmed explaining the story of Rustin Parr murdering children under the influence of the witch, and Staub's Country Inn. Staub's is now a lawn and garden supply store, but we were graciously welcomed into the building by the proprietor of the business.

Susie and Ingrid reenacting their interview in front of the Silver Rail Diner.

Susie and Ingrid reenacting their interview in front of the Silver Rail Diner.

From there, we went to the woods.

Everyone met at Black Rock Mill in Seneca Creek State Park. We headed up the same road that took Heather, Mike, and Josh into the wilderness, but before we got too far we were halted by a bloodcurdling cry of “WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT?!” and a figure running past us wearing all white with a white stocking cap distorting its features. It was a stuntman from the scene where Heather, Josh, and Mike ran through the woods and Heather saw something that terrified her and made her scream “What the fuck was that?!”

Suitably freaked out, we went to the rock in the river where Heather interviewed two fishermen who begrudgingly told her the story of Robin Weaver, a girl who was abducted by the witch. Two men were fishing off the rock when we got there. It was Ed Swanson, one of the fisherman from the original movie, and Dan Karcher, the social media director for Haxan Films, the movie's production company. We also met a woman named Ingrid, who lived around Seneca Creek State Park. She let Heather, Mike, and Josh into her house to use her phone one rainy night during filming when they lost contact with the rest of the crew. Her hospitality earned her and her husband a section in the movie's “special thanks” credits. We were rejoined by Susie, Ingrid, and director Eduardo Sanchez. The meeting had special significance because that was the first time Eduardo had seen Susie and Ingrid since the filming twenty years prior.

Director Ed Sanchez talking to Susie and Ingrid for the first time since the filming of The Blair Witch Project.

Director Ed Sanchez talking to Susie and Ingrid for the first time since the filming of The Blair Witch Project.

We went back into the woods with Ed Swanson, Dan Karcher, and Eduardo Sanchez. We stopped at Coffin Rock, the site where, according to Blair Witch lore, a group of men was found ritualistically slaughtered and a part of the woods where Heather, Josh, and Mike found piles of rocks on the ground and in makeshift baskets in trees.

Stickman Forest

Stickman Forest

The final stop for the first day is the “stickman” woods. Replications of the movie's simplistic but sinister totem hang from tree branches and vary in size. Eduardo made the biggest one last year, about seven feet long, but decided to outdo it this time. He, Ed, Dan, and several fans constructed a stickman that was almost as tall as a tree and required seven people to pick it up and lean it against a tree to support its weight.

The first day of the trip ended with Matt Blazi being named by Eduardo, Ed, and Dan as an honorary member of Haxan Films. It was a fitting gesture to recognize a fan who is so dedicated to the movie that he turns his love of it into a one-of-a-kind experience for so many others. The attendance of the trip grew from three people its first year to almost 20 this year and included attendees from all over the country and even Europe.

Matt Blazi being honored as a member of Haxan Films by Ed Karcher.

Matt Blazi being honored as a member of Haxan Films by Dan Karcher.

The second day of the trip involved going to the site of Rustin Parr's house. The actual house was destroyed in 2004 when Hurricane Sandy hit. All that remains now is some foundation and debris. Attendees combed through the tall grass to find bricks and stones. They found the corner where Mike stood unresponsive to Heather's shrieking. The spot is overgrown and almost unrecognizable but still evocative of the grim final shot of the movie.

All directors aim to make their movies seem real to their viewers but none were as convincing, both within the context of the movie and without, as Dan Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez with The Blair Witch Project. Blair Witch Experience enables fans to immerse themselves in the world of the film and become part of it physically as well as emotionally.

Check out Matt Blazi's Blair Witch Experience on Facebook.
Posted by Laura D. James in ATTRACTIONS AND DESTINATIONS, 0 comments
PRESENTATION: Grady Hendrix – Paperbacks from Hell

PRESENTATION: Grady Hendrix – Paperbacks from Hell

The event was held in a mausoleum.
The venue was PhilaMOCA, the Mausoleum of Contemporary Arts, a former showroom for tombstones and mausoleums in Philadelphia, and we were there for a presentation of Paperbacks from Hell by Grady Hendrix, author of Horrorstor and My Best Friend's Exorcism.
Grady-Hendrix-rev-My Best Friend's Exorcism / Fair use doctrine.All the lights went out except one red spotlight glowing over a podium on the stage at the front of the room. Grady Hendrix walked onto the stage, stepped into the spooky red light and, without preamble, read an excerpt from a book about a town besieged by a rain of maggots. It began quietly, with the creeping dread of a family seeing maggots covering their doorstep, their walkway, their front yard, their fence, unfurling outward over the countryside. It picked up a humorous cadence as Hendrix emphasized the author's constant repetition of the phrase “covered... with maggots,” since, clearly, the reader needs a complete inventory of every single thing that was covered... with maggots.
Hendrix brings up an image on the pull-down screen behind him of a screaming face, missing an eyeball and some skin, crawling with repulsive little white things. It's the cover of the book he's been reading from. You guessed it: Maggots.
Hendrix then gave historical context for the time period leading up to that masterpiece of the written word. For the first half of the 20th century, the horror genre had almost no significance. It provided no answer to the call of social upheaval and cultural change of the 1960s. Horror in the movies was the Gothic fare of the Hammer studios and on television; it was whimsical family comedies. Horror was absent from bestseller lists dominated by literary blockbusters like Catch-22, In Cold Blood, and Valley of the Dolls. Genre fiction was westerns, Gothic romances, and reissues of Tarzan and Conan adventure pulps from decades prior.
In 1971, Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby, William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, and Thomas Tryon's The Other were all on bestseller lists and were all adapted into hugely successful movies. They generated multitudes of novels about Satan and the occult, branded with blurbs comparing them to one or more of the aforementioned three. Novels that weren't actually about Satanism were given descriptions, or at least covers, that hinted at something devilish. That trinity of novels had gotten horror taken seriously, and the ensuing imitations rode the wave of the trendy Satanic panic.
On the heels of that craze, the success of The Exorcist inspired David Seltzer to write the movie The Omen, and a novelization of the movie that spawned its own franchise and inspired scores of books about children who were possessed by demons, gifted with supernatural powers, or just generally evil. They didn't even have to be in existence to be menacing. The availability of birth control, the legalization of abortion, and the first “test tube baby” born through IVF led to misinformation, speculation, and, consequently, paranoia. There were books about evil embryos, mutant fetuses, and macabre advancements in any medical technology involving fertility.
Next were the things beyond man's law or control: animals. Peter Benchley's Jaws, Stephen King's Cujo, and James Herbert's The Rats were successful novels that took people's fears of sharks, rabid dogs, and rats and built upon them in ways that were somewhat plausible and wholly terrifying. After that, countless authors utilized every available mammal, amphibian, and insect in their plots. Hendrix displayed covers of horror novels about whales, jungle cats, farm animals, all manner of bugs and crustaceans, both normal-sized and mutated to gigantic proportions: a murderous menagerie dedicated solely to wiping out the human race.
Anne Rice-Vampire-Chronicles-the-wrap / Fair use doctrine.He crossed over to the 1980s and touched on horror subgenres like hackneyed haunted house novels and outlandish medical thrillers. Hendrix also focused on two of the best-selling authors of the 1980s: Anne Rice and VC Andrews. Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles explored the existential dread of the elegant, indulgent undead. VC Andrews only wrote a handful of novels in her lifetime: lurid and scandalous family dramas in sinister Gothic settings. The success of her first novel, Flowers in the Attic created a legacy that was carried on by Andrew Neiderman who has been “ghostwriting” novels under her name since her death in 1986.VC Andrews-Flowers in the Attic / Fair use doctrine.
Horror fiction's success continued uninhibited throughout the decade. Dozens of publishers flooded the market with books nonstop, publishing anything horror, particularly supernatural.
Then, in 1988, Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs came out and won the World Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award, proclaiming itself the leader of the bloodthirsty pack. The novel and the film adaptation a few years later changed the readers' and publishers' demand from the improbable menace of the paranormal to the entirely possible threat of serial killers. Book covers and content became darker and more sadistic. Many writers didn't adapt to the changing climate or were dropped by publishers who wanted to thin the herd. The horror genre went dormant like a folkloric beast with no peasant population to feed on. “Horror” morphed to “thriller” if it wanted to sell.
The horror fiction of the 70s and 80s was not subtle. The book covers Hendrix showed in the PowerPoint presentation became indistinguishable, using and reusing things like occult imagery, skeletons, broken dolls, evil clowns, and spooky big-eyed children. Plots were derivative or outrageous to the point of self-parody. Hendrix read detailed synopses of several books whose plots and writing didn't just border on ludicrous, they smashed through the boundaries with convoluted storylines, outlandish events, bizarre deviances, clichéd characters, and bad dialogue. The unintentional hilarity wasn't just in the content of the books but in the fact that many of them even got published in the first place.
Ken Greenhall-Lenoir / Fair use doctrine.Despite that, the presentation was as much tribute as it was satire. He went into detail about the lives of some of the artists who painted the covers and the writers who persevered to remain relevant today as well as those who unfairly faded into obscurity. The biggest injustice, Hendrix stressed, was the underwhelming career of Ken Greenhall, whose skill as a writer was comparable to any big name, if not better. He wrote several stunning horror novels but was never considered distinguished from his contemporaries and was moved to smaller and smaller publishing houses. His final book was Lenoir, a historical novel inspired by the model for Peter Paul Rubens' Four Studies of the Head of a Negro. Greenhall's attempt to transcend genres was torn apart by critics and, according to Hendrix's interview with Greenhall's widow, that destroyed his confidence as a writer.Peter Paul Rubens-Four Studies of the Head of a Negro / Fair use doctrine.
Hendrix urged the audience to read books by Greenhall, as well as any other writer whose work he had featured in the presentation, in hopes that, even if the writer or cover artist is no longer living, their contribution to the history of horror fiction will not be forgotten and they will live on through their PAPERBACKS FROM HELL.Grady Hendrix-Paperbacks From Hell-cover / Fair use doctrine.
Posted by Laura D. James in BOOKS, COMICS, AND PUBLICATION REVIEWS, EVENTS, REVIEWS, STAFF PICKS, 0 comments
CONCERT REVIEW: Danzig (2017)

CONCERT REVIEW: Danzig (2017)

In late 2015, Glenn Danzig said he would no longer tour.
My first and only time seeing Danzig had been about a month before he made that announcement. The security at the show was over the top; the performance was underwhelming. I was still grateful to have finally seen the heavy metal legend and punk rock deity.
At a festival in 2017, Danzig played Danzig 3: How the Gods Kill in its entirety. Afterwards he announced a short fall tour for his new album, Black Laden Crown, with Corrosion of Conformity. There was a date at The Electric Factory in Philadelphia, half an hour away from me. The forces of evil had showed benevolence. I couldn't believe my luck.Danzig ticket
The local opener was MOROS, an apocalyptically bleak heavy metal band from Philadelphia. Like Shining from Sweden, suicide is the motif of their music and merchandise. They were abysmal in a good way.
Next was Mutoid Man. Two members of the trio are in renowned metalcore bands but the songs they played were equal parts hardcore punk and doom metal. Singer/guitarist Stephen Brodsky's stage presence is like a toned-down Devin Townsend singing for Red Fang.
Corrosion of Conformity reunited with vocalist Pepper Keenan two years ago and their set was mostly made up of the southern rock-influenced sound that he brought to the band when they were originally hardcore punk. They played four songs from Deliverance, their most successful album and their first album to feature Keenan on lead vocals, as well as the exuberant single “Who's Got the Fire” from America's Volume Dealer. In the middle of their set, they did revisit their punk sound and attitude when they played “Vote With a Bullet,” an aggressive, politically-charged song that didn't divide people but brought them together in the mosh pit.
Danzig autograph albumCorrosion of Conformity ended their set with “Clean My Wounds” and took down their banner, leaving the iconic horned skull logo snarling down at an eager audience. The band took the stage and started things brutally with “SkinCarver.” A mosh pit instantly broke out next to us. The audience responded with just as much intensity to “Twist of Cain,” a classic from the first Danzig album. After that was “Devil on Highway 9,” a fast-paced song from Black Laden Crown that grabs you and drags you along with it. You can hear Danzig's age in his vocals on the new album but that was barely noticeable at this show. He followed the new song with “Her Black Wings” from the second album and five songs from How the Gods Kill, including the chilling title track, with Danzig sounding just like he did on the recordings. After the sinisterly catchy live staple “Dirty Black Summer,” he played “Last Ride,” the somber single from the new album. There were several older songs before his most popular song, most inescapable song, “Mother.”
The band left the stage but quickly came back. The encore was the darkly sensuous “She Rides” and biting, blasphemous “Snakes of Christ.”
Danzig autograph pictureWe went outside to wait by the bus afterwards. Danzig is almost impossible to meet anymore but we decided to test our luck along with about thirty other people. Maybe a half an hour after the show ended, Glenn came outside and went to his bus but waved to the crowd and said he would sign soon. His bodyguard explained that everyone needed to line up and then he would take people two at a time to the bus where he would take their items onto the bus for Glenn to sign but he wouldn't be meeting anyone. That system worked fairly efficiently and we met Danzig's drummer, Johnny Kelly (formerly of Type O Negative), while waiting to get our stuff signed.
All of the bands put on great shows and it was an amazing experience made even better since it was an opportunity I never thought I would have.
Posted by Laura D. James in EVENT REVIEWS, MUSIC REVIEWS, REVIEWS, 0 comments
SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 2

SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 2

Part two of a special two-part Saturday Night Shocker: The Amityville Horror

On November 13th, 1974, Butch DeFeo arrived Henry's Bar, saying he was locked out of his house and couldn't get back in or get in touch with anyone in his family. He and several friends went back to the house and Butch broke a window to get inside. He found his parents and younger brothers and sisters all shot to death in their beds.
The authorities arrived. The bodies were taken away and the police tried to console the distraught Butch. He said he would do anything he could to help and speculated that he thought a man named Louis Falini was responsible. Butch said Falini, who supposedly had ties to the mob, had a falling out with Ronald and was heard threatening the DeFeo family. Butch went to the police station, mostly for his own protection, while the police continued to analyze the crime scene. The longer Butch was questioned, the more inconsistencies crept up in his story. Finally, he confessed to killing his family.
Fair use doctrine.
Eric Walter (Inset: Danny Lutz)
Then Butch started changing his story. He said that Louis Falini and others came into the house and made him watch as they shot his family. After that, he said he and some friends, including Bobby Kelske, had been caught by Ronald searching for his stash of money. One of Butch's friends shot his father and then killed the rest of the family to cover it up. Another version of the story had Butch and Dawn planning to kill the family together. Butch shot Ronald and Dawn shot Louise; Butch left the house, came back to find that Dawn had killed the children and he killed her in a fit of rage. Butch's relatives also tried to intervene, saying the confession had been coerced by police brutality and that his rights had been violated when he was denied the legal counsel of a family friend who was a lawyer.
Butch DeFeo's trial for the murder of his six family members began in October of 1975. His lawyer, William Weber, tenaciously pursued an insanity defense. He claimed Butch heard voices and that those voices eventually made him kill his family, even manifesting as a pair of black hands that gave him the gun. Howard Zolan, the psychiatrist who examined Butch, claimed that he had an antisocial personality disorder but did know what he was doing and was legally competent. There was also testimony from cellmates and guards where Butch was being held who heard him say he killed his family and say that he knew how to feign insanity well enough to be acquitted.
Ronald "Butch" DeFeo Jr. was found guilty of six counts of murder on November 21st, 1975. He was sentenced to life in prison.
After the loss in court, William Weber contacted acquaintances George and Kathy Lutz. They had a few glasses of wine and discussed things like the Lutz's interest in the occult and transcendental meditation. They concocted a plan that started when the couple bought the DeFeo house and has never really ended.
After they fled the house, George and Kathy Lutz contacted Laura Didio, a reporter from a local news station, with their story and she put them in touch with paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The Warrens did a walk-through of the house with several people from a psychical research institute and claimed to feel negative supernatural energies due to the property's history. They said the land had been used by the Shinnecock Indians as an asylum for their ill and insane. The house had also been owned by a man named John Ketchum, a practicing warlock who fled persecution in the Salem Witch Trials. The Warrens alleged that Butch practiced black magic, which may have turned him into a conduit for the spirits that possessed him and made him murder his family. Butch backs up the claims in his letters to Long Island-based medium Jackie Barrett, mentioning that he attended more than one black mass when he was a teenager.
George and Kathy contacted author Jay Anson, who turned their story into his book The Amityville Horror. The book and subsequent movie, starring Jame Brolin and Margot Kidder, were wildly successful. As William Weber had hoped, his plan did generate some attention for Butch but didn't get his sentence reexamined and he couldn't even profit from the media franchise. Instead of monetary compensation, Butch had notoriety inside prison as well as outside. He wrote to Jackie Barrett that he fought off an attack from the "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz when he and Berkowitz were in the same correctional facility and that he was also approached by people who bribed him to kill Berkowitz.
He was interviewed by renowned paranormal researcher Hans Holzer. Holzer reiterated the Warren's story about possession and spirits of Native Americans tied to the property. He wrote a book based on the DeFeo family and their murder, the basis for the movie Amityville 2: The Possession. Holzer's book was a fairly accurate portrayal of the malicious and domineering father and subservient mother who couldn't remove her children from the abusive environment. He even included the incident where Butch pointed a rifle to his father's head to make him stop beating his mother. Holzer took a huge liberty with the story, however, when he added the element of incest between the two oldest siblings. Butch has said his sister was his co-conspirator or that she committed some of the murders on her own but insists that they never had an incestuous relationship.
The Lutzes didn't deny any of what they said happened to them in the house, despite William Weber's claim that it was a story they fabricated together. The Lutzes sued Weber, as well as Paul Hoffman, who was originally going to write the book about the haunting, and others for invasion of privacy and mental distress. The claims were all dismissed for lack of evidence but George and Kathy never wavered in their accounts of things like unexplained loud noises and doors being ripped off the hinges. Neighbors report never hearing the noises George mentioned and the next owners of the house, the Cromartys, said that all of the doors had their original hardware and they never encountered anything supernatural. Nevertheless, George and Kathy Lutz believed their story so strongly they were able to take polygraph tests that showed no evidence of lying. Despite telling Laura Didio that he "didn't want publicity," George Lutz would introduce himself as "the Amityville guy." George and Kathy went on a year-long promotional tour and left Danny in a monastery school where, in his 2012 documentary My Amityville Horror, Danny says the priests tried to perform exorcisms on him because they thought he was possessed by evil spirits.
Daniel Lutz comes off as abrasive and troubled. The documentary shows him going to therapy but being defensive when talking to his therapist. Her asks her about the most traumatic thing she's ever experienced to gauge whether she can understand what he has been through. He insists that everything happened just as it did in his parents' book.
Daniel's dislike of George Lutz is evident whenever he mentions his stepfather. The strained family relationships didn't withstand the publicity of the Amityville horror; Danny left home in his teens and George and Kathy divorced in the early 80s, which he says was the best thing his mother ever did. Daniel's siblings declined to be interviewed and he doesn't mention them. Despite the turbulence the claims of the haunting brought to his childhood, he interacts amiably with Laura Didio and Lorraine Warren when filmed with them in the documentary. Lorraine suggests leading Daniel and the film crew in a prayer over religious artifact she has on a necklace. Daniel beholds the article reverently but reacts with hostility upon finding out that one of the crew members present isn't actually a believer. At the end of the documentary, the director asks if Daniel was ever approached about taking a lie detector test. He says, angrily and indignantly, that many people have suggested that but doesn't say if he took one. The implication is that, unlike his parents, he doesn't know if he would pass a polygraph.
The story of "America's most famous haunting" is built on a foundation of lies and omissions of truth. The specters were abusive and selfish parents. The witnesses are people with reputations to protect. The restless spirits are the memories of the deceased and the troubled people still struggling with the legacy of 112 Ocean Avenue.
Fair use doctrine.
Ronald Joseph "Butch" DeFeo Jr.
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, PARANORMAL, 0 comments
SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 1

SATURDAY NIGHT SHOCKER: The Amityville Horror, Part 1

Part one of a special two-part Saturday Night Shocker: The Amityville Horror

On a December day in 1975, the Lutz family arrives at their new home: 112 Ocean Avenue on the South Shore of Long Island.
Before they start moving in, the mother, Kathleen, tells her three children that the previous owners were murdered in the house. She asks if living there will bother them. Nine year-old Danny, who is the oldest, can barely grasp the concept of murders or death. He isn't unfamiliar with threatening or sinister concepts, however; his stepfather, George, has bookshelves full of books on hypnosis, the occult, and something called “transcendental meditation”.
Danny trusts his mother and knows she wouldn't let anything bad happen to them. This house will be a fun new adventure. It's right on the water and there's a boathouse and even a pool. He tries to think of an exciting future instead of stories of a spooky past.
He looks at the huge house and wonders which room will be his; maybe one of the rooms with the funny windows.
The windows look like eyes.
Ten years before, another family moved into the house optimistic for a fresh start.
Ronald and Louise DeFeo had a turbulent marriage. Fed up with Ronald's infidelity and beatings, Louise had briefly moved out of their Brooklyn apartment with their four children, Ronald Jr. (“Butch”), Dawn, Allison, and Mark. Upon her return, Ronald bought the opulent three-story Dutch-Colonial in the affluent community of Amityville. Soon after, they had a fifth child, John.
Fair use doctrine.
DeFeo family portraits
Ronald was the service manager at his father-in-law's car dealership and, while it wasn't the most prosperous position, money was somehow never a problem. The house was lavishly decorated. Louise didn't work and Butch lost jobs frequently but wasn't concerned with money since his father supplied him with a generous allowance. Ronald commissioned portraits done of the family: one of him pouring a glass of wine for Butch, one of Dawn and Allison reading from a picture book, one of Marc and John by a lake backdrop, and one of Louise posed regally by herself, recalling the modeling she had done before her marriage. There was also a portrait of Louise's father, Micheal Brigante, the unquestioned benefactor of the family's wealth. Micheal Brigante was a childhood friend of Carlo Gambino and the dealership was allegedly a front for Gambino's criminal activity such as money laundering and disposal of weapons. Ronald had a hiding place for money and the dealerships books under the floor of his closet.
The problems the family had hoped to escape just flourished in their new setting. Ronald had girlfriends in the city and Louise was said to have had an affair with the artist who did the family portraits. Ronald continued to beat Louise and turned the abuse on Butch and Dawn. The younger children avoided abuse but witnessed fights that often turned physical. Butch once pointed a gun at his father to make him stop hitting Louise. He pulled the trigger but it didn't fire, which Ronald viewed as a miracle. After that, he had Butch and his friend Bobby Kelske put religious statues and a small shrine in the backyard.
Butch and Dawn both used drugs and alcohol to cope with their dysfunctional family life. Dawn wanted to move to Florida with a boyfriend but her father forbid it. She fought back, even going after Ronald with a butcher knife during one argument, but didn't leave. Butch was also at odds with their father. Butch and a friend had supposedly been robbed while taking a large amount of money to the bank. Ronald didn't believe him, which led to fights at the dealership where employees heard Ronald call Butch “the devil” and said he needed to get the devil off his back. Butch told Dawn he had heard their father and Louise's uncle plotting to kill him.
Butch knew he had to strike first.
Danny told his mother living in the new house wouldn't bother him but he wasn't sure. The day they moved in, a priest came to bless the house. Danny saw the priest go upstairs and then immediately leave. He went into the room where the priest had been and saw swarms of flies. Danny killed as many of the flies as he could, but, when he brought his mother in to show her, they had disappeared. A few nights later, Danny and his little brother and sister accidentally broke a pane in the window in their playroom and both Kathy and George had beaten all three of them.
Danny was used to George's authoritative, domineering ways; he made the children call him “Sir” and, after marrying Kathy, insisted on adopting the children because he wanted them to have his name if he was going to take responsibility for them. George hadn't been working since the move and seemed stressed and sick, always cold and building fires in the fireplace to keep him warm. He woke up every morning at 3:15am for no reason and often heard loud music coming from the living room in the middle of the night. He would yell at Kathy to keep the kids quiet and they all tried to avoid him. After a fight with George, Danny was thrown up the stairs by an unseen force.
That wasn't the end of the bizarre supernatural things that happened to Danny. He opened the window to get rid of an unexplained terrible odor in the house and the window crashed back down on his hands, literally flattening them. Kathy took him down to the kitchen, where he sat at the table while she called for help. A door in the kitchen opened and a specter entered the room. The specter walked through Danny's injured hands, healing them like nothing had even happened.
The last night the Lutzes were in the house, the boys' beds shook violently and levitated. The family was so terrified they didn't take anything with them when they left.
Fair use doctrine.
The Amityville Horror and The Amityville Horror II: The Possession
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, 0 comments
Charles Schmid – The Pied Piper of Tucson

Charles Schmid – The Pied Piper of Tucson

Charles Schmid headshot / Fair use doctrine.
On May 15, 1964, in Tucson, Arizona, a 15-year-old girl named Alleen Rowe went for a drive with a guy known as “Smitty.” Smitty was older, in his early 20s, and Alleen couldn't believe her luck. She was invited on a date with the most popular guy in town. He had his own place and threw wild parties where he let high school kids drink as much as they wanted. He was sophisticated, wearing “stage make-up” like a movie star, and a little dangerous: he walked with a limp, which he said was the result of a run-in with Mafia thugs. She didn't even mind that his friends, John and Mary, were tagging along; she knew eventually she would be the center of Smitty's attention.
It was late when they stopped in the desert. Smitty beckoned Alleen out of the car and John came with them. Mary stayed behind, listening to the radio. Once outside, Smitty turned amorous and rough. His friend's presence didn't even bother him; John just faded into the background while Smitty went after Alleen, whether she wanted him or not. When he was done, when she thought he would take her back to the car and home from their “date,” he put his hands around her throat and squeezed hard. Alleen was the center of his attention until her last breath. She had been lured to her death by the Piped Piper of Tucson.
Charles Howard Schmid was born on July 8, 1942. He was the adopted son of Charles and Katherine Schmid, a wealthy couple who ran a nursing home. He had a rough relationship with his adoptive father, fighting often, but his parents still indulged and supported him financially. After he was kicked out of school for stealing, his parents gave him his own quarters on their property and a monthly allowance of several hundred dollars.
Charles was insecure about his appearance and height. He wore thick pancake make-up and applied a beauty mark, and sometimes pinched his lower lip to get a “pouty look” like his idol, Elvis Presley. He was only 5'3", so he stuffed crushed paper in his boots to make himself appear taller, though it only gave him an odd gait. He threw parties at his apartments, getting the attention and admiration he craved by providing underage kids a place where they could drink and do drugs without fear of being caught. Girls gave themselves to him eagerly.
One girl told her mother she had been invited to join a sex club and that if she didn't get in, she would be “a nobody.” That girl was Alleen Rowe, Schmid's first victim. He had one of his girlfriends, Mary French, lure Alleen away with them so he could satisfy his curiosity about what it felt like to kill a girl. He buried her in the desert but didn't bother to stay quiet about the murder in his social circle. Presumably, his admirers only kept his secret because they didn't want to risk losing their party spot. One of his girlfriends, 17-year-old Gretchen Fritz, the daughter of a prominent surgeon in Tucson, did threaten to tell the police about the murder, but only when Charles wanted to break up with her. He invited her to his place so they could talk things over. She brought her younger sister, 13-year-old Wendy. Schmid strangled both girls and buried them in the desert.
Having more victims didn't make him any more secretive or cautious. He bragged to his friend, Richard Bruns, about what he had done and took him to see the bodies. Richard was wracked with guilt, suffering nightmares and paranoia that his girlfriend would be Schmid's next victim. He went to the police and told them all he knew.
Charles Schmid was arrested on November 11th 1965. John Saunders and Mary French were also arrested for their participation in the murder of Alleen Rowe. Mary French got four years in prison and John Saunders was given a life sentence. Schmid received a death sentence but it was commuted to life imprisonment. He escaped with another murderer in 1972 but was recaptured after a few days.
He was stabbed by a fellow inmate in 1975 and died over a week later.
For a deeper exploration of a narcissistic sociopath who craves followers and followers so desperate for excitement they will be complicit in whatever he does, read Joyce Carol Oates' iconic short story “Where Are You Going? Where Have You Been” or Jack Ketchum's excellent novel, The Lost, or watch the 2006 film adaptation of The Lost directed by Chris Siverston, all based on the Charles Schmid case.
Charles Schmid police car / Fair use doctrine.
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, 2 comments
Fritz Haarmaan – The Werewolf of Hanover

Fritz Haarmaan – The Werewolf of Hanover

Albert Fish, a cannibalistic pedophile, was arrested in New York on December 13, 1934, for the murder of a young girl. Authorities searched him and found a newspaper clipping in his pocket. It was about a murderer in Germany whose abhorrent crimes a decade before had fascinated him. The man was known as “The Werewolf of Hanover”. The moniker fit him both literally and figuratively. He killed his victims in the bestial manner of the folkloric werewolf. He was a psychopath who did well in a disciplined environment. He was a career criminal who worked with the police. He was a violent pederast who was emotionally submissive to his younger lover. He was duplicitous in many aspects of his life, like someone who shifts from man to savage creature.
Fritz Haarmann was born in Hanover Germany on October 25, 1879, the youngest of six children. From a young age, he was an outsider. His alcoholic father threatened to have Fritz put in an asylum for his effeminate manner. His siblings bullied him for dressing in his sisters' clothes and learning tasks like cooking and needlework. His mother was his only source of nurturing and affection but she was in poor health after his birth and bedridden for most of the rest of her life. He displayed early hints of a dark side by playing games with his sisters where he would tie them up and tell them to pretend they were dead bodies. He would also hide outside of their windows at night and howl like a wild animal.
He was well-behaved in school but not a good student. He left school at the age of 15 and joined the military. He thrived under the regiment and was regarded as having a promising career but had to leave after five months due to fainting spells, possibly caused by a head injury he suffered in gym class.
Haarmann returned to Hanover and got a factory job. He did have one sexual experience with a woman, but began molesting young boys. He was arrested for molestation in 1897 and, as his father had threatened, institutionalized. His terror and hatred of the place was so great that he escaped and fled to Zurich.
He returned to Hanover over a year later and married a woman named Erna Loewart. She became pregnant but had an abortion after Fritz was called back to the military. He was only there for a short period, “the happiest of [his] life”, before he was again dismissed for medical reasons. He and his wife set up a business selling fish, but she soon divorced him and kicked him out. The business was actually in her name, and Haarmann was left with nothing.
He resorted to theft to support himself. He also had a relationship with a man his own age, Adolf Meil, until Haarmann was sent to prison for burglary in 1914. His incarceration lasted until 1918. He was released into poverty-stricken post-war Germany and went back to burglary, but he also sold things he stole, even meat, on the black market. Haarmann got to know many other thieves and let them store their stolen goods in his apartment. He then made himself useful to the understaffed, overworked police force by informing on the criminals who stashed items at his place.
Haarmann developed an air of authority, almost being treated as above the law. The police knew he was homosexual, which was then a crime in Germany, but turned a blind eye to it so they wouldn't lose such a valuable asset. Haarmann sometimes posed as a police officer when he approached young boys in railroad stations. He would threaten to arrest them for prostitution or act sympathetic and offer them a meal and a warm place to sleep.
On September 27, 1918, while engaging in sex with a 17 year-old boy named Fridel Roth, Haarmann gave in to a ferocious impulse to bite the boy's throat. He bit so aggressively that he severed the boy's trachea and killed him. He dismembered the body and threw most of it in the Leine River. Roth's father tried to find him a few days later and asked friends of his son, who had seen him with Haarmann. Police went to his apartment, as they normally would to claim stolen property, and found Haarmann in bed with a 13 year-old boy. The discovery was so shocking they immediately apprehended Haarmann without searching his apartment. He was sent to prison on charges of sexual battery instead of murder because the police hadn't found Fridel Roth's head, wrapped in newspaper, hidden behind the stove.
After leaving prison, Haarmann began a relationship with Hans Grans, a young man who claimed to be straight and only prostituted himself to make money. They lived together, stole and sold goods, and had a contentious relationship. Grans mocked the predatory older man. They fought, Haarmann would kick him out, but then beg for him to come back. Haarmann gave presents to Grans that he would then give to girls he liked.
From early 1923 to Summer of 1924, Haarmann killed and dismembered almost 30 boys; the average age of his victims was 17 with the youngest victim just 10. Haarmann murdered them by tearing their throats out with his teeth and had a meticulous routine for their dismemberment. To prepare, he drank a cup of black coffee. Then, he laid the body on the floor with a cloth over the face. He made two cuts in the abdomen, pulled out the intestines, put them in a bucket, then soaked up the blood. He crushed the bones until the shoulder blades broke. The heart, lungs, and kidneys were then taken out, chopped up, and put into a bucket. The flesh was removed and put it in a wax-cloth bag. He would either flush the remains down the toilet or throw the bags into the Leine river over the course of five or six trips.
In May of 1924, a skull was found in the Leine. It was thought to be a prank by medical students at nearby Gottingen school. After another skull was found, police had the river dragged and found several hundred bones determined to belong to over 20 young males. Haarmann's role as police informant seemed to outweigh his history of criminal deviance, and he wasn't immediately suspected of any crimes. That couldn't save him when a police officer saw him arguing with a teenage boy a few days after the discovery in the river. Haarmann claimed to be apprehending the boy on charges of delinquency, but the boy accused the “officer” of trying to molest him. Authorities searched Haarmann's apartment and saw bloodstains on the floor, walls, and bedding. They also found clothes and possessions belonging to the missing boys. He had been seen wearing articles of the clothing, and also gave them to friends and neighbors. They talked to tenants who reported seeing boys go into Haarmann's apartment but rarely leave. He was also seen carrying large sacks out to the river in the middle of the night. One neighbor even mentioned seeing him carry a pail full of blood down the stairs.
Unable to deny the mounting evidence against him, Haarmann confessed to the murders and implicated Hans Grans. They first thought he was insane due to his history of institutionalization, but Haarmann was observed at the Gottingen school and deemed competent to stand trial. He was jovial and even flippant during the hearing, which included the presentation of many of the victims' bones as evidence. Grans, however, was solemn and serious. The local and international media covered the crimes extensively, and gave him many sinister nicknames; the most fitting was “The Werewolf of Hanover.” Both men were found guilty of almost all of the murders and sentenced to death. Haarmann readily accepted his fate, but Grans reacted with hysterics and fainted.
Fritz Haarmann was beheaded at Hanover Prison on April 15, 1925. He visited the Gottingen school again, posthumously, when his head was sent there for forensic analysis to be done on slices of his brain.
Some time afterwards, a letter was found on the street in Hanover. It was addressed to Hans Grans' father, from Fritz Haarmann. In the letter, Haarmann, begged Hans' forgiveness, claimed sole responsibility for everything, and said that Grans wasn't even aware of the crimes. The dubious evidence was enough to have Hans Grans retried. He received a sentence of 24 years and, after his release, lived in Hanover until his death in 1975.
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, 0 comments
Peter Kurten: The Vampire of Dusseldorf

Peter Kurten: The Vampire of Dusseldorf

By Laura James
A 20 year-old girl named Maria takes a train from Cologne, Germany, to Dusseldorf in the Spring of 1930. She leaves the train station with her guard up; a fiend had been menacing the city for the past year, assaulting and murdering men, women, and children. He's even sent letters to the local paper with a map showing the location of the body of his latest victim, a five year-old girl. Maria tries not to think about the horrors of his crimes, as she has come to the city seeking work and needs to find a place to stay.
As she walks, she is brashly approached by a man asking her for directions somewhere and trying to lead her into a park. Panicked that this could be the maniac, she deflects his attention but he becomes argumentative. Just as quickly, another man intervenes. He is dressed respectably with neatly-combed hair. He sends the quarrelsome man off and asks Maria if she would like to come to his apartment for a drink and, charmed, she accepts.
He leads her down a street called Mettemannerstrasse, but pulls her into the woods and begins strangling her. The good Samaritan who came to her aid is "The Vampire of Dusseldorf."
The vampire's lust for violence came from a background as brutal as his crimes. Peter Kurten was born on May 26, 1883, in Cologne-Mulheim, Germany. He was the oldest of 13 children. His family was impoverished from his father spending his wages on booze, that they lived in a small apartment, with no escape from their father's physical or sexual abuse. He forced himself on his wife, beat her and their children, and was arrested in 1897 for attempting (or committing) incest with one of his daughters.
Peter's dark impulses manifested early. He is rumored to have caused (or at least aided in) the drowning of two playmates at the age of five. He lost his virginity at the age of 13 when he forced himself on a girl in the woods and almost strangled her to death. Sickeningly, women weren't the only recipients of his lust. He became apprentice to a dog-catcher when his family moved to Dusseldorf and engaged in bestiality with different kinds of animals, sometimes stabbing them and drinking their blood during the act. These were his first instances of vampirism and the start of his criminal history.
He was in and out of jail for burglary, assault, and arson. Watching the fires and imagining the harm and death they might cause was a form of sexual gratification for the pyromaniac. He hated the conditions of the prisons and the treatment he endured from the guards but that was never enough of a deterrent for his criminal activity. In 1913, he crept through the an open window at an inn owned by a man named Peter Klein. Kurten found Klein's 13 year-old daughter Christine and slit her throat. In his hurry to get away, Kurten dropped a handkerchief embroidered with his initials. The police who investigated the crime scene found it but, following the most obvious lead, focused on Peter Klein.
Even after eluding capture due to a stunning coincidence, Kurten was only linked to one other murder during that time. His impulses may have been calmed by marriage. He married in 1923, and neighbors and coworkers described him as quiet, timid, and responsible.
He didn't kill again until 1929, beginning his "year of terror."
In February of that year, he attacked a woman, but her distressed cries summoned people and Kurten fled. A few weeks later, he stabbed eight year-old Rosa Ohlinger to death with a pair of scissors and left her body around a construction site. He returned later that evening, soaked her body in kerosene, and set it ablaze, masturbating while he watched the fire.
Several weeks after that, a man named Rudolf Scheer drunkenly bumped into Kurten while on the way home from a beer hall. This so enraged Kurten that he stabbed Scheer with scissors and drank the blood that flowed from his wounds.
That August, he had sex with a domestic servant named Maria Hahn, stabbed her to death, and further satisfied himself by drinking her blood. Towards the end of the month, he encountered two young girls, 13 year-old Luise and five year-old Gertrude, on their way home from a fair. He lured them into a meadow, strangling and stabbing the older girl and slitting the younger one's throat.
In September, he attempted to murder another servant and succeeded in murdering other women, one that month and one in October, by beating them to death.
He committed what would be his final murder in November when he stabbed five year-old Gertrud Albermann to death with a pair of scissors.
Kurten greatly admired London's Jack the Ripper, researching the case and even sending a taunting letter to the German newspaper, Freedom. In his letter, he revealed the location of the bodies of Gertrud Albermann and Maria Hahn.
In May of the following year, he found a girl named Maria Budlies fighting with a man who approached her after she got off a train from Cologne. Kurten diffused the situation and offered to take her to his apartment. Instead, he tried to strangle her in the woods around his apartment but, inexplicably, stopped. Perhaps he was worried about the other man being able to identify him after seeing him walk away with Maria. He asked her if she would remember how to get to his place and she said she would not.
Maria didn't go to the police about the incident but did write about it to a friend a few days later. There was a mistake in the address so a clerk at the post office opened the envelope to see if she could figure out where it was supposed to be sent. The clerk read the contents of the letter and turned it over to police. The police went to Maria, and she led them to Peter Kurten's home.
He saw the police and was able to avoid them at the time but knew they were closing in on him. Kurten confessed everything to his wife, and the next day she turned him in to the police.
Peter Kurten plead insanity. He revealed fantasies of poisoning, injuring, or killing large crowds of people at once. He even claimed that his victims, mostly children or those subservient to him, were his revenge on society for the treatment he endured in prison. He did, however, express concern for one person: his wife. He said he hoped she would be taken care of with him gone and, at one point, claimed he was innocent of all charges and said he only admitted to the murders so his wife could collect the reward money.
His plea was rejected, and Peter Kurten was found guilty of nine counts of murder. His morbid lust followed him to the very end; he expressed excitement at the prospect of beheading and inquired if he would be conscious long enough to hear the blood gushing from his body.
Peter Kurten was executed on July 2, 1931.
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, 0 comments
Albert Fish: The Boogeyman

Albert Fish: The Boogeyman

By Laura James
In New York, in the winter of 1927, an eight year-old boy named Billy Gaffney was abducted while playing with friends in their apartment complex. One of the boys reported that Billy had been taken by "the boogeyman." Upon capture almost a decade later, his abductor reported bringing Billy to an abandoned house where he beat Billy until the boy bled. The man cut off Billy's ears and nose, slit his mouth from ear to ear, then gouged out his eyes.
After killing the little boy, the "boogeyman" feasted on him.
He drank blood from the wounds he'd inflicted. He cut off fatty parts of the boy's body and roasted them, layering some pieces with bacon and pouring water over the cooking meat to make gravy. He took the parts he'd cut off and stewed them with vegetables.
The "boogeyman" was 57 when he murdered and cannibalized Billy Gaffney and had been engaging in repulsive, sadistic acts for most of his life.
Albert Fish was born on May 19, 1870, in Washington DC. His father, who was 75 at the time of Fish's birth, died five years after that. Unable to financially support several children, Fish's widowed mother put them into St. John's Orphanage in Washington. Children there were made to memorize Bible passages and pray for hours. Punishments consisted of being stripped naked and whipped in front of staff and other children. Young Albert, who had aspirations of becoming a priest, discovered feelings of pleasure from these beatings. Religion and masochism married perfectly in a mind that was genetically predisposed for illness. His mother was said to experience visual and auditory hallucinations and one of his uncles suffered religious mania. Two of Fish's siblings were treated for mental illness, one being institutionalized, and one of his brothers died from hydrocephalus.
At the orphanage, he was bullied for being a bed-wetter. At one point, he fell from a tree, hit his head, and became prone to convulsions, dizzy spells, headaches and a stutter.
At the beginning of his teen years, his mother got a job and was able to bring her children back into her care, but the change of surroundings only exacerbated his interest in violence and deviance. An older brother of Albert's returned from the Navy and told the boy about the practice of cannibalism he had witnessed overseas. At the age of 12, Fish had a relationship with a telegraph boy who told him graphic sexual details of what he had seen in brothels and introduced him to coprophagia and urophagia. He also began engaging in bizarre acts of sadomasochism, such as sticking needles in his groin and soaking rags or cotton in alcohol, sticking them in his rectum and lighting them on fire.
Adulthood saw an escalation in his perversions. He visited bath houses so he could watch boys undressing. He took a job as a house-painter, moving around frequently for work that allowed him access to people's houses. He used those opportunities to observe and assault children, mostly preying upon very young boys.
Fish's mother arranged a marriage for him when he was 28. Though the marriage could be called successful, producing six children who Fish maintained he loved very much, it was only subterfuge for his continued homosexual affairs and pedophilia. His children never claim he molested them but were still fodder for his masochistic delusions. They sometimes witnessed him beating himself with a nail-studded board or were even made to beat him with it while he yelled "I am Christ!" Despite his actions outside of his family life, the only thing he ever got into legal trouble for at the time was sending obscene letters to people in response to want ads and lonely hearts ads they placed in newspapers. Obscene is an understatement as these letters overflowed with his deepest and most repulsive fantasies of sadomasochism, coprophagia and urophagia.
In 1917, his wife left him for a man who had been boarding with the family and took all of their possessions. Fish was now solely responsible for six children. He was also freed from the bonds of matrimony and no longer needed to keep his private perversion private. Whether it was from stress, elation, or both, as well as untreated rampant mental illness, this was when Fish went from extreme deviant to utter monster.
He assaulted and tortured mostly handicapped, minority, or impoverished children as he believed their reports wouldn't be a priority for the police. It's uncertain, even by his eventual accounts, exactly how many children he murdered. The Boogeyman's first documented victim, in 1924, was eight year-old Francis McDonnell, in Staten Island. The boy's body was found hanging from a tree. He had been sexually assaulted, beaten, strangled, and lacerated. The boy's mother and a neighbor reported seeing an old man with a gray mustache wandering around the area that day, mumbling to himself and acting strange. That led to Fish also being known as "The Grey Man" after his crimes came to light.
He murdered Billy Gaffney several years later. In 1928, he committed the murder that led to his undoing.
He found a newspaper ad placed by Edward Budd, a young man looking for work. Fish visited the man's apartment, saying he was named Frank Howard and had a farm where Budd could work. Fish's interests went from Paul to his 10 year-old sister Grace, a much more suitable victim. The Budd family invited him to stay for lunch. Grace sat on his lap while they ate cheese and strawberries. "Mister Howard" mentioned that his sister was giving a party uptown and asked if he could take Grace with him, promising to return her that evening. Her parents deliberated letting her go away with a stranger, albeit a grandfatherly-looking man who seemed to only have the family's best intentions in mind, but relented and let Grace leave with him.
He took her to an abandoned house with the charming name of Wisteria Cottage and left her to pick flowers while he went inside. He stripped naked and called to Grace through a window. She came upstairs and into the room he had called her from, where he was hiding in a closet. She cried and tried to run away when she saw he was naked but the old man subdued her, choked her to death and cut her up to cook and eat.
The Budd family weren't able to track down the man who had taken Grace, or even find out what happened to her, having only a fake name and fake story. They probably never would have known her fate if, in 1934, Fish hadn't fallen back on his favored practice of writing obscene letters. After a false lead in Grace's disappearance was published in a newspaper, Fish wrote a letter to Mrs. Budd detailing exactly what he had done to her daughter.
The letter was turned over to police, who disciphered a poorly-erased return address. Detective William King went to the address and was able to track down "Frank Howard" and discover his real identity.
Fish was taken into custody and examined both physically and psychologically. An X-ray revealed almost 30 needles and slivers of metal in his pelvic region, some of which had been inside of him for so long they had begun to corrode. Dr. Fredric Wertham, senior psychiatrist at Bellvue Hospital, interviewed Fish and learned not only about his patient's most recent crime but extensive details of his horrific life.
In court, Fish's sanity was questioned by several doctors of varying backgrounds and qualifications. Fish claimed to hear the voice of God, who sometimes commanded him to kill the children to save them from the cruelty they would encounter in adulthood, and drew parallels between himself and Abraham, who was charged by God to kill his son Issac to prove him devotion. There were also Fish's claims to be Christ during his sessions of self (and assisted) flagellation.
Despite finding him insane and guilty of the murder of Grace Budd, he was sentenced to death. Impending execution apparently inspired more fascination than dread in Fish; he was quoted as saying that going to the electric chair would be "the supreme thrill of [my] life."
Albert Fish was put to death on January 16, 1936.
Posted by Laura D. James in BRUTAL REALITY, 0 comments