￼THE WINCHESTER-NABU DETECTIVE AGENCY
YEAR TWO: CASE FILE NO. 23-75
￼AMBER LOVE 15-OCT-2018 Catch up on Year One and previous Year Two cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. This work is supported by the generous backers who adore my cat stories at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to what’s happening with my books and podcast. For a one-time tip, you can go to the new PayPal.me.
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Where we left off:
Oliver Winchester and his butler, Alfredo Pesosvalor, encountered a series of booby traps. We speculated who could have built them, but don’t have any leads yet.
One thing you probably know about me is my fandom does not run into scary horror territory. Yes, I wrote Misty MurderOnly $.99 on KindleTooltipText, and whewboy was that a challenge for me. There were two primary reasons for writing a slasher book: 1.) because all my NaNoWriMo cabin mates are horror writers and part of this cool club of writers called The Midnight Society; and 2.) I like to try and buck protagonist stereotypes so I made a 70-year-old woman the leading character. It’s as much influenced by Tom Clancy as it is Stephen King.
There are a ton of tropes that fall under the horror imagery: creepy clowns, axe murderers, tortured mental patients driven to violence, demon possession, antique dolls, and all sorts of paranormal elements. It’s hard to choose which one makes it to the top of the list as The Scariest. Kids. Creepy, murdering kids. That’s got to be up there. They’re scarier than ghosts and zombies.
On September 28, Gus and I were out for our usual walk. He had been spending more time on the north end of the property that week. There was a lot of chipmunk mafia activity. So much in fact, that we haven’t been able to collect all their names to update our files.
Gus was investigating around the fire trail where he can access the compost pile and a strange pit that we believe may have been a well house a hundred years ago. The fire trail is also know for two other things: the innocent looking nettle patch which will try to kill you; and it’s the location where Gus and I discovered the fabric leading us to learn about Lillian Opal Foster, a young feminist from the early 1900s.
We knew Lillian played in the woods when she was young and that was before she went all “Rambo” on the evil men in town. Lillian had three sisters: Jane, Margaret, and Ruth. Gus and I first suspected the artifact we found may have belonged to one of them, but something didn’t seem quite right.
We found a little toy baby bottle. It’s plastic and made in China. Toys from the 1920s or 1930s were probably still made of wood, glass, and metal. Our family has lived on this property so long that the electronic documents online don’t go back far enough for me to search previous owners in a simple database check. I had to do some digging into the historical society records and the good ol’ rumor mill. Since some of the families here today are legacies of the founders of this town, there’s still a wealth of information available orally. You just never know what’s true.
That rumor mill did not disappoint when it came to telling me about the Warren Witch Scare of 2009. Why had I never heard of this? It happened during the time when I moved away. It wasn’t the type of story to be in credible newspapers these days. Maybe if the “scare” had gotten bigger it would have been picked up and spread beyond the town borders. I was happily living life in a different county next to a farm where I sat writing and recording comic book reviews in relative peace.
Back in the early days of this town, this wasn’t a hub of commerce exactly. It was a hub for transportation. Our economy was built on three resources: clay, hematite, and dairy farms. The few dairy farms left are the only connection to that past. It’s only because of the transportation access to the railroad and canal that it was built up at all. The roadways were not meant for the kind of “boom” that’s happening now.
Like most colonized towns, one of the first things to be erected was a church which makes sense if the stories are true and the town was first settled by a Baptist minister. Here’s where we get to the part of the story that interacts with modern day.
During the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s, I lived here and our little neighborhood had about ten youths ranging from 10 (me, the youngest) to 18. Around the bend were a few other kids but they didn’t venture over this way to play or cause mischief. This is important because you get to understand the mindset of a strict Baptist family when teens wanted to listen to AC/DC, Aerosmith, Helloween, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, etc. What really happened was that the boys would gather in a small space like a basement or someone’s ridiculously tiny bedroom (things were not luxe here), build models, and paint miniatures to play D&D. That “dark” music would be the sort of thing playing. Just so you know, I was not invited to any of this. There was an old vent in my childhood bedroom and the heating duct went all the way to the furnace in the basement so I could eavesdrop like a proper grifter-in-training.
There they were: Lutheran kids taught pagan ways, non-church goers, and the Baptist kid. Two of them were always super nice to me but they were boys. The only girl around was a bit mature and we hung out all time because of proximity, but I never really understood her. She was boy crazy. She could sing every song on the radio. She fixed her hair and makeup every freaking day which included a step to burn the end of cheap eyeliner so it would go on more smoothly. I did that shit to fit in and had plenty of years of bulletproof hair to prove it. However, I stayed childlike in my heart but kept it to myself. I would have been fine playing with Barbies as a teenager. I don’t see how that’s so drastically differently than what are tiny pewter dolls shaped like dwarves and monsters that you can paint.
We got older. Moved away. Moved back. Some dropped off their kids to be raised by the grandparents. Life went on its way. Then the Generation Z crowd got turned on its head. Now the kids who had Lutheran parents were being raised in strict Methodist manners and the parents weren’t so happy-go-lucky like they were in their headbanging days. For one thing, these poor kids were basically being raised to be a new generation of racists. They had to shun any non-Christian religion. They had to cut off ties to family members. Sounds like a cult, doesn’t it?
When you tell someone, no matter how old they are, that they can’t do something and the reason given isn’t logical but more of a scare tactic, you can believe they’re going to do exactly what they were told not to do. We never outgrow rebellion even when we settle into corporate conformity at our jobs. In other words, if you tell your daughters to stay away from the neighborhood boys and never ever meddle with witchcraft, they’re going to do all those things. The problem is that when someone doesn’t have an actual education based on facts, they end up being told garbage science like tampons take your virginity. These girls weren’t allowed to go swimming during their periods because they weren’t allowed to use tampons (or any insertable alternative). Do you see the resemblance to Carrie yet? When their former witchcraft-studying father instills the of Christian God into them, the girls find witchcraft as a curiosity but don’t know how to use it.
Surprisingly, the two girls of that household were allowed to go on a sleepover to a friend’s house for a birthday party. The party was only a half a mile away and still in within the town limits. Even though it was close, there are no sidewalks so it’s not particularly safe to just walk to a friend’s house. The girls were dropped off by their step-mother at 7PM on November 13, 2009. It was a Friday.
I couldn’t bring Gus to local watering hole which is now a charming country deli right out of a magazine. It used to be the bar. Locals have switched from meeting up over many beers to meeting up for breakfast. The owners are different. They’re young folks, but they have ties to this town and the next one over. I wanted to know about this alleged “witch scare” since I couldn’t find anything online at all. Not even in Weird NJ and you know they reveal all of our secrets.
I found someone willing to talk anonymously. They told me that nine girls were at this slumber party at a house near one of the old one-room schoolhouses. In keeping with autumn birthday traditions, the girls watched scary movies, played parlor games like “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” and then got out a talking board. Nowadays, the Parker Bros. cardboard game is called the Ouija board, but talking boards have a long and wonderful history. This party had the common Ouija board with a plastic planchette. It’s not the material that matters. It’s the intent.
The birthday girl, Jane (*real name unknown), had some narcissistic traits even at her young age. She was the leader of the pack. She only participated in activities where she would excel rather than be challenged. Jane also had a tragic past. Her twin disappeared. Rumors tore through the family. What ever happened to Lane*? How did Jane adjust to life without her sister? People speculated that she died. Others said she was sick and sent to a private hospital somewhere far away. Still others thought maybe she had been kidnapped. Lane disappeared when the twins were five-years-old.
People had created an urban legend around Lane saying she haunted the north side of the mountain and into the valley. There were sightings reported of a little girl holding a doll. She was seen in the middle of the road, on the side of the road, walking through backyards, and standing in front of that historic one-room schoolhouse. Since the family still lived in town, the sightings were spoken about quietly. No one wanted to upset them, but they had to warn other residents. Was she evil? Was she a ghost that needed closure? Was she seeking revenge for something done to her? They were all good questions, but we could only speculate on the answers.
Back at Jane’s birthday party, she waited until her parents left the room then she convinced the other girls to try and reach her possibly-deceased sister through the Ouija board.
“Lane? Are you there?”
It pointed to Yes.
“Are you dead?”
“Do you know how you died?”
“Who killed you?”
The girls shrieked. Can’t blame them. I’m assuming none of the girls got any sleep that night. In fact the two at the beginning of the story were so scared, they wanted to go home. Their step-mother refused to get them and said it would be good for them to have some friends and work through it. In reality, she had already had four glasses of wine and didn’t want to drive. The girls tried to calm down, but they were terrified. They packed their little overnight bags and said they were going to run home together.
They walked around the mountain rather than going up and over the shorter but harder distance through the woods. When they got four houses away, they knew they could cut through backyards until they reached the trails. You can figure out what happened next.
Standing in the middle of the trail, Lane stood holding her doll and pretending to feed it a bottle. She looked up at the older girls and said, “Shhhhh.” The girls screamed and ran away back towards the street ran home from risking being hit by passing cars where there was no shoulder on the road.
You don’t have to believe it, but Gus and I did find this baby bottle toy on the trail. It matches the basic description. Considering all the other wild things that have happened in this tiny 230-population town, it’s not all that out of the ordinary.
One thing I did want to know was whether or not Baptists up here believed in things like ghosts and demons the way they do in the evangelist/revival churches. I was not disappointed. It turns out the Baptists have advised the modern Catholic Church with ways to analyze and resisting demonic possession (source). In 2013, Polish exorcists were still convening to discuss Madonna (the Telegraph).
“Part of the conference is dedicated to the hidden subliminal message in communication, and the choice of this subject was inspired by the woman who dares to call herself Madonna,” said Father Andrzej Grefkowic, an exorcist and one of the organisers of the conference.
Umm… Dude, that’s her actual name.