Apparently Few People Know or Care About the Man Behind that Great Book

I posted the following essay on Reddit.com a couple years ago, and it got deleted. What really pissed me off was that it was wholly censored not by the automated filter, which promptly deletes material that specifically breaches clearly defined rules, but rather by a living ‘moderator(s)’ for the Lewis Carroll section within the website (a sub-site which, to me, read quite like Carroll fandom).

As punishment, I was banished from commenting or contacting anyone there — like I was some sleazy troll.

Apparently, it miffed a powerful Lewis Carroll enthusiast or two, there. And I was given no means of communicating with any of the Carroll-site ‘moderators’ in regards to the unjustified blatant censorship. I was accused of calling Lewis Carroll “a pedophile”. I did not, though the implication could be perceived, understandably, especially by his defenders.

My post included factual information, mostly quotes with full citation, from academia and writers; it included different sources (pro, con and in between) on Carroll’s prolific proclivity for taking nude photos of little girls who trusted him. That photography is a plain, basically undisputed fact. However, while there may be strong suspicions he had done so, I have not read anything, including in his or others’ correspondence, about Carroll inappropriately touching his little girl “friends”.

The piece was the most journalistic and researched post I have seen on that website, yet I was brazenly told to “please do some actual research”. Perhaps typically, there was/is no means by which to contact that website’s Lewis Carroll section’s gatekeeper on this. At least not anything that was made visibly available. Thus I was given no means by which to question the flagrant suppression. Where was I? China? Russia?

I used to get comfortable to watch the weekend-long Great Books marathons on TLC, way back when it really was The Learning Channel and not its later form with so much schadenfreude content.

Besides Alice In Wonderland, I have four other collector’s editions of The Great Books series documentaries, albeit on VHS — Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick — all of which I’ve watched many times. (I’d like to get many of the others, like Plato’s The Republic and Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, but they are no longer available to me.

Besides via some reading, with all five documentaries, though especially with Alice In Wonderland, I took down notes and quotes almost every time I’d watch them, sometimes repeatedly rewinding and replaying to make sure of the notes’ accuracy.

The most memorable scholars for me included in the Alice In Wonderland documentary are those who talked glowingly of the author while — unlike the vociferous critics of my Lewis Carroll essay — apparently having come to terms with his predilection for naked-little-girl photography. One Lewis Carroll academic interviewed in the documentary defended him, talking about the author like he could do no wrong.

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WITH celebrity sexual assault and harassment scandals flowing from the showbiz industry, some people (including one CNN-based commentator) wonder whether they’ll feel comfortable consuming quality products involving seriously offending entertainers and producers. Meantime, some big-celebrity fans will continue viewing their favorites nonetheless, while others may indefinitely remain in denial, as superstardom’s brightness can be blinding — especially when the product becomes legendary.

(The late Michael Jackson’s questionable history of having young boy sleepovers at his Neverland Ranch, comes to my mind as a current example, because of the enormous organized vicious attacks via various media on anyone, including big TV producers, who dare suggest that the legendary pop-music artist was a pedophile. He simply was — and still is — that great and loved.)

As a pre-broadcast-era artist example, many people to this day have great difficulty accepting, or perhaps even caring, that acclaimed author Lewis Carroll — writer of the Alice In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass children’s novels — enjoyed having little girls pose nude for his camera.

A few years ago, I asked four peers whether they were aware of this rather unorthodox photography hobby enjoyed by Carroll, penname of Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. All four had no idea. One, though, became agitatedly apologetic and diversionary in her defense of the author: “So what? Woody Allen had sex with his [teenaged adopted] daughter!” Another peer replied similarly. Astounded, I felt sure they would not be so dismissive had they viewed just a few of the many shots of unnaturally seductive poses involving small child subjects. (The ones I saw left me disgusted.) Again, it seems few know or care about the real Lewis Carroll.

Acclaimed writer and commentator Will Self stated the conundrum thus: “It’s a problem, isn’t it, when somebody writes a great book but they’re not a great person.” Some big-celebrity fans will continue consuming and defending their favorites nonetheless, while others may indefinitely remain in denial, as superstardom’s brightness can be blinding — especially when the product becomes legendary.

“[Carroll] would ask mama if it was alright for him to photograph the little girl; and later on he would ask if he could photograph her in a costume; and eventually he would work his way up like a lover to, if he could photograph the child in the nude,” says retired Temple University English professor emeritus Donald Rackin, in a Great Books documentary (a copy of which I own and watched many times to accurately record comments and information). “We know that of course he was refused sometimes, but it was astounding how many mothers said, ‘go ahead’.”

As a prestigious figure, instead of being reprimanded or thrown into a Victorian-era prison, he continued taking his child photos. Carroll’s ability to get away with his perverted predilection for such photography may have been but indicative of the societal entitlement he enjoyed, even as an oddball loner.

Says the documentary’s soft-spoken narrator, actor Donald Sutherland: “His girl photos were troubling to some, pure genius to others … sensual portraits.”

Yet some feel Carroll was unfairly misunderstood. According to Hollywood Reporter guest columnist Will Brooker, who also authored Alice’s Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture“Lewis Carroll is treated [by his critics] like a man you wouldn’t want your kids to meet, yet his stories are still presented as classics of pure, innocent literature … Compared to some of our celebrities — the sportsmen, film directors and singers who commit real crimes like assault and abuse and are still welcomed back by fans — Lewis Carroll was a regular saint.”

Possibly as the perspective of a man of the cloth, Carroll himself wrote down about his girl photo subjects, “Their innocent unconsciousness is very beautiful, and gives one a feeling of reverence, as at the presence of something sacred.” (Letters 381)

[Frank G Sterle Jr]

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The Christmas (Evil) Spirit

I was in the Christmas (Evil) Spirit. Well, actually, the Spirit was in me. And it may be no big deal, but the said spirit happened to be evil.

It was the Christmas Eve morning that didn’t feel any less riddled with anxiety and clinical depression, as were all of his mornings; but it did commence a day that would be for me a considerably mean-spirited and especially affected by anger, indeed rage. And it was one of those rare mornings on which I reluctantly decided to not put on his silver necklace chain, with two variants of crucifixes, one of which was sold to me as brand-new white gold.

It was but six days since the spectacle at the Canada Line’s Bridgeport SkyTrain Station’s platform:

After being offended by a rude guy on the escalator, and after six seconds of consideration as to whether I would confront him on his rudeness, I walked up to the guy and, in essence, threatened to drag him down the street by his hair. When the guy grinned, perhaps out of some emotion(s) other than smug confidence or fear, I challenged him to “just try me,” momentarily prior to loudly informing him that “you’re a goof!”

What really bothered me post-incident, though, was the fact that I was quite openly (though ignorant of such during the confrontation) wearing my silver, double-crucifix necklace, for all of the spectators to witness; and, of course, they’d then judge me as the exact opposite of how a real Christian should behave, especially with Christmas fast approaching.

And that said behavior was on top of the countless times that I’d loudly blurted the Lord’s name in vain or, even better, combined it with the most horrible profanity, into my mind’s ear; though I had also often enough blurted such ugliness out loud when ‘alone,’ or semi-alone in Mom’s presence.

Of course, I’d virtually always think about how, I don’t mean any of it, Lord’ and how the blasphemous words do not reflect in any way how I actually felt about You — i.e. how I was not (on a conscious level, anyhow) at all angry at/with Him.

But were those disclaimers sufficient; and wouldn’t such profanity mixed with His holy name, especially when blurted out loud, only somehow empower the ugliest of ugly, skin-of-evil, non-human, extra-dimensional entities? It will be the same said spirit that greets me and remains with me, especially in my thoughts, when I awake every single morning; and it stays with me for the following three to four hours, which negatively affects the rest of my day.

However, the Christmas (Evil) Spirit makes a special occasion for me at Christmas time — the Spirit puts in an extra effort to make it a particularly lousy, uniquely detestable time of year for me. Regardless, the Spirit will, I’m certain, be with me daily for the rest of my life.

Thus I acknowledged that that Spirit will always be with me, in my anguish and misery, and I shan’t desecrate the cause of Christ by wearing the crucifixes; also, by wearing them while being not-at-all-Christ-like, enraged and embittered, makes me an utter hypocrite.

Indeed, as a miserable and often very angry person virtually every day for the rest of his life, indeed makes me one of the worst ‘representatives’ of Christianity’s true Christ-like behavior; therefore, I decided, I will not besmirch the purity of the faith by wearing its greatest symbol — a silver chain-necklace with its accompanying twin crucifixes.

[Written in December 2008]

Like A Virgin [Part 1]

Place: “Inspiration Point”—a hillside in West Vancouver

Time: Present; about 10 p.m. on a mid-October Friday night

Characters: Lenny, 24; Roxanne, 25

______

LENNY is a very good-looking but reserved heterosexual male, who is also a virgin. A half-dozen of his female university classmates—attracted to Lenny, however weary they are of his apparent disinterest in them all—had taken the initiative in asking him for a date. After politely turning down the fifth young woman within a three-day period, Lenny finally gave in to the pressure (and his sudden attraction) and accepted the sixth woman’s request for an evening out. He had first talked to the woman, Roxanne—a provocative, attractive dirty-blonde in his Chemistry class—four weeks earlier on the second day of the semester, when she tried to start a conversation with him after class. Later, at the end of their date, Roxanne insisted that she and Lenny drive to Inspiration Point, “just to go look at the beautiful lights in Vancouver”.

ROXANNE, aside from her good looks, is the antithesis of Lenny. She is very out-going, fully understands and accepts her intense sexuality, and is, to say the least, not a virgin. The moment she saw Lenny on the first day of Chemistry 100, she was attracted to him and wanted to get to know him much better. She can easily tell that Lenny is reserved and finds him all the more alluring because of that trait. She, however, is convinced that once (not if) she decides to make a pass at him, Lenny will love it, just as did all of her other dates.

Scene: Lenny and Roxanne walk onto the stage, the latter carrying a wool blanket and the former holding a six-pack of canned beer. They settle amongst some opaque, seven-foot-tall bushes, which leave them surrounded, except for the audience’s view of the couple. Roxanne spreads out the blanket (approximately 10-by-10 feet) onto the ground and sits down close to the blanket’s centre; Lenny remains standing while looking at the surrounding bushes, appearing uneasy. He peers around the bush and off to the side of the stage.

________________

LENNY: There’s a better spot over there (With a nod of his head towards the spot he’s indicating, then looks at ROXANNE).  

ROXANNE: (Looks at LENNY) Why? What’s wrong with this spot?

(Takes a can of beer and opens it. Having been shaken from before, beer springs from the can and onto her blouse) Oh, shit! I knew I shoun’t’ve thrown them into the back seat (Carelessly wipes the beer off with her hand, then takes a sip of beer).

LENNY: (Sits down on the edge of the blanket, leans back onto his hands, stares straight forward into the audience and tries to appear confident) Yeah, it’s good enough.

ROXANNE: (Takes another swill of beer, then looks at LENNY) Aren’t you going to have one? (Begins twisting a can from the plastic grip rings).

LENNY: (Looks somewhat puzzled at ROXANNE) No, I don’t drink. Remember?

ROXANNE: Oh, I thought you meant hard stuff, like whiskey, rum …

LENNY: No; all alcohol. (Looks straight ahead, then nervously jokes) I’m so clean of alcohol, I’d probably get drunk just from sniffing your empty can.

ROXANNE: (Giggles. Looks straight ahead into the audience. Pause. Looks aside to LENNY) Haven’t you ever gotten drunk, or even just buzzed?

LENNY: (Does not return her look) Once; and that was it. The first day of final exams in eighth grade. Me and a friend were mixing different kinds of liquor from his dad’s mini bar at his place. It tasted horrendous. Nick was drinking faster than me and was already drunk by the time mine hit me. It was like, I’m totally sober, then all of a sudden—boom!—it hit me like a rock. We had great fun for about twenty minutes before I passed out. When I came to, Nick was forcing black coffee down my throat. He wanted me sober by the time his dad came home from work. “My dad’ll thrash me if he catches you here— drunk or not!” He would’ve, too. (In an incredulous tone of voice) And he’s a social worker—can you believe it?! (Pause; he then dares to look aside back at her) Do you drink much?  

ROXANNE: (Caught staring, and rather absent-minded) Hmm? What?

LENNY: Do you drink much?

ROXANNE: (Briefly looks away, then back at him) Not really. Mostly on dates; mostly beer (Looks straight ahead and takes a couple gulps of beer before looking back at LENNY) Have you gone out with any of the other girls in the class?

LENNY: (Looks straight ahead; appearing and sounding rather nervous) No.

ROXANNE: (Brushing her shoulder-length hair back with her hand) I see them flirting with you, but you don’t seem interested (Looks straight ahead and takes another couple mouthfuls of beer).

LENNY: (Does not respond. Pause. He looks at ROXANNE) You sure handle that beer like a pro (Pause. ROXANNE looks at him; he looks away and begins scanning the audience) Man, those lights must suck-up a lot o’ power (Pause) Don’t you think?

ROXANNE: (Looks into the audience) Yeah … (Takes a couple mouthfuls of beer) … A lot of power (Finishes her can of beer with a final gulp, crunches the can in her hand and throws it onto the stage in front of her. Looks at LENNY, who continues scanning the audience).

LENNY: (Uncomfortable with ROXANNE’s staring at him, but tries to conceal it) They’re something (Forces himself to look at her) The lights?

ROXANNE: Yeah, they are (Scans the audience, then looks down at the section of blanket on front of her; she then looks down at her blouse as she starts unbuttoning it). I’d better get this beer out before it stains.

LENNY: (Somewhat alarmed, he looks at ROXANNE’s blouse as she opens it. He then looks straight ahead and tries to appear calm) Maybe … (Looks at her, then nods his head towards her side of the stage) … Maybe I should go over there while you …

ROXANNE: (Looks at him; then looks down and undoes her blouse’s bottom and last button. Takes off blouse, and puts it on her lap) Don’t worry about it, I’m wearing a bra. It’ll only take a second to wipe it off (Pulls a handkerchief from her purse, dabs it on her tongue and wipes the beer spot for about ten seconds). Good enough for now (Stuffs the blouse, along with the handkerchief, into her purse).

LENNY: (Becoming visibly uncomfortable. Looks at her) Maybe we should get going. I had a hard time concentrating in class today because I got to sleep late … (Pushes himself forward as if to get up).

ROXANNE: (Looks at LENNY with a slight smile) What for? It’s Friday—remember?—you can sleep-in tomorrow (Takes another beer, opens it and takes a swill. Looks into the audience) Plus we just got here.

LENNY: (Looks straight ahead, and settles back down onto the blanket. Pause. Looks at ROXANNE, then down at her chest, then back up at her, as she takes another swill of beer) Aren’t you cold? (Looks ahead. Quietly, takes a slow deep breath and lets it out; he looks aside back at ROXANNE. Talking quietly) Could you …?

(Roxanne puts her beer down, places her hand on LENNY’s leg and kisses him on the neck, cheek, then on his mouth. Her kiss turns into necking as she attempts to pull off his shirt over his head. He forces himself from her).

LENNY: What’re you doing! (Gets up abruptly, resulting in her grip on his shirt slipping, her long finger nails accidentally scratching his bare abdomen, leaving noticeable red marks. He pulls his shirt back down).

ROXANNE: (Stunned; looks up at LENNY) What’s the matter?

LENNY: I barely know you, for Chris’ sake!

ROXANNE: (Pulls her shirt out from her purse, puts it on as she gets up and quickly begins fastening the buttons; neither she nor he notice that an opened can of beer accidentally toppled over. She says quietly, almost as if to herself, in regards to his offence by her sexual advance) Sorry.

(LENNY squats and grips onto his blanket to take and notices ROXANNE is still standing on it, still somewhat stunned. He gives her a “do-you-mind?” expression; she, having just fastened the top and last button, promptly steps off the blanket.)

LENNY: Thank you.

ROXANNE: (Bends down to retrieve her remaining four unopened cans of beer and notices the spilt beer) Ah, damn it! (Wipes beer off the blanket).

LENNY: (Much more calm) Forget about it.

ROXANNE: (Looking at LENNY as he gets up and quickly folds the blanket. Says quite sincerely) I really am sorry, Lenny. If I’d known you’d feel this strongly ’bout it, I’d … (Pause) Oh, no.

LENNY: (Finishing folding the blanket; he’s interested in ROXANNE’s sudden alarm) What?

ROXANNE: (With a rather worried expression) Are you gay? ’Cause if you are, I really didn’t …

LENNY: (Looks at her with a disenchanted expression, while holding the folded blanket in his hands. Sarcastically) No, I’m not gay (Pause) Just because I’m not into making out with you on a first date doesn’t mean I’m gay (Brief pause) Man, who do you think you are?! ROXANNE: (Shrugs her arms and shoulders. Asks sincerely) Then what’s the matter? (LENNY shakes his head, turns and walks around the blueberry bush and off the stage; ROXANNE follows him. Lights dim and curtain closes).

Like A Virgin [Part 2]

Place: an apartment suite in West Vancouver

Time: the present, at about 11 p.m. on a Friday

Characters: Lenny, 24; Dick, 25

______

LENNY is a very good-looking but reserved heterosexual male, who is also a virgin. A half-dozen of his female university classmates—attracted to Lenny, however weary they are of his apparent disinterest in them all—had taken the initiative in asking him for a date. After politely turning down the fifth young woman within a three-day period, Lenny finally gave in to the pressure (and his sudden attraction) and accepted the sixth woman’s request for an evening out. He had first talked to the woman, Roxanne—a provocative, attractive dirty-blonde in his Chemistry class—four weeks earlier on the second day of the semester, when she tried to start a conversation with him after class. Later, after dining (and towards the end of their date), Roxanne insisted that she and Lenny drive to Inspiration Point, “just to go look at the beautiful lights in Vancouver”. However, once there, she initiated oral sex with him (to become intercourse, in Lenny’s mind). Lenny, feeling used and humiliated, immediately took a 30-minute shower upon his arrival back at his apartment.

DICK is Lenny’s overweight and sex-craved (also heterosexual) roommate, who has worn the same L.A. Dodgers baseball cap since he turned sixteen. Although not a virgin, Dick, who barely earned a Grade 12 equivalency certificate a few years prior, has had virtually no sexual relations in his lifetime, and he resents that fact. Indeed, Dick would have sex with almost any woman that was willing to engage in such with him, though none have been so for the last five years. Dick and Lenny have known each other since they were in Grade 1 and are good friends; however, Dick cannot help but feel fairly cynical about the fact that women are attracted to Lenny while quite-seemingly repulsed by Dick—all the while Lenny turns the women away. (“I guess the irony is lost on you, eh, Len,” Dick would frequently say to his pal).

Scene: Lenny walks onto the scene: A living room, in which Dick is sitting on a ragged, orange couch, watching Love Connections on TV. Except for a lit, six-foot-tall, standing-lamp behind one end of the couch, the room is darkened by the nighttime. Lenny sits down at the opposite end of the couch from Dick and stares at the TV-set screen.

________________

DICK: (Without looking at LENNY) How’d it go?

LENNY: (Without looking back) Oh … okay, I guess.

DICK: (Glances at LENNY, then looks back at the TV screen; a disenchanted facial expression) Did ya finally get some? (A brief pause) Ya did, didn’t ya. You’re a pig; ya know that?

LENNY: (Looks at DICK, with irritation) No, Dicky, I didn’t “get some”. And you’re the pig. All you want is sex. (Looks back at the screen, slowly shaking his head; he calms down somewhat) You’ve no idea what it’s like for me, do you?

DICK: No idea what’s like?

LENNY: No idea how I feel about women and sex.

DICK: (With cynicism in his voice, he looks at LENNY) I know that you could have all the women and sex in one day as I could in a plethora of lifetimes! What else do I need to know?! (DICK looks back at the TV-set screen).

LENNY: (Pointing to the screen, and showing frustration) No wonder you watch this crap—you’re obsessed with “Sex Connections”! (DICK quickly changes the channel with the remote control. There’s a 10-second silence as they both continue staring at the TV screen, not really aware of what they’re watching) My date really hit on me tonight. I can’t believe it!

DICK: (Gives LENNY a strange look) Well of course she hit on you—she was your date, wasn’t she? What; isn’t she good-looking enough for ya?

LENNY: (Slightly irritated, but continues to stare at the TV screen) Yeah, I do find her physically attractive. But she wanted to … you know … do it. I told her I wasn’t into it so soon. You know, in essence, it was a sexual assault. I can’t believe it.

DICK: (Looking both stunned and disillusioned at LENNY) Whad’ya mean, “sexually assaulted”?! How can you be raped by a girl?!

LENNY: (Quite irritated; finally looks at DICK) I didn’t say “rape”! (Looks back at the TV screen, then calms down a little after a brief silence) I pushed her off me, and then I drove her back to her place. (Slowly shaking his head) She asked me if I was gay. When I said, No, she was left totally bewildered (Lifts up his T-shirt to expose the scratch on his abdomen) Look what she did! I don’t believe it!

DICK: (Looks back at the TV screen) I’m surprised ya didn’t call the cops, ya sissy. Maybe you are gay? “Was Roxanne too much woman for ya?” they’d ask. (He laughs somewhat nervously) “Or was she just not gentle enough?”

LENNY: (Says matter-of-factly) She wasn’t too much woman for me; I just wasn’t interested—that’s all.

DICK: (Unconvinced, looks at LENNY) I think ya just wanna stay a virgin, forever.

(Begins singing) Like a vir-gin—ooooh!—touched for the very first time / Like a vir-ir-ir-ir-gin, when your heart beats … next to mine …

LENNY: (Quite annoyed, looks at DICK and interrupts him) Man, you’re an idiot, Dick! I’m not a virgin—I’ve been telling you that for the last decade!

DICK: (Lets out an abrupt and somewhat-nervous laugh) Yeah, right! I’ll give ya ten grand for every woman you’ve boinked! Hell, I’ll give you a grand for every woman you’ve kissed!

LENNY: (Snarls) Hey, fat boy, when I’m ready to boink, I’ll boink—you got that straight?! You’re just jealous you don’t get any! (Somewhat-nervous laughter) If you didn’t get Becky drunk on your 20th birthday, you’d be a virgin, too. (Singing) Touched for the very first-and-last time / Like a …

DICK: (Interrupts LENNY, angrily) Shut the hell up, ya goof!!

LENNY: You shut the hell up, goof!! (They both look back at the TV screen. Fifteen seconds go by as their emotions settle down).

DICK: (Takes a deep breath, then lets it out) Look. I like women, and I like sex; but neither seem to like me. And it rips me apart at the seams to see you reject all of these gorgeous women. You’ve no idea what it’s like for me.

LENNY: (Says calmly, looking at DICK) There’s nothing I can do about the way women perceive you. And, unlike you, I don’t particularly enjoy having someone force herself on me. (Looks back at the TV screen) So, if you don’t mind, let’s forget the whole thing, okay?

(Both are silent for about 30 seconds, while the introduction song to The Facts of Life plays on the TV set).

LENNY: (Takes a deep breath, puffs-up his cheeks with air, then lets it all out in a burst) Ah, the hell with it!

DICK: (Looking at LENNY) What?

LENNY: (Nodding his head) I’m going over to Roxanne’s, and if she’s still into it, I’m going to do it with her (Gets up and marches off the scene. After watching him leave, DICK looks back at the TV screen, aims the remote control at the set and turns up the volume. He pulls his legs up, curls up into the corner of the couch and watches The Facts of Life with interest).

[The preceding two-part drama was written by me for a 1994 creative writing course]

Intergenerational Childhood Trauma, or What I Frankly Call a Cursed Inheritance

“The way a society functions is a reflection of the childrearing practices of that society. Today we reap what we have sown. Despite the well-documented critical nature of early life experiences, we dedicate few resources to this time of life. We do not educate our children about child development, parenting, or the impact of neglect and trauma on children.”

—Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Ph.D. & Dr. John Marcellus

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WHEN I asked a BC Teachers’ Federation official over the phone whether there is any childrearing or child-development science curriculum taught in any of B.C.’s school districts, he immediately replied there is not. When I asked the reason for its absence and whether it may be due to the subject matter being too controversial, he replied with a simple “Yes”.

This strongly suggests there are philosophical thus political obstacles to teaching students such crucial life skills as nourishingly parenting one’s children. To me, it’s difficult to imagine that teaching parenting curriculum would be considered more controversial than, say, teaching students Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) curriculum, beginning in Kindergarten, as is currently taught in B.C. public schools.

I believe that too many people will procreate regardless of their questionable ability to raise their children in a psychologically functional/healthy manner.

Being free nations, society cannot prevent anyone from bearing children; society can, however, educate all young people for the most important job ever, even those who plan to remain childless. I would like to see child-development science curriculum implemented for secondary high school students, and it would also include neurodiversity, albeit not overly complicated. It would be mandatory course material, however, and considerably more detailed than what’s already covered by home economics, etcetera, curriculum: e.g. diaper changing, baby feeding and so forth.

I don’t think the latter is anywhere near sufficient (at least not how I experienced it) when it comes to the proper development of a child’s mind. For one thing, the curriculum could/would make available to students potentially valuable/useful knowledge about their own psyches and why they are the way they are.

Additionally, besides their own nature, students can also learn about the natures of their peers, which might foster greater tolerance for atypical personalities. If nothing else, the curriculum could offer students an idea/clue as to whether they’re emotionally suited for the immense responsibility and strains of parenthood.

There’s so much to know and understand about child development (science) in order to properly/functionally rear a child to his/her full potential in life. I once read an ironic quote from a children’s health academic that, “You have to pass a test to drive a car or to become a … citizen, but there’s no exam required to become a parent. And yet child abuse can stem from a lack of awareness about child development.”

By not teaching child-development science to high school students, is it not as though societally we’re implying that anyone can comfortably enough go forth with unconditionally bearing children with whatever minute amount, if any at all, of such vital knowledge they happen to have acquired over time? It’s like we’ll somehow, in blind anticipation, be innately inclined to fully understand and appropriately nurture our children’s naturally developing minds and needs.

I can’t help wondering how many instances there have been wherein immense long-term suffering by children of dysfunctional rearing might have been prevented had the parent(s) received, as high school students, some crucial child development science education by way of mandatory curriculum. After all, dysfunctional and/or abusive parents, for example, may not have had the chance to be anything else due to their lack of such education and their own dysfunctional/abusive rearing as children.

Since so much of our lifelong health comes from our childhood experiences, childhood mental health-care should generate as much societal concern and government funding as does physical health, even though psychological illness/dysfunction typically is not immediately visually observable.

A psychologically and emotionally sound (as well as a physically healthy) future should be every child’s foremost right, especially considering the very troubled world into which they never asked to enter.

Sadly, due to the common OIIIMOBY mindset (Only If It’s In My Own Back Yard), the prevailing collective attitude, however implicit or subconscious, basically follows: ‘Why should I care — my kids are alright?’ or ‘What is in it for me, the taxpayer, if I support programs for other people’s troubled children?’

The wellbeing of all children — and not just what other parents’ children might/will cost us as future criminals or costly cases of government care, etcetera — should be of great importance to us all, regardless of whether we’re doing a great job with our own developing children.

_____________

“It has been said that if child abuse and neglect were to disappear today, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual would shrink to the size of a pamphlet in two generations, and the prisons would empty. Or, as Bernie Siegel, MD, puts it, quite simply, after half a century of practicing medicine, ‘I have become convinced that our number-one public health problem is our childhood’.”

—Childhood Disrupted, pg.228

What, Me Worry? Don’t Have To!

[The following italicized/bold text within quotation marks is from the book Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal. The intervening sarcasm in regular text is mine.]

“When the brain can’t moderate our biological stress response, it goes into a state of constant hyperarousal and reactivity. Inflammatory hormones and chemicals keep coursing through the body at the slightest provocation.

In other words, when a child is young and his brain is still developing, if he is repeatedly thrust into a state of fight or flight, this chronic stress state causes these small, chemical markers to disable the genes that regulate the stress response  preventing the brain from properly regulating its response for the rest of his life.”

I didn’t know that. But then I didn’t need to, since I’m already sedated via pharmaceuticals.

“The children who’d been maltreated and separated from their parents showed epigenetic changes in specific sites on the human genome that determine how appropriately and effectively they will later respond to life’s stressors.

Seth Pollak, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Child Emotion Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, found that fifty children with a history of adversity and trauma showed changes in a gene that helps to manage stress by signaling the cortisol response to quiet down so that the body can return to a calm state after a stressor. But because this gene was damaged, the body couldn’t rein in its heightened stress response. Says Pollak, ‘A crucial set of brakes are off’.”

Really? No one told me that. Still, I should feel better when I take my tranquilizers.

“When the HPA stress axis is overloaded in childhood or the teenage years, it leads to long-lasting side effects  not just because of the impact stress has on us at that time in our lives, but also because early chronic stress biologically reprograms how we will react to stressful events for our entire lives. That long-term change creates a new physiological set point for how actively our endocrine and immune function will churn out a damaging cocktail of stress neurochemicals that barrage our bodies and cells when we’re thirty, forty, fifty, and beyond.

Once the stress system is damaged, we overrespond to stress and our ability to recover naturally from that reactive response mode is impaired. We’re always responding. …

Imagine for a moment that your body receives its stress hormones and chemicals through an IV drip that’s turned on high when needed, and when the crisis passes, it’s switched off again. Now think of it this way: kids whose brains have undergone epigenetic changes because of early adversity have an inflammation-promoting drip of fight-or-flight hormones turned on high every day  and there is no off switch.

When the HPA stress system is turned on and revved to go all the time, we are always caught in that first half of the stress cycle. We unwittingly marinate in those inflammatory chemicals for decades, which sets the stage for symptoms to be at full throttle years down the road  in the form of irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, fibroid tumors, ulcers, heart disease, migraines, asthma, and cancer.”

What, me worry? Don’t need to because of convenient chemical sedation of formidable symptoms! Thank you, Big Pharma!

KitchenWareWorld

“HOW it went missing, nobody knows—it seemed to simply vanish. Though some say that a police officer took it home as a grim memento.”

After Jimmy (Likkenson) made this revelation, he added, “And that’s supposedly why ‘the curse remains’—because the knife that killed them has to be thrown down into the well, holy water mixed within it, to rid the grounds of McCurry’s foul spirit and free the ‘trapped souls’ of his victims.”

Total silence then fell upon the four, young college students, who were just coming into view of the old, abandoned factory.

“I guess that’s it,” said Melanie (Smart), who nervously, reluctantly agreed to spend the early October evening at the non-functional plant. “So they made spoons, forks, knives and stuff like that?”

“Yeah, and a few other kitchenware items,” replied Ezekial (Bowman). “Most of the machinery is still in there, but they’re pretty much all seized up, from lack of use for so long. That’s one reason they’re demolishing it tomorrow, before developing a small memorial park.”

The factory, KitchenWareWorld, had closed down permanently in late 1957, right after declaring bankruptcy; it had four floors and a basement: Its ground floor was elevated by two feet to allow for the structure’s basement’s horizontally narrow though long windows, just slightly below the ceiling, thus giving the basement access to much needed daylight should there be a power outage. Though utilized as factory goods storage space, a protruding, stone cemented well orifice was situated at the basement’s southwest corner.

The well, just over 109 meters deep when measured with sonar, was repeatedly scheduled to be dismantled, drained then filled with cement; however, the job was continuously delayed, until it was finally decided to leave it be altogether. Initially, the well held clean water, but by 1970 the well’s base water entrance and exit were clogged firmly shut—first with dense dirt from the farm yard which had stood in place of the factory grounds until 1953, and then with factory refuse dumped during the many years of an absence of water polluting laws; thus, the very same well content, liquids and all, occupied the deep pit ever since. Then finally, in early 2006, after a young girl fell into the well and drowned, the city’s council and mayor voted unanimously in favor of demolishing the factory and recycling its contents.

“They like to say that the ‘poor economy’ closed it down,” said Candace (Florance), sarcastically, “though only the fools and tourists don’t know, or simply don’t believe, that it was because of the killings.”

“Where’s the guy, now; I mean, where’s he buried?” Melanie queried, again with nerves on edge.

“At the asylum cemetery … ,” Ezekial answered before adding, “by way of suicide. The townsfolk didn’t want him in the regular cemetery, and his own relatives wanted nothing to do with his remains. His grave is amongst the unmarked stones, so his bones won’t be disturbed by twisted Satanists and other souvenir orientated people, if you know what I mean because … ”

“Does anyone here know the names of his victims?” Candace interrupted, without intended inconsideration.

“Uh, yeah … ,” Ezekial spoke up, again: “Rebecca Timms, Robert Stevens, Sandra MacDonald and, uh, Nick Johnson.”

“You’ve read up on this a bit, huh,” she noted.

According to all accounts and the killer’s own open confession to police, Andrew

McCurry—a.k.a. Madman McCurry or the Lanky Lunatic—was one of the managers at KitchenWareWorld who’d totally lost his composure when he’d lost his grasp on reality after being informed by the CEOs at headquarters that he’d “very soon be laid off for budgetary reasons.” Following the grisly killings, corporate financial matters significantly worsened, with the horrific deaths being a formidable liability, especially in the field of advertising and retail.

McCurry, with less than three years left before he could retire at 65, decided that some factory staffers hated him—though he had no realistic idea of their identities, because his stern hand managed all of the “labourers below me in rank”—and a few had “even conspired, and succeeded, to get me fired!” Thus, as his final act as a manager there, McCurry selected four employees (all in their early twenties) and told each to stay an extra (overtime paid) two hour period following their morning shift, at 11:30 a.m., to assist him with “a task.”

That day at the factory, there was to be a “Dead Period” for two and a half hours, from noon until 2:30 p.m., during which building electrical adjustments were to be made involving the main power juncture box just outside of the factory (and McCurry, unlike the four staffers, knew that power to the factory’s two, large elevators would thus be cut off). When the morning shift ended and the whistle blew, all of the factory’s morning shift staff, except for the four, began to leave.

McCurry was aware that it took half an hour for the morning and afternoon shift employees to exchange places but that the latter employees, on that day, would not begin showing up until 2:30 p.m.; and McCurry discreetly remained behind as the four, all stationed on the second and third floors, were individually told that he or she “need not worry about the electrical work being done—the bosses are just being overly precautious” and to “keep working till I come get you, O.K. I won’t be too long.”

Conveniently for McCurry, the factory machines the four operated were noisy and also required them to wear ear protection gear. When the opportunity came, McCurry (who married at twenty-nine but divorced at forty-two, with no children) firmly rigged the fourth floor’s stairwell doors to lock-in onto that floor anyone who’d enter. Then, taking in a deep breath, he went to each of the four employees and told him or her (of which the other three were oblivious) to come to his fourth floor office.

There, he closed the door (which he’d long ago found could only be locked from the outside of the office) behind the staff member, and, rather than tell the employee what he’d like him or her to do for the extra hour, he then began to pace around his office, erratically. He worked himself into a frenzy, ranting about his “evil” bosses; he also went on about how some of his employee underlings really hated him and a few even conspired “to have me canned!”

That’s when matters would turn, for the employee, into a horrific nightmare: McCurry suddenly went quiet, opened his desk drawer and pulled out a large, black handled, KitchenWareWorld knife—the largest the factory produced—and chased the screaming employee out of his office and (eventually, at least) to the locked shut stairwell doors.

The only exception to McCurry’s detailed plan was the first of his victims, Rebecca Timms, who fled to the stairwell doors and found one door barely ajar (due to McCurry’s incompetence), allowing her to run down to the basement and eventually hide behind the well. But it all was to no avail: McCurry was close enough behind and came across her lost shoe just a dozen feet from the well, behind which came her audible whimpering. “I then killed her and dragged her back up the stairs, to my office.”

The remaining targeted employees, attentively at work, could not hear their colleague’s desperate screams from up above, then below, and therefore did not act upon them. It was on public record that he callously admitted, at police headquarters, to laying “a curse on each of them, just before I stabbed them, no more than ten minutes of each other—‘may your soul be trapped in your horror for eternity,’ I told them.”

Police got McCurry when they were called in by an electrician working on a connector wire site situated just below a fourth floor window who’d noticed McCurry calmly looking down upon the four, neatly aligned corpses lying face down. McCurry was charged, tried and convicted of the four first-degree murders after having reluctantly pleaded guilty at his court appointed lawyer’s behest (though he was spared the death penalty, for having been found “criminally insane”).

After only three weeks of incarceration, though, he escaped from the asylum one night, fled back to KitchenWareWorld and easily broke his way into his former office, after first breaking into the basement and its hazardous chemicals storage room. Sitting in the office desk’s chair, he pulled out a bottle of scotch whiskey he’d been saving for retirement day, carefully poured into it a package of powder form cyanide and drank as much as he could before falling over and giving up the ghost.

In the spring of 1983, in an attempt to cleanse the abandoned factory of McCurry’s corrupted spirit, as well as free the four victims’ trapped spirits, a young though confident priest dropped his blessing kit, consisting of a crucifix, three one-litre bottles of holy water and one

small bottle of blessed red wine, and ran off after an unseen “force—like some cold stench blasting into me—shoved me back, very hard, three times.”

Two and a half years later, five otherwise bored teens found the dusty kit, took it with them down into the basement, to the well, and there they smoked marijuana; then, one teen drank the wine and carelessly poured the blessed water down into the well, into its mixture of mostly unhealthy elements.

“The doors are just over there,” said Jimmy, pointing.

“They’re locked,” Ezekial moaned, jerking on the two entrance door handles until his second attempt, with greater effort, popped one open.

“Okay,” said Jimmy, pressing the light button on his Swatch. “Let’s say we meet back here at … eleven. Alright?”

“I say we all stay together,” Melanie strongly though meekly suggested, then added in an unconvincing tone. “It could be dangerous.”

“Nah,” blurted Candace, brazenly, “we’ll cover more ground if we spread out.”

Each went his or her way (though Melanie was the last to budge) with a large flashlight in hand.

Jimmy readily found his way to and up the stairwell, skipping the second floor and climbing right up onto the third floor. There, flashing his light around the machinery, he took only three steps to his right before finding himself standing next to the aged shift card puncher; with it were about three dozen metal pockets, in which almost all of the former employees’ shift cards still sat, collecting dust.

Wow, he marveled. Why are they still here? Hey, maybe the victims’ cards are still here.

With his illuminating flashlight, he visually scrolled down each row of cards, hoping to locate at least one of the victims’ cards. They’d sell for a bundleno problem! However, his prospects of finding such dimmed in his mind as he approached the very last of the cards. Nada … Damn!

But then, wham!scored, and on the very last card: There it is! “Robert Stevens, Unit #308.” Come to poppa!

Brushing off the card’s thin film of dust, Jimmy felt inexplicably strange. And it was in an instant that the world completely changed for him: Jimmy found himself in an unmanned

though humming factory, well lit by a midday sun, whereas he and his college mates had entered the premises at just past a darkening 8 p.m. In this new ‘reality,’ Jimmy was in what must have been one of the factory’s few offices; and, soon enough, he was confronted by a graying, tall, lanky man, looking to be in his late fifties or early sixties. The man had just stepped in behind Jimmy, shut the door, walked past him, stood behind a varnished oak wood desk and glared at him.

What the … What is this?! Where am I?! Jimmy thought loudly in his mind’s ear, while quite stunned and bewildered. And where’s that bright light coming from? He looked through the office’s side window, to one of the fourth floor’s large, southward windows, through which the lowering autumn sun’s light shone; he then looked back to the man, who just began to ramble on about something. And who in the hell is he?! It took a few moments before Jimmy could adequately focus on, and thus fully listen to, what the rather wiry man was saying.

“ … was you who helped con my bosses into firing me—you, Robert, and your cohorts hate me, and … ”

The man’s rant drifted off as Jimmy tilted his head to one side, looked past the man’s aging head and into the office wall’s small mirror. In it, Jimmy saw, of course, no one but the reflection of his own deeply puzzled facial expression. Who’s he calling “Bob”?

Jimmy then looked down at the cotton cloth nametag sewn onto the man’s white dress shirt’s left breast … This all has to be a jokeit has to be!!

“Bob? … Bob?! … What are you … ?! Robert Stevens!! Look at my face when I’m addressing you!!”

But Jimmy had soon enough bleakly realized who the man was and who the man thought Jimmy was.

“You’re … ,” Jimmy choked out, barely, “you’re McCurry—Andrew McCurry.”

“Yeah?” the frustrated Lanky Lunatic responded, “your brilliant point being … ?”

“Hey, McCurry—I mean, Mr. McCurry—I’m really not the guy you’re … ”

“Oh, bullshit!” McCurry blasted back, instantly, while opening his desk’s drawer and pulling out a huge kitchen knife, with a shiny, foot-long blade. “I’ve really had enough!”

“Oh, God!!” Jimmy yelped, spinning around and slamming face first into the office door’s window, leaving it severely cracked. “Oh, shit!!”

“You’re not getting away, Bob!”

“But I’m not Bob, damn it!!” Jimmy squealed, grabbing and turning the doorknob, slamming the door open as hard as he could before bolting out. He ran between sparkling clean, operational machinery units, all the while looking around for any way out. Spotting the elevator doors at the floor’s east end, he immediately went to them, futilely repeatedly and forcefully pressing the elevator retrieval button. When about ten seconds had lapsed and no elevator car, light or sound came about, Jimmy realized he was in real trouble, and he was experiencing terror like nothing ever before. God, oh, God! Please let this just be a nightmare!!

“Sorry, Bob—no way out!” came the yell from the knife wielding Madman McCurry, only 50 feet behind Jimmy. “No way out!”

Where the hell is everybody?!  Jimmy looked all around at the large, lifeless floor. It’s all fucking empty! There’s just the damn machines!! He then wondered about the other three floors, not to mention the basement, though it usually was unmanned, anyway. And where’s that buzzing coming from? Are there workers there?

Eventually, though, he cut through the scramble within his mind to remember: The stairs, the stairs! The stairs have to be working! That’s how I got here in the first place!

He spun around to look all along the walling. Now, where the hell were they? … There! Again, he bolted, this time towards the floor’s mid-west-side wall, as directly as possible.

“There’s nowhere to run away to, Bobby—you little, fucking rat!” McCurry yelled with apparent glee, taking a short cut to his intended victim, in between the machinery.

When Jimmy, dodging the machine units, arrived at the stairwell doors and pushed the handles, repeatedly in vain, all hope was lost. They’re locked shut! They’re locked solid fucking shut!! he screamed within his mind’s ear, instinctually continuing to pull and push the doors’ handles, to no end. It slowly yet assuredly sank into Jimmy’s beleaguered mind that he was indeed not dreaming but rather, somehow, in a different reality—a different world.

He could then hear, from behind, the slowing running, then shuffle, of the crazed man’s shoes on the floor; the sound was very soon followed by the sharp, cold pierce of McCurry’s knife into Jimmy’s upper back and into his rapidly beating heart.

Slowly falling to the floor, Jimmy’s grip on the door handle loosened, and the life flowed from his body. All the while, he, taking his very last breaths, could hear his tormentor’s whispery victory slur. “There you go, you lousy rat. There you go—though with a final word: May your soul … ”

____

IT was approaching 9:15 p.m., and Candace had just made her way up onto the fourth floor. Now, where’s his office? she thought, directing her flashlight onto parts of the floor, with its litter of various machine parts. Walking along next to the wall, approaching a small room with its windows covered by what appeared to be tar paper, all that really caught her attention was a large entanglement of some aged, discoloured, discarded clothing laying on the floor, in a corner where the wall met that of the small room.

She flashed her light beam throughout the pile of clothing (kicking aside some old, 1950s style jeans, brown dress shirts and knee high skirts) and noticed a slightly torn, white blouse with some nylon stockings wrapped around it. Kicking apart the three pieces of clothing, she decided to pick up the blouse, which was stained with a blotch of what appeared to be dried blood surrounding a two-inch tear in the back.

And then a sudden burst of sunlight fully illuminated the entire floor. She found herself in some office space with a neatly organized desk before her. A door slammed shut behind her, a strange looking man drifted past her from behind and stopped behind the desk to stand there, staring at Candace with a menacing expression. She looked down where the torn blouse had been firmly in her hands, but all was gone.

“Ms. MacDonald,” he addressed her, “do you know why you’re here, right this moment?”

What, what’s going on? Candace was absolutely stunned, while somewhat squinting from the totally unexpected, bright daylight. Where am I?! Who are you?!

“Well?” he asserted. “Talk to me, Sandra!”

What? Who’s Sandra? … and Ms. MacDonald? her thoughts raced. Then, looking down at his shirt’s nametag—What the fu … ?!

Pulling open his desk drawer and retrieving the deadly, bloodied object intensely frightened Candace into grimly muttering, “Oh, Christ—no! … ”

____

SLIGHTLY lifting his left arm, Ezekial flashed some light onto his old style wristwatch and saw that it was 10:34 p.m. Being close to the center of a (to him) boring second floor, standing

next to many conveyor belts stretching through various machinery, he wondered where in the large, dead factory his college mates were and what might they have discovered. Probably nothing, he thought, just before illuminating what must have been employee lockers. Hmmm.

Ezekial walked over to the beginning of one of sixteen lines of what were basically identical to high school lockers. He went through a few dozen of them—all containing naught but men’s, brown dress shirts and light orange overcoat uniforms (with empty pockets)—before reaching locker number 213. There was nothing unusual about the overcoat within it, except … What is that? Ezekial, lighting up the locker’s entire interior with his flashlight, noticed a cut, a good six inches long on the coat’s left sleeve; and surrounding the sleeve’s entire cut was something rather brown. Could it? … Could it be blood?

Placing his flashlight into his right hand, he grabbed onto the sleeve’s cuff to get a better look … when everything suddenly lit up with bright daylight.

Ezekial (a backslidden Christian, though his parents were faithful Presbyterians), who believed in the existence of God and His counterpart, the devil, was (as were Jimmy and Candace) stunned at the sudden, supernatural contradiction in both time and space. Where am I? Where’s that light coming from? And who’s that guy?! Ezekial thought, just before reading the full name on McCurry’s shirt’s nametag.

“So, Nick Johnson … you hate me so much you want me canned before I can retire with my goddamned hard earned pension, huh?!”

Who’s Nick!? Ezekial instinctually looked down at his own clothing, for he felt somewhat constricted by his apparel, and noticed that he was wearing something that looked like what he had, just moments before, been examining.

“Don’t say anything if you don’t want to,” sighed McCurry, “but I just wanted to let you know that you failed.”

It was while Madman McCurry was pulling out his bloodied knife that Ezekial could hear within his mind’s ear all of what he’d heard and learned about the knife/well legend. It was enough to engage him to not run for his life but to fight for his life by blatantly challenging history and forcing the knife from the controlling, bony hands of a very twisted and enraged man.

Now, how in the hell do I get to that damned well?! sped Ezekial’s mind, his adrenalin flowing fast after having briskly knocked McCurry to his office floor with a very powerful left hook to his jaw, while Ezekial maintained his tight grip on the bloodied knife in his right hand. He, however, did not manage to come out on top of things without first receiving a formidable slice to his mid, left arm after McCurry successfully swung his knife. Even so, Ezekial wouldn’t get revenge upon McCurry—the law and God can do that—who seemed to be unconscious.

Ezekial turned, opened the office door with his very shaky hand and just began his race to the basement when he noticed it: To his immediate right rested the horrific results of the fate of his two college mates (he suddenly realized that he actually saw them as good friends). Although they both lay dead, facedown, he could still tell that it was the two, very young adults.

Jimmy had fairly fresh blood staining a straight tear in the upper back of the brown dress-shirt he was wearing (I thought he was wearing a white T-shirt when we got here last … ). Candace lay wearing a knee high skirt (though she came, in the real world, wearing slacks) and a white bra, with most of its rear straps dark red with blood that had come from the gash almost right in between her small shoulder blades. What did that freak do with her shirt?!

Ezekial, regaining his composure, turned and ran past all of the machinery, towards the stairwell doors, pushing and pulling the door handles once he arrived. Fuck! The asshole must’ve locked them shut! Finding the elevators inoperable, he unsuccessfully searched for anything with which to break open one of the stairwell doors’ very small, wire meshed windows. No choice, he resigned, and walked back towards McCurry’s office, slowing down as he approached, to quietly peer into the office from behind some factory machinery.

He’s still out cold! Ezekial noticed, relieved, before further searching for some sort of very solid metal object. There! That’ll do! he decided, grabbing onto the rubber wrapped handle of a large, steel mallet.

It took him no more than a dozen seconds to fully smash his way through a door window, reach for the handle on the other side and pop it open; and the determined, encouraged, young college student raced down the stairwell to the basement. There, Ezekial scanned the contents until, There it is! While running to the well, he thought about what should I do? Where should I go once I drop it in?

Everything, however, was answered once he reached the well, looked down into its mouth, into the pitch blackness, held the bloodied, KitchenWareWorld production line utensil over the center of the well’s orifice and dropped it in …

Instantly, as though nothing so mindboggling ever had occurred, Ezekial, looking up and through the basement’s windows, found the world once again surrounded by night, the well before him and some source of bright light from the well’s opposite side. From there, amongst the otherwise dead silence, he could hear quiet whimpering. He slowly walked around the well’s circular wall, peered, and it’s Mel! he exclaimed within his weary mind’s ear, extremely relieved to see a squatting, cowering, trembling Melanie. She actually escaped!

“Mel?” he queried quietly, noticing, with the help of the illumination from her flashlight, that no bloodstain marked her clothing.

“Oh, Zeek—thank God, it’s you!” she burst.

“Are you hurt at all, Mel?”

“I don’t think so … All I did was bend over and pick up the, the … ,” she muttered, then began to cry, “ … the shoe, and I was really there, right in his, his office, in the daytime; and he, he—McCurry, himself!—kept calling me Rebecca and Ms. Timms before pulling out a huge, huge knife and, and … ”

“I know, Mel,” Ezekial whispered, slowly wrapping his arms around her until she calmed considerably, “I was really there, too. And he called me Nick Johnson.”

He slowly helped Melanie up, onto her feet, making sure that she stable and could stand on her own.

Although no one but the soured spirit of the mass murderer himself knew it, the well was the only location within the entire factory around which McCurry’s ghost was quite uncomfortable. Besides, the evil entity’s consciousness figured, why would she actually try to hide behind a simple, five foot tall, stone cemented well wall rather than leave the building, altogether?

Ezekial and Melanie ran as though their lives still depended upon it, while not seeming to care that the knife had gone where legend had dictated it must go. Although that extra dimensional world had instantly dissipated back to contemporary reality—in which the factory was old, abandoned and, finally, free of Andrew McCurry’s befouled spiritual presence—they sprinted till they made it out and down the road. They agreed to not relate their horrible ordeal to anyone, lest they’d stand accused of trying to fool the townsfolk.

As for the other two, their remains (probably) lay in some other dimension, some other reality or world, to not ever be recovered in this temporal plane. Hopefully, however, their eternal souls had found infinite peace the very instant that the knife touched the holy water tainted liquid contents of the well.

The next day, Melanie and Ezekial attended the memorial at the old factory just before it was to be demolished. They had expected, as was planned, that Mayor Rex Rodrigez was going to make the memorial speech; however, to their utter amazement, former factory workers and failed Madman McCurry targets Rebecca Timms and Nick Johnson—the latter whom bore a quite noticeable six inch scar on his mid, left arm, which had its sleeve rolled up—gave the speech, both tearful and looking seventy-ish. They stood side by side as each offered words of condolence for McCurry’s two, long ago deceased victims, their families and for the little girl who had drowned in the well.

Frank G Sterle Jr

A Mind With Another’s Mind Of Its Own

“Mind (noun): the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.” —The New Oxford Dictionary of English

“UH, I gave you a twenty,” said Gord, holding out the change that he just received.

“No,” calmly replied the cashier, “you gave me a five.”

“No, I gave you a twenty.”

“No, you only gave me a five.”

“No … ,” Gord began but was cutoff.

“Actually, you did give him a five,” another customer in line intervened.

Bewildered, Gord looked at the man and queried him: “Are you sure I gave him a five?”

“Yeah, I saw you give it to him.”

Stunned, Gord looked down at the currency in his open wallet. But that’s not possible, he thought. I know for a fact that I gave him a twenty.

He distinctly visually recollected handing over a twenty-dollar bill. He crystal clearly remembered looking at the twenty in his wallet while contemplating giving a five; however, he decided that he could use the small denomination currency, thus pulling out the twenty and handing it over.

Noticing the sincere total bewilderment displayed upon Gord’s face, the cashier asked, “Are you alright?”

Gord left the store with an unshakable, worrisome conviction that either he was slowly losing his sense of reality or that he’d just been ripped off. But Gord was intelligent enough to recognize the error in even considering the concept of having been cheated out of fifteen dollars; for, due to the store’s basic shift-changing methodology (which he’d witnessed before), no cashier had any plausible means through which to pocket, for example, fifteen dollars out from his or her cash register.

It then occurred to Gord—who wouldn’t have left while truly believing that he’d been taken for fifteen dollars—that matters could’ve turned sour, physically and legally, especially considering the atypically very small body frame of the young adult cashier, had that guy in line not witnessed the transaction and spoke up.

Upon arriving at his apartment and being in private, Gord briefly wept. Apparently, the sole realistic explanation was, in a manner of speaking, his mind erroneously told his eyes what they were seeing or not seeing, thus his own eyes were being overruled and fooled by his flawed brain and therefore his mind.

What the fuck is wrong with me?! he mentally cried out.

During the restless night to follow, Gord recalled similar perturbing incidents, one of which involved a ‘missing’ flash drive. After 30 minutes of futile search and hence considering it

lost, it reappeared out from nowhere. ‘Seeing should not necessarily mean believing,’ Gord cynically thought to himself, and ‘not seeing shouldn’t preclude believing.’

Then, two months later, Gord was looking all around his telephone stand, upon which for many years consistently lay a blue pen.

He made a concentrated though futile effort to find it: He lifted the entire phone three times to take in a very good look of the telephone stand surface followed closely by a thorough look on the carpeting around the stand, though the pen was nowhere to be found.

Confirming that it all was not just him somehow overlooking its actual presence, Gord went to his bedroom to retrieve another pen. But upon returning to the living room, where he instinctually took another glance, there lay the ‘missing’ blue pen—right next to the telephone, as blatant as an inanimate object could be.

Exceptionally worried about the gradual accumulation of mind-malfunctioning incidents, for there were also a few such experiences that went unmentioned, Gord considered what plausibly may have cerebrally compromised him to such an extensively alarming degree.

He thought about, as one of two main suspects, the heavy dose of anesthesia he received prior to the invasive open-heart surgery that he underwent about a half-year earlier to have his congenitally malformed aortic valve replaced—anesthesia being a substance that can leave a surgery patient with permanent cerebral dysfunctions.

Why didn’t they tell me that before I went under the knife? Ah, I would’ve went for it, anyway; what else would I doit was life or death? Thinking such led him to recall a character in the horror movie Pet Sematary (based on Stephen King’s book of the same title), who tearfully told his neighbour, “sometimes, dead is better.”

Gord then considered an alternative and even more plausible theory than that involving anesthesia, a possibility involving a terrible vice he permanently quit only a few months earlier: Are these perturbing occurrences the result of possible brain damage due to all of that heavy pill popping? Or perhaps a combination of the pill popping and the anesthesia?

As for the pill popping, it was at least as plausible of an explanation as the anesthesia-culprit theory. During the previous ten years, Gord occasionally abused various opiate painkillers, though he especially seriously abused non-opiate medications and sedatives, the most notable being off-the-shelf, extra-strength sleeping-aid pills. Although he not once intended to overdose, nor even considered the possibility, it amazed him how not once did he even in the least feel compelled nor any need to go to the local hospital’s emergency ward.

Sure, I managed to readily absorb so much of the potential-overdose drug potency that I didn’t even once require my stomach be pumped out; but, really, at what cost did I survive? Damn! Gord cursed. I was lucky enough to be born with a healthy brain; then I go fuck it up real good!

Apparently, self-forgiveness and the water-under-the-bridge perspective were a no-go with him, especially when he considered how easily that (or so he believed) he could’ve avoided the whole gratuitous vice matter if only he’d respected himself more. Now I can’t even be sure of what my own fucking eyes are seeing!

Gord also contemplated a third and final theory, albeit with very little plausibility: Could it be the mind manipulation of a host haunting or possession by a malevolent or even diabolical spirit?

When Gord decided to relate all that he disturbingly experienced to his sole sibling, his older (by three years) sister Marie, she considerately avoided patronizing him by not downplaying his worries. ‘Brain tumor,’ however, was her unnerving theory as to the most likely culprit afflicting Gord, but she dared not exacerbate his anxiety. Instead, she arranged a string of appointments that were necessary to procure referrals in order to have Gord’s brain thoroughly examined via image-scan, and she did so without unnecessarily informing him of every stomach-turning step of the way.

Gord also began sharing with Marie other disturbing occurrences that he was experiencing. He also noted for her how “things in life have been particularly crazy for me since I was discharged from the hospital after my surgery.”

He told her about his repeated dreams in which he’d always lose his gold chain necklace and crucifix. Never able to locate it before the dream’s end, Gord felt teased, even mocked, by some derelict consciousness that would closely surround him; it allowed him to get close to finding the jewelry yet then throw him way off the trail at the last moment. He then experienced worse dreams, in which the same gold necklace and crucifix would get snapped right off of his neck by some invisible force.

About seven weeks after the nightmares began, Gord awoke one morning to find that the necklace was nowhere to be found. He always left it on his dresser before climbing into bed, as he was certain that he did the night prior (although it seemed that “certain” was not at all necessarily “for certain”). During spare time on the following three days, he spent hours futilely searching for it.

Were his eyes yet again erroneously informing his flawed brain, or vice versa, as to what was or was not before him. Regardless, Gord felt strongly that he wouldn’t see that necklace and crucifix again.

As it were, eventually those nightmares became but mild preludes to truly very bad nightmares.

Around a quarter past two early one morning, when Gord awoke from his typically disturbed REM sleep while positioned on his right side, he was quickly overwhelmed by a nauseating sense of a malevolent presence immediately behind him. Gord was certain that some nasty presence was attracted to him; even worse, he sensed its intent to get even closer. I’m not just dreaming this! he confirmed. No, this is for real!

Terrified, Gord felt the presence wrap itself around his entire body, all of which had the complete wrapping of his blanket, as he continued pretending to be asleep and therefor unaware of the malevolent presence.

Feeling that he isn’t fooling the entity with his faked sleep, Gord attempted and miserably failed at a prayer-through-thought resistance—a theological concept with which he was raised as a Catholic but had not believed while growing up would actually work: In the name of …, the holy words began flowing in his mind, but he couldn’t continue his rebuke of the presence past the word “of.”

In the name ofI rebuke you in the holy name of … In the blessed name of …

Gord couldn’t even express the main holy words mentally, for what it was worth, let alone express them out loud—the latter which he was plainly too petrified to dare, lest the thing get pissed off and blatantly show its clichéd ugly self.

Only a minute later, the extra-dimensional finally got physical. Gord could feel something solid, like two fingers tapping one after the other, gradually making their way along his blanket-covered body’s left side (which, of course, was turned upwards).

Is there any way this can all be just one of those more normal horrific night-terrors things or something likewise?! he mentally screamed out, rhetorically. One that’s not at all real?!

Even as the physical contact gradually ceased, Gord remained still, stiff, maintaining his (already presumed failed) faked sleep and total obliviousness to any malevolent presence. Yet after about an hour of apparent entity-non-presence, Gord managed to adequately relax in order to slowly fall asleep again.

Not that surprising, upon awaking the next morning (around nine), some aspect of his troubled psyche stubbornly clung to some possibility that he was actually half asleep and half dreaming the ordeal. Meanwhile, another though greater aspect of his burdened mind persistently grasped to a large possibility that the unforgettable terror was not at all but a product of semi-sleep and partial dreamscape.

Sitting in his recliner chair as he replayed the worst nightmare that he experienced ever, Gord considered a concept that could hit two very problematic birds with the same stone: What if the two negative phenomena—i.e. the short-circuiting between his retinas and brain, and the presence of some entity—are of the same source?

What if the entity is somehow causing my visual sensory flaw?

“Good thinking, Gordon,” said the ‘voice’ from deep within his mind. “But then again, how do you know that I’m not just of your own mind—say, a mind with a mind of its own? Or that I’m just a part of your psyche that’s telling you there’s something else in here besides your own consciousness, hmmm?”

Gord ‘heard’ that mental voice, or thought, or whatever, more distinctly than any such thing he experienced throughout his entire life. Am I going nuts?!

“Perhaps … ,” it derisively replied. “Then perhaps I’m going nuts along with you … you think?” It then chuckled.

“Go fuck yourself!” Gord blurted out before realizing what he just orally did. Oh, manI must be going nuts! He knew that no matter what was behind the apparent madness within him, either way it all was a very bad sign. Oh, God, what should I do?

“‘Oh God’ has nothing to do with anything,” reverberated through Gord’s mind. “I should know.”

Yeah, you seem to know everything, don’t you … Hey, I know; I’ll test it … me … whatever.

Okay, smartass, Gord intensely thought, so as to ensure that his thoughts would definitely be ‘heard’ if some derelict consciousness really did exist in his head. Tell me something that I could not possibly knowI mean, not at all possibly know.

Gord then clearly remembered the $50 note that went permanently missing about a week after he was discharged from hospital.

“Uhh, good one,” it said. “Try looking in between the folded clothing in the dresser … No, not the one in your room; look in the old one in the corner of your tiny dining room. There—amongst your new, unworn sweaters; try looking at the very back, left corner of the bottom drawer.”

Oh, man! Gord hastily leapt to find out if the unbelievable would be proven to actually be quite believable. He yanked the drawer completely out of its oak dresser-rail encasing and anxiously grabbed every piece of clothing, throwing them all out behind him as rapidly as he could.

“I knew it! Nada!” he gleefully blared, as though his mind having a mind of its own, relating untrue ‘secret information’ was the much better way to go.

“Oh, no, no, Gordon. Look inside the still slightly folded sleeve of that ugly, green one furthest behind you,” it smugly ridiculed him. Turning his head and face toward the grass-green sweater with one sleeve somehow still somewhat folded, Gord’s psyche rang with, “Yeah, that one! It’s there; go look!”

Gord’s heart sank, for he so strongly felt that it was going to be right—that the $50 would in fact be there. He looked, and it was.

For a couple minutes, he sat there cross-legged on the carpeted floor, stunned and motionless, with the $50 in his hand. Slowly getting back up onto his feet and feeling burdened with worry, Gord stuffed the fifty into his pocket.

How in hell did you know the fifty’s exact location?

“I observe everything you do—every second, minute, hour, day after day; more so, I observe almost everything entirely from deep within your mind … As for how long I’ve been around you, that’s something I’m sure you’ll soon figure out for yourself.”

Was it all your doing that scared the shit out of me while in bed the other night? And if sowhy? Gord mentally queried.

“I did, and because I could. And because I figured that, judging from your religious trinket necklace and very apparent rearing, you’d try to cast a godly spell to exorcize me ‘back to hell’ … Really, where do you people get this notion that anything unseen and nasty must be demonic and not just some mighty-pissed-off human ghost who survived bodily death?”

I don’t know what else you do with your spirit form, Gord replied, but your maliciousness is demonic enough for me … But Gord received naught following that last poke at the mean-spirited entity, at least for the time being.

About two weeks later, however, it returned to its invasion of Gord’s psyche.

During some of Gord’s most vivid dreams ever, the entity revealed undesirable aspects of his life and death; more specifically, though, how he died of heart failure just hours before he was to finally receive an aortic valve transplant, after his scheduled surgery was delayed a full day, all of which thus cost him his life: “It was the surgeon’s last-second decision to delay my procedure, supposedly for a more urgent case—an old, Asian immigrant, who couldn’t even speak or understand English!”

His lingering, spiteful spirit cursed (though, likely to his disappointment, without any effect) every health worker involved with the very most costly delay possible to him involved with his scheduled heart surgery.

Soon, the entity included within the dreams more-revealing specifics about his life.

Calling himself Jonathon, he was so exceptionally bitter during so much of his life, “one of bleak hardship,” that his spirit, without a hint of regret, declared that he was and still is an ardent atheist. Although, Jonathon was not at all the compassionate secular-humanist sort, but rather one who felt only contempt towards collective humanity: “You all can go to hell! And if there is in fact a God, a Christ, or what-have-you, he, it or they can also go to hell!”

But eventually came the time that Gord sought more than just the imagery in his dreams; he really wanted hardcopy proof.

“I looked at some files in the hospital’s library, Marie, and he was there,” Gord emphasized, excitedly wide-eyed. “It read …,” he began while looking down at the folded sheet of paper onto which he wrote, quoting the library records, word for word. “It read, ‘July 10, 2006 … congenitally malformed aortic valve transplant heart patient Jonathon Worsky, aged 52, expired pre-op. Surgery scheduled for 6 a.m. but pushed back for one day due to priority emergency heart patient’.”

Though she gave much credence to what he was telling her—there was too much strange phenomena occurring to simply dismiss it all—she nonetheless insisted that her brother get his brain extensively checked, “to be on the safe side,” extensive tests and image scans which she was able to arrange only by utilizing her spare time while off work and tireless effort.

“Really,” she responded, taking the paper from his hand and perusing its written content.

He then fervently went on that the information supported his theory of how the angry entity may have come to be.

“By the way, Gord, do both of us a favour and don’t immediately tell the neurologist about the ghost, entity, ‘Jonathon whatever-his-last-name,’ anything about … you know. You can tell him about all that sometime later, so that the doctor can sharply focus on your visual-related problems. That’s the main reason I worked hard to get you that appointment—remember, for Tuesday at one o’clock.”

“But what if the visual stuff is directly related to …?” he attempted to legitimately point out but was cut off.

“Like I said, Gord, just wait a little while, please.”

Regardless of the past-twelve-year absence of their single-parent mother, who lost her fight against brain cancer, Gord still had a mother-role-model in his big sister; and with some family history of mental illness, Gord, with urging from Marie, agreed to be tested for schizophrenia or any other psychiatric disorder that causes hallucinations. To their great relief, every test result was solidly in the negative.

Lastly, and most important of all the testing, Gord underwent a Positron Emission Topography scan, i.e. PET scan. (It wasn’t considered to be of an urgent necessity in Gord’s case, a conclusion that cost him a bundle because he could access such a PET scan only in Seattle; PET-scan units are accessible in Canada only in rare cases of urgent medical necessity or important research.) The findings of the PET scan of his brain, according to neurologist Dr. Radis Dronovich, were not of a cut-and-dry ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ finding nature, but rather they were “inconclusive.”

What was revealed involved an abundance of irregularity in the part of his brain that processes his visual perception of the immediate environment surrounding him.

Gord anxiously looked over the three PET-scan image hardcopy prints, then he glanced at his sister sitting next to him.

Wearing a bewildered facial expression, the doctor continued explaining: “Through colour variances of PET-scan images, your scan clearly indicates a significant amount of anomalous neural activity in that specific region of your brain. In fact, I’ve never seen or even heard of such PET-scan-image findings. It’s as though … It’s almost as though there are two independent sources of consciousness functioning in that very region. But, of course, there has to be an acceptable, reasonable explanation; I will definitely discuss your scan images with other reputable …”

“Are you saying that I have a split personality or some other mental disorder?” Gord anxiously interrupted the doctor, with desperation in his voice.

“No—and that’s just it: If it was a matter of a split or multiple personality disorder (nonetheless serious as that definitely would be), the pieces of the puzzle, so to speak, would at least fit together.”

“What do you mean, ‘pieces of the puzzle’?” Gord again anxiously interrupted.

The doctor pondered for a moment before deciding to just come out and say what was baffling him so.

“According to the varied-colour PET-scan images of your segmented brain activity, the other ‘consciousness,’ or what it appears as, could not be a product of your own brain functions or, more accurately, dysfunctions; rather, it looks to be that of an … of an external source or sentience. However, like I said,” the doctor quickly began his next sentence to avoid being cut off yet again by a panicky Gord, “I’ll discuss the …”

“Oh, God, I feel nauseous,” he nevertheless interrupted, holding his hands to his belly. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

Marie placed her hand on his. “Maybe you should go to the …”

“No, I think I’ll be okay,” he assured his sister.

Furthermore, the doctor rather reluctantly continued, the area of Gord’s brain at issue has neural connections with almost all other regions of the brain—though most notably the part which specifically deals with the sense of sight and the cerebral connection between the eye retina, the optic nerve and the brain’s visual-image information processing centre.

“Fully understanding what the PET scans are displaying,” concluded Dr. Dronovich, “would considerably enable us to explain most, if not all, of the brain-function abnormalities you’re experiencing.”

Marie drove her brother home, with neither uttering a word. With the car parked outside his apartment complex residence, Gord suggested, “Do you want to order Chinese, tonight, instead of pasta and sauce, again?”

“Sure—why not.” Although not openly saying so, she was feeling quite concerned over his excessively bizarre cerebral condition, perhaps even more worried than Gord himself.

They locked the car doors and went inside.

Sitting herself down on the couch, Marie clicked the TV remote control and began channel surfing for something not too boring. Gord, however, went straight to his bedroom and began rummaging around for a couple minutes, then blurted out, “Where the fuck did I put them!”

“What?” She turned her head to look down the short, narrow hallway (or “stubby,” as she often mocked it), then got up. “Where’s what?”

“My damn keys,” he replied, as she stood in the doorway. “I just put them down a few minutes ago. I’m sure that I placed them down on the dresser as usual, but they’re nowhere to be found.”

Marie, pretty sure of what her brother was presuming, tried reassuring him: “Gord, just because you’ve misplaced them doesn’t necessarily mean that …”

“Actually,” he cut in, “I am beginning to think that, yet once again, it was not I who ‘misplaced them’.”

Then, having briefly scanned the room, his sister spotted the set of keys laying on his dresser: “Look,” she said, procuring Gord’s glance at her, then at the dresser top.

“What? Look at what?”

“That,” she repeated, maintaining her stare at the keys. “Right there.”

“Once more—what and where?!” he asserted agitatedly, having again looked at Marie and then the dresser.

“Right there!” she insisted, pointing hard as she became frightened by Gord’s serious visual disability. “You’re looking right at them. You can’t see them?”

Gord was about to frustratingly answer in the negative, when his eyes blinked and the keys appeared out of nowhere—all four of them (including two superfluous keys to a long-gone Cadillac), ringed together and hanging from his lucky rabbit’s foot keychain.

“Now I can see them, Marie.”

After staring, stunned, at the keys for but a moment, Gord heard laughing break out within his mind, a sinister bellow like that of a madman.

Looking wide-eyed at Marie, Gord decided that he had nothing to lose by attempting to audibly, firmly declare the holy words; and he did his utmost to start and finish stating them all, but the words clumped together uselessly like they were stuck inside the throat of a sink’s clogged drainage pipe.

Just as with the Jonathon entity getting physical on that terrifying night while cowering under his blanket, Gord didn’t have it within him to successfully utilize those holy words this time, either.

“Look! Look!” Marie urged her brother yet again as she pointed at the keys. “They’re moving!”

The keys slowly dragged along the dresser as the two, astonished siblings (especially Marie) gawked slack-jawed. Then the keys, without any pre-indication, flung from the dresser and directly into Gord’s nose.

“Aw—ooww!” was his reaction to the jagged metallic sting, before rubbing the back of his hand over his nose. The two looked down where the keys lay motionless on the floor.

And that was it. The brick upon the top of all the other bricks that were already breaking the camel’s back, thus breaking it altogether: “I’m moving the hell out of here!”

“You can stay at my place until you can find a decent, local place of your own,” Marie immediately offered

“Thanks anyway; sis; I’ll just move in with Josh. He told me I’m more than welcome to live at his place, split the rent and the rest, etcetera.”

Gord’s head then went a bit numb when the thought was shoved into his psyche that Jonathon might not be at all ready to leave him just yet, let alone permanently.

Well, then, you’re really going to enjoy Joshua, Gord sarcastically, mentally made clear. Josh is a practicing Christian, who’s not shy about his strong belief in and passion for Christ, God the father, the holy spirityou know, the whole trinity thing. He prays and reads The Bible out loud and has lots of Christian symbolism in almost every room. Shall I think some more …?

Gord’s thought message to the entity was indeed provocative as it obviously was meant to be.

“Go fuck yourself, Gordon?” was Jonathon’s bitter response.

The entity always mocked the notion that he was of demonic origin—in fact, Jonathon basically denied that such diabolical spirits, not to mention the good guys God and Christ, even exist; nevertheless, he found the atmosphere in that emptied apartment unit a little too uncomfortable in which for him to remain after Gord had sprinkled the place extensively with holy water that he acquired from the local church.

Once the two adversaries had permanently parted ways, the Jonathon entity’s ‘voice,’ etcetera, also permanently ceased.

Just eight days after moving in with Josh, Gord happened upon his necklace and crucifix, in the sleeve of one of his neatly folded sweaters.

Frank G Sterle Jr

The Pardonsfield Pit

“Pardon (noun): the action of forgiving or being forgiven for an error or offense … A remission of the legal consequence of an offense or conviction … ” [The New Oxford Dictionary of English]

_______

“I tell you—we’ll burn in Hell, we will, for our part in this crime against God’s great creation!”

“Shut your pie hole, and do what you were well paid to do! Really, now; whining over a lot of foul papists! Really, now!”

“I tell you, we’ll burn for sure … For sure!”

And there were other such men of conscience, although they were but a small minority amongst the two dozen men from the New England township of Pardonsfield. But they felt at least the same amount of fear of God’s wrath as they did guilt, and they weren’t forced to spend the following six nights digging a large pit into increasingly rigid, early November 1767 ground. In fact they rather hastily willingly accepted the five-times the usual pay for such labor during such hours and cold time of year. Once it was wide and deep enough, they began filling the pit with the bodily remains of the ‘undesirables’—some still putrid flesh while others naught but dry skeletons.

The undesirables were torn from their true graves, their supposed ‘final resting place,’ and then callously dumped into the big hole, located just inside of the town’s westernmost boundary. The pit’s location was adjacent to the very small piece of Pardonsfield consisting of the tiny homes of the poorest, unhealthiest segment of the township’s populace.

The human remains were from Pardonsfield Cemetery (the only cemetery within the township’s official boundaries), callously removed and ‘relocated’ because their close proximity there was unwanted by the majority citizenry. They were the contents of the graves of mostly impoverished, sickly, Catholic Irish and Eastern European immigrants who’d sought better lives in the New World, thousands of miles away from their birthplace, for themselves and their descendants.

What they instead received at their new home, however, was mostly hardship and often untimely, difficult death due to various rampant illnesses.

Perhaps needless to mention, all of the graves of non-undesirables were left to rest in peace.

Pardonsfield’s governing council consisted of five elected wealthy, motivated men (one of whom received the four others’ approval to act as council chairman) of good standing—at least amongst the dominant desirable citizens of the township.

A recent council meeting saw the first forwarded motion unanimously passed, resulting in the township immediately initiating the development of a much needed hospital or ‘sanitarium’ to treat the often overwhelming number of tuberculosis or Consumption sufferers.

The large structure’s foundation, it was then mentioned, would require that it reach fifteen feet below ground level.

Council Chairman Charles Renfield hastily coldheartedly forwarded a motion that one-third of the structure should be built upon the precise portion of the graveyard collectively occupied by the remains of undesirables. With the exception of the sole nay vote by the emphatically-opposed Councilman Richard Jitens, the council callously passed the motion.

With lightening striking the same spot twice, Renfield forwarded a second motion that again was opposed by Jitens though nevertheless passed, that the headstones crowning the undesirables’ graves be removed and stored for re-sale immediately upon the names and dates engraved on them being chiseled away.

In a third and final four-to-one council vote, it was also decided, according to anonymously worded council meeting minutes, “that the said occupants’ remains be exhumed and relocated to a location yet to be confirmed and then made fully public in the near future.”

But the council majority’s votes and decisions regarding the pit plan remained secret—even with the persistent holdout presence of Councilor Jitens. He reluctantly remained quiet about the council’s immoral pit-plan actions, lest the very small number of living Catholics eventually make their great offense public and thus be conveniently permanently silenced.

However, regardless of being an extremely malicious act, Jitens was aware that it would unlikely meet any resistance worthy of the council majority’s concern. Since pretty much all of those who were related to the grave-robbed-and-relocated papist undesirables were deceased papist undesirables themselves—mass deaths due almost entirely to the great consumption outbreak of twelve years prior—there conveniently was to be no public outrage of any sort.

“But God in Heaven will not overlook such a brazenly sacrilegious act, even if your church elders do,” boldly stated Councilor Jitens, a member of the local Presbyterian denomination, to his fellow councilmen. “It’s plain damn-well wrong!”

Chairman Renfield abrasively commenced his rebuttal by snapping back, “What do you know about ‘God in Heaven’ and what He does or does not condone?! What we do know is that He condemns idolater papists; not us for cleansing our cemetery of such foulness!”

Furthermore, added Renfield, it wasn’t just a matter of cleansing the graveyard of papist undesirables, “who do not even speak our language, at least not properly. But the sanitarium simply has to be built.”

Jitens remained silent as Renfield continued: “What we also know is that a large part of the cemetery land—a third, to be more accurate—is required for the sanitarium, which is already behind schedule. Therefore, the one-third portion sacrificed might as well be the specific third voted for by us; that’s why we’re acquiring the other two-thirds portion from the large MacDormid land just outside of that specific one-third cemetery portion for which we already voted four-to-one in favor of developing.”

His three in-favor fellow councilmen looked at one another, nodding in noble agreement, with pompous frowns on their lips and white brows raised.

As a whole, the council felt compelled to act as a useful tool for the wealthiest citizens in achieving their monetary goals. They even insisted that the council, in the case of the papists’ remains, vote on and pass legislation making Pardonsfield Cemetery officially off-limits as a final resting place for deceased undesirables.

Of course the men with wealth and influence wholeheartedly agreed with the council majority regarding their four-to-one vote decision as to the most convenient and desirable location for the construction of the new sanitarium.

The pit had originally been planned for a location on territory that had still belonged to local aboriginal peoples, but they were most outraged by what would actually end up filling the large pit. They were greatly offended by just the concept of the white settlers desecrating their dead folks’ graves, regardless of race, as well as where the disturbed human remains would forever be.

When the initially political confrontation turned deadly physical as hired township men forcefully began digging on the native land, seven diggers were brutally killed. They were thus honoured for ‘their sacrifice’ and respectfully buried in the majority desirable portion of Pardonsfield Cemetery, with each of all seven plots marked with a magnificent statuesque stone.

A half-dozen years later, however, the pit of human remains would soon include those of a recently deceased reverend of the Protestant faith, who in life had been an overly boisterous fundamentalist fire-and-brimstone preacher. Once well respected, Reverend Michael McPeters was beaten to death by the husband (Sean Murray) of a woman (Sarah) with whom the preacher had been practicing adulterous relations. When Mr. Murray proved to the townsfolk that the affair did indeed occur, the church’s flock was so shocked and outraged that they demanded the township council outlaw the very mention in public of the disgraced name of the fallen reverend. For all of his continuous loud quoting of Scripture “to my flock, which is righteously free of Satan’s papists,” his former faithful followers felt bitter over his hypocrisy and deceit.

The presence of the zealous preacher’s ghost angered the soured spirits of the pit. They sought retribution against all those who had enabled or even conveniently turned a blind eye away from the outrageous violation of their graves and plunder of their stone markers. To them the reverend was amongst the very worst of offenders, as a supposed Earthly representative of God Almighty.

Upon its production in full, many of the new sanitarium’s attendants immediately began experiencing frightening supernatural phenomena. Notably, every Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the translucent spirits of the preacher and his in-life-and-death followers could be seen in some extra-dimensional state of ‘church service’ within the sanitarium’s integrated house of worship.

It would take hours to calm the nerves of extremely upset observers, some of whom claimed witness to the sanitarium being frequently infested with lost souls who’d blindly follow the preacher’s ghost anywhere (including purgatory, if only they believed in such).

“The reverend was amongst the very few who’d learned of the council majority’s vile intention pretty much from its very inception, yet he was forever completely silent about the awful scheme,” Reverend Patrick O’Connar of Pardonsfield’s sole Presbyterian church told a half dozen of his parishioners as they all attended a local fair, though two and a half centuries later. “As far as he was concerned, the Roman Catholics’ souls were damned anyway, and he seemed perfectly at ease with himself.”

Some of the ghosts devoutly following the corrupted reverend’s spirit even turned physically vindictive. They attacked Sarah Murray—whom they solely blamed for the preacher’s moral decay and violent death—pinning her up flat against her ceiling thus scaring her nearly to death. Then, while Sarah was away, the same angry spirits ensured that husband Sean became trapped within their burning home.

Sarah buried her husband in the newly desirable Pardonsfield Cemetery, purchasing one of the many stolen headstones to mark his resting place. However, some weeks later the stone’s undesirable non-corporeal original occupier retaliated against Sarah. Not long after she’d told close friends about her nightmare in which a specter touched her chest, she was stricken with consumption yet still denied death until after suffering many physically-wasting months of misery.

Following her unattended unceremonious funeral, a Pardonsfield council majority decided to have her emaciated corpse dumped into the pit in order to make a potent example of her adulterous relations with the reverend, who himself had received such punishment for his role in the shameful affair.

Again frightening translucent manifestations greatly upset sanitarium attendants.

Considered to be the most disturbing of all apparitions reported there were those of grotesque likeness to—and poetically accompanied by the certain putrid odor of—human flesh and bone, certainly belonging to so many undesirables rejected port mortem by their living desirable Pardonsfield counterparts.

Said to be of the most benign specters witnessed would appear in the sanitarium’s largest room, in which consumption patients would either mend or inevitably perish. The ghost of a recognized deceased Irish nun, who had succumbed to influenza decades earlier only to be later added to the pit, would rush from one astonished patient to another, her lips hurriedly moving but not making a sound. While alive, Sister Maggie tended to the very sick, especially during serious illness outbreaks, at a convent located about a mile outside of the township. It had been converted into a makeshift Catholic church when the actual church, situated less than fifty feet from the convent, flash-fire burned to the ground only an hour after an All Souls Day mass service almost thirty-five years prior.

Then there were those of the most bizarre—manifestations of three dozen spirits lying motionless in neat uniform rows as though each was returned to his or her own individual grave plot. They all were reported to be floating about two feet off of the sanitarium’s icy cold, expansive basement floor.

When it was eventually shutdown and redeveloped (1926) into Pardonsfield’s first city hall, it was inexplicably plagued by electrical and plumbing problems, with every attempt at rectifying any of the problems being unsuccessful. Less than a year before the elected council and mayor unanimously voted in favor of closing down the relatively new city hall structure in 1943, almost all archived records pertaining to Pardonsfield and its past were destroyed on the same night by both fire and flooding.

Although, quite conspicuously the sole and virtually untouched surviving archival record was that regarding the township’s earliest (majority-vote) council’s blatantly discriminatory and ugly conduct in creating and maintaining Pardonsfield’s pit.

In the spring of 2007, specific ethnic and religious segments of the U.S. organized to strategically vote into power officials willing to open up the centuries-old though still embarrassing matter, even if only as a symbolic gesture.

Immediately following confirmation through delicate excavation that the pit was a shameful ugly fact came an attempt at reconciliation by way of official acts: A formal apology was made by Pardonsfield’s municipal government just before the ceremonious sanctification of the pit site, having been officially designated its own fully guarded graveyard status. Furthermore, the municipality provided funding for a large memorial marker in acknowledgement of the great wrong committed against the Pardonsfield pit victims.

Just a few months after that, the newly designated graveyard was granted permanent special protection as a location of historical significance and reminder of an immense injustice, regardless of what historical context in which it was committed.

Although few in number, to the present day there are additional testaments of apparitions seen but not heard at the site of the formerly unmarked infamous Pardonsfield pit. They’re said to be specters of the zealously ranting preacher at what appears to be his ghostly flock. “I’ve heard some people say that it’s as though his followers in life will revere the man for eternity,” noted Rev. O’Connar in finality. “The same people also feel that the preacher much appears oblivious to his non-corporeal existence. So it’s said.”

Frank G Sterle Jr