Short Story Sunday: Writing on the Wall

Every house I’ve ever lived in as an adult has had writing on the wall. It’s usually phone numbers in the garage next to the automatic sprinkler controls, or labels in the pantry closet, or construction notes. I’ve lived in a couple of places that had backs of closets illustrated by children who are now senior citizens.

Earlier this week my husband Steve and I started painting the walls in our family room and breakfast nook. We’re doing a major decorative remodel. Think “Property Brothers” or something along those lines. As he pulled out screws that previous owners used to hang some large pieces of art or maybe a giant fish or something.

Anyway, a large piece of plaster fell off of the wall. Steve swore something under his breath using the words “fuck” and “damn.” He called me over.

“Look at this honey. What do you think?”

On the wall these words were scrawled in black ink: I killed Heather Marie Larkin. She was a bitch and deserved to die. Her body is buried under the house. JKR 1989.

“Do you think it’s true?” I asked Steve.

“I don’t know. It could be a joke. Have you ever heard of Heather Marie Larkin?”

“I don’t know. It sounds sort of familiar. I’ll look it up.”

The Internet was all over Heather Marie Larkin. She’d been twenty-four years old, a recent college graduate, engaged to a brilliant law student named Ted LaRue. From the comments it looked like the Heather wasn’t well liked. Not just because of her spectacular good looks and charmed life, but for the fact she was a horrible person. Heather Marie Larkin was the girl who got away with everything. If anyone was in her way they would fall – and fall hard.

One night in 1989 Heather vanished and was never seen or heard from again. No clues. No suspects. Nothing. JKR was Joanna Katrina Randolph. She married Ted LaRue two years after Heather vanished. Her parents had built the house in 1982.

Steve said, “You know if she is buried under our house we’ll never be able to sell it. The press will be all over the place. This will always be known as a murder house. Those true crime people will be all over the place, looking in our windows and trying to bug us about things, not to mention the ghost hunters.”

“Good point,” I said.

“Glad you agree. Hand me the paint brush sweetie.”

And I did.

~ end.

 

 

 

 

Burning Question #18: Was It murder?

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We will agree that we all know who Edgar Allan Poe was and are familiar with some of his work. I’ll have a reading list at the end for reference.

Don’t run off before you answer the poll below. It is fast and easy and the reason we’re here today. Just scroll down (but read the amazing story too.)

Welcome to the Next Great True Crime Mystery

In October of 1849, ten years before I was born, my parents were arriving in California with a baby boy and a group of Vampires who’d come out West to start a new life.

In the meantime, across the country on October 3, 1849, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, “in great distress, and… in need of immediate assistance”, according to Joseph W. Walker who found him. Poe later died on Sunday, October 7, 1849 at 5:00 in the morning. Poe was never coherent long enough to explain how he came to be in his dire condition and, oddly, was wearing clothes that were not his own. He is said to have repeatedly called out the name “Reynolds” on the night before his death, though it is unclear to whom he was referring. Some sources say that Poe’s final words were “Lord help my poor soul”.

All medical records and Poe’s death certificate were conveniently lost. 

Newspapers at the time reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”, To translate that means he died of the overuse of alcohol. To this day the actual cause of death remains a mystery. Speculation has included a multitude of dire conditions including delirium tremens, heart disease, epilepsy, syphilis, meningeal inflammation, cholera, and rabies. 

The day that Edgar Allan Poe was buried, a long obituary appeared in The New York Post signed “Ludwig”. It was soon published throughout the country. The piece began, “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.”

“Ludwig” was soon identified an asshole named Rufus Wilmot Griswold an editor, critic, and anthologist who had borne a grudge against Poe since 1842. Griswold somehow became Poe’s literary executor (no doubt through lies and bribes)and attempted to destroy Poe’s reputation after his death.

The story was fabricated by Griswold, and it was denounced by those who had known Poe, including Sarah Helen Whitman, Charles Frederick Briggs, and George Rex Graham. This account became popularly accepted, in part because it was the only full biography available and was widely reprinted. It also remained popular because many readers assumed that Poe was similar to his fictional characters and were thrilled at the thought of reading the works of an “evil” man.

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Nevermore

A more accurate biography of Poe did not appear until of 1875 (Ingram). But once a lie is out it is difficult to retract it. Many writers used Poe as a cautionary tale against alcohol and drugs.  In 1941, Arthur Hobson Quinn presented evidence that Griswold had forged and re-written a number of Poe’s letters that were included in his “Memoir of the Author”. By then, Griswold’s depiction of Poe was entrenched in the mind of the public, both in America and around the world, and this distorted image of the author has become part of the Poe legend despite attempts to dispel it.

The very fact that Poe, a snappy and fashionable man was found in worn out clothing in a gutter went against the nature of the man. I believe he suffered from depression, of course, but I also believe that the notion of him drinking himself to death is wrong.

In the 19th Century, in America, people, especially man, all drank copious amounts of alcohol. The temperance movement in the United States was well founded due to the amount of alcohol most people consumed. Drink did not agree with Edgar Poe. So we he drank it went right to his head in extreme ways, but yet, if he had passed up a drink that would have gone against the social norms.

A few months before his death Edgar Allan Poe became engaged to his childhood sweetheart Sarah Elmira Royster. There were rumors that her brothers, who were against the union, had Poe murdered.

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Sarah Elmira Royster Poe’s Love Interest at the time of he is death.

Poe’s friend Sarah Helen Whitman, a poet, and woman of good standing always insisted he did not die a dishonorable man.

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Sarah Helen Whitman Poet and Friend of Poe

He did die a brilliant story teller and the father of the modern murder mystery, and modern horror.

If you get a chance look up the different stories about Poe. You’ll be amazed at what is out there.

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Or, on the other hand, Edgar Allan Poe might still be with us, having come aboard the ship to California with the rest of the Vampires.

Burning Question #18: Was Edgar Allan Poe Murdered?

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The Black Cat Illustrated by Gris Grimly

 

When I was a child my brother’s and I used to read Poe around a candle at night. Well, they’d read. As the youngest child I’d just let them scare the jeebers out of me. Later I read the stories on my own. And of course we’ve all seen (much later) the Vincent Price movies.

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Poe by Harry Clarke

Some of the Works of Poe:

Other works

Also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

The Poe Shadow
by Daniel Pearl
Yes it is one of my favorite books. You must read it.

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So your project for this summer is to read everything you can by Edgar Allan Poe, or about Edgar Allan Poe, and SOLVE THE MYSTERY.

Your next project is to keep checking back here on Saturday mornings for the next BURNING QUESTION.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

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Short Story Sunday: College Daze

Ninety percent of my time as an undergrad was spent in weird Dr. Harrison’s biochemistry lab. The other ten percent of my time was living vicariously through my roommate Tony, who partied and got laid enough for an entire frat house full of horny guys.

Mavis stood up and stepped away from the keyboard. Earlier in the week she’d dropped her eighteen year old son Axel off at college – the same college she’d gone to. Now she was starting notes for her seventeenth novel in the popular Detective Star Landers Mystery Series.

She didn’t want her son to be like either one of the characters in her novel. She knew he wouldn’t be like Tony, but then again you never really knew what your kids were up to when they weren’t with you.

Axel was the youngest of her three kids. Jared and Zoe were also in college at opposite ends of the state. Axel was in the middle. She went outside with her coffee cup and looked at the backyard the kids had played in for years. Two dogs of unknown breeds were sleeping under the shade of the trees. Both animals were from the county shelter. The kids were helped pick them out. A lot of memories were in that yard and with those dogs.

After making more coffee Mavis sat down at her laptop again. She looked outside through the window and thought of her own college days. She didn’t think about it much. She didn’t keep in touch with anyone. After taking a sip of coffee she started to write again.

He did make time for Darcie. All he had to do was show up at her door and she’d screw him silly. She never expected love. Just friendship and sex. He was always up for that. One night he’d shown up at the little house she’d rented behind a bigger house. It was really more of a shed with a kitchen and bathroom added on to it. Anyway, it was 2:00 a.m. and Darcie was wearing a robe. Her face was red and swollen. It looked like her hands were covered in blood. 

She told him that she’d been attacked by a guy named Clayton Jones. Sure everyone knew Clay. He thought he was God’s gift to women, but slutty Darcie would never sleep with him. Clay called her a whore. She shrugged. 

Darcie had been to a party that night. Clay had tried to get her to fuck him. As always she said no. About twenty minutes after she got home Clay came to call. He beat her up and raped her. When he was done she hit him on the head with a lamp. 

Mavis looked up and rubbed her eyes. Then she started in on her notes again.

He was bleeding. He called her a bitch. She said she’d take him to the hospital. Down the road, behind a warehouse, she covered his car with lighter fluid and dropped a match on it. Poof. It with up in flames with Clay in the passenger seat. She walked home, and that is where I found her, sitting in her robe, covered in blood. 

Mavis saved the file. Then she deleted it.

She sipped her coffee again. Earlier in the week Axel had asked her about her college years. She’d told him it was sort of boring. She liked the classes but didn’t get into the social life part. Then her youngest son asked her if she knew that guy Clay who’d been murdered. She told him no. She didn’t know anything about it.

“You met dad in college. Did he know that guy Clay?” Axel had asked.

“He might have,” said Mavis, then she changed the subject.

She started a new page.

I never told anyone what Mavis did. 

Then she erased that line, and called her husband. Not for any reason. Just to tell him that she loved him. That was all

 

~ end

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: The List

Halloween candy
Olive oil (the good kind, don’t get the cheap stuff)
Toothpicks
Gin
Garlic stuffed olives
Fresh basil
Red bell peppers (2)
Green bell (2)
Apples
Pasta (nothing flat. Get a shape.)
Bleach
Rubber Gloves
paper towels
Large plastic garbage bags
Matches
Lighter fluid
Drain cleaner

Stop by the hardware store and pick up some drop clothes, duck tape, a couple of hacksaw blades (to fit the old blue handle) and a 50 pound bag of lime.
Love you. xoxox thanks.

Eric looked at the grocery list his wife had given him. Sometimes he asked her about the lists but he knew she’d get mad. Then he wondered if it was Duck Tape or Duct Tape. Was Duck Tape a brand. His daughter had talked about making a prom dress out of duck tape. Then he wondered who his wife was going to kill this time.

She was landscaping the yard. They were grilling a lot. She was going to paint the bathrooms. She had a list of people she thought the world would be better off without.

He thought of the box of newspaper articles his wife had kept. One was about a Girl Scout in troop 455 who had died when she fell into a pit toilet on a camping trip. His wife had been part of troop 455. One article was about a fifteen year old girl who’d vanished on a trip to the lake. Another was about a young man, a promising high school foot ball player, who lost his legs when a metal bookshelf in the library fell on him – a shelf that had been previously bolted to the wall in a section about ancient history that was rarely visited, except by this one boy who was a young scholar in Greek and Roman history. And yet another article was about a girl who vanished after going to the rest room at Senior Ball – the same year his wife was a senior in high school. The final article was about a woman his wife used to work for. She’d jumped out of the 5th floor of a building they’d been working in. On the way down she hit two people on the ground. All three died. Nobody knew why she’d jumped. She was known as rising star in her field and up for a promotion. After the funeral his wife took over her boss’s job.

Then he remembered that his son told him not to get any gross Halloween candy or every kid in the neighborhood would think they were uncool.

Eric was shaken out of his thoughts when his phone vibrated. There was a text from is wife.

 

Working late. But I think I’m getting the VP job. Have a feeling Bob might be going away. xoxox

He’d pick up some flowers on the way home too, just to keep his wife in a good mood.

 

~ end

 

 

 

 

Short Story Sunday: Morning at the Vineyard

This is one of what I consider my top five favorites. It was first published here in 2012. Enjoy.

 

Morning at the Vineyard

A twisted tale by Juliette Kings

 

Andrew didn’t remember much when the door opened with blinding light waking him from his sleep, much less the voice that said “You aren’t dead.”

“Of course I’m not dead.” Andrew lifted himself up on his elbow and looked around at the bedroom.

“You were so cold. We couldn’t hear your heart.” A slim woman with long slightly graying hair stood near the bed.

“That’s what all the girls say.” No response. “That was a joke.”

“Oh. Ha ha ha. Good one.” Uncomfortable laughing.

There was the taste of blood in his mouth, but not his own. It must have been a Hell of a night. He looked at the woman again. She was pretty but not young, standing there in a flowing sundress and pretty light summer sweater. Nice. This would be fairly easy staying here for a few days, but he would still be cautious. Sometimes the most easy ones turned out to be the most dangerous.

Andrew started to get up and realized he was naked under the sheets.

“Your clothes were soaked and also covered with blood. We thought about calling the police but my husband Ian said to wait until morning. My husband Dennis said the same. I don’t agree with them. We should have called the police as soon as we found you.”

“Where was I?”

“In the vineyard, face down in the dirt. Your car was in a ditch with four flats and the front end smashed in. We pulled it out.”

The Tesla. Quiet and fast and expensive. Then he thought about what she said. “Husbands? You mentioned two husbands.”

“We practice polyandry. Two husbands, one wife, one family. It isn’t legal or common or accepted by most people but…”

“I don’t have a problem with it. As long as it works for you.”

“It does.”

She took a stack of clothing, jeans, a shirt, etc, from the top of the dresser and gave it to Andrew. “Clean clothing. Breakfast will be ready in about a half hour. And we’ll discuss who you are and why you’re here and where all the blood came from.” Then she turned and left the room.

What a night. The fog started to clear from Andrew’s brain. He staggered up out of the bed and closed the window shades. Damn sunlight. Looking in the mirror the reflection looked back showing a well-built man with alabaster skin, long chestnut curls flowing down his back, a classically handsome face and hazel eyes the color of the blue-green southern seas. His mouth twitched showing fangs. He quickly gained his composure and hid the teeth and rubbed his tired eyes.

“Shit. What the crap happened to you Andrew,” he said to himself. There was wine, a lot of wine. There were women. There was a guy named Brant and his friend Chet. There was the girl Ginger…she had AB + blood, Chet had O. Oh no. Why didn’t he remember? And how’d he end up face down in the middle of a vineyard? Zinfandel. He knew what kind of grapes they were.

Taking a 3 minute shower, he towel dried his long locks, pulled on the clothes the woman had left him and went down the stairs. He could smell food cooking and coffee. He gripped the banister to prevent himself from throwing up everything inside of his stomach. He’d over done it for sure, blood and wine. Wine and blood. Sex too but that was a blur. Food might do him some good.

In the kitchen were two men and the woman, along with half a dozen kids in who ranged from about 8 to 17.

He looked at the men. A large blonde man who looked like a former football player introduced himself as Ian. Dennis was shorter with the look of a History Professor or some sort of thing like that. They called the woman Carrie. One big happy family.

Ian poured Andrew coffee and welcomed him. They all welcomed him. This was getting creepy. Then again, Andrew was the Vampire, but he was sitting in the home of a farmer and wine maker and her two husbands and six kids. It was weird. But hey, he decided to make the best of it.

They made small talk. He thanked them for taking him in. Carrie put plates of eggs and fried tofu and toast and fruit and bacon and mushrooms on the table.

The teenage girls thought Andrew’s hair was great and asked him if he was in a band. He smiled minus fangs. He must have had at least five cups of coffee.

“Last night I thought you had some nasty scratches on your face,” mentioned Ian.

“I, uh, heal fast.” Andrew said that then wished he’d kept his mouth shut. He healed fast because he wasn’t like them. He took the blood and energy of regular normal people and in return, he made them feel good – like a rush that would last at least a week. Well, if he liked them and made a connection.

“Where’d all the blood come from? Except for the scratch on your face you didn’t have a mark on you.” As Carrie said that she gave him a long cold look.

“Blood? On me? I guess I drank too much. Too much of everything and threw up. I don’t know. My friends drank a lot and someone was doing some sort of recreational drugs or maybe prescription pain killers, I’m not sure, but I over did it. Listen, I’m so sorry about this and I really appreciate your hospitality. I’ve imposed on you. I wish there was something I could do to pay you back. Let me know.”

Ian gave him a pat on the arm. “We know what it is like to be different.”

“You’re a Vampire aren’t you?” Dennis asked as the kids all looked on.

Andrew brushed a damp lock of hair out of his face and suddenly felt a little warm. “Yes, but…”

“How long have you been a Vampire?” Carrie was asking now.

“I’ve always been one. My parents were Vampires. Um, I was born just down the road from here. October 22, 1851.”

The children were transfixed.

“We don’t have a problem with Vampires. Some food might settle your stomach Andrew,” said Carrie. “And you’re welcome to stay as long as you like. We found your phone and called your sister. She’ll be here in a couple of hours.”

This was all too strange for Andrew. He’d spent the past 100 years or thereabouts avoiding families and any kind of normal human lives. Years had passed traveling, and performing and enjoying wine and women and wild nights. But now he sat with a nice family with no pretenses. And rarely had he ever met humans who knew or even knew about real Vampires. It was so unusually weird.

“I sing opera,” he said to the kids. “Mainly opera but I can sing just about anything. Just got back from Patagonia and learned a bunch of folk songs. I can do metal too. That comes naturally.”

“I can imagine you do a great power ballad,” Carrie said with a smile, then she told the children to leave the room.

Andrew had to smile. This as so weird but he could get used to this. He looked at Carrie’s golden brown eyes. A positive blood, just like his. She’d make a good Vampire, or even just a snack.

He thought about his sister. It had been forever since he’d seen her or her children. It would be nice. More than nice. Maybe she’d get another husband too. He might suggest it. He smiled. That would be funny.

“What happened to my friends? Did you see any of them?” Andrew looked from Dennis to Ian then to Carrie. “Did they say where they went?”

Carrie looked him in the eye as Dennis and Ian flanked her side. “We buried them in the garden behind the carriage house.”

“Don’t worry,” said Dennis “Nobody ever found the other bodies we’ve buried, so they won’t find your friends.”

Andrew took another gulp of coffee and hoped his sister would arrive soon.

And that was the entire truth just as my brother Andrew told it to me.

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Tangled Tales

Tangled Tales

 

A Ghost Story

I’d like to take a break from my stories (true and untrue) and share a ghost story from my friend Rick Turton.  I met Rick online a few years ago when he joined a FB writing group I admin. I was impressed immediately by his sense of humor. He is also the father of my daughter’s fourth grade teacher Nate (one of the best teachers in the world.) Rick is also the author of the moving poem The Eagle Cried.

Thank you Rick for allowing me to share this one too.

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VM_ reaching out

 

A Real Ghost Story from Rick Turton

Like most stories, the beginning is not really the beginning. MY story’s beginning started in 1958 when we first moved into this enormous house. My family moved to the small ocean front town of Manhattan Beach, CA in 1953 from Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley, where my parents grew up.

The house itself was pretty spectacular; a white “Colonial” with three stories, five bedrooms, five bathrooms, three fireplaces and a built-in BBQ in the Game Room downstairs. Also in the Game Room was a full wet bar, an ancient upright piano and eventually a pool table. Surrounded by decks, verandas and patios; eucalyptus, beech and cypress trees abounded. She was the “Grand Dame” of Manhattan Beach, allegedly being the second permanent structure built in the city. The house itself was built out of the rubble of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake and originally had 10 acres of land surrounding it, including horse stables at the bottom of the hill. History says at one point there were 1 million bricks on the property!

My Mom fancied herself an interior decorator of sorts and to her credit did wondrous things to the inside of the house. Painting like a mad-woman day and night; my Dad would come home from work and grab a sandwich in one hand and a paint roller in the other to help out! But, growing up, there was always one bedroom in the house that seemed cold to me. The room was on the south-east upstairs corner of the house and always had plenty of light and sunshine, but…it always felt cold. My mom had decorated it in bright yellows and whites with starkly contrasting black accents, a very happy looking room…but it always felt cold.

As I was growing up, I occasionally heard my Mom & Dad talking of The Book that was written using the house as the setting. Because there were “graphic” details, I was not allowed to read The Book. (Remember, this was in the late 50’s and early 60’s.) There was even a movie made about The Book, starring Robert Wagner and Elizabeth Taylor!

Life was good in Manhattan Beach in the 60’s; people were laid-back, relaxed, and friendly. I enjoyed my schooling (as much as any kid could enjoy school!) I grew up there, had great parties through Jr. High School and high school, played a little basketball and then on to college. After college, Uncle Sam requested my presence for a little soirée he was hosting in Southeast Asia. I came home from the War, got married and we even had our wedding reception in the living room of the house.
After a tour in Germany and my eventual discharge from the Army, my Bride and I came back to live in the beach area. It was during this time that my parents decided to take a trip to Europe for several weeks and they asked us if we’d like to house sit for them. Of course, we jumped at the chance!

While we were staying there, I remembered The Book. I looked all through the library shelves and finally found the hiding spot. I pulled it out and sat down to read it. It was a fascinating “coming of age” book about life in Manhattan Beach in the early 30’s. The main character was a young man named Josh who had no real male figure in his life. His mother was a fading Hollywood star who had an alcohol problem and provided no real guidance. One of her (many) boyfriends, Ben, came into young Josh’s life and they connected. He became the “Big-Brother” figure in his life and they became fast friends. The Book itself eventually deals with the tragedy of Ben’s suicide.

I read The Book with great interest because I had grown up in the location and could see the scenes as they unfolded. The author took “literary license” in a couple of areas; the stair banister going to the game room had a wrought iron railing rather than a wooden one with a newel post at the bottom of the stairs for one (this plays an important part in The Book later on).

The life and times of Manhattan Beach in the 20’s and 30’s piqued my interest and the subject of The Book only fueled the flames of curiosity. I decided to do a little amateur detective work and find out more info for myself. This led me to the Public Library in Carson, CA because at that time, remember, Al Gore had yet to invent the Internet and there was no GOOGLE! The library had all of the newspapers in the area on microfiche and you could look up any past history in the actual pages of the newspapers on the microreader.

My research lasted a couple of days and I was actually able to locate the stories in the Daily Breeze, the local newspaper for the beach area. The first article dealt with a male who died of a gunshot wound. It appeared on the front page, below the fold on a Friday and had sketchy details at best, just the What, When, and Where. It mentioned that the Manhattan Beach Chief of Police and two of his officers (both rookies, on their first case) were called out to the grounds surrounding the house to investigate a dead body discovered by “someone”. That was pretty much it for the first article. The second article was buried in the back pages of the Monday edition. All it said that the police were still investigating the event but, at this point, they were still not ruling out “foul play”, however they had identified the body as that of Reid Richard Russell, a twenty-three year old used car salesman who had resided in the neighboring town of El Segundo. The third and final article appeared several days after that and stated that the police had ruled the death a “suicide by gunshot to the head.”

The body was found lying in a hammock suspended between two red eucalyptus trees and was holding a .32 caliber pistol in his right hand. It was discovered by a 12-year old boy who lived on the premises with his mother, actress, Lila Lee. As far as the police were concerned, that was it, end of story. I could find no more articles in the archives of the library.

But that only made me more curious. My parents knew a lot of people in Manhattan Beach, and among them was the current Chief of Police. He was one of the two rookies who were assigned to the case. I unashamedly dropped my parents’ name to get to the Chief on the phone. I explained who I was and what I was doing. When I asked him about the case, he suddenly got very agitated and defensive, “Well…all those records are upstairs in a box and they haven’t been looked at in years…besides that case is closed, we ruled it a suicide! I’m sorry, I can’t help you!” Then he suddenly remembered an appointment he had conveniently forgotten and hung up in my ear.
Wow, talk about getting blown off!

Now I really need to delve further into this! From my notes, I looked up the name of the other officer involved in the case and set out to track him down. As it turned out, he has just retired from the California Highway Patrol. Several phone calls later I was able to speak directly to him. I again explained who I was and what I was doing and, after assuring him that I was NOT a reporter in any way, he was very happy to take my call. We had a great conversation! He recalled vividly the case because it was his very first one. He always felt that it really didn’t turn out the way it should have. If it was in fact murder, it would have been the very first murder in Manhattan Beach. Since Manhattan Beach was a tourist destination town at that time and relied heavily on tourist dollars, the effect would have been devastating and crippled the economy. The first curiosity was that there was no suicide note found. The second oddity (and perhaps most damning argument) was the pistol was a .32 automatic and no shell casing was ever found at the scene. He was very candid with me and felt that not finding a suicide note and ESPECIALLY not finding a shell casing had always bothered him. He said that in his mind, this was a murder; but since there were mammoth political pressures to call this a suicide, and he was ‘just a rookie, after all’, that’s what it became, a suicide. By calling this a suicide, the town’s economy would remain unharmed.

As the week rolled along, I had a conversation with my friend, Dan. Dan was very into Hollywood. When I mentioned that there a movie actress involved, he suggested that we call the William Morris Agency, the huge talent agency in Hollywood. Perhaps they would have some information on Lila Lee. We agreed that Dan should do most of the talking (because he’d know the questions to ask and that’s one thing he does real well, talk!) and that I’d listen in on the upstairs extension. (Remember, this is in the early 70’s and phones were still hard-wired to the wall!) After getting through the main switchboard operator the phone conversation went something like this:

Wm Morris: Good morning, William Morris Agency, how can I help you?
Dan: Good morning, I’m trying to do a little research in an actress from the 20’s and 30’s named Lila Lee. Did your agency represent her? (Keep in mind this is all the information Dan has provided)
WM: One moment, let me look her up for you…
WM: I’m sorry; our records indicate that she was not represented by our agency. (Pause) But…you did say Lila Lee, right?
Dan: That’s right, why do you ask?
WM: Are you calling from a big, white house? In Manhattan?
Dan: (Warily) Yes, how did you know?
WM: Well…I probably shouldn’t say anything, but last week, my OUIJA group talked to her. She died in a car crash, in front of a restaurant called “The White House”, in Manhattan, NY.

By this time, things had transcended rapidly into the bizarre. Both of us were so blown away by her announcement we could think of nothing else to ask her. We thanked her and quickly hung up. I came downstairs and we just sat there, looking at each other, not sure what to make of anything that just happened! “Well…”, he said, “Umm…THAT was weird!” I quickly agreed and we both just kinda’ chuckled a little; you know? That uneasy laugh you have like when you’ve just ‘seen a ghost’? That, whistling in the graveyard kind of stuff! After that, there didn’t seem much more to say so we filed it away in our minds under “Just Weird”.

Later, that same week, I was sharing with my wife some of what I had learned. Then I remembered that we had a OUIJA board around somewhere. I finally found it in the front closet that doubled as game storage. We turned out the lights, lit several candles and, armed with a couple of glasses of wine, sat down to play on the OUIJA board. We sat in front of each other, knees touching (my favorite part!) with the board between us on our laps. We asked the board several trivial questions and got favorable responses. About that time, two of my wife’s friends drove up and we invited them in. I explained to them about my quest to find the mystery of the house and a little of what I’d learned, including the phone conversation with the William Morris Agency. We all laughed about that and went back to the living room. We offered wine to our friends sat down. Our friends spied the OUIJA board and we returned to using it. We asked several questions with our fingers poised lightly on the pointer. The pointer slowly moved towards the answers, and the answers were correct each time. Now, there are those who would scoff and say it was the person’s own sub-conscious mind actually making the pointer move. With that in mind, we asked our friends to sit down and I would tell them the questions to ask.

The questions I was instructing our friends to ask were very minuscule details of the current research I’d just completed. These were questions that I had not discussed, even with my wife and we hadn’t seen our friends until that evening! And the board kept providing the RIGHT answers! EVERY. SINGLE. TIME! Now, I will admit, we were getting caught up in the moment, but I asked our friends to ask the board, “Was it a suicide?” The pointer slowly circled and slid off the board, indicating an unwillingness to answer. “Was it a murder?”, and again, the pointer circled, then slid off the board. “Was it a crime of passion?” The pointer started towards the corner where the “Yes” was located, but then purposely slid off the board. Then it dawned on me that we had no idea to whom we were speaking. Since our OUIJA friend from the William Morris Agency and sent us down this path, I asked them to ask if we were speaking to Lila Lee. The pointer slowly but emphatically slid to “No”. Then I had them ask, “Who are we speaking to?” The pointer slid to R…R…R! Reid Richard Russell. The twenty three year old victim! Again, we asked if it was suicide and yet again, the pointer slid off the board. We then asked if it was murder and as before, the pointer slid off the board.

Now, as I was standing there, watching in amazement as the board was sharing its information, I felt a hand on my right shoulder, an icy cold hand resting lightly but decisively on my shoulder. I turned and, of course, no one was there. I startled and they asked what was wrong? I said that I’d tell them in a minute! But first, the OUIJA board goes away, the candles are blown out and ALL the lights in the house are turned on! After that was done and only after that, did I tell them about the hand.
There were just way too many coincidences to be ignored…

Reid Richard Russell

Richard Russell Turton

Used Car Salesman

Destined to spend the better part of my adult life in automotive parts sales on used cars

His middle name My first name

His last name My middle name

That REALLY cold bedroom in the corner of the house, I mentioned earlier? Further research unearthed that room was Reid Richard Russell’s bedroom…

I have no idea about how you feel about the “Other Side”, but me, I knocked on that door and it opened! That cold, cold hand was inviting me in…

I have not touched another OUIJA board since that night, and if anyone else brought one into the room, I would leave…

I ain’t gonna knock on THAT door again!

Authors Note:
• The Book? “There Must Be A Pony” by James Kirkwood Jr. He later co-wrote “A Chorus Line” and several other books, including “P.S. Your Cat is Dead”. He won a Tony and Pulitzer Prize for his works.
• The works of James Kirkwood Jr. have been associated with at least one other coincidental death in the acting industry:
o Sal Mineo – Stabbed to death in West Hollywood while acting in the play, “P.S. Your Cat is Dead”
• Several years later, I discovered that Lila Lee died in 1973, of a stroke in Saranac Lake, New York. (But what a door THAT opened!)

Richard Turton
August 26, 2014