Here's how you solve a mystery: You take a seemingly bizarre situation and break it down into its component parts, chaining together a series of ordinary events until they make even the most extraordinary circumstances seem logical. But that's only if everything goes according to plan. Sometimes you stumble upon a mystery and set about investigating, only to find that every aspect is weirder than the last. It's like if at the end of a Scooby-Doo episode, Velma tore off the monster's mask and saw her own face staring back.
In 2010, oilman and generally well-regarded dude Ed Fleniken was found dead in his hotel room in Texas. Since the only injury he initially seemed to have was a small abrasion in his face, it was generally assumed he'd succumbed to a heart attack or something. But then the autopsy revealed that Fleniken's interiors were a complete mess. Apart from some massive bruising around his groin and a small cut on the scrotum, there were also severe internal injuries, including two broken ribs and a ruptured heart. The injuries were consistent with blunt force trauma, as if from a beating. However, there was no bruising on the chest, only around the groin. Did ... did someone kick this guy in the balls so hard that he died?
The investigators were able to place the time of death soon after 8:30 p.m., but three electricians staying in the room next door hadn't heard any kind of struggle. Also, a cigarette had burned out in Fleniken's hand, as if he'd died in the middle of a casual smoke.
So how could a man be dick-punched to death in a locked hotel room, while holding a cigarette, without making a sound?
But Wait, It Gets Weirder:
There's no real way to put this gently: Ed Fleniken was shot in the scrotum.
The cops were stumped, so Fleniken's family called in private investigator Ken Brennan. Now, one of Ed's neighbors did hear something odd: a loud crack, like a gunshot. Brennan started sniffing around, and managed to find a small bullet hole in the wall between the rooms, cleverly concealed with what turned out to be dried toothpaste. The electricians in the other room had been drinking, and one of them, Lance Mueller, fired a shot which went through the wall separating their room from Fleniken's. The electricians thought they'd "heard a cough" from the other room, so they figured that the occupant was alright, hastily masked the hole in the wall with what they could find (hence the toothpaste), and took their party to a bar, all without thinking to check on Fleniken.
Unfortunately, the noise they heard was less of a cough and more of an "Oh shit, I've just been shot in the balls" death rattle. The bullet went through the wall and hit Fleniken square in the sack while he was lying on the bed watching Iron Man 2 (a slightly less painful experience). It entered his body and ricocheted up through it, causing massive internal injuries, until finally lodging itself in his heart. Meanwhile, the soft skin of his scrotum swelled and folded around the bullet hole. Seeing no entry wound and having no reason to assume there was one, the coroner didn't bother looking for a bullet. And thus ends the mystery of the Deadliest Dick Punch.
In 2008, Red Lobster executive Thomas Hickman was found dead in the New Mexico desert. His mouth was bound with duct tape, and he had been shot once in the back of the head. It seemed like a classic gangland murder, but there was no particular reason anyone would want to kill Hickman, unless Olive Garden suddenly got really aggressive about their new seafood menu. Also, aside from the whole "executed in the middle of the desert" thing, the area seemed oddly serene. Hickman's hands were untied, and there was no sign of struggle anywhere in the area. His car was on the scene, completely untouched. It's like his killers had coerced him into dying without a fight, then disappeared without a trace. It was like an episode of CSI.
But Wait, It Gets Weirder:
Actually, it was an episode of CSI. In a Season 4 episode of the show, "Homebodies," a man kills himself with a gun tied to a bunch of helium balloons, which float away into the sky after he pulls the trigger. Asking is obviously not an option, so it's not clear whether Hickman saw the episode or came up with the idea himself, but his plan was identical to the one in the show. He tied a stripped-down, lightweight gun to a bunch of balloons, duct-taped his mouth shut, and shot himself in the back of the head. The cops found notes which told his family what to do if "something happened to him," so the idea was probably to spare them the pain of dealing with his suicide (and allow his wife, who had been seriously ill, to collect on his $400,000 life insurance policy).
Hickman might have pulled off his perfect suicide if it wasn't for the fact that it was an unusually windy day. Instead of rising up into the sky and drifting away to some distant gully or unfortunate child's birthday party, the wind dragged the balloons and gun along the ground until they became tangled in a cactus. Investigators found them a short distance from the body, and presumably only briefly arrested the cactus before cracking the case.
To the people of Springfield, Missouri, Dee Dee Blancharde was a hero. She dedicated her life to caring for her chronically ill daughter, Gypsy, who suffered from -- deep breath -- chromosomal defects, muscular dystrophy, eye problems, epilepsy, severe asthma, sleep apnea, and brain damage, among other ailments. She'd even had leukemia as a child. The improbably frail Gypsy used a wheelchair to get around, and often needed a feeding tube and an oxygen tank. As if that wasn't enough, Dee Dee's other family abused Gypsy until Dee Dee herself stood up to them, then fled her hometown with daughter in tow. Their new home was then destroyed in Hurricane Katrina, but Dee Dee bravely carved out a new life for them in Missouri. Dee Dee Blancharde was precisely one whirlwind romance with a handsome town doctor away from being played by Susan Sarandon in a TV movie.
So the whole town was absolutely horrified when Dee Dee was found stabbed to death in her home in 2015. To make matters worse, Gypsy was nowhere to be found, and their joint Facebook account posted a message which declared: "That Bitch is dead!" The comments, as they always do, made everything worse. The poster went on to say: "I fucken SLASHED THAT FAT PIG AND RAPED HER SWEET INNOCENT DAUGHTER...HER SCREAM WAS SOOOO FUCKEN LOUD LOL."
What kind of unimaginable monster would murder the saint of the Ozarks, then abuse and kidnap a helpless, developmentally challenged 19-year-old?
But Wait, It Gets Weirder:
It was Gypsy all along. Gypsy Blancharde had her mother killed. Oh, and she wasn't a sick teenager at all. She was a perfectly healthy 23-year-old who was fully capable of walking, talking, and evidently, planning a murder. However, this wasn't a grandiose Usual Suspects-style supervillain scheme on her part. In fact, Gypsy herself was unaware of her true age at the time, and her decision to murder her mother was the result of Dee Dee's nasty case of Munchausen by proxy.
Dee Dee had been faking her daughter's assorted illnesses ever since Gypsy was a baby. As Gypsy grew, her mother shaved her head, fed her liquid nutritional supplements and tranquilizers, and forced her to use a wheelchair in public. Dee Dee reported a baffling variety of symptoms to different doctors, who helpfully prescribed medication and performed numerous surgeries -- including one to Gypsy's eye muscles and one completely removing her salivary glands. When Gypsy's tests came back negative or the staff at a clinic became suspicious, Dee Dee dodged the bullet by ... simply stopping going to that doctor. She also happily gamed charities when she could -- at the time of her murder, they lived in a house built by Habitat for Humanity, complete with customized amenities like a hot tub to "help with Gypsy's muscles."
via Wiki Commons
Trapped in her mother's madness, Gypsy was raised to go along with the deceptions, even when they caused her pain (which was not uncommon). However, as the years went by, to the surprise of no one, she gradually grew to resent her mother. Gypsy spent a lot of her time on the internet, and eventually made a boyfriend, Nicholas Godejohn. Together, the two hatched a plan to free Gypsy of Dee Dee's grasp for good. Unfortunately, the plan wasn't "alert the authorities" -- Godejohn entered their house and brutally murdered Dee Dee with a serrated knife while Gypsy stood in another room and listened.
Police were tipped off after a friend of Gypsy's mentioned her secret online boyfriend. Gypsy was found in Godejohn's apartment, sans wheelchair and in way, way better health than they'd feared. She took a plea deal for second-degree murder and is currently serving a ten-year sentence, while her boyfriend is awaiting trial.
Huh. There are no winners here. Sometimes mysteries suck, you guys.
In 2005, Alaskan Richard Bennett up and vanished. He seemed like he wanted to disappear, having neatly distributed his belongings to his loved ones before he went. Still, no one knew where he went, and why ... That is, until a few months later, when his family found a body in the woods near his trailer. The head was missing, which everyone agrees could probably be attributed to wild animals, because there's no need to drag Bigfoot Executioner into this. But the remains matched Bennett's description, size, age bracket -- he was even wearing the right clothes. Forensic anthropologists found a healed break in the shin, which they compared with x-rays from the time Bennett broke his leg in a motorcycle accident. It was a perfect match, and Bennett's family buried the body in 2006.
But Wait, It Gets Weirder:
In 2004, another area Richard, Richard Hills, had gone missing. Alaska is already the mysterious disappearances capital of America, but Hills' case was particularly odd. His crashed car was found with keys still in the ignition. His tracks went on for about a quarter of a mile, and then just ... vanished. Although he had been running with a bad crowd, there was no indication that he was either killed or had intended to commit suicide. And since nobody could find any remains, the case went unsolved for around ten years.
In a bizarre twist, the body which was found in Bennett's back yard wasn't him at all. It was Hills. As it turns out, Hills had also broken his leg in an old accident, and by a cruel twist of fate, the two breaks were almost identical. It didn't hurt that the two were also roughly the same age, had the same build, wore similar clothes, and went missing in the same area within a short time of each other.
The mix-up was only discovered in 2014, after a forest fire on the Kenai Peninsula revealed the bones of a third missing person (Alaska, everybody!) and state troopers started looking through the list of local disappearances. They discovered some hitherto ignored DNA data suggesting that the body released to the Bennett family was not related to them. Further testing revealed that it was Hills, who had stumbled toward Bennett's property after his car crash, only to collapse and succumb to his injuries / the elements / cruel irony. As for Bennett, his fate remains a mystery. But it's probably not going to end well. This is Alaska we're talking about -- America's Australia.
In 1922, apron magnate (yes, that was a thing) Fred Oesterreich was shot dead in his Los Angeles mansion. The police found his wife, Walburga "Dolly" Oesterreich, screaming in a closet, which was locked from the outside. As the only living person in the house, Dolly quickly became the prime suspect. However, it was impossible for her to be the murderer -- there was no way she could have locked herself in the closet without a secret passage, or telekinesis, or maybe a highly trained and camouflaged closet-locking octopus at her disposal. It seemed destined to become one of those unsolvable cases that provoke retired detectives to build maniacal evidence walls in their apartments.
But Wait, It Gets Weirder:
Dolly Oesterreich had a lover, Otto Sanhuber, who had secretly lived in the attic of the house for years. This wasn't even the first secret attic the guy lived in: Before the Oesterreichs moved to Los Angeles, Otto spent ten fucking years stashed away in the attic of their Milwaukee home. He began an affair with Dolly while working for Fred. When the neighbors became suspicious of his frequent visits, Dolly convinced him to quit his job and move into the attic. You know, as one does.
The life of Otto Sanhuber, Attic Side Piece, was not a glamorous one. Apart from daily visits with Dolly, he spent his days in complete isolation, reading, sleeping on a small cot, drinking bathtub gin, and writing pulp fiction stories.
During these years, Dolly was the only person Otto ever saw. He would later say that he was essentially her sex slave, and that he loved her as "a boy loves his mother," prompting readers across America to stop perusing the crime section of the newspaper while eating. Although Fred was a heavy drinker, he eventually started to notice the strange noises, mysterious shadows, and occasional missing cigar that are the inevitable byproducts of a complete stranger spending years squatting in your home. Questioning his sanity, he decided that a change of scenery was in order.
A move to LA didn't help, of course. Dolly simply made sure their new house had an attic and secretly moved Sanhuber in with them. One day, Sanhuber overheard Fred and Dolly having a violent argument. He charged downstairs dual-wielding Fred's own guns and fired three rounds into his chest. Then he locked Dolly in the cupboard and went back to the attic, where police completely failed to detect him. Dolly blamed her husband's death on a burglar, everyone was let off the leash, and Otto could finally descend from his hiding hole ...
Could, but did not.
Otto carried on living as Dolly's personal attic Sex-Gollum while she struck up a new relationship with her late husband's estate attorney, Herman Shapiro, and with businessman Roy Klumb. Unfortunately, Shapiro became suspicious of Dolly when she gifted him an expensive watch which looked a whole lot like the one the "burglar" had "stolen." And Klumb didn't much care for the way Dolly casually asked him to get rid of a gun. To cap things off, she even asked a neighbor to bury yet another gun in his own backyard. This may seem sloppy on Dolly's part, but remember, she once asked a guy to quit life and live in her attic like a personal fuck-bat, and he was like, "Yeah, sure."
Klumb was the first to go to the police with his story, and Dolly was arrested in 1923. Unfortunately, being a colossal dumbass is no proof of murder, especially as the cops were still unable to explain how she got locked in the closet. But Dolly wasn't done asking bizarre things of men: She revealed Sanhuber's existence to Shapiro while in jail, begging him to buy groceries for her pet attic-dude. It's a true testament to Dolly's charms that instead of blasting out a truly glorious string of obscenities and marching to the nearest cop, Shapiro obliged.
Sanhuber was delighted to finally have someone new to talk to, and told Shapiro basically everything. This finally proved to be Dolly and Sanhuber's undoing, as Shapiro went to the police with his information ... seven years later. And only because he and Dolly broke up. Also, the statute of limitations for manslaughter had expired, so everyone involved was off the hook. The papers called Sanhuber the "Bat Man of Los Angeles" -- presumably because "SoCal Sex Possum" was already taken -- and Dolly lived the rest of her days a free woman, enjoying her late husband's wealth.
So there you go, that's the moral: You can ask men to do just about anything, and as long as you're having sex with them, they'll do it.
Or maybe the moral is: Everything will work out fine if you decide to become somebody's secret sex slave.
Yes, these morals are terrible, but hey, so is life.
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Nightmarish villains with superhuman enhancements. An all-seeing social network that tracks your every move. A young woman from the trailer park and her very smelly cat. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits, a new novel about futuristic shit, by David Wong.