Too Close For Comfort

So, I grew up in a small Pennsylvania town named after a lumberyard. We lived in the woods, basically, on a thinly populated country road with farms and acres of trees.  You’ve been to a place like this right? The kind of town that you get car-sick on the thirty minute ride to the nearest grocery store. Everyone knows everyone, people let their kids ride their bikes the couple miles to a friend’s house. Great place to grow up.

Our road was out of the way so there wasn’t any drive-through traffic. If you were on that road, you lived on it or were visiting someone who lived on it. 

I don’t remember details of the day. I was probably only around nine or ten. I remember the shock, mostly. The confusion. The shift in my world that this ground-shaking news caused. My childhood best friend, who lived a few miles down the street, had lost her older sister the night before. Actually, she wasn’t lost. She had been stolen. Stolen by a serial killer right off of our safe little country road.

Why? I knew that people grew old and died. I knew that people sometimes had accidents and died. But, this I just couldn’t understand. I mean, I really could not understand. Why would someone kill a beautiful, sweet person? She had a family, she had a job and a pet, she had a smile that could light up a room. If you were good and kind, good things happened to you, right? Nope. Apparently really horrible things can happen to very loved people.

Everything was fragile after that in my world. Things were different, things were not how I thought they were. Trust was gone. I felt vulnerable, unsafe, and terribly sad at the heartbreak my friend and her family were suffering through. And why did their family lose her?  There was no old age, no accident. There was only an intentional act that caused unbearable grief and pain. I could not imagine this being the world I lived in. But it was…and is. And I’m still trying to understand.

Fast forward to 1985. I am a junior in high school now living in Palm Bay, Florida. I am blissfully ignorant of the fact that a man  named John Crutchley–a.ka. the vampire rapist–lives about five miles away. In November a girl escapes from his home–nude with her hands and feet handcuffed and missing about 45% of her blood which she watched him drink–and is saved by a stranger who picked her up off the road. He is arrested and is suspected in the murder of over 30 other women, but never convicted. Four of those young women were killed in our county the previous year.

This time, what strikes me is not the shock that a human being could commit such horrifying acts, but that a human being…namely me…could be so oblivious to the world around her that she didn’t know about this until twenty four years later. Another harsh lesson.

Care to share any encounters with the darker side of human nature? I’d love to hear your stories!

  1. #1 by Anticrombie on June 11, 2009 - 4:26 pm

    With the same trappings around me, being too young to experience some close encounters, and too old to be frightened/bewildered by others, my personal experience with the deranged (family not included) stemmed from the lifeblood of the ages… the Internet. More specifically, a video game named Sims 3.

    If you haven’t experienced the ability to to throw aside your ethics and experiment with people and personality traits like a Nazi death camp doctor, then you should give this a try.

    Who would of thought we’d have a virtual personality generator with A.I. that rivals most FBI profile software? Imagine being able to give a person a personality trait like insane, hydrophobic or ‘can’t stand art’, then give them ‘genius’ , put them in a box and see what happens.

    I would imagine that the programmers had no intent to have personality traits combine to form sociopaths. But since it DOES, I could easily see them adding more traits to see what the computer thinks will form the difference between a Serial Killer, a Mass Murderer or just a Sociopath. Experimenting with the paradox of horror-pleasure, mental delusions, the nature of violence and retribution… Fun to be had for all. And all in a virtual realm that will NEVER flow into society… He-he…

  2. #2 by soesposito on June 11, 2009 - 9:50 pm

    yikes. Sounds like a training ground for serial killers since our brains don’t differentiate between what actually happens in reality and what we imagine. (LIke the basketball experiment where the people who were actually practicing and the people who were instructed to lay there and imagine practicing for the same amount of time had the same rate of improvement in their shots) Scary stuff.

  3. #3 by felicitybloomfield on June 20, 2009 - 4:54 am

    Good on you for using material that hits you where it hurts. Hopefully what you write will carry over that emotional impact to your readers.

    If you have questions on mental illness, I may be able to help (to a limited extent – I have a mild disorder, but it gives me some insight) – you can contact me through my blog (any comment gives me your email address).

    I’ve experimented with crime writing (usually I write speculative fiction), but it’s about ten times as draining as any other writing.

    There’s a free specfic crime story at the top of my blog at the moment (and it’s short 🙂 ), so I guess crime isn’t dead for me either.

  4. #4 by KAWFEEEE on June 20, 2009 - 5:20 am

    Let’s not confuse human character with human nature. Human nature always gets a bad rap. it is not our nature that does bad things but rather it is our character that allows us to do things our nature would never permit. sorry, i truly believe mankind is inherently good. It is mundane indoctrinations that produce immoral or sick, distorted , mentally deranged characters..


  5. #5 by Christian on June 20, 2009 - 11:25 am

    Wow, Shannon…what a post! Do you ever question why you personally have been so near two separate serial killers? Even if you find out about it so many years later, it would be certainly frightening!

  6. #6 by soesposito on June 20, 2009 - 2:01 pm

    Felicity-Thanks for stopping by, I’ll definitely visit your blog as I love spec fic, too. May take you up on some questions, also!

    Kawfee–Thanks for the input! Character shaped by environmental influences does play a part. I still think the brain structure also plays a part. I agree humanity is inherently good, though, also.

    Christian- You know, what I’m afraid of is that it’s not just me. I think maybe they are not as rare in our society as we think they are. Yikes, right??? lol

  7. #7 by Lisa on June 22, 2009 - 3:12 pm

    Dark Side of………..Aerobics..?

    Used to go daily,for like, 2 yrs. straight, and there was always this woman, we’ll call her ‘Kathy’, who was in my class. She was in her early 50’s….very attractive…great bod…very sweet. She stopped coming suddenly. Then I read in the newspaper, that her teen-aged SON, bashed her head in with a baseball bat while she slept. He was mad at her over some money issue. He spent the next day at the mall with friends, until her body was discovered, and he was arrested.
    I still think of her…trying to wrap my mind around it all. Her son. A bat. Dead. Makes me want to puke.

  8. #8 by soesposito on June 22, 2009 - 5:58 pm

    Heartbreaking. The fact that he could go to the mall like nothing happened, there had to be some serious mental illness there.

  9. #9 by Uncle Buck on June 27, 2009 - 10:45 pm

    Character vs Nature. Very interesting study. If one has no training in spiritual matters, one could look at the human as kind of a blank slate at birth and “becomes” who they will be” due to external factors, such as parental involvement, other siblings, relatives, neighbors, community, etc. So, the reason a person becomes anti-social is due to their up bringing. This also gives some weight to the argument that I am not responsible for my actions….my (here, place the name of someone who had great influence in your life) made me do it. Since character is something learned and, by virtue of the fact there must be, of necessity, a teacher, “the teacher made me do it.”

    I am not trying to write that environment and outside influences do not play a role in a person’s development, I am just saying that if one takes the non spiritual approach, it’s an endless loop. There is no answer.

    If one has studied spiritual matters, then one can easily see that there is an influence on the human being that is not parental, relational or learned. There is, within every human being, a residing evil. Realizing that one can not, on their own, purge the evil, as this evil is present at birth, one can then do one of two things: 1. Try to build character that combats the evil and allows goodness to be the essential character of that person or, 2. Give in to the evil and follow a life of anti-social behavior.

    Soesposito, I understand that you have written that you believe there is no such thing as evil and to allow for an evil human nature would not be something that you could abide, however, there is little room to wiggle when one comes to study the killers of the world. If war has taught me anything it is that there is true, undeniable evil in the heart of every human being. It goes to their nature and their character only reinforces their nature.

    Uncle Buck

  10. #10 by soesposito on June 29, 2009 - 2:53 pm

    Hi, Uncle Buck…thanks for your input. Let’s see…as far as being a blank slate at birth, I don’t think that’s possible even without believing in a soul, considering we’re pre-programmed with approx. 30,000 genes. I don’t believe our genes set things in stone for us, but they do give us guidelines for our potential, our personalities, our talents, even the way our brain will be structured.

    Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe we have a soul or spirit, I just don’t know for sure so I’m only basing my personal beliefs on what I can reasonable know for sure.

    And I suppose I should clear up the whole evil thing. It’s not that I don’t believe in the dichotomy of good and evil in our actions. We all have a choice as far as right and wrong (which I prefer to use instead of good and evil). We are all capable of evil or wrong actions as your war example supports. Actions can be judged. What we don’t have a choice in is our inherent nature. This, I believe is good and cannot be judged.

    I do enjoy the different perspectives, though, as I’m sure mine will change as I learn.

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