01 Feb Police Stories, From The World’s Strangest Town
My name is Andrew Small, and I’m a police officer in what has to be the single bizarrest, most otherworldly place on the face of the earth: a small town in the middle of nowhere called Junction Falls. Here are few of our strangest cases:
Annual Mystery Screenings at the Westbrook Drive-In
July 15, 2006 was a fairly quiet night right up until around 9:30. Then all hell broke loose: we got calls from no fewer than two dozen livid homeowners who all claimed that they couldn’t sleep because a film had begun to play at the old Westbrook Drive-In. Now that immediately gave us pause because the Westbrook had been closed down ever since the multiplex had forced it out of business in 1979. So any screening there was obviously unauthorized.
When we arrived, an old, so-bad-it’s-good sci-fi/horror B-movie from 1956 called It Came From Mars was indeed playing at full brightness and volume. But we never did find anyone at the lot who could’ve been responsible; in fact, the only thing there was a single, red, 1950 Crosley station wagon, also empty, sitting in space 21-B. But we figured we’d find who put that there and started the film later on: for now we needed to shut down the movie before all the locals started a riot in their bathrobes and slippers.
Now this is where things get wild. We looked everywhere – in the operations booth, in the old dilapidated concession stands, in that old car and in any nearby trees tall enough to have an unobstructed line of sight to the screen – but no sound or projection equipment could be found anywhere within a mile radius of the lot. As far as we could tell the film was playing completely on its own. Luckily the lot plunged back into its natural dark, silent state the second the movie finished (the Crosley wagon vanished too), but that only left us frustrated and confused.
After that, at least, nothing else interesting happened at the Westbrook for a good while. The so-called ‘Mystery Screening’ case started to get buried under more pressing work, and as the months dragged on we began to forget about it entirely.
But then, at exactly 9:30 PM on July 15, 2007, the screening began anew, and the same events more or less repeated themselves: angry locals, an empty lot, the Crosley station wagon in space 21-B, and an exhaustive but ultimately fruitless search for the responsible individuals and offending equipment. We were pulling our hair out. And it didn’t stop there, either: the next July 15? Same thing. And it happened again the next year, and the one after that, and the one after that, and it’s happened every year since. July 15. 9:30. It Came From Mars. Red Crosley. Boom. Clockwork. As of this posting we still have no idea how the film is being shown in the absence of projection or sound equipment. But we have discovered some other things about the film since the case began:
It Came From Mars was financed entirely by a man named Bill Booth, who also wrote, directed and starred in the film as its protagonist, Jack Burnley, and who believed the film would launch his Hollywood career. However, production was plagued with setbacks almost from the beginning: costs ballooned, two actors and the chief editor quit halfway through, thus forcing an inexperienced Booth to edit the film himself (something that he clearly had no business doing, if the final result is any indication), and Booth bankrupted himself when he paid the rest of his family’s savings to the Westbrook Drive-In Theater to hold the movie’s premiere on July 15, 1956.
Sadly, though, It Came From Mars received overwhelmingly negative reviews from the few critics who attended their own screening, and Booth attended the official premiere alone, as the cast and crew were too embarrassed to be associated with it. Then, Booth’s wife left him the following month due to their declining financial situation. Humiliated, penniless and alone, Bill Booth drove his red 1950 Crosley station wagon to the Westbrook, parked once again in space 21-B, and shot himself in the mouth; a forgotten off-Hollywood tragedy.
Now obviously none of this explains the physics of how a film could play on its own, or how an old car can appear and vanish the way the Crosley does every July 15. So officially, the case remains unsolved.
But when the above details were first reported by the Junction Falls Dispatch in April of this year, the story of what many assume to be that of an old filmmaker’s ghost caused a sensation. And on July 15, 349 people came and joined a red, 1950 Crosley station wagon in watching this stupid, tacky, low budget, wonderful film.
The Screaming House
Well before I joined the JFPD in 2005, a large, abandoned two story house in the Shelby neighborhood had already carved out for itself a rather macabre reputation. You see, at random times during the night, you can hear shrill and desperate screams and cries for help, seemingly coming from a woman trapped inside. The Department dispatched a unit to investigate.
Bizarrely, though, the officers were unable to locate the trapped woman because the screams themselves always seemed to be coming from a part of the house that nobody was in or near. When the screaming came from the master bedroom upstairs, the officers charged up to the second story and entered that room, only to find it empty and that the screaming could now be heard coming from the kitchen. So they went to the kitchen only to discover that the sounds were now coming up from the cellar, and when they went to the cellar they realized they could hear it, once again, coming from the vicinity of the master bedroom. No matter where they were, the screams and cries were always coming from someplace else. Eventually they called for backup, but even with each room covered by an officer the team couldn’t seem to find the source, isolate the screams or even reach a consensus as to where it was coming from. They never did find that woman, either, and each of the six men and three women who were there suffered at least moderate psychological damage as a result of the experience.
As far as the how’s and why’s, the leading official theory, at least in regards to the bouncing sound phenomenon, is that there is some subtle trick of architecture that is wreaking havoc on the acoustics inside the structure (not sure if anyone buys that, but it least they’re trying). But no one – no one – can explain the source of the screams to begin with. No woman has ever been found inside (and would never have survived as long as the screams have now lasted anyway), priests have given it the all clear as far as potential demonic activity, and the man who built (and later sold) the house assures us he is as horrified as we are and most certainly did not build the place with any abnormalities that would mess with the acoustics, let alone with hidden compartments that might have housed a captive woman.
The official position of the JFPD? Don’t go in or near that place. It still makes those sounds and we’re no closer to figuring it out than we were years ago.
Mister Mystery’s Travelling Circus & Extravaganza
Sometimes we’ll have two cases that end up being connected down the road by a single cause and solution. This particular time the two cases were, one: a string of disappearances affecting the local homeless population, and two: reports of – and I’m not kidding here – a clown that was allegedly attempting to lure people into the woods. For obvious reasons we took the former case more seriously.
But then, a few weeks into the investigations, a local business owner came by the precinct and delivered to us the previous night’s security camera footage, which showed a drugged-up homeless man being led off towards the woods by, you guessed it: a post-Vaudeville jester with a ruffled collar and a skip in his step.
Eventually we traced that particular vanishing to a small shack in the woods beyond the outskirts of town, and kicked in the door to find a scene of spectacular and breathtaking brutality. All six of the homeless men who’d been reported missing, including the one from the footage, were not only dead but mutilated, burnt and twisted, hairless and diseased and disfigured. They had all been experimented on, too: one man had all his limbs amputated, and one of each could be found sewn to the backs and sides of four other men who had, like him, died of infections. The last man was intact and then some: he had been injected with various substances ranging from silicone to cement in order to produce warts and bumps and other unsightly abnormalities of the flesh.
We found the Clown too, who ended up being an unstable lunatic named Terry Byrd, and who claimed he was working on behalf of someone known as ‘The Ringmaster.’ When pressed for further information, Terry claimed he didn’t know the Ringmaster’s identity but was familiar with his plans: oddly enough, the Ringmaster wanted only to create and host a classic touring carnival called ‘Mr. Mystery’s Travelling Circus & Extravaganza.’ And of course, no good carnival would be complete without a genuine Freak Show. Terry alleged the Ringmaster had enlisted his help in finding some ‘willing or unwilling volunteers,’ as he put it.
Terry got a life sentence without parole, and we kept up our search for this ‘Ringmaster.’ But never did find him, and about a year after our own homeless incident, the nearby towns of Doolittle and Crosby Springs reported that their homeless men were being abducted too. We did what we could to help, even going so far as to offer Terry a plea deal for information on the Ringmaster. But he simply laughed (and I punched him in the face and got a week’s leave) and said that he ‘quite liked his cell; it’s cozy.’
As of this posting, any information on the Ringmaster will yield a $10,000 reward.
Status: partially solved; perpetrator at-large.
Abigail Jones, from Stamford Springs
About ten or twelve miles southeast of Junction Falls, near the hiking trails, you’ll find an old ghost town called Stamford Springs. Now I’m no expert on it (I’m sure the local rangers and tour guides could fill you in, if you’re interested), but from what I understand it used to be a tiny little late 19th century community in its heyday that featured a small general store, a clinic, a church, and twelve or thirteen houses. inside the buildings, you’ll still see all the original furniture, too, and some clothes in closets, toys in the childrens’ rooms, small animal bones in the barns and coops, and various other indications that the town was both lived in and abandoned in a hurry (verdict is out on what caused that). Its eerie and creepy and totally cool, and for obvious reasons it’s a popular spot for Halloween hikes and other ‘I dare you’ type excursions.
But here’s why I’m writing this: in 2009 a hiker reported hearing cries and whimpers coming from the backyard of one of the houses there. He called it in, and rangers found and opened a previously undiscovered cellar behind the house, in which a little girl had been staying for an indeterminate amount of time. She was dressed in an old gown and scared to death.
After confirming she was okay, the rangers asked her all the basics: her name, how she got in there, where and who her parents were, etc. The girl said her name was Abigail; that her parents owned the house above and that they’d put her there and gone back inside to get the rest of the children. Under further questioning, Abigail insists it’s 1884 and that her parents have only been gone for minutes, not decades. And keep in mind, this girl is maybe nine or ten, and she’s just bawling her eyes out, and confused, and so terrified she’s shaking. So either she’s a future Oscar nominee, putting on the performance of a lifetime for no reason whatsoever, or she really is convinced she was a resident of this 19th century Stamford Springs.
So they take her down to the Junction Falls Medical Center (and she’s keeping up the act too, just in awe of the people and technology, mouth agape) and get her tested. No brain damage. No malnutrition. No other disorders of any kind. She’s a perfectly healthy little nine year old kid, and she just insists that her parents were Thomas and Elizabeth Jones, 19th century shopkeeps.
You can probably tell where this is going: the authorities searched exhaustively for any record of a missing girl matching Abigail’s description, and found nothing. No birth certificate, no medical records, no social security number, and no relatives. And of course, other folks who caught wind of the situation through the Dispatch’s report did some research on their own, and you guessed it: there was indeed a Thomas Jones and an Elizabeth Jones, shopkeeps, who lived in Stamford Springs in 1884, and who had three children including a daughter named Abigail (still no information on what had happened to the town). Eventually they put Abigail with a child placement agency and I have no idea what came of her after that. But it’s definitely one of the weirdest Junction Falls stories I’ve ever heard.
Ranjit Singh, Explorer of the Sewers
Beyond and beneath the standard, sub-surface level routinely accessed by maintenance crews, the Junction Falls Sewers more closely resemble the catacombs of Paris or Odessa than any functioning sewer system. It’s just a labyrinth of tunnels that plunge deep into the earth and stretch on for miles and miles and miles, twisting and turning and circling back around and getting hopelessly tangled. It is a far, far larger network than would even be remotely necessary to accommodate a town this size, and makes no sense at all from an engineering perspective. In addition, nobody knows how big they are, how old they are (ancient, we presume, at the deepest levels), what lies within them, who contributed to their construction or when or why, or how it’s laid out. The department has been slowly piecing together a map, but even the most optimistic estimates put our progress at or near 25% (it’s almost certainly closer to 12 or 15%). So for obvious reasons we dread when missing person cases involve the Sewers.
But luckily, between 2006 and 2014, we had Ranjit Singh.
Now Ranjit was a Junction Falls legend: an experienced spelunker and outdoorsman who took it upon himself to explore the Deep Sewers in depth, uncover their secrets, and not only lend his knowledge and help to the force whenever asked, but to document his findings for both his (now removed) blog and the Dispatch. Among the most insane things he encountered (and recorded) are:
Pipetown (I’ve actually been to this one, but its one of his more popular stories so I’ll add it here anyway): a makeshift tent city in a cavernous Sewer chamber beneath the North Side Projects, that was built by and for the city’s disproportionately large population of addicts, vagabonds and at-large criminals. Pipetown has all the cozy trappings of a third world, back-alley slum, too: tents and shacks, cardboard, aluminum sheets, drum barrel fires, human waste, illegal gambling and prostitution rings, arms trafficking, and so, so, so many drugs and related paraphernalia (hence the name). It’s a lawless, unorganized, filthy, dystopian swamp, and it is one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. A large portion of Sewer-related disappearances either end in, or in some other way involve, Pipetown or its residents.
The Dog Man: In a deep corner of the tunnels only ever accessed by Singh and his camera, Ranjit ran across a naked man with the head of a Pointer dog. Luckily the Dog-Man is harmless, from what we can tell; in the video Singh took he was clearly aware of Ranjit’s presence but didn’t seem the least bit alarmed by it and made no effort to interact with him at all. Singh claimed he’d seen the creature frequently down there since and that it never did anything other than sleep, sit in a corner, stare at you, or prance around on all four (human) limbs. The JFPD’s official advice is to not try to feed or interact with the Dog Man in any way. Clearly it’s getting along just fine without us and has no intention of causing harm, so there’s no need to upset the balance.
The Door: an old, wooden door, built into the side of the tunnel, that you’ll never find in the same place twice. Ranjit is actually not the only person who’s reported the Door (nor is he the first, although he is the only one to have successfully recorded it), since it can pop up in the more accessible near-surface tunnels just as easily and just as frequently as it appears in the deepest, darkest depths of the Sewers. As is the case with almost everything in the Sewers, though, no one knows who built the Door, what its nature or purpose is, the extent of its abilities or properties, or how it vanishes and reappears the way it does. The only thing we do know about it, definitively (and other than the fact that it moves around) is that those who enter it tend to vanish without a trace.
In 2013, Ranjit became the first person to find someone who’d been rumored to have disappeared through the Door. Sadly the poor girl had been dead for some time: he found her corpse months and months after her disappearance case had been shelved, and in a part of the Sewers no one could have possibly predicted she’d end up in given where she’d entered. Far as we can tell from the photos, she entered the Door, and an indeterminate amount of time later, found herself in a forgotten tunnel where she starved to death, lost and alone. Horrible way to go.
The Clock Room. Literally just a room full of clocks and other time-keeping devices. Cuckoo clocks. Standard wall clocks. Wrist watches. Digital alarm clocks. You’ll even find some egg-timers there, as well as hourglasses and a gorgeous grandfather clock in the back corner. Singh recorded it all. The room is too far from the nearest Sewer access point to be easily explained as where some above-ground clock enthusiast stashed his or her collection, either. Still have no idea what to make of this one.
The Stalker’s Stash. This one we actually did have to respond to, and luckily it was close enough to the surface that it didn’t take a lot of effort to reach. But the reason it was that easy to access is because the ‘stash’ wasn’t paranormal or alien or otherworldly in nature at all: it was just a small little closet-like room not far from Pipetown, filled and covered with pictures of an underage local girl named Emily Fischer (twelve at the time, although some of the pictures there were of her when she was even younger than that).
All of the photos were clearly taken from bushes, trees, cars, or other places where she wouldn’t spot the photographer, and therefore were taken without her knowledge or consent. Some were of her in class. Others were of her on the way to and from school. Others were of her on the bus, in her bedroom (from across the street), across the restaurant, at the pool, at friend’s houses, and countless others. There were several there of her in various states of undress that I will not go into here or anywhere else, and others still where she was happy and in the company of loved ones at what appeared to be a big party or a family reunion. Those were some of the most disturbing, not only because they were what appeared to be the most recent shots, but because if the photographer was now bold enough to take pictures of her when she was right next to family and friends, he was probably bold enough to make a physical move against her in the very near future.
So we called in our findings and got some units dispatched to the Fischer house to explain the situation and protect Emily. Meanwhile, my partner and I hid around the corner and waited until the photographer arrived. Turns out he was none other than a serial, violent sex offender named Davis T. S. James, who we were not aware had been released on bail while he awaited trial on another charge, and who had come to Junction Falls to do his business. Needless to say we arrested him on the spot. Easily one of the most nauseating and disturbing things I’ve ever witnessed, and one of the main reasons the force loves Ranjit Singh so much. Who knows what would’ve happened if he hadn’t stumbled across the stash when he did?
Anyway. He has countless more stories if anyone’s interested, but the point is: Ranjit was our go-to guy for Sewer-related cases, and he never complained when we asked him for help.
One day recently, though, it became our turn to help him. His girlfriend came to us in hysterics; she said he’d gone into the Sewers in search of something called ‘The Presence’ four days ago, even though he said he’d only be gone half that amount of time. Luckily Ranjit liked to mark his paths with glow sticks and flares, so we were able to track him down to a chamber about two or three miles down in the Sewers.
Now obviously the sewer network was dark and suffocating, but this particular room was even moreso: it was so dark and so suffocating that it can only be described as harboring a Presence, just like he’d said: a faceless, invisible, silent entity that felt malicious in an ancient way. I felt like I was being watched by something that just wanted me to suffer. Even standing right next to my partners did almost nothing to combat the power this Presence had over us all to divide and isolate.
And the further in we went in search of Ranjit, the stronger it got. Before long I could barely see my partners, and after a while I couldn’t see them at all: the darkness was so thick in there that even a powerful source of direct light couldn’t avoid being overwhelmed. And when one of us would shout for the others, it sounded distant or obstructed. The Presence muffled the sound, and then muted it fully, just like the light.
And when it had me, isolated and alone, it began to communicate terrible things, without words or sounds or images. I entered in that place a blank slate, and suddenly I just knew things, awesome and terrible: the essence of infinity and nothingness; the spirit of Death. I felt like a child, or an insect trying to make sense of man. In a panic I turned and ran back the way I came. It felt like it took hours or days; in fact it was as if time had no power or meaning in that place at all. Luckily all the officers made it out, too, and every last one of us was in the same state: terrified in an existential way, unable to explain that thing – that Presence – in any capacity whatsoever. All we know is that it is the manifestation of some kind of evil stuck out of time.
Sadly we never did find Ranjit. The official story is that he died while trying to navigate a particularly treacherous part of the tunnels, which is true, but we didn’t go into any detail beyond ‘we weren’t able to extract the body.’ For good measure, we also did not disclose what part of the sewer we lost him in in order to prevent anyone else from accessing it on one of the ‘Search for Ranjit’ parties that are popping up on local social media groups and message boards all the time now.
But the one thing I can’t get out of my head when I’m lying awake at night, is this: time didn’t exist within the Presence. None. Past, present, future – it felt like it all got rolled into some kind of alien, amorphous bubble of the fourth dimension. Which means that even to this day, all these years later, Ranjit might still be alive, sitting up against that wall, basking in and beholding the Presence; lost forever in the deep.
Status: Solved (?)
Anyway. That’s all I’ve got time to write for now, but I’ve got a million others that I’ll throw down here at some point soon. For now, feel free to check out the JFPD website and let us know if you find anything strange you need us to look into.