Going to the Light
A 365-day Photo Journal

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Day 92: The Legend of Carey Place

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If you search the archives of The Daily Oklahoman you’ll find no mention of the evil that transpired in that house on Carey Place late one Halloween night in 1968. Nor will you find record of the dozen or more children who subsequently disappeared in the years to come from this cozy little neighborhood. No, this is a story that a city dare not tell in open forum. This is a story passed on in whispers and fleeting glances as the cynics proclaim it only lore.


The Legend of Carey Place


James and Catherine loved living on this little 3-block stretch in the stylish Gatewood neighborhood of Oklahoma City. It was tranquil to say the least and its exclusive nature made neighbors caretakers of one another. Most Saturday nights they’d walk a few blocks south to catch a movie at the Plaza Theatre and the next morning go to mass at St. Francis. James was an associate at Crowe & Dunlevy and Catherine enjoyed the modest lifestyle his position afforded. When their first child arrived the name was an easy decision. It would be Carey for a boy or Carrie for a girl…after the name of their beloved street, Carey Place. Carrie it was.

To see Carrie grow up was the neighborhood obsession. She was not only their namesake, she was a force of good whose bright red hair, freckled face and infectious smile brought instant joy each time they saw her. She was the only child that every neighbor knew by name. And Carrie seemed to only grow brighter with the attention she constantly received.

Shortly after her tenth birthday, Carrie became ill and her symptoms did not abate. Her normally pale skin turned ashen and her cough was deep and raspy and told of unknown malady. The doctor offered little solace and was dismissive of it being anything serious. But for week after week Carrie lay sick…never getting worse and not getting better.

Catherine was a dutiful mother who never left Carrie’s side. She managed to take care of Carrie’s younger brothers and complete the daily chores, but there were no diversions and no escapes from caring for her sick little girl. James would try to give her some time to recover away but Catherine knew she could not find respite away from her daughter’s side. It wasn’t until Halloween night that she finally found courage to leave the house without the little girl.

James’ attendance was required at the firm’s masquerade party and he felt it important that Catherine be at his side. The neighbors a few doors down in the house with the green shutters with clover leaf cutouts, had asked Todd and Micah, Carrie’s younger brothers, to go trick-or-treating with their boys over in Mesta Park. James had already secured a sitter to stay with Carrie. Reluctantly, Catherine donned her rented witch costume which caused many male party goers that evening to comment how she looked just like the actress Elizabeth Montgomery.

Catherine was nervous leaving Carrie with Ezra, the neighbor from across the street. The truth was that Catherine had always been uneasy around the widow who had such a strange name and eccentric tastes. Ezra’s was the only house that didn’t seem to fit on Carey Place and neighbors always noticed strange smells when they walked by it. It had large shutters around each window with axe cutouts that looked like they belonged on a medieval fortress instead of in this cozy neighborhood. But the thing that disturbed Catherine the most was Ezra's dog. It was small in stature, but it had piercing eyes that she had never seen on another animal. She never once heard it bark, but it would stand at attention for what seemed like hours like it was guarding some ancient treasure.

James reminded Catherine that Ezra had always looked after Carrie as she walked up and down the street and back and forth from the Rosary School. In fact, it was Ezra who had brought a special tea for Carrie when she heard she was ill. Catherine remembered that despite the odd grey color and moldy smell of the tea, it had in fact helped Carrie feel better if only for a few hours. So reluctantly, Catherine welcomed Ezra into her house as she went over at least three times how they could be contacted at the Skirvin ballroom. She and James then shuffled the boys up the street and loaded into the car waiting to take them out for a much deserved evening of play.

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As the driver turned onto Carey Place, Catherine raised her head from James’ shoulder and gathered herself. She hadn’t realized just how much she needed a break until she felt the urgency of the return home. As they neared their house, James noticed a figure hanging upside down in the large oak tree to the side of Ezra’s house. It was swinging rather wildly in the wind and while he couldn’t make out the body, the inverted head was a Jack-O-Lantern. He hadn’t noticed it before they left and he wondered why it was just now appearing among the Halloween décor.

The driver let them out in front of their house and Catherine headed up the street to collect the boys. James decided to take a closer look at the figure hanging from the tree across the street. As he approached the swinging line he noticed a putrid smell and arriving he gasped to see a gutted dog hanging by its hind foot with its head impaling the pumpkin. He pulled hard on the rope and felt the tree branch give way. He tossed the animal out of sight making note to return in the morning and properly dispose of the carcass. He dreaded having to tell Ezra the fate of her companion.

While Catherine was waiting for the boys to bag up their candy before returning home, James made his way up the stairs to Carrie’s room. He hoped to shuffle Ezra out the door before Catherine arrived. He opened the bedroom door expecting to see Carrie asleep in bed and Ezra sitting in the easy chair that for the last several weeks had become Catherine’s place of slumber. Instead, the room was empty and immediately there started in him an internal battle between the dread of what might be and the possibility of something simple and inane.

As the adrenaline surged James ran down hallways tossing his head wildly back and forth as he searched. He cleared the stairs to the lower level in a mere two strides. Through the parlor and out to the kitchen…nothing. He ran to the front door and burst out the door his eyes fixed on the odd house across the street. As his foot hit the sidewalk his eyes darted up the street to see Catherine coming toward him. She had one son bundled in her arms asleep and the other dragging behind her.

Catherine saw James fly out of their house but it wasn’t until she saw the terror in his eyes that she knew her life was forever changed. There was no spark of hope for a pleasant outcome. She knew as a mother knows that the debt for leaving her daughter’s side for just that one evening was now come due. She dropped to her knees; still cradling her youngest as Micah caught up to her and leaned hard against her shoulder. When the air finally returned to her lungs she expelled a gasp followed by a long haunting, “Nooooooo”.

Ned and Maggie, the couple who had watched the boys that evening, waited on their porch as Catherine headed home. They were just turning to go inside when they heard Catherine’s sounds of horror. As they glanced back the scene spoke of their need to intervene. Maggie raced in front of Ned to Catherine’s side and Ned quickly passed her, intent to meet James at Ezra’s front door. Instead, he watched as James’ foot hit the porch of Ezra’s house and immediately gave way across a pool of something dark covering half of the concrete slab.

James’ head was the first part of his body to make contact with the hard stone walkway leading up to Ezra’s porch. It was perhaps mercy that he would remain unconscious for the next hour…the hour when horror was revealed. Ned, however, remained head in this world and standing at James’ side froze as he gazed through the open door of Ezra’s house. On the large white wall on the opposite side of the great room were foot tall letters written in blood spelling out the words, “RURAL WINTER RELIC”.

Carrie nor Ezra were ever found. A search of Ezra’s house by investigators found blood…only blood. Ezra’s tastes were indeed odd and bottles of various herbs and unidentified contents along with a collection of crosses and dolls led many to believe her a witch. In a day before DNA testing, the blood remained unidentified. After months the house was turned over to Ezra’s only surviving relative, a nephew, who some say lives in the house to this day.

The whereabouts of James and Catherine are today unknown. Soon after the incident there were accusations that James himself was involved in the disappearances. Indeed Catherine left him due to her own nagging doubts and her inability to account for him during much of the masquerade party. Some say that Catherine’s obsession over caring for the sick Carrie drove James to kill the little girl in a jealous rage.

Come Halloween each year there have been reports of a girls voice echoing up and down the street, “Why daddy?...Why?” and the ghostly trio of a woman, child and small dog walking between houses. Swing sets are reported to move on windless days while singing children are heard just beyond.

The blood on Ezra’s porch could never be washed away. The new owner ended up painting the whole porch a color resembling that of dried blood to cover it up. Many neighbors sold their houses and to this day the residents of Carey Place rarely last more than a year or two before selling and moving on. Although not all on Carey Place, there have been statistically more missing children from this area than almost any other place in the United States. A famed retired FBI agent has badgered many an Oklahoma City police officer looking for clues and demanding answers…answers that so far have not come.

It was a student from a nearby college who chilled by the telling of this story took on the words that were written on Ezra's wall. "Rural Winter Relic", he discovered after many sleepless nights, is an anagram for CARRIE WILL RETURN.

The current residents of Carey Place have for the most part embraced this story. They put out RIP Carrie headstones and decorate a bit more than the average neighborhood. I suppose they discourage the curious by making light of what happened. But if you venture there some Halloween night, don’t be fooled and please...don’t lose sight of your children.

DISCLAIMER: The story above is just that…a story. It contains elements of the various versions of the Carey Place story that friends have shared with me. It also contains extreme embellishment on my part. So what of the story is true? The official answer is that none of it is true. But unofficially I must say that my own belief is that every legend starts from fragments of truth.

Camera Info: 70-200mm lens at 153mm. 1/500 sec at f/3.2. ISO 100.

4 comments:

Kristie said...

Ooooh, your version gives me the creeps. The version *I* heard, as a teenager, being driven through Carey Place by my youth counselor from church (I know! What were they thinking?!?!?) was that she was snatched and killed by the school janitor, hence the reason the swingset on the school playground is always moving just a bit .... even on a windless day.

jenX said...

That is an impressive piece of writing. Way better than the story an Oklahoma City boy told me and my college roommate. It freaks me out too much to repeat it. Wow. You did such a great job. I CAN'T BELIEVE THAT PHOTO!!! That person has spirit.

Many years ago when Mike Easterling was still editor of the Gazette they did a big story on Carey Place - to prove or dispel the myths. I kept a copy of it for years. I wish they'd re-run it on their blog or Web site. Do you follow bookgasm on twitter? he's an editor at the gazette.

Your blog is one of the best. I mean that.

Jay Spear said...

Chilling ... that is all ...

Anonymous said...

Jim,

This series on the Carey Place brought back so many fun and chilling memories of my youth - Thanks and I love your blog!!