Living with a Mystery, 33-42

Chapter 33.

I am not sure when I reached my limit, but I had to have my ball drained. It was enormous, and heavy, and tight and the whole thing was getting old. It wasn’t quite as large as some of the great historic hydroceles of all times (two quarts drained in one session being the largest I had read about), but large enough to be extremely annoying. I presumed a root cause or precipitating sources of the struggle. One told me a lot.

I was beginning to unravel my connection to what I now think of as the Villisca database: a central event of a prior life, in 1912. There was a chart and the chart was about coming to terms with the nexus of violence and desire. While I don’t feel like I reached the bottom of that world of its own, I was grateful to be aware of the situation and to have that specific language to describe the theme. The covered mirrors at the murder scene were the most significant clue that I was working with: the thread that connected me to the present moment.

Meanwhile, medically, I felt like I knew enough to proceed. An osteopathic doctor named Jeff Patterson, who I’d known from when we were presenters at erotic conferences (he spoke on the history of sexuality) had referred me to his close friend Rick Owen, who after a long medical and surgical career had opened a minor procedures clinic. Both guys were in Wisconsin, so I would be going there for my treatment.

By that time I was familiar with the process: a needle would be inserted into my scrotum, the contents drained and then a small amount of a sclerosing agent would be injected to seal the surfaces of the tunica vaginalis that were secreting (but not reabsorbing) the serous fluid.

I had chosen a sclerosant called sodium tetradechyl sulfate, or STDS for short. This was in the chemical family related to detergents. I wasn’t thrilled with the initials, but STDS had a good reputation for being effective and non-reactive. I am perhaps excessively through in investigating these matters; part of why I had held off was to check the medical literature for any known teratogenicity of this substance: that is, could it cause a birth defect if I decided to have a child.

After four years of inquiring about this I could find no evidence that it was toxic in that way. Jeff assured me that he had used it many hundreds of times, mainly to treat varicose veins, and that it had never caused an allergic reaction.

Then there was the matter of the anesthesia. That was to be a local affair; Lydocane is what Rick used for this kind of thing, along with a light dose of a sedative similar to Valium. Neither of these seemed to present a danger of reactivity.

And then there was one last thing: castration anxiety. Getting one’s ball stabbed can bring that up. In any medical procedure there is room for something to go wrong, and this was a risk. I recognized the symbolic level here: of a power-wound being inflicted; of a release of something long-held; and the sensation of surrender to the experience as it happened. There was something here about being penetrated and injected with a foreign substance, which would literally happen.

And, I was ready.

Chapter 34.

I was amazed what deep places I visited, and what admissions I made to myself. Experimenting with m.celibacy was the admission that it was possible, but my hottest fantasy consistently was, this is what you want. This is your sex. Into the mirror. The one and only mirror. I admitted to myself how good feels the witness. I love going into that space of humiliation gently and freely. From depth to depth: my anteroom was that space where I admitted that I just want and need and feel the pleasure of giving myself sex in that witnessed conscious way, in other words, I’m not just my own lover: I’m it and I can admit to you the depth of my surrender.

I let go of the embarrassment of liberating myself to be a masturbator, and to be seen as one, and to be known, simply that I take the role of woman-lover in my life. This may be the laying down of macho on the alter. What your slender hips and warm vulva could offer I give with my fist. As my piercing approached I let go into the beauty of this exchange. Since I’m saying this I want you to know about it.

Then I slipped deeper into the warm pond and what I noticed is: I want the couple present, I want her letting go into being fucked, her legs up or her ass up and me nearby in a mirror. Moaning my resonance with the beauty of their fucking. That I can even say this feels so good. What I learned and now know is that the sex I want consists of masturbating while a couple fucks.

In my paracosmic phantasy scenario, my masturbation celibacy took these currents: one year of self love making in the presence of others, if I wanted. Anyone I could arrange, or alone if I preferred. I would drink all of my semen during that time.

Then one year of self love alone.

Then an undetermined time of no climax. A week. A month. However long I could stand, or slip into, or discover the desire for.

By paracosmic phantasy I mean: it exists as real, in its own world. Could I cross the bridge? I could feel its presence. I didn’t have the guts to go for it, to give up my identity as het guy, and I may not have been ready. I may not be now, but I’m closer.

I was, though, ready to admit that the thought felt good and the experience stretched me into the reach of sexual healing and ingenuous self-awareness. Experimenting over and over. I can see them in the mirror though the game is, I make eye contact with myself continually as they light into one another.

In April, one night in a fit of urgent submission I looked up the email address of the man who got to fuck my lover the prior summer while I was alone in a motel room, and I told him the story. At the time I had begged my lover to tell him, to explain to him even if in just a few words the necessity of my desire to get down with myself and to use their joy as a way of propelling myself deeper within me. She did not. It’s not her style to do that. I loved that she didn’t tell him maybe even a little more than if she had, because I wanted to feel her power and take pleasure in every facet of her choice.

Finally I submitted to my desire for him to know as a gesture of:

I was going for my procedure in a day or two and decided it was time to say some things I had been withholding, to many people. With the utmost pleasure I wrote to him and admitted that while he and my love fucked I drank my cum at least six times, and I thanked him. And I pushed send. Then I sent the email to my then-lover, luxuriating in the faith that granted me the privilege. In the place I’ve learned to go, that I’ve learned exists, I am the giver and the receiver. I witness man and woman exchanging and creating a shared space for one another. And I open up and man and woman within me and explore and exchange.

Chapter 35. Stanton, IA.

One year on, I needed to repeat the procedure, which was partly effective: good enough to grant significant relief and stabilize the condition. In other words, the hydrocele was smaller, and it was no longer growing every day. Here is how I got to that point.

In a second session with Catherine Sweet in early 2009 – about six months after the first session, wherein I discovered the existence of the Villisca incident and Lena Stillinger – we got the information that doing an extract/sclerose procedure would resolve about 60% of the issue. She said if you get a chance to do that much of the work at once through a medical or surgical method, it’s usually a good idea to do it.

I got to that in late April 2009, just short of six months into my celibacy phase. On one level that kind of deep inner work served as preparation for the medical procedure, and I had made contact with a root cause of the issue.

As I watched directly and on a sonogram monitor, the surgeon extracted about 100ml (a little less than half a cup) of clear, amber serous fluid from a sac around my right testicle, and injected a couple of grams of STDS foam to seal the surfaces that were, physically, causing the issue.

After feeling the sudden relief of that internal pressure dropping, I had an immediate systemic toxic reaction to the STDS, which subsided; and then over the next three months the soreness and swelling gradually went away and the condition stabilized in a new form. There was enough improvement to make a significant difference in my day to day life. I would say that 60% was an accurate assessment of how much better it was – what Catherine had predicted as the result, based on muscle testing me. I felt a lot better than that.

I took the serous fluid home in a bottle with a green lid, later transferring it to four small glass 50ml dropper bottles that lived in my studio refrigerator.

In a later session with Catherine Sweet in early June 2010, part of the conversation included repeating the procedure, and part was about whether visiting Villisca would be helpful. As I had guessed, the answer to both was yes, though the disgusted look on her face at the thought of the crime scene warned me that it might not be so pleasant there.

Villisca is pretty near Madison (about 400 miles away), so I scheduled an appointment with my doctor there and left myself time for the round trip to southwestern Iowa, from where I am writing today.

I made these decisions on careful inner searching, basic research and a thorough review of the astrology involved. Then, having decided, I did my best to clear an incredibly busy schedule and set off to visit the grave of Lena Stillinger. That was my one clear intention coming to Villisca; the rest, I could take or leave, and I figured I would know well enough what to do when I got there. I wanted to take things one step at a time. Close friends asked me my plans and I said I would go to Lena’s grave and await further information there.

As I approached my destination, Lena’s presence came in stronger and stronger. The night before I arrived, I received clearly that she wanted to reincarnate. I could understand her reluctance, and I had a sense of what I was doing, besides paying respects to someone I had grown to admire and love over the past two years. The closer I got to her home, the more openly I welcomed her into my life.

The last leg of my journey was from Cedar Rapids to Villisca, about a two hour trip. I drove west along I-80 through menacing thunderstorms a focused sense of mission like I’ve rarely ever felt. I recognized how far I had come so far; I just had a little further to go. At one point, a voice in my mind explained to me that this was a gesture of faith. Not blind faith, but rather faith in a relationship.

Then suddenly I was in Villisca, population 1,300. I drove around trying to find the cemetery. Some local residents helped me find the it: the Google Maps directions weren’t quite doing it. Then, there it was. I drove in through the cemetery gates, and parked about 500 feet up the central driveway, and off to the side of the little road. Lena’s listing at does not list the grave’s location within the cemetery, and there were a couple of thousand graves there. Since I’ve done work for Find-A-Grave before, I know how challenging it can be to find a marker even if you have the row.

The weather was suddenly beautiful. Cool and clear skies and a nice breeze. I roamed around for a while, visiting with Villisca’s past residents. I looked for early 20th century graves, but did not find hers. I finally called Town Hall to ask them the location. While I was on hold as the clerk looked up the records, I realized that she was probably pretty close to where I had parked.

A moment later I found the graves of the Moore family close to my car, and then the clerk at Town Hall came back on the phone and said that the Stillinger girls were one row over. I had parked in the closest possible parking spot.

I sat down and rested. I let go into a moment of authentic calm, and, on the summer solstice in the 99th year after she was taken, I stretched out my body on her grave and looked up at her little piece of sky. Cottony clouds blew by overhead. I could feel the movement of the Earth beneath me as it swirled through our vast and strange cosmos.

Chapter 36.

I stayed with Lena for a couple of hours, and had more fun in that cemetery than anyone except kids who came there to fuck. I blasted music as loud as my iPod stereo could go, had a picnic lunch, made a series of photos and listened to my intuition. I recorded my arrival time in the cemetery as 11:07 am CDT, on the summer solstice of 2010.

I roamed around her part of the cemetery, and paid my respects to the Moores: two adults and four children who died in the same house that night.

Toward the end of my visit, a few cars pulled up and began exploring the graves of the Moore family. This turned out to be a tour guide taking customers to the various locations involved: the graves, the museum, and the crime scene house that was now owned by a guy named Darwin.

They stayed away from my graveside party at Lena’s. Finally I went up to them and introduced myself and the tour guide, John, and I talked about some of the details of the events, and how people responded today. He had a lot to say, and I decided to catch up with him later in the day.

John and the tourists left, and I stayed a little while longer; I knew my next plan.

At around 1 pm I headed for the library. I had called Pat Means, the Villisca library director, in advance, wanting to warm up the territory for my probable visit. I was aware that there is some resentment directed by townspeople toward curiosity seekers about the murders and I wanted to sidestep that tension.

Originally, I wasn’t sure about going into town after visiting the cemetery, though now it seemed like the thing to do.

Before I left, I did one last thing: poured the remaining serous fluid that had been extracted from my body onto Lena’s grave.

Chapter 37.

I arrived in the center of a sleepy, slightly bedraggled midwestern town. Not a person was on the street. I parked my rental car across the from the library, taking in my computer and one camera with a special lens for photographing documents. The library’s sign sign said it was built in 1908, so for the first time I knew I was visiting someplace Lena had been.

Pat, the librarian, turned out to be really cool – and she was expecting me: she had all the relevant documents on the table for me when I got there. She was kind and a bit shrewd and had a great sense of humor.

Sitting at the table, the energy was a thick gray psychic morass, despite the air conditioning running at full throttle. From this contrast I realized how the cemetery felt like a cool, clear lake.

I have, many times, sat down at a document-covered tabletop to dive into the workings of pure evil, and this was by far the most repulsive collection I had ever experienced. It felt so disgusting that I barely wanted to touch it. I would have felt better wearing surgical gloves, and now I know to leave a set in my computer bag – though I don’t anticipate encountering anything so vile again.

The mass of papers included about 50 pounds of trial transcripts, coroner’s inquests, books and a reproduction of some newspapers from 1912 that the Villisca Review had republished in 1986, in an effort to preserve the heritage of the town. This was the document that gave me the most clues, mainly as to the feeling in the town after the incident.

I had that in my hands yesterday; recalling back, I must have been in quite a fog because I didn’t have the energy to keep track of anything I was reading: I just dove in haphazardly looking for clues.

Small details stood out that I remember. An article on a page of the one I’ve reproduced above points to the high probability of a serial killer being the perpetrator; there were indeed a series of such crimes committed over 18 months in five states. All had similar crime scenes and modus operandi. They included perfect escapes, the use of an axe already at the scene and an oil lamp sans chimney left at the foot of the bed. The problem was that the FBI did not exist; there was nobody to profile the killer, just a bunch of rural sheriffs and a collection of random private investigators.

But the probable killer’s existence was noted on page one of the first newspaper – and then everyone seemed to forget about his existence, lost in the frenzy of trying to blame anyone who seemed available. The scapegoat was a guy named Rev. Kelly who – remember this is me talking – had some significant sexual issues that were not lost on anyone. For example, he believed that the way to understand the Bible was to commit all the different sins and see what happened. I guess you could say he was ahead of his time, or that he was a feature in the shadow landscape of a proper Midwestern town where there are still probably more copies of the Bible than all other books combined.

The pile of transcripts on the library table, including those of two trials of Rev. Kelly, reeked of bullshit. The trials were basically a coverup on the part of the political system to make it look like they were doing something about the killer on the loose. They were also trials on the issue of sexual perversion. The killer had turned Lena into a masturbation object, removing her underwear and spreading her legs, and everyone assumed that since Kelly had some sexual issues, he had to be the guy.

Meanwhile, the serial killer, Henry Lee Moore (no relation to the Moore family), had been arrested a few months after Villisca for killing his mother and grandmother, following a series of murders similar to Villisca that had left 23 people dead. Though Moore was never convicted of the other murders, the 18-month rampage stopped after he was arrested.

If there was a dividing line between when the United States was considered a safe country, and one’s bed a safe place, and the United States feeling like a violent country where the night was a potential well of horror, that was in June 9, 1912.

The Villisca story had the impact of the Columbine shootings, except that by 1999 we all agreed that the United States was a nation of citizens armed and ready to defend themselves. We had lived through the discoveries of many mass murders. In a sense, Columbine was a logical outgrowth of our culture’s obsession with violence. Villisca seemed to emerge out of nowhere. And though there had been several similar killings in the months leading up to the murders of the Moores and the Stillingers, theirs was the story that broke the surface: eight people, including six kids, murdered in their beds. That was sensational enough to get the country’s attention.

One line from a newspaper headline on June 20, 1912, told me almost everything I needed to know: the line, “Every man is armed.” The article said that the hardware store sold out of door bolts and guns faster than they could reorder them. This panic spread across the United States as fast as the news could travel; by Tuesday morning June 11, what had happened in Villisca was known about in every American city, and people were terrified: hiring people to guard their bedroom doors while they slept, for example.

It was as if a mutation had inserted itself into the genetic pool and rapidly reproduced. I don’t know if this was a conscious gesture on the part of the murderer, but that was the effect. Built into that mutation was the mixture of masturbation and axe murder.

Chapter 38.

I am including this photo from the front page of the Villisca Review from June 13, 1912, to show that from the first days, public officials, the press and the people had all the information they needed to solve this crime. However, the term ‘serial killer’ did not exist at the time: it was created in Germany in 1930 and then an FBI agent came up with the same term in 1970.

What ensued over the next five years was a horrendous series of politically-driven trials where no conviction was ever reached, while the probable killer was sitting in jail after murdering his mother and grandmother in Columbia, Missouri.

According to the Serial Killer Central website:

A federal officer, M.W. McClaughry, was assigned to the case, and his investigation indicated that the crime in Iowa was not unique.

Nine months earlier, in September 1911, six victims had been slain in Colorado Springs; the victims there included H.C. Wayne, his wife and child, along with Mrs. A.J. Burnham and her children. October was a busy month, with triple murder wiping out the Dewson family in Monmouth, Illinois, rebounding into Ellsworth, Kansas, where the Showman family – five in all – were slaughtered in their home. On June 5, 1912 – mere days before the carnage in Villisca, Rollin Hudson and his wife were murdered in Paola, Kansas. Axes had been used in every case. In no case had a suspect been identified, and rumors of “a romance angle” in the Hudson crime produced no leads.

McClaughry was convinced that he was dealing with a transient maniac, but clues were still in short supply. Hard work, coincidence, and luck eventually saved the day. McClaughry’s father was the warden of the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, a man with far-flung contacts in the prison system. When he heard about the case of Henry Moore, already serving life in the Missouri lockup, he informed his son. Comparison of modus operandi in the several cases, capped by interviews with Moore, inspired McClaughry to announce, on May 9, 1913, that the books were cleared on twenty-three Midwestern homicides.

Chapter 39.

I finally had to leave the library: I couldn’t stand it there anymore. The next logical place to go seemed to be the crime scene, though the librarian advised me to go to the museum on the corner of Fourth St. and Fourth Ave.

This one detail – how the streets were arranged – told me a lot about how the early settlers of Villisca thought of existence: as organized. There are not so many streets in Villisca, and they could certainly have named them. As for the museum – really a building with lots of old stuff strewn around, some of it displayed and organized and feeling very old. I explored – not taking a single photo, for some reason – and then a old guy appeared in the doorway: I knew without asking that was Darwin Linn.

I introduced myself; I had called him several weeks earlier, to make contact and warm up the territory. He said I could follow him to the Moore house and for $5 I could look around. He got in his car and driving at about 2 mph through the streets, we came to a small white house elevated on a little hill. This house is portrayed on every website associated with Villisca, usually in black and white to make it look creepy.

Earlier that day in the cemetery, I had met John, one of the tour guides. He was nice enough, but mainly I trusted him because he was open minded and well informed. We agreed that the real killer had been overlooked many times, which perpetuated unnecessary controversy.

John was there when I arrived. So, too, were five members of the Dark Horse Paranormal Investigation Club, a group of amateur ghost hunters from Kansas City, KS, who were planning to spend the night.

John wasted no time taking me into the house, and before I knew it I was standing in the kitchen. I glanced at the Blue Room, though right away we went upstairs and sat down on chairs in the former bedroom of Joseph and Sarah Moore. The home is small and modest. Certainly, one of the most successful businessmen in town could have afforded a bigger place; they were living well within their means and were not showing off their wealth.

Sarah Moore had a penchant for sewing and apparently there are reports that say the closets were stuffed with clothing. She did her sewing in the Blue Room, downstairs.

John asked how I had gotten there and I told him the story of the date June 9, 1912 coming out of a healing session, as being associated with the root cause of a medical condition I had; and then casting the astrology chart, seeing that it was a murder and then putting the date into Google. The first website I came to was that of Darwin Moore, the guy who now owned the place.

John had a lot of stories for me; the one I found the most intriguing was about a woman who had taken a Greyhound from Virginia halfway across the country to Villisca because Sarah Moore had come to her in a dream and said that if she wanted to resolve her health issues, visit the house. She had never heard of the incident before that dream and could not talk to anyone except for John about it: her friends thought she was a little nuts for taking healing instruction from a ghost.

The other thing he said was that nearly everyone comes here for Lena. They all want to know about her, and all the psychics and clairvoyants who show up tune into her immediately. For some reason, she is the focal point.

As I sat there, it slowly sank into me where I was; what had happened in that room.

There was a little corridor leading to another upstairs room where the four Moore children had slept. At some point we went in there and sat down again and continued talking. This was the room, so far, that felt energetically the stuffiest. I felt safe and not a trace of fear; but man, the place was packed. There was a crib, a small bed and a small double bed; that’s where the four kids had been killed; and seeing the crib made it vivid what had happened: that is, it told me more about the killer’s state of mind than anything else before that moment.

The room had a closet that was not what you would call inviting. I had to practically push against my own camera to snap a photo. There was an entryway to an attic just outside the room, where, John said, the killer is believed to have hidden earlier that evening; cigarette butts were found there because he had smoked while he waited. This was the first time I had heard that detail, and I have not verified it against the documentation. I had no inclination to go into the attic, though I photographed it from the outside.

On a table next to the window were a bunch of children’s blocks, the kind with letters and numbers on them; I documented this, for possible use unraveling their contents using numerology or an anagram finder.

Then we went down to the Blue Room, where Lena and Ina had given their lives. At that point John left me alone.

Chapter 40. Madison.

I am in Madison. Something just occurred to me – what the surgical assistant experienced.

Yesterday midafternoon I arrived for my appointment. I checked in and a nurse named Molly was there. She gave me my premed—a bit of Valium-like stuff that I don’t remember the name of. This is designed to keep patients calm while they are fully awake for a procedure. Good thing, too. She said I should strip below the waist, put on the gown backwards, and sit down. She had also taken my appointment a few weeks ago, which meant a brief encounter with astrology.

I next saw her when were about to begin the procedure: Rick asked if she could come in because he needed extra hands. I like her and welcomed her presence. I also felt a pang of nostalgia for being alone with a man. She was there, and she was handed the camera. Initially he thought he could locate a large pocket of fluid with the needle without the sonogram cam, but that turned out not to be true.

Now he had her help; she had the little sensor pressed against my ball—a hand-held sonar camera. This is a portable camera that gets taken to Honduras and Guatemala a lot, on humanitarian trips. Rick also needed me to squeeze my ball so that I could push the fluid to one end so he had a bigger target; the last thing you want to do is stab a testicle with a needle. It took four pokes to get through correctly, and a few pricks of Lidocaine, a topical anesthetic: maybe five altogether. I just rode it out. Rick is a cautious surgeon and I trust him, even his mistakes.

Molly watched and held the camera as I lay with my knees open, squeezing one of my balls while Rick inserted a needle into my scrotum. I wasn’t exactly thrilled about this, but I was so happy to be having it done that you could say I was. And I just wondered: how would a young woman respond to seeing that? How did she respond to me and what was it like for her to witness this initiation?

What must, to her, have felt like a man facing his ultimate fear.

I came home with 15ml of fluid this time. I feel the invitation to relax into healing. What got me up to write is: I was prone, naked, tasting history, cleaning up my mess, looking for my face, hiding from myself, recognizing my eyes which implies: at first I never do. I’d just felt, you can trust this process. You can trust where you will go, what you will learn and what you will feel.

Let go just that little more, it’s okay, she will love you.

Clear my conscience and embrace love in all its every form.

Chapter 41. Madison.

I could not stay there long. I tried to sit down in a chair at the foot of the bed, but could only do so long enough to take this photo. The room seemed small, and its concealed spaces held thoughts, secrets and energy. The bed seemed tiny for two girls to be sleeping in, but this was common in those days, and they were close.

It was agonizing being there, in truth, and I could only stay long enough to feel the space, to be aware, to make an offering of peace, and to shift my perspective several times. I was not afraid, only sad and disgusted.

It occurred to me that the axe came down on one of the girls first, so the other experienced that happening near her and knew what was about to happen. That was probably Lena, since she’s the only person of the eight to have made any attempt to escape. The girls were crushed beyond recognition; they were identified by their names in their Bibles, which were left on the night stand.

In the restored room, the mirror over the bureau (to the left of the bed, not shown) was covered with thin burlap cloth, part of the killer’s ritual.

I looked around for clues of any kind, photographing many details, on the assumption that things would holographically tumble into place even if the scene had been dismantled and recreated.

There was a clock on the sewing machine table. It was not displayed: a broken antique Big Ben alarm clock, laying face down. I picked it up. The clock showed 1:26:20, with the estimated time of the murders being between midnight and 2 am.

This was the clue I was looking for, or one of them: when you cast the chart for that time of the morning of June 10, 1912, the vertical axis of the chart (called the meridian or the MC/IC) is aligned with the degree with Saturday’s eclipse of the Moon, exact to the degree. The eclipse takes place on the midheaven angle of the chart. You could say that her murder was official business.

I am not ready to say who I think Lena Stillinger was, but the descriptions of how the killer positioned her body suggest that the man who sacrificed her was aware; that this incident was designed to change the world; and that it has its roots in the very distant past: a past that it’s now time to release.

Chapter 42. Detroit.

I can think of few places I was happier to leave than Villisca.

My last two hours went approximately like this. I stepped out of the house, and decided to chill for a while on the porch of an out-building that Darwin added to the property. This was an old barn, which was used by ‘guests’ of the house, who might need a bathroom or somewhere else to go on their overnight adventures. Darwin had stripped the house of plumbing and electrical wiring, to make it more like it was in 1912. Later, he added air conditioners because the air is thick and the Midwestern summer heat collects on the second floor.

Outside there were a bunch of people in their 20s wearing shirts that said they were part of Dark Horse Paranormal Investigations: amateur ghost hunters. Lots of them show up, and every breed of medium, clairvoyant and those looking to peer through the cracks to the other side. Yes, the place is haunted. But it has the feeling of a men’s room with a gloryhole: sloppy, anonymous psychic contact. Spiritually, the house is a festering wound. It is a place where people and spirits come to meet, rarely for any useful purpose. The contrast between the light, liberated feeling of the cemetery and the stuffy, anxious feeling of the house illustrates this.

Outside, I struck up a conversation with a couple of the of the Dark Horse ghost investigators. Yes, it takes people on all spiritual levels to make up the world, but they were clueless what they were messing with. They had no idea what trouble they could get themselves into, going into a place that spiritually wrecked and courting entities with no thought of protection.

At some point I realized I had left my glasses in the old bedroom of the Moore children. My first thought was: You’re going back in there? But I needed my glasses, so I went in, alone, and went upstairs and retrieved them.

A little while later, I collected my stuff on the porch, left a Book of Blue postcard on the guest book table for John, and got in my car. I drove slowly through the streets, stopping once to photograph Second St. and a few other neighborhood scenes so I had a visual record of where I had been.

As I was leaving I pulled past a big park, which I recognized from old photos as the former town square – and this was the saddest moment of my visit. I recognized this from old photos as the location of the mass funeral that horrid week in June 1912.

My next stop was the local convenience store, where I got some peanut butter and jelly to have for dinner, with corn cakes and soy milk. I then got lost in the Iowa cornfield roads and finally made it to my motel.

Intellectually, the question of who committed the crime there holds no water. If you don’t think it was a person named Henry Lee Moore, you’re hooked on the supposed mystery, which is a hook into the pain and the glamor of the incident. Once it’s solved, it’s a lot less alluring. I wasn’t there, but had the crime scene been preserved and had there been proper comparison to the similar crime scenes, this would have been an easy case to solve. Henry Moore’s real motive remains veiled, and is rarely asked.

What is significant from a social standpoint is how the residents of Villisca initially treated the crime scene, and how many hundreds of people strolled through the carnage: and it was a scene to rival the My Lai massacre.

Many of their descendants are alive today, and the visuals and the emotional impressions of that carnage haunt their genetic memory. One man who surveyed the scene kept a large fragment of Joesph Moore’s skull, which was found in a cigar box after he died, to the utter disgust of his wife. If current day Villiscans are repulsed that curiosity seekers would come today, they need to have a long talk with their ancestors.

To this day the town is haunted by what happened in 1912, and nobody knows quite how to deal with it. The next morning, I ate breakfast in a ‘Sweedish’ diner in Stanton, the next town over, owned by a woman who used to babysit in the Villisca house as a teenager when it was occupied by a family in the late 1960s.

Everything was normal, she said, and nothing ever happened – but she didn’t believe in ghosts or spirits, period. She was adamant and angry about it. The innkeeper at the hotel in the same town, Stanton (the closest town to Villisca) said the same thing. We don’t know anything, there isn’t anything, he said. All the people who visit the house come through that diner and that hotel, from psychics to to scientists to filmmakers. That is one extreme reaction: don’t know, don’t want to know. On the other side of the spectrum are the ghost hunters, who need to believe; they need that supposed miracle of contact.

The prior day as I approached Villisca, I was filled with the sense of faithfully fulfilling a commitment to a relationship. Leaving, I had a sense of leaving behind something horrendous, grateful that I had the courage to face it. And I made a friend, with a young woman who nobody understands, of whom people are terrified and who died one of the worst deaths imaginable. I know I share some history with her, though I don’t know for sure what it is. When I see her face, I see a gentle, beautiful soul and I celebrate her life. Looking back, I paused to consider why I wasn’t scared of any of what happened or how badly it’s handled, and why I was out of reach of the crouching, lurking ghosts in that house, and the answer is plain: I came in love, with a true heart.

I came in friendship, seeking healing, and that is what I found.