today’s mystery


http://folklorelei.livejournal.com/9128.html

 

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It doesn’t look creepy from the street, nestled in the hills near the Greek Theatre, with a view of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Ennis House from its backyard, but there is a place here in Los Angeles steeped in madness, murder, and obsession. In truth, there are many places like that in L.A., but this one is especially eerie not just for what happened there but for the long, weird aftermath of what happened: a perfect petri dish for urban legends, ghostly tales, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. It’s known as the Los Feliz Murder Mansion and it’s gotten more than its share of byplay on the internet. Hardly a blogger of uncanny stuff in Los Angeles has been able to resist its siren call. Oh, and the Ennis House? You may remember that from the original Vincent Price version of House on Haunted Hill. It was used for the exterior shots. The movie was released the very same year that the Los Feliz Murder Mansion became infamous.

I suspect most people’s obsession with the place began with this article from 2009 by Bob Pool, writing for the Los Angeles Times. That’s certainly when mine began.

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In a nutshell: in the early hours of December 6, 1959, Dr. Harold Perelson, a heart surgeon, bludgeoned his wife to death in her sleep with a balpeen hammer, then tried to do the same to his eighteen-year-old daughter, Judye. His daughter fought him off, screaming, and woke up the two younger children in the house who came running to find out what was going on. Dr. Perelman told them they were having a nightmare and to go back to sleep. They went back to their rooms, but the interlude allowed Judye to escape down the long, winding driveway of the mansion to a neighbor. By the time the police arrived, Dr. Perelson had drunk either poison or acid (reports vary) and killed himself. The two younger children were safe in their rooms.

A horrible tragedy, but one that would probably have faded with time because, unfortunately, this is a scenario that has been encountered in the news many times. But here’s where the obsession kicks in. You see, the house was bought at a probate sale in 1960 by a couple named Emily and Julian Enriquez. It’s said (though I no longer remember where I read this) that the family moved in with their son, Rudy, for a very brief time, and moved back out again suddenly, leaving all the Perelson furniture and possessions behind—and, it’s said, some of their own. Since then, for more than fifty years, the mansion has sat abandoned. The Enriquez family used it over the years to store things, but to this day you can peak into its windows and see covered mid-century modern furniture, 1950s-era newspapers and magazines, Christmas presents, board games, an ancient TV, and other bric-a-brac of life back then.

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In 1994, Rudy Enriquez inherited the mansion from his mother. He has continued their non-use of the place, steadfastly refusing all offers to buy it. The house itself is now so derelict it’s probably a tear-down, but the real estate it sits upon is some of the priciest and most desirable in Los Angeles. Estimates of its value range up to 2.9 million. But he continues to let it rot, unless forced by the city or the neighbors to do something about the upkeep of the property—at least on the outside. The inside remains a freakish time capsule of murder and abandonment.

Of course, stories abound of the place being haunted and having a weird feel. Even the Times article couldn’t resist a spooky bit at the end, telling the story of a neighbor whose curiosity got the better of her. She briefly pushed open the mansion’s backdoor to snoop, but heard the burglar alarm and beat a hasty retreat. Her hand started to throb and a ugly red vein traveled up her arm. A visit to the ER confirmed that her brief foray into Breaking and Entering had left her with the bite of a black widow spider. Two nights later, the burglar alarm on her own backdoor kept going off, but when she looked, no one was there. “It was like the ghost was following us,” she said.

Rudy Enriquez himself claims, “The only spooky thing there is me. Tell people to say their prayers every morning and evening and they’ll be OK.” Which, I have to say, does nothing to alleviate the spookiness.

Since the publication of the Times article, looky loos have driven the neighbors crazy trespassing on the property and breaking into the mansion. Those same neighbors originally encouraged the article because prostitutes and other unsavory types had started breaking in to crash. That doesn’t happen anymore since the owner put in an alarm system, but the unexpected consequences of the neighborhood stirring up the public’s curiosity and obsession is clearly a case of be careful what you wish for.

If you want to know the depth of obsession out there, visit the Find-a-Death thread on it. But I warn you, if you visit that site and read through the entire thread, be prepared to spend hours.

I also fell into the rabbit hole of obsession about this place right after I read the Times article. When I saw that Dr. Harold Perelson had a medical practice in Inglewood, near to my own home, something deep and strange clicked inside me.

My backbrain insisted this information had personal significance, that I needed to find out where the practice had been located. I immediately jumped to the conclusion that the doctor had once had an office in the old Inglewood medical building where my mother’s kidney specialist practiced. The building certainly seemed like it could date back to 1959. Who knew? Maybe his practice had been in the same office the nephrologists now occupied!

I became obsessed with finding out. I scoured the internet for online collections of street maps and phone books. There were many, but nothing online for Inglewood of that time period. I knew I would have to physically go to one of the libraries containing these holdings and look up the information, but my life was so frantic by then with being a full time caregiver and working full time that, well, time was the one thing I didn’t have. I couldn’t even take an afternoon off to go to a library.

I’d let it go for a while, but the obsession still gripped me. Every now and then, I’d revisit the online archives to see if the phone books, et al., had been uploaded, and I’d search out more articles and information on the case, finding the most obscure things to download to my mystery folder. I’d visit Find-a-Death, too, to see what they’d come up with.

Then I stopped being a caregiver through the inevitable way those things happen.

I didn’t immediately think of the Los Feliz Murder Mansion, but a month later while clearing out old files from my computer, I came across the folder where I kept my mystery stories. Los Feliz, being the most obsessional of them all, jumped out at me. Out of idle (okay, not so idle) curiosity I decided to head back to Google. My old “friends” at Find-a-Death (I’m not a member, although I have taken Scott Michaels’ tour) popped up so I visited the site. I went to the most recent page to work my way backward for the “newest” posts about this old mystery. People still post about it, the mansion is still abandoned, still owned by Rudy Enriquez, still a burden to its neighbors, still spooky as hell.

Several pages back from the last entry, a post from November 2014 gave the address of Dr. Perelson’s medical practice. The poster believed it was now a family dental clinic. I was thrilled and disappointed at the same time. It wasn’t the address for the building in which my mother’s doctors practiced. What the heck could my backbrain have been thinking? Clearly, not for the first time, I’d fallen prey to flights of morbid imagination.

But the address—3108 W. Imperial Highway—did have something of a personal connection, after all. You see, I’d driven along portions of Imperial Highway 3-4 (or more) times a week for the last five years. My mother’s dialysis clinic was on Imperial Highway. I didn’t think I was emotionally ready to make that drive again, so I looked up the address on Google street view. The building housing the family dental clinic was gone. That area has seen a vast revival, and a new mall exists where the office once stood. That’s why Google maps showed the address in the middle of an intersection. It doesn’t exist anymore.

But I knew that intersection, knew it well. I sat staring at it in shock a long, long time. Because, you see, I’d driven through it 3-4 (or more) times a week for the last five years. It was located approximately a half block from my mother’s dialysis center.

Click here to see pictures of that intersection.

Is my obsession gone? Once I’d made the personal connection it did fade. But old obsessions are hard to kill and I feel it grabbling for my attention even now. I think sometimes we prefer our mysteries unsolved so we can reside forever in the sweet tantalization of speculation. Certainly, I believe the scores of people doggedly pursuing this story will be disappointed once Rudy dies and the mansion invariably gets sold off and torn down.

But you never know. Maybe new mysteries will spring from its footprints. Ghosts are as hard to get rid of as obsessions and not always banished by the rational expediency of tear-down. For what are ghosts if not the stubborn obsessions of human souls unready and unbelieving in death, unable to give up their unfinished business, playing and replaying their moments of personal nightmare?

UPDATE, 3/31/16:

Rudy has passed away. The Murder Mansion is for sale: http://www.australianetworknews.com/want-to-stay-with-ghosts-murder-house-haunted-by-ghosts-for-sale-in-la/

This is one of those stories where folklore and history intersect, and more compelling for the union.

Some of you may know this haunting song by Alison Krauss:



Some of you may even know it’s based on a true story.

On the morning of April 24, 1856, in the remote and dense forest of Spruce Hollow, Pennsylvania in the Blue Knob region of the Alleghenies near Pavia, Samuel Cox went out hunting for dinner while his wife was distracted with chores. When he returned to the log cabin he’d built for his wife Susannah and their two sons, Joseph, aged 5, and George, aged 6, his frantic wife told him that when she’d looked up from her work the boys had disappeared. She’d been calling their names and searching the area but they never responded to her calls, and she could find no trace of them.

Samuel began a desperate search, but had no better luck. Neighbors were implored for help and within hours nearly two hundred people had joined the search. They scoured the area for days, the numbers of searchers growing to almost one thousand persons. Some came as far as fifty miles to aid the Cox family at a time when traveling through that rugged country was very difficult. A dowser and a local witch were even brought into to help. Nothing—no one could find any trace.

Inevitably, with so many searchers coming up empty, rumors and gossip began to fly. Eventually, even the parents were suspected of murdering their own children, some people going so far as to tear up the floorboards of the cabin and digging up the land around it to search for bodies.

At the height of this rumor-frenzy, a man named Jacob Dibert, living some twelve miles from Spruce Hollow, had a nightmare. In this dream, Jacob saw the search parties looking for the Cox children and saw himself amongst them—though in reality he hadn’t joined them. In the dream, he became separated from the rest and didn’t recognize the part of the forest he moved through, but then he came to a fallen tree and saw a dead deer. Just beyond the deer, he spied a small boy’s shoe, and just beyond that a beech tree lying across a stream. Crossing the stream, he ascended a steep and stony ridge, then down into a ravine. By the roots of a large birch tree with a shattered top, he found the missing boys lying in each others’ arms, dead from exposure.

Shaken by this dream, Jacob at first told only his wife, but it returned to him the next night, and the night after that, so he finally told his brother-in-law, Harrison Whysong, who lived in Pavia. Whysong was skeptical, but he knew the area and knew a ridge that matched Jacob’s description. Jacob was so shaken up that Whysong decided to ease his mind by taking him there. On May 8, they began their search. They found the fallen tree, they found the dead deer, they found the small shoe. They ran for the stony ridge and down into the ravine, towards the roots of that birch tree with the shattered top. They found the two small boys, lying in each others’ arms, dead from exposure.

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The boys were buried in Mt. Union Cemetery. In 1906 on the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, the people of Pavia erected a monument. In 2002, it was vandalized, but the good folks from Culp Monumental Works of Schellsburg restored it. C. B. Culp, who founded the company, made the original chiseled marble stone. You can still visit the monument. It’s quite a hike, I understand, and there’s even a geocache there for people who are interested in geocaches. It is rumored to be a place of strange lights and odd occurrences, even to this day.

Sources for this story:

The Lost Children of the Alleghenies
Anomalies: The Pavia Monument
Lost Children of the Alleghenies

*Another irregular series that I will probably keep up with irregularly.

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Sometime in the 1860s or shortly thereafter, an elderly Native American man sat or kneeled near the side of the road not far from present-day Escalante, Utah and died. The area is now part of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a breathtaking natural wonder, but few people knew the old man lay there. Blowing sand had quickly covered up his remains and his possessions. His body was rediscovered by hikers in late 2007 and Bureau of Land Management anthropologists were called in to study the bones. The BLM nicknamed him Escalante Man. He carried a musket, percussion caps, polished stones, a horn, human molars from a young adult, and a large brass bucket fitted with a handle and chain bearing a patent date of December 15, 1866.

The old man, probably in his sixties, had rotting teeth and arthritic bones and may have just been overcome by weariness and disease when he died. The fact is, we don’t know. The FBI, you see, took control of the excavation, declaring it a crime scene and excluding archaeologists from its April 16, 2008 excavation. They also excluded state officials and the local Indian tribes. A BLM archaeologist, Matt Zweifel, complained about it and was ordered by higher ups in BLM to cease and desist.

“It’s an ongoing investigation. Our policy is we cannot comment on it,” FBI spokesman Juan Becerra said at the time, stating that they had good reasons to keep the archaeologist away from the dig. The U.S. Attorney’s Office also signed off on the investigation. Their refusal to talk to archaeologists or the public about this didn’t prevent them from inviting a KUTV news crew to come by and have a look. They filed an upbeat news story about it showing the FBI in a favorable light. That news story isn’t up at KUTV’s archive anymore, but you can read the whole text here.

To this date, as far as I can determine, the FBI has never stated why they turned this into a crime scene investigation and circumvented state and federal laws regarding the treatment of the remains of Native Americans. The story got much play in 2008 and was taken up by a number of forums, had some fantastical speculation, then died as stories often do. I haven’t found any references to it past 2008. For me, the most sensible answer as to why the Feds behaved as they did came from Ichneumon on the Darwin Central forum:

[I]t’s possible that something in the Escalante Man find matches details of some old but still remembered crime, or that there are signs he was murdered in a still significant way, or had on him bills or objects from a high-profile old crime, or was a prominent historical figure, etc. Maybe there are signs he died of an infectious disease that could still be virulent and the CDC is involved. There are lots of somewhat possible reasons for the feds to want to be involved.

On the other hand, maybe they just barged in before it was realized how old the body was, and now they’re too embarassed to step back and say, “oops, never mind”.

Yep, could be. But I’ll leave you with one more piece of intrigue. Some years ago when I originally poked around about this story, I went to the BLM website’s “Environment Notification Bulletin Board.” I found this entry and for some reason I decided to take a screen capture:

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If you can’t see the entire entry, click on the picture and it will take you to Photobucket and show the whole thing.

The dates shown on the right hand side of this fall under the labels of Last Updated and Created. I think it’s interesting that the protesting BLM guy was quietly reburying bones at the end of the year when this controversy blew up. But what I find more intriguing is a recent re-visit to this BLM site. The entry shown above is no longer listed on the bulletin board, completely gone from the records as far as I can determine.

Maybe they pulled the entry because it was old—although I’ve found things on the bb going back to 2006. Maybe I typed it in wrong—all of the several times I searched for it. Maybe it’s all a coincidence and the above entry has nothing to do with Escalante Man. Maybe. Maybe even probably. Maybe.

This one is a bit of a cheat. Yes, I will be presenting you with a mystery here, but I will also be reviewing the documentary film Resurrect Dead, which sums up and explores the mystery of the Toynbee tiles far better than I ever could. The film is available on Video On Demand (at least until the end of November on my cable carrier) and iTunes. I highly recommend it.

But what are the Toynbee tiles? you ask.

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Sometime in the early to mid-1980s handcrafted linoleum tiles began appearing in the streets of major American cities. Mostly Philadelphia at first, the tiles have in subsequent years appeared in two dozen American cities as well as four in South America. The tile pictured above was found in downtown Washington, D.C. They mostly bear some variation on the same message:

TOYNBEE IDEA
IN Kubrick’s 2001
RESURRECT DEAD
ON PLANET JUPITER.

Toynbee is thought to refer to the historian, Arnold J. Toynbee, whom Stanley Kubrick consulted with when preparing for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Toynbee once wrote in his book Experiences:

Human nature presents human minds with a puzzle which they have not yet solved and may never succeed in solving, for all that we can tell. The dichotomy of a human being into ‘soul’ and ‘body’ is not a datum of experience. No one has ever been, or ever met, a living human soul without a body… Someone who accepts—as I myself do, taking it on trust—the present-day scientific account of the Universe may find it impossible to believe that a living creature, once dead, can come to life again; but, if he did entertain this belief, he would be thinking more ‘scientifically’ if he thought in the Christian terms of a psychosomatic resurrection than if he thought in the shamanistic terms of a disembodied spirit.

And if you’ve ever seen the film 2001, you know there’s some weird mamajama stuff going on at the end of it, once the surviving astronaut reaches Jupiter. The tilemaker seems to have combined these ideas—and probably some others—into a belief system which includes some kind of resurrection of the dead. This resurrection seems to depend on human beings believing it’s possible for their spirits to live on, so it’s vital to the tilemaker to get the word out: As you believe, so shall it be. His (for lack of a confirmed gender) belief is so ardent that he’s trying to spread the word through this remarkable means, mostly because he doesn’t believe he can get the message out any other way. Often his messages contain elements of conspiracy theory with a profound distrust of mainstream media, especially John Knight Ridder of Knight-Ridder. There’s also a strong element of anti-Semitism in the tilemaker’s beliefs/tiles.

The film, Resurrect Dead, is a great whodunit. It follows Justin Duerr, artist and man obsessed with the identity of the tilemaker, as he and his fellow investigators painstaking seek out clues. The director, Jon Foy, paces the film impeccably, keeping the excitement of the hunt at a steady drumbeat, even though it takes years of poking, prodding, and searching to yield answers. This is a fascinating exploration of obsession—of the filmmakers as well as the Toynbee tilemaker. There is a kind of redemption at the end, though I’m not sure I quite buy the final “confrontation.” It’s difficult sometimes to know what is fact and what is merely the will to believe. But then, that’s what the Toynbee tiles are all about, isn’t it? And Resurrect Dead is also about the longing after mysteries, about that special electric intensity they cause in human minds, and how sometimes the very best mysteries are the ones that are never completely solved.

Resurrect Dead Trailer from Resurrect Dead on Vimeo.

Websites you may wish to peruse:

http://www.resurrectdead.com/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toynbee_tiles
http://www.damninteresting.com/the-mysterious-toynbee-tiles/

In February 1945—or maybe it was 1942. The newspapers disagree. In February, 1945, reports the AP wire service of January 21, 1975, a man who appeared to be in his forties was found floating in a life raft in the North Atlantic. He had head and internal injuries and was paralyzed from the waist down, unable to speak, though he’d nod yes or shake his head no sometimes when asked questions. For all anyone could tell, he was completely unable to remember who he was or how he got in that raft. He carried no identification, but there was a card in his pocket with the name Charles Jamieson on it, and the birth date of April, 1898. So that was the name they listed on his hospital records.

Stars and Stripes of March 30, 1957, reports that an ambulance brought him to the U.S. Public Health Hospital in Boston on February 10, 1942, then sped off, never to be traced. Several government agencies carried on searches to identify him without any luck, and it was speculated that he’d been on board a merchant ship torpedoed by a Nazi sub.

And yet the name Charles Jamieson did not appear on any crew records of any ship sunk during that time.

In March of 1957 Mrs. Frances Hamilton, then of Long Beach, CA but born in England, claimed that Charles was her long-lost brother, James Hamilton, a British merchantman, whom she hadn’t seen since 1921. However, not even the British consul believed her, reporting that she produced no “concrete proof” that Charles was her brother, and furthermore, that she herself seemed rather confused. She told rambling and incoherent stories about her brother James, and although a “tearful reunion” took place between Mrs. Hamilton (who had taken back her maiden name after a divorce) and Charles, he didn’t respond to her in any way except for the same peaceful smile he gave to anyone who talked to him.

The link was dismissed as wishful fantasy on Mrs. Hamilton’s part.

Charles lived on at the U.S. Public Health Hospital for nearly 30 years. A sweet-natured man, no one ever knew how much he comprehended of his situation and his environment. He liked candy, liked to be wheeled around the hospital—and had plenty of willing volunteers to take him. Occasionally, he played checkers and responded to music on the radio. Everyone who passed him in the halls stopped to speak, to benefit from his sweet smile and peaceful nature. “He was—you could almost say—loved by every member of the staff,” said George Hedquist, assistant director of the hospital, “almost as if he were a mascot or a member of the family.”

The man who became know as Charles Jamieson had clearly lived through horrors, but he brought none of them with him on that bitter journey across the Atlantic and into the safe harbor of the U.S. Public Health Hospital of Boston, Mass. Nothing there, no, no, nothing there to think on, nothing there. . .

“Charles Jamieson” died in January of 1975, still unknown, having never spoken a word in all those years. The Transcript of January 23, 1975 reports that 100 people attended the funeral of sweet, mysterious Mr. X.

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So I told my mother that I had written a remembrance of Dr. Raymond La Scola. We discussed in general what I’d said. Mom never reads my stuff. I think it embarrasses her in some obscure way, like she doesn’t know what to say to me about it, so I’ve long since stopped offering it to her. But she was pleased with what I’d said about Dr. Ray.

“He used to tell you stories,” she said.

And just like that, I remembered that he had, when he wanted to distract me from some part of the exam. I’d forgotten that he was another dedicated storyteller in my life, like my father. I was surrounded by storytellers back then. No wonder I knew so early in life that I wanted to be a writer. Second grade, in fact, when Mrs. Cooper played a moody bit of music and asked us to let our imaginations go. It was the first time in my life I experienced flow, and I was addicted to it from then on. Another pantser born to the universe of writing! God save us all.

I must have told Dr. La Scola about that. Mom says that I was his patient until I was about nine, so it is possible I told him. I don’t remember doing that, but so much is lost to the haze of years. The reason I think I must have mentioned something about being a writer is because soon after I told Mom about my reminiscence, she dug that old novel of his out of the obscurity of storage and presented it to me. Man, it is somewhat the worse for wear. Not dog-eared or anything, but the tip top of the pages where it’s been closed and gathering dust for decades are real dirty, and there’s a freckling of brown spots on the pages.

And there on the back, a picture of Ray La Scola, smiling, effervescent, like he’d just finished laughing from a joke, or was just about to start in. That’s the sweet, kind smile I remember, those are the sparkling eyes. Except, dear me, they are clearly not brown.

“I remember him with brown eyes,” I told Mom.

“I think they were gray,” she said.

Yes, clearly light eyes. Though I think he had a certain brown-eyed soul.

But back to the book. He autographed the fly leaf for me, and this is what it said:

For Pamela, my favorite red-head, whose future I look forward to writing with, Best Wishes, Ray La Scola.

When I read that again after so much time, I experienced such a moment of wonderment, such an upwelling of “Ah ha!” and “So that’s where I got it from.”

“I must have told him I wanted to be a writer,” I said.

“You must have,” agreed Mom.

And this is what the back jacket says:

Ray La Scola was born in New Orleans, in an old house on Bourbon Street. Early in life, he became interested in the piano and organ, later studying at the New Orleans Conservatory of Music. His interest in writing began his sophomore year at Louisiana State University when he studied under Robert Penn Warren.

After graduating from college, the author entered medical school and while there continued the professional music career he had started at the age of twelve. Advanced medical study took him to the Chicago Medical Center and Cook County Hospital. He now practices in Santa Monica, California.

It doesn’t say anything about him being a lawyer first, so perhaps Mom misremembered that, or perhaps in the creative form of Author Bio it just didn’t fit the current narrative. I’ll never know.

And what of the book itself? Dear Reader, I haven’t had the courage to read it yet. What if I don’t like it? Mom pronounced it a “cute story,” but I mean…what if I don’t like it? Dr. Ray is probably beyond caring, so I’ll probably read it some day, but…

This mystery isn’t completely unsolved like the cases I usually feature in these posts. It does contain the strange and puzzling elements I favor, juicy bits to make the eyes tingle as they read. Ultimately, though, this story is about the grandest mystery of them all: the twisting, turning, tangled terrain of the human heart.

I’ll get to the strange and mysterious part, but first I have to introduce the main character.

When I was a tiny girl, I actually loved going to my pediatrician. Oh yeah, I dreaded shots as much as any kid, but I loved Dr. Raymond La Scola. The gentlest of men, he had shining eyes that I remember as being dark, but it was a long time ago and I was little, so God only knows. The important part was that those eyes broadcast joy at being around children. Kids can tell that stuff, when a grownup really likes being around them and when they’re just going through the motions. Dr. Ray loved kids. He had a melodious voice, so soothing and comforting, and when he talked to me, he talked to me and listened attentively to what I said. Pretty heady stuff for a little kid.

My mom loved him, too. He was the most compassionate of doctors. We were desperately poor, my father working only now and then, my mom struggling to make ends meet by babysitting and sewing and whatever else she could think up. We lived in a ramshackle old house back then in one of the poorest neighborhoods in L.A. When my mother was especially hard up and I needed care, or my shots, Dr. La Scola often waived his fees. Once when I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed, he came to the house—a momentous, archetypal event in my young life. I remember his dark fedora and stylish overcoat, the leather doctor’s bag he carried, his shining stethoscope hovering over my chest, his sweet-sad smile. I remember his comforting voice, telling me it was going to be all right, that I was going to be all right. I remember the quiet ebb and flow of his words talking to my mother, telling her it would be all right, too.

He didn’t charge for that visit, either. I confirmed this with my mother when I was an adult.

Dr. Ray was also something of a Renaissance man. He published a novel, The Creole, and gave my mother an autographed copy which I still have. He was a concert pianist and before becoming a doctor, he tried his hand at being a lawyer. He had a restless spirit, always looking for something to fill his soul. He looked for love, too, but rarely found it. In the bad old days, being gay meant always hiding an essential part of yourself. He had a crush on a policeman friend of my mother’s. J. wasn’t insulted or jeopardized by this. He was secure in his manhood and let Dr. La Scola down easy. J. appreciated what a good man he was because he treated J.’s kids, too.

After I’d moved on to a grownup doctor, my mother one day found herself in the medical building where Dr. La Scola practiced. Since it had been a few years since she’d seen him, she thought to drop in and say hello. “You wouldn’t believe the strange people in that waiting room,” she later told me. “No kids. It looked like he’d gone down to Venice Beach and found the roughest, skunkiest people around.” Venice Beach was where the hippies and druggies hung out back then. It still is, in parts, but it’s also become a tourist mecca and quite upscale in parts. Mom left the office without saying anything to the receptionist or Dr. Ray.

On August 25, 1980, Dr. Raymond La Scola was charged with murder.

(more…)

This isn’t as grand a mystery as some I have blogged about, but it is a personal one.

My stepdad, Tom, the former Marine, used to work as a house painter. One day he came home from a job in one of the ritzier neighborhoods—Hollywood Hills? Beverly Hills? Brentwood? Bel Air? I can’t remember anymore, as this was many years ago now (the early 90s). Anyway, the people who lived in the house where he was working as a sub-contractor were chucking out a bunch of stuff to remodel. He came home with an enormous cabinet loaded on his truck. This cabinet was about four or five feet wide, about six or seven feet long, and divided in the middle, but it only stood about three or four feet high. It had a lovely blond wood finish. The drawers were deep but very shallow, making it resemble one of those for holding maps. It was totally cool and I totally loved it.

“I thought it might be good for holding all your art and crafts stuff,” Dad told me. He was incredibly thoughtful like that. “Do you want it?”

Of course I wanted it. So he and a buddy unloaded it from the truck. (It weighed a ton and a half, btw.) As they tilted it to get it through the door, I noticed someone had written across the unfinished bottom, “Kubrick”—like a maker’s mark to help identify who the thing was meant for.

“Wow, where did this come from?”

“That house I’ve been working at.”

“Is it Stanley Kubrick’s house, by any chance?”

“I don’t know. I’ll have to ask the main contractor.”

I was very excited at the thought of having something that might have belonged to Stanley Kubrick, one of my favorite directors. I knew he’d lived in London for many years, and I thought he was originally from New York, but I wondered if there might be some L.A. connection. I thought the drawers would be a great size for film canisters or VHS tapes or some such. Dad duly asked the contractor and came back with disappointing news. “It’s not Stanley Kubrick. I think he said it was some guy named Leonard Kubrick. He might be his brother or something, and I think he’s in the movie business, too.”

Disappointing, but still cool, and still a really great cabinet. I did indeed fill it up with arts and crafts supplies. Sadly, I couldn’t take it with me when I moved from the family manse and my mother felt much less reverence for it than I. To her it was a gigantic, unwieldy piece of furniture that always got in the way. She tried numerous times to get me to allow her to give it away, but I wouldn’t, so she had someone move it out to the patio, put the bird cage on it, and there is has remained, sadly abused.

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Kubrick’s cabinet, complete with bird droppings

Stanley Kubrick’s brother, Ma! She failed to see the significance, but I told a number of people about it. Some years later I decided to search the IMdb for this Leonard Kubrick. No such guy. In fact, further research also showed me that Stanley Kubrick only a sister, no brother. However, one strange thing emerged from the interdweebs: Kubrick’s father was named Jacques Leonard Kubrick. He died in Los Angeles in 1985. Stanley also lived in Los Angeles for a brief period. One of his daughters (Vivian) was born here.

Then I watched an absolutely fascinating documentary called Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes which detailed the incredible collection of stuff from Kubrick’s films still stored at his estate in London: mountains and mountains and mountains of cardboard boxes with every imaginable scrap of material from all his films. He never threw anything away, not one photograph or location report or planning session or cocktail napkin. The family and friends didn’t think these boxes should be thrown away so they donated them en masse to the University of the Arts London—an incredible film treasure. Before the archive went off to the U, though, filmmaker Jon Ronson was invited to the estate to go through those boxes and he made the documentary based on what he found, and on interviews with Kubrick’s family, friends, and co-workers. I highly recommend this film, not just for Kubrick fans or film buffs, but for anyone who wants a view inside the mind of creative genius.

At one point, Ronson interviewed a gentlemen here in Los Angeles who had been responsible for collecting and reviewing, then storing all of the audition tapes for actors for Full Metal Jacket. Kubrick invited anyone who wanted to submit a tape to do so and there were hundreds and hundreds of them. Stored for years somewhere here in Los Angeles. Yeah, my imagination went there.

But really, that’s all I have: imagination and admiration for Kubrick and a mysterious and cool cabinet with Kubrick scrawled across its bottom. For all I know, it could have belonged to Antonia Kubrick, beaded dressmaker; or Fernando Kubrick, herbalist; or Fitzhugh Kubrick, fancy pipe enthusiast. Imagination and speculative thinking, every bit of it. But that’s what I do. It’s a tenuous and threadbare connection to Stanley Kubrick, but it is the only definite one I have.

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Stanley Kubrick’s boxes

Some of you may know this haunting song by Alison Krauss:



Some of you may even know it’s based on a true story.

On the morning of April 24, 1856, in the remote and dense forest of Spruce Hollow, Pennsylvania in the Blue Knob region of the Alleghenies near Pavia, Samuel Cox went out hunting for dinner while his wife was distracted with chores. When he returned to the log cabin he’d built for his wife Susannah and their two sons, Joseph, aged 5, and George, aged 6, his frantic wife told him that when she’d looked up the boys had disappeared. She’d been calling their names and searching the area but they never responded to her calls, and she could find no trace of them.

Samuel commenced a desperate search, but had no better luck. Neighbors were implored for help and within hours nearly two hundred people had joined the search. They scoured the area for days, the numbers of searchers growing to almost one thousand persons. Some came as far as fifty miles to aid the Cox family at a time when traveling through that rugged country was very difficult. A dowser and a local witch were even brought into to help. Nothing—no one could find any trace.

Inevitably, with so many searchers coming up empty, rumors and gossip began to fly. Eventually, even the parents were suspected of murdering their own children, some people going so far as to tear up the floorboards of the cabin and digging up the land around it to search for bodies.

At the height of this rumor-frenzy, a man named Jacob Dibert, living some twelve miles from Spruce Hollow, had a nightmare. In this dream, Jacob saw the search parties looking for the Cox children and saw himself amongst them—though in reality he hadn’t joined them. He became separated from the rest and didn’t recognize the part of the forest he moved through, but then he came to a fallen tree and saw a dead deer. Just beyond the deer, he spied a small boy’s shoe, and just beyond that a beech tree lying across a stream. Crossing the stream, he ascended a steep and stony ridge, then down into a ravine. By the roots of a large birch tree with a shattered top, he found the missing boys lying in each others’ arms, dead from exposure.

Shaken by this dream, Jacob at first told only his wife, but it returned to him the next night, and the night after that, so he finally told his brother-in-law, Harrison Whysong, who lived in Pavia. Whysong was skeptical, but he knew the area and knew a ridge that matched Jacob’s description. Jacob was so shaken up that Whysong decided to ease his mind by taking him there. On May 8, they began their search. They found the fallen tree, they found the dead deer, they found the small shoe. They ran for the stony ridge and down into the ravine, towards the roots of that birch tree with the shattered top. They found the two small boys, lying in each others’ arms, dead from exposure.

lost children

The boys were buried in Mt. Union Cemetery. In 1906 on the fiftieth anniversary of the tragedy, the people of Pavia erected a monument. In 2002, it was vandalized, but the good folks from Culp Monumental Works of Schellsburg restored it. C. B. Culp, who founded the company, made the original chiseled marble stone. You can still visit the monument. It’s quite a hike, I understand, and there’s even a geocache there for people who are interested in geocaches.

Sources for this story:

The Lost Children of the Alleghenies
Anomalies: The Pavia Monument
Lost Children of the Alleghenies

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