The t-shirts fans of this blog and my Instagram (instagram.com/mysteries_crimes_curiosities) have been asking for for some time.
Order yours here! Available in various colors and sizes. Worldwide shipping.
The t-shirts fans of this blog and my Instagram (instagram.com/mysteries_crimes_curiosities) have been asking for for some time.
Order yours here! Available in various colors and sizes. Worldwide shipping.
Time for another set of creepy stories from my readers and Instagram followers.
Huge thanks to everyone who contributed!
I was always a rational kind of guy. Never believed things I didn’t see or experienced myself, on my own skin. Even when I was a kid, things like ghosts, aliens and monsters never really got to me. It was just not part of my reality- that is until one day, which I will never forget.
People can call my story BS, a lie… I don’t care. I will just write exactly, as it happened to me.
Date isn’t hard to remember- it was 1st November 2010. I was eight years old at the time. The date really sticks with me, because it’s the day in our country when we remember our lost ones. It’s not really like Day of the death in Mexico, because we don’t celebrate it, we just remember it. On this day, especially for elementary schools and pre-schoolers, it’s nothing unusual going on a field trip to local cemetery, where we go from grave to grave of the families, and remember the ones we know.
So we arrive and we’re walking around, nothing creepy, since it’s daylight, around 10 o’clock maybe. We go from grave to grave, until we stop in front of the grave of a young boy, 15 or 16 years old at the time of his death, called Damjan, (pron. Dam-yan). It struck us all, we were standing in front of this boy’s grave, until the teacher spoke; ,,This boy was just like you. Going to school, field trips… well on one of them, they went to a WW musem, (there are lots of those in our region, because of the impact of the fasciscs), and while they were checking out guns, one of the boys took one and aimed it at him, as a joke… little did he know, the gun was actually loaded. It killed him instantly.”
I’m not the one usually thinking about other people dying but… I know his mother, she is an old lady in our little town. He was her only child, and his death seemed so… bizzare to me, I couldn’t have stopped thinking about it the whole day, even after school. I was the last to leave cemetery… I spoke to him on his grave, I don’t remember what, words of comfort maybe…? And then I left. But I do remember this- I was absolutely certain, he heard me. Something like an invisible force was keeping me at that grave, until teacher called us all to go back. The next part of the day is a black hole. Until the most creepy, horrifying event in my short lifetime.
As everywhere, tradition is to go give flowers for the late ones, so me and my mom went to our local flourist. Another thing I want to mention- she ALWAYS speaks. And so do everyone in that shop. Everyone is constantly chit-chatting. This day wasn’t any different. We walked in, my mom was choosing flowers and talking to the flourist. Then, a man walked in. Big man, in a rain coat, short black hair, but oddly familliar, even though I have NEVER seen him before. Our town is quite small, and people know each other by the names of grandparents, so he nicely asked me, seeing my questioning gaze; ,,Aren’t you a curious one? Which house are you from?” (We reply to that question by naming our grandparents). ,,Ah yeah, I know your dad! You must be a smart kid then!” he said, still smiling, and everyone behind us talking. I suddenly feel something. A call maybe? Something inside me… I didn’t resist, I just said the name; ,,Damjan. Do you know him too, sir?” And suddenly, everything stopped. People weren’t talking anymore, my mom had a terrified look on her face, flourist was quiet for the first time in her life, and he… lost his smile almost instantly. He said, with his voice shaking a bit; ,,W-who?” And I repeated; Damjan. He is the boy who was killed by his friend in a musem many years ago, we learned about him just today… do you know him?” He turned around, slowly, but before that saying, while staring right into my eyes; ,,Where in the world did you find me, boy?” with a deep, dark, now not-so-pleasant voice. He then turned around and left. People were still quiet, trying not to look at me, my mom grabbed me by my hand and took me to the car, and drove home without saying a word. I wasn’t sure, what in the world I did wrong, so I asked; ,,Mommy, did I say something wrong?” She, driving seriously, just said; ,,No, you didn’t. But you should know… that man, you talked to in there… he is the friend from the museum. He killed Damjan.”
To this day, I don’t know why I questioned him. I used to tell people about things I learned in school, and maybe it was all just an insane coincidence. But I don’t think so. I felt a connection with that boy… and I still visit his grave, just so I know he now, when he reminded his killer of his doing, rests in peace.
One night, very recently, I was in bed. It was dark in the studio I shared with my husband and I have insomnia, so many nights I lay awake with the lights off, simply letting my mind wander and my eyes lose focus as they notice the shapes that form and flicker in the dark.
I did happen to notice a particularly “formed” shape move around and about me and I got sort of scared or thrilled, as I do, sometimes when noticing these things (What is it/are they? Imaginary/real/other dimensional?? Who knows). I closed my eyes to wet them, opened them and then happened to look immediately to my left, when I noticed that the lip of the blanket that was on me had been raised and sort of.. poised, as if someone was lifting it up. It was as if a hand, specifically, had simply grabbed a corner and lifted it up to see what was underneath.
There was, of course, nothing to be seen that could have been lifting it, but as soon as I’d looked and CAUGHT the blanket being raised, it dropped, dead, back to resting position.
I then spent about 5 minutes attempting to prop up the blanket in a million different ways to recreate what I had seen. To see if it was possible that it had simply been standing up, peaked like meringue might do, then dropped when I moved, because I’d disturbed it. It hadn’t been in that shape or position prior to me closing my eyes, though. The blanket was flat on my body.
I couldn’t, for the life of me, seem to make that blanket stand up again the way it did, with the edge of the lip such a few inches that it couldn’t have been what was maintaining the shape. As I attempted to recreate it, I also realized that the tip of the “peak” of the blanket being held up had seemed pinched, as opposed to the fluffy pyramid the blanket would have needed in order to sustain such a position. It hasn’t happened again since.
If I were to explain, very simply, what it looked like (and hopefully without sounding delusional), I would say it looked EXACTLY as if someone had stood at the edge of my bed and lifted a small part of the blanket up to see what was underneath. Minus the hand… And entire body. The way it dropped from having been suspended was the most shocking part. As if the imaginary or invisible hand had noticed it was caught and immediately let go.
When I was younger my parents always told us about when they bought the house I grew up in and the weird occurrences that happened. It was a new construction, but when my dad did a walk-through, he went into the attic and found a baby bonnet. We always had weird things happen growing up. My mom would be putting away clothes, and the hangers would move. The TV would change channels on its own; always change to a children’s show. Closets would open by themselves. My no claimed to smell her grandpa’s pipe smoke before.
And one night, my older sister and I were the only ones home. I was about 16 at the time and we shared a room. Since my parents were out of town, my sister slept in their room, and I slept in ours by myself. I woke up one night with a strange feeling and when I looked over to my sister’s bed I saw a man standing at the end. He was old. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t look at me. I took one look at him and buried myself under my blankets for about 5 minutes before I got the courage to look again. The man was gone. My sister is convinced I was dreaming. My parents are convinced I saw my mom’s grandpa hanging around. Whoever it was, the spirits in the house were harmless and never caused any problems to us while we lived there.
I’ll start off with some background story. I was born in Europe to a European mother who had converted to Islam and a Middle Eastern father. When I was around 5 or 6 we moved back to his home country. According to my mother (she’s been telling me this story since I could remember and she’s quite religious and wouldn’t lie about things like that) that when I was around 3 or 4 years old I told her that I heard a voice whispering and telling me not to listen to Allah. And she’s convinced that it was the Shayten (devil) and I have long stepped out of Islam and moved back to Europe but that story still creeps me out and she said that when I was 6 I told her that I could see clouds in the room and she says those must be angels. I actually vaguely remember the clouds thing, I think. It’s a weird sensation.
While growing up I was labeled “the ghost girl”. Why? Ok, this is why.
Somewhere way up north, my parents built a house. Already during construction weird things were happening; tools went missing or they were found at peculiar locations, and none of the builders could explain it. After a while, some of the workers refused to continue, but my parents shrugged it off, thinking they were lazy or just forgetful about their tools.
And then, about three years later, I was born. I’ve always had a vivid imagination, and played well by myself. So when I was about 4, it came as no surprise that I had an imaginary friend. But my parents, mom in particular, found it odd that I’d only play with said friend in the basement. She’d ask me about it, and I’d say that the Angel Girl couldn’t leave the basement. There were always things happening, you’d hear doors being opened and closed, you could hear snoring(!) and you’d even se shapes once in a while. My mom couldn’t deal with it after a while; this being a small, rural town word got around, so she contacted the local priest to come bless the house. He just laughed and said that she shouldn’t care about what the others said about us or our house. But then, some weeks later he called back saying “they won’t leave me alone” and that he’d soon come to bless our house. He wouldn’t clarify who “they” were, but we had our suspicions.
Some days later, I came up from the basement, upset and crying. My mom asked me why I was so sad, and I replied: she can’t play with me anymore! The priest said she had to go home.
I didn’t know the priest had been there that day, and suddenly my mom realized that maybe she wasn’t imaginary after all.
In 1994, cruise liner M/S Estonia sank, taking hundreds of lives with it to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
What most people don’t know is that some years before it’s sinking, the same ship (then known as the Viking Sally) was the scene of an unsolved murder.
This article is taken from the book Poliisi kertoo (“Police Stories”). Translated into English by my friend and talented translator Salla Juntunen.
This is the first time this story has been told in English.
A homicide and an attempted homicide on a ship
German students Klaus Herman Schelkle (born January 28, 1967) and Bettina Taxis (born May 10, 1965) met in early winter, 1987. They enjoyed each other’s company and soon began dating and planning their future together.
(Klaus Schelkle and Bettina Taxis)
The future, however, turned out to be entirely different from what they had pictured. Happiness turned to death and horror and horror into painful memories that no one involved will likely ever forget.
The story has remained unclear so far. The police appeals to the public for help.
The groundwork for the shared life of these two hardworking and in every way exemplary youths seemed to be in order. During the spring and summer they saved money and planned a trip to the Nordic countries. A mutual friend and Klaus’s acquaintance of many years, Thomas Schmid, would also be brought along.
The plan was fulfilled and on July 23, 1987 the trio took off from Stuttgart towards the Nordics with the purpose of travelling all the way to Nord Kap. They travelled via Denmark to Sweden, where they stayed in Stockholm for a few days. According to their original travel plan they were supposed to travel through northern Sweden, but instead they decided to experience a cruise across the Gulf of Bothnia together and travel to their original destination through Finland.
Postcards and phone messages home told that the journey was going well and according to expectations. At 10 pm on July 27, 1987, the youths boarded Viking Sally cruise ship in the port of Stockholm in order to travel to Turku, where the ship would arrive the next morning at 8 am.
English engineer Patrick Haley (name made up) had experienced more by the age of 26 than most of his peers. His studies had not gone too well, he had gotten personally acquainted with drugs and had broken up with his fianceé. When the young mind flared up, Patrick left London in early spring of 1987, or as he said: “I turned around and found myself working on a kibbutz in Israel.” A Finnish student from Lapland, Maija, had also ended up there. They got acquainted and decided to go see Maija’s beautiful home country. The journey to Finland took a few months. The penniless youths worked in different countries, mostly in orchards and agriculture to earn the money to travel onward.
In the evening of July 25, 1987, Maija and Patrick boarded a ship from Stockholm to Helsinki. In Helsinki, on the morning of July 26 they were surprised: Maija was naturally welcome to her home country, but the shabby, junkie-looking and penniless Patrick was sent back to Stockholm.
However, the attachment between the two was strong and thus on the very same day Maija sent Patrick 4000 marks by express to a Stockholm bank. Patrick did not now want to travel via rude Helsinki, and after mucking about in Stockholm for a day he ended up boarding Viking Sally in the evening in order to travel to Turku and from there to Helsinki, where Maija would meet him.
Tauno, a businessman delivering car parts from Germany to Finland, and his partner Sakari drove their van to the port of Stockholm via Denmark and also travelled to Turku on Viking Sally.
Sami, Pentti and Ville, young men from Kangasala, had spent the day in Stockholm and lost all their money on booze and amusements. With tickets acquired from the Stockholm social welfare office in their pockets, they, too, began their voyage to Turku. Kalle and Ossi from Kotka boarded the ship under nearly identical circumstances.
A few hundred scouts had eagerly awaited all summer for their trip to Finland where they would attend a scout camp organised in Sauvo, approximately 50 kilometers from Turku. Among them were families, retirees, war veterans and different travelling groups. The passengers represented at least nine different nationalities.
A crew of approximately 200 members was ready to serve the passengers.
Meetings on the ship
At 10 pm Finnish time, the eight-storey ship, built in Papenburg in 1980, with a capacity for 2000 passengers and over 400 cars, departed from the port of Stockholm. The announcements were informing passengers about practicalities and the shipping company wished everyone a pleasant journey.
(the Viking Sally)
Queues formed in the ship’s restaurants and shops. Passengers who had booked cabins took their belongings to them, others tentatively looked for places to sleep in salons and other interiors of the ship. The bars also slowly began filling up.
Everything seemed perfectly normal and ordinary.
Klaus Schelkle, Bettina Taxis and Thomas Schmid also began their journey in a very ordinary manner. They also made their few purchases in the shop, familiarised themselves with the ship and searched for a suitable place to sleep. Klaus and Bettina decided to watch the sun rise during their sea voyage. They decided, therefore, to sleep up on the helicopter platform. Thomas Schmid, perhaps out of discretion, did not stay there and chose instead to sleep indoors, one floor down.
The weather was warm and therefore quite a few passengers gathered around the helicopter platform late in the evening. From there they could enjoy watching the beautiful Stockholm archipelago disappear into the horizon in the setting sun.
The youths from Kangasala, who had on their recent journeys managed to acquire a few bottles of beer, also enjoyed the beginning of their journey on the helicopter platform. They have afterwards recalled two young foreigners with their sleeping bags staying on the same deck behind the plexiglass windshield.
Before going to bed, Klaus and Bettina walked around on the ship. There they met, among others, Tauno, who was very proficient in German. In conversation with Klaus, they discovered their mutual interest in cars; Klaus was studying automotive technology after all. They even planned to drop by the car deck to look at Tauno’s cargo of car parts. The doors to the car deck were locked, so they agreed to go look at the parts in the morning.
At the end of their time together they decided to exchange addresses, since a new pleasant acquaintance had been found on both sides. Afterwards, when talking about Tauno, Bettina has used the phrase “the fun Finn”.
At around 1 am, Klaus and Bettina returned to their sleeping place on the helicopter platform. The darkness of the night and the chilly wind had driven the rest of the people away from the upper deck.
Sami, Pentti and Ville from Kangasala met Kalle and Ossi from Kotka at a restaurant. They were soon joined by Patrick. Patrick had the money sent by Maija and, having found the others nearly penniless, benevolently bought beer and food to others as well. The party behaved in such a “showy” manner that quite a few of those staying up late noticed them. Little by little they all “passed out” or otherwise fell asleep in different parts of the ship. In the morning, Patrick was found on the floor of the salon on the sixth floor.
As the evening passed into the small hours, the situation on the ship was peaceful. The last bars closed between 3 am and 4 am. Most of the passengers were asleep in their cabins and those who had enjoyed themselves in the restaurants to the last also found their way to their sleeping places. The ship had advanced past Mariehamn, but was still in the Åland archipelago.
The tired crew prepared for a moment’s rest before their morning’s duties. The security officer Raimo Vahlsten also prepared to hand over his duties to the next person on shift.
The wild feeling of freedom and the new, strange surroundings kept some of the scouts in lively spirits and they roamed the ship to the point of causing disturbance. After wandering around aimlessly, three Danish youths ended up on the helicopter platform at 3:45 am.
At first glance there appeared to be no other people on the deck, but then one of the scouts noticed two figures by the air vents. The boys concluded that they were drunk or drugged as they, upon repeated attempts to get up by leaning on the wall, kept feebly falling back down on the deck. After observing the situation for a while, one of the boys went closer to see if he could help. He then saw that it was a young man and a woman. Both their faces were covered in blood. Two boys stayed with the victims as one ran to the help desk to tell someone what they had found.
Thus began one of the biggest investigative operations of the Finnish police.
The help desk attendant immediately alerted security officer Raimo Vahlsten. He found the victims Klaus Schelkle and Bettina Taxis to be severely injured. Vahlsten suspected a crime because the victims’ heads clearly showed severe trauma from being hit with an object. The victims’ speech could not be made out. With the help of other crew members Vahlsten helped Klaus and Bettina to the cabin of the ship’s nurse.
The nurse immediately saw the severity of the situation and began giving first aid while ordering a rescue helicopter to be called to the ship immediately to transport the victims to Turku University Hospital. Klaus and Bettina arrived to the hospital by helicopter already at 5:48 am.
The doctor found Klaus dead from blows to the head that had pierced the skull. Bettina’s condition was extremely critical due to similar injuries.
The Turku Police Department received a notification from the ship about what had happened at 4:28 am. The police considered the situation to be very serious, and the same helicopter that had transported the injured to the hospital was used to take four detectives of the Turku Police Department to the ship.
The detectives arrived on the ship at 6:30 am.
The scene of the crime turned out to be the upper deck. The victims had been found there next to their sleeping bags in a corner partially covered by a plexiglass wall. The scene had been dark during the night due to the device, which was supposed to light it, having broken earlier.
The detectives immediately secured the crime scene and began passenger interrogations. The forensic investigation was also initiated. Vahlsten, being an experienced security officer, had earlier partially secured the crime scene and he had valuable information he had gathered while they were waiting to relay to the police.
The detectives on the ship were in contact with the police department, where they immediately began summoning additional police forces for when the ship would arrive in Turku.
The ship’s regular arrival time was at 8 am. Now it was only allowed to dock at 8:10 am, when preparations had been made and the police could secure the ship.
Such an arrangement was necessary because the initial investigation on the ship had afforded no clarity on the identity of the perpetrator. The situation was very difficult.
The ship and the passengers under surveillance
The ship’s passengers were informed of the delay in disembarking and its cause. All the passengers were guided off the ship through one exit, all other exits had been closed. Two police boats were patrolling outside the ship to make sure nothing was thrown overboard.
Due to the special circumstances, three video cameras had been acquired, one of which was used to film all passengers, the other used to film young men specifically, and the third to film any even slightly suspicious persons, who were then also interrogated. Initially there was also an attempt to document every passenger’s personal details, but that had to be given up due to the scene having gotten almost unbearably congested. However, only the elderly, children and families with small children, as well as others considered safe to be excluded by common conception were left undocumented.
The passengers who could not immediately prove their identity were guided to separate rooms and their identities were verified after the other passengers had left the ship.
Approximately twenty passengers were brought to the police station for additional investigation for different reasons. Among them was Patrick Haley. He had been found, bloody, in his sleeping place in the morning. In the interrogation Haley explained that his nose had begun to bleed during the night. The blood on his clothes was his own and nothing came up at that juncture that casted doubt on the truth of his claims.
The youths from Kangasala and Kotka also ended up on the police station.
The reader must now be wondering about Thomas Schmid’s involvement in the matter. He, too, was interrogated, but nothing indicated that he had anything to do with what happened and he was allowed to leave after interrogation. Thus, nothing conclusive or pivotal to solving the case came up in the initial investigation.
The pressure on the police was immense from the start, since
Generally, however, both the departing and the arriving passengers were understanding of the difficult situation.
The investigation has lasted over four years already
The crime took place within the region of Åland, and therefore its investigation would normally have been conducted by the local police. Due to the lack of resources this was not possible in Åland. The provincial government of Turku and Pori assigned the Turku Police Department to conduct the investigation. The undersigned was appointed to lead the investigation. That was the beginning of a difficult task that has yet to be completed.
Because the crime could not immediately be solved in the initial investigation, solving it afterwards has been challenging due to the special characteristics of the case. The work has continued interminably for over four years. The fact that approximately a thousand people have been interrogated or at least interviewed on account of the case might give the reader an impression of the scope of the task. Forensic investigators have sent over 250 different samples for examination to the National Bureau of Investigation. Different investigative tasks have been carried out in nine different countries.
Computers have also been utilized in the investigation. Without them we would have long since lost track of the very vast material. Over 2000 documents have been saved on the computer.
A vast amount of material of the crime has, then, been gathered. Addressing it in detail is not possible at this juncture, nor would it be tactically right for the solving of the case.
What, then, was the motive of that brutal crime? That mystery, which has puzzled the investigators from the start, has yet to be solved. It cannot be financial or sexual. The crime may have been brought on by a minor thing, or committed by a mentally ill person.
At least the following matters have complicated the investigation:
The crime caused upset
The crime, which drew a lot of attention, has also clearly upset many already sick minds. Three people, for instance, have confessed to this crime.
In further investigation it has, however, turned out that none of them could possibly have committed the crimes described earlier.
The public has participated commendably in the police’s efforts to solve the crimes. There have also been a few concerned phone calls from the public upon their noticing they had been filmed. They have mainly been requests by the caller that the videos not be made public, as their companion on that voyage had, for some reason, not been their spouse!
No conclusive knowledge of the perpetrator has been gained to this day.
Some foreign parties under investigation have yet to be reached.
A lot of investigations are also still being conducted concerning the doings of Finnish passengers and the ship’s crew during the journey.
When the culprit is found, the police has binding comparative evidence to use against them.
A certain possibility, which has come up repeatedly, is that the perpetrator concurrently also made their own personal choice regarding their life and jumped overboard.
Bettina Taxis has recovered quite well. Information received from her cannot yet be made public.
The police strongly believes that they will still solve this brutal, senseless and motiveless crime, the investigation of which has by no means been discontinued.
What has been put forth here is merely a cursory glance to this crime, its backgrounds, and investigation. Hopefully in one of the following volumes its solution can be reported in detail.
The clothing find
The police are currently interested in some clothes found by two fishermen on the northern shore of the Lilla Björnholm Island by a seaway in August, 1987. The following items were found in a black trash bag:
(the found clothes)
Based on the location, time and certain aspects of the forensic investigation it is considered possible that the person wearing the clothes in question had been on the ship at the time of the crime.
If You, esteemed reader, have any, even seemingly insignificant, information regarding this crime, let the investigators know via the nearest police or relay the information directly to the Turku Police Department, address: Eerikinkatu 40-42, 20100 Turku.
If you know anything about these clothes or anything else having to do with the crime, let us know. In addition to a good mood, for a clue leading to the solving of the case you will be given a significant money prize.
My buddy Jenna (IG @hermionestrangler) wrote this review of the new film The Landing (2018).
The Landing (2017) is a faux-documentary film about Apollo 18, the space mission that ended up in death of two of its crew members.
It’s the year 1973. Apollo 18 has successfully landed on the Moon and the crew is now returning to Earth. Something goes terribly wrong, and the main pilot, Bo Cunningham has to make an emergency landing. Their capsule ends up in China. There the crew members try their best to survive, but in the middle of the desert it’s easier said than done. One after another they seem to start losing their minds piece by piece.
Very quickly two of the crew members start to have strange physical symptoms, as if they’ve been poisoned. Soon enough they’re both dead. This is where the real story begins. What, or who, killed those men?
The movie is made in the style of a dramatic American style documentary film. It’s filled with 60’s music, lots of acted scenes and emotional interviews, and takes place in the year 1998, 25 years after the incident.
The main character is Bo Cunningham, the astronaut who didn’t get the chance to land on the Moon, since he was the one piloting the capsule. He still seems to be holding a little grudge about that, as he thinks he was more qualified to do that than some of the others. Still, he is the one that ends up bringing the capsule and the whole crew back to Earth safely.
After the crew is rescued from the desert, both the U.S. government and the FBI start their own investigations of the incident. The U.S. government seems to want to hide the evidence about the events in China, but the FBI wants to find the one who may be responsible of the two deaths. All eyes are on Bo Cunningham now, and as the documentary continues, more and more evidence starts to come up. Was it all just an evil plan to eliminate his enemies? Is Cunningham a hero or a villain?
The acting is quite good and the musical effects give a nice eerie feeling throughout the whole movie. I really enjoy the over-dramatic style in this kind of documentaries, so that didn’t bother me at all. The plot was very interesting and if you’re a fan of good mystery stories, this may be just the movie for you.
All in all The Landing was entertaining and well-made faux-documentary, especially if you enjoy a nice conspiracy theory every now and then.
I asked my awesome friend Erin, an Ohio native with an interest in unsolved mysteries, to write something about her memories of the disappearance and murder of Amy Mihaljevic, one of the most well-known unsolved crimes in the state of Ohio. Luckily for us, she agreed.
Below is her piece.
Thank you Erin for contributing to Mysteries, Crimes, Curiosities!
Although I was only 7 years old when Amy Mihaljevic disappeared, I vaguely remember hearing her name whispered in hushed tones in the hallways of school or over the news as my family sat down to dinner. Thinking maybe my parents would have warned me about the danger of strangers after the incident, I recently asked my mom about it.
“I don’t think we talked to you about it, but I don’t think we shielded you from it, either,” she admitted. “We probably didn’t talk about it much – we just couldn’t believe something like that could happen so close to where we lived.”
It was true; things like that just didn’t happen in the quiet suburb of Bay Village barely 20 minutes from where I grew up. Amy Mihaljevic, 10 years old, was abducted from a shopping center across from the Bay Village police station in broad daylight. Days earlier, she had gotten a phone call at home claiming to be a coworker of her mothers and asking if she wanted to surprise her mom by going to pick out a present to congratulate her on a recent promotion. Not only was there no promotion, but there was no thoughtful coworker on the other end of the line, either. Who Amy left with that October day in 1989 is still a mystery, as is the reason her body was found in a lonely field 40 miles from home shortly after. For parents and children alike, this remains a haunting case of a local boogeyman still on the loose.
(site of the abduction)
As a kid I loved to be scared, reading my favorite ghost stories like Goosebumps and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, never realizing that the real monsters to fear were lurking in plain sight outside your local Baskin Robbins ice cream parlor. My interest in the dark and creepy morphed into an interest in true crime as I got older, even going so far as to pen-pal notorious serial killers like Richard Ramirez and Roy Norris. I never explored Amy’s case in depth, perhaps subconsciously trying to keep a story that hit so close to home as far away as possible. When I scrolled through instagram recently and saw a photo from Amy’s case on the “mysteries_crimes_curiosities” account, I recalled how her story would randomly pop up on the local news every few years. When there was an update in 2016, many of us here in Northeast Ohio held our breath, waiting for the inevitable news that the case had been cracked wide open. That news never came.
It was announced through a press conference that there was evidence previously unknown to the public. They showed a homemade curtain and a blanket found near Amy’s body in the desolate field where she was discovered. Hairs on the fabrics were traced back to the Mihaljevic family dog, leading investigators to believe Amy was wrapped in the curtain/blanket at some point. Because the curtain appeared to be handmade out of something else like a quilt and the top of it was handsewn, investigators hoped there would be someone out there watching that would recognize it. The reward money was also doubled, from $25,000 to $50,000. Still, two years later, and it would appear that whoever out there knows what happened to Amy is still keeping their terrible secret.
Maybe it’s because I’m a parent now myself that made the details of her story so hard to fathom. The fact that she was tricked and abducted trying to do something nice to surprise her mom absolutely breaks my heart. What kind of monster preys on little girls? What kind of monster preys on little girls who are trying to show their mom just how much they love them? The thought is too much for me to handle.
I began James Renner’s book about her abduction/murder on a sweltering summer night in June. Laying in bed I continued to turn page after page, unable to put it down. Reading about places familiar to me made it that much more intriguing, and before I knew it I was more than halfway through the book. Forcing myself to set it aside, I knew I would be home the following day and would be able to finish it in one more sitting.
The next day was still hot and muggy, but there was steady rainfall coming down. I sat on the couch with my legs tucked under me while my two young children played in the living room. The front door was open and visible from where I sat, and we watched the rain coming down in sheets through the screen door. Suddenly, there was a knock on my door. I set the book down, annoyed at having been interrupted, and walked over to the foyer, where a baby gate separated the living room from the front entrance way.
There was a man I had never seen before peering into my screen door: late 40s/early 50s, slight build, cargo shorts and polo shirt, baseball cap pulled down over brown hair.
– “Hey, I’m Brandon from the next street over! I do yard work for a few of your neighbors and I was just wondering if you needed anybody to cut your grass!”
– “No thanks, my husband does it,” I replied with a scowl I couldn’t hide, already turning to go back to the couch.
It wasn’t until I sat down again that I thought to myself, I’ve never seen him doing yard work for any of the neighbors. Why is he going door-to-door in the pouring rain? With no umbrella? With no lawnmower or business cards? I was agitated, but I pushed the thought out of my head as I returned my attention to my kids and my book.
An hour later, the baby got bored with her toys and started crying for a bottle. Geez baby, I only have like three pages left to go, couldn’t this have waited? I thought as I stood up to go to the kitchen. As I passed the front door, I noticed the man standing on my steps again before he could even knock. Immediately, I was on red alert. The door lock! Why didn’t I lock the screen door after he was here the first time!? I quickly realized it would have taken him a split second to open my door and come inside before I could even climb over the baby gate and get to the door to lock it. It was still raining, and this man was standing on my front steps peering into my living room again and something felt very wrong about the whole situation. My mind flashed to Amy, who put her trust in a man that didn’t deserve to be trusted. Before I could even reign my anger in, I was shouting at the stranger on my porch.
-“What do you need???” I bellowed.
-“Did I already come here? I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” he stammered as he backed down the steps.
For a split second I felt bad that I was so rude, but my instincts told me something didn’t feel right. My anger and disgust at being made to feel threatened in my own home quickly overcame any rational thinking. Sure, maybe he was an innocent handyman looking for work, but he would never know the fear most girls and women feel on a regular basis just minding our own business. I was enraged for Amy, whose story was coincidentally foremost on my mind at the moment he came to the door. I was enraged for myself, for all the times I was followed and catcalled and made to feel uncomfortable by men in a world where I merely wanted to live my life in peace. I was enraged for my friends and family, who all had at least one similar story to share, although usually much more than just one. I was enraged for all women. Oh, but Amy. In that moment, as I put down the book about an innocent young girl’s murder to find a stranger peering into my house not once but twice, I felt a wave of regret and anger so great that I was nearly in tears. I was shaken to my core for the rest of the day.
It wasn’t my intention to be the grouchy neighbor, but men will never understand the thoughts that go through a woman’s head when they are feeling cornered or threatened. In my lifetime I feel like I have had some close calls and managed to escape harm’s way on several occasions. I only wished Amy had the same second chance. Did she realize too late that something wasn’t right? We may never know.
For the 4th of July holiday, my family decided to go to Bay Days to catch the fireworks display. This was the annual Bay Village carnival with rides and games, where they did an impressive fireworks display at dusk. Walking around after finishing the book on Amy only days before was an eerie feeling. Seeing the children dart about happily eating cotton candy and riding the carousel, I couldn’t help but look at their innocent faces and hope they never learned how dark and cruel the world can be. I studied the adults with a different sort of interest: were you there the day Amy was taken? Were you in her class? Were you the one who did it? But most of all, walking hand-in-hand with my family, I just kept thinking, Amy should be here today with her own children. We were only 3 years apart; our kids could have been friends. She should be showing them all her favorite rides from when she was a kid herself. She should have been allowed to grow old, instead of being perpetually10 years old.
Some day, I hope there is justice for an innocent girl named Amy.
Judging from their prevalence in popular culture, you would think that the most likely way you’re going to die is in the hands of a vicious, systematic serial killer. There are television shows dedicated to them, they’re antagonists in every other Hollywood film, and songs celebrate their morbid glory. Some of them are even sexualized in the darkest daydreams of otherwise ”normal” people: go on essentially any social media platform, and you will find that the cult of admiration that established itself around the dark persona of American serial killer Richard Ramirez is still very much alive in the digital world of our dreams and nightmares.
Finland does not deviate from this pattern: we watch the same shows and movies as everyone else, listen to the same music, and idolize essentially the same people. However, the kind of serial killer you see in films, a systematic predator who draws his plans in secret and then goes out to execute them, is a practically nonexistent occurrence in Finnish society.
That doesn’t mean they don’t exist, though.
There was most likely one.
Imagine a lightless, dark scene, as though an off-turned television screen, with some vague details just barely visible to the naked eye. Now divide that scene into three horizontal strips rougly equal in size.
Above strip: faint spots of light divided neatly across the strip. The stars.
Middle strip: faint, uneven horizontal figures emerging out of the blackness. Trees.
Bottom strip: a white mass bulging out from the lightless void. Snow.
The serenity of the scene is suddenly broken by two lights appearing from the left side of our imagined screen. The lights move steadily from left to right, illuminating enough of the whole of our imagined landscape to give us an understanding of what where looking at: a wintery Finnish countryside landscape, at night.
The lights are that of a car, white, late 1970s to early 1980s model, short. Possibly a Mazda.
Inside the car, a heavily drunken woman is sitting on the passenger seat. She has a problem with alcohol, and is known as a drinker in her home turf. She is referred to in Finnish crime lore with the pseudonym ”Hellu”.
Earlier that night, 13th November 1990, Hellu had been at a friend’s apartment, drinking and talking. An argument of some sort had ensued, and Hellu had decided to leave. She had gone to a local train station to catch the late night train back to her place in Riihimäki, a small town in southern Finland.
As she had stood at the railway platform, a man had approached, offering her a ride. It was a tempting prospect in the cold weather; the option would have been to wait for the train in the freezing weather. Her judgment clouded by alcohol, she had said ”yes”.
The man in question is now sitting in the driver’s seat. He is a white male adult, between 30 to 40 years of age. His hair is dark brown, and he is wearing a leather jacket. He is about 170 centimeters in height (approximately 5 feet 7). There is a children’s seat in the backseat of the car, so he may be a father. Then again, it may just be a prop.
As the wheels of the car eat away the icy kilometers of a long highway stretching across the endless forests of the Finnish countryside, the driver offers Hellu alcohol; not one to say no to a free drink, she obliges her mysterious helper by knocking it back hungrily. He also offers her pills of some sort, which he pops in his mouth as well.
At one point in the journey, Hellu becomes curious about her helper. -”Why are you driving around helping out single women in the middle of the night? You’re a married man”. The driver gives a vague reply, saying something about being estranged from his wife. He also mentions having a child. Hellu later recalls the man having an introverted way about him, as though conversation doesn’t come easy for him.
Her intoxication having increased during the drive, Hellu has not been paying much attention to where exactly the unlikely pair have been driving. It hits her when the man suddenly stops the car: he has driven them to an empty, isolated neck of the woods, right next to a large sandpit. The man gets out of the car, saying he has simply driven to the woods because he needs to urinate. Still trusting her personal driver for the night, she makes no attempt to escape, but instead steps out of the car to use the opportunity and relieve herself as well.
She walks away from the glaring lights of the parked car, towards the darkness and privacy of the forest, and squats down to pee.
She hears steps coming towards her, quickly, running.
The pain hits her head like a lighting strike, out of the blue, intense and burning. She touches her head. It’s warm and wet. Blood.
The man has struck her with something sharp, probably a knife.
Hellu panics, gets up, and starts running towards the forest in terror, screaming off the top of her lungs for someone, anyone, to help her.
As she tramples away from her attacker amidst the sticks and stones and endless snow, the man runs after her for some time, but then seemingly gives up. Hellu hears his chilling words as he yells: ”Eipä onnistunut tällä kertaa!” (”Didn’t work this time!”)
The panicked woman, alone in the night after surviving an attempt on her life, runs around in horror, until she finally sees light emanating from somewhere, possibly a house. She runs towards it. Thank god – it’s a house, and seemingly occupied! She bangs on the door, and the occupants let her in.
Her hell is over for the night. After a phone call, the police and an ambulance are on their way.
Somewhere, not far, the driver of the car pulls away from the backwoods gravel road, turns the headlights of his car towards the highway again, and drives off to an unknown destination.
The snow crunches under the feet of Tuula Lukkarinen, a 30-year-old white female with brown hair and blue eyes, as she heads toward downtown Kellokoski, a small town in southeastern Finland. It’s the 17th of April, and though summer has already announced its arrival with a few added rays of sunshine, it’s not quite here yet.
Tuula, like Hellu, is one of those often referred to by Finns as ”nuo ihmisparat”, ”those poor people”. She has been suffering from an addiction to alcohol for some time now, and the bottle has left her life with some deep cuts: she is uncapable of taking proper care of her son. This morning she is on her way to a social office to negotiate affairs related to the custody of her child. Though there’s most likely no such thing as an ”optimal time” for a meeting of this nature, the morning of 17th of April is particularly unfortunate: Tuula is a resident at a local hospital, and has to take a leave from her treatment just for this occasion.
Painful though the journey is, and the burden of a life lived in depths of addiction heavy to carry, Tuula nevertheless has her old friend to comfort her – King Alcohol, the Spirit of the Bottle. It takes the edge off of any encounter, and is like a warm blanket wrapped around a mother with little to lose in the fight for her a better future for her son.
She is last seen outside a liquor store in downtown Kellokoski, waiting for the shop to open its doors and pour its elixir.
A pair of eyes stares into a mirror, smiling and happy. A brief, rare moment of luxury in a life filled with problems, mostly related to addiction. Ms Maarit Haantie, age 40, from the city of Riihimäki, is getting her hair done at a barber shop, excited to look her best for a Friday night. She has asked the barber for a reddish color, but the final result resembles chestnut brown. Oh well, either way, she’s happy.
The recent years of Maarit’s life have gone by in a haze, the world visible only through the bottom of a vodka bottle. She has had a problem with drink for many years, a fact that concerns everyone around her. Recently, though, life has granted her a little refuge from the hard knocks – the arms of a little child, her grandkid. Despite the somewhat chaotic nature of the rest of her existence, she never says no to babysitting the apple of her eye, and never drinks a single drop when duties regarding the child are in question.
This Friday, however, the 13th of August, she will be free to spend out on the town with her friends, absorbed in the vice that casts the murkiest shadows into her life – drinking.
That evening, a car makes its way from Riihimäki to Järvenpää, carrying a jolly, drunken posse of five: Maarit Haantie, her male companion Kalle, three other friends. Their destination is a bar called Cantina Zapata in downtown Järvenpää. But as the group make its way to the door of this average Finnish watering hole, something unexpected happens: Maarit is denied entrance, likely due to a heavily intoxicated state.
(Cantina Zapata in Järvenpää, Finland. Photo: Tom Pesch)
The rules of the game are painfully clear to a group who share the same passion: alcohol, and the sweet intoxicating relief it brings come first. Hence, when the group is faced with the choice of either changing venues or going inside without Maarit, the choice is made to head inside for that proverbial “one single pint” that has a tendency to turn into several more.
Maarit is left alone outside, hoping someone will come up with a solution to the situation and come fetch her. But nobody comes to her aid.
She makes one last effort to get in past the bouncer guarding the door, but fails.
She is seen for the last time standing outside the bar. Then she disappears.
The suspicion of the Finnish Keskusrikospoliisi (“Finnish Bureau of Investigations”, essentially Finland’s equivalent to the American FBI) is that the three cases described above are connected, most likely by being the “work” of one single individual. Such a matter would indeed be a rare occurrence in Finland (at least as far as we know), but a careful examination of the facts seems to indicate that there is someone out there with a heavy sin load on their shoulders.
Lieutenant Ismo Kopra of Keskusrikospoliisi is the current lead investigator in this cold case. Fortunately for the rest of us, Mr. Kopra is reasonably open about communication with the media, and has given several interviews pertaining to the case. In one, given to the Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat from his office in Vantaa, he held up a photo of from the early 1990s. The photo shows a police officer using a hairdryer to dry the snow in the Tuula Lukkarinen murder scene in an effort to find even the smallest bit of evidence. This half tragic, half comical photo perfectly conveys the difficulties of investigating a serious, shockingly brutal crime in a quiet Nordic country.
Be that as it may, investigation into the case is still active. “There is no statute of limitations on murder”, Kopra says at the very end of the interview. Indeed.
And nowhere is that more true than in the threads on murha.info (or “minfo”, as it’s known to aficionados), Finland’s most famous discussion board dedicated to unsolved murders, disappearances, and other morbid mysteries. At the time of this writing (March 2017) there are literally dozens and dozens of pages dedicated to the topic of the mysterious “Jävenpään sarjamurhaaja” (“The Järvenpää serial killer”). The content of the discussion varies from the unlikely (the serial killer was an international murderer just passing through Finland) to the entirely possible (a local man with a brutally dark fantasy life).
One thing is for certain, though: the killings do not fit the pattern of regular Finnish homicides.
The average Finnish homicide is usually done in an intoxicated state, and involves two men getting into an argument while their blood sugar level is low, putting both in an aggressive mindset. In fact, Dr. Hannu Lauerma, head of a psychiatric institute for the criminally insane and a famous popularizer of psychiatry in Finland, has argued that Finnish murder rates would go down considerably if more bars and pubs started serving food to keep their customers’ blood sugar levels at a normal rate. More often than not, the person doing the killing will later describe the deed as an accident, and sometimes even cry over what an evil thing he has done – “and to my best drinking buddy, of all people!”
In other words: a predator stalking the night for his next victim is something the average Finnish homicide detective sees when he or she turns on the television or goes to the movies.
Unless, that is, she walks into the archives department of the KRP and opens an old file with the words “Lukkarinen, Tuula 1990” on it.
I visited the sandpit, the scene of the crimes, in the summer of 2015. It was somewhat difficult to find: despite having gone through all kinds of maps and photos in advance, I drove right past the spot. Twice.
(the general area of where the crimes happened. Photo: Tom Pesch)
The scene associated with these crimes essentially consists of two key spots with little pathways leading to both. Think of these paths as a fork with two points, one longer than the other.
The shorter point of the fork leads to the sandpit.
The longer point leads right through the woods, crossing through a wide, cut-down area in the forest, likely used for timber. Along this path stands a koivu. The body of Tuula Lukkarinen was discovered at the bottom of this tree.
(photo: Tom Pesch)
Your previous knowledge of a place guides your interpretations and feelings heavily when you enter the place in question yourself. No different with me and this spot in Finland’s criminal history. The woods give off a particularly eerie sense of being watched, and every little pebble you feel against the bottom of your shoe as you stroll down the paths has to be checked for potential blood stains or some other incriminating detail possibly left behind from the bloody events years ago.
The truth is, however, that the spot in itself has nothing particularly memorable about it – it’s just a spot in a forest, along a highway, similar to probably millions of other same kinds of spots around Finland. When walking along the paths, you wonder “Why did he choose this spot?” The answer, I believe, is proximity to the road: the sandpit provides a hiding place from prying eyes, but is also so near the road that it makes a quick getaway easy. I also believe he was from the area.
Should you make the trek to visit this place? Let’s put it this way: if you have the ability to get into the right mood easily and intensely, then the answer is yes.
I am one hundred percent certain there is one person out there who takes a trip to this location regularly, kicking the stones as he walks, the rock pebbles crunching under his feet as he strolls down memory lane.
Hereditary is indeed a refreshing newcomer, even though it is kind of a classic ghost story. It is quite slow at first but the plot is so interesting it really keeps you going.
The movie starts with the funeral of Ellen Leigh. She’s the mother of Annie Graham (Toni Collette) and grandmother of 16-year old Peter (Alex Wolff) and 13-year old Charlie (Milly Shapiro) . After the funeral this grieving family starts to have strange experiments around the house. At first it doesn’t seem to be anything special – just a little vision in the dark or a little noise from the shadows.
Then the family faces a huge tragedy and in the middle of the pain and misery Annie tries to find hope and relief from the group therapy. There she meets Joan, a lady who had lost a loved one too. She claims she has found the way to contact the spiritual world. At first Annie is really sceptical but of course she has to try it herself.
Then it really starts to happen. Visions are clearer and they spread like a wildfire around the family. What secrets did Ellen have?
At first the movie seems to be a really nice psychological thriller. Then it takes a couple of turns and becomes a classic ghost story with a twist. Until the end, which i think was the best part – surprising and chilling. Annie’s career as miniature sculptor artist and her work brings nice symbolism through the story, because she basically builds miniatures of her own life. And really, isn’t that the coolest job on planet Earth?
Acting was just on point. Toni Collette was just the right actress to portrait this mother who slowly but steady just loses it all. Gabriel Byrne is a patient father, Steve, who tries to take care of his family when they are facing the hard times. The kids, Milly Shapiro and Alex Wolff were amazing. It’s always nice to see new faces on the screen and these two were really promising. I really hope we’ll see more of their work in the future.
All in all Hereditary was really good ghost story. It had a little blood and a few good jumpscares if those are your thing, but I personally enjoyed the athmosphere that slowly turns into the nightmare. You think you know what’s going to happen but somehow it still manages to surprise you. There were some clichés through the movie but they didn’t bother me that much, because I feel it’s nearly impossible to make a horror movie with absolutely zero predictability nowadays.
I’d totally recommend Hereditary if you ever felt they don’t make good horror anymore.