Amy Mihaljevic, Still a Sore Wound

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!


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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.

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(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.

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The Path of a Serial Killer.

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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.


1990

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.

1991

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.

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(Tuula Lukkarinen)

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.

1993

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.

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(Maarit Haantie)

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.

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(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.

2017

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.

Musings

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.

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(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.

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(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.

Movie review: Hereditary (2018)

This review was written by my friend Jenna. Follow her cool Instagram account at @hermionestrangler

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.

The Martin Croft Devil. A Finnish poltergeist tale.

The following is an English translation of a chapter in the book Olevaisen yöpuoli (1993) by Heikki Tikkala, a collection of poltergeist and ghost stories from Finland. The translation was done with permission from Mr. Tikkala himself. Translated by Salla Juntunen.


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(the Martin croft)

The poltergeist of Martin’s croft is not exceptional when it comes to the quality of the case – similar phenomena have occurred in most other Finnish cases of poltergeist disturbance. What makes Martin’s poltergeist particularly noteworthy is the associated trial, during which fifteen affidavits were filed. The weight of these witness statements is significant even on an international scale.

The witness statements from the trial have been presented in numerous writings, most recently in Jarl Fahler’s book Parapsychology. Therefore I will not recount them in full here. While describing the event I rely heavily on Matti Seppä’s thorough report, which reviews almost everything that is known about the case.

On January 12th of the year 1885, the croft of Efraim Martin, the chairman of Ylöjärvi’s parish assembly and a former teacher, became haunted. The croft’s three inhabitants, Efraim, his wife Eva, and Emma Lindroos, their 13-year-old maid, noticed objects moving inexplicably. The door would not stay closed, papers from shut desk drawers flew on the floor, tens of litres of plastering fell on the floor from somewhere. The phenomena seemed to centre around the fatally ill Emma. The haunting continued for a little over two weeks up until January 27th and then ended as abruptly as it had begun. The writings of Tampere newspapers drew out so many people that master Efraim saw it best to move to Tampere for a few days in order to escape the curious eyes. Many visitors were in high spirits and heavily inebriated, which was likely a factor in Martin getting served a summons to appear in court.

Efraim Martin (1814-1890)

Alerted by the rumours, parish bailiff Kasimir Liljestrand visited the place and sent the governor of the province of Häme a letter in which he attempted to sort out what had happened. In his response the governor ordered the Martins to be prosecuted for witchcraft and the illegal sale of alcohol.

The hearings for the Martin case were held at the district court of Ylöjärvi on March 24th. The charges were deemed unfounded, but the most interesting part of the trial were of course the eyewitness accounts of the haunting. Out of the fifteen people called as a witness only one reported that they had not observed anything supernatural. The rest described 78 inexplicable phenomena altogether. Many of the most impressive ones are found in the testimony of Efraim Eerola:

From January 14th onwards, throughout the whole period of time in question, the witness had visited the Martin croft every day. The first time he visited – – he noticed that the window screens of the living room were smudged with clay, as were the floor and the furniture. He did not, however, notice any visible damages in the wall plastering. Upon inspecting the window screens they appeared to be stained with soap, not, however, stroked by a human hand. In the presence of the witness, crumbled clay accumulated on the floor in an invisible manner without anyone touching it or noticing from where and how it came. Three whole baskets worth of clay crumbs accumulated. – – Clay appeared on the floor twice and both times it was swept away carefully.

When specifically asked, the witness explained that the room’s ceiling was somewhat fragile and cracked, but he was prepared to assure under oath that the clay did not appear on the floors through the ceiling, as such amounts of clay travelling through the air would certainly have been noticed. Furthermore, one day the witness observed a massive knife fly past his face six times in a row, although without hitting him. He assumed that the knife initially flew from the next room and was then moved back and forth by some inexplicable force.

When the witness took a break from smoking and laid his pipe on the table, the pipe flew into the air as did stones and whetstones, as if moved in the air by an invisible force. One day the witness saw various objects and books fly out of a drawer that had been locked and, due to prior similar events, bound shut by a firm rope, without the drawer ever even slightly opening. One morning he was told that the legs of the sheep in the barn were tied. He went to release them and as he left the barn the latch on the door spun around in an unexplainable manner. When he went to the living room, under the table were discovered some strange rocks and Efraim Martin’s glasses, which had been thrown there from the desk drawer without anyone knowing how. The frames of the glasses had partially snapped and appeared to be burned. All these and many other events the witness saw every day, although he could not now recall them in full detail, and he assured upon his word that they were not brought about by humans but by spirits or other forces unknown to the witness. – –

Witness Eerola furthermore added that one day when he was in the croft’s kitchen he noticed a large amount of medicine bottles containing nitric acid, hydrochloric acid and other private substances gather on the table in an unknown manner. The bottles began jumping spontaneously, spilling their contents on the table where they began to boil and foam. The witness was also present during the back end of the haunting when ladles, buckets and other such household items appeared in the oven and there caught fire. The witness also assured that no cellar was found underneath the Martin house and therefore no such items could have been hidden there since the room stood on hard rock, and that the witness never checked whether some stranger could have been hiding in the room’s loft.

Most commonly the witnesses saw objects moving for no reason. A key, a pot, a saw, a pair of shoes, a candlestick, a brick, a hymn book, a matchbox and a stool, among others, jumped or outright flew in the air even though no one moved them. The candlestick appeared to have been the most popular target:

Gustaf Hellen sat at the end of the table. At that moment a piece the size of an egg detached from the candlestick standing on the table and inexplicably flew atop Emma Lindroos’s head, rotated angularly and fell at the witness’s feet, rotated once more on the floor and rolled into the corner of the candlelit room.

Karl Lindholm saw a candlestick twice fly towards the door and on the third time to the back of the room. The witness could not figure out from where the candlestick flew, but he believed that it could not have been launched by any human means, as the candlestick moved in a spinning motion as if held up by an invisible force. The candlestick had moved in a slow weaving motion, always turned upside down. Simultaneously, a clatter was heard from beneath the table. – Helena Punala had been sitting by the table alone when the candlestick flew off of it, therefore it could not have been thrown by any human.

The bread poles were another favourite target of the disturbances, three incidents relate to them. On one occasion four people witnessed them moving:

Gerhard Grönfors had visited the Martins in the middle of the day on January 18th. On that occasion, in a room where neither the Martin couple nor Emma Lindroos were present, shingles in the corner of the oven began jumping and spinning around each other. Additionally, two bread poles in the corner danced and struck together. At this point Eva Martin arrived, took one of the poles in her hand and slammed it to the floor three times saying: “Won’t you behave.” The witness inspected the corner in which the poles had stood thoroughly and found nothing suspicious. Alku Eerola confirmed Grönfors’s description and explained that he also inspected the corner. Gustaf Hellen and Henrik Asuntila also concurred with their statement.

The most famous singular phenomenon in the Martin disturbance was the knife flying six past Efraim Eerola’s face times in a row; it is referenced not only in Eerola’s witness statement but also in the broadside ballad written about the event. These witness statements clearly demonstrate objects flying unnaturally slowly or weavingly, which is typical of a poltergeist. In most cases, however, the objects simply flung themselves around.

There are some statements of teleportation, or objects transfering inexplicably. The accumulation of plastering on the floor must likely be considered teleportation since according to Efraim Eerola’s statement no one could explain where it came from. The case of Efraim Martin’s papers flying on the floor from a drawer tied with string without the string untying, which Alku Eerola also describes in his witness statement, must also be counted among unexplainable events.

martin

(another shot of the croft)

There were hardly any sound phenomena linked to the Martin poltergeist. On a few occasions the witnesses mention an unexplainable clatter or rumble. The clearest case has to do with the visit of sexton Lindell. The sexton had come to the croft to write a news piece, but had relocated to the shed in the yard due to the restlessness of the cottage.

Alerted by the noise, sexton Lindell hurried back into the room. There he saw the two boards of a dining table banging on its legs. When the witness pressed the other board with his knee, the other struck that much harder. Therefore the sides of the table were bound and also wedged with ropes for a good measure. Now the boards stayed immobile, but a puffing sound came from between them. The table jumped spontaneously a few times, approximately an inch off the floor. No hatches, loose planks or secret strings were observed by the sexton and therefore he did not deem it necessary to inspect other parts of the room.

The moving of objects and teleportation are the most strongly substantiated phenomena of the Martin croft. The testimony of sexton Lindell which stated that the spirit tied Emma Lindroos with rope as she lay in her bed is also rather interesting. The case of Eva Martin’s hands catching fire, which was mentioned in Jarl Fahler’s book, was proved by Matti Seppä to be a translation error: the witness meant that candles wouldn’t stay in Eva Martin’s hands.

The study of the case of the Martin croft is based almost exclusively on court documents. There is not a single eyewitness to be found in folk tales. An interesting addition to the case, however, is baron Schrenck-Notzig’s account of the haunting. He had received the German translation of the court transcripts as well as some additional information from his doctor colleague Yrjö Kulovesi from Tampere.

In 1921, Kulovesi had interviewed Efraim Martin’s then 79-year-old son Berndt Erland Martin in Tampere. Berndt Martin had not been home at the time of the haunting. The only witness Kulovesi met was Emil Keso, a householder from Aitolahti. He had visited the Martins together with Simo Laalahti and Efram Eerola, who was mentioned in the court transcripts.

The guests arrived between three and four in the afternoon. It was still light in the cottage. As they sat down, Laalahti’s mitten was thrown to Keso’s side of the bench. Keso then said: “Enough with the tricks, didn’t we just agree to avoid such mischief.” His mittens then flew away as well. Laalahti claimed that he had not thrown the mittens. In order to observe the situation as clearly as possible, the men sat on chairs in the middle of the room. Suddenly shingles began to fall from the beams in front of Keso’s feet. They flew closely side by side as if tied together by an invisible force, and when they fell at his feet they did not slide at all in the direction one would expect, but rather stayed still as if captured by a mysterious power. Ten shingles fell, all in all. In the room at the time were Eva Martin, Efraim Eerola and both householders. Keso could not recall if Emma Lindroos had also been present. At the same time, cobbler’s tools were thrown from the corner to Laalahti’s feet.

The Martin haunting was so versatile and the eyewitness statements so detailed that the ghost has certainly earned its international reputation. As the only Finnish poltergeist it rose to international fame when the court transcripts were published as widely distributed pamphlets. Considering the weight of the material it is therefore strange that the ghost was soon buried into dusty local history publications as a mere freak of folk religion. A truly encompassing analysis of the Martin poltergeist and its impact on our worldview remains in unmade in our cultural conversation.

kyltti-kummitustalolle

(a sign indicating the spot where the croft once stood. The sign says: “The spot of Efraim Martin’s croft. The building was moved downtown after Efraim’s death in the 1890s.” Photo: Pentti Säynäväjärvi)