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!


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.


The Path of a Serial Killer.


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.


(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.


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.


(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.


(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 (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.

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.


(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.


(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.


(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)

Book review. Visalia Ransacker – Secret Origin of the Golden State Killer, by Kat Winters and Keith Komos. 2018.


Winters and Komos continue their important work in making the complicated East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker/Golden State Killer case readable to both the general public as well as more advanced researchers. Now that Joseph DeAngelo has been arrested as a suspect in the EAR/ONS case, more and more people will probably be interested in understanding the case, and Winters’ and Komos’ books provide a fantastic “road map” through the complex terrain.

Some time ago, the duo released the book Case Files of the East Area Rapist / Golden State Killer, a masterpiece in true crime writing. This time, they are digging into the weird case of the Visalia Ransacker, a burglar with an M.O. similar to the EAR/ONS/GSK. Whether the VR actually was the EAR has been debated for some time; this book, I believe, makes the case pretty convincingly that the VR and EAR are one and the same.

The book has been laid out similarly to the aforementioned Case Files… The incidents involving the VR proceed from the first to the last. The structure is heaven-sent in a case as all-over-the-place as this one: we finally get a cohesive idea of where the nightmare started and what it entailed. The VR’s actions were easily as creepy as those of the EAR, and this book is not for those with a tendency towards bad dreams and/or anxiety. In fact, even if you’re of a steely mind, you’ll be looking over your shoulder at night for months after reading Visalia Ransacker.

The question many will be asking themselves is “Is this worth buying and reading now that Joseph DeAngelo has been arrested as the EAR?” The answer is yes – indeed, it’s MORE pertinent now that the VR/EAR/ONS/GSK has most likely been captured, because we’re now at the beginning stages of trying to understanding the mind, the human being behind these terrifying crimes, and a book like Visalia Ransacker is worth it’s weight in gold in such a process.

Highly recommended.

Buy it here.


Interview with Marit Higraff, co-host of Death in Ice Valley (podcast)

This year’s best mystery/true crime podcast is, without question, Death in Ice Valley. The show is an investigation into the Isdal woman mystery (if you don’t know what it is, read on below). The show is a breath of fresh air in a “podosphere” filled with true crime shows featuring two people chatting and giggling among themselves: Death in Ice Valley features interviews, excursions into the field, and discussions with cops, locals, and other people who were actually involved in the events when they happened.

Death in Ice Valley is a collaboration between the Norwegian broadcasting company NRK and BBC World Service. It is hosted by Marit Higraff and Neil McCarthy.

Here is my interview with Marit Higraff, Norwegian investigative journalist and co-host of the podcast.

Thank you, Marit, for taking the time to talk to Books, Bullets and Bad Omens!


Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

I am an investigative journalist and reporter working for NRK, Norways public broadcaster. I have been working as a tv-reporter in different departments and for different programs in NRK for many years – investigative journalism is my special field. So originally, tv-journalist, lately also online and audio 😉

I am from the northern part of Norway – the land of the midnight sun – but have lived in Oslo since I started studying. Also lived 8 years in Salzburg, Austria.

I have a 15 year-old-daughter, Hannah.


(Marit Higraff. Photo: Sigrid Winther)

In your own words, what is the “Isdal Woman”? What does that term refer to?

In November 1970 a woman was found dead and severely burned in a desolate valley outside of Bergen, a city on the west coast of Norway.

Objects were laid out around the body, and couple of days later, the police found her two suitcases at Bergen railway station – containing lots of curious clues, like sophisticated clothes, a wig, and glasses without prescription. The most significant thing common for the suitcases and the things found at the scene: there was nothing to identify who the woman was. The labels had been cut off her clothes, and scratched off the items.

The case immediately hit the headlines in Norway. It was a mystery: who was she – and what happened to her? The newspapers called her the Isdal Woman, because of the name of the remote valley where the body was found, called “Isdalen” in Norwegian, or “Ice Valley” in English.

The police investigated intensively for some weeks, and found that the woman had been traveling a lot, and with different fake identities. But then suddenly shut down the investigation – concluding with most likely suicide. A conclusion most doubted – then, and now. Without finding her identity..

Speculation went high that she could have been a spy, as this happened in the middle of the Cold War.

And the speculations have been going on, for almost 50 years. Still today, nobody knows who this woman was, what she was doing in Norway, and how and why she died in that remote valley.


(police photo of the body of the Isdal woman as it was found that day. Photo: Bergen Police Archives)

When did you first hear of this case? Were you hooked immediately?

I was an early newspaper and magazine reader as a child, and I remember reading about the case. It has been in the media every know and then.

When I was asked to have a look at it a couple of years ago, it immediately triggered my curiosity and investigative tentacles. Then, when reading thousands of files, I saw the potential of the case – riddle upon riddle – and the possibility of starting a whole new investigation, based on modern methods and technology.

Would you say the Isdal woman is the number 1 most well-known unsolved mystery in Norway? Are there other mystery cases that “compete” with the Isdal woman for that title?

Well, there are some other cases – but since we started publishing our investigation 1,5 year ago this case has got very well known in Norway. Also to the younger generations. And I guess it’s the one case with the most spectacular riddles and facts.

Is there a kind of unofficial prevailing consensus in Norway regarding the woman’s identity? In other words, what is the most popular theory as to who she was and why she ended up the way she did?

There have been a lot of theories and speculations about who she was and what she was doing in Norway. During almost 50 years one of the most discussed theories has been that she was some kind of an intelligence agent or spy, because of the use of several fake identities, the content in her suitcases, and her movements.

The reason we’re discussing this case is because you are the co-host of a podcast I consider the best of 2018, Death in Ice Valley, which deals with the Isdal woman. Can you tell us about the podcast? How did it come about, how are you approaching the case, etc.

Thanks a lot for your opinion on “Death in Ice Valley”! I really appreciate that.

Me and my colleagues in the NRK-team started working on this case two years ago, and have been publishing our steps in the investigation as an online-project since autumn 2016. We were surprised to get attention abroad, as we published only in Norwegian. But, we discovered that people were following us internationally, using Google translate.

Some journalists from international media also took contact, and made stories about our investigation and the project. And then, one year ago, we were contacted by the podcast editor of the BBC World Service, Jon Manel. He saw the potential of the case, and wanted to make the investigation into a podcast-series for a world audience, in collaboration with us. In autumn 2017 me and my colleague Neil McCarthy from the BBC started the work with the podcast. Simultaneously we continued our ongoing investigation into the case.


(Marit and co-host Neil McCarthy interview a police officer at the exact spot where the Isdal woman was found. Photo: Anette Berentsen / NRK)

One reason I love Death in Ice Valley (besides the intriguing case it deals with) is because, rather than just sitting in a studio and chit-chatting about an old case amongst yourselves, you actually talk to people who were involved in the Isdal woman incident: cops, witnesses, et cetera. How did you go about finding these people? Was it hard to convince them to discuss the case with you?

I am glad you say that. Because, to us it was important that we wanted to take the listeners with us out in the field. To experience places, to meet people. We wanted to be as little studio based as possible – the opposite of most podcasts. We wanted to give the audience a great listening experience, in addition to the great story, and the ongoing investigation.

To find still living witnesses, police and so, has been a challenge in this project. It all happened in 1970, so most of the witnesses are dead – senior officers in the police and so. While reading thousands of police files and documents, we thoroughly registered interesting names of different witnesses. And then had to search in the registers, if they live or are dead. Some got married, changed names, were difficult to find.

Some were really hard to find.

We ended up with a list of rather few possible interviewees still alive. I interviewed many of them for the “Norwegian” part of the project, but we expanded for the podcast, and I contacted more of them. These are mostly quite old people, and it was hard to convince them to try to speak English for a world audience. But most of them participated.

Without spoiling anything for listeners, tell us, we’re you able to dig up anything surprising in your investigation for the podcast?

Yes, definitely! We continued our ongoing investigation along the production – and it was a challenge(and long days!) to research and produce at the same time. But we found some interesting new leads along the way.

And, first of all: we knew that we need attention “out there”. This woman was not Norwegian, we know that. So, our hope was and still is, that someone out there might know something. The goal was to reach out to that person or those persons who might recognize something about the story: about an aunt, a neighbor, a woman who disappeared in 1970…

And we have gotten some very interesting leads to follow up on, from listeners.

What are you currently working on? A new podcast series, perhaps..?

Currently I am spending the summer in the Caribbean, resting and learning Spanish😊 It is a good and necessary break, after an extremely intensive year at work.

Then, after summer, there are some very interesting leads to follow up on, as said. The team will go on investigating this case, and if we get any further – which I still strongly believe – we might come back with another podcast series, Death in Ice Valley season 2..😉

Where can people keep up with your work?

Everything published in our project about the Isdal Woman – articles, videos, timeline – can be found at

It’s in Norwegian though.

Some main articles are translated; they can be found here

The podcast “Death in Ice Valley” can be found on iTunes and everywhere else you find podcasts.

My investigative work from earlier on can be found by googling me.

Is there anything you’d like to add that I didn’t ask about?


To me, as an idealistic investigative journalist, always driven by the motivation that I want to make life better for people, want to reveal the errors and gaps in the society, and so on.. I had to ask myself many times in this project: “Why? Why am I spending years of my life – and far too many working hours – on this case? It’s a woman found dead. A concluded suicide.”

And every time I come to the same answer: because it’s a life. A human being. A family that didn’t get to know about their loved one.

I want to give her back what she lost: a name. A dignity. And perhaps justice – if someone did that to her.

And, if possible – I want to bring her home, where she belongs.

FInally, my standard questions.

Your top 3 books?

When I have time, I prefer to read crime – I’ll answer with some favorite authors:
Swedish Jan Guillou, and the Norwegian Jo Nesbø. I also love reading John Irving.

And also historical books that give me new knowledge and reveal new truths, like the unknown story of Norwegians fighting “on the wrong side” during WW2, by Eirik Veum.

Your top 3 films?

Films, the same – crime, and also romantic films;

– The Bridges of Madison County
– Titanic
– Braveheart

And some more faves, all of them old…😄

What model phone do you use?

iPhone 7

Interview with the filmmakers behind Dead Man’s Line (2018)

A few weeks ago, I saw an incredible documentary called Dead Man’s Line. The film tells the story of Tony Kiritsis, a man who felt so wronged by a mortgage company that he took his mortgage broker hostage to get the attention of the media to his perceived plight. He tied a shotgun to his hostage’s neck, then tied a line from the trigger to his finger, thus ensuring that, if he was killed, he would take his hostage with him to his grave.

The standoff was intense – and so is Dead Man’s Line.

Below is my interview with the filmmakers behind the film, Alan Berry and Mark Enochs.

Thanks you, gentlemen, for taking the time to talk to Books, Bullets and Bad Omens!

Watch the film on iTunes or Amazon.


Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

AB: My name is Alan Berry and I’m the director, editor, and producer of Dead Man’s Line. In my day job, I’m a Director of Marketing for a private financial firm in Indiana. I’m an avid fan of the band Phish.

ME: I’m Mark Enochs, co-director and writer of Dead Man’s Line. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana with my wife, daughter, and our two dogs. I also share a woodshed out back with a family of chipmunks and a mama garter snake who eats mice at night. Professionally, I’ve been everything from a proofreader to an editor, and I am currently writing for a marketing platform company. Otherwise, I’m a typical binge-viewing, bird-watching, physical-comedy-loving dude.

2) Have you always been interested in true crime?

AB: I’m a fan of true stories of all kinds, especially if there is a video to back up the story.

ME: Alan and I have been friends since high school, and there have always been documentaries in our viewing queue. Whenever there was a movie that was based on a true story, we always wanted the true story, and back before reality TV, one of the best places to hunt for non-scripted, non-editorialized truth was the documentary section at the video store. There wasn’t as wide a smorgasbord as there is now, of course, so whatever we found we would consume multiple times, stuff like Incident at Oglala, all kinds of concert footage, and Hoop Dreams which I remember watching for the first time with Alan all in one go. It was such a commitment from the filmmaker and the families, and it just showed how to use film to tell anybody’s story.

True crime itself is a natural draw for me. Stories like this have a built-in drama, and I love seeing that unfold regardless of whether the stories end with closure or total mystery. So what separates a factual but flat rendering from a dynamic and intriguing one is the filmmaker, that person’s vision, and the way the narrative is built. The Thin Blue Line was an early example to us of how you can add creative elements and enhance the story without misrepresenting the facts. Coppola’s Hearts of Darkness was another early one where we could see how real life and fiction could get mixed up and merge.

3) How did you become a filmmaker?

AB: Part of the path for me in becoming a filmmaker was out of necessity. Up until 2011, I had owned and operated records stores in Indianapolis. I saw the end nearing, so I jumped ship over to video production. Which for me led to more filmmaking.

ME: In high school, Alan had a video camera, and we made comedies, real Monty Python sketch stuff. We shot a lot of the early bits in chronological order, but as we continued to come up with skits made up of more and more shots, we started editing, super primitive, but cutting together scenes was something we loved doing. It just took a couple decades for the stars to align and go about seriously making a film. In 2010, we shot “Band in a Jam” up in northern Indiana, and we learned so many critical lessons there about story-telling, stuff you’re never done learning, but I remember after half a year of shooting that film we felt like not only could we do this but we might be able to do it well.

4) Your film Dead Man’s Line tells the story of a truly bizarre kidnapping and hostage situation from the 1970s. How did you come across this story? When did you know you were going to make a film about this incident?

AB: It’s Mark’s fault. Six years ago now, we had just completed a day-in-the-life documentary of Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, and when it came time to do the next project, we did an informal survey of friends and family, wanting to know what our potential audience was interested in seeing, and then from the short list that came out of that, we rated each idea. Kiritsis rose to the top, in part because it’s an intriguing story that happened here in Indy and that many people younger than us had never heard of. Also some of the other ideas we had for a project fell through quickly. Kiritsis was the only one where we found people who wanted to talk, starting with Jack Parker, a WTTV cameraman who covered the story in ’77, held on to his footage, and was willing to share it.

ME: So some of it is Jack’s fault, and we are so grateful for that. Another reporter, WRTV’s Linda Lupear, also shared footage and her account. When we were trying to come up with the next project, this was the one with this great historical Indy angle that came to mind for me. We were in the 2nd grade when the incident happened, but I recall watching the footage as it was replayed during the summer of 1977 on local TV as the court proceedings got underway. That image of Kiritsis and Hall and that wired gun had stuck with me for 35 years.


(Tony Kiritsis and his hostage, Richard O. Hall. Photo: John Hilley / Associated Press)

5) Was it difficult to get people to talk about the event?

ME: Yes. Short answer is yes. We both have real jobs, the ones that pay our bills, so scheduling convenient time isn’t always possible, and then of course, some people just aren’t comfortable being on film, or, in a few cases, on the record.

But of the 40+ interviews we did conduct, the vast majority were eager to describe what they’d witnessed. And not for attention-seeking purposes. There was nothing like that. People were just ready to put their recollections on the record once and for all. This was a one-of-a-kind event in these people’s lives, something they could document in one final work and pass on as local history to the next generation.

6) What do you think really drove the kidnapper, a man named Tony Kiritsis, to undertake such desperate measures? Was he a genuine “working man who’d had enough”, or just a narcissist?

ME: Kiritsis sawed off the barrel and stock of a shotgun and then took a man hostage with it. That’s a crime. There’s no way to get around that.

Did the mortgage company steal Kiritsis’ land out from under him? No. There is no evidence that Meridian Mortgage did anything so overtly illegal in their loan agreement with Kiritsis.

Could Meridian Mortgage have manipulated either Kiritsis or prospective buyers so that Meridian Mortgage could foreclose on the property and then resell it at a great profit? Yes, they could have.

There is no direct proof of that, but one thing I’m convinced of is that Dick Hall was only indirectly involved with the Kiritsis loan. He had been in the office when Kiritsis had come in. He knew Tony well enough to talk with him. On one occasion, he sat in on a heated argument between Dick’s father, M.L. Hall and Kiritsis, but that was it. Dick’s main error was showing up at the office that morning, a mistake none of us would ever have seen ahead of time.

Did Tony feel that M.L. Hall had done something to swindle his land away from him? Yes, he truly believed that. But the way he went about addressing the problem was to flip out and fantasize about revenge, and yes, some of that is because as a narcissist, he had a lot of trouble facing his flaws. But that’s not to say Kiritsis was a bad person. There are hundreds of examples of his generosity and good-natured camaraderie. Tony was an open book in many cases. He got things wrong, but he rarely lied. What he couldn’t face was losing that land. There was no Plan B. Everything past 1977 depended on that land and what it represented to Kiritsis. Think about losing your future. You still can’t wire shotguns to people’s necks. That’s not a solution, but I get the motive.

7) Your film tells the story perfectly: matter-of-factly, without too much background, letting the participants and news video archives tell the story in the moment. It reminded me of some of Oliver Stone’s better films. What techniques did you employ in constructing that intensity on the screen?

AB: I wish I could say I use some fancy techniques when I edit, but I don’t. One of my assets is that I have seen thousands of documentaries, good and bad. So when I’m going through cuts, I keep working it until I get that “Oh yeah, that works” feeling. That gut feeling that makes you want to go show it off. The next crucial step was to have Mark watch it to validate that my ego wasn’t just agreeing with itself. Mark has an excellent eye for crap, and our friendship is strong enough where he would tell me when my work was not up to par. Once it passed Mark’s crap test, the process would start over. Long story short, it’s a process of create, review, analyze, improve.

8) Where can people watch Dead Man’s Line?

Amazon and iTunes

9) What are you working on at the moment?

ME: Fiction. Podcasts are an intriguing idea too.

AB: Trying to become a roadie for Phish and other various video projects.

10) Where can people keep up with your work?

And finally, my standard questions:

11) Your top 3 films?



Seven Samurai




Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

The Killing

12) Your top 3 books?


Watership Down

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Fight Club


Think and Grow Rich

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Rebel without a Crew

13) Your top 3 songs?


Could never pick 3 songs. Instead:

Queen. 2)Tool. 3) Iron Maiden.


1) Phish. 2) Frank Zappa. 3) The Rolling Stones