Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"Diving is for real" at Hungry Mother State Park

Me on the right in black, my friend Ginger Dutton on the left.
This photo was taken around the time of the
incident at Hungry Mother. I think this is even
the same bathing suit.
Some kid in Nebraska claims he died and went to heaven during an operation. The family has written a book called Heaven Is For Real (they have now written a children's book about it and are making the rounds on TV). His parents swear he is telling the truth because he met his "sister" in heaven, a miscarriage his mother had years before the boy didn't know about. He said John the Baptist and Jesus were kind of blue and sparkling, and his grandfather had huge wings.

I really hope there is a heaven. I don't believe in the christian heaven, but I hope we go somewhere and do exactly what we love. I always liked what the priest in The Exorcist said (I'm paraphrasing): "Heaven is a little bar where I'm the headliner every night, and they love me!" Then Regan pisses on the oriental carpet. I like the idea of heaven being tailored to each person.

This kid's little tale of heaven reminds me of a strange experience I had as a kid.

I was sent to Lutheran Church Camp at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion, Virginia around 1976. Every day, after sitting in the woods listening to dulcimers and hearing about Jesus, we were taken to the green lake with its sandy shore. Just beyond the floating ropes was a diving platform with two boards: one regular sized diving board and one high dive. A lifeguard lounged in a chair beside the high dive and would give encouragement to the kids from his lazy suntan comfort. I really wanted to dive off the high board.

Every time I climbed to the top, I walked to the edge of the board, but chickened out at the last second and just jumped off. This went on all day. Once when I climbed the ladder, the lifeguard was encouraging me to dive while spreading thick white Hawaiian Tropic on his arms. I stood at the edge of the board feeling the rough sparkling surface under my feet, and then, I blacked out. When I opened my eyes, I saw my shadow on the green water, and I was soaring down in a perfect dive. I even remember seeing my toes were pointed my arms were straight over my head, my hands were pressed strongly together in prayer. My body sliced through the green water at Hungry Mother.

It was only a couple of seconds that I blacked out, but something took over my mind and body completely. I can't explain it. Nothing like that has happened to me since. For a moment, when I saw my shadow on the water, I thought I had died.

The day after I got home from camp, my ear hurt so bad that I couldn't open my mouth. The doctor said I had the worst case of swimmer's ear he had ever seen. Doing the dive had not helped because swimmer's ear is caused by water pressure. I have never been so sick in my life. I spent the entire summer on the coach sipping chicken noodle soup through a straw.

Did I pay a physical price for coming in contact with something otherworldly?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arm Pit Combat

I heard over the weekend that if you get punched in the arm pit, it could knock you out cold. There are delicate nerves and such in that area of the body that will send you reeling.

So watch out for yourself when you are in arm raising situations such as sporting events or concerts. If someone really wanted to, they could punch and disappear into a crowd.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Let's Occupy the GOP's Asses!

CNN just published an article on their website entitled: "CNN Poll: Partisan divides explain super committee failure." Oh my god, it goes on with the usual bullshit about how Americans are "divided" and how Republicans want "government programs" cut and Democrats don't, how Democrats want "defense spending" cut and Republicans don't.

But one little item that is the same in EVERY poll I have seen recently is that at least 2/3 of EVERYBODY want the rich to be taxed more. So why isn't that news? 2/3 of Americans want more taxes on the rich, and the GOP just keeps ignoring it. I guess the biggest story is that American citizens ALLOW the GOP to keep ignoring their wishes. Isn't it splendid to have a bunch of people elected by the peasants that just keep ignoring the peasants because they are too busy bowing at the solid gold statue of Grover Norquist?

Perhaps to get the point across, the Occupy movement should rename itself the Occupy Bowel Movement and move up the GOP's ass. It would be harder for them to run away from answering real questions if someone had a tent set up in their collective anus. I relize this might be difficult. We would have to get them to hold still and then only a selct few could fit up there. They could take cameras and report back to the rest of us. This would save the GOP so much money because the Occupy Bowel Movement could search for palups while they are up there. Seems that alone would save enough to pay for head start programs and Planned Parenthood.

Not a sermon, just a dream.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

70s Antics

So many odd stunts, settings, and characters you saw on 70s TV shows and movies that nobody does anymore:

-Going over Niagara Falls in a barrel
-A frantic search for a ring that eventually turns up in some baked   goods
-A car driving through the window of a store
-Any drama or comedy that takes place in amusement parks
-Somebody rolling down a street in a barrel
-Several people feeling the ground for a missing contact lens
-Pie in the face
-The color yellow
-Falling down manholes
-Jumping stuff with cars and motorcycles
-Ghost towns
-Disco rollerskating
-Underage kids attempting to buy alcohol
-Boys crashing in on the "baby-sitter girlfriend"
-Model volcanoes
-Sea monkeys
-Mexican jumping beans
-Stuff in barrels in general
-Talking on CBs
-Hoping for a genii/rubbing something to try and make a genii pop out
-Demolition derbys
-Comic gold prospecting
-A single actor playing twins
-No serious midgets (they only played clowns or jesters)
-Somebody pulling a flower out of their sleeve, a flower that shoots water, cup with holes so liquid would pour out onto clothes
-Fortune tellers
-TV movie of the week with a moral
-Impersonators (always doing John Wayne, Nixon, Johnny Carson)
-Dunking booths and kissing booths at carnivals
-People getting black eyes
-Trucker songs
-Giving moccasins as presents
-Boxers that spoke in rhyme
-Men dressing like women badly
-People taking trips on buses
-Keeping kidnapped people alive in underground boxes
-Story songs (Billy Jack, Billy Don't Be A Hero)
-White people playing Indians, wearing big feather headdresses and "talking indian" ("red man thank white man for coming")
-Variety shows
-People hitchhiking
-Kids with lemonade stands
-Not being able to afford meat and sugar (as seen in political comedy shows like Good Times and All In The Family)
-People getting stuck in phone booths
-Blind musicians
-After school specials

Please comment to this post and add more 70s antics!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thought Photography

Professor Fukurai with psychic extra taken by William Hope in 1928
Thought Photography, or “thoughtography”, a term coined by Tomokicchi Fukarai, is a type of paranormal photography in which a living person psychically projects an image on a photographic plate or film. Usually a camera is used, however, many images have been imprinted directly on photographic film or paper, shielded from light in a black envelope, box or dark slide. This form of thought photography is called skotography.

Earliest Thouhgtography

Thoughtography started in the 1850’s, during the Spiritualist Movement with “spirit photography”, which became the novelty of the day. Today's parapsychologists believe that, even though there may have been a considerable amount of deception during a séance by the photographer, many of the images were revealed to have been planted in the medium’s mind. These extra images in many photographs may have been telepathically imprinted and captured on film.
With the invention of X-Ray Photography in 1896, many saw the scientific legitimacy of thoughtography, and experimented with trying to capture their thoughts, feelings, and dreams on film. Commandant Darget, a French Army officer in the 1890’s, was successful in attempting to transfer thoughts and images of a brandy bottle on to a photographic plate. Dr. Baraduc experimented with skotography in France in 1896. His subjects were given photographic plates in black envelopes, to hold in their hands and asked to concentrate images upon them. Many pictures were seen on these plates after developing them.

Experimentation in the Twentieth Century

Experiments increased in the 1900’s, by individuals such as Japanese Tomokichi Fukurai and Masuaki Kiyota, Americans Ted Serios and Michaela Kelly, and Israeli psychic Uri Geller. Under stricter conditions, the paranormal community witnessed the claims of thoughtography, which were proven to be fabricated or remain, to this day, a mystery.

Tomokichi Fukurai
In the early 1900’s, Fukurai, an assistant professor of psychology at Tokyo University and President of the Psychical Institute of Japan, worked to prove his theories regarding nensha(spirit photography). In 1913, Fukurai worked with a woman named Sadako Takahashi, who claimed to have developed both clairvoyance and thought photography through breathing and mental exercises. When asked to imprint particular Japanese symbols on unexposed photographic plates using only her mind, the woman consistently succeeded imprinting the target. In 1928, he visited, William Hope, a famous medium photographer, with the hope of proving or disproving his psychic talent. He removed the possibility of “slight-of-hand”, by signing each plate beforehand, and had his assistant standing beside Hope the whole time. Fukurai claimed that the photographs produced were genuine.

Ted Serios
In the 1960’s, Serios became notorious for the production of thought photography on Polaroid film. Dr. Jule Eisenbud, a psychiatrist and parapsychologist, described his experiments with Serios. He supposedly used only psychic powers while in a drunken (and often enraged) state. Serios' thought photographs were recognizable pictures of people, cars and buildings. He was able to produce his photographs while holding a tube, which he called his “gismo”, from the camera lens to his forehead.
Serio’s talent has been greatly refuted. Parapsychologist, Dr. Pratt, at the University of Virginia, planned a series of month-long experiments. Serios, who was highly unreliable and constantly intoxicated, left, refusing to continue under strict conditions. Serios claimed he needed his tube to help him concentrate and project the mental images, but several people noticed him slipping something into the tube to create the images. It is believed that the tube contained a novelty gadget, popular at the time, which when held up to the eye, would show an image. Many attributed his drunken fits and outbursts to only being disturbing distractions, while he worked his occasional “sleight of hand” into supposed thought or psychic photographs. Serios would place the small transparency of an image into the gadget of the tube. Holding the tube up to a Polaroid camera lens, made a photograph of the image. Using a digital camera and a similar gadget in a tube, investigators have been able to reproduce the same results.

Masuaki Kiyota
In the 1970’s, the Japanese Nengraphy Association (nengraphy being the Japanese name for thoughtography) conducted experiments with the Japanese teenage psychic wonder, Masuaki Kiyota. He proved to have the ability to transmit images on to unexposed film under strict scientific conditions. Dr. Walter Uphoff supervised a series of experiments with Kiyota under laboratory conditions in Tokyo, as well as in the United States for a special NBC-TV program on the paranormal. He was able to produce photographs of a nearby hotel and other images using a Polaroid camera, even though it was placed on a table across from him with its’ lens cap on, and the shutter release never touched. 
Michaela Kelly
Parapsychologist, D. Scott Rogo, witnessed and wrote an account of an unexpected skotograph. While hypnotized, Michaela Kelly’s hand was placed on a piece of enlarging paper. The result was a photograph of a cartoonish picture of an aged female face in a shawl with the letters N A D printed on it. When re-awakened, Kelly stated that even though she didn’t remember thinking of the aged woman, she identified her as a past housekeeper named Naddie who always wore a shawl.
Uri Geller
In the 1990’s, Uri Geller began to perform thought photography by using a 35mm camera with the lens cap affixed. He would reportedly then take photos of his forehead. When the photographs were developed, Uri claimed that the images had come directly from his mind. Lawrence Fried, President of the Society of Media Photographers investigated Geller’s claim. To ensure there would be no trickery, he secured the lens cap with 2-inch cloth-like tape around his own camera lens. Geller pointed Fried’s camera towards his head and pressed the shutter. Even though no light could have reached the film, the resulting photograph, even though blurred, was unmistakably a photograph of Geller.
During an interview by news reporters, Roy Stockdill and Michael Brennan, in Miami Beach at the Eden Roc Hotel, Geller revealed his talent once more. Using Brennan’s Nikon camera, with its’ locked lens cap and pointed at his face, rapidly exposed several rolls of film. Two of the films were blank, however, two photos on the third roll were distinct pictures of Geller.

From Wikipedia:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Penn State Should NOT Have a Vigil Tonight

I saw some talking head on CNN or CNBC last night that made an excellent point: What happened at Penn State is NOT a "sex scandal." A "sex scandal" is when a congressman is caught on tape coming out of a Budget Inn with a blond nail technician and a purple dildo sticking out of the pocket of his $3,000 suit.
But when someone sees a 10 year-old boy being sodomized by Jerry Sandusky, that is "rape" or "child molestation." NOT a "sex scandal." Why is this horrible situation being called a "sex scandal" like it was some kind of college prank?

And honestly I don't know what to call it when the assistant coach, the head coach, and the president of a university ALL know that a 10 year old boy was sodomized in the showers by Jerry Sandusky and NOBODY DID ANYTHING.

Penn State is planning a vigil for the victims tonight. The newly appointed university president, Rodney Erickson, said to CNN, "Healing cannot occur until we understand how responsibilities to these children failed and how we can prevent such tragedies in the future." 


HEALING???? Who is he talking about????

What the hell good is that supposed to do? As a survivor of child molestation, I can tell you that somebody throwing a vigil for me now is ludicrous. They say that a surprise party is really for the people giving the party, not for the person being honored. What do these people hope to accomplish with a vigil? It will make them all feel warm and sweet inside like they just swallowed a big wad of apple pie, make them feel better about themselves moving about the night with a candle. A vigil will not help that 10 year old boy who has been doomed to a life sentence of staring a horrible, slobbering creature in the face.

My suggestion is for everyone to stay home and watch reruns of American Idol because the time for action passed when that boy put on his clothes and went home that night, without a word being spoken.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Fake Sneezing Manners

Just let the kid be gobbled up by Satan.
 I'm sick to death of people saying "God Bless You" or "Gesundheit" (German for health) when someone in their immediate vicinity sneezes.

The thing is people used to believe that humans only had a limited amount of breath, and so when a person sneezed, they thought they were losing precious breath and becoming weaker. Hence "God Bless You." In other words, "I hope God protects you because you just lost a good hunk of your limited breath."

People also believed that when a person sneezed, it released their soul, and their soul could be captured by evil spirits. Or that evil spirits could enter through the open mouth while a person was in the act of sneezing. Some say this blessing started during the plague and that a sneeze was a symptom of the horrible disease. If you "blessed" someone, perhaps YOU would stop them from getting the plague. In Renaissance times, a superstition was formed claiming one's heart stopped for a very brief moment during the sneeze, saying "bless you" was a sign of prayer that the heart wouldn't fail possibly the devil's doing by sending demons to clasp the heart in the body's moment of shock from the sneeze.

OK. So can we stop this already? When a person sneezes, there is a moment of silence to give somebody the appropriate second to say "bless you." Most times, I have found, people still do say this. Sometimes, the sneeze passes without a blessing, but there usually is that moment of waiting for someone to acknowledge a sneeze. I don't think people believe the devil stuff anymore. It is purely out of "politeness." I have actually seen people "Bless" somebody who is having a sneezing fit. Saying, "Bless you, bless you, bless you" multiple times makes the blesser look "concerned." I think saying "bless you" multiple times is an annoying cry for attention from the person giving the blessing.

The split second after a sneeze is an awkward moment for those of us who are not going to "bless" someone to keep the devil away. I have also seen people who sneeze look hurt that nobody blessed them. It is a confusing social tradition that has lingered way too long and found itself somehow in the 21st century, exiting our world TOO SLOWLY.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Murder of Sharon Blankenbeckler

I have only slept with the lights on three times in my life. The first time I was seven and having nightmares about Bigfoot. Actually, it was a commercial for a movie that scared me. In the commercial, Bigfoot crashed his arm through someone’s living room window and tried to grab a woman sitting on a coach. I can still see her long straight hair whipping around as she jumped. I woke up screaming, sweating, snot running down my face. For some reason my mother made me drink grape juice from a silver cup to calm me down. The second time I had to sleep with the lights on was after seeing The Shining. I heard noises and was sure Jack Nicholson was outside my bedroom door. I turned on the light and waited for Jack to come limping through the doorway, smiling with an ax over his shoulder. That time I didn’t scream. I woke myself up, once again sweating, with snot running down my face. The third time I had to sleep with the lights on was while writing this essay about Sharon Blankenbeckler.

I didn’t know her. And besides, I was busy in the spring of 1977. I had just turned eleven on March 17th and as usual Aunt May brought me a colossal chocolate cake with green candles (green for St. Patrick’s Day).  My friends and I rode our bikes all over our hometown of Chilhowie, Virginia. There was nothing for us to be afraid of as we glided down every street, walked through every backyard and cut across every cornfield. We watched John Belushi on Saturday Night Live and Heart on The Midnight Special. We owned Rumors by Fleetwood Mac. There were no strangers in Chilhowie. It’s population was around two thousand, and everyone knew everyone. We were all family, related one way or another. Everyone went to church. In particular, there were loads of Baptists. When they forced us to square dance in gym class, several of the kids sat on the bleachers with notes saying it was against their religion. Teenagers pulled their cars next to each other in the Tastee-Freeze parking lot, talked and passed beer and joints between them. Any road you took out of Chilhowie would lead you to the countryside--beautiful green rolling pastures, farms, apple orchards and the mountains. We were surrounded the Appalachians. The word Chilhowie is Cherokee for “Valley of Many Deer.” On the first day of deer hunting season, the schools were vacant. Then, later in the day, vehicles rolled back into town with deer tied stiff to their roofs. It was hard to keep a secret in Chilhowie. Everyone made it their business to know everything. I knew a guy who got his girlfriend pregnant, and people called him every day demanding to know what he intended to do about it.

Smyth County News 3/31/77

MISSING – Sharon Ann Blankenbeckler of Chilhowie has been missing since March 10. She was last seen at the K-Mart parking lot in Marion at approximately 2:30 p.m.
A white 20-year-old female, she has long brown hair and blue eyes, weighs 108 pounds and is 5’4” tall. Anyone having information concerning Ms. Blankenbeckler is asked to call the Smyth County Sheriff’s Department, Marion…

Sharon Blankenbeckler was much older than me. She was twenty, which normally would have seemed ancient to an eleven year old, but under the circumstances she seemed young. At least that is what everyone kept repeating, “she is so young.” There was talk among the adults mostly. One person insisted that she was fine and had eloped with an older man. Another source said she had run away. At any rate, there was no panic. It was the subject of many conversations because people don’t just vanish, but everyone seemed convinced she would turn up fine. Weeks went by and the talk subsided. Chilhowie had other problems. We had a horrible flood. The black people who “lived down by the tracks” had to be evacuated. Many black families stayed at the Methodist church just up the street from my house. One girl told me about rats and water snakes that floated by as her family waded out of their house with clothes and photos over their heads. The water subsided and exposed the roads damaged by the flood, cracked and buckled.

Smyth County News 4/12/77

Local Girl Found Dead

The body of Sharon Blankenbeckler, missing since Mar. 10, was found Friday morning near Highway 16 on Walker’s Mountain.
According to Sheriff Billy J. Dolinger, the body was sent to Roanoke, where the cause of death was determined by an autopsy, and where identification of the body was made.
According to the autopsy, Miss Blankenbeckler, 20, had been strangled and her body left on the mountain about a month.
Described by friends and family as a quiet girl, Miss Blankenbeckler had been reported as missing Mar. 10 after leaving her home that day to apply for a job at the K-Mart store in Marion. Her car was found abandoned on the shopping center parking lot that night with a flat tire, but police officers said there was no evidence of the tire being punctured. There were no reports of anyone seeing the girl leave the lot, nor of anyone suspicious being around her car, policemen said.
Her whereabouts remained a mystery until Howard Buchanan of Rich Valley, riding in the back of a truck on Highway 16 Thursday, thought he spotted something alongside the road. He returned around 7:30 a.m. Friday and found the body.
The body was on the north side of Walker’s Mountain, about .3 of a mile from the top of the mountain. Sheriff Dolinger said the body was 12 to 15 feet from the shoulder of the road and was lying face down, head first down the mountain, indicating it had been shoved from a moving vehicle.
When Miss Blankenbeckler was found, her hands had been tied behind her back and a rope was around her neck, said the sheriff. The autopsy report ...showed the body was still fully clothed and revealed no signs of assault.
…the Smyth County Sheriff’s Department said an investigation into the matter is

Everything changed. The town exploded with talk.
First, it was said that a teenager, who had lived at the foster home on Old Stage Road, confessed to killing her. I used to spend time there playing with the sons of the people who took care of the foster home. It was an eleven year old girl’s dream: enormous fish tanks, an air hockey game and permissive parents. I knew the kid everyone was talking about. He was sixteen or seventeen and used to play really rough with us younger kids. I was scared of him and didn’t stop at the foster home when I saw him sitting on the front porch steps. As it turned out, this kid was in jail in another state at the time of the murder. No one could figure out why he would confess to such a crime. Some said he confessed because he had been “bewitched.”

     Many claimed Sharon had died at the hands of Chilhowie’s very own serial killer, Lem Tuggle. While on parole for the 1971 strangulation of a 17-year-old girl, Tuggle raped, sodomized and shot a woman, Jessie Havens, after he met her at a dance at the American Legion Hall. But Lem Tuggle couldn’t have been the murderer. He had only been out of prison four months when he killed Jessie Havens in 1983. He was in prison in 1977 when Sharon was killed. Tuggle was put to death by lethal injection on December 12, 1996. His last words were, “Merry Christmas.”  

Smyth County News 4/14/77

An investigation into the murder of Sharon Blankenbeckler is continuing, Sheriff Billy J. Dolinger said Wednesday. Sheriff Dolinger said he had no new developments which could be reported at that time, but added the mystery was beginning to unravel.
Dolinger said rumors that other bodies had been found in the county were just that--rumors. He said another woman who had been reported missing turned up recently unharmed.
The body of Miss Blankenbeckler was found Friday on Walker’s Mountain, where it had been for about a month. She had been strangled to death.

One school of thought was that Sharon had been killed by a prominent local businessman. Supposedly, he was having an affair with Sharon, and had gotten her pregnant. Since he didn’t want to give half his fortune over to his wife and suffer the public humiliation, he had had Sharon killed. I heard over and over that Sharon’s tires had been flattened by golf tees and that this "rich man loved to play golf."

The other school of thought was much darker. People whispered of some kind of satanic cult. They said that the police had to guard Sharon’s body because they were sure someone would come to get it at the funeral home. It was said the group held their meetings in an old metal warehouse deep in the country somewhere between Adwolfe and Marion. People dressed in robes and danced on her grave. According to one story, a woman who lived close to the graveyard called the police because they were making too much noise. When the police arrived, they found small plastic wine cups. Also, everyone said her grave sank “too quickly” into the ground, like there was no coffin to hold the earth up. It was assumed, her coffin had been stolen. It was even rumored the gravestones of some of her relatives were toppled over in another different graveyard.

The whole community was on edge. In 1977, we didn’t have twenty-four hour news reporting crimes from every part of the country. Rarely did anyone hear of a murder, much less a murder surrounded by these strange circumstances. The town had been kept in suspense long enough, and they wanted an answer.

Smyth County News 4/28/77

Arrest Rumors Bring Warning

Persistent rumors about the death of Sharon Blankenbeckler, found dead Apr. 8 on Walkers Mountain after being missing for about a month, have prompted the following statement from Robert L. Asbury, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Smyth County:“It has come to my attention that there are many rumors concerning the investigation of the death of Sharon Ann Blankenbeckler.
The rumors concern persons who are not under investigation and are doing irreparable harm to them as individuals, to their families and to their businesses.The commonwealth’s attorney went on to warn that any person who either makes a slanderous statement or repeats one previously made by another is subject to criminal punishment as well as civil damages.”
Any person who has any information concerning the death of Miss Blankenbeckler should contact... the Smyth County Sheriff’s Department, said Asbury.
He added that any such information will be kept confidential.

This is the last mention of Sharon Blankenbeckler I have been able to find in the Smyth County News.

All the talk around town stopped. No one was ever arrested for her murder.

A few years later, I was finally old enough to drink and drive. Once in a long while, sitting in our cars in the middle of the mountains, someone would bring up the murder. The talk would always drift back to people dressed in robes dancing around her grave. Sometimes the robes were black, sometimes red, but the story lived on. It had become a legend. But it only popped up from time to time and just as details started to blossom, someone would cut off the heads off the flowers by saying, “We better not talk about it.” Other times when the story was told, we all seemed to go silent at the same moment. The subject would change. Or being stoned teenagers, we would laugh everything off.

I moved away from the area when I was eighteen, went about my life and didn’t think much more about the incident.

A few months ago something reminded me of Sharon Blankenbeckler. It could have been any number of stories about murdered young white women on CNN or 48 Hours. I decided to look her up on the internet. I found nothing. Nothing. It was like she had just vanished. This murdered girl who rocked our community was no where to be found. I decided to see what I could dig up. I figured there would be oodles of mentions of her in the local paper, The Smyth County News, and I thought I could get information from people who grew up in Chilhowie.

When I started working on this essay thirty-three years after the murder, I called some old friends and was told time after time that “people don’t like to talk about that.” A couple of people even warned me not to talk about it. They were worried for my safety because they believe that the person/s who committed the crime "are still out there, and they will come after anyone who talks about it." A few people even claimed they knew who the murderer was, but would not say the name. One detail everyone I spoke to agreeed on was this: Sharon was lovely.

This is certainly true. The paper published a photo of her along with the first mention of her disappearance in the 3/31/77 edition of the Smyth County News. She had long dark hair, parted down the middle, full round checks, an Elizabethan forehead and a long graceful neck. She wore a blouse with a classic 70s dotted seventies pattern with a white collar and white cuffs.

After I read the articles about Sharon from the Smyth County News, I had a good idea where her body was found. My friend and I decided to drive up Walker’s Mountain to find the exact spot. My friend also grew up in Chilhowie and remembered the murder well. Highway 16 leaves the town of Marion (which is seven miles from Chilhowie) and passes by the west shore of Hungry Mother Lake and the entrance to Hungry Mother Park. Like the Sharon Blankenbeckler story, Hungry Mother figures large in local mythology. It got its name because a woman named Molly and her child were the only survivors of a nearby settlement, which was attacked by Indians. They were taken to an Indian camp, but they soon escaped. Molly and her child wandered around the forest eating berries until Molly finally collapsed. The child ran for help and stumbled upon some settlers; However, the only words the child could say were, “Hungry mother, hungry mother.” The child led them back to find Molly dead in what is now the state park.

Shortly after you pass the entrance to the park, there is a campground and stables. It is unclear if the stables are still in use. They are gray and dirty, but the paint is not quite peeling. You really begin to climb Walker’s Mountain after these last remnants of Hungry Mother Park. Highway 16 snakes steeply upward. It is two lanes and extremely narrow. Even if you are familiar with driving in the mountains, you still have to slow way down to take these sharp turns. Just as you come out of one, you go into another. There are guard rails now (not in 1977), but they would be of little help if you hit them with any force. As you go up Highway 16, sometimes you are at the base of trees and suddenly you are in the treetops, like you are tumbling as the mountain rises and falls around you. For those moments you are traveling in the treetops, the mountain is so steep you can’t see the bottoms of the trees, and it feels like you are soaring through the air.

            Even though it’s against the law, occasionally truck drivers, not familiar with Walker’s Mountain, decide to drive over it because it is a shortcut to Tazewell, Virginia. They soon get caught on the curves and can go no further. The police are called and close the road so the truck can be backed down the mountain.

            There is not much traffic. But the word traffic doesn’t apply. Even normal sized cars are transformed into runaway freight trains hurling down the mountain. You can’t hear anything until it's right on top of you because the woods are so dense.

            According to the paper, Sharon was found “about .3 of a mile from the top of the mountain.” We stopped at the top of the mountain and turned on the odometer. About .3 of a mile from the top of the mountain is a steep embankment. Just beyond the embankment, the woods are thick. The road is so curvy we both are convinced that it would take at least two people to throw a body out of a moving vehicle.

After we drive by the place we think Sharon was found, my friend tells me that she heard someone dumped an ashtray at this spot, and the cigarette butts had lipstick on them. Also, the cops somehow knew that the rope tied around Sharon was done by a woman. I asked her if she remembers how she felt after hearing about the murder as a kid.

“Confused,” she says. This answer really surprised me.


“When people were talking about satanic cults, they said the Satanists only killed virgins. At that age, I wasn’t quiet sure what a virgin was, but I was pretty sure I was one. So I thought they could come after me next.”

Finally, we visited Sharon’s grave at Grosses’s Creek Cemetery several miles outside of Chilhowie. It is a quite place. The tombstones spill down a hill to a country road. Across the road from the graveyard is a cornfield. Even the countryside in Chilhowie has many more houses than it did when I lived here, but Grosses’s Creek Cemetery is still a tranquil country place.

On top of Sharon’s grave was a large fake bouquet of birthday cake blue roses. The bouquet was tied with a frayed white satin ribbon. Silver vases stood on either side of her gravestone and were stuffed with bunches of plastic sky blue hydrangea. Engraved over her name was a flowery pattern with an open Bible-type book in the middle. The book said, “Asleep in Jesus.” As we drove out of the cemetery, a teenage boy sitting on the steps of a house whittled a large stick. He smiled and waved at us like we were kin.

The people of Appalachia love the grotesque: amputations, disease, blindness, suicide, madness. This story of Sharon Blankenbeckler is something that normally would be the stuff of conversations even 33 years later. It’s the silence that makes me keep my light on at night, the silence of people who are still scared of something faceless, nameless in the dark.