The Skull In The River

by Ingrid Dean

skull-517599_1280As a forensic artist and road patrol trooper for the State Police, I have worked on many interesting cases. Little did I know that a cardboard box placed on my desk one sweltering August day would contain one of the most challenging and emotional cases of my career. A year earlier I had completed a facial reconstruction course at the FBI Academy in Quantico.

The box contained a human skull and was my second skeletal case. The first case I worked on was still unsolved—the charred body of a black female was still at the morgue, waiting to be identified. This new case held little more promise. It had already sat on a property room shelf for nine years.

As I leafed through the police reports, I learned that the skull had been dredged out of the Clinton River, which runs through Mt. Clemens, Michigan, in 1992. A construction worker on a bulldozer thought he had found the “biggest mushroom he had ever seen.” When he jumped off the earthmover to kick it from its position in the soggy marsh, he was shocked to discover it was actually a human cranium. The rest of the body, including the lower jaw, was never recovered.

Although missing person reports were carefully checked, the skull remained unidentified and was packed away in a property room at the sheriff’s office. In the summer of 2003, the property room was cleaned out and the skull was sent to a Michigan State Police crime lab for possible DNA and comparison purposes. One of the senior members at the lab suggested it be sent to a forensic artist to do a reconstruction. Several weeks later, the skull was placed on my desk.

First I took it to the Michigan State University Anthropology Lab, where I asked the anthropologist to examine it and give me a biological profile of who the person I would be reconstructing. He told me it belonged to a Caucasian male, between the ages of eighteen and thirty. Since I wanted to do a three-dimensional reconstruction with clay, the missing mandible posed a huge problem. The lab was nice enough to let me borrow a specimen from a body that had been donated.

I fished through several boxes of bones in the lab labeled “Caucasian males” before finding one with a similar bite pattern. With my borrowed jawbone and several x-rays of the seven teeth that were left in the cranium, I took the skull back to my post to start work.

For the next eight months, I juggled the reconstruction in between normal working duties. As the face began to emerge, I began to get a feeling about what this man must have looked like. For instance, I could see that his teeth had been extremely well cared for. He could afford a dentist and he took good care of himself. From this I assumed his socio-economic place in life.

I also surmised that he was good looking. Since the skull was dredged out of the river in 1992, I figured he must have been in the water for some time to become completely disarticulated and skeletal. Therefore, I guessed his hairstyle would be from the late 1980s or early 1990s. I decided to sculpt a longer, falling-behind-the-ears hairstyle, in brown, since that is the dominant hair color of the Caucasian race. I also gave him brown eyes—both an intuitive and practical guess. I reminded myself that a reconstruction doesn’t have to look exactly like the person—but there has to be something about it that triggers a sense of recognition in just one person who sees it and thinks, Hmmm, that might be so-and-so.

Finally in April 2004, the reconstruction was ready to be released to the media. I held a press conference and was shocked to find that almost every media source in the metropolitan-Detroit area showed up to get the story. The following days were filled with newscasts, phone calls, and interviews.

About a week later, a District Sergeant who worked as an accident re-constructionist in my district phoned me. He had seen a photo of my reconstruction in the Detroit Free Press and it reminded him of a young guy who had gone missing from the Algonac area when he was a road patrol officer there. He said the guy’s name was Shawn Raymond.

Since this was my first real tip, I didn’t have any particular feeling or hope that this was going to go anywhere. I went to the Clay Township Police Department and asked if I could see the Shawn Raymond case. The officers were all too familiar with the case. Shawn’s file revealed that his mother had reported him missing after he was not seen for two days. Shawn was nineteen at the time and a recent graduate of Algonac High School. There were several photos of Shawn in the file, including one of his high school yearbook photos. I noticed he was an incredibly good looking guy, with feather-brown hair and a glowing white smile—just like I had imagined.

I didn’t immediately see a resemblance between the clay sculpture and Shawn, though I did notice Shawn’s dental charts. There was crucial information on these charts. The skull and Shawn had the same two bicuspids removed for orthodontic purposes. This was a clue I could not ignore. I immediately took the case back to my post and began calling to locate Shawn’s dentist to get x-rays for comparison.

The first dentist led me to a dead end, literally. His wife sorrowfully informed me that her husband’s practice had closed after his death and she had destroyed all the remaining records, including the x-rays. My stomach lurched. I thought, Is this the end of my investigation?

I feverishly pressed the keys on my telephone to call Shawn’s orthodontist. Amazingly, he was still practicing in the area. And, yes, he still had Shawn’s file, which included panoramic x-rays of Shawn’s teeth. I picked them up a day later.

I was ready to put my anthropology degree to the test and compare the dental films. As I drove the x-rays back to the post, I phoned my dad, who has thirty years experience as a trooper, detective, and forensic artist. I chatted with him nervously, telling him, “It’s got to be him. There are so many coincidences!”

My dad urged me to be calm. “Now, settle down. This is only your first tip,” he said.

Back at the post, I scotch-taped the bite-wing x-rays I had taken at MSU to my office window and then, with hands shaking, taped the panoramic film from Shawn’s orthodontist file underneath it. Undeniably, even to my little-trained eyes . . . it was a match! Now all I needed was the final okay from an ontologist—a forensic dentist. I sought one out in the area and made an appointment to meet with him at his office the following day.

Morning seemed like it would never come. I had several conversations with my dad, who continued to tell me, “Don’t get your hopes up too high.” But I was beyond help. In my mind, I knew it had to be Shawn. There was nothing that was going to convince me otherwise (except, maybe, this expert I was about to meet).

As I drove to his office, I tried to calm myself down. I had thoughts like, What if it isn’t him? What if I have to start all over again? My stomach was in complete knots. A soft rain was falling as I approached the parking lot and turned in. I made one last call to dad and told him, “I’ll phone you with the answer as soon as I’m out!”

When I met the dentist, I sized him up to be on his last year or two before retirement. He was elderly. He had me set the reconstruction on a stool and took his own panoramic films of the skull through the clay. I guess he didn’t like the bite wings I brought with me as proof. When his x-rays were developed, he held up Shawn’s films and the freshly taken films to the fluorescent lighting above him. He nonchalantly said, “Nope, that’s not him.”

I was dumbfounded. My heart sank. I fought off tears and began to tremble. Here I was, in my professionally tailored uniform, holding a human skull encased in twenty-five pounds of clay, and I was fighting to choke back tears. I mumbled to him, softly at first, “No, you’re wrong . . .”

As my vision cleared and I regained my composure, I took a quick glance at the films he still held in his hands. Still fighting tears of disappointment, I stated clearly and louder, without reservation, “No, you’re WRONG!” I snatched the films from his hand. He had been holding one of the films backward! I handed them back to him the correct way. He raised the films toward the lights again and—without hesitation—said, “Yup, that’s him!”

The trip from his room to my car seemed like I was running in slow motion. Once I was in my car, I dialed my phone. “Dad, it’s him!” And, for the next half-hour, I sobbed. At least my tears were of joy and not sorrow. I was so glad that Shawn was found, and I was thankful that his family would find out that he was no longer missing, that his remains had indeed been identified.

Note: Facial reconstruction requires both scientific and intuitive work to successfully identify someone. Features such as the nose, lips, style of hair, etc., are almost strictly intuitive guesses.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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A Special Spot

by Ingrid Dean

wolves-58998_1280Worried parents reported that their sixteen-year-old son was missing. They thought he had run away, but they had no idea where. When I arrived at their home, something didn’t feel right. I asked the parents more questions than usual. I asked if the boy got good grades in school and if he had any troubles he was dealing with. They said his grades had gone down recently and that he was on anti-depressants.

When the parents mentioned anti-depressants, I got a very clear thought: This is not a runaway complaint. I don’t know why the word anti-depressant triggered this thought, because usually it doesn’t mean anything to me. I know that anti-depressants are often very helpful to people, even children.

I looked in the boy’s bedroom and saw two unopened packs of cigarettes by his bed. I thought, What sixteen-year-old boy leaves two packs of cigarettes behind? Most teenagers carry their cigarettes with them, especially if their parents allow them to smoke. This was the second hint that the incident was not what it appeared to be.

I didn’t want to ask, but I did: “Do you have any weapons in the house?” The father said yes and that he had already looked. All of the cases were present. I asked if he had opened the cases, and he said no. I told him to go check. When he returned, he reported that a rifle, a Ruegar .280, was missing. I suddenly knew their son was probably dead, but I didn’t say anything. Not yet. It was the third clear thought that came through my mind.

I got the urge to take a look outside. Sure enough, I found footwear impressions in the snow that appeared to be the boy’s— and they seemed to lead into the woods.

The snow was patchy this time of year, so I called Dispatch for canine assistance. While I waited for the dog and handler to arrive, I telephoned the boy’s best friend. I asked if there were any special spots where the boy might have walked. I knew most teenagers have one. Because the snow was minimal, I knew that even with a dog, it might be difficult to track the boy unless I had an idea where to head. Sure enough, the boy had a special spot.

When the canine officer arrived, the dog picked up a scent. It was an overcast winter day. The canine handler, the dog, and I followed the boy’s scent toward his special spot. I was glad I had called the boy’s best friend for directions so that I knew we were on the right track. As we walked I realized how breathtaking this area is. The near-pristine woodlands, hilly terrain, and sand dunes of Leelanau County, Michigan, are absolutely gorgeous. The smell of the pines was pungent and pure. What a pity this young man has taken his own life, when there is so much to love about this land and life. I already knew we’d find him dead.

We continued to follow the boy’s scent. The trees opened up into a small open area in the woods. This was his special spot. We saw him. He had shot his head off with the missing rifle. I was so thankful I had trusted my intuition and hadn’t allowed the boy’s parents to come with us. The bloody scene was too gory for any parent ever to see.

Although it was hard and their grief unbearable, the boy’s parents were relieved I had found their son.

I thought about this case several times afterward. If I had treated this situation like a routine runaway complaint, the boy’s body might never have been found. Corpses are often eaten by animals—sometimes without a trace left—especially in this area of Northern Michigan known for its vultures, eagles, and coyotes. I am sure many of my fellow comrades also rely on intuitive thoughts. Most of us seldom, if ever, talk about it, of course. Policemen are expected to rely on logic and “just the facts.”

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Fatal Vortex

by Ingrid Dean

It seems like only yesterday when I was sent to a house alarm call that could have resulted in fatalities. Typically most calls are false alarms. Whether the wind blows open a shutter or a resident accidentally sets off the alarm—usually house alarms are harmless. I believe that only by Divine grace am I alive today to share this story . . .

I pull into the driveway at the same time the key holder arrives. The key holder is the person an alarm company calls when a house alarm goes off. In this case, it is the homeowner’s thirty-year-old son.

I tell the man to stay by his car until I secure the area. He says, “I know my mother is home and everything’s cool, but I don’t know what is going on.”

I check the doors, windows, and garage entranceway for any possible forced entry, but everything looks secure. I say, “Go ahead and open the garage door.” I remind him to stay by his car
while I check the inside of the house.

I enter the dimly lit garage and walk to the door that leads into the house. I knock on the door and announce, “State Police!” and push open the door.

At that moment, a white-haired elderly woman steps out of nowhere and slowly points a .20 gauge shotgun directly in my face!

Even though I have turned on the garage light, she doesn’t seem to notice I am a uniformed trooper. In my attempt to escape the “fatal vortex” and un-holster my weapon, I stumble backward but do not fall. The fatal vortex is that hypothetical space we’re taught about in school; that space shaped like a funnel that you never want to be caught in.

I was definitely at the tip of that funnel. I had no safety zone and no spatial advantage.

As I try not to lose my balance, I hear CLICK. The old lady has actually pulled the trigger! Not only does this sound signify my life may instantly be over, but it also means she means to shoot!

Somehow I know this woman is the resident and not an intruder. I wonder why I didn’t draw my weapon before I stepped into the garage, which is what we are taught to do as a precaution. I am grateful I didn’t because I might have shot her if my gun had been in my hand. I yell at her repeatedly, “I’m a police officer! I’m a police officer! Don’t shoot! Look at my uniform! I’m a police officer!”

The woman’s son starts yelling at her, too. Who knows what this woman is thinking? How can she not see my uniform? It takes both of us to convince her I am the police and not there to hurt her. It is a miracle she does not kill me.

After I settled her down, I asked, “What were you thinking? Didn’t you hear me knocking at the door? Didn’t you hear me say ‘state police’? Why didn’t you call 911? They would have told you who was knocking! When you press the panic button for the alarm, police are supposed to come and help you, right?” (According to the alarm company, she had pressed the panic button.)

As I’m scolding her and trying to regain my composure, I open the double-barrel action to make the weapon safe. Out pops a shotgun shell! I can see that shell moving in slow motion . . . jumping out of the chamber into the air . . . spiraling . . . twirling . . . dancing . . . and then finally hitting the floor with a THUNK and rolling to its final resting place between my two feet. I didn’t have to pick it up to know it was a heavy unspent round and that by the grace of God the gun hadn’t fired.

It humbled me to realize how close I had come to death. And, to make matters worse, I found out she was the widow of a state trooper. I could have killed a fellow trooper’s wife!

I shot the gun outdoors. There was nothing wrong with it! The woman pulled the trigger—I should have been killed.

There are some things that have happened to me in this job that I just don’t talk about. This is one of them. I don’t know why I didn’t shoot that woman, especially after she pulled the trigger. How did I know she was really a “good guy?” Whatever you want to call it—intuition, a sixth sense, or an angel—I depended on it—and we are both alive.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Ghost Alarm

by Ingrid Dean

ghost alarmSome police officers can never turn off their “light switch,” even while on vacation. They always notice peculiar things!

In 1997, my wife and I rented an old one-bedroom cottage for a month on the island of Boca Grande, which lies on the Gulf Coast north of Ft. Myers. My wife had written to the Chamber of Commerce on the island and learned about this cottage. The owner was contacted, and she explained that at one time it had been a fisherman’s cottage and later the caretaker’s cottage for a much larger home next door. The name of the cottage was Journey’s End.

When we arrived, the lessor greeted us and entertained us with some of the local lore. One story she told was of a murder that had occurred either in the cottage we rented or in the large house next door. I do not remember which, but it was rumored both of the houses were haunted.

The cottage was old but clean and the view of the Gulf was magnificent. We saw dolphins in the water in front of the cottage each morning. It was exactly the type of vacation we wanted.

After we had been there about a week, my wife and I went to bed one evening about eleven o’clock. Shortly after turning out the lights, the fire alarm above our bed rang very loudly! We nearly jumped out of our skins. It continued for a significant period of time, perhaps thirty seconds, then quit.

I quickly turned on the lights and looked for smoke. There was none. My wife and I are nonsmokers. I checked the house thoroughly for some sign of smoke or combustion, but there was none. I then decided to remove the battery so that the alarm would not sound again, as the noise was deafening.

I got a chair and stood on it to reach the alarm. When I opened the cover, I discovered there was no battery in the alarm! My wife also confirmed the fact that the alarm had no battery.

Did residual power cause the alarm to ring? We had been in the cottage for a week without the alarm sounding. Any residual current would have been dissipated. The alarm was connected to no other power source. There was no combustion or smoke present. It was the simple type of circular alarm with plastic housing that operated from a 9-volt battery. It never sounded again during our stay.

How could this have happened?

 

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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This Time, I Was the Victim

by Ingrid Dean

robbingIt was the beginning of the 2003 holiday season when my wife and I were invited to a holiday fundraiser at a posh restaurant in Detroit’s Indian Village area. The purpose was to raise money for less fortunate inner-city kids so they could be supplied with shoes for the upcoming winter.

I did my homework on the event. The mayor and some federal judges were also invited, so I trusted that their security details would have things well in hand. Thus, I did not fear for my wife’s and my safety or that of the other guests, including a police lieutenant from my department and his wife.

The entertainment, food, and drinks were fantastic. A very nice evening, even though the mayor never showed nor did any of the federal judges or other celebrities as promised.

Things were winding down for the evening. The valet girl found me and gave me the keys to my vehicle, saying she was going off duty and would no longer be responsible for my truck. Then, she ran out the door. I went to the door to look for my truck, saw it, and was returning to the restaurant when two gunmen broke in, rushed me with a gun pointed directly at my face, grabbed me by the necktie, and forced me into the dining room. One of them fired a shot next to my head and announced the hold-up. I went to the ground and a second shot was fired, fragmenting when it hit a $40,000 grand piano. A fragment of the slug struck a lady.

I was not armed, as I believed the mayor’s security detail would be present. It’s a good thing I wasn’t because if my weapon were seen I am positive I would have become another Detroit
homicide statistic.

I believed I was going to be shot in the head as I lay face down on the floor. I threw my cash on the floor, as the gunman demanded everybody’s wallets. My wallet had a badge and police ID in it. If that were revealed, I most assuredly would have been shot.

For some unknown reason, I envisioned a crime scene photo with me lying face down on the floor with my brains spilling out of my skull. I was not about to allow that to happen. My wife was only a few feet away, hiding underneath a table. She appeared to be okay.

I began to pray, and I felt the presence of a guardian angel. The fear left me and I was able to focus on the criminals’ actions so that I might become the best witness and see them led off to prison in handcuffs.

I threw my wallet under a table and it landed face open with the badge in full sight. I flipped it closed. How they never saw this had to be the work of an angel.

I was kicked in the groin as the number two gunman gathered up the cash and wallets. They went to a second dining room and I heard screaming and another gunshot. Then all was silent. I immediately called 911 to report the armed robbery with shots fired. I was still on the phone when the first patrol officer arrived, calming everyone and checking for injuries. Before I knew it, there were uniformed officers all over.

Suspects were being picked up in the neighborhood and brought back to the scene, but I couldn’t identify any of them. My wife and I were thankful to go home alive that night with only relatively minor injuries.

About a week later, we were sitting in our kitchen having our Saturday morning coffee, watching the local Detroit news program when I saw a story about a major arrest having been made by the Violent Crimes Task Force, a team comprised of FBI Agents, Michigan State Police Troopers, Detroit Police Officers, and some suburban Detroit officers. The number one gunman’s mug shot was displayed and I immediately recognized him as the one responsible for the armed robbery where we were victims.

All weekend I telephoned the investigator assigned to our case, with no reply. Monday morning, I was able to contact a member of the Task Force and told him our story. The bad guy had been arrested with four others responsible for murder, armed robberies, and carjacking. A fifth suspect, a juvenile, had fled to Alabama, and the FBI was after him. Their specialty was robbing patrons at fundraisers.

Weeks later, I was able to pick him out in a line-up at the Wayne County Jail. Although I never saw the case go to trial, as the number one suspect had already been convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life without parole, I believe it was the intervention of an angel that saved my life that night. And also some Divine Intervention that led me to watch the local news channel and see the scumbag’s mug shot.

 

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Bower’s Harbor Inn

by Ingrid Dean

By Lester Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My partner and I were working the midnight shift. It was a cloudy, windy night. He was telling me about an encounter that he and another officer had with our local haunted restaurant, the Bower’s Harbor Inn. The fact that we were driving on a stretch of road on a peninsula that was directly across from the restaurant reminded him of the story.

In the middle of his monologue, Central Dispatch called for available units to respond to an alarm—at the Bower’s Harbor Inn! Of course, we were the closest unit, so we responded.

When we arrived at the restaurant, my partner went around one side of the building and I went around the other. I noticed a stairway leading up to a door on the second floor. I climbed the stairs to check the door. When I turned the handle, the door opened. I gently pulled the door closed so that it rested on the casing—but it wasn’t completely shut. I notified my partner that I had discovered an open door.

When the key holder arrived, he let us into the building. My partner and I cleared the first floor of the restaurant and then proceeded to the second floor. When we reached the door I had left open, it was completely shut and locked! In order to open the door again, we had to use the key.

There was nobody in the building.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Her Voice

by Ingrid Dean

1280px-Police_officers_securing_DNA

By Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet (Suksess med DNA-reform Uploaded by Arsenikk) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

When I first heard the woman’s voice, I had been involved in the thirty-five-year-old investigation for eight years. This particular cold case involved the murder of a twenty-three-year-old college student in 1969. Like so many others, this one had been shelved time after time over the years due to a lack of investigative leads. It was the kind of case that every police department has—the one referred to as the case—and everyone knows which one you are talking about.

Finally, after years of dead-ends, science might come to our rescue. Breakthrough DNA-extraction technology had just become available and evidence from the case had been delivered to the lab for analysis. There was nothing left for us to do at this point but to wait patiently for the results. We desperately hoped for a break in the case.

During this time I traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to attend an FBI-sponsored violent crimes seminar. While there, I spoke to several of my counterparts at length, explaining what our scientists were attempting to do with the evidence while fishing for any investigative ideas they might have.

After many hours of exchanging tall-tales and war stories, I found myself back in my hotel room in the early morning hours and quickly fell asleep—or so I thought. After what seemed like only minutes, I distinctly heard a female voice softly calling my name. As I hovered in that familiar valley between sleep and conscious thought, the voice continued to slowly call my name: “Eric, wake up. I need you.” The voice seemed to be getting closer, increasing in volume and clarity, until I knew I was fully awake. As I lay there, trying to understand what I thought was a strange dream, I once again heard her voice urgently calling my name and telling me to wake up. I was needed.

The voice was so clear and so close—it was right next to me! I could feel her breath on my neck! This realization startled me and I instantly jumped out of bed and fumbled for the light switch. Maybe someone was playing a trick on me and was hiding in the room. Upon turning on the lights I saw no one. I searched the entire room, including the closet, bathroom, and behind the TV. I even opened the door to check the hallway for stragglers—all to no avail. I was alone.

Needless to say it took me quite awhile to fall asleep after this scare. Eventually I chalked it up to being a bad dream from sleeping in a strange bed . . . until I returned home.

On the following Monday, as I sat in a meeting sipping coffee and listening half-heartedly to the speaker, I received a 911 page from the lab. Could this be what we’ve been waiting for all these years? I excused myself from the room and immediately called the lab. They had a positive CODIS notification! Score one for the scientists! They had done what no one else had—identify the person responsible for this crime.

By analyzing the DNA that was embedded into the weave of the victim’s clothing by the offender, and matching that DNA profile to a list of known felons, the lab was able to give us a name. We could now move the investigation forward and bring it to a successful conclusion.

Although I have never believed in ghosts or the paranormal, I am unable to provide any earthly explanation for what I experienced in that hotel room. I believe it was the victim calling to me and telling me I was needed. Her message of “Eric, wake up—I need you” is etched firmly in my mind. I can still hear her voice and feel her breath on my neck. She knew it was time for me to wake up; that things were happening that needed my attention.

She was right.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Spirits Of The North

by Ingrid Dean

ghost-35852_1280

I’ve never been what you might call “poltergeist inclined.” I enjoy a good horror movie as much as the next person, but I always dismissed alleged true tales of wandering spirits as figments of overactive imaginations. I always believed each strange occurrence had at least one logical explanation.

This was, of course, before I began working the late-night shift in City Hall at Skagway, Alaska.

Skagway’s City Hall and police department are housed in the McCabe College Building. The local court, Magistrate’s office, and Trail of 98 Museum also share the space. This grand old structure was built in 1900 as a woman’s college and was, for a time, the only granite building in Alaska.

As with any old building, it had the obligatory creeks, groans, and murmurs. Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell me it was haunted. I say this now with some certainty, even though it may damage any reputation I have left as being a practical man.

After a break-in period, my first duty assignment was working the midnight shift. Sitting in the office during the wee hours, I would occasionally hear a few strange noises, but never gave them much thought. One early morning, however, changed my perception of what goes bump in the night—forever.

I was working on some much-neglected paperwork at my desk. The building was silent except for the faint hum of the Macintosh computer and my fingers performing a slow dance on the keyboard. Fighting off sleepiness caused by a daytime person trying to be nocturnal, I struggled with a rather boring theft report.

I had nearly completed the narrative when I heard a door close. The door was in a rear hallway off of the court chambers. I recognized this door because of the many times I’d heard it close before. It was attached to a police storage room where uniforms and other equipment were kept. The solid oak door was at least two inches thick. An ancient brass knob and lock-set hinted at its age. The door would not stay open on its own and, if not held, would quickly slam shut behind you. As the door was swinging it made the most hideous screeching sound.

After hearing the door close, my first thought was that someone was in or had been in the storage room. This idea was quickly dismissed because the entire building was dark when I arrived. My second thought was that someone left the door propped open and whatever was holding it gave way.

I wasn’t the least bit nervous as I rose from the desk and confidently walked through the dark courtroom and into the even darker hallway. After some fumbling around I turned on the hall light and approached the storage room door. I pulled on the knob and found it properly latched. Upon opening the door, the equipment room was dark, as it should be. I turned on the light and all of the contents seemed to be in order. I turned off the light and let the door shut on its own and was treated to the loud screeching and confident slam. Before walking away, I pulled on the knob one more time. It was locked. Satisfied, I returned to my desk and began making finishing touches to the report.

A few minutes later, I again heard the loud screech and the finality of the door slamming shut. This made the hair on the back of my neck rise to attention. Spooks were not on my mind at this point. I knew SOMEONE must have opened the door.

I pulled my weapon and made my way back to the dark courtroom using my best there-might-be-a-bad-guy-on-the-premises stalking maneuvers. I listened for signs of an intruder. As I crouched outside the door, all was silent in the hallway. My left hand reached for the light switch and the bulb snapped into action. I pounced forward, gun pointing down the hall, prepared for whoever was breaking in or out.

The hallway was empty. It then occurred to me that whoever opened the door must be hiding in the storage room. Using the before-mentioned police maneuvers, I opened the storage room door. No one.

I carefully looked around the assorted boxes and racks, satisfied that I was, in fact, alone. Somewhat relieved, I stepped back into the hallway and secured my weapon. I opened and closed the door several times, performing the “this can’t be happening” test. Each time the door securely latched and held.

I even tried leaving the door shut and unlatched, and discovered that it would stay resting against the casing. Then, shutting the door with a forceful push, I pulled the knob as hard as I dared, making sure it was properly latched. I returned to my desk feeling confident all was in order. As I settled into my chair, the door screeched. This time, I was scared. My previous search had confirmed that no living being was stalking City Hall, which left only one possible explanation. Since the door could not have opened by itself, some thing had caused this to happen.

Ever so slowly, I walked toward the hallway, with my gun secured. Whatever was opening the door would not be stopped by bullets. The door was, of course, closed and securely latched. I stood in the hallway for awhile, carefully listening and watching for signs of movement. Nothing happened.

Completing the report was the last thing on my mind, but I decided to finish the task. All was quiet as I returned to my desk. I sat stiffly in the chair, determined to not be chased from the building.

Minutes ticked by as I waited for the next occurrence. All right, I thought, if some sort of supernatural phenomenon is going on here, it will have to deal with me. I will not be run off by some annoying spirit held over from the Klondike era. Not Alan White, no sir!

You might say my sitting and listening while encamped behind the desk was admirable; after awhile, though, it became boring. I was about to write the whole episode off to midnight shifts, when the door screeched shut. Once again, I got the familiar feeling of hair leaping to attention on my neck; however not as bad this time.

Is that the best you can do? I smugly thought. What’s to closing a door? Any old spirit can handle that, you two-bit piece of suspended animation! As I considered additional insults, a two-bit something began to walk across the creaky wooden floor of the museum above me. I was familiar with the sound. I thought this new noise might be a result of my over-active imagination, but the footsteps were, well, hauntingly real.

When my heartbeat slowed to a reasonable level, I studied the new sound. Definite footsteps could be heard crossing the floor from east to west. They would stop for a time, and then return to where they had begun. Having no intention of going up to the museum, I chose to remain at my desk, in a cold sweat.

The door screeched again. I threw up my hands in disgust. Great, this is all I need! Everyone thought I was nuts for coming to Alaska in the first place, and now I find myself in a haunted department. I sat in my chair for another half hour, listening to the supernatural activities. Then anger set in. I didn’t need this. What had I done to deserve this phenomenon? I was now totally disgusted.

The door shut again. I jumped from my chair, just as whatever was walking around upstairs bumped into something. I began my first attempt at ghost-busting. “Now, knock it off!” I yelled as loudly as I could. The sound of my voice startled me and, apparently, the spirits moving about. There was absolute silence. Ha! They’re intimidated by me! I thought.

Then continuing my tirade, I strutted around the room. “I did not travel over three thousand miles to be haunted! Why don’t you guys, or girls, or whatever, find some other building to run amuck in? Hey you, upstairs! You bump into something? Good! I hope you stubbed your, ah … thing! Now, go back to wherever you go during the day and leave me alone! You’re really starting to tick me off!”

Returning to my chair, I enjoyed the new peace and quiet. My fit seemed to have worked.

Later in my shift, I went back out on patrol, feeling rather good about myself. Told them a thing or two, I smugly thought as I drove down Broadway and checked out a few buildings.

Larry relieved me at the shift change, but I said nothing about ghostly wanderings. A bright sunny day had dawned and now it all seemed like a dream. Besides, I wasn’t sure I wanted to share an experience like this. I had no idea how common it was for someone who carried a weapon for a living to experience strange night moves.

Luckily, the City Hall spirits left me alone—most of the time. Every few weeks though, the midnight shift would get weird. After listening for awhile, I would yell, “Knock it off!” And all would be quiet for the rest of the night. I became so used to this procedure that I started to be rather matter-of-fact about it.

On one of the few days Larry and I had off together, we were sitting in his living room. “Hey Larry,” I asked, “you ever hear anything, you know, strange, working in the office late at night?”

The look on his face was telling. “What do you mean when you say strange?” Larry asked, choosing his words carefully.

“Ah, you know, doors closing, footsteps overhead in the museum, that sort of thing.”

“Oh, thank you,” Larry sighed. “I thought I was going insane or something.”

Larry and I discussed the situation for some time. “Just yell ‘Knock it off!’” I said, feeling like an old pro. “They hate that.”

Excerpt from the book Alaska Behind Blue Eyes by Alan L. White.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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An Angel’s Warning

by Ingrid Dean

Gold-police-badgeWhen I was young, my mom said she had a guardian angel to watch over us especially whenever we traveled or did something risky, like race motorcycles. She said she always sent along her angel to take care of us.

Both of my parents died in 1987; my dad from a long battle with cancer, my mom of a broken heart (they died within twelve hours of each other). Since then, I have always known that my mom’s angel watches over us, and I have called upon her many times to protect my own kids.

In 1997, another trooper and I from the Detroit Post volunteered to transfer to Benton Harbor. I figured Benton Harbor would be a lot like Detroit, plus it would be a break from the regular stuff at the Detroit Post.

Benton Harbor was a lot like Detroit, just on a smaller scale. One common practice was that when we came to a red light while patrolling, if traffic was clear we treated the light like a stop sign—stop, look both ways, and then drive through. The philosophy was get the job done, don’t waste time sitting at a red light.

On one particular night I was driving, and we had been stop-signing red lights all night. About three in the morning, my partner and I approached a green light at a blind intersection in downtown Benton Harbor. The tall buildings on all corners prevented me from seeing any possible oncoming cars. I said to my partner, “We’ve been going through red lights all night, I think I’ll stop for this green light and balance the scale.” I had no sooner stopped at the light when a car came screaming around the corner, driving at a high rate of speed through the red light!

If I had not stopped at the green light, we would have been broadsided. My partner and I looked at each other in amazement. Both of our jaws were dropped as we stared at each other in awe. We both knew we had been divinely protected. I knew my mom’s angel had saved me once again. (Of course, we chased down the car and took appropriate action.)

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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Free As A Bird

by Ingrid Dean

by Menke Dave, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

by Menke Dave, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

My mother, whom I loved dearly, passed away at the age of sixty-two. She was a lifelong smoker, which severely impaired her health during the last ten years of her life. She suffered through several strokes, open-heart surgery, and other major health problems. Eventually she was homebound; connected to a thirty-foot air line and nasal cannula.

My father had passed away, so Mom lived alone. Basically all she could do for entertainment was read or watch television. To give her something to do, I bought a bird feeder and birdhouse and hung them in the tree that stood in front of her kitchen window. Her favorite pastime soon became sitting on a stool in the kitchen to watch the birds—some days for hours at a time.

She enjoyed watching the many different birds that came to the feeder. Her favorite were the chickadees. They were always so busy and happy—and they traveled in groups. Whenever I came over for coffee, Mom would tell me how she loved the chickadees best. During one of our last conversations before her death, she told me that she wanted to be one of them—she was tired of being tied down and wanted to be as free as a bird. This was early November.

A few days before Thanksgiving, Mom became very ill. She did not want to go to the hospital because she felt she would not come home this time. I basically forced her to go to emergency; where she was admitted into the hospital.

My nephew, Jason, had come down from Marquette to go deer hunting with me. Jason was only fifteen and never had a father. He had a difficult life, so as his uncle, I acted as his father figure and had gotten him addicted to deer hunting. When Jason arrived I told him that his grandmother was very ill and that we probably would not go hunting. Jason was disappointed but said he understood.

We went to the hospital and visited Mom. Before I went in the room, I spoke with a nurse who was also a personal friend. She told me that my mother was failing and that she would probably pass away in three to seven days. Jason and I then visited with Mom separately, for about an hour apiece. When I spoke with Mom, she said worriedly, “Ken, this time it is different. What is happening to me?”

Although I tried to make her feel better, she told me she thought she was dying. She then asked if I was going to take Jason hunting that day. I told her no. It was windy, dark, and miserable outside. We would just stay in town and then come back later in the afternoon to visit her again. Mom insisted I take Jason hunting, stating it was her wish that I do so and that I was not going to disappoint him or her. She told me point blank to leave, go hunting, and that when we came back later we had better have a deer hunting story for her.

I hugged and kissed Mom good-bye and left, promising to do as she asked.

I told Jason that we had been ordered by Grandma to go hunting. Jason was happy about this; even though I told him her situation was dire. Jason loved his grandmother—and he would be sad when she died—but her death had been expected several times during the past few years. We agreed to follow Mom’s orders.

When we reached the woods I sent Jason down the trail by himself, to a deer blind I had prepared for him earlier that fall. To make him feel better, I told Jason I was also going to hunt, but that I wanted to stay near the car. After he was out of sight, I sat on the hood of the car, thinking about Mom and our life together. I did not get my gun out as hunting was the last thing on my mind.

I had parked the car in the middle of a small field. After about an hour, the weather abruptly changed from dark and dismal to bright and sunny with a light breeze. I spotted a lone bird flying across the field toward my car. As it came closer, I was amazed. It was a chickadee, about the size of a robin, which is huge for this type of bird.

The chickadee flew right to the car and landed next to me on the hood. It then flitted around the car, perching on the hood next to me several times. It would not leave. Eventually I found myself talking to the bird. The situation was extremely odd; the size of the bird, the fact that it was alone, and that it was so friendly and unafraid.

After a time, I heard a motor and saw a truck coming down the road. I recognized it as belonging to my best friend, Charlie Willour. I instantly knew why Charlie was there. Mom must have died.

As Charlie drove up, the chickadee flew in front of my face and then left. Charlie got out of this truck and gave me the news I expected hear: Mom had died about one hour earlier.

I knew my mother had visited me for the last time. She had come to say good-bye and to assure me that she was happy and at last as free as a bird. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that freedom for some does come in death.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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