Issue 7: The OTIS Club Newsletter Thing

The OTIS Club Newsletter Thing is the main perk for members of the OTIS Club, an inner circle of OTIS readers. It comes out every week, and for as little as $1.00 a month, you can join the club. Issues are delivered through Patron, but since Issue 7 was a free one (we're up to 10 issues so far), I'm reproducing it here.

 This Week in OTIS

Welcome to Issue 7 of the OTIS Club Newsletter Thing. And when I say welcome in this instance, I get to include both OTIS Club members and non-member OTIS readers, as I’m making this issue publically accessible. Obviously, I’m doing this because I’m hoping some of you in the latter group will read this newsletter and decide to join the club. It’s fun here. Honest. Except for the second section of this newsletter. It’s kind of a downer. I’m not sure why I chose that story for the public issue.

But this first section is where I give updates on what’s been going on with OTIS over the past week, both on the site and behind the scenes. Short version for this week? A lot.

Last week on OTIS, I posted about my third visit to the International Cryptozoology Museum, which recently moved to a new location. Below, you’ll find a bonus photo from my visit. It’s of a costume from the 2002 movie The Mothman Prophesies. If I owned that, I wouldn’t display it, I’d wear it. Partly because I like fuzzy hats, but also because I’ve always dug the X-Files feel of that movie but probably more because I dig the story it’s based upon.


Next on OTIS, I’m going to report on my visit to the Edgar Allan Poe bust in the Boston Public Library, which I saw on Sunday. It was unveiled in October of 2014 at a ceremony I attended and posted about, and then placed in storage until a major overhaul was completed on the building in which it was to be displayed. Finally, about a week ago, the building was finished and the bust pulled from its basement crate. I’m way into this thing for two reasons. One is, naturally, Poe. The other is that my name’s on the informational placard of the bust since I donated to the Kickstarter. That means I can say that my name is officially enshrined in the prestigious Boston Public Library. Albeit in really small print.

I made no updates to the OTIS Map of Oddities this week. I’m still neck-deep in planning my massive Great Lakes road trip, which kicks off this coming Friday. I can’t believe it’s so close. The next two OTIS Club Newsletter Thing issues will be special reports from the road, and I’ll be posting tons of photos on the private OTIS Club Instagram feed (as well as some on my public Twitter and the OTIS Facebook page). Join us as we try to squeeze too many miles into 9.5 days. Cue Holiday Road.

The last OTIS thing that happened this week is that I was invited to give a talk in Baltimore come October. It’s probably the most prestigious opportunity I’ve been given appearance-wise. Actually, it totally is. More important, by accepting it, I officially kicked off my Halloween Season planning. Number 2 on that Halloween Season planning list is item #8 in the “Oddity News” section (and much thanks to OTIS Club Member David G. for the tip). I’m already humming Halloween music.

My Most Morbid Moment

I don’t have a photo for this section. That’s because the story I’m about to tell you happened pre-OTIS. That’s right. Nine years of visiting morbid sites, and my most morbid moment happened before all of that even started. Plus, if I did have a photo, it would be way too creepy for me to post. I think.

Warning: This is a bummer of a story.

I worked some really scummy summer jobs in my early twenties. And by scummy, I mean like Mike Rowe-level dirty jobs and below. I just didn’t know to get any other kinds of jobs at the time, even though I had an English degree under my belt. This story happened while I was at one of the least scummy of those jobs, in the period between my undergrad years and graduate school. I took that English degree and joined a small disaster restoration crew.

Our job was to clean up bad situations. Floods and fires, mostly. Some days, we just cleaned carpets. But one day, we had a special request. We were brought in to clean up a murder scene.

We were basically the legal equivalent of the Wolf in Pulp Fiction.

The crime was your basic social horror story. A woman met a guy at a bar, and either she took him to her home or he followed her there. He then stabbed her to death in her bed, stole some of her jewelry and cash, and then took off. He was caught relatively quickly (it wasn’t his first murder, apparently), tried, found guilty, and is currently serving a lifetime sentence in prison. I just spent the last hour Googling all about it after only thinking about it sporadically for the past a decade and half.

Now that the crime scene evidence wasn’t needed anymore, we were there to clean everything up so that the family could move on.

For this assignment, it was just my boss and myself. It was usually just the two of us. He had recently started the business, and I was his first full-time hire. My interview was inside a van in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Once we arrived, we met the family. They’re the ones who hired us, and they were in the process of sorting her possessions. They explained to us what needed to be done, so we commenced, trying to keep out of their sight lines as best as possible.

My boss never had me get the requisite shots for blood clean-up, so he took care of that. He cut the stains out of the mattress on which she had died, as well as out of the surrounding carpet, and then bagged everything up in red biohazard bags.

Meanwhile, I went to the bathroom to clean fingerprint dust off the sink with a dry chemical sponge that was meant for removing soot from surfaces near fire damage. I remember the dust being tricky to clean. It was easy to push around, but difficult to remove from the porcelain sink. I can’t remember if there were any fingerprints polka-dotting the skim of black powder.

That eventually accomplished, I went down to the laundry room to clean more fingerprint dust off the washer and dryer. Apparently, the murderer had washed his clothes after killing the woman. She was naked and bloody on her bed upstairs, he was choosing between delicate and heavy wash cycles downstairs.

Our last step was to scrape the police tape off the windows that they used to seal up the crime scene.

We then left to dispose of the biohazardous waste. We used a dumpster behind a McDonalds. Kidding. I need one joke in this column.

The next day our assignment was to clean up a soggy carpet from an exploded basement pipe in a different town. In other words, business as usual.

So what did it feel like to clean up a murder scene? To walk in a private space where a person had been brutally murdered? To see with my own eyes the grisly evidence of a ghastly crime?

Honestly, in the moment, it didn’t feel all that morbid. It felt a lot like what it was: cleaning.

These days, I only think about that day sometimes. And mostly to wonder why I didn’t have nightmares about it. Or why it didn’t have longer term effects on me.

I mean, you could say based on my work that handling the morbid is what I’m pre-disposed to do in general, but that’s almost always old morbid. Sometimes ancient morbid. New morbid is a totally different creature.

So I can only assume that treating like any other cleaning job was a defense mechanism on my part.

From the OTIS Photo Archive


June 2013 — Green Mount Cemetery in Baltimore is a great cemetery. No, they don’t have the bone dust of Edgar Allan Poe (that’s in Westminster Burying Ground, two miles away), but the 1838 cemetery does have an entire tour’s worth of major oddity. Like the Ouija board-shaped grave of the inventor of the Ouija board. And the grave of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. And the grave of sideshow performer and Freaks cast member Johnny Eck. Stuff that I devoted whole posts and entries too on OTIS, which meant there was never a reason to post about the cemetery as a whole. And, that, unfortunately meant that gorgeous funerary art like the above statue never made it onto OTIS. <>

Oddity News

1. We’re getting a Halloween asteroid this October 31. LINK

2. Bill Nye visits Ken Ham’s massive Noah’s Ark attraction. LINK

3. Jewish pirate graves in Jamaica. LINK

4. Port Hope, Ontario, gets transformed into Bangor, Maine, for the new IT movie, based on the book by Stephen King. LINK

5. People are still trekking out to the Into the Wild bus in Alaska. LINK

6. Creepy photos of Fukushima ghost towns. LINK

7. Illinois man is on a mission to restore America’s highway giants. LINK

8. Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts to put on an interactive telling of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow this October. LINK

9. FBI gives up on D.B. Cooper case. LINK

10. A non-horror guy’s account of attending a horror convention. LINK

11. Home d├ęcor company forced to move out and sell their basket-shaped building in Ohio. LINK

12. New bike trail to stretch the entire East Coast. LINK

13. Cache of 700-year-old tools found that belonged to monkeys. LINK

14. UK family transform the inside of their suburban home with a Harry Potter theme. LINK

15. Philistine cemetery found in Israel. LINK

16. New sea creatures found by Mariana Trench expedition. LINK

17. Make-up master Phil Tippet to sell a bunch of his props at auction. LINK <>

OTIS Miscellneous

I watched the new Ghostbusters movie this weekend. Going in, I was hoping to really hate it. Not for all the jerk reasons that have been clogging the Internet for the past few months, but for a uniquely OTIS one...that I guess is still kind of jerky.

See, most of the scenes for the movie were filmed in Boston and its suburbs. Even the Times Square climax was filmed in a soundstage built just outside the city.

I followed the filming reports as they happened, but for some reason never made the effort to go witness the filming action, despite it being something I’ve always wanted to do. And this particular movie was a great chance to finally do it. The filming locales were all relatively close to me, and it was an iconic entertainment property that I way dig. But for some reason I just never pulled the trigger. Laziness, I’m thinking. And then once filming wrapped, and I’d officially missed seeing any of the filming, it really hit me that I should have tried harder.

So I played the fox and the grapes and pretended those grapes were probably sour.

Turns out, the movie was a lot of fun. It had quite a few jarring problems (most of which would have been easily fixed by setting the film in the same universe as the first two movies), but bustin’ still made me feel good for a couple of hours and it was great to show my six-year-old daughter some strong female leads.

After we watched the movie, we headed downtown to see the Edgar Allan Poe bust I mentioned earlier. While we were there, we walked to the Chinese restaurant that stood in for GBHQ in the movie.

One day I’ll make up for missing the filming by seeing all the filming sites in the area.

GBHQ in the movie...

...and GBHQ the weekend the movie premiered.


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