It’s the Season
Updated: Oct 31, 2021
Knowers, you know I’m your number one skeptic. I question evidence and accounts, as well as any explanation that doesn’t sit right or square with what I know. With all that, in general, I’m also not one for stories of the supernatural, which usually trip all those warning lights for me.
Still, as Jack Packard said, “I love a mystery.” And as much as the average paranormal tale leaves me frowning or furrowed-browed, every now and again there’s one or two that move the needle my mystery gauge and make me want to know what was really going on.
One of you, my faithful knowers, pointed me to author Patrick Dorsey's Haunted Webster Groves, a collection he purports to have gathered through months of research and interviews in the St. Louis suburb he calls home.
A lot of the stories are the standard ghost-in-my house fare, with footfalls on staircases, cabinets opened and furniture moved in the dead of night, and the occasional shadowed figure gliding in hallways and disappearing into solid walls. But there are a couple that make me want to ask him and his eyewitnesses a few questions, as I think in a few cases there’s something to get to the bottom of.
Take, for example, the story “The Little Green Army Men” presented in the chapter “Summit Avenue.” In it, he relates the tale told him by M—— (admittedly, Dorsey had me with the nineteenth century Edgar Allan Poe-style single initial-long dash method of anonymizing and maintaining the confidentiality of his sources), a hairdresser whose experience in a Webster Groves apartment I found both unique and intriguing.
It started one day after she moved in to her tiny one-bedroom apartment. Every day when she came home from work, she would drop her purse on the dining table, sort her mail, then greet her cats. But one day, as she was about to set her purse down, there was a little green army man, one of those little plastic soldiers you get in a bag, just sitting there in the middle of the table.
She looked at it for a minute and decided maybe the kid of one of the previous tenants lost it in a corner of a closet or something and the cats found it while she was gone. After playing with it a while, she rationalized, they must have just left it there on the table. So she picked it up and her way to feed the cats and threw it in a drawer.
She didn’t think about it again until about three months later when she came home and there was another one. A different one.
M—— said she lived in that apartment for not quite three years and in that time collected eight of those little army men—all different. The one with the rifle, the one with the pistol, the one with the binoculars, and so on. Always on the table, always in the same spot, right where she’d see them when she first walked in the door.
“I actually thought at first someone was breaking in to my apartment,” she said. “I talked about it with clients, and one asked if I was sure I didn’t have a stalker.” The door, she said, was always secure and the window was always secure. Neither ever looked tampered with. Besides, she explained, “It felt silly to call the police over some little green army men.” She found the whole thing surreal.
One day she came home, and as she was about to set her purse down, she noticed something on the table. But not a green plastic army man. This time it was something metallic coiled in the middle of the tabletop. That was the point, Dorsey notes, that the smile faded from her face.
“It was a necklace,” she said, “with a little-bitty charm on it that I’d lost probably fifteen years before. I’d lived in at least five different places between the place where I lost it and that apartment.
“I cannot even wrap my head around that one. I’ve never figured it out, and it’s never happened again.”
As I said, knowers, I’m not inclined to point to the supernatural, and I don’t believe it could have been her cats digging things out and leaving them on the table. M—— ruled out a stalker, but I’m not so sure. Could it even have been a well-executed but poorly considered prank? Comment below with your theories, and let’s see if we can forward Mr. Dorsey a more realistic theory he can share with M——.