FAREWELL TO THE
THE END OF INNOCENCE IN CHICAGO
There is no greater unsolved mystery
in the history of the Chicago area than that of the Grimes Sisters -- who
killed Barbara & Patricia and what happened to them over the weeks between
the time when they vanished and their bodies were found along secluded
German Church Road? And who haunts the gloomy stretch of roadway where their
bodies were found?
Have you ever run across a place that just seems to be weird?
It might be a place that you really have no connection to
or information about and yet it just seems to be a spot that you donít want
to linger for very long. I have always been intrigued by the idea of what I
think of as "haunted highways". These are stretches of roadway that perhaps
cross through an area that has gained an unnerving reputation over the years
or that simply manages to give the person traveling along them that always
popular creeping sensation at the base of the spine. Often, we are bothered
by these highways because of stories we have heard about them. Perhaps it
was suggested that an unusually high number of accidents occur here or that
people have seen things that they canít quite explain. Other roads are
haunted by memories from the past -- death, murder and horrific events that
canít quite seem to be forgotten by those who travel on the road. And even
perhaps by the highway itself?
Have you ever had the misfortune to discover such a
place? I have....
A few years ago, I had the
opportunity to visit a roadway in Chicago called German Church Road.
It was a place that just seemed "wrong" and thatís the best
description that I can give for it. Some say this roadway is haunted
and frankly, I can believe it. It is a place where the shadows hang
long and low and where a chill always seems to be in the air. But
could my reaction to this "haunted highway" have been caused by my
knowledge of what had occurred here in the past? Perhaps, for it was
along this road that the victims of one of the most horrific crimes
in Chicago history were found.
A Stretch of
German Church Road
It was a heartbreaking event that has become one of the
regionís most puzzling unsolved crimes. It shattered the innocence of
Chicago forever and according to those who have experienced it, left a
chilling impression behind.
It was December 28, 1956 and Patricia Grimes, 13, and
Barbara Grimes, 15, left their home at 3624 South Damen Avenue and headed
for the Brighton Theater, only a mile away. The girls were both avid fans of Elvis Presley
and had gone to see his
film Love Me Tender for the
eleventh and final time. The girls were recognized in the popcorn line at
9:30 PM and then seen on an eastbound Archer Avenue bus at 11:00 PM. After
that, things are less certain but this may have been the last time they were
ever seen alive. The two sisters were missing for the next twenty-five days,
before their naked and frozen bodies were found along the banks of Devil's
Creek in the southwest part of Cook County.
The girlís mother, Loretta Grimes, expected the girls to
come home by 11:45 but was already growing uneasy when they had not arrived
15 minutes prior to that. At midnight, she sent her daughter Theresa, 17,
and her son Joey, 14, to the bus stop at 35th and Hoyne to watch for them.
After three buses had stopped and had failed to discharge their sisters,
Theresa and Joey returned home without them. They never saw the girls again,
but strangely, others claimed to.
The last reported sightings of the two girls came from
classmates who spotted them at Angelo's Restaurant at 3551 South Archer
Avenue, more than 24 hours after their reported disappearance. How accurate
this sighting was is unknown, as a railroad conductor also reported them on
a train near the Great Lakes Naval Training Center in north suburban
Glenview. A security guard on the northwest side offered directions to two
girls he believed were the Grimes sisters on the morning of the 29th, hours
after they disappeared. On January 1, both girls were allegedly identified
as passengers aboard a CTA bus on Damen Avenue. During the week that
followed, they were reported in Englewood by George Pope, a night clerk at
the Unity Hotel on West 61st Street, who refused them a room because of
their ages. Three employees at Kresge believed they saw the girls listening
to Elvis Presley songs at the record counter on January 3.
The police theorized that the girls had run away but
Loretta Grimes refused to believe it. She was sure the girls were not
missing voluntarily but the authorities were still not convinced.
Regardless, it became the greatest missing persons hunt in Chicago police
history. Even Elvis Presley, in a statement issued from Graceland, asked the
girls to come home and ease their mother's worries. The plea went
More strangeness would be reported before the bodies of
the girls were found. A series of ransom letters, that were later discovered
to have come from a mental patient, took Mrs. Grimes to Milwaukee on January
12. She was escorted by FBI agents and instructed to sit in a downtown
Catholic church with $1,000 on the bench beside her. The letter promised
that Barbara Grimes would walk in to retrieve the money and then leave to
deliver it to the kidnapper. She and her sister would then be released.
Needless to say, no one ever came and Mrs. Grimes was left sitting there for
hours to contemplate her daughterís fate. By that time, itís likely that the
bodies of the two girls were already lying along German Church Road, covered
But if thatís true though, then how can we explain the
two telephone calls that were received by Wallace and Ann Tollstan on
January 14? Their daughter, Sandra, was a classmate of Patricia Grimes at
the St. Maurice School and they received the two calls around midnight. The
first call jolted Mr. Tollstan out of his sleep but when he picked up the
receiver, the person on the other end of the line did not speak. He waited a
few moments and then hung up. About 15 minutes later, the phone rang again
and this time, Ann Tollstan answered it. The voice on the other end of the
line asked "Is that you, Sandra? Is Sandra there?" But before Mrs. Tollstan
could bring her daughter to the phone, the caller had clicked off the line.
Ann Tollstan was convinced that the frightened voice on the telephone had
belonged to Patricia Grimes!
And that wasnít the only strange happening to mark the
period when the girls were missing. On January 15, a police switchboard
operator received a call from a man who refused to identify himself but who
insisted that the girlís bodies would be found in a park at 81st and Wolf.
He claimed that this revelation had come to him in a dream and he hung up.
The call was then traced to Greenís Liquor Market on South Halstead and the
caller was discovered to be Walter Kranz, a 53 year-old steamfitter.
According to a Chicago Sun-Times article, he was taken into custody
after the bodies were found on January 22 -- less than a mile from the park
that Kranz said he dreamed of! He became one of the numerous people who were
questioned by the police and then released.
Finally, the vigil for the Grimes Sisters ended on
January 22, 1957 when construction worker Leonard Prescott was driving south
on German Church Road near Willow Springs. He spotted what appeared to be
two discarded clothing store mannequins lying next to a guardrail, a short
distance from the road. A few feet away, the ground dropped off to Devil's
Creek below. Unsure of what he had seen, Prescott nervously brought his wife
to the spot, and then they drove to the local police station. His wife,
Marie Prescott, was so upset by the sight of the bodies that she had to be
carried back to their car.
Once investigators realized the
"mannequins" were actually bodies, they soon discovered they were
the Grimes Sisters. Barbara Grimes lay on her left side with her
legs slightly drawn up toward her body. Her head was covered by the
body of her sister, who had been thrown onto her back with her head
turned sharply to the right. It looked as if they had been discarded
there by someone so cold and heartless that he saw the girls as
nothing more than refuse to be tossed away on a lonely roadside.
(Left) Police officers and reporters
trample the crime scene as they look over the bodies of Barbara &
Patricia, which can be seen just over the guard rail on the left.
The officials in charge, Cook County Sheriff Joseph D.
Lohman and Harry Glos, an aggressive investigator for Coroner Walter E.
McCarron, surmised that the bodies had been lying there for several days,
perhaps as far back as January 9. This had been the date of the last heavy
snowfall and the frigid temperatures that followed the storm had preserved
the bodies to a state that resembled how they looked at the moment of death.
As the newspapers broke the story on the morning of January 23, both the
press and the investigators in the case began to draw connections between
the murders of the Grimes sisters and the killings of three young boys who
had been found under similar circumstances in October 1955.
One of the most shocking and terrifying events in the
history of Chicago took place in that month, when the bodies of the three
boys were discovered in a virtually crime-free community on the northwest
side of the city. This was several years before the disappearance of the
Grimes sisters and at the time of what was called the Schuessler-Peterson
murders, the city would be stunned by the horror of violence against
The terrifying events began on a cool Sunday afternoon in
the fall of 1955 when three boys from the northwest side of the city headed
downtown to catch a matinee performance of a movie at a Loop Theater. The
boys made the trip with their parentís consent because in those days,
parents thought little of their responsible children going off on excursions
by themselves. The boys had always proven dependable in the past and this
time would have been no exception, if tragedy had not occurred.
With $4 between them, John and Anton Schuessler and Bobby
Peterson ventured into the Chicago Loop to see a movie that Bobbyís mother
had chosen for them. Around 6:00 pm that night, long after the matinee had
ended, the boys were reported in the lobby of the Garland Building at 111
North Wabash. There was no explanation for what they might have been doing
there, other than that Petersonís eye doctor was located in the building. It
seems unlikely that he would have been visiting the optometrist on a Sunday
Around 7:45 pm, the three entered the Monte Cristo
Bowling Alley on West Montrose. The parlor was a neighborhood eating place
and the proprietor later recalled to the police that he recalled the boys
and that a "fifty-ish" looking man was showing an "abnormal interest" in
several younger boys who were bowling. He was unable to say if the man made
contact with the trio. They left the bowling alley and walked down Montrose
to another bowling alley, then thumbed a ride at the intersection of
Lawrence and Milwaukee Avenue. They were out of money by this time, but not
quite ready to go home. It was now 9:05 in the evening and their parents
were beginning to get worried. They had reason to be, for the boys were
never seen alive again.
Two days later, the boyís naked and bound bodies were
discovered in a shallow ditch about 100 feet east of the Des Plaines River.
A salesman, who had stopped to eat his lunch at the Robinson Woodís Indian
Burial Grounds nearby, spotted them and called the police. Coroner Walter
McCarron stated that the cause of death was "asphyxiation by suffocation".
The three boys had been dead about 36 hours when they were discovered.
Bobby Peterson had been struck repeatedly and had been
strangled with a rope or a necktie. The killer had used adhesive tape to
cover the eyes of all three victims. They had then been thrown from a
vehicle. Their clothing was never discovered.
The city of Chicago was thrown into a panic. Police
officials reported that they had never seen such a horrible crime. The fears
of parents all over the city were summed up by the grief-stricken Anton
Schuessler Sr. who said, "When you get to the point that children cannot go
to the movies in the afternoon and get home safely, something is wrong with
Police officers combed the area, conducting door-to-door
searches and neighborhood interrogations. Search teams combed Robinsonís
Woods, looking for clues or items of clothing. The killer (or killers) had
gone to great length to get rid of any signs of fingerprints or traces of
evidence. By this time, various city and suburban police departments had
descended on the scene, running into each other and further hampering the
search for clues. There was little or no cooperation between the separate
agencies and if anything had been discovered, it would have most likely been
lost in the confusion.
While investigators were coming up empty, an honor guard
of Boy Scouts carried the coffins of the three boys from the St. Tarcissus
Roman Catholic Church to a hearse that would take them to St. Joseph
Cemetery. The church was filled to capacity with an estimated 1,200
mourners. This marked the end of innocence in Chicago. With the death of the
Grimes sisters a few years later, it was apparent to all that America had
changed for the worse.
The horror felt by parents in Chicagoland was only
compounded by the disappearance of the Grimes sisters and the subsequent
discovery of their bodies. Like the Schuesslerís and Bobby Peterson, the
girls had been found naked and dumped in a secluded, wooded area. And also
like the murders a few years before (still unsolved at the time), the bodies
had looked to be mannequins by those who discovered them.
The bodies along German Church Road sent the various
police departments into action. A short time after the discovery, more than
162 officers from Chicago, Cook County, the Forest Preserves and five south
suburban police departments began combing the woods -- and tramping all over
whatever evidence may have been there. Between the officers, the reporters,
the medical examiners and everyone else, the investigation was already
botched. Despite the claims of Lt. Joseph Morris, the head of a special
police unit investigating the Schuessler-Peterson murders, who said "Weíre
not going to repeat some of the mistakes that we made the last time", things
were already off to a bad start.
And the investigation became even more confusing in the
days to come. The bodies were removed from the scene and were taken to the
Cook County Morgue, where they would be stored until they thawed out and an
autopsy became possible. Before they were removed though, both police
investigators and reporters commented on the condition of the corpses,
noting bruises and marks that have still not been adequately explained to
this day. According to a newspaper article, there were three "ugly" wounds
in Patriciaís abdomen and the left side of her face had been battered,
resulting in a possibly broken nose. Barbaraís face and head had also been
bruised and there were punctures from an ice pick in her chest. Once the
bodies were moved, investigators stayed on the scene to search for clothing
and clues but neither were found.
Once the autopsies were performed the following day, all
hopes that the examinations would provide new evidence or leads were quickly
dashed. Despite the efforts of three experienced pathologists, they could
not reach agreement on a time or cause of death. They stated that the girls
had died from shock and exposure but were only able to reach this conclusion
by eliminating other causes. And by also concluding that the girls had died
on December 28, the night they had disappeared, they created more puzzles
than they had managed to solve. If the girls had died on the night they had
gone missing, then how could the sightings that took place after that date
be explained? And if the bodies had been exposed to the elements since that
time, then why hadnít anyone else seen them?
Barbara and Patricia were buried on January 28, one month
after they disappeared, although their mystery was no closer to being solved
than it had been in December.
The residents of Chicagoland were stunned and the case of
the murdered girls became an obsession. The local community organized
searches for clues and passed out flyers looking for information. Money was
raised to assist the destitute Grimes family and eventually the funds paid
off their Damen Avenue home. The Chicago Tribune invited readers to
send in theories about the case and paid $50 for any they published. The
clergy and the parishioners from St. Maurice offered a $1,000 reward and
sent out letters to area residents, hoping that someone might have seen the
girls before they vanished. Even photographs were taken of friends of the
girls that duplicated the clothing they wore on December 28 in hopes that it
might jog the memory of someone who saw them. On the night they saw Love
Me Tender for the last time, Patricia wore blue jeans, a yellow sweater,
a black jacket with white sleeve stripes, a white scarf over her head and
black shoes. Her sister reportedly wore a gray tweed skirt, yellow blouse, a
three-quarter length coat, a gray scarf, white bobby sox and black,
ballerina shoes. The clothing though, like the girlís killer, was never
The killer may have eluded the authorities but it was not
because no one was trying to find him. Investigators questioned an
unbelievable 300,000 persons, searching for information about the girls, and
2,000 of these people were seriously interrogated, which in those days could
be brutal. A number of suspects were seriously considered and among the
first was the "dreamer", Walter Kranz, who called police with his mysterious
tip on January 15. He was held at the Englewood police station for some time
and was repeatedly interrogated and given lie detector tests about his
involvement in the murders. No solid evidence was ever found against him
The police also named a 17-year-old named Max Fleig as a
suspect but the current law did not allow juveniles to be tested with a
polygraph. Police Captain Ralph Petaque persuaded the boy to take the test
anyway and in the midst of it, he confessed to kidnapping the girls. Because
the test was illegal and inadmissible, the police were forced to let Fleig
go free. Was he the killer? No one will ever know. Regardless, Fleig was
sent to prison a few years later for the brutal murder of a young woman.
In the midst of all of this, the police still had to deal
with nuts and cranks, more so-called psychic visions and a number of false
confessions, making their work even harder. One confession that they
investigated came from a transient who was believed to have been involved in
some other murders around the same time period. His confession later
unraveled and he admitted that he had lied.
Eager to crack the floundering case, Cook County Sheriff
Joseph Lohman then arrested a Tennessee drifter named Edward L. "Benny"
Bedwell. The drifter, who sported Elvis-style sideburns and a ducktail
haircut, had reportedly been seen with the Grimes sisters in a restaurant
where he sometimes washed dishes in exchange for food. When he was initially
questioned, Bedwell admitted that he had been in the D&L Restaurant on West
Madison with two girls and an unnamed friend but he insisted that the owners
of the place were mistaken about the girls being the Grimes sisters.
According to the owners, John and Minnie Duros, the group
had entered the diner around 5:30 on the morning of December 30. They
described the taller girl (Patricia?) as being either so drunk or so sick
that she was staggering as she walked. The couples sat in a booth for awhile
and listened to Elvis songs on the jukebox and then went outside. According
to Minnie Duros, "The taller girl returned to the booth and put her head on
the table. They wanted her to get into the car, but she didnít want to. The
other girl and the two men came back later and I told them to leave the girl
alone -- sheís sick. But they all left anyway and on their way out, Barbara
said they were sisters."
Lohman found the story plausible, thanks to the
unshakable identification of the girls by Minnie Duros, their respective
heights, the fact that one of them said they were sisters and finally,
Bedwellís resemblance to Elvis. Lohman believed this might have been enough
to get the girls to go along with him. And then of course, there was
Bedwellís confession, which related a lurid and sexually explicit tale of
drunken debauchery with the two young women. He made and recanted three
confessions and even re-enacted the crime for Lohman on January 27. Everyone
doubted the story but Lohman. He booked Bedwell on murder charges, but the
drifter's testimony was both vague and contradictory and (most likely) his
confession had been beaten out of him. On January 31, he testified that he
had confessed out of fear of Lohmanís men, who had struck and threatened him
while he was being questioned.
Another of the chief investigators in the case, Harry
Glos, believed that Bedwell might have been implicated in the murders in
some way but that he was a dubious suspect. State's Attorney Benjamin
Adamowski agreed and ordered the drifter released. All charges against
Bedwell were dismissed on March 4 and upon leaving the courtroom, he was
re-arrested on a fugitive warrant from Florida for the rape of a 13 year-old
girl. The crime he was charged with in Florida closely resembled the one
that took the lives of the Grimes sisters but he managed to avoid conviction
for it, thanks to the passage of time while he was a fugitive. According to
reports, Bedwellís accuser had been held captive for three days before
escaping and notifying the police of her abduction and rape. Bedwell later
spend time in prison on a weapons charge and died at some point after he was
released in 1986.
The dismissal of charges against Bedwell in the Grimes
case set off another round of bickering between police departments and
various jurisdictions and the case became even more mired in red tape and
inactivity. It got even worse when coronerís investigator Glos publicly
criticized the autopsy findings concerning the time and cause of death. He
shocked the public by announcing that Barbara and Patricia could not have
died on the night they disappeared. He said that an ice layer around the
bodies proved that they were warm when they were left along German Church
Road and that only after January 7 would there have been enough snow to
create the ice and to hide the bodies.
Glos also raised the issues of the
puncture wounds and bruises on the bodies, which had never been
explained or explored. He was sure that they girls had been
violently treated prior to death and also asserted that the older
sister, Barbara, had been sexually molested before she was killed.
The pathologists had denied this but the Chicago Police crime lab
reluctantly confirmed it. However, they were angry with Glos for
releasing the information because they wanted to keep it secret so
that they could use it when questioning suspects.
The coroner, Walter McCarron,
promptly had Glos fired and many of the other investigators in the
case accused him of being reckless and of political grandstanding.
Only Sheriff Lohman, who later deputized Glos to work on the case
without pay, remained on his side. He agreed that the girls had
likely been beaten and tortured by a sexual predator who lured them
into the kidnap car under a seemingly innocent pretense. Lohman
remained convinced until his death in 1969 that the predator who had
killed the girls had been Benny Bedwell.
Other theories maintain that the
girls may have indeed encountered Bedwell or another "older man" and
rumors circulated that the image of the two girls had been polished
to cover up some very questionable behavior on their parts. It was
said that they sometimes hung around a bar on Archer Avenue where
men would buy them drinks. One of the men may have been Benny
Bedwell. Harry Glos, who died in 1994, had released information that
one of the girls had been sexually active but later reports from
those who have seen the autopsy slides say there is evidence that
both of them may have been. It is believed that Coroner McCarron may
not have released this because of religious reasons or to spare
additional grief for the family.
(Right) The death certificates of Barbara & Patricia Grimes. The
cause of death is listed as ďmurderĒ although the official line
reads ďsecondary shock - exposure to low temperatures - coldĒ
(Courtesy Jim Graczyk)
Today, veteran detectives believe that there was much
more to the story that met the eye. According to Richard Lindberg's book,
Return to the Scene of the Crime, they are convinced that Barbara and
Patricia were abducted by a front man for a "white slavery" ring and taken
to a remote location in the woods surrounding Willow Springs. They are
convinced that the girls were strangled after refusing to become
prostitutes. Itís also possible that the girls may have been lured into an
involvement in the prostitution ring by someone they knew (perhaps one of
the older men from the Archer Avenue bar?), not realizing what would be
required of them, and they were killed to keep them silent.
Others refused to even consider this though and were
angered by the negative gossip about the two girls. Some remain angry about
this even today, maintaining that Barbara and Patricia were nice, ordinary,
happy girls and were tragically killed on a cold night because they made the
mistake of accepting a ride from a stranger. They didnít hang around in
bars, these old friends maintain, they were simply innocent teenage girls,
just like everyone else at that time.
As for myself, Iíd like to think these old acquaintances
are right. There are few stories as tragic as the demise of the Grimes
sisters and perhaps it provides some cold comfort for us to believe that
their deaths were simply a terrible mistake or the actions of deviant
killer. It can provide us that comfort of knowing that the girls were simply
in the wrong place at the wrong time and that such a thing could have
happened to anyone. But does believing this make us feel better -- or worse?
Years passed. As there is no statute of limitations for
murder, the case officially remained open but there was little chance that
it would ever be solved. The Grimes family saw their hopes for closure in
the case slowly fading away. Loretta Grimes passed away in December 1989 and
by all accounts was a tragic and broken woman.
For the next several years, the investigation continued
and more suspects were interviewed. A $100,000 reward was posted but the
trail went cold. Then, decades later, hope was raised for the Grimes case
when a solution was finally discovered to the Schuessler-Peterson murders
from 1955. In a bizarre turn of events, a government informant named William
Wemette accused one Kenneth Hansen of the murders during a police
investigation into the 1977 disappearance of candy heiress Helen Vorhees
In 1955, Hansen, then 22 years old, worked as a stable
hand for Silas Jayne, a millionaire from Kane County. Jayne himself was wild
and reckless and had been suspected of many violent and devious dealings
during his rise to power in the horse-breeding world. He went to prison in
1973 for the murder of his half brother, George. Hansen himself was no prize
either and soon, investigators were able to build a case against him. The
case resulted in the deviantís arrest in August 1994.
Cook County prosecutors showed jurors how Hansen had
lured the Schuessler brothers and Bobby Peterson into his car under false
pretenses. They retraced the path of the killer in what author Richard
Lindberg called "chilling detail". His story was that he wanted to show the
boys some prize horses belonging to Silas Jayne. According to the testimony
of several men that Hansen had bragged to, he had molested and then killed
the Schuesslerís and Peterson one by one. When Jayne discovered his crime,
the horse breeder burned the stables in order to obliterate any evidence
that Hansen had left behind. Hansenís brother had then dumped the boyís
bodies at Robinsonís Woods and Jayne had filed a bogus buildings insurance claim for
the lost building.
This case came to trial in 1995 and breaking a 40 year
silence, many of Hansenís other victims came forward, recalling promises of
jobs made to young men in return for sexual favors. He forced their silence
with threats that included warnings that they might end up "like the
Peterson boy". Even without evidence and eyewitnesses to corroborate the
prosecutionís allegations against him, a Cook County jury convicted Kenneth
Hansen of the murders in September 1995. They deliberated for less than two
hours and Hansen was sentenced for 200-300 years in prison.
Bobby Peterson and the Schuessler brothers could finally
rest in peace -- but the same could not be said for Barbara and Patricia
Grimes. Despite the new public awareness and police interest in their
deaths, the case became cold once again. Apparently, the investigatorís
theories about a connection between their murders and those of the
Schuessler and Peterson boys were not correct after all.
Now, more than 40 years later, the mystery of who killed
the Grimes sisters remains unsolved. Those who still have an interest in the
case will sometimes travel down German Church Road, in the southern suburb
of Willow Springs, and wind up at a low point in this "haunted highway"
where the bodies of the two girls were discovered so many years ago. The
impact of tragedy is still being felt today, as is the impression of what
may have been a depraved killerís most desperate moments.
Today, the tree-lined roadway is heavily shadowed and
quiet. There is almost a silence in the air that a traveler only seems to
notice if he knows the reason why this is a haunted place. Away from the
road, those who listen closely can hear the rippling of Devilís Creek below
and one has to wonder if the whispering of the water could actually speak --
what dark secrets would it have to reveal?
The bodies of the Grimes sisters were tossed without
ceremony at the edge of a ravine, just over a guardrail and only a few feet
from the shoulder of the road. A short distance away from this site, its
entrance now blocked with a chain, was a narrow drive that once led to a
house that was nestled in the trees. Mysteriously, the house was abandoned
by the young family who lived there soon after the girlís bodies were
discovered. Many of the belongings were left behind in the house and toys
and furniture lay scattered about the yard for years. Even a 1955 Buick sat
rusting in the driveway but it was eventually taken away. At some point,
vandals set fire to the house and the owner had to demolish what was left.
And while the owner never lived there again, people would occasionally see a
tall, gaunt man roaming about the property in the spring and fall, when the
trees and brush were thin. It was assumed that he had once occupied the
place, but those who saw him were afraid to ask.
Until just a few years ago, the foundation of the
abandoned house was still visible and landscaped hedges and a few remaining
artifacts served to bear witness that a family had once lived here. Below
the concrete slab of the house, a basement remained intact with a water
heater, window screens and an old workbench littering the crumbling floor.
Why the family abandoned the home remains almost as great a mystery as who
killed Barbara and Patricia Grimes. If anyone knows, they arenít saying but
like the murder case, those with an interest have their theories. Some
believe the owner may have been questioned about the crime and simply felt
too embarrassed to stay. It has also been suggested that the family may have
seen something on the night the bodies were dumped near their house and
became too frightened to remain behind.
Others claim that the house, located so close to the
place where the bodies were found, became haunted. And perhaps this is not
as far-fetched as you might first think...
Since the discovery of the bodies, the police have
received reports from those who say they have heard a car pulling up to the
location with its motor running. They also say they have heard the door
open, followed by the sound of something being dumped alongside the road.
The door slams shut and the car drives away. They have heard these things --
and yet there is no car in sight!
According to author Tamara Shaffer, there was a young
woman who took a number of her friends on a tour of the old house and the
murder site one evening. They walked up the path that branched off from the
driveway and circled the ruins of the house and under the light of the moon
overhead, they saw a car approaching up the gravel drive from the road. It
was a dark vehicle with no lights and it sped past them and around the
house, then disappeared. The woman and her friends decided to leave and as
they did, they encountered the police, who had been called to chase off the
"tour group". The chain that had been used to close off the driveway was
still hanging in place and the police officers had seen no other car.
Another woman claimed that in addition to the sounds, she
saw what appeared to be the naked bodies of two young girls lying on the
edge of the roadway. When police investigated, there was no sign of the
Many researchers believe in "residual hauntings", which
means that an event may cause an impression to be left behind on the
atmosphere of a place. It seems possible that the traumatic final moments of
the Grimes sisters may have left such an impression on this small stretch of
German Church Road. It may have also been an impression caused by the
anxiety and madness of the killer as he left the bodies of the young women
But believe in hauntings or not, that choice is up to the
reader - but should you ever travel along German Church Road, I defy you to
stop along the roadway where the bodies of Barbara and Patricia were found
and to say that you are not moved by the tragedy that came to an end here.
No matter what changes have come to the area, this is a dark and haunted
© Copyright 2006 by Troy
Taylor. All Rights Reserved.