Pretend you are looking at a picture of Speckled Jim, the most famous carrier pigeon of all time.
Or a perky doo as we would call it.
This is a blog written in adverse conditions. I’ve gone back to the good old days of carrier pigeon, the halcyon days of smoke signals and these words are reaching the blog site via one of those wee carts that run along rail lines, with two men (one of whom will be Buster Keaton) pumping away at the handles. To music.
Pretend you can see a picture of the aforementioned wee handcart thingy, the men will be wearing bowler hats, the track stretching to infinity beyond.
My internet is down. Somewhere went on fire, all NTL virgin media email has crumpled. Twenty two minutes to open one email. I could fly round the world and show you all the pictures that were supposed to be in this blog in person quicker than I could upload them.
Imagine here that picture of superman zinging round the planet…. I could superimpose my own face on it. Supercaro.
So this is a pictureless blog but we are all writers with good imaginations so I am giving you some wee descriptions of what I would like you to imagine when appropriate!
Insert here a picture of me kicking Richard Branson up the …(insert any piece of his anatomy here).
The blog was going to be about Ketchikan, the south easternmost city in Alaska, population of about 8000. On my travels I noticed that populations in Alaska half in the winter months but this is not so with Ketchikan for reasons that will become clear.
Picture of pretty houses, on stilts, over the creek.
It is named after Ketchikan Creek. The Tlingit name for the creek is Kitschk-hin and the creek in question was the ancient summer fishing camp for the Tlingit people. The actual town was established by Mike Martin in 1885 and the island it sits on was named Revillagigedo in 1793 by Captain George Vancouver.
Picture of Mr Vancouver here.
It has, famously, the world's largest collection of standing totem poles! As well as lots of Liquid Sunshine (rain). I read something very technical about measures of its ‘oceanic climate’ which basically said (weatherwise) Ketchikan was on a par with Scotland or Northern Ireland. Rainy with cool but not frozen winters and mild summers. I would like to change that word ‘mild’ to the words ‘non-existant.’ But that explains why the population feel they can hang around.
Picture here the image of my South African friend Stan trying to play golf at Moray in the rain, getting very wet and pretending he’s having a grand time. ( Actually the weather was kind to him but that image pleased my sadistic Scottish soul.)
As well as lots of films I’ve never heard of, Ketchikan has featured in ‘the Love Boat’ and ‘Baywatch’.
You may insert mental image of Pamela Anderson in that costume, or Mr Hasselhoff in those trunks...hope that wasn't too nauseating.
Ketchikan seems relatively crime free, everybody is probably too soaked all the time. But twenty years ago two tragic murders occurred. They are known as the Tarp murders as both murders wrapped their victims in tarpaulin in an attempt to delay discovery.
Murder one took place in the summer of 1991 when residents began to complain of foul smells and lots of flies buzzing around one garden. The police investigated and discovered the smell was emanating from a rolled up tarpaulin in the back garden of Dana Hilbish. She explained that her landlord had left her some fish there, and it was going off. For some reason the police did not check what actually was under the tarpaulin and it was only after more complaints, more flies and a few more weeks had passed, that the police realised the truth.
Under the tarp were the remains of Dana’s common law hubby, Charles Dalby. They had four daughters together but had never been married. The story behind the murder is as old as time itself. Dalby found out his wife was having an affair and he wanted to win her back. She didn’t want to come back.
He had been killed by two gunshot wounds to the head. Dana had covered his absence by saying that he had gone to Hawaii. But Dana was no master criminal. Her prints were on the gun and the gun was still in the house. His blood was found in the living room with a distinctive spatter pattern that would be expected in a gunshot wound. Drag marks that showed he had been pulled to the garden and she had been seen by her neighbours, fiddling about with the tarpaulin.
Dana’s counsel tried to blame the unnamed man she was having the affair with and she maintained her innocence throughout. She was sentenced to 99 years.
I read somewhere that she had been fully rehabilitated in jail and had become a keen gardener. She even trains dogs to aid the disabled. Before the internet carve up I found a quote from Dana about one of the dogs she trained, Sha Ren. This was reported in the Daily News in 2010. “She said being a trainer in the program taught her compassion and how to let go. ‘Sha Ren wasn't ever mine, but she'll always be here,’ Hilbish said, holding her hand to her heart.”
Just a year later, Dianna Wyatt disappeared. Her body was found 5 days later, wrapped in a tarpaulin, weighted down and left underwater in a log yard in Ward Cove. Friends knew that she had been concerned for her own safety, and had been planning a divorce from her husband Ronald. She had contacted a woman’s aid hostel and they had offered her a room there and then. But, like many women in that position, she turned it down maybe thinking that the next time she would get away before being hurt, or she could talk him down. Whatever her reasoning, it was a fatal mistake.
Ronald doesn’t seem to have been a master criminal either. He told his work mates that he had planned how he would kill his wife should the need ever arise and that his ideal method would be…. to wrap her body in a tarpaulin, weigh it down and drop her in the log yard at Ward Cove.
A security guard saw Ronald’s car at the mill just after Dianne disappeared, he even took the plate number of it. Ronald’s story that he had just stopped by the river to relief himself just didn’t cut it. He was too close to the deposition site well within the time frame.
He tried to blame the counsellor his wife was attending for her martial issues but it was obvious to the jury that Ronald would lose his wife’s considerable assets if their divorce went ahead. He also got 99 years.
I was in Inverness last week talking to some school children. One girl, the class swot, asked if all serial killers were as clever as the media portrayed them. I answered that, by definition, the answer was yes. You have to commit three or more murders over a specific period of time to be a ‘serial killer.’
Which means you have to be clever enough to get away with the first one. Or two. Or three.
She nodded thoughtfully. Her teacher told me later that she was the brightest girl in the class.
Hopefully the strange mystical, magical world that is the internet will be back in order next week.