Thursday, July 26, 2007

Natural Causes


River Landscape,
Ernest Lawson (1873-1939)
oil on canvas.

Besides mouse droppings, broken plaster and dirt, one may find odd things between partitions and joists while renovating an old house - walled up windows, old letters, jewellry, beads, tools, tintypes, money, old bottles...

Yesterday, CP related news of a man renovating a three-story house in Toronto who found the mummified remains of a four-month old baby wrapped in newspapers dated 1925.

For a writer of mysteries or horror or even literary fiction this is a natural plot bunny, and a modern, minature and mundane variation of the walled-up nun or the castle's hidden room/crypt/priest's hole and the skeleton of a Cavalier/lost heir/mysterious bride.

But it's a little more than that. The discover resulted - not from some contrived artistic coincidence, not from some wildly improbable collision of events that strain one's credulity - but from a natural consequence of the man's occupation.

Fact ( for once) reminds fiction of certain logical necessities.


(Now that I think of it, an interesting mystery series could be constructed based on the discoveries of Bob the Builder - blue collar cozies)


BTW: Jason has opened another short fiction contest, "Halo." Fun, function, and prezzies. Details at Clarity of Night.

33 comments:

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Firsties!

Logic vs. plot convenience. I like it.

I always wanted to write a mystery series in which the sleuth was actually the killer, sort of like the old Angela Landsbury mysteries. Everyone KNOWS the woman was a serial killer.

jason evans said...

Now and again, I've heard anecdotes like that one, but not very often do I hear one that is hard fact. A story practically reaches out and shakes you. The newspaper is especially fascinating.

Thanks for the contest mention! We seem to be off to a good start.

Bernita said...

Thank you, SS.
So many possibilities.

Bernita said...

I notice about one a year, Jason. Of, course, a title search has already yielded some information.

And you're welcome.

ORION said...

Oh Wow. How poignant about the baby.
Cozy mystery -- Bob the Builder
That has possibilities. A series.
Rex the Remodeler.
Peter the Plumber.
Carl the Contractor...
I CAN'T STOP!!
HELP ME!

Demon Hunter said...

Wow. What a sick story about the baby. You're right, Bernita. There is a story in that one.

Jaye Wells said...

I need to read the newspaper more--the hard copy, I mean. I'm afraid the electronic versions encourage too much headline skimming and not enough reading.

Bernita said...

AND suitable for MG/YA as well as adults, Pat. With adjustments.

Seems the owner of the house was eventually committed to a mental institution, my Demon. The question in my mind is: which came first - the madness or the manslaughter?

Saw this on Yahoo, Jaye. For in-depth details I then go to the local paper, the Toronto Star in this case.

Jeannie said...

Such random discoveries are fascinating - finding a mummified baby even moreso -
friends living in an old farmhouse needed to do some repairs - probably plumbing - and found old newspapers used as insulation in the wall. They gave my husband a couple sections just for fun. I found the articles and ads very interesting - among the classifieds (which I would never read in a modern paper) I found my own grandfather's accounting ad. There is something wonderfully coincidental about that I think.

Bernita said...

Indeed, Jeannie!
Thank you for stopping by.
Newspapers were also used as underlay under linenoleum in closets and such. Quite fascinating as social history.

takoda said...

Thanks, thanks, thanks for the link!! It's just perfect for the weekend. And his blog looks really nice. Just frickin' great. I'll NEVER get off the computer now (grin)

Cheers,

takoda said...

Orion forgot "Rod the Roofer."
Robin S. can give the specifics. Seems they had a hot blog-affair that ended tragically. Something about being poned.

Gabriele C. said...

Hehe, my plotbunnies jump out of history books, not newspapers. And I'm glad for it because I try to stay away from politics as far as I can. ;)

Bernita said...

Jason's a dear guy and you'll enjoy the archives, Chris.

Maybe Rod developed shingles...

Anyway, it was a serious suggestion.Many ordinary jobs do have fictional potential - as this renovator's discovery just proved.

Newspapers often reflect how history repeats, Gabriele. Fascinating.

Charles Gramlich said...

that contest sounds interesting. Mabye I'll do something for it. Very open ended.

The story of the guy who found the baby wrapped in newspapers is eerie. I can't help but wonder about the story behind it.

The Anti-Wife said...

Reminds me of the series on HGTV called "If Walls Could Talk". Some of the places spotlighted have very interesting histories and could be used to create wonderful sites for books.

Bernita said...

It certainly invites speculation, Charles.

Rooms that "still rustles furtively in the small hours, as with black silk."
Right, AW.
Plot bunnies are everywhere.

Kate Thornton said...

"Maybe Rod developed shingles." Oh, Bernita, I can't stop laughing!!!!

The baby in the wall - so many possible stories there...infant death of natural causes, but the mother would not let go. Natural causes for the death of four month infants were rife in the 1920's. "Wrap him up and put him here in the wall, where I'll be next to him for always..."

Mummified - must be dry within those walls - a good sign.

Oh, I am off on a tangent of walled-up ghosts now. Lovely post, Bernita. Thanks

Bernita said...

Thank you, Kate.
So many possibilities. One wonders if it operated as a rooming house. One wonders if the parent(s) were too poor for a funeral.Or if the mother disappeared.
And my cynical mind hopes they check out the basement floor...

Seeley deBorn said...

I am very glad my recent home renovations did not include wall removal.

writtenwyrdd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writtenwyrdd said...

Wow, that's creepy. But the truth really IS stranger than fiction.

Steve G said...

Bob the Builder - blue collar cozies)

I can see it as a TV series.

Bernita said...

A dusty, aggravating job, Seeley.

Probably where fiction gets its ideas, WW.

Bernita said...

Why should kids have all the fun, Steve?

spyscribbler said...

Blue Collar Cozies! Wow, Bernita, that's a darned good idea. Made my breath catch! Someone needs to write that.

Although, Evanovich's Plum series comes close, doesn't it?

Bernita said...

Haven't read them ( yet) Natasha.

The Anti-Wife said...

You inspired me. I entered the contest.

Bernita said...

I look forward to reading it, AW!

takoda said...

From "The Midwife's Tale" by Gretchen Laskas:

Mama didn't tell me about the little red book, which she kept hidden until I was seventeen and had been attending births for more than three years. I suppose she thought I wasn't ready for it, and that was truth, for I wasn't.....


**
Mid-wives kept two ledgers. One for live, healthy births.

Bernita said...

Interesting, Chris. And?

takoda said...

Second ledger is for babies stillborn. Or those born with defects and the midwife suffocates them.

Bernita said...

Pending forensic examination, this infant was not a newborn.