Monday, November 07, 2005

This Is the House Where the Murders Happened

Some time ago, a friend slipped me a few xeroxed pages from True Detective magazine from the '60s. "Happened around here," she said. "You'll like it."

I slid it into my bag. More or less forgot about it until this Friday, when I was looking for some bathroom literature, some Excremeditatory Text.

Turns out that in 1943, on a particular road on the outskirts of Purcellville, Virginia -- that is to say, about 10 miles from my house -- a horrific five-victim mass murder took place. The xeroxed article, contrary to expectations, was surprisingly well researched, with references to local geography that were quite accurate when tested against an older local map.

The article recounted the murder of five residents of a farm near Purcellville. The farmer, one Morris Love, was beaten to death with a croquet mallet. His wife and son were also brutally murdered -- shot to death -- and a tenant farmer and his wife likewise slaughtered. The murderer, a resentful debtor named Thomas Clatterbuck, was eventually caught some days later on the strength of the discovery of part of a discarded shotgun on the side of Route 9 west of Hillsboro. He was executed later that year.

This Sunday, running errands in town, we decided to try to find the Murder House. We analyzed the text closely, with maps, and narrowed our search down to a patch of land south of Purcellville that would have been farmland 60 years ago, but that now hosts a newish elementary school.

As we drove around the outskirts of Purcellville, Wonder Woman began working on a Conceit -- that the Murder House, like a character in a very bad horror movie, was summoning us by whispering extrasensorially, on the wind:

This is the house where the Murder happened... This is the house you're looking for....

"Ah! Can't you hear it?" she whispered excitedly. "The house wants us to know where it is!"

I was perfectly willing to let her posit a talking psychic house on this lazy, gas-wasting Sunday, but thought that it was quite unfair to the other houses: OK, so the Murder House had a horrible, deadly crime attached to it, but why would that imbue it with ESP? If the Murder House can whisper its secrets, can't the other houses as well?

So, following this logic, we began to speculate what voices the different houses might have. The Murder House would of course be ghostly and solemn and reverberant, but that brick-fronted, vinyl-sided piece of Toll Brothers crap with the Lawyer Foyer and the three-Hummer garage on 287 ("Five bedrooms from the low $900s! Start vacuuming now!") would be a high-level project manager from Unisys with absolutely nothing interesting to say at all -- "How 'bout them Hokies?"

Psychic houses might be competitive, you never know: "Well, old Murder-Britches up the road might have had a quintuple slaughter, but I had a nasty argument last week that nearly came to blows! They're still not talking!" "Oh! That's nothing! Mom gets mouthy when she drinks! Nyaaah!"

And what if the houses are lying?

What if they're all trying to impress us with their histories -- which, after all, would naturally be the key to a Psychic House's self-worth -- to the point where they trample the truth to impress? What if, among Psychic Houses, the prestige accorded by having hosted a quintuple murder is so great that they'd tell baldfaced stretchers to receptive passersby?

At this point, it was only one more step to hysterical, quaking laughter: Why limit it to houses? Why not all buildings, in fact all inanimate objects?

This is the Costco parking lot where the murders happened!

No! This is the Medical Arts Building where the murders happened!

Don't listen to her! This is the storm sewer where the murders happened!

No! This is the self-checkout lane at Giant where the murders happened!

Liar! This is the Comedy section of Blockbuster where the murders happened!

We did that all day.


PS: The xeroxed True Detective story included a small part of a different story from the same issue, entitled, "Murder Became Part of the Dwarf's Sex Life!" It contains, among many intriguing if incomplete things, this graf: "Katzensteiner broke into tears. 'Ma!' he sobbed. 'Ma! It was all my own fault! I brought that bastard of a garden dwarf into the house! I left him alone with her! It's my own fault! I've killed my own mother!'"


Anonymous said...

That was hilarious! Thanks for a good laugh.

(Here by way of Republic of Dogs.)

Neddie said...

The question arises, though: How many Mychelline Stars does it get?

Oh, Mychelline
Why can't you be true?
Woah, Mychelline
Why can't you be true?
You've started back to doing them things you used to you!

zlpddoi, the sound a game of ping-pong makes in the 3000000 psi atmosphere of Jupiter

XTCfan said...

Start vacuuming now!"

Fucker. I almost breathed in the yogurt I was eating during my mid-morning blog-reading break. Think of the things my office would say when people walked by after my death.

upjns (long johns with a difference)

Bobby Lightfoot said...

I have speaking instruments. They say, "why can't I belong to Avril Lavigne's bass player?"

My house speaks too. It says, "you're one layoff away from th' Northampton Boarding House".

eefmiupf- what a Polish matron says when she offers you her pudenda.

Mudge said...

My house speaks only Provencale French, I am at a loss. It has been restive lately.

It is a shame that most of the periodicals containing such tremendous storylines and writing are gone...

Neddie said...

>>My house speaks only Provencale French, I am at a loss. It has been restive lately.

I suspect ennui.

xuqffb: The Quechua word for ennui -- amazing.

Anonymous said...


Might you be willing to share the True Detective article? My cobber is a namesake of one of the deceased and she would like to read the story. I'm sure she knows where the house is.

I'll be at the courthouse tonight for the end the war vigil. Will you be there?

Neddie said...

Tiki: Sorry, I want the war to drag on for a few more years, so I won't be at the courthouse, but I'd be happy to snail you a copy of the article. Send your addie to neddiejingo at aol dot com.

jgppbeab, a very, very bad mnemonic device for remembering the bones of the of the forepaw of a macaque monkey.

(PS: Which courthouse?)

Anonymous said...

A scant 10 miles from your home at the corner of King and Market. 6:30 pm

And you're right....the murder house is vinyl clad if it still exists. The Love farm is a subdivision. I just can't remember which one.

Aenil, Brother to Aeneas, killed while washing his hands after the Battle of Troy.

Melani Motzkus Carty said...

As a previous poster noted, there are decendants of the Clatterbuck family still in the area. There is a Clatterbuck Way that intersects the 287 just a mile or so south of the Route 9 traffic signal. Also a Clatterbuck family that lives on Irish Corner Road just past the town limits line of Lovettsville, in the white farmhouse with the white barn.

Anonymous said...

The house where the murders took place is on rt 690 headed south from Purcellville. As you head out of the town limits you will come to what used to be a nearly right angle curve in the road. It has now been redone into a more sweeping right curve. It then proceeds to move through some windy curves down hill. As you pass through the windy curves and near the bottom, the house was on the right hand side of the road, set about 100 yards from the road. It used to be wooded around the house but I have't paid muc attention to it lately since I don't go out that way very often. I used to pass it when we would go to fish in Dr Olivrs pond which is further down the road about a mile or so. I've lived in P-Ville since 1958 and remember my Dad showing me the house and telling the story about what happened. I'll look the next time I'm out that way and see if the house is still ther.

Anonymous said...

You are all way off-base in locating the house and we are NOT a subdivision. I should know - I live in the murdered tenant's house and my brother-in-law occupies the Love home. He and my husband are the grandsons of A. Morris Love and now own the farm their mother inherited when her parents and brother were killed. SO! You were looking exactly 180 degrees in the wrong direction, that is to say, the farm is NORTH of new 7 between Purcellville and Hamilton. And none of the farm buildings are visible from 287 so if you come looking, you will be trespassing.

Dave said...

I am a very distant relative of Mrs. Love maiden name Grubb. Some Grubbs immigrated to Virginia in the 1740's from Delaware or Pennsylvania.
The original immigrant to America was John Grubb in 1677.