Welcome to The Box, an exciting Tuesday feature that combines the drama of investigative journalism with the thrill of a wild, blindfolded squirrel. Think of it as “BJ and the Bear,” but with the potential of “Bear” biting “BJ” and giving him rabies.
Each week, I put my 15 years of journalistic experience to the test by identifying a randomly chosen photograph that has remained unclaimed in our newsroom since as far back as the 1980s. What makes this feature especially riveting, aside from its well-timed use of exclamation points! (see?!), is the selection process, which involves:
1) Me dumping The Box of photos directly onto the floor, and
2) Yelling “RELEASE THE SQUIRREL!” before turning “Skippy” loose in the newsroom.
The photo nearest the first person who screams is selected!
Make sense? Of course not! But that’s just the rabies talking.
As it turns out, this week’s photo was actually chosen by an electrician who happened to be in our newsroom repairing an outlet when “Skippy” was released. This was followed by a loud scream, a blue flash, and a different kind of release from our electrician. Regardless, we have this week’s photo, and that’s what matters. Although getting rid of the aroma now lingering in our newsroom is a close second.
Now for this week’s mystery photo…
As always, my first step was to determine a timeline to work from which, for obvious reasons, was extremely challenging. But thanks to my trained eye, if you zoom in and look closely at the reflection in the left eye of the woman who is sitting, then flip the photograph over, you will see this…
At first glance, I’m sure many of you believe you have determined the timeline. It seems obvious, right? However, I assure you the photo was not actually taken “one hour” ago, in spite of what it says. That is what we in the investigative journalism business call “a red herring,” was is a term meaning something smells fishy like “a red herring.” The real time stamp is to the left — 31OCT05 — which stands for Oct. 31, 2005.
That’s right: Halloween.
With a timeline established, I went to our newspaper’s “morgue,” which is home to dozens of leather-bound issues of Siuslaw News dating back to the late 1800s. That’s when I discovered a series of unsettling reports in the police log dated Oct. 31, 2005, describing people who “had their hair unwittingly fondled” by complete strangers who were “either sleepwalking or zombies.” Today’s image is the only known photograph documenting this strange occurrence. My investigation also revealed that the sitting woman, Blanch Beauregard, remained motionless for nearly nine hours before she was discovered in her sewing room by family members, who then snapped this photo…
The zombie-like woman fondling Beauregard’s hair was never identified and remains at large. Police believe she may be working the graveyard shift at a SuperCuts…
(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, will be released this December from Port Hole Publications. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)