Strange and Dangerous: Humboldt

You answer your door.  You're a good guy.  If you weren't, you wouldn't be calling the police.  You'd be dragging her inside because she's obviously out of her mind.

She's in her early twenties, and even though she's all scratched up she's still easy on the eyes.  She's on your doorstep, incoherent and naked.

That's what happened outside Arcata on November 12, 2008.  The woman was Christine Lindsey Walters, who came to Humboldt from Wisconsin, going from your average young woman to a person interested in spirituality and living an anti-materialistic lifestyle.  Yoga, organic farms and enlightenment were now the norm.

And then she showed up naked at some guy's door.

She was taken to the hospital.  She talked of someone being after her and of smoke being blown in her face during a ceremony.  Her mother had her put up in a hotel and went to work on getting her home.  She faxed the girl some paperwork, since all her ID was gone, and the employees at the copy center where the fax came in at watched as Walters tried to hide the papers and then wandered out onto the sidewalk, looked around as if lost, and then disappeared.

She hasn't been seen since.

I've set a few fiction pieces here in Humboldt County, California mainly because I think it's a strange place.  If you live here any amount of time you start to figure that out.  It doesn't seem right.  It's not like other places.  It seems nice on the outside, and generally is, but there is a really dark undercurrent that a lot of people don't know about, and those who do try to pretend it doesn't exist.  The history of the county is painted in blood, and its heart rate is accelerated by meth.  Incest, beastiality, strange rituals, psychopathic doctors, serial killers and Manson's son are not just ideas for tall tales -- they are parts of Humboldt.

The Walters case is just part of the sinister insanity that swirls around this county.  When she showed up at that man's house, he could have just as easily been some sadistic tweeker (and the odds are pretty good of that in Humboldt) who was putting puppies in the freezer and jabbing them with screwdrivers.  (Yeah, that happened, too.)

The Walters case reminds me of another missing person case famous in this county: Karen Mitchell.  She disappeared in 1997 after leaving the Bayshore Mall.  One of the suspects was a man 60-70 years old.  There was word of her working a traveling circus.  Others said she was being held as a sex  slave by a few meth addicts.  I always thought she was buried out in the dunes of Samoa.  Regardless, she's never been found.  I worked at a porn store when she first disappeared, and one of the detectives involved in her case used to come in and rent S&M porn.  I sometimes wondered if she was in his basement, strapped to a chair and scared for her life.

Yeah, Humboldt is a strange and dangerous place.  A lot of its residents ignore it, but they do so at their own peril.  Remember, Melvin Just was from here, too.  To paraphrase Samhain, "And those who ignore/And those who pretend/That it does not exist/End up in its hall."  The "it" in the lyric is a human slaughterhouse.  Is Humboldt that bad?  No, but those who ignore and those who pretend ... 

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