Friday, October 3, 2014

My documentary

In 2011 I left home to make a documentary. It was going to be about central Wisconsin's history of  outsiders and serial killers. A weirdness tour through the heart of Wisconsin. I was about half way through filming the final part of my film when I received a tip. I was interviewing a man named  Ken Petroski who's dad knew Ed Gein. Ken told me that his grandad knew a woman who had dated Ed in high school. Very shortly after Ed and this woman his grandad knew broke up, she moved away. He repeats "Veeery shortly" and gives me a 'If you know what I mean' look. He tells me her daughter recently moved back to town to care for a dying relative.  He lets me know where I can find them. I finish with my interview and politely extend my appreciations, quickly pack up and head for the edge of town.
 I pull into the driveway. It is tree lined and overgrown. Two ruts with a grassy line between. It is a good quarter mile back through trees and open patches of grass. It smells of moss and woodsmoke. I pull into an open field. Grains ready for harvest surround a cluster of buildings. A house with badly maintained siding, a couple squat grain bins, a small, leaning barn, a half burnt chicken coop, a machine shed and an outhouse. I pull up in front of the house. A dog lies on the badly chipped concrete steps. It doesn't stir as I step out of my car. I step over the dog to the top of the steps and knock on the door.
I can hear someone stirring inside. The door squeaks loudly open an in the doorway stands a man of about forty. He dressed in dirty old pants, a once white tee shirt and a knit hat. He is small in stature but looks strong. There is an unstableness in his eyes. I shift uncomfortably around the dog. I inform him politely of the story. I heard substituting 'dated' with 'known' and was wondering if someone could corroborate the story. His eyes seem to squint more the longer I talk so I decide to stop and wait for a response.
 "Wait here." he says.
I stand on the porch making gentle steps around the dog when the lower half of the doorway is suddenly filled by a stout woman of about sixty-five.  She Squints at me through the screen and says. "Come in."
I pull the screen door open and follow her in. The first room is clearly a storage room the was once a porch. twenty feet across and waist high in boxes. At the far end are several skins stretched and drying.  At the next door she stops and turns slowly to face me.
"Excuse the mess. We are...remodeling." she says.
She opens the next door with a squeal of the hinges.
We step into the kitchen.
The kitchen has a freshly tiled floor and new cabinets in various states of installation. I shudder at the prospect of a kitchen remodel knowing my own kitchen could use it but really not having the time or money. A kitchen island with a butcher block top and an inset sink. Granite countertops. Ugh, who does granite anymore? What a nightmare to keep natural stone clean.  The woman points to a chair in the dining room and tells me to make myself comfortable.
  I sit quietly as I hear the clinking of glasses and a plate being made up.
  She enters the room with a tray with coffee and cookies. Some of the cookies have raisins. I hide my repulsion. I am here to do a job and no matter what I see I must try to remain objective and professional.
 She apologizes for not being able to sit in the living room but the floor is being redone.
 I introduce myself and try to politely relate the reason I am here. She tells me her name is Claire Engstrom and she is the granddaughter of the woman in question. Elise was her name. And she did in fact date Ed. For about a week. Her grandmother told her it was short lived relationship because he would keep rubbing his hands on his thighs and licking his lips every time they would talk alone and it creeped her out. She ended up moving to Nebraska because Elise's father got a job there. She met and married a young Norwegian  man and settled down. End of story.
 "Okay then" I say " Is there any other strange stories you might have heard or oddities in the area that might help me out with this documentary?"
 "I don't think so. We've really just been helping my cousin remodel the place while her foot heals. She broke it on the crappy steps out front while trying to step over the dog." she says.
We exchange some pleasantries I excuse myself and make my way back to town. 
I get back into town and see Ken on the corner where I had left him. He waves me over and as I pull up and roll down the window he leans toward the car and says "Sucker. lol."
  Clearly these people don't find the notoriety of Ed Gein being local amusing anymore. Wisconsin. Huh.

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