online magazine for short, good writing

Month: March, 2014

5 Mysterious Deaths

by a contributor

from Michael J. Wilson, author of Tesla and Edison Argue and Tesla Talks to Time:

1. The Taman Shud Case (1948)

At 6:30 a.m. on December 1st 1948 a man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia. The body was reclining as if sleeping, an unlit cigarette behind his ear. The man had been seen alive in the location starting at 7 p.m.the night before. He was wearing nice clothing and despite the heat a sweater and jacket.

No cause of death was found. All the labels were removed from his clothing. He had no wallet. A suitcase was found also with the labels removed at the Adelaide train station. The suitcase is linked through an orange thread used to fix a hole in the pants the dead man was wearing.

In a pocket of the man’s pants a scrap of paper was found with the words “taman shud” on it. This Persian phrase translates to “finished” and is the final line of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. The scrap was ripped from an edition of the book that was later discovered by an unrelated man in the back seat of his unlocked car. In the book were a series of codes that have not been translated to this day and a phone number for a nurse who lived within a mile of the beach. She claimed to not know the dead man but many believe she had an affair with him while he was a patient of hers. It was proven that she had given a copy of the Rubaiyat to another former patient. Neither the woman nor the other man would cooperate with police in the investigation.

2. Dayatlov Pass Incident (1959)

On February 9th 1959 nine skiers died while camping on the eastern side of Kholat Syakhl in the Ural mountains. The pass was named Dayatlov Pass after the deaths. The leader of the group was named Igor Dayatlov.

No one survived and there were no witnesses. The campsite was discovered on February 26th. The tent was shredded from within and all of the victims’ belongings were inside it. 1.5 km away two bodies were found in their underwear sitting under a tree. Between the tree and the campsite three more bodies were found. On May 4th the remaining four skiers were found in a ravine under snow. These bodies all had severe internal injuries despite the ravine being only 13 feet deep. One was missing parts of her face.

The clothing of the skiers showed elevated radiation levels. There are reports from people at the funerals that the bodies were oddly discolored. The campsite is near a missile test site.

3. Betsy Aardsma (1969)

On November 28th 1969 4:55 p.m. two men walked past the desk at Pattee Library on the campus of Pennsylvania State University. On their way out they told the librarian that someone should go help a woman in the stacks who fell over. They then left. Several people came to the woman’s aid; they attempted to revive her but she died upon arrival at the health center on campus.

The woman was Betsy Aardsma. The autopsy revealed that she had been stabbed one time, right through the heart. Her red dress hid the small amount of blood that came from the wound. The two men who alerted the staff of her collapse were never identified.

4. Isdal Woman (1970)

A group of friends was hiking on a trail on Mount Ulriken in Norway on November 24th 1970. They passed a woman who seemed to be terrified of two men following her. She seemed to mouth words at the group of friends, but said nothing. She walked away fast.

On November 29th 1970 at 1:15 a man and his two daughters discovered a naked, partially burned body of a woman on the same trail. Nearby were a bottle of sleeping pills and several cans of petrol.

The original hiker and friends were able to identify the body as the same woman. The man who came forward claims that a police officer told him to leave it, that the woman had been “dispatched.”

Police were able to trace the woman to two suitcases at a Bergen train station. All of the labels were missing from her clothing and her fingerprints had been sanded away.

The woman had used up to 9 fake identities in her travels across Europe. People in the hotel she had been staying at said she paid in cash and was seen talking to a mysterious man.

5. Ricky McCormick (1999)

In a cornfield in St. Charles County, Missouri, a motorist found the body of Ricky McCormick on June 30, 1999. The body was already in a state of decomposition. No one had declared him missing and he was last seen 5 days earlier at a local hospital.

The cornfield Ricky was found in was 15 miles from his home. He did not own a car. He had no known enemies. He was never married, but had 4 children. He had chronic heart and lung problems. Ricky had also been convicted of statutory rape.

In 2011, 12 years after the death, the FBI reclassified the case as a murder and released information of strange codes found on the body. None of them have been deciphered.

In 2012 Ricky’s family came forward and said that Ricky barely knew how to write, let alone create the complicated codes the FBI say they found. The family also revealed that at the time of the death they were allowed to see the contents of his person. The notes were never revealed to them until the FBI released them in 2011.

Tesla Talks to Time

by a contributor

Michael J. Wilson


            am I             dead?

The world was at war
and I was spiraling energy weapons
and sleeping with pigeons
at the top of New York

Maybe the universe is direct in all things


            what happened             next?

The colors I saw were fantastic
they shot me through with full spectrums
that brought me to my knees

It was a parting of the waves

It was only myself that died?

No true atom splitting bombs
                        that took out the world?

Clemens told me to be careful what I wished for

I wanted to break      everything


Standing in his white coat
holding a ball of fire
the vile history of this nation

He had to stand
on a box for the photographs

I hid in the back to look shorter

My plan would never have worked

            everything      got      faster

Lightning is a beat too far to cage

Hummingbirds bees moths in a glass jar

Einstein might be a genius but also
a fool

Michael J. Wilson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts and writes reviews for Publisher’s Weekly. As these don’t pay the bills, he also works for a coffee roaster. His most recent publications are in Ping Pong, Spittoon and KNACK.

Also see Michael’s poem Tesla and Edison Argue, and tomorrow his list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Tesla and Edison Argue

by a contributor

Michael J. Wilson

50,000      ,      sir      ,

for the redesign      ,      the improvement      ,      the

generator      I fixed ,      sir,

One year      , sir      ,      I waited            ,

18 per week,      sir, I would

have to work 53 years      ,      give

me 25 ,      I have earned 25      ,      sir      ,

Tesla  ,
            you don’t understand our American humor ,

Michael J. Wilson lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He teaches at the Institute of American Indian Arts and writes reviews for Publisher’s Weekly. As these don’t pay the bills, he also works for a coffee roaster. His most recent publications are in Ping Pong, Spittoon and KNACK.

Also check out Michael’s poem Tesla Talks to Time, and on Wednesday see his list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series.

New book from Sarah Kay

by Treehouse Editors

Treehouse contributor Sarah Kay has completed a new book of poetry, No Matter the Wreckage. You can get it directly from Write Bloody Publishing, or you can find it on If you loved her poem Yolk in our seventh issue, you’ll be happy to see it in her new collection alongside many other phenomenal poems.

Congratulations, Sarah!

Description from Amazon:

book cover

No Matter the Wreckage

Following the success of her breakout poem, “B”, Sarah Kay, in collaboration with illustrator Sophia Janowitz, releases her debut collection of poetry featuring work from the first decade of her career. No Matter the Wreckage presents readers with new and beloved poetry that showcases Kay’s talent for celebrating family, love, travel, and unlikely romance between inanimate objects (“The Toothbrush to the Bicycle Tire”). Both fresh and wise, Kay’s poetry allows readers to join her on the journey of discovering herself and the world around her. It is an honest and powerful collection.

they are building a house on my chest

by a contributor

Isabelle Davis

(we create metaphors of death and dying to symbolize love as if people cannot survive on their own. we are self indulgent and dramatic and over the top. we are telling the truth the only way we know how.)

when I’m with her I line up our inhales and exhales perfectly. she knows I do this but not how much it matters. breathing becomes simple again. I feel alive again. she keeps me far away from metaphorical death and dying. it’s when I’m far away from her that I start to believe. I’m no longer convinced that little men aren’t carefully stacking bricks on my chest. I squeeze my eyes shut as tight as possible and I can almost imagine her hand wrapped around my waist but not quite. someone tells a funny joke I try to relay to her but doesn’t quite translate over text and so then we both feel stupid. we sit in silence on the phone and I struggle to hear what I can’t feel—but the line doesn’t pick up the delicate in/out of her lungs. the construction workers pick up their pace.

the foundation has always been set in me. good and bad have never been simple. I am not the only one who notices this but sometimes I feel like it. some things that make people cry make different people laugh and some things make people both laugh and cry. I guess I could have seen this as beautiful but it mostly just made me see most things as uncertain. that’s the foundation I built my life around—my soul around. it started in my chest so that’s where they lay the bricks. every day every hour every minute every second away from her means that more bricks collect on top of my lungs. they press down. hard.

it symbolizes suffocation. I know because it’s my metaphor. breathing becomes the hardest thing in the world without her. but then she touches my face or moves a piece of my hair back or hugs me and the house blows away. she barely blinks on it and that force disintegrates the bricks into nothingness because she is everything.

tom hanks forgot how to breathe when his wife died in sleepless in seattle. on my tenth birthday I watched that movie and cried the whole way through because god, did those people know how to love. getting oxygen to the brain is one of the most basic functions. synchronizing intrinsic actions becomes the most important thing to me. it breaks the foundation of uncertainty I’ve spent so long harboring in me. when she falls asleep the pattern changes and I have to adjust but that’s okay.

Isabelle Davis still has plastic glow-in-the-dark stars hanging on her ceiling. She worked as a writer and Columns Editor for Pacemaker winner Niles West News and currently edits for The Lawrentian. Her work has appeared in Dirty Chai and Wes Anderzine. She is currently pursuing a Creative Writing degree. You can find her on twitter @isa13itch.

5 New York City Moments

by Treehouse Editors

from John Oliver Hodges, author of How We Solved the Problem:

  1. At the Decamp Bus Line window in the Port Authority, I leaned over to order my tickets. I said, “Tree ticketa Montclair Date Uniberdity pleeea,” into the circular vent in the glass, and the homeless-looking dude standing nearby said, for the second time, “Excuse me sir, can I have a dollar?” As the lady printed my tickets I looked at him and said, “No,” and he said, “Your life is gonna be fucked up!” I said, “Too late,” and he laughed.
  2. I was walking down the sidewalk in Greenpoint with my usual chocolate doughnut, what I buy daily from Peter Pan Polish Bakery. Often as I walk along eating my doughnut, I will hold it out to somebody, and say, “Would you like a bite?” Once, I said it to a Korean girl, but I asked her in perfectly pronounced Korean. She laughed.
  3. Another time as I walked along eating my doughnut, I was really getting into the doughnut, slobbering on it real good, and this guy wearing a uniform like what phone technicians wear, saw me eating my doughnut. As the gap between us closed, I held my slobbery doughnut his way. Didn’t he want a bite? He stopped in his tracks. I kept walking. “You trying to be funny?” he called after me. I was turned his way, crumbs falling from my lips. I said, “No, it’s real good,” as if the offer was still open should he change his mind. Now he walked after me so I just walked faster backwards and then, as it turned out, I had to turn forward and run a little bit to get away from him.
  4. There was this homeless guy in the Port Authority who kept making loud fart sounds with his mouth, and each time he made the loud fart sound he jerked his pelvis forward as if he’d just let go a humdinger, and he would turn his head back like What’s going on here?and then fart with his mouth again and repeat the scenario. I liked it so much that I, too, do it on occasion.
  5. I don’t know why, but for some reason when I’m walking around in New York City, I love to say, “Maaaaan, dey got some creeezy people in heah!” I say it all the time out on the sidewalks, and especially I say it when I’m hanging out underground waiting for the E train, or the G train, or the 7 train. I say it loud enough for the people around me to hear, but nobody ever says anything back. Perhaps the voice doesn’t match the awesome image I cut from the day, or maybe my words are garbled. Either way, the other night inside the Port Authority, at about 11pm, I was headed down to catch the E and this longheaded guy was on the tiles with his back against the wall, his skinny legs poking out across the floor. I said my thing as I passed him, out of habit more than anything else, and he said, bobbing his long head up and down, “Yeeah, and you about the craziest motherfuckah in heah!”

How We Solved the Problem

by a contributor

John Oliver Hodges

Tina gives up rings and reading, gives up sucking my finger. I give up biting her toenails, not wearing underwear. No longer do I smell Tina’s short feet or lick her eyeteeth. Tina stops mopping on her precious lotions, thank the Lord, her Dermetics and Soothing Aloe Relief Moisturizer. I put my camera down. Haven’t snapped for a week. My hands feel off, ants all over my body.

Instead of eating up on peanut butter and Saltine sandwiches, instead of swimming, instead of making love through hot afternoons, we take these long-ass walks, like for miles. Today we cross the Halifax. We sit on a bench facing the Royal Steak House on Main Street, and watch folks walk through the glass doors for dinner. Everybody eating at the Royal is rich. Got ties on, suits, the women in fancy dresses and hats, the cars in the lot Buicks and Cadillacs. “I want steak,” Tina says. “You got enough? I want cow, real meat soaked in blood.”

“Should I give up carrots?” I say.

“Slave,” Tina says. “The only way is to go all the way. Once we go all the way we can go back to before. You can take pictures again.”

“All the way?” I say.

She didn’t mean to say what she said, but she said what she said, is embarrassed by it.

I wonder what she misses more, my touch, or her bottle of Jergens Soft Shimmer.

“A riddle,” I say. I say, “if you eat meat your pussy will taste like crap, but if you don’t eat meat, I’ll never eat your pussy again.”

“Jesse, don’t.”

“But wait. You already are a carnivore. For a minute I forgot.”

“Jesse,” she says.

And I want to bite into her arm, taste her blood in the late afternoon sunshine. What she will feel won’t touch what I felt. I don’t touch her. I check my wallet. “All I got’s enough for McDonald’s,” I say, and we head down the strip, cross A-1A, enter McDonald’s. I order two Big Macs and a super-size of fries. It’s gross, but it’s gotta be done. We’ve decided. We take our tray to a table and, being Tina’s the meat eater, she goes first, denuding her burger with dainty fingers. Her mouth opens, even before she’s brought the thing to it. Her lips pull back around her teeth. Before the stuff enters her mouth, I see the dangling thing guarding the entrance to her throat, a little bell ringing out the music of our lives.

John Oliver Hodges lives in Brooklyn. He wrote The Love Box, a collection of short stories that won the Tartt First Fiction Award, and War of the Crazies, a novella. His writing and photography have appeared in 100 journals, and can be found here and here and here.

See John’s upcoming list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series.