Vanished Without a Trace. Interview with the daughter of a missing person.

True crime doesn’t get more personal than this.

On 15h May 2003 Kai Salomaa, a man from Vaasa, Finland, disappeared. He was last seen leaving the yard of a house in Karvia, Finland, in his car. For some reason, his empty car was later returned to that yard. Kai was 46 years old when he vanished.

Around 11 o’clock on the night of his disappearance Kai’s cell phone, a Nokia 3210, was used to make an eerie phone call to Kai’s mother. A male voice on the other end of the line said: “Kai has been in an accident. He no longer has any debt.”

Below is my interview with Heidi, Kai’s daughter. She is a survivor who has endured years and years of sorrow and uncertainty, but stayed afloat, and is now working at helping young people with serious problems in their lives.

Thank you Heidi for your time!

(NOTE: questions with the letters “IG” after them are questions from followers of my Instagram profile)


heidi

(photo credit: YLE)

Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Heidi Haapala. I am a 34-year-old female from Vaasa, Finland. I love wandering around in nature and I love being active with my horses. I have my own small stable with five adorable creatures.

I am a Bachelor of Social Services, and am currently completing studies toward a degree in social work at an open university. I work with young people as head of a housing unit under the child protective services. I love my work very much, and I feel I have a lot to offer.

I also do some side work as a counselor in a social pedagogic program where horses are used to activate clients; this is something that’s especially close to my heart.

Values important to me are family, fairness, responsibility and social relations.

Tell us about your father Kai! What kind of a man was he? What kinds of memories do you have of him?

My father Kai Salomaa was what you might call a “good guy”. He was kind, patient, had a sense of humor, and kept his feet on the ground. I don’t remember him raising his voice at me even once. He had a much better temper than I do. He was also good at making chocolate porridge, which was a childhood favorite of mine.

My own memories of Dad are sunny. I never saw my dad in, for example, fights with other people, although my dad’s alcohol-fueled life most likely included those…

However, he did use a lot of alcohol throughout my childhood. He later used drugs too, even so-called “hard drugs”. Dad had a criminal background, and he was in prison several times when I was young. My mom and dad were not living together at that time.

My mom, on the other hand, has never used alcohol; her life was the exact opposite of my dad’s. Despite this, she never prevented me from spending time with dad when he was sober. I’m still thankful to her for this. If my dad had not had serious substance abuse problems, I believe they would have been happy together for many years to come.

So, my dad and I had very warm relations right up until the end. As an adult now, I often think of how happy I am for the things my parents taught me, despite everything. For example, the importance of being social and open to encounters with various kinds of people.

Despite his shady background, deep down my dad was a very spiritual person, though this fact didn’t really show in our everyday life. he taught me important basic principles in life, such as “don’t judge others – our fates are not in our own hands”. Good piece of advice that has carried me far.

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(Kai Salomaa)

The last time you saw your father… what was it like?

I met with my dad just a few days before he disappeared. Dad was at a friend’s house drinking and playing yatzi. I was an 18-year-old youngster back then. I was determined to break off dad’s long drinking binge, so I turned up at his friend’s house and told my dad sternly: “This is enough! You’re coming with me, and I’m gonna take you to grandma’s house to clear your head!”

I can still remember that situation, in the third floor of an apartment building, as the two men sat at a large wooden desk. They were having fun at my expense, laughing at my determination. My dad suddenyl became very serious, and said, in a very determined manner, “As your father, I take care of you – not the other way round! It’s offensive that my own daughter is dictating rules to me.” I saw the seriousness in his eyes as he said this, and realized that he was not coming with me. So after a few more words were exchanged, I left, with a reasonably positive mindset.

As I was walking down the stairs of the apartment building, I heard Dad’s voice from above, calling my name. I turned around, and started walking back up. He walked downstairs to meet me halfway, and embraced me, saying “You know you will always be daddy’s little princess, don’t you?” I mumbled a response of some sort, and kept on going.

In retrospect, I’m thankful that our final meeting was so emotional, and I even got to hug my dad. Those words he spoke still have a lot of meaning for me – they’ve carried me over several bad periods in my life.

Take us to the day of Kai’s disappearance. What were the circumstances like? How did he actually disappear?

My dad disappeared from Karvia. I don’t know how he had ended up there. I had no idea he even spent any time there, ever…

During his last years, dad’s alcohol and drug use had really escalated, so when he disappeared, I could calculate in my mind that his disappearance was probably somehow related to his lifetyle and his circle of friends. Mom and dad’s relations had really gone cold some years before his disappearance, and this too had to do with dad’s drug use. I think maybe dad felt he had missed out on so much in life that he compensated this feeling with drugs.

This was a fatal path he never returned from.

I can clearly remember that feeling when I realized something bad had happened to Kai. I can’t explain, nor do I think it’s really even “explainable”. It was a Thursday evening. I was suddenly overcome by a feeling that something is about to happen. At that time I had no idea how far-reaching the implications of that feeling would turn out to be.

I had slept poorly. In the morning, my first thought was “I should give dad a call.” As I grabbed my old Nokia phone, the screen showed me what time it was, and I realized I needed to hurry to school so I wouldn’t be late from an exam. I had a bus to catch, but I made it, albeit barely.

While on the bus, the thought of calling my dad re-emerged, so I picked up my phone again. As I picked it up, it rang immediately; the caller was student peer of mine. We talked for a while, and agreed to see each other at the exam.

I sat down at the exam room at school, and I can remember staring out the window the whole time, unable to produce a single word onto the exam paper. I got out of there as soon as I could. I went outside, picked up the phone once again, an dialed dad’s number. A pre-programmed generic female voice on the other end of the line said: “The number you have dialed cannot be reached.”

I knew immediately that something was wrong.

When I got home that night, I called Mom. I cried on the phone that “Dad is dead!” Mom came over immediately. She never questioned my words.

That was the beginning of a major turning point in my life.

kai 2

(CCTV camera footage of Kai shortly before his disappearance)

When Kai’s disappearance is discussed in the Finnish media or on discussion boards, the phrase “He was involved in shady circles” is often mentioned. What does this mean, exactly? Did the police initially investigate the case properly, in your opinion?

It’s an undeniable fact that dad moved around in circles made up of shady people. It’s also an undeniable fact that one of his acquaintances from these very circles is responsible for his death. What makes me sad is that, because of dad’s background, our current Finnish society views his value as less than that of other people.

I got this feeling when I was filing a Missing Person report on him at the Vaasa Police Department. They simply said to me, “We haven’t seen him, but he’ll turned up at some point. Don’t worry – the chickens always come back home to roost.” Well, not in this case.

As a layman, I would imagine a case like my father’s would be relatively easy to solve. The suspect is a drug user from a certain age group, is probably already known to the local police, who know his criminal background. But it didn’t turn out that way. They didn’t take dad’s case seriously until months after he had gone missing, despite the fact that I contacted the police about him constantly.

Finally, in July 2003, I exploded at the police chief, screaming “If my dad was a regular factory worker living in a condo with two kids and a golden retriever, driving around in a BMW, you would have found him already!” I also asked the Chief if he would take it more seriously if it was his father instead of mine – would something more concrete be done then?

A couple of days after that phone call the Finnish Bureau of Investigations called. That was the first time I got the feeling that someone actually listened to what I had to say. Somebody considered my dad a human being, and was prepared to actually search for him. The FBI asked questions nobody had asked me before, such as “what was Kai wearing the day of his disappearance?”, “What model cell phone did he use?” and “Where did you see him for the last time?”

Overall, do you feel that the police investigation into your dad’s disappearance was sufficient?

The initial investigation was not sufficient, but the cooperation with FBI worked well. Unfortunately that changed when the FBI office was moved from Vaasa to Vantaa. [city in southern Finland, far away from Vaasa. -admin] The knowledge of the local scene disappeared with that move.

I appreciate the FBI investigators, and was in contact with them for years. They walked beside me in my sorrow for many years.

Kai’s disappearance also involves aspects that could be described with the term “paranormal”, such as a dream you had and the visions of a medium. Can you elaborate on these?

That’s correct. As I’ve mentioned before, I can’t explain or justify these experiences, but they have gone along with this missing person case through the years.

Right away when dad disappeared, I knew it was going to happen. I remember saying to a friend: “Someone has died.” I cried and cried, and the tears just would not stop coming. The next day I knew dad was dead. I’ve always known it. Later on, in conversations and police interviews I have heard it being suggested that dad wanted to disppear. I haven’t even considered this hypothesis; I haven’t had the need to ponder it. The sense of dad’s death is so strong in me.

I’ve also experienced all kinds of coincidences and other incidents over the years. One of these was on Christmas Eve a few years after dad had disappeared.

I was on my way to celebrate Christmas at my spouse’s family’s place. My spouse went to the balcony to put out a candle that already had a short line. We went off to the celebration, and when we got back in the evening my spouse noticed that the candle was burning again! He told me about this and was really flabbergasted by what had happened. He doesn’t believe in these types of things, but was absolutely certain he had put out the flame on the candle. For me, this wasn’t scary at all.

The next morning, as my spouse went to the balcony for a cigarette, the candle was still burning, and didn’t go out until that afternoon. This just should not have been possible, and I can’t explain it… But throughout this incident, I felt warm and good.

I’ve also experienced quite a coincidence while doing anti-drugs volunteer work. I was awarded with a bouquet of flowers. The flowers had been wrapped in old newspaper pages. I went home and opened the package – and there was my father’s face, looking at me from the pages of the newspaper that had been used as wrapping material! I felt really good upon seeing that.

I’ve also gone to a medium once. As I walked into the room where she was waiting for me, she was sitting with her back to me. I stepped into the room, and her first words were “My, that was quite a lot of rain!” She turned around and said “You have something to ask.”

I obviously asked about Dad, and immediately felt a hand on my shoulder. I knew it was dad’s hand.

Furthermore, a couple of years ago I came home from work on a sunny day in February.  As I opened the front door to our house I was spooked: there was music coming from my child’s room, despite the fact that I knew I was home alone. I went to check my kid’s room and found that the music was blaring from a CD containing children’s music. That very moment I realized – it was dad’s birthday!

I’m a professional in psychiatric care, and I don’t consider myself strange, but I have immense respect for these types of phenomena. I’ve never felt disturbed by them.

Do you believe psychics/mediums can actually help solve cases like these?

Not really. I don’t know of any cases where a psychic’s contribution had led to a case being solved. I do, however, that psychics can know some things.

If you were presented with this choice, which would you choose: certain knowledge that your dad is dead, or a lingering hope that he might still be alive but you would never know for sure?

Certain knowledge. No question about. Death is cruel, death is so very final, but for a loved one it would be more merciful to know for sure what happened. I’ve officially declared Kai dead. The process was surprisingly emotionally taxing. I wanted to hold a memorial for dad, and at that memorial I realized how important such an event was for us family members. In Finnish culture, as in many other cultures as well, the body is supposed to be present when it’s blessed for it’s final journey. My dad’s body was not there to be buried, but the event was so important.

What is it like living on a day-to-day level with a missing person case in your family?

The beginning was the hardest. I searched for dad every single day. I called everybody dad had ever known. I looked and looked, without finding an answer. Fear, frustration, anxiety every day.

At some point, I was forced to make decisions about practical things, such as what to do with dad’s apartment, his bills, his bank account, et cetera. Big decisions that felt so final.

When it rained, I was afraid that dad was laying in a ditch somewhere, hurt and unable to get up. When the first frost came, I found myself thinking if dad was cold.

You hope and you fear. You wait and you get frustrated. Everyday life should still somehow be upheld: going to work, going to school. That was hard, too, because I couldn’t sleep at night, but still had to take care of necessary routines during the day.

At some point the case became public. People started asking questions and speculating. They claimed to “know” what had happened, when in reality none of them knew anything. Some people didn’t have the courage to say anything – they just stared and wondered, as though there was something bizarre about me all of a sudden, something contagious. Some can’t find the words, while others ask invading, overly personal questions. At some point in time, their thinking changes, and everyone starts to forget – “oh, it’s been sooo long since it happened…” As though the pain and sorrow of loved ones disappear like their own memories of the incident.

The pain doesn’t go away, and you never really learn to live with the uncertainty. For me, for years the disappearance felt like it happened yesterday. Similar, in a way, to the birth of a child: you notice the child growing, but still feel like he/she was just born yesterday!

It wasn’t really until my dad was officially pronounced dead that everyday life has returned to balance. Although I still have hope, and at the same time know that the hope is pointless.

Did you father’s disappearance change your worldview? IG

I’ve been asked this before. Back then I think I responded with a “no”, but this time, I’m going to reply with a “yes”. The trauma of the disappearance is very deep, and it didn’t just concern me: my dad’s mother, my grandmother, went to her grave over her son’s disappearance. Dad’s siblings have also suffered immensely.

I stepped into the big boots of a grown-up at a very early age. According to the Finnish law, I was officially an adult at that time, but in my own opinion, I was just a kid when all this happened. And suddenly, as a next-of-kin, I was forced to take responsibility for big things, to carry a big burden. The evils of the world had become a part of my own story.

Had the media portrayed your father’s disappearance accurately? IG

For the most part, yes. I’ve always wanted to read newspaper articles myself before giving permission to publish. Some members of the media do try to find elements that are not truthful or integral to the story. The media holds a lot of power.

Have you tried to find your missing loved one yourself?

Yes, many times. I’ve gone to the strangest places in trying to find dad. To no avail, unfortunately.

How does one get their life back on track after a loved one goes missing? IG

Some people never do. The experience is extremely traumatic. Some need long-term therapy, some need crisis counseling. Some people have innate survival mechanisms they employ in dealing with what has happened.

In retrospect, I myself would have needed crisis counseling or therapy, but I never received either. I got into a tight spot at school, because I couldn’t wake up in time in the mornings. I ultimately told the staff at school about what had happened to my dad, but the reception I got was very cold, not empathetic at all. I remember deciding then that I myself would never treat someone who needs help in the same way.

My father’s mother fell seriously ill after dad disappeared. I believe such a reaction is not uncommon.

Do you believe your father will ever be found? IG

One should never abandon all hope. I don’t believe he will ever be found, but in my heart hope lives on, though I do accept the odds.

Have you ever wondered if there is a “plot” behind your dad’s disappearance, perhaps even something involving people from your circle of acquaintes? IG

No. I know such plots don’t exist in this case. Of course the rollercoaster of emotions you go on when something tragic happens can take you up and down, and involve all kinds of thoughts, including judgment, guilt, hate and despair. Thankfully, at this point such thoughts are rare, and the voice of reason has always ultimately prevailed.

What kinds of advice would you give to others who find themselves in similar circumstances as you? IG

Thankfully, nowadays the need for therapy and psychological first aid are recognized. Get yourself help. It can feel hard to do and useless at the moment, but it isn’t. Take care of yourself and those close to you. Give yourself time. Breathe. Eat. Sleep. Secure the basic necessities. Talk, talk, and ask for help.

In your current life, can you be happy, despite everything? IG

Yes, absolutely. Several things affect one’s happiness. I try to live life so that I can be happy. I can’t be responsible for my dad’s life, or it’s ending, but I can be responsible for my own. Of course, dealing with all this has taken a lot of time. On the other hand, I’ve been young throughout all this, so I’ve lived with it all my adult life. I’ve also had to work on dealing with this a lot.

But I want to live happily, and my Dad would want me to do so, too. But often think about the fact that these people who have killed dad and hidden his body, they probably had no idea how many souls their actions would affect.

What do you do on your dad’s birthday? IG

I light a candle each year. I also now have a memorial to go to at the cemetery, with my father’s engraved onto a rock; I take a candle there and wish him a happy birthday. I didn’t used to have anything like that, which made me sad. I often wish I had a proper gravestone to go to.

Do you have nightmares about your father’s disappearance? IG

Not for years, fortunately. For the first few years I had devastating nightmares. I sleepwalked, and would often wake up with a feeling of being choked to death. In retrospect, I suspect these were symptoms of a panic disorder.

What can friends do to help a person with a missing loved one? IG

Remain close to them; they need your help. Be there for them, no matter how emotionally taxing it can sometimes be to listen to them talk about the same things over and over again. This is how the human mind works; there is a need to talk to someone. The loved one of a dead person acts in the same way as the loved one of a missing person. The difference is that the loved one of a dead person is able to finish the process of grief at some point. With a missing person in the family, the grief process is different in this regard – there are too many open questions.

Take care and be close to each other. Help your friend secure the routines and basic necessities of life. This will take you far.

Does the sorrow ever really ease up? IG

The form of the grief alters, at least. Longing and sorrow will remain, but you can live with them. Memories change over time, and the better memories will prevail in the end. Then again, almost anything can re-ignite the grieving.

What coping mechanisms do you employ in dealing with grief? IG

Good question. I believe that, for me, one factor that has saved me has been my hectic everyday life, one that involves a lot of people. In the beginning, grief was physical, something that you could feel with your entire body, and I don’t even remember all that much about the first few years anymore.

I’m also a reflective person, a thinker; maybe that’s been a benefit as well.

I still consider it very important to go out to nature on my horse if I find myself depressed. Oftentimes this helps.

What could the general public do to decrease the number of disappearances, if anything? IG

I can’t answer that question – there are so many different kinds of missing person cases. There are victims of crime such as my father, but also accidents and voluntary disapperances.

It’s important to realize that a missing person case doesn’t just concern the missing person’s inner circle – it affects so many people.

Have the internet or improvements in technology made it any easier to investigate your dad’s disappearance? IG

As far as I know, yes they have, but I don’t know the extent. For example, there have been laboratory experiments done to determine whether certain items have belonged to my dad or not, so in this way, technology has been of assistance. They’ve also used some sort of new tech in searching for him.

What is the “status” of your dad’s case at this moment? Are the police still actively investigating it?

Not as far as I know, at least unless there are new tips. But new tips come in very rarely these days.

Your paranormal stories

Time for another selection of creepy stories from my followers over at Instagram.

Thank you to everyone who contributed!


horror

– Yuridia

It happened when I was about 13. We lived in that house for about a year when it happened. When we first moved in I never felt like I was alone, especially at night. You’d get that feeling of being watched constantly, more so when no one else was home.

It was a Friday night since I didn’t have a bed time, I was laying in my bed playing a few games on my phone when I saw a shadow pass by the edge of my bed. I thought it was my sister going into my bathroom, she started shuffling through my drawers and even opened the shower door. When everything went quiet I called out my sister’s name, I didn’t get a response back so I decided to get up. Going towards my bathroom I said “what are you looking for?” and I heard a voice say “nothing“. Once I turned on the light and peeked in I realized that the shadow I had seen wasn’t my sister, it wasn’t even a person.

I freaked out and ran to the living room where my sister and her husband were at. I told them what had happened. My sister didn’t let me sleep in my room that night. Around 3 in the morning I felt my sister shake me while I was sleeping. I looked at her and she looked terrified, she was frozen just staring towards my niece’s crib. When I looked to see what she was looking at I saw the same shadow just standing there, standing over my niece’s crib, watching them sleep. We couldn’t get anything out of our mouths, we couldn’t even move, until finally my sister called out her husband’s name and as soon as she did the shadow looked towards us. I’ll never forget what she looked like and how so much sadness filled the room.

After that night we decided to do some research but sadly couldn’t find anything. I still dream about her to this day, each time feeling more sadness than before.

– John

Alright so I have several stories.

It all definitely started when I was younger. I lived in a haunted house. Things from shadows. Freezing cold rooms (even though we didn’t have access and it was 90 outside). Things moved constantly in the house. You’d hear a door shut but none were actually shut. I had a closet between my room and my mom’s – no matter how much light (flash light included) there was always a dark corner.

I’d go to bed and sometimes wake up naked with scratches (that went on through my teens as well) and my clothes would be buried in the back yard. And it happened several times. I’m only aware of this because I found all of my clothes one day; a pair of pants we’re sticking out of the dirt. But they would steadily get closer to the shed…

One day I tried to go dig up what seemed to be a freshly dug square in my small shed’s floor. This is when I felt a burning in my back and a sense of fear I have yet to feel. I took off and never went back to the shed.

In this house I’ve had someone breathe down my neck. One of those stupid paranormal activity movies, I think, has a scene I couldn’t watch for the longest time. It’s a scene where the girl has the blankets slowly pulled off her bed. Except when it happened to me I pulled back and held on. It pulled and pulled and then just ripped it out of my hands and across my bedroom into the dark. I wouldn’t leave my room – I told it so. That’s when it got cold and I started to feel that fear, and I pissed myself and ran out of the room.

That was just a couple stories from that house..

When I was older, I used to live in the apartments across from Parkland College in Champagne, Illinois. This place was something else. I had three roommates, all women, and they had a dog and cat and fish. In this house I saw a black dog and was not alone. If you can imagine a square room with a couch on both walls and a recliner in the side part but all pointed to the TV. In the middle was a coffee table. We all were watching TV. And we all heard and saw a black dog sit next to the recliner. I was across from the recliner, roommate and her boyfriend were on the couch to my right, and to our right in a square shape is my other roommate and she was in the recliner. We all saw the dog.

I got mad. Because we have a black dog that is a female and isn’t fixed so she is bleeding and needs a diaper. Her owners suck and didn’t get her one so I got mad and told her to go to her cage so she doesn’t make a mess. The dog didn’t move. The owners said the same thing, but the dog still didn’t move. I finally got up, and when I chose to do so, so did the dog. The dog then turned away from us and walked down the hall to the steps that go upstairs and are across from the kitchen door. Me and everyone else heard the dog go up the stairs. It had a collar and all.

In the kitchen of the same place I had something whisper my name into my ear clear as day. It made me break down and cry. I woke up the whole house freaking out. This is the same house where in my room you could never adjust your eyes.

I had a roommate recently who wouldn’t listen to me and went online to find those stupid “haunted numbers”. Well, he may have found one cause after that his car tried to back out of the driveway by itself. His phone giggled at us once while we were listening to music.

Once I was hanging out with a woman named Carissa (who would later give me my daughter) When we met she was at some women’s housing thing. So about this place, a couple of stories. One time I was sleeping and can swear someone climbed in bed with me. Her door to her room once flew up and shut. I don’t know what I saw or anything at all but I remember beedy eyes. No one was there other than us at the time, and Clarissa was in the kitchen.

I was at my sister-in-law’s in Crosse County, Wisconsin, and I had just got off work. Tired as hell. So I came in through the back of the house. There’s a screen door and a reg door, of which the first room is a washer and dryer, and the second room is the kitchen, and you have to go through another door there, too. In the kitchen (it’s small box) is a staircase that goes downstairs into the basement. To turn the light on you have to flip the switch on the wall, which also turns on the microwave. The whole time I had a voice telling me to go downstairs and smoke. I just nuked some food and ate it and then went to bed on her couch in the living room. When I went to turn off the light I swear I saw a whole shadow arm and hand reach for me. I even ducked! I stood there for a minute, staring into total darkness. The kind of dark where your eyes won’t adjust, even though you have light. I walked away and laid down on the couch. When you flip that switch it’s a really loud click. I laid down, and that’s when I heard a loud click. I looked down near my feet and saw that in the kitchen the microwave was back on, which meant that so was the light. I didn’t get up, just went to sleep. I woke up the next day and laughed as I asked my sister if the light and microwave was on – “my bad, I forgot last night, I think“. She said they were not on when she was the first one up.

– Lim

1) When I was 4-5 years old, I remembered clearly going to sleep at 9 pm straight after my mum sang a lullaby to me. However, I suddenly woke up at 1 or 2 a.m., which was between “the devils hour”, which I know now. I saw something horrifying staring at me at the foot of my bed. I remember he was as tall as my cardboard, he was faceless, thin and pale. I was instantly scared out of my wits. I closed my eyes and covered myself with the blankets. It was fucking scary, and I swear I thought I was going to die back then. Nothing but the silence, that made it horrible. From then on I kept having visions and hallucinations of it, everyday I was haunted by some sort of weird visions of him. It only stopped after some time.

However, he appeared again and again, and every time the visions and hallucinations got worse. I never told my mum because she couldn’t seem to see it, and when she entered my room, it teleported away faster than she could perceive. I tried to tell my friends but they didn’t believe me. I wondered why I wasn’t hurt by that scary thing. But by 11 years old, it stopped and I’m free of seeing any of it now.

2) I was searching up on the supernatural: the mysteries of magic, wicca, and the laws of witchcraft, and so on. The thing was that ever since I was a child, whenever I said “ghost”, I could hear footsteps of someone not in the room. It was like I was inviting that thing in.

When I was thinking what was the correct pronouciation of “succubus”, I accidentally said it out loud. I instantly heard clanging against my window. I saw a blink of red but it vanished soon after. I thought I was hallucinating. But when I saw flashes of red and it started to form a shape of a demon, I instantly ran out. I went back in, however, being stuipid, and I offed the lights while watching TV. That’s when I looked at the mirror and saw in a flash some kind of monster or demonic being right beside me, smiling at me. That’s when I ran out and never went inside. During when I was going back home, I felt something follow me, watching me. When I was going to bed, I heard “Hello, Iain!”, and a cackle of female laughter. I was terrified. I forced myself to sleep. By the next day it stopped.

– Sid

Around December of last year I was staying by myself at my house. I was browsing the internet when I started to feel very uncomfortable and I started hearing some weird shit in my celler. I took my flashlight and went into my basement where after opening the door to the guest room, I heard a very intense buzzing sound and my vision started becoming grainy (if that makes sense). I blacked out on the carpet and when I woke up, I was in my second floor bathroom with my flashlight in my pocket and a ton of water on me and the floor. Afterwards I called over a friend to investigate the basement and we found nothing. Since then I’ve always been slightly on edge whenever I’m near the guest room by myself. I’ve never had another experience like this, and the sound of buzzing/grainy vision has never occurred again.

– Lomana

A couple years back I was home alone & I was in the bathroom. My dogs were locked in the lounge so what happened couldn’t of been them. I heard someone heavy footed spring down the hallway. It was absolutely terrifying. It never happened again after that night.

– Joao

Since my grandpa died 10 years ago, I have always felt a someone or something looking at me, mostly at my home. It really scared me because it was a strong energy. My grandpa visited my mom and aunt several times in their dreams. This year he visited me and we talked and cried together. Since then I never felt that presence looking at me.

The Philosopher, The City and the Horse.

People have all kinds of obsessions. Video games, history, movies. You name it, and there’s someone out there doing their 300th Google search on it right now.

One of my obsessions is Friedrich Nietzsche the man. He was, in many ways, a misunderstood thinker and writer, his philosophy reduced in the minds of many to the simple admiration of power and brutality. In reality, as is often the case, the true story is more nuanced than conveyed by those who have never actually read his works or biographies of him.

One of my favorite stories is the tale of Nietzsche and the horse. I don’t care if it’s factually true or not – it’s as true as any story can be philosophically and emotionally.

As the holiday season approaches, I want to take a break from the usual themes of this blog. So let’s elevate our minds and read the following little ode to Turin and the Philosopher, written by my good Italian friend, artist Giulia Bia. Follow her here. She herself lives in Turin.

Grazie, Giulia.


THE PHILOSOPHER, THE CITY AND THE HORSE

“Turin is not a place you abandon.”
F.Nietzsche

Turin is a large, industrious city that lays at the foot of the Alps in the region of Piedmont, Northern Italy.

Mainly known for its soccer team, Juventus, and for being the birthplace of Fiat, the automobile group held by the powerful Agnelli family, Turin has had for a long time the reputation of being just a dull, gray, industrial city inhabited by hardworking, relentless people.

When philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche arrived here in September 1888 in search of a better climate for his health, though, he fell in love with Turin: he described it as magnificent, dignified, soothing, full of aristocratic tranquility. He added: “Turin is a city after my heart, a breath of true 18th century. And the sight of the Alps from the center of the city… I would have never thought that the light could make a city so beautiful”.

He loved the quiet streets and covered walkways so much that, in a letter to his friend Franz Overbeck, he described them as “a paradise for the feet”.

During his strolls, Nietzsche also discovered the pleasures of the palate: he frequently stopped at Caffé Florio, a famous literary café where he was served ice cream, hot cocoa and meringues, and dined at the restaurant every day. He basked in the hospitality of Turin and wrote that he was being treated like a prince: he felt a “delicious feeling of well-being in everything”.

caffe-fiorio-torino-italia

Completely mesmerized by the Mole Antonelliana, then under construction and already the tallest building in the city, the philosopher drew a parallel between its “absolute drive into the heights” and his Zarathustra. He even baptized the yet unnamed building “Ecce Homo”.

Nietzsche rented an apartment on the 4th floor of a building in Via Carlo Alberto 6, right above the entrance of the beautiful Galleria Subalpina, a covered passage that led to the main square of the city, Piazza Castello. From his window he could admire Palazzo Carignano and Piazza Carlo Alberto. His landlords also gave him access to a piano, that the philosopher used to play several hours a day.

In Turin, Nietzsche discovered a positive, exuberant disposition towards the world. He felt strong, relaxed, cheerful. Even his migraines had disappeared, and he was serene enough to write “The Antichrist”, “Ecce Homo” and “Twilight of the idols”.

The idyll between Nietzsche and Turin ended abruptly in January 3rd 1889 when, during one of his usual walks, he saw a man brutally whipping his stubborn horse. Shocked, Nietzsche rushed towards the animal and threw his arms around it to protect it from the flogging, sobbing uncontrollably. He then collapsed to the ground, whispering to the horse: “Richard, my friend”.

Davide Fino, his landlord, came running to rescue the philosopher, who was going to be arrested for his violent outburst and his assertions of being “Dionysus”, “the crucified Christ” and “The lord and tyrant of Turin”.

Once safely home, Nietzsche spent two full days on the sofa in a catatonic state.

At least, this is the romanticized and most known version of the events.

What is historically ascertained is that, on the fateful day of January 3, Nietzsche simply fainted in Piazza Carlo Alberto. Others say that the philosopher just scolded the man for flogging his horse, and that the altercation attracted several people, including the Police.

Whatever the truth, from that day on, Nietzsche started sending relatives, friends and famous people the so-called “Letters of Insanity”, a series of notes signed, indeed, “Dionysus” or “the crucified Christ”. He even sent a letter to the King of Italy, Umberto I of Savoy, calling him “my son”.

In January 9, Overbeck arrived in Turin and accompanied Nietzsche to Basel, where he entered a mental asylum and, on January 18, the patient was transferred to Jena, where he was diagnosed with tertial cerebral syphilis. Some say that, on leaving Turin, Nietzsche sang Neapolitan songs while passing the station of Porta Nuova, all the while claiming to be the King of Italy.

It is widely accepted that uncured syphilis is the culprit behind Nietzsche’s breakdown in Turin; however, some disagree. An alternative theory, developed by doctor Leonard Sax, is that Nietzsche’s descent into madness was caused by a tumor, as the philosopher didn’t display the usual symptoms associated with syphilis. Plus, tertiary syphilis would have killed Nietzsche in a short span of time, but he lived eleven more years, dying in 1900.

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(an old, frail Nietzsche towards the end of his life)

Other culprits have been variously indicated as manic-depressive illness, front-temporal dementia, mercury poisoning and hereditary stroke disorder.

In 1944 the city of Turin dedicated a memorial plaque to its adoptive son. In the typical pretentious tone of the Fascist era, it reads: “In this house Federico (sic) Nietzsche knew the plenitude of the spirit that defies the unknown, the will of supremacy of the true hero. Here, as a testament to his noble destiny and his genius, he wrote “Ecce Homo”, the book of his life. The city of Turin dedicates this plaque in remembrance of those fruitful hours on the first centennial of his birth, October 15, 1944”.

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Review of Suspiria (2018)

A review of the horror film Suspiria (2018), written by my buddy Jenna. Follow her at instagram.com/hermionestrangler


suspiria

Suspiria was definitely a well-made remake. I tried to watch it as a separate movie and not to compare it too much to the original version from the 70’s and it was actually pretty easy – they are very different kind of movies.

In the beginning young dancer Patricia Hingle (Chloë Grace Moretz) disappears from a dance academy located in Berlin in the 70’s. Before her disappearing she told her psychotherapist Josef Klemperer (Tilda Swinton) the unbeliavable dark secrets of the academy and its leaders. The doctor starts his own journey trying to reveal the truth.

The main character is Susie Bannon (Dakota Johnson), an ambitious young dancer from America, who attends to the dance academy and soon proves her talent to the lead choreographer Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton). She gets the leading part as one of the other students flees from the school after having a mental breakdown.

Susie befriends another dancer, Sara, who was also close with Patricia. Patricia’s psychotherapist tries to tell Sara what Patricia had told him, but of course he sounds crazy. Soon Sara learns that some of the rumors may actually be true. What will happen to the upcoming dance show? Where did the girls disappear? Who is the mysterious Mother Markos (again Tilda Swinton, I know, amazing)? Where is she?

The new Suspiria is a very long, complex story with lots of interesting characters and backstories. It managed to keep me interested the whole time, even though I usually can’t sit still longer than two hours. The casting was absolutely amazing and it was interesting to notice that almost the whole cast were actually women. Tilda Swinton plays three roles at the same time and as usual, she left me speechless. Dakota Johnson was definitely a fresh face in horror after her role in Fifty Shades film series.

The movie is dark, sinister, sexy and bloody. The artistic dance pieces are mixed up with blood and gore like a delicious horror smoothie. The setting was absolutely beautiful and the makeup and special effects were amazing, I truly didn’t realize I was watching Swinton as an old man the whole time.

All in all I really think that Suspiria is a very succesfull remake even though it’s not completely the same as the original. It is still very enjoyable movie with a great plot.

The Avenger. A Finnish true crime story.

The following is a strange true crime story from the history of Finland. The text is from the book Poliisi kertoo 1985, and was translated by Salla Juntunen.

The term “troll” is now widely used in reference to Internet harassment, and Internet “trolls” are everywhere.

This is the story of a particularly creepy “troll” from before the Internet age.


All names in this story have been changed, but the facts remain the same. Imagine how you would act if one day you received a letter in which you and your loved ones are insulted in every possible way. In addition, the letter threatens your life, the safety of your children on their way to school and threatens to set a bomb behind your door. Furthermore, the letter says your spouse has had intercourse with people you both know…

Out of anger and due to the feces included in the letter you might throw it away, but after reading the letter again and deeming the sender to be someone you know, possibly even a member of parliament, you keep it for now. You inspect the letter further and discover that its signature has been confirmed with a stamp. The letter has been paid for with a meter stamp, and, as far as you know, those cannot be owned by private persons, only institutions and companies.

The letter is in your possession for a few days. You wonder if there is some truth to the death threat. After your children get home from school you call them and ask if anything strange has happened to them. At the same time you hear of a mail delivery which can be picked up at the post office. Once you go to pick up the delivery, you see that it is a book set. You reproach your spouse for ordering more books; you have too many of them anyway.

Over the next few days you get more deliveries. You ask the post office to return them to the sender with notes that there must have been some mistake because you haven’t ordered anything. Magazines and comics start arriving daily. You also get phone calls telling you about for-sale ads posted in your name in nationwide newspapers. You also get letters from sexual deviants and in time you find out that your name has been used to seek company on the dating ad columns of men’s magazines.

Your patience begins to run out. You take the information you’ve gathered and go to your local police station. You hear that other people have also received similar letters and deliveries. You list the people you suspect, namely your neighbours and someone from work, because the first letters contained details about your family.

You go home, relieved, because you have given the police good leads and the matter will surely be handled in no time. Possibly already the next day the phone rings. The call, however, is from the collection agency of a large publishing house and the caller is asking about your unpaid orders. You begin to explain, but they don’t believe you and instead the caller threatens you with forcible collection unless you pay your bills by the due date. There are similar calls from many companies.


Years of suffering

This goes on for years. You get frustrated with the police who don’t seem to be doing anything about it. You still go to work the next day in high spirits. You get a call to go see your boss immediately. Your boss thinks you are playing dumb, but immediately informs you that you have sent a libelous and feces stained letter to the general director of the company. Your explanations are not believed and you have to give a written answer, and you offer to give a handwriting sample while you’re at it. Your coworkers hear that you had to give a written explanation for having insulted the higher-ups of the company.

The torment continues. You get called in to a clinic for AIDS testing and the appointment has already been booked. The phone rings and when you pick up you hear an angry parent threaten you with legal action and the police because according to a letter received by the caller you have molested their underage children. You keep trying to explain. The railway station calls to inform you that the 150 kilograms heavy weightlifting equipment you ordered have arrived. Matkahuolto informs you that the furniture you ordered have arrived. The phone even rings during the night, but once you pick up, the call disconnects.

In the morning the doorbell rings. Your spouse goes to open. An acquaintance of yours gives their condolences with flowers and leaves sympathetically. Only after receiving more condolences on the phone you find out that your obituary has been published in the day’s newspaper. The activity continues…

Foul, disgusting, sick…

The avenger kept sending letters containing extremely foul text. Often they also included feces. The avenger marked someone the recipient knew or should have known as the sender. The letters often mentioned that first the recipient would have items ordered for them, then they would be signed up for a sexual deviants’ clubs, then shot, etc. When the recipient began receiving deliveries and such, they would start to wonder whether the threats also come true as the letters said. After all, the first phase had already happened.

The letters also included pictures cut from porn magazines. The photos often featured comments about the resemblance between the recipient’s face and the private parts of the woman in the picture. The envelopes were clean and they had often been stamped with some company’s or community’s name or logo. Postage had mainly been paid by counterfeit meter stamps. The meter stamps were so well made that none of them were intercepted at the post office even though there were hundreds of deliveries. In addition, the avenger drew and pressed some stamps with plates they had made.

The Avenger also ordered items. It was easy and cheap because nearly every magazine has mail order coupons whose postage is paid by the recipient. There are also coupon booklets containing dozens of coupons. Items ranging anywhere from pens to washing machines were sent. The recipient of the orders was left in the lurch with cancellations, and companies suffered losses from postal charges, packaging, etc.

The Avenger posted newspaper ads under other people’s names. One person’s apartment, for example, was visited by approximately 200 people seeking to rent it on a Sunday.

The Avenger also made packages. They filled them with tights, bloody tampons, metal junk, pieces of cord and shell casings, among others. They took the packages to the neighbouring stairways of the recipient. Often the packages were handled as bombs, because they truly looked like ones when x-rayed.

Foul, disgusting or sick. Whichever it is, the things recounted here happened to several dozens of Finns between the years of 1974 and 1984. The full number of the targets may never be discovered as some who received only singular letters disposed of the materials they received and never reported it to the police. There is, however, knowledge of several hundreds of victims.

Leaker of information

Tiina Kiviharju was one of the people who did report the events. Tiina was working at a branch office of a major banking group in the outskirts of Helsinki. As a teller, Tiina was extremely conscientious and exact at her job and as such was well liked among her coworkers. Tiina’s home life was also doing fine. She was happily married and was expecting her first baby, which was due to arrive in June 1978.

The leader of said office was bank manager Riipinen who one morning received a letter that on the outside appeared to be perfectly normal. Upon opening the envelope, however, Riipinen changed his mind. He read the letter slowly and carefully seeing the seriousness of the matter. The letter insinuated that mrs Kiviharju had sold information covered by bank secrecy about the bank’s clients to third parties. The evidence was airtight, according to the letter. The letter stated that the writer considered it their duty to report the crime to the police and make a complaint to the bank’s general director. The letter was signed, but so illegibly that one couldn’t make out the name. Riipinen could already see his career development grinding to a halt.

Kiviharju was immediately called in to the office manager’s room amd after a serious discussion they came to the conclusion that there was no cause for such a letter. The matter was eventually forgotten.

When approximately three weeks had passed, office manager Riipinen received an official and valuable looking letter with his morning mail. Riipinen’s name was stamped on the envelope and the name of a certain Finnish registered party was marked as the sender. The office manager opened the letter and saw immediately that the letter was written in its entirety with stamps of separate letters. The letter read: “Because I have discovered the bank’s secrets through mrs Kiviharju, I intend to report you unless you pay 3000 marks to our party. We will give the press information of your clients unless you agree to our demands”.

And so Kiviharju ended up explaining herself in the manager’s office yet again. After the workday they held a meeting at the bank’s office regarding the letter and potential measures that could be taken. The matter was reported to the police.

Time passed and Tiina was distressed by the thought of a person who wanted to sully her reputation. She considered her options and filed reports, but investigations yielded no results. Summer of 1978 began and Tiina gave birth to her firstborn. The letters were forgotten during her maternity leave, and family bliss showed all its good sides to Tiina and her whole family.

In July of the same year, once Tiina was home from the maternity ward, a letter arrived to her home appearing to be sent by Mauri Kuhala, a member of the parliament. Kuhala represented the same party that had sent the blackmail letter to office manager Riipinen. Tiina’s heart leapt. She opened the envelope carefully and found her fears confirmed. The letter demanded “the Kiviharju whore” to pay the party 5000 marks or Tiina’s throat would be slit. The letter also stated that Tiina was “pure shit” and that the feces smeared on the letter was indeed much purer than Tiina had ever been.

Tiina was afraid. She couldn’t sleep all night and the police could give no other aid than “we’ll do our best”.

The next day Tiina got another letter. This time the sender was marked as Kerstin Granlund from Vaasa. Tiina didn’t know such a person and could anticipate the contents of the letter. Still she opened it and read: “Your time is almost up. Pray the Lord. Dying young is to be your part. God’s knives are sharp. You will soon have your last meal. You will die ugly”.

Likely as a consequence of giving birth, Tiina was more sensitive than usual. The threats deeply upset her. Tiina felt that the threats were also aimed at her baby, who was only about a week old. Locks were added until there were three on the front door.

Tiina’s husband’s work shifts changed into evening shifts. After dark Tiina sat with the baby in her arms waiting for the threats to come true. The torment grew in Tiina’s mind and eventually the situation got so bad that she no longer dared to spend nights alone and had to go with her husband on his nightly calls. Finally the Kiviharjus decided to change apartments and eventually the thing began to fade from memory. Not entirely, however.

Approximately five years had passed since the letters when Tiina received mail containing materials for attending a marketing conference. Around the same time several items were ordered for Tiina from various stores. The orders were written and from them could be concluded that the writer hadn’t forgotten Tiina. The fear returned; how long would this continue before…

The forger of stamps – deceased

Riitta and Rauno Stenström were an ordinary middle-aged family from eastern Helsinki. Both had jobs and they lived comfortably in their cosy two-room apartment. In 1978 they received an announcement, according to which Rauno had ordered some items by mail. Rauno wondered about this and asked Riitta if she had possibly ordered something. They came to the conclusion that it must have been a mistake. Rauno called the post office and informed them that he had not made the order and that it could be returned.

In the following days similar activity continued; they received more announcements and both Riitta and Rauno cancelled orders as often as they remembered. They naturally forgot to cancel some and received reminders and collection letters about them.

The doorbell rang at the Stenströms. Riitta opened the door and two men carried in a washing machine, asking where it should be placed. After what felt like an endless explanation the men believed her and took the machine away with them.

Now they also began receiving letters that insulted Rauno in strong terms. The letters also contained threats of getting shot at their door, gasoline being poured in the mail slot and being lit and getting tortured by nailing one’s tongue to the table, etc. The letters were often sent in the name of some celebrity. The Stenströms even delivered some letters to the police, who “helped” by telling them that this had happened to several people lately.

A letter arrived to the police station. It contained forged stamps similar to those used to send the so-called defamation letters. The letter also contained a couple of pencil sketches of a man from whom the writer had allegedly bought the forged stamps, and the address where he supposedly lived down to the corridor and floor number. It was the Stenströms’ apartment and the sketch portrayed Rauno. Therefore the writer knew the Stenströms.

Summer of 1981. Riitta Stenström received a phone call. The tearful voice of someone Riitta knew gave their condolences. Riitta was so confused that at first she couldn’t explain that Rauno was still alive. After hearing this it was the caller’s turn to be amazed. They also received flowers with condolences from their relatives. Riitta took a closer look at the newspaper and saw that according to the paper, Rauno Stenström was dead. It was very challenging to get Rauno back to the land of the living. They were disgusted.

Riitta picked up the phone: “I would like to give my condolences to Rauno Stenström’s widow. We have some very affordable tombstones…” It was very hard to get these callers to believe that they had no use for their services at this time. The cruelest part of these obituaries was their effect on other people. The police inspected and mapped out the situation. Clues were collected, but no facts.

Gasoline thief, adulterer

Alpo Kankare drove a bus in Northern Finland. Alpo was a family man whose life was no different from that of any average citizen. That, however, was about to change. At the end of the 1970s Alpo received a letter containing photocopied ten mark bills. According to the letter, Alpo had ordered them to use them on fuel dispensers. The letter mentioned that Alpo was stealing gas from the bus company by taking some from the tanks of the cars, little by little, to make it seem like they had a higher mileage. Alpo pondered. This had happened nearby recently. That letter was sent by Hojo-Hojo-Pena. Alpo ignored the letter, it was simply the work of some nutcase.

Some time passed and Alpo got called into questioning at the police station. He was confused. At the station Alpo discovered that he was suspected of sending an obscene letter to an editor-in-chief from Tampere. The letter had called the editor-in-chief “a parasite and a crab louse in the crotch of Maiden of Finland”. The letter also threatened to slit the editor-in-chief’s throat. The letter had been covered with feces, because, according to the letter, giving better food to a louse would be a waste. It was sent in the name of Alpo Kankare, with his correct phone number and address. It was immediately made clear that Alpo had nothing to do with the letter. What kind of rumours would start to spread, Alpo wondered.

Alpo came home from work and his wife seemed oddly tense. Alpo checked the mail and could guess the reason. With the mail had arrived an open card with the text: “Dear Alpo. I have a surprise for you. I’m pregnant. So it would be good if you got in touch immediately, my love. Last time you said something about posting banns, but it was left unclear to me. This was a surprise for me as well and so I await your reply. Your beloved Kirsti”. Explanations…

This was only the beginning. Alpo caught wind that various complaints about him had been made to the bus company’s supervisor in Helsinki. Alpo had refused to pick someone up from the bus stop and had sometimes driven past stops on purpose, etc. All the letters were clean and seemed genuine; they were signed by people living in the northern hinterlands who were not easily reached by phone. Alpo’s new job became rectifying the management’s conceptions of him.

After a while, a letter arrived to the home of the Kankares, addressed to Mrs Kankare, in which Riitta Sivonen wrote that she had received a peculiar letter from Alpo. In it, Alpo suggested sexual intercourse for a monetary compensation. Riitta wondered in her letter if Alpo could not satisfy his animalistic instincts with his wife since he was thusly harassing other people. Perhaps there really was something to it, Alpo’s wife pondered.

More was to come. The avenger had written a letter in Alpo’s name in which Alpo asks the National Board of Health for a castration due to the fact that when driving a bus and seeing a beautiful woman, Alpo gets a strong erection and ejaculates, leading to embarrassing situations with wet trousers. Alpo asks the board to send their response to the company’s garage’s address. What’s more, the avenger has replied to the castration request in the name of a doctor working for the National Board of Health and manufactured the board’s stamps etc. in the reply. Included was “Alpo’s” original request letter, and these were then sent to the garage.

The avenger ordered Alpo items by mail. He was sent, for example, penis enhancing equipment, ring seals, insoles and all sorts of other things.

Lovely nights – forgotten pants

Ritva Suomaa, a member of parliament, is a well-known woman. Ritva also has a job elsewhere and therefore she is not just an MP. Ritva had received numerous letters in which she had been called every offensive name in the Finnish language. Ritva is a strong woman and didn’t care much about the letters although they caused some bother, as did the orders that kept coming for years and years. Sometimes people she knew would call Ritva and she’d find out that more similar letters had been sent in her name to these people.

Ritva arrived to her workplace and discovered that she had been sent a package, which had had to be opened at the office since only the company’s name and address were written on it. The package contained a pair of women’s panties and a letter to Ritva. The letter communicated that Pasi Kuitunen, a known TV personality, was sending Ritva her underwear that she had forgotten at Kuitunen’s place after a lovely night.

Risto Sahra, the leader of a certain union, had over the years gotten used to the fact that someone was ordering things in his name. He had also received some foul letters smeared with feces to his home and place of work. Upon bringing the mail to their boss, there was something peculiar in the behaviour of the secretary. The secretary uneasily announced the arrival of a package, which was at the bottom of the pile. Sahra looked at the package and found it opened, as it was only labelled with the name and address of the union. The contents were something else. The package contained a pair of men’s feces stained underwear and a letter to Risto Sahra. The sender was Ritva Suomaa, a member of parliament, who in the letter insinuated that Risto had left his underwear at Ritva’s house last time and apologised for the pants getting stained in the throes of passion. Outrage and disgust overtook him. The letter was written in the same hand as the previous ones.

Pekka Pelkonen from Kontiolahti received his first letter in late 1980. The letter was sent from Helsinki. Known to be a calm man, Pelkonen was not upset by the first letters. But when various magazines and mail order items began arriving almost daily, Pelkonen went to the police. Pelkonen worked as the foreman at a large company and he had at best a couple hundred subordinates. Pelkonen suspected one of them to be the writer, as he had been forced to punish some with dismissals. Pelkonen could not name other enemies.

Newspapers, magazines, comics

Between the years 1980-1984 foreman Pelkonen received nearly 40 different deliveries in addition to various newspapers, magazines and comic books. In addition, obscene letters had been sent to other people in Pelkonen’s name.

Sometimes newspaper ads claimed Pelkonen was selling a villa property by Saimaa, sometimes a log cabin by Koitere. There were dozens of calls from interested buyers and even an offer from abroad.

Still worse was yet to come, however. An obituary of Pekka Pelkonen was posted in the local newspaper. The elegy read: “his burden has been lifted and he has found eternal peace”. This obituary of course referred to foreman Pekka Pelkonen from Kontionlahti. However it contained one noteworthy detail: According to the obituary, Pelkonen was born in 1950, when in fact he was born much earlier. Condolences were once again sent to Pelkonen’s “widow”.

Gay, AIDS-patient

For some reason that at the early stages of the investigation could not be explained, the avenger sent a lot of letters to the small village of Tohmajärvi. There are a dozen known recipients, two of whom, teacher Matti Manninen and security guard Kari Kelo faced the worst of the harassment. Teacher Manninen had worked in the municipality for over 25 years. He, too, is a family man and known in the area as a sympathetic and conscientious person. Matti was modest, he never made a big deal of himself.

Upon first opening the libelous letter in 1980, Manninen could not anticipate all that he would come to experience. As in most other cases, a few initial letters were followed by an onslaught of mail deliveries. When the deliveries didn’t appear to be ceasing, he asked the post office to automatically return all deliveries to the stores that sent them. The letters of complaint proved to be the most troublesome for Manninen.

In late 1983 the avenger had sent a letter to the National Board of Health in Manninen’s name. In it, Manninen casually mentions that he is a teacher in Tohmajärvi. He also tells that he has AIDS and that he has had homosexual relations with a male student of his. In the letter Manninen asks what actions he ought to take.

Manninen himself never received a reply, but the board, sensing that something was unclear about the whole thing, sent the letter to the bailiff of Tohjmajärvi.

Things didn’t end so well with a letter that was sent in the name of another Tohmajärvi teacher to the board of education. It told of teacher Manninen’s homosexual relations with his male students. It also mentioned that Manninen had AIDS. The board sent a letter containing this information to the department of education of the provincial government of North Karelia and asked for an investigation to the matter. The department did as requested, and in turn asked Manninen himself to give a written explanation. To be safe, Manninen asked for a statement from a local police officer. The rumour mill was churning once again.

The avenger sent many letters to different public utilities in the name of the National Board of Health in early 1984. The letters mentioned Manninen’s homosexual relations and informed that he had AIDS. The letters asked for information and observations of his comings and goings. The letters were equipped with the signature stamps of the board and a doctor who used to work there. The rumours escalated.

The avenger also sent a letter in teacher Manninen’s name to a sexual health clinic in Helsinki. The letter requested an appointment to get tested for AIDS. A letter arrived in response informing Manninen of the appointment.

Feces to the general director

Security guard Kari Kelo faced similar treatment. Kelo, just like Manninen, received letters and mail deliveries, for-sale ads of various items and of course an obituary. The nastiest situation Kelo ended up in when a feces stained letter was sent in his name to the general director of the company in Helsinki. No more than two hours after the general director opened the letter in Helsinki, Kelo was in his boss’s office in Tohmajärvi giving a handwriting sample. And there was talk…

The avenger

The avenger and his targets were being mapped from the beginning. It was established that most of the targets had been public figures at some stage of their lives. There were exceptions, however, and based on tips from those cases some strong leads could be gathered. For example, it was established that the avenger could draw and etch.

The contents of the letters always referred to political affiliations and that aspect was examined. It could only be stated that the avenger’s range varied from one extreme to another, however with an emphasis on the right wing.

The harassment focused on an area covering, among others, the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen. The entire Finland got their share of the letters, however, all the way up to Inari. During the investigation, another point of focus was located in the North Karelia province. At the centre of this point was the small municipality of Tohmajärvi. This was chosen as the starting point for the investigation, as it was suspected that the avenger had at some point lived in the area and had possibly moved away. Other more promising leads could not be forgotten, however.

Letters delivered around 1978 made many references to an already disbanded extreme right wing political movement, which had been found guilty of burning down a left wing printing house. So they searched for a person fitting the avenger’s framework among the members of the disbanded movement. House searches were conducted as well as forensic investigation, but they seemed to yield no results.

They also endeavoured to find an explanation for the fact that several letters had been sent in envelopes of company called Kustannus Oy. Where had the avenger gotten these envelopes? Did he perhaps work at the company? It turned out that Kustannus Oy had printed 6000 such envelopes at Painopaikka Oy in 1977. From there the envelopes had been sent to the mail service Postitusosakeyhtiö Saari, who had, according to the contract, mailed 5877 of these envelopes to the clients of Kustannus Oy. Where were the remaining 123 envelopes? The employee directories of Postitusosakeyhtiö Saari from nearly a decade were reviewed and the backgrounds and handwritings of suspicious individuals were inspected. It was futile. The envelopes could also be from Painopaikka Oy, but the company had gone bankrupt and the employee directories were no longer available.

We recall the letter sent to the police in which the avenger had included a drawing of Rauno and informed that he had bought fraudulent stamps from the man in the picture. Rauno had never appeared in the public eye so how did the avenger know him? Rauno himself suggested some options but upon investigation they yielded no results. It was established, however, that Rauno had begun receiving letters after changing jobs in the summer of 1978. Employee directories containing hundreds of names were procured from Rauno’s old and new workplaces. Suspicious persons found on these lists were investigated, but once again to no avail.

The investigators tried to fit hundreds upon hundreds of people into the “framework of the avenger”, but they always came away empty-handed, as they say. When taking some things to the cellar storage, a musician had heard hurried footsteps from the stairway and, upon going to see who it was, had found a package left by the avenger. Based on the sound of the footsteps as well as other factors, it could be deduced with some certainty that the avenger was a man. Some progress was made.

Tohmajärvi in focus

Tohmajärvi was once again put under the microscope, and one by one they began going through names of men who had gone to school in the area and were born between 1948 and 1952. The year of birth was narrowed down to this period due to the the fact that upon inspecting the local recipients of the letters it was noted that eight of them were born in 1950. Furthermore, they all had been in the same class in primary school in 1964. They all had at some point been taught by Matti Manninen and one of the students was Pekka Pelkonen.

Student registries were found in the municipal archive and each person was interviewed in their turn. No one could name certain suspects. There appeared to have been no general victim of mockery or such in the school. Manninen also didn’t recall having to discipline any one student in particular. Over twenty years had passed and no one could recall specific events any longer. The question arose whether the avenger could’ve been a student’s brother, current spouse or something similar.

The case of Pekka Pelkonen was addressed. There was foreman Pekka Pelkonen, who had received letters, and chauffeur Pekka Pelkonen, who was in the category of people born in 1950. The avenger had apparently targeted the wrong man. However, the real Pekka Pelkonen could not name anyone likely to be the perpetrator either.

The selection of men born between 1948 and 1952 was narrowed down to those who had moved to the metropolitan area. Approximately 50 names remained and hopes were high. An arduous phase followed. There was still no certainty that the avenger was among this group of 50 people, so other leads were continuously being followed on the side. Several binders of material were gathered and based on the facts discovered the group had been narrowed down to approximately 20 people. Among the material there was a handwriting sample from one Asser Niinistö, who had moved away from Tohmajärvi already in 1965, but there seemed to be no similarities.

Asser

The dead end seemed to open up when an official of the North Karelian garrison contacted the investigators. He had received libelous letters and mail deliveries. The officer was from Tohmajärvi and he was presented with the narrowed down list of names. The man immediately picked out Asser Niinistö, who had been his neighbour back in the day. According to the man, Asser had been a very quiet young man and enthusiastic about building “infernal machines” and other such devices. The man also told that Asser had served his military service in the North Karelian garrison as late as 1975 due to postponements.

Asser Niinistö was taken under close inspection. No fact based on which he could be suspected more than anyone else seemed to surface. Besides, there were many better leads to examine. What’s more, Asser was established to be a man with a job and a family and therefore wasn’t likely to have the time to do all the things that had come to light.

The very next day Asser’s former neighbour from the garrison called the investigators and told them that the garrison’s matron had received a similar letter as the one he had received. Upon inspection the letters were found to contain things that no outsider could know about. It was discovered that Asser Niinistö had worked in the garrison’s kitchen. Having drawn their conclusions, they decided to conduct a house search at Asser’s home and workplace the next day.

Fainted

On a winter morning in 1984 the police arrived at Asser’s workplace and the foreman was asked to fetch Asser. Asser was asked to open his desk drawers and his locker.

Having done this, Asser fainted.

In the locker there were several pre-filled mail order coupons and letters. The avenger’s journey had come to an end. Asser was searched and a loaded, self-made .22 caliber revolver was found in his possession.

Asser was arrested and in the interrogation he confessed everything. He said that from the year 1974 onwards he had sent hundreds of libelous letters mainly to people in leadership positions. He also said that he had made at least 1500 orders of items. In addition there were the packages, harassing phone calls and newspaper ads.

A capable man

Asser was a capable man. Three more handguns were found at his house, two of which were self-made. According to a statement from the laboratory, they could all be labelled as firearms. In addition, there were paintings at Asser’s house that were painted by him. Asser had also worked as a touring musician, but had stopped touring for his family’s sake. During the house search they found equipment used to make the counterfeit meter stamps, and offset printing plates with pictures of 100 mark bills. The police had already previously procured a brass sheet with a lion themed stamp carved on it, with which Asser had manufactured some stamps.

A detailed index

So how did Asser remember the hundreds of people that he had sent letters and items to? To this there are to answers: Firstly, Asser had a detailed index of approximately 1000 names with addresses. The index was divided in sections such as National Coalition Party members, Centre Party members, the military and the police together, Christians and miscellaneous. Secondly, Asser had a very good memory and upon hearing a name he could recall off the top of his head why he had chosen that particular person as a target.

There were some people who were targeted for personal reasons. They had at some point in their lives said or done something bad or hurtful to Asser. Among these people were Tiina and Rauno, for example. However, these people didn’t make up even one percent of the targets.

Why?

Why did Asser do this, then?

Excerpts from Asser’s interrogation transcript: “… I was a small child and perhaps had a tendency for being nervous … Also there was a teacher with a very authoritarian and militant approach to teaching … (Matti Manninen) … I developed a hatred towards authoritarian and aggressive people … Then there were some housing concerns due to illegal dismissals when I wouldn’t agree to illegal rent increases … The pressure was at its peak and the knowledge that I would have to join the army triggered it all. I remembered my pistol and decided to go outside to shoot at everyone and everything. I abandoned that thought, however, because I couldn’t have hurt another person physically. Since my own troubles were psychological, I decided to avenge the wrongs I had experienced psychologically …

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(Pens used in creating the letters. Police photo.)

Asser’s wife never knew or suspected what his husband was up to late in the evenings. Asser also had other good opportunities to do his avenging work, as his wife did shift work. Excerpts from the wife’s interrogation: “… My husband is very quiet. Sometimes it’s like he’s in a different world. He also has a very strict stance on what is right and what is wrong”.

Asser also had detailed notes of all the letters and his other doings. There were some two dozen notebooks and the parts about the avenger’s actions Asser had written down in a cipher he had invented. The notebooks, as well as the other avenger material, were in a locked cupboard to which others had no access and no keys. The locks Asser naturally made himself.

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(Some of Asser’s “tools” he used to create counterfeit papers and documents. Police photo.)

Asser was arrested for his deeds and he is accused of frauds, counterfeiting a private document, illegal possession of a firearm, making and using counterfeit stamps, illegal threats, defamation, libel via printed documents, attempts of fraud, slander, etc. Now Asser is in prison, waiting for the court’s ruling on the matter. [Article written in 1985; see post scriptum for an update. -admin]

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(Pistol found among Asser’s possessions. Police photo.)

Asser is a good worker and possesses a very demanding set of skills. He owns an apartment, has a wife and a kid, a job.

But why all this?


Post Scriptum, 2018, written by Teemu from Mysteries, Crimes, Curiosities

As far as I know, this is the only photo of Asser publicly available. I took this photo from an old issue of Alibi, a Finnish true crime magazine:

“Asser” was sentenced to prison time, but only did a short portion of it, as he was deemed by the court to have been in a mentally unstable state during the crimes.

After his prison sentence, “Asser” returned to his old job. As far as I was able to determine through my research, he never committed any more crimes.