Demons

Marisa Kwiatkowski: A woman and three children who claimed to be possessed by demons. A 9-year-old boy walking backward up a wall in the presence of a family case manager and hospital nurse.

Gary police Capt. Charles Austin said it was the strangest story he had ever heard.

Austin, a 36-year veteran of the Gary Police Department, said he initially thought Indianapolis resident Latoya Ammons and her family concocted an elaborate tale as a way to make money. But after several visits to their home and interviews with witnesses, Austin said simply, “I am a believer.”

Not everyone involved with the family was inclined to believe its incredible story. And many readers will find Ammons’ supernatural claims impossible to accept.

But, whatever the cause of the creepy occurrences that befell the family — whether they were seized by a systematic delusion or demonic possession — it led to one of the most unusual cases ever handled by the Department of Child Services. Many of the events are detailed in nearly 800 pages of official records obtained by The Indianapolis Star and recounted in more than a dozen interviews with police, DCS personnel, psychologists, family members and a Catholic priest.

Ammons, who swears by her story, has been unusually open. While she spoke on condition her children not be interviewed or named, she signed releases letting The Star review medical, psychological and official records that are not open to the public — and not always flattering.

Furthermore, the family’s story is made only more bizarre because it involves a DCS intervention, a string of psychological evaluations, a police investigation and, ultimately, a series of exorcisms.

It’s a tale, they say, that started with flies.

Sinners In The Hands

Sonia Smith: Andy and Patty Grove never planned to settle outside of Texas. Their roots in the state reach back many generations. Patty’s ancestors came to Texas on a wagon train from Tennessee in the 1830’s (an elementary school in Houston is named for her great-grandfather); Andy’s father owned a tract of land that is now part of the posh Houston neighborhood of Hedwig Village. The two grew up a mere five miles away from each other in West Houston, where they attended Stratford and Memorial, rival high schools in Spring Branch ISD. They met while volunteering with Campus Crusade for Christ as undergraduates at the University of Houston in the late seventies. After marrying, in 1982, they settled in Arlington, where Andy took a job as the campus director of the University of Texas at Arlington’s branch of International Students, a Christian organization that works with foreign-exchange students. In the early nineties, on a camping trip to Arkansas with some of these students, the Groves fell in love with the natural beauty of the Ozarks and traded their brick house in the suburbs for a 140-acre farm in Arkansas’s War Eagle Valley. There, in a one-hundred-year-old house built from rough-cut oak, they set about raising their five children in a rural idyll. They bred quarter horses and cattle and hunted and fished throughout the year. Summers were spent swimming in the clear waters of War Eagle Creek, picking blackberries, and horseback riding on the trails that crisscrossed Seven Saddles Farm.

They also worked to instill in their children a love for the Lord. They attended the First Baptist Church of Huntsville, and all their kids regularly participated in the church’s youth group. Their third child, Catherine, showed a particular devotion. She was bright and inquisitive, with a warm, broad smile. In addition to attending Sunday school and singing in the choir, she toted her Bible along with her to Huntsville High School, where she participated in a Bible study after class. She excelled in secular pursuits as well, playing forward on a competitive club soccer team and earning induction into the National Honor Society. After graduation, in 2005, she went on to study Spanish at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Having formed many friendships with the international students whom the Groves had hosted, she hoped to travel widely throughout South America doing mission work.

The Cult Of Long-Form

Huh?

It wasn’t so many years ago that people assumed the Internet would make long magazine-style stories obsolete. Paradoxically, it now seems to have revived this once threatened medium. Magazines may be disappearing, but that’s O.K.; we still have “long-form.” What started as a Twitter signifier (#longreads or #longform), a way to get the attention of people who might be looking for a substantive read, has morphed into its own genre. In the process, a long magazine story went from being one part of a steady diet of journalistic consumption to something artisanal, a treat for connoisseurs.

Lawman

Charles Bethea: “What’s happenin’, my friend?”

Vernon Keenan is saying hello to a large, shy-looking man named John Gibson in the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s main elevator, as the doors open and Keenan steps in. The top of his balding head reaches just past Gibson’s shoulders.

“I’m fine, sir. How are you?”

“You been behaving yourself?” The doors close.

“Yessir.”

“This man here is in an all-women’s unit,” Keenan says to the rest of the elevator’s occupants. Then, turning back to Gibson, who works in the GBI’s criminal-history record repository: “The only man there, right?”

“Yessir.”

“I’ve got a lot of sympathy for him. I don’t know how he keeps his sanity.”

“He told me if he ever sees me on the roof jumping off,” says Gibson, “he’ll know why.”

“I tell him, ‘Go to the highest part of the building and jump off. Do it right.’”

There’s laughter all around, but Gibson’s sounds nervous.

Ding. Keenan steps out of the elevator and passes the front desk. A few employees in the lobby stare curiously—maybe with a little concern—as the director of the GBI escorts a visitor to the parking lot.

Dr. V’s Magical Putter

So. Caleb Hannan: Strange stories can find you at strange times. Like when you’re battling insomnia and looking for tips on your short game.

It was well past midnight sometime last spring and I was still awake despite my best efforts. I hadn’t asked for those few extra hours of bleary consciousness, but I did try to do something useful with them.

I play golf. Sometimes poorly, sometimes less so. Like all golfers, I spend far too much time thinking of ways to play less poorly more often. That was the silver lining to my sleeplessness — it gave me more time to scour YouTube for tips on how to play better. And it was then, during one of those restless nights, that I first encountered Dr. Essay Anne Vanderbilt, known to friends as Dr. V.

All That Survives Is A 2,283-Word Prologue

You have to read S.L. Price on Richard Ben Cramer’s unfinished work. It’ll get you fired up.

Time now to speak of writers. We are, most of us, a particularly cramped breed, gunning for little victories: the newest wrinkle, the most telling detail, the juiciest quote, the phrase or paragraph or — please, God — page that approaches the song in our grasping, caffeine-riddled minds. Writers are selfish. Writers judge. Writers trust words more than people. There’s a reason writer and neurotic so often end up in the same sentence.

The Gutbucket King

Easily worth your $3.99.

Barry Yeoman: He stood at the kitchen window waiting. He had memorized everything around him: the pine walls, bare of wallpaper or even paint; the wardrobe where his widowed mother kept her churn for making buttermilk; the stove fueled by the firewood he cut each morning; the two coolers, one for dairy and the other for cakes and pies. He had branded them into his memory, these artifacts of a life that, after today, would no longer be his.

His mother was working in town. As she cleaned the house of the doctor and his wife, Josie Mae Martin didn’t know that her blue-eyed son was planning his escape from McComb, Mississippi. He had even assured her otherwise. But he had it all worked out: When he heard the chug of the southbound freight train, heard its piercing whistle, he would dash out the side door, run around the L of the house, and grab from its hiding place the 50-pound flour sack he had stuffed with a pair of shoes, two shirts, and a pair of pants. He would bolt to the west side of the Illinois Central tracks, squat behind a bush, and wait until he saw an open car.

He thought he knew how to do this. He had heard his father tell stories about “hoboing” the trains on his way to jobs picking cotton in the Mississippi Delta to the north, or cutting sugar cane in Vacherie, Louisiana, to the south. Before his death, Jessie James Martin and his friends would sit around drinking and talking about the fine art of eluding detection in a boxcar, traveling around the roughest parts of the South without suffering a detour to the local jail. The boy always listened closely, culling their stories for tips. “My daddy did it,” he thought to himself. “I can do it, too.”

Lincoln Heights

Robert Samuels: It only took a phone call in 2005 to persuade then-D.C. Council member Vincent C. Gray to push for the inclusion of the Lincoln Heights housing project and the surrounding area in his home district as part of the city’s bold new urban renewal strategy. Nothing has been that easy since.

By now, the 440 low-income families that lived in Lincoln Heights should have moved into new replacement housing in the neighborhood. But only 32 families have been placed.

By now, almost all of the units in this aging complex of brick buildings in the Northeast community of Deanwood should have been demolished. Instead, city housing officials, who have lost confidence in the project, are refilling empty apartments with new families.

Seven years after they were adopted, the original plans for Lincoln Heights have unraveled. The plans would have replaced the aging buildings with new apartments and homes built by private developers, providing housing for low-income residents as well as more-affluent ones. But the city is still struggling to entice developers; only one has constructed a new building.

“We were supposed to get a new community,” said Patricia Malloy, a neighborhood matriarch. “But look around and it’s still the same community.”

Addiction: A Death In The Cold

From Mark Johnson: Last night, I wound up reading this 18-year-old Washington Post Story about the death of George McGovern’s daughter.

It’s terrific. It got me trying to think whether I’ve read a better story about alcoholism and addiction. I know there are some great ones out there, but I couldn’t recall anything better on the subject. It’s a rich subject for journalists and writers in general.

Any others out there about addiction you can think of?

The Last Mountain Man

Thomas Curwen: Frost glistens on the meadow grass. The sun has yet to crest Church Creek Divide, and on his last day in the cabin, Jack English isn’t about to break from routine. He swings his legs out of the bunk.

“Good morning,” he says quietly to Mary. Her ashes are in a small box on the narrow shelf at the head of the bed.

She’s been gone 12 years. He takes her wherever he goes, but in this far-away valley they shared and in this home they built, he feels closest to her.

He tries to pull on his boots. The swelling in his feet from the gout has gone down, but his fingers have a hard time keeping a grip. Old age-itis, he calls it, as if being 94 is a condition in and of itself.

“Dennis, I’m getting old,” he calls out to his son. “Can you help me?”

Jack knows he has a reputation. It’s nothing he ever sought. But not too many old men would choose to live in a cabin five miles from any road — and that, a winding mountain track far removed from the nearest city, Carmel.

Visitors have called him the last of the mountain men, a local treasure, a friendly beacon in the middle of the forest.

He lived here by himself for 10 years after Mary died. But since his heart attack last December, he’s not quite been the same, and whenever he talks about returning to the cabin to live, his family says no. It would be too dangerous: One fall and that could be it.

(thanks, Josh)