Episode 207: Personal Possessions
Alex: From Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale, it's season two of The Black Tapes Podcast. I'm Alex Reagan.
This season, we're continuing our exploration of the Strand Institute's enigmatic president and founder, Dr. Richard Strand. We're telling the story of the black tapes in order, every two weeks. So if you haven't listened to the first few episodes, go back and start there. We'll be here when you get back.
Alex: Before we get into where we left off last episode, we've received a bit of a break in our search for someone, or something, that strange monk Edward Lewis from episode 112 referred to as The Advocate, as well as a potential lead on the enigmatic Thomas Warren. Nic pulled at a few threads and came up with a couple of interesting things. I'll let him tell it.
- Nic: Okay so, Thomas Warren remains... difficult to pin down.
- Alex: (laughing) Yeah, no kidding.
- Nic: But I was able to find something that, well... it could be promising, I think. Maybe.
- Alex: (laughing) What is it?
- Nic: Thomas Warren is supposed to be in Vancouver next week for a conference, a kind of World Trade Organization pre-meeting on energy and the environment.
- Alex: Okay.
- Nic: He's scheduled to speak, but he has been scheduled to speak at the last four meetings and he's cancelled every single one.
- Alex: And you think he's going to show?
- Nic: I don't think so. But I think we should drive up there to find out.
- Alex: We'll never get to him though, and... even if we did, I don't think he's going to agree to an interview, and certainly not on tape.
- Nic: It's only a couple hours up the I-5.
- Alex: So, roadtrip?
- Nic: Roadtrip!
- Alex: (laughing) Okay... and you said you found something on The Advocate as well?
- Nic: Yeah. So it was on a deep web forum actually.
- Alex: Ohh look at you, on the deep web.
- Nic: Anyone can download a Tor browser Alex (laughs).
- Alex: (laughing) Mmhm.
- Nic: It was a discussion group. Not surprisingly, a conspiracy related discussion group.
- Alex: You know I'm not surprised.
- Nic: So they claim--
- Alex: They?
- Nic: Well... there are a bunch of active forum members, they all use aliases, so.
- Alex: Oh okay. Of course.
- Nic: So they claim that The Advocate is recruiting.
- Alex: Recruiting?
- Nic: Or rather, was recruiting. Most of these posts are from 2015.
- Alex: Okay.
- Nic: Allegedly his first recruit was a man named Olafur Hauksson.
- Alex: Oh, why does that sound familiar?
- Nic: He was the special prosecutor who took the Iceland bankers to the Supreme Court and convicted a bunch of them on fraud charges.
- Alex: Right. Wow!
- Nic: Yeah.
- Alex: So what does this Advocate want with Strand?
- Nic: Well I'm not sure he wants anything, but Strand's name was on a list posted to the bulletin board, along with Elon Musk, Olafur Hauksson, and a bunch of others.
- Alex: Okay. Is there anything else?
- Nic: Not really. Although, they do say there's a photo of The Advocate somewhere online.
- Alex: A photo, as in one?
- Nic: That's the rumor.
- Alex: Okay... so...
- Nic: So there's a hacker, fairly well known in certain circles apparently, who claims to have the photo.
- Alex: Great! So let's get in touch.
- Nic: Okay, so the only way to get in touch with this particular hacker is to leave a physical, unstamped letter in a mailbox, at a certain time, on a certain street in Portland.
- Alex: Ohhkay, so we...
- Nic: Portland, Maine. Not Portland, Oregeon.
- Alex: Oh.
- Nic: Yeah. We'll have to get somebody to deliver it.
- Alex: Okay. And we should decide what we're going to say.
- Nic: Right. What do you think?
- Alex: Well, I think we should just ask them to listen to the podcast and give us a call.
- Nic: Sounds good. So, do you have any friends in Stephen King country?
Alex: Last week I spoke with Strand's sister, Cheryl. That conversation convinced me it was time I shared Strand's concerns about his family. Concerns he'd originally shared with me in confidence. There was tension at first, but Strand and I have since mended fences. There have been a couple of new developments where Strand is concerned. I'm going to start with what happened in Victoria.
We received a warning at Pacific Northwest Stories, a computerized voice that said "Don't go. They know." I went to Victoria to warn Strand. A suspicious or paranoid person might suspect that, by the time people we were warned about, whoever they were, found out where we were going, Strand and I were already on our way, or already in the hotel, they got us out of the hotel room as soon as they could, and then trashed our vehicles on the ferry, looking for something. Computers, cameras, and phones probably. In reality, they did steal my computer, but they didn't get my phone.
Per Strand's request, I had taken a photograph of the back of the creepy painting he pulled off the wall. It was covered in numbers, but he told me that it wasn't sacred geometry. So if it wasn't that, what was it?
- Nic: It looks like a book cipher.
- Strand: Of course.
- Alex: Okay uh, more information please?
- Nic: Well, a book cipher algorithm uses letters of subsequent words in a specific text as a key to encode and then decode a message.
- Alex: Okay...
- Strand: I should know the key.
- Alex: The key?
- Nic: The book.
- Alex: Do you think you might know which book?
- Strand: I know it. I'm sure I have a copy in my father's house.
Alex: He still referred to it as his father's house. Which... I suppose made sense. But it kinda felt like Strand was trying to find a way to increase the distance between he and his father, even now, so many years after his death.
- Alex: Well, the place is looking good. There's been some progress.
- Strand: It's a slow process, but thank you.
- Alex: (pause) So... what do you know about a boy and a river?
- Strand: (quickly) What?
- Alex: It's something your sister said... she told me I should ask you about the boy in the river.
- Strand: (rifling through boxes and books) Did she have a name? Or a place?
- Alex: No, just a boy and a river.
- Strand: Well, there are a large number of both boys and rivers, so I'm afraid you're going to have to narrow it down.
- Alex: (Strand rifling through boxes) Well, I got the sense she felt you'd know which boy and which river.
- Strand: Well I don't.
Alex: It took quite a while for him to find the thin paperback among his boxes. He told me he didn't bring much of anything personal from Chicago, mainly Strand Institute business. However, he did have a copy of this book in his box marked "Personal," which I found interesting. It was Nine Stories by JD Salinger. I'll post the photo of the numbers on the back of that hotel room painting on our website, and we'll have more on what we found next time. But for now, I'm going to do my best to address what happened with Amalia.
Amalia had received the Unsound from my personal email. I'd been hacked. After the mysterious Unsound countdown clock and now this, it was clear to me that we either had a leak at Pacific Northwest Stories, or someone was targeting us. Nic thought I should also investigate the possibility that I did something in my sleep or while I wasn't thinking clearly. I'm not sure what to think about that.
I apologized to Amalia and she accepted. But we agreed that continued space and time from each other might be a necessity, at least for a little while. I couldn't shake the feeling that events were spiraling. Not so much out of control, but out of focus. One minute, Amalia was the standoffish one. Now? I had to weigh the prospect that I might be the person not behaving rationally. It's clear that my vacation did little to clear my mind. The insomnia remains. Avoiding work wasn't a solution. I felt like the only thing that might help would be diving deeper.
What if getting to the center of... whatever this mystery is surrounding Dr. Strand and the Order of the Cenophus, is the only thing that will help? If so, I felt like I needed to get there quickly, before I started to suffocate... or drown in a world of my own nightmares.
- Nic: So, I have a thought.
Alex: Things were still a bit tense in our office, given the stress between Nic, Amalia, and myself. But one of the great things about Nic is that the work comes first. And right now, work was exactly what I needed.
- Nic: So, I was relistening to your recent conversation with Simon Reese.
- Alex: Yeah. There's a lot to digest there.
- Nic: Yeah (laughs). But one thing in particular stuck out to me and I wrote it down.
- Alex: Okay.
- Nic: It was (papers rustling), "You Alex Reagan are but one note in the symphony of the universe."
- Alex: Yeah, that was weird.
- Nic: Yeah. But think about it. Symphony.
- Alex: Uh huh...
- Nic: He chose that specific metaphor. He must be alluding to Scriabin, to the Mysterium, right?
- Alex: So you think Simon is saying that Percival Black is really composing a symphony to end the universe?
- Nic: Sounds like it, doesn't it?
- Alex: But, we already know that. I mean, whether it's true or not doesn't really matter. Does it?
- Nic: Well, Keith Dabic, or somebody pretending to be Keith Dabic, is either helping us, or trying to compromise our investigation. I feel like it's probably the latter, but whatever it is, it seems to have everything to do with the Order of the Cenophus and Percival Black.
- Alex: It sounds like you're saying we should take Simon Reese more seriously.
- Nic: Well it's something he said about Amalia. (pause) Remember when you two were talking about Amalia?
- Alex: Yeah...
- Nic: He said... (papers rustling) Here, I'll read it. "Do you know where was during her disappearance in Russia? Where she stayed? Who she met?"
- Alex: Yeah, I remember that.
- Nic: Well, Amalia didn't disclose that to you, at least not on the air. She told you she was in hiding form the subjects of a story she was doing. But... she told me a different story, in confidence.
- Alex: Oh well don't feel like you have to continue if you think it's going to jeopardize whatever you two have. I mean, the story's not that important.
- Nic: ...Right.
- Alex: (laughing) I'm almost half-serious.
- Nic: Well, okay. You'll be happy to know I got Amalia's permission to talk about some of what she told me.
- Alex: Oh good.
- Nic: Okay. Well, without going into specifics, Amalia was definitely in hiding, but that's because she meet with a high level political figure who'd blown the whistle on a huge ring of corruption, money laundering, that kind of thing. Way high up.
- Alex: Okay.
- Nic: She ended up staying with the whistleblower for weeks, mapping out the story. Nobody knew that, least of all Simon Reese.
- Alex: Right. But he could have been talking generally. Those are pretty normal questions to ask. Where'd she stay, who'd she stay with.
- Nic: I agree. I just wanted to talk it out.
- Alex: Okay. (pause) Or, do you think... maybe Amalia is lying?
- Nic: I dunno. It does seem strange that Simon would ask those things specifically, but I'll bet anything it's nothing but a manipulative fortuneteller trick like horoscope, just close enough to something that sounds specific. A vaguely cryptic detail that's not even really a detail but seems like it is, you know? Something familiar enough to relate and hang onto?
- Alex: Hm. (pause) Did we just compromise Amalia's safety?
- Nic: (pause) I dunno. I don't think so.
Alex: We had reached a line. A hazy line separating work from friendship. The truth from the compromised version of it. We decided to inform Amalia that we were going to start doing even more digging into things she might not want us digging into. It probably wasn't going to go smoothly for Nic.
- Nic: Before you go, you should check your email, I just forwarded you something interesting.
- Alex: Okay. What is it?
- Nic: You remember Jessica Wheldon? The girl from the exorcism tape?
- Alex: Yeah! Didn't she refuse to talk to us?
- Nic: It looks like she wants to talk now. She's been calling and emailing.
- Alex: Oh! Okay.
Alex: It's been almost a year since we viewed that tape, so it might be worth a quick recap. Jessica Wheldon was 12 years old in 1993 when she was apparently possessed by a demon. Father Peter Vincent conducted her fourth exorcism. That was the one I saw, the one that had been recorded by Dr. Strand. The one where I saw four large men being lifted off the ground by this tiny girl. The exorcism that Strand claims was faked.
- Alex: Hello, Jessica? It's Alex Reagan.
- Jessica: ...Hi.
Alex: Jessica Wheldon is now 35 years old. She works in HR for a mining company in Berks County, Pennsylvania. When we first viewed the recording of her exorcism last year, we tried to reach her for comment. We sent emails and left voice messages at her workplace. There was no response. Now, suddenly, she was contacting us. All of a sudden, Jessica Wheldon wanted to talk.
- Alex: Thanks for getting in touch.
- Jessica: I wasn't planning on it.
- Alex: No?
- Jessica: No. Someone I know brought The Black Tapes to my attention. He was listening to your show and he heard my name mentioned. You kind of outed me as the exorcism girl around here.
- Alex: I'm sorry. I didn't think about that.
- Jessica: Yeah, well.
- Alex: I hope we didn't cause you any inconvenience. It's just such a fascinating story.
- Jessica: I'm glad you find it fascinating. I find it horrifying. How would you like it if some awful period of your life were suddenly dragged out into public view? These aren't just stories, not to the subjects. They're pieces of our lives, our experiences. And when you put it out there for others, you force us into the spotlight where we're at risk of losing control of our own stories.
- Alex: I'm truly sorry. (long pause) Is that why you called us? To regain control of your narrative?
- Jessica: I don't know. It's just that... you're missing parts of it.
- Alex: Uh, I only know what I saw on the tape. Could you tell me what led to that? Maybe what led to your... do you think of it as a possession?
- Jessica: (pause) I believe I was brainwashed.
- Alex: Brainwashed? By who?
- Jessica: I don't know. But it's like I became another person.
- Alex: You underwent a total of four exorcisms. Do you have memories of them?
- Jessica: The first one. Kind of. It's like I was watching myself through my own eyes, but someone else was controlling my body. After that, it was like someone took over my mind.
- Alex: And the first, uh, possession, did it take a while, or was it sudden?
- Jessica: I remember having bad thoughts. Evil thoughts.
- Alex: When you were 12?
- Jessica: 11 or 12, yes.
- Alex: And were these waking thoughts? Day dreams?
- Jessica: More like nightmares that I carried with me during the day. I'd have these awful dreams and then I'd wake up and still have the feelings from them.
- Alex: What were these dreams like?
- Jessica: I remember one where I had an argument with my mother. I was angry with her about something, so I reached out and somehow picked her up with my hand. She was suddenly only the size of a Barbie doll and... I chewed her head off. It, it was like biting a stick of licorace. I remember gnawing on it and... I woke up. And I was full of this fury, this... murderous rage. And I must have been screaming because my mother ran into my room to check on me, and I wanted to rip her head off. Something in me wanted to tear her apart limb from limb. I remember sitting up in bed when my mother came to hold me, and... I bit her arm.
- Alex: You actually bit your mother? You remember all of this?
- Jessica: I drew blood. I remember tasting it in my teeth. Her screams, the look of absolute horror on my dad's face when he walked in. And... when I saw him, I spit her blood into his face and smiled. I was... I wanted more blood.
- Alex: You... wanted more blood?
- Jessica: (long pause) Yes.
- Alex: Oh. You call it brainwashing instead of possession. I take it you're not religious?
- Jessica: No. Spiritual maybe. But my parents were religious.
- Alex: How do they view what happened? Do you ever talk to them about it?
- Jessica: No, I didn't. They're dead. Passed away about seven years ago now.
- Alex: I'm sorry.
- Jessica: Carbon monoxide poisoning. Dad forgot to turn off his car. Their room was right above the garage.
- Alex: I find it curious that you say it was brainwashing, as opposed to, maybe, a mental breakdown?
- Jessica: Okay. This is the crazy part. Or, at least it's going to sound crazy. I was pretty upset at you people for talking about me on your show. So I did some research into your series. You had this episode where a housekeeper was whispering these strange phrases and words at a baby?
- Alex: Yes, uh, Maddie Franks.
- Jessica: I remember that happening to me.
- Alex: (very long pause) You remember someone doing that to you when you were a baby?
- Jessica: Not a baby. But when I was three or four, I had a babysitter and she'd, she'd teach me these weird songs. Songs I... I haven't heard anything remotely like them to this day.
- Alex: Do you remember how they go?
- Jessica: No. Not exactly. It's more like um, a feeling. A distant memory. It was so long ago. The only reason I remember anything is that episode kind of unlocked these memories. As if I suddenly triggered my own memories.
- Alex: So, you think your babysitter tried to brainwash you? But to what purpose?
- Jessica: I don't know. But that's not all. There were these... men. In black suits. They came with Father Vincent after the third exorcism. I remember them distinctly standing in my room with my parents, talking about me very quietly so that I wouldn't hear. But it's like they were studying me. Or observing me.
- Alex: It sounds like they could have been a team from the church, discussing your... uh, condition?
- Jessica: They didn't look like church people. They looked like businessmen.
- Alex: Do you remember playing with Ouija boards? Or... trying to contact spirits before all of this happened?
- Jessica: I did not invite a demon into my life, if that's what you're thinking. It wasn't a possession, it wasn't even anything spiritual. It was about bad people doing bad things.
- Alex: Do you have any evidence to support this theory? Anything... conspiratorial?
- Jessica: I do have a name. And a number.
- Alex: Of who?
- Jessica: This man. He was at the exorcism. He was one of the men who tried to hold me down.
- Alex: How did you get his number?
- Jessica: He contacted me a few months ago. He's the one who told me about your podcast. He lives in Seattle now.
- Alex: Would you be willing to give us his number?
- Jessica: Sure.
- Alex: Thank you.
- Jessica: Make sure you ask to watch his tape.
- Alex: His tape of what?
- Jessica: Just ask him.
Alex: I called the number Jessica gave me. I can't use the man's real name, so I'm calling him John. He was surprised when I called him, and then demanded that I no longer contact him, before hanging up. Then... he called me back asking to talk, before changing his mind just before we were supposed to meet. This happened two more times, until we finally met at our office. And for some reason, he insisted that I bring Dr. Strand.
- Alex: So, I'm gonna call you John if that's alright.
- John: That works.
- Alex: So, I understand you're one of the men in the tape of Jessica Wheldon's exorcism?
- John: Yes.
- Alex: (paper sliding across the table) I printed this screenshot of four of you holding her down. Which one's you?
- John: Uh, that's me. Holding her right arm.
- Alex: You look absolutely terrified.
- John: You would too if you felt how strong she was.
- Alex: You look to be... what, 190 pounds there?
- John: 210. She was probably... 90? And look, it's taking all my weight to keep that one arm pinned to the bed. At one point, I put my knee over her forearm and she still lifted me.
- Alex: Yeah, I saw that.
- John: You think it's a fake, don't you?
- Strand: If you're asking if I believe that the Wheldon girl was possessed by a demon? No. I don't believe that.
- John: You were there, Strand. And you might be able to fool Ms. Reagan and her audience, but I saw you. You were scared. You were as scared as the rest of us in that room.
- Alex: Why did you reach out to Jessica recently? It's been over two decades since the exorcism.
- John: It's one of those things I tried not to think about too deeply my whole life. I grew up in the church. This is part of our belief system, that there is true good and true evil. Evil incarnate. So there's not much to think about.
- Alex: But... she was so strong. It must have disturbed you.
- John: That part... eh, not so much. I believe the devil can possess people. And I believe he can impart great strength to them, because he's not of this world. I've worked for the church for most of my life, so I've seen my fair share of exorcisms. It was the voices.
- Alex: Jessica's voice.
- John: Of all the exorcisms I've seen, well... I've never seen anything like that. Her mouth just... hanging open like that. And all these... voices comin' out of her, echoing, like outta some deep cavern. You heard them on that video.
- Alex: But again, why reach out to Jessica Wheldon now?
- John: I'm, I'm getting there.
- Alex: Okay.
- John: I commute a lot, in the city. I help, well, I probably shouldn't say what I do. But I help older people by driving them around. So I started listening to podcasts last year, and then I ran across yours. And then I heard the one with Jessica. I-I couldn't believe it. It brought back all these memories. These things I've been trying my whole life to forget. Or to at least... make better.
- Alex: And what are these... things you're referring to?
- John: Strand. You remember the people, watching the exorcism.
- Strand: There were a lot of people in that room.
- John: But the one, ones with the suits.
- Strand: No.
- John: How do you not remember? You were setting up the camera, and these three guys in black suits and ties came in and talked with Father Vincent, before the exorcism. You remember. I know you remember!
- Strand: I must have been preoccupied studying the girl.
- Alex: What are these things you've been trying to forget?
- John: Well, I was uh, listening to your show? That episode with Jessica. And I suddenly had this vision. This memory opened up. It's like it was pushed down deep, but when I heard that exorcism, it opened up again. So I dug up that tape.
- Alex: Jessica mentioned a tape.
- John: Five years before Jessica's exorcism... I was possessed by a demon.
- Alex: A demon?
- John: I had to be exorcised. I have the tape. (footsteps, items shuffling) Do you have a VCR?
- (VHS tape being inserted into VCR slot)
- (heavy breathing)
- (man forcefully talking over agonized shouting)
- (VHS tape clicks and stops playing)
Alex: I was expecting something like Jessica Wheldon's exorcism, but this was entirely different. It was John, younger, but it was him. I recognized his eyes, even though he looked crazed, drugged out. He looked panicked. He was laying on his back, his wrists and ankles tied to a raised reclining chair. He stared wide-eyed at the ceiling. Whoever was filming was using a handheld camera and needed to cut down on his or her coffee, it was all over the place. The room was dark. It looked like the walls were black, or maybe just poorly lit. It was hard to tell. The footage dated back to the late 80s and was extremely grainy. There was nobody else in the room.
- (VHS tape clicking on)
- (guttural mumbling and shouting followed by heavy breathing, man's voice clearly saying "Go go go shoo shoo shoo," agonized moaning and crying)
- Alex: Where's the priest?
- Strand: Here he comes.
Alex: A tall man walks into the room from behind the camera. He turns around and there's something... not quite right. Something's out of place. It was Strand who noticed.
- (Tape plays demonic mumbling and wailing in the background as Alex and Strand talk)
- Strand: That's not a priest.
- Alex: No?
- Strand: Where's his collar? And that glint by his wrist. He's wearing cufflinks.
- Alex: But do priests always wear collars for exorcisms?
- Strand: Well, maybe not. But they certainly don't wear that.
Alex: Strand was referring to the black business suit and tie worn by the man. Up until the Jessica Wheldon tape, I'd only seen exorcisms in movies, and priests never wore Italian suits and shiny cuff links to work.
- Alex: (over VHS tape playing agonized moaning) What is that?
- John: I don't know.
Alex: Two other men in suits wheeled in a large machine. It looked like those old corporate IBM computers you see in ads from the 80s. They set it up behind John's head. It looked like some kind of futuristic headboard. The men turned it on.
- (machine whirring over agonized wailing)
- Alex: What are they doing to you? That doesn't sound like it... you're not possessed. (VHS tape clicks off) What were they doing to you? Who were those men?
- John: They cured me.
- Alex: It didn't look like they were trying to cure you.
- John: I remember coming out of whatever state I was in. Laying on that table, the man explained the church had a new way to fight satan. They sent in a priest after to say some prayers over me. I was healed.
- Alex: I don't know.
- John: I looked for Jessica to see if she remembered the same things I did. Huge blank spaces in our memories. Feeling... angry. Being full of... just... bitterness. Rage. Wanting to kill people.
- Alex: She did.
- John: But mine was different. As you can see.
- Strand: Could I rewind this?
- John: Sure.
- (VHS tape rewinding, clicking)
- Strand: Did you see that?
- Alex: No?
- Strand: Look. On the wall.
- (VHS tape rewinding, clicking)
- Alex: Oh my god!
Alex: It was hard to get a clear frame, due to the shaky camera. But there, on the wall opposite John's feet, were symbols. Numbers. Circles. Pentagrams. And at the center, what appeared to be a face. A face with the eyes where the mouth should be, and the mouth where the eyes should be. This was not a church. This was something else entirely.
A number of you have been wondering about Charlie Strand. Well, we've been wondering as well. And we've been trying to get in touch. She's been living in Italy, and we've tried everything, but we've been unable to track her down. We wanted to ask her a few questions about her aunt, Cheryl. In the meantime, I had a followup conversation scheduled with Cheryl.
- (phone ringing)
- Cheryl: Hello?
- Alex: Hi, Cheryl. It's Alex Reagan.
- Cheryl: ...Hello.
- Alex: I was wondering if you'd be willing to answer a couple of quick questions?
- Cheryl: Is Richard there?
- Alex: No, it's just me.
- Cheryl: He's living in the house?
- Alex: Yes. (long pause) Hello?
- Cheryl: What do you want to know?
- Alex: Well, I asked Richard about the boy in the river. Um, he said I would need to be more specific.
- Cheryl: ...You sure about that?
- Alex: Yes.
- Cheryl: You're a journalist. There was only one river where we grew up.
- Alex: ...Okay.
- Cheryl: Any other questions?
- Alex: Uh, one. It's about your father.
- Cheryl: What about him?
- Alex: Well, uh, what was he like?
- Cheryl: Richard doesn't know you're speaking with me.
- Alex: What makes you say that?
- Cheryl: My father... our father was... away. Absent for a lot of our lives. And I'm not just talking about geography.
- Alex: No?
- Cheryl: No. If he wasn't away in Estonia or Brazil, he was locked in his office, which was just as far. This isn't to say that he didn't have moments of... fatherly affection, because he did. I have some very fond memories. But... he was obsessed with work. His work was everything to him. It came first. Always.
- Alex: That must have been difficult.
- Cheryl: It was. It kept Richard and I close until he started... taking an interest.
- Alex: Richard started taking an interest in your father's work?
- Cheryl: No.
- Alex: No?
- Cheryl: No. No, my father started taking an interest in Richard.
Alex: Cheryl had to go, but I did manage to speak with her again. That recording was damaged, and the next time I spoke with her, she indicated that she was finished talking about this stuff. So I'll do my best to relate what Cheryl Strand told me in that last interview.
She told me that Harold Strand began including Richard in certain parts of his life, bringing him presents from abroad. He'd bring presents for Cheryl as well, a diary, jewelry, but Richard's gifts were more... arcane. Old books, rare archeological items. Richard was allowed into their father's world, a little. When Strand's mother got sick, Harold was in Europe somewhere. He didn't come back. Strand took care of their mother. Cheryl told me that he'd never forgiven his father.
I asked Cheryl about Coralee. She said she loved her. In fact, she said, in a lot of ways, she felt closer to Coralee than she felt to her brother, who'd begun... drifting, even then. When I asked her what she meant by drifting, she told me, cryptically, "You'll find out." I asked her why she hadn't spoken to her brother since Coralee disappeared, and she said that it wasn't her choice, at first. It was Strand. Apparently, Cheryl wasn't actually convinced that her brother didn't have anything to do with his wife's disappearance. She said she was emotional and confused, and that the police were playing games with her, trying to turn her against her brother. And it worked. Too well.
So, Strand's family dynamic is... complicated. But isn't every family complicated?
Next time, we decode the message on the back of that painting. Plus, I'll be digging deeper into Harold Strand, my friend Amalia Chenkova, the mysterious Order of the Cenophus, and Nic and I take a roadtrip to Canada.
It's The Black Tapes. I'm Alex Reagan. We'll be back again in two weeks.
The Black Tapes Podcast is a Pacific Northwest Stories and Minnow Beats Whale production. Recorded in Seattle and Vancouver. Produced, mixed, and engineered by Nic Silver. Edited by Nic Silver and Alex Reagan. Executive producers Paul Bae and Terry Miles.
Thank you so much for listening to The Black Tapes.