My most recently published short story is rather an unusual one for me. It isn’t speculative fiction. It isn’t even a horror story in the way most people understand the horror genre. But it’s my idea of a horror story, being that it’s based in fact. People actually did suffer these horrors.
Several years ago I watched the news documentary that earned Geraldo Rivera a well-deserved Peabody Award. He and a cameraman slipped into a place called Willowbrook State School. The results of their investigation was called Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace. You can see a preview of it here. A few years later I read about how hundreds of unmarked graves were being dug up at Willowbrook, though authorities had no way of actually putting names to the dead.
Who were these people who died so forgotten? And how did they die so forgotten? My short story, The Brook Beneath the Willow Tree, is the possible perspective of one of them. And it’s the only thing I’ve ever written that made me cry as I was writing it.
I’m sure after this introduction you want to rush out and purchase it. Right? Well, probably not. It is a very sad story. But if you don’t mind the brutal, horrific truth, the story is available in COPING: A Not One of Us Special Publication. This magazine specializes in presenting the voices of those who have been shunned by society, and so is a perfect home for my short story. The issue contains art, fiction, and poetry.
You can purchase a copy of COPING for $3.50 by contacting john@not-one-of-us
Willowbrook State School was not the only institution like this. They were all across the country. The polio vaccine was tested on the disabled residents of Letchworth Village, considered a model institution in its time. The following video is a visit to its overgrown graveyard. Maybe the boy in my story is buried here. I hope so. It’s a lovely place, even if the graves do have numbers instead of names.