On December 12th, 2014, a little boy got off the school bus on a rural road in Economy, Pennsylvania and stumbled upon something kind of unusual: a severed goddamned head, lying in a field. The head belonged to an old woman, and because CSI is magic these days, investigators were able to determine that she was local to either Pennsylvania or its surrounding states (“This is clearly not the bestial cranium of a Wisconsinite!”). But, that’s where it ended – she didn’t match the profile of any missing person, and the rest of her body has never been found.
So, was she a murder victim, maybe someone who lived off the grid? Well, here’s the first twist: The head was professionally embalmed. That could mean that the head belonged to an already-dead body that had been taken to a mortuary, except no mortuary, hospital, or graveyard in the area had any knowledge of a missing head. And how in the hell would they lose one? It’s not like they’re driving around with a pickup truck full of them.
Likewise, investigators can’t tell whether the embalming was done legally through the proper funerary process, or by some rogue, uh, hobbyist in his or her basement/dungeon. The fact that nobody can identify the victim seems to imply the latter, right?
Joseph Faber, a German scientist in the 1840s, invented a machine called Euphonia: a keyboard-controlled system of bellows and pipes that produced complex sounds, ultimately enabling it to breathe and “speak” a variety of languages.
And then he chopped off a lady’s head and mounted it to fireplace bellows, because it’s not called Happy Science; it’s called Mad Science.
It’s not an actual human head of course, just a nightmarish facsimile, but it’s not merely there for macabre decoration: Faber’s polyglot machine used working mouth parts – moving lips and a wriggling tongue – to speak in its ghostly, sepulchral monotone. Faber showcased his machine at London’s Egyptian Hall, where the public found it “eerie and unsettling.”
As a feat of engineering, Faber’s invention was an extremely clever one, and fellow scientists recognized that its complex technologies had many potential applications outside of targeted haunting.
One night in April of 1986, teenager Rickie Blake received a call from a mystery man named George. When her family awoke the following morning, Rickie was gone. Later that day, her battered body was discovered next to the freeway. And somehow, that’s not the end of the tragedy. What followed were years of a grieving family being plagued by a mystery sicko who’d make a 4chan user slowly shake his head in disgust.
Just weeks after their daughter’s murder, the Blakes started receiving phone calls, which would become an annual tradition. Every year, starting on Rickie’s birthday and leading up to the anniversary of her murder, the mystery caller would ring them up at 3 or 4 in the morning to relay details of her death. Sometimes, he’d share unsettling tidbits which made it clear that he’d been recently watching them. His creepiest tactic? Wordlessly playing a recording of Rickie’s favorite song, “With You All The Way” by New Edition.