I write, silly because, unlike the dream, I usually get to the airport three hours ahead of time for a domestic flight. I am already fretting about the upcoming 6:30 AM flight on June 19 when I head back to Toronto for more creative community engagement projects.
In the dream, I arrive at the gate (the plane is boarding in 45 minutes) to get on a British Airways flight with son and his girlfriend. I look down and I have NO luggage, no ticket, no passport, no boarding pass, no wallet, nothing. I left them all at home. I panic knowing there is not enough time- I will miss the plane. I hitchhike back “home” with an elderly couple who drive me to some kind of cabin retreat place in the woods and are slowing me down by stopping at places I am not connected to, writing down names I don’t recognize into hotel ledgers and putting the notes into the car glove compartment. I feel a bit helpless and frantic as I sit in the back seat, in the middle, leaning forward.
Having had a few hours to digest it… I wonder if the dream isn’t related to my research on my passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis. I don’t have enough clout, ID, info, documents quite yet to get through that gate! No boarding pass yet!
I feel closer than ever this week though. There have been some exciting developments regarding DNA. And though I won’t share details here, let’s just say, the case I write about all comes down to identity and the answers will only be proven through DNA analysis. Stay tuned!!!
“DNA is God’s signature… never a forgery, and his checks don’t bounce.” Eddy Joe Lloyd, exonoree, After Innocence (2005)
I do love DNA! The very STUFF of LIFE! Some of my fondest memories at UBC in Biological Sciences was mapping a fruit fly’s genome. I recall the beautiful starfish like chromosome.
The cold case I am researching centres around the unidentified children found in Stanley Park in 1953. Their DNA profiles were completed in 1998 by Dr. David Sweet, forensic odontologist. The goal is to identify their mother through DNA comparisons.
And through some wonderful unfoldings this week, I am a few steps closer, but no boarding pass yet!
A DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. Ah, the DOUBLE HELIX!
The term double helixrefers to the structure formed by double-stranded molecules of nucleic acids such as DNA. The double helical structure of a nucleic acid complex arises as a consequence of its secondary structure, and is a fundamental component in determining its tertiary structure. [source]
No discussion about DNA is complete without the mention of one of my heroes, Rosalind Franklin:
“Her soul shall be bound in the bundle of life.” – Inscription on Rosalind Franklin’s tombstone
My imagery of late- embroidered drawings- tries to recreate that binding, that layering, the bundling, the need to look closer and closer, to pry away and lift and investigate to get closer to the answer. Closer to the boarding pass.
My passion project, Molly- a true crime analysis, centres around a 63 year old Vancouver cold case.
On January 15, 1953, the skeletal remains of two children were found in the forest of Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The victims became known as the Babes in the Wood. The physical evidence indicated that the children were killed using a hatchet and confidently pointed to the involvement of a woman, likely the children’s mother. Unsolved for over 63 years, the double homicide still haunts the city and fuels the imaginations of Vancouverites. Several theories have been explored and many leads and tips have been followed; yet the identities of the two victims remain unknown.
Molly- a true crime analysisillustrates my research into this heartbreaking mystery.
My involvement initially began as a volunteer researcher on the Babes in the Wood task force from 2003 to 2004.
This passion project- an illustrated book- is as much about the PROCESS and my deep involvement as it is about the cold case and the ultimate “end” product. And yes- that process. The creative process is incredibly magical and rewarding. The project is directing itself in a sense, and I am following and trusting.
The book will include text (facts and interpretation), illustrations (including magic realism), photographs, primary sources, physical evidence, circumstantial evidence and artifacts.
I am currently reworking the text and illustrating. I am experimenting with embroidered drawings.
Why embroidered drawings?
Certain drawings (in particular chapter headings) are embroidered as a means to reflect the act of connecting the dots and weaving together timelines, evidence and research. The stitches are footsteps on a map. It reflects deep thought and the passage of time. It is historical. Traditional. Sacred. It is about strengthening the fragile. It fascinates me that a medium so cheap and easily torn such as newsprint becomes strong and hardy when layered and sewn together. It can be manipulated and folded, handled, and only gains a lovelier patina. There is something magical in that.
The skeletal remains were found covered in layers of fallen leaves and forest growth and decay. I am currently experimenting with layering of embroidery and incorporating text continues to simulate forensic taphonomy and the layering of forest vegetation over time.
Forensic taphonomy is concerned with the study of the decomposition of human remains, particularly in the context of burial sites.
… And when they were dead
The robins so red
Brought strawberry leaves
And over them spread;
And all the day long,
The green branches among,
They’d prettily whistle
And this was their song-
‘Poor babes in the wood!
Sweet babes in the wood!
Oh the sad fate of
The babes in the wood!’
“The Babes in the Wood,” Anonymous (ca 1595). Public domain.
I am so glad I went alone, for not only could I soak in the event itself (as I am passionate about this case), but I could really sit in my personal grief.
This was the room I sat in with my Mom as we first listened to a lecture about the Babes in the Wood because of an article my Dad had given me from the Vancouver Sun. —
Mom and Dad- the two people who tirelessly worked with me, traveled with me across the Lower Mainland in search of clues, relished in talking history, mapping it out, tending grave sites and the scene in the park… Who could handle my endless chatter. Who loved to hear about the latest unfolding and discovery.
Mom and Dad- who also shared my interest in the case covered by last night’s event, who shared deep concern for the women of the DTES and who came with me to the healing tent, who shared concern for the families, who helped me deliver art for fundraisers and who drove me to meetings with police officers and family members, who helped host events at schools, who came with me to the trial, who despaired at the failure of the system, who cut out articles and analyzed and discussed and inspired me to work with at-risk youth.
Cut to 12+ years later, and I am back in that room at the Central Branch. And Mom and Dad are not here to share this profound event with me.
They are not here.
And so I feel it.
It starts in the toes and wells upward through the legs and spine. I swallow water as the wave lifts me upward, whiplashes and slaps me forward face down on the shore.
And I lie there, listening to the Bergmaneque soundtrack…
… realizing that somehow- I’m still alive.
Get up, wipe myself off. Dry off in the sun. Sit for awhile looking out over the amniotic sea in absolute gratitude for the memories and gifts Mom and Dad gave me.
So the theme of the month of May was, according to the Power Path, NEW ALIGNMENT.
We have been shaken, rattled, taken apart, and sideswiped by the unexpected. We have had to accept change and embrace the unknown. The eclipses of March and April affected us on a very deep level, with core issues needing to be acknowledged, forgiven and cleared. We all agree that this is a new time with new possibilities and yet the clarity of what’s to come is just beyond our reach. We have glimpsed the potential of more power, but how do we integrate it into our lives?
These times are amazing, unsettled, a bit overwhelming and confusing, scary but awesome at the same time, and full of new opportunities. What is needed now is integration and assimilation that will help create a new alignment serving as a new platform from which we can move forward.
– The Power Path
OK. It’s the end of the month. And that month was a bit of a shit show- it really made me question my abilities and directions and choices that have brought me to this point.
I am finishing up other projects and redirecting my energy.
Aligning. I am aligning.
I have dug back, dug deep, let go and released. [Recall the metaphor of the slingshot.]
I am moving further away from the old patterns, and the old distractions, old hesitations.
I am working more and more on MOLLY. My goal is to move to an 85% mode of living– i.e. that soon 85% of my time will be spent on her. I am preparing to be shameless at making this work. Ruthless. Raising funds. Contacting publishers. Doing it right.
To escape the shackles of circumstance, she takes the darkest path.
Initially this project was all about: Who were the Babes in the Wood?
I present a new angle to this historical Vancouver mystery through crime scene reconstruction, forensic taphonomy, historical archives, genealogical records, behavior evidence analysis, circumstantial connections and artistic interpretation.
The initial goal of my research was to identify the children whose skeletal remains were found in Stanley Park on January 15, 1953, but Molly- a Graphic Novel is more a portrait of a city as told through the lens of one troubled young woman in post-war Vancouver.
I first immersed myself in the investigation in 2003 when I volunteered as a researcher with the Babes in the Wood Task Force. I have remained dedicated to the case ever since. Using a combination of text, primary sources, illustrations and photographs, I will present my research journey, equivocal findings and creative process to the reader.
NOTE: this is a work of creative non-fiction inspired by true facts, evidence and events. It is an artistic interpretation and no more than that.
I am elated that I have a treatment with a structure that allows me to present the 12 + years of research.
This journey began in August 2003.
It has taken longer that expected but is taking exactly the time it needs.
I am grateful to have the gift of creativity and I now need to push my artistic expression further, bigger, fuller.
And I am grateful for my support network of family and friends who literally kept me on this planet. I’m still here and ready to DO THIS! To tell Molly’s story.
She’s guiding and I’m following direction. I am grateful she chose me!
Nobody creates a criminal profile on their own. – Brent Turvey
I want to thank the following people who have helped me in various ways to be able to research Molly’s story.
[details about their various involvements will appear in the graphic novel acknowledgments section]
Babes in the Wood task force: Sgt. Brian Honeybourn, Dr. David Sweet, George Garret
Staff at the following archives: Vancouver Police Centennial Museum, Pier 21 Society, BC Archives, Mountainview Cemetery, Vancouver Public Library: Special Collections, Vancouver Public Library: microfilm section, City of Vancouver Archives, Mission City Archives, Mission City Record, Toronto Children’s Aid Society, Japanese Canadian National Museum, Alberta Genealogical Society, Alberta Families Histories Society, City of Edmonton Archive, Provincial Archives of Alberta, Glenbow Archives
Helen Ritchey, Celtic Creations
Kickstarter backers including: Anthony Siress, Dustin Christensen, Paul Marquis, Laura Mack, Joanna Harks, Rob Bucci, Nelda Hinds, Victor Mendoza, Brad Slater, Selina Crammond, Henry Denander, Nancy Mortifee, Joseph Killian, Rebecca Rawlinson, Nathan Parker, Sandra Garcia, Sairah Hearns, Ian Powell, Steve Podborski, Warren Te Brugge, Brad Lawrence, John Demuynck, Robert Nadeau, Lynn Gosnell, Maud Kerzendörfer, Cecile Cowley, Eric Damon Walters
Jocelyn Louise (the model for Molly)
Jay Fisher (the stylist)
Want to help me tell this story?
1. Purchasing my art. I regularly post product and sales on this blog!
2. Donating (all donors and sales customers will be included in acknowledgments):
TODAY’S SALE: The Molly Paper Dress
If you are interested in purchasing this one-of-a-kind double-sided item featuring ORIGINAL embroidered drawings (wearable art– size 4 to 6 A-frame or wallhanging), that will be photographed for the graphic novel, contact me at email@example.com
(free shipping- allow 4 weeks for delivery)
Payment via email transfer to firstname.lastname@example.org
I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive. A year ago, six months ago, I thought I was an artist. I no longer think about it, I am. Everything that was literature has fallen from me. There are no more books to be written, thank God.
This then? This is not a book. This is libel, slander, defamation of character. This is not a book, in the ordinary sense of the word…