… to dissolve the very boundaries between fact and fiction, life and art, memory and imagining. The result would be a five-act narrative tragedy comprised of materials gathered from everything from journal, diary, memoir, novel, poem, play, to mission order, policy document, news report, popular song, G.I. anecdote, advertising slogan, and latrine graffito.
– Philip D. Beidler on John Clark Pratt’s Vietnam Voices
Circumstantial, physical and genealogical evidence converge in multiple timelines.
What happens when a case is very old, when much of its physical evidence is deteriorated or destroyed, and its main players long deceased? How do we investigate?
For me it is all about the historical context.
I interviewed Dr. David Sweet, forensic odontologist, on the importance of historical context in solving the 1953 Stanley Park cold case in 2004 (when I volunteered on the Babes in the Wood Task Force):
The experts [for example, forensic anthropologists and entomologists] that you mention would focus on human remains and I think we’ve pretty well exhausted all the different things related to the actual bones and the skeletons. But there are many other forensic scientists that look at different kinds of physical evidence and I’m not sure that they’ve had an opportunity to look at these exhibits that remain. My concern is that the public perception of forensic science today is that we can do a lot more that we actually can. So when you consider the age of the exhibits, there probably isn’t much left. Now, you should never say never, and I agree it would be beneficial [for a group of forensic scientists to have a look at the existing evidence]. But it’s really hard to predict what would come out of it. I think really our attention should be focused on the historical aspects and trying to identify an individual or more than one individual who sort of fit the profile and thecircumstances of the disappearance. I think that is really where our hope lies now because the physical evidence deteriorates over a period of time and even with our modern technology we can’t bring it back. – Dr. David Sweet
When I work on Molly, I like to surround myself with objects and curios from the era (in my 1929 apartment close to the park). This allows me to immerse myself in the time, in the circumstance of the case. It is a means of stepping into the scene. Working my way outward. The objects are the context from which I draw clues. As I put together the massive amounts of research into a cohesive presentation, these objects of the past keep me inspired, focused, on track.
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…
On March 7, 2013, I was humbled at the generosity of Salmagundi West owner Anna Banner who allowed us to use her store as a back drop for our latest photoshoot!
I was joined by Jocelyn Louise (who portrays Molly) and stylist Jay Fisher…
… and my daughter Anna Thorsen who took the main shots (to be shared in the book).
Here are some moments I captured. The focus for me was to emulate Molly’s restless travels.
Where dips the rocky highland Of Sleuth Wood in the lake, There lies a leafy island Where flapping herons wake The drowsy water-rats; There we’ve hid our faery vats, Full of berries And of reddest stolen cherries. Come away, O human child! To the waters and the wild With a faery, hand in hand, For the world’s morefull of weeping than you can understand.
Sometimes, the truths that we hold to be fixed in our culture develop a fissure, which widens into a crack, and as we watch, the mirror shatters shard by shard, until nothing is left but fragments of the prejudice lying in disarray at our feet.
– Patricia Pearson, Perceptions of Female Violence and the Vocabulary of Motive
It rasped her, though, to have stirring about in her this brutal monster! To hear twigs cracking and feel hooves planted down in the depths of that leaf-encumbered forest, the soul; never to be content quite, or quite secure.
As I experiment with marrying text to illustration in my graphic novel, I am working from the end backwards, creating a working title and promotional mockup. Acting as if the book is completed, the project feels organized and allows me to create a skeletal framework on which to flesh out ideas. This framework can then be dismantled, contorted and altered as needed. It is not the final result by any means, but it is a great way to MOVE FORWARD. And I’m moving forward fast!
I have some exciting ideas as to how to present the finished work (format, paper etc) but first I will marry image to page and and image and pages to chapters and I am loving the creative process. Next up is ensuring all the permissions are in place for using primary sources, news articles, photographs and names within the work. And more photoshoots!
He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.
– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953
Who killed the Babes in the Wood? Artist, art therapist and researcher, Katarina Thorsen, makes her case as to the resolution of this historical Vancouver mystery through crime scene reconstruction, forensic taphonomy, historical archives, genealogical records, behavior evidence analysis, circumstantial connections and artistic interpretation. Katarina first immersed herself in the investigation in 2003 when she volunteered as a criminal profiler and researcher with the Babes in the Wood Task Force. She has remained dedicated to the case ever since.
Using a combination of text, primary sources, illustrations and photographs, Katarina now presents her research journey, equivocal findings and creative process to the reader. The goal is to identify the children whose skeletal remains were found in Stanley Park on January 15, 1953. Through rich and insightful imagery, Regarding Molly reveals a portrait of a troubled young woman in post war Vancouver. The reader is encouraged to draw their own conclusion as to the identity of the Babes in the Wood, their mother and killer.
Following Katarina’s lead, readers will be inspired to search out their own stories using intensive genealogical research.
Artist/ art therapist Katarina Thorsen is passionate about the power of research and collaborative approaches to create solutions. She specializes in providing therapeutic art to at-risk youth and young offenders. Her own art work includes drawing, painting, crafting, journaling and street art and can be found in private international collections and on the streets of North America and Europe. She believes wholeheartedly in the healing power of art and its ability to build connections. Katarina resides in Vancouver, BC.
As an artist/researcher/behavior evidence analyst, these photos fill every cell of my being with joy! It is wonderful to allow a fellow artist the freedom to do his work within the context/limits of a vision. Extraordinary.
She waved as she made her way to the back door and out to the fire escape stairs. The firewood was stored under a musty tarp on the landing, and the hatchet [he] used to make kindling sat rusty and dull on top. [She] never noticed the hatchet placed in that way before, not in all the weeks and months she’d been climbing these fire escape steps. It was a sign, she knew, and though she wondered what exactly she would do with the hatchet if the footsteps followed her again, she snatched the thing up and rested it on her shoulder.
I love that all I am doing in my art and career feeds the graphic novel, even if I’m not working on pages in the book per se.
When I do my street art, I am utilizing the style and perfecting the technique and medium I am using in Molly.
When I am working with my Dad on our book, I am learning the ropes in independent publishing and utilizing the plan for the book with Dad laid out by Julie Salisbury to organize the way I present Molly. Julie has an extraordinary ability to see the complete project and I will be using her teachings to organize the next steps. Her Mastermind weekend intensive infused me with such clarity and confidence.
We start at the end– visualize what the book will look like. Judge the book by it’s cover.
Truly liberating to allow the creative process to sustain itself. Everything feeds everything else!
“When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I survived at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.”
― Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes
One of the 19th-century’s most notorious socioarchitectural phenomena were the “insane asylums” that housed the era’s mentally ill — enormous and stunning buildings whose architecture stood in stark contrast with the ominous athmosphere of their inner workings. Fascinated by this phenomenon and its ghosts, photographer Christopher Payne set out to document the afterlife of those baleful buildings in Asylum: Inside The Closed World Of State Mental Hospitals — a compendium of images that peel away at a lost world and, in the process, offer a provocative portrait of the history of our (mis)treatment of the mentally ill. A foreword by iconic neuroscientist Oliver Sacks frame the photographs in a sociocultural context of how these institutions evolved and what role they came to play, both in their time and in our reflections on history.
My friend, Darcy, and I poured over it, at once fascinated, sad, gleeful and horrified. We talked about what it may mean to us, to any of us, to feel these conflicting emotions.
For me, there is such a visual metaphor in these massive fortresses. No matter how large they were, they could not contain the anarchistic and primitive human spirit stripped raw by mental illness/circumstance/trauma/misunderstanding. There was an attempt to contain and cure.
But what are we containing? How? Why? What are we killing by “curing” as opposed to embracing and providing a safe haven, a nurturing environment? And what about the seemingly failed experiment of outdoor asylums like the Downtown Eastside?
The information teenage women were receiving at the time regarding their physical, personal and sexual development was truly horrifying from my perspective now. This is what makes this book one of the most frustrating and fascinating reads. WOW. Delicious and tragic.
And of course, the chapter on homosexuality:
BUT- what makes this book even more special are the margin notes by the teen, Laura H. [Full name is in the book, but for privacy, I’ll just use last initial]. It adds so much to the experience. I wonder who she was. Where she ended up. What a window into this young woman’s life!
Handwritten “owners” name on the inside, as well as some notes, underlining, & check marks she made on certain sections of the book that appeared to interest her which adds to the character to the book. – LOST BEAR STUDIO
Lost Bear Studio is my Collection of Vintage finds. I collect housewares, jewelry, decor & kitsch… I love art and all things creative, colorful, upcycled, repurposed & recycled… I collect a variety of quality vintage and antique treasures. My specialty items include home decor, housewares, storage items (tins, boxes, ANYTHING with drawers) & vintage accessories and jewelry. I collect items that catch my eye, and bring them to you, in the hopes that my descriptions will give you ideas you can utilize in your own home. – A. N. Fowler, Lost Bear Studio