The clowns have arrived in Arkansas, and frankly I fear for their safety. Arkansans are generally a scrappy and well-defended people, and I’m not sure I’d want to be caught creeping any of us out. Coulrophobia, or the fear of clowns, is a fairly common phobia. (I blame Stephen King.) To be honest, I’m not afraid of clowns. The horror stories that send shivers down my spine don’t have to do with rubber noses or monsters or ghosts. I don’t fear elaborate face paint or zombies or werewolves or invisible devils who stalk the night. I fear the monstrous things people do to each other.
In this list, you’ll find things that actually happened, true stories of murder, disappearance, and general horror that took place not in distant places or on law enforcement TV shows, but right here at home, in the Natural State. (You may want to leave your nightlight on after you read these stories.)
1. The Moonlight Murders
In late winter and early spring of 1946, the city of Texarkana was terrified. That’s because between February 22nd and May 3rd of that year, a murderer stalked the community. The unknown serial killer attacked eight people and murdered five of them. Though popular legend says that the killer only struck during the full moon, that is a myth. He actually attacked late at night, between three and four weeks apart. Even after the murders stopped, the residents of Texarkana spent the summer arming themselves and locking their homes. To this day, the murders remain unsolved.
2. The Disappearance of Morgan Nick
It is not an understatement to say the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Morgan Nick are every parent’s worst nightmare. Of all the unspeakable tragedies on this list, this is the one that haunts me most. On June 9th of 1995, six-year-old Morgan Nick disappeared from a little league baseball game in Alma. Since that night, no trace of Morgan Nick has been found. She has simply disappeared. In the aftermath, Colleen Nick, Morgan’s mother, created the Morgan Nick Foundation, which helps parents of missing children cope and helps to prevent children from going missing. Colleen Nick still holds out hope that her child will return to her someday. The picture above is an age progression of Morgan Nick. She would be 28 years old today. If you have any information, please call 1-800-THE-LOST.
3. The Long Display of Poor Old Mike
In 1911, in the town of Prescott, a traveling salesman died. Everyone had called him “Mike,” but no one knew where he was from or what his full name had been. The well-meaning townspeople put Old Mike on display in front of the funeral home, hoping his family would come looking for him. No one ever claimed the body, and for a truly stunning 64 years, Old Mike’s decomposing body stayed on display in Prescott. It even became a roadside attraction. Mercifully, Old Mike was laid to rest in 1975.
4. Ronald Gene Simmons
Ronald Gene Simmons was what is called a “spree killer.” Over the course of a week in 1987, Simmons murdered 16 people. Fourteen of those people where his relatives. He laid the bodies of his family members, some of them children, in neat rows in his house and covered their bodies with coats. He drank beer and watched television with his dead family all around him. He was convicted of 16 counts of murder, and was executed in 1990 by lethal injection. None of his family would claim his body, and he was buried in a potter’s field.
5. The Train Deaths
The deaths of Don Henry and Kevin Ives were initially thought to be a tragic accident. In the small town of Bryant, in the dark hours before dawn in 1987, the two boys lay motionless on the tracks as a mile-long train ran over their bodies. The conductor had tried to stop, but the train’s momentum proved unstoppable. It was thought the boys were immobilized by an astounding amount of marijuana, but it was later found that one of the boys had been stabbed to death and the other had been unconscious when the train barreled down on them. Leads in the case were few, and it remains one of Arkansas’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
6. The Murder of John Thurman McCool
John Thurman McCool grew up in Pine Bluff. He married a woman from Pine Bluff and made a life with her there. He even became a prominent businessman. From all appearances, John Thurman McCool was an upstanding citizen. Five and a half years before his murder, mysteries began to plague his well-cultivated life. He was being investigated for fraud, and the night before a front page story ran about him in the Arkansas Gazette, he returned to his home soaked and bleeding. He’d been shot, but refused to discuss it with police. Shortly after, he plead guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled, then pardoned by the governor. He rebuilt his business and his life. Four years later, he was found dead in his car in a snow-covered cemetery. There were no marks in the deep snow surrounding the car, and McCool had been shot seven times. The murder remains unsolved and unexplained, but there are rumors about mafia involvement.
7. The Escape of Larry Porter Chism
Convicted of armed robbery and narcotics charges, Larry Porter Chism was one bad dude. In 1978, after serving very little of his forty year sentence, Chism brutally attacked an officer on a bowling trip and hopped a plane to Arkansas. He has been missing since then. He was once found living in Alabama, but disappeared. He was found in North Carolina in 1990, but disappeared again. This guy could be anywhere in the South, and the U.S. Marshalls are still looking for him.
8. The Murder of Amanda Tusing
In June of 2000, twenty-year-old Amanda Tusing was travelling from her boyfriend’s home in Jonesboro to her parent’s home in Dell. On June 15th at around 2 a.m., her car was found abandoned, her cell phone dead on the passenger’s seat and a still-chilled, half-drunk can of Coke in her cup holder. Three days later, Amanda’s body was found in Big Bay Ditch. There was water in her nose, but none in her lungs. No official cause of death could be determined. The physical evidence was nearly non-existent, and her case remains unsolved.
9. The Disappearance of Maud Crawford
Maud Crawford was 65-years-old when she disappeared without a trace. She was the only female attorney in the town of Camden, and in 1957 she vanished from the lovely home pictured above. She was partner in a law firm that was investigating mob ties to organized labor. Some think Maud Crawford was taken by the mafia as means of intimidating her law partner, U.S. Senator John L. McClellan, who was chairing a Senate committee on the mafia at the time. We may never know the real story, but what we do know is that absolutely no trace remains of Maud Crawford. Since March 2nd of 1957, Maud Crawford has simply been gone, seemingly vanished into thin air.