Chapter Twenty-one


Part Three Wreckage

From the national AP ticker, Friday, June 5, 1979:



From The Lewiston Daily Sun, Sunday, September 7 (p. 3):

The Legacy of TK

Scorched Earth and Scorched Hearts

CHAMBERLAIN - Prom Night is history now. Pundits have been saying for centuries that time heals all wounds, but the hurt of this small Western Maine town may be mortal. The residential streets are still there on the town's East Side, guarded by graceful Oaks that have stood for two hundred years, the trim saltboxes and ranch styles on Morin Street and Brickyard Hill are still neat and undamaged. But this New England pastoral lies on the rim of a blackened and shattered hub, and many of the neat houses have FOR SALE signs on their front lawns. Those still occupied are marked by black wreaths on front doors. Bright-yellow Allied vans and orange U-Hauls of varying sizes are a common sight on Chamberlain's streets these days.

The town's major industry, Chamberlain Mills and Weaving, still stands, untouched by the fire that raged over much of the town on those two days in May. But it has only been running one shift since July 4th, and according to mill president William A. Chamblis, further lay-offs are a strong possibility. 'We have the orders,' Chamblis said, 'but you can't run a mill without people to punch the time clock. We don't have them. I've gotten notice from thirty-four men since August 15th. The only thing we can see to do now is close up the dye house and job our work out. We'd hate to let the men go, but this thing is getting down to a matter of financial survival.'

Roger Fearon has lived in Chamberlain for twenty-two years, and has been with the mill for eighteen of those years. He has risen during that time from a third-floor bagger making seventy-three cents an hour to dye-house foreman; yet he seems strangely unmoved by the possibility of losing his job. 'I'd lose a damned good wage,' Fearon said. 'It's not something you take lightly. The wife and I have talked it over. We could sell the house - it's worth $20,000 easy - and although we probably won't realize half of that, we'll probably go ahead and put it up. Doesn't matter. We don't really want to five in Chamberlain any more. Call it what you want but Chamberlain has gone bad for us.'

Fearon is not alone. Henry Kelly, proprietor of a tobacco shop and soda fountain called the Kelly Fruit until Prom Night levelled it, has no plans to rebuild. 'The kids are gone,' he shrugs. 'If I opened up again, there'd be too many ghosts in too many corners. I'm going to take the insurance money and retire to St Petersburg.'

A week after the tornado of '54 had cut its path of death and destruction through Worcester, the air was filled with the sound of hammers, the smell of new timber, and a feeling of optimism and human resilience. There is none of that in Chamberlain this fall. The main road has been cleared of rubble and that is about the extent of it. The faces that you meet are full of dull hopelessness. Men drink beer without talking in Frank's Bar on the corner of Sullivan Street, and women exchange tales of grief and loss in back yards. Chamberlain has been declared a disaster area, and money is available to help put the town back on its feet and begin rebuilding the business district.

But the main business of Chamberlain in the last four months has been funerals.

Four hundred and forty are now known dead, eighteen more still unaccounted for. And sixty-seven of the dead were Ewen High School Seniors on the verge of graduation. It is this, perhaps, more than anything else, that has taken the guts out of Chamberlain.

They were buried on June 1 and 2 in three mass ceremonies. A memorial service was held on June 3 in the town square. It was the most moving ceremony that this reporter has ever witnessed. Attendance was in the thousands, and the entire assemblage was still as the school band, stripped from fifty-six to a bare forty, played the school song and taps.

There was a sombre graduation ceremony the following week at neighbouring Motton Academy, but there were only fifty-two Seniors left to graduate. The valedictorian, Henry Stampel, broke into tears halfway through his speech and could not continue. There were no Graduation Night parties following the ceremony; the Seniors merely took their diplomas and went home.

And still, as the summer progressed, the hearses continued to roll as more bodies were discovered. To some residents it seemed that each day the scab was ripped 69 again, so that the wound could bleed afresh.

If you are one of the many curiosity-seekers who have been through Chamberlain in the last week, you have seen a town that may be suffering from terminal cancer of the spirit. A few people, looking lost, wander through the aisles of the A&P. The Congregational Church on Carlin Street is gone, swept away by fire, but the brick Catholic Church still stands on Elm Street, and the trim Methodist Church on outer Main Street although singed by fire, is unhurt. Yet attendance has been poor. The old men still sit on the benches in Courthouse Square, but there is little interest in the checkerboards or even in conversation.

The over-all impression is one of a town that is waiting to die. It is not enough, these days, to say that Chamberlain will never be the same. It may be closer to the truth to say that Chamberlain will simply never again be.

Excerpt from a letter dated June ninth from principal Henry Grayle to Peter Philpott, Superintendent of Schools.

... and so I feel I can no longer continue in my present position, feeling, as I do, that such a tragedy might have been averted if I had only had more foresight. I would like you to accept my resignation effective as of July 1, if this is agreeable to you and your staff. . .

Excerpt from a letter dated June eleventh from Rita Desjardin, instructor of Physical Education, to Principal Henry Grayle:

... am returning my contract to you at this time. I feet that I would kill myself before ever teaching again. Late at night I keep thinking: If I had only reached out to that girl, if only, if only ...

Found painted on the lawn of the house tot where the White bungalow had been located:


From 'Telekinesis: Analysis and Aftermath' (Science Yearbook, 1981), by Dean D. L McGuffin:

In conclusion, I would like to point out the grave risk authorities are taking by burying the Carrie White affair under the bureaucratic mat-and I am speaking specifically of the so-called White Commission. The desire among politicians to regard TK as a once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon seems very strong, and while this may be understandable it is not acceptable. The possibility of a recurrence, genetically speaking, is 99 per cent. Ifs time we planned now for what may be ...

From Slang Terms Explained.. A Parents' Guide, by John R. Coombs (New York: The Lighthouse Press, 1985), p. 73:

to rip off a Carrie. To cause either violence or destruction; mayhem. confusion; (2) to commit arson (from Carrie White, 1963-1979)

From The Shadow Exploded (p. 201):

Elsewhere in this book mention is made of a page in one of Carrie White's school notebooks where a line from a famous rock poet of the '60s, Bob Dylan, was written repeatedly, as if in desperation.

It might not be amiss to close this book with a few lines from another Bob Dylan song, lines that might serve as Carrie's epitaph: I wish I could write you a melody so plain/ That would save you, dear lady, from going Insane/ That would ease you and cool you and cease the pain/Of your useless and pointless knowledge...

From My Name Is Susan Snell (p. 98):

This little book is done now. I hope it sells well so I can go someplace where nobody knows me. I want to think things over, decide what I'm going to do between now and the time when my light is carried down that long tunnel into blackness ...

From the conclusion of The State Investigatory Board of Maine in connection with the events of May 27-28 in Chamberlain, Maine:

... and so we must conclude that, while an autopsy performed on the subject indicates some cellular changes which may indicate the presence of some paranormal power, we find no reason to believe that a recurrence is possible or even likely ...

Excerpt from a letter dated May 3, 1988, from Amelia Jenks, Royal Knob, Tennessee, to Sandra Jens, Maiken, Georgia:

¡­and your little neece is growin like a weed, awfull big for only 2. She has blue eyes like her daddy and my blond hair but that will porubly go dark. Still she is awfull pretty & I think sometimes when she is asleep how she looks like our momma.

The other day wile she was playin in the dirt beside the house I sneeked around and saw the funnyest thing. Annie was playin with her brothers marbles only they was mooving around all by themselfs. Annie was giggeling and laffing but I was a little skared. Some of them marbles was going right up & down. It reminded me of gramma, do you remember when the law came up that time after Pete and there guns flew out of there hands and grammie just laffed and laffed. And she use to be able to make her rocker go even when she wasen in it. I gave me a reel bad turn to think on it. I shure hope she don't get heartspels like grammie did, remember?

Well I must go & do a wash so give my best to Rich and take care to send us some pitchers when you can. Still our Annie is awfull pretty & her eyes are as brite as buttons. I bet she'll be a worldbeeter someday.

All my love,


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