For over thirty years, Jerry worked as a police officer in Pittsburgh. In his time on the force, Jerry had seen some bad things, some worse things, and some downright evil things. Cleaning up when people got mad or got crazy was part of the job, but there were other things that Jerry saw, things that most people never see, things that prowl the night, things that refuse to die.
I interviewed Jerry several times in 2002. The following incident is just one of the many stories Jerry shared in hours of audio recordings. I have transcribed them just as they were told to me by Jerry.
“This must’ve been about 1970 or thereabouts, right around Halloween, when Frank and me – that’s my partner, Frank – we were investigating this homicide, well, it was more like a missing persons case at that point, but we had a hunch – Frank had a hunch – that there was more to it.
“The story behind it all was that in October this girl disappeared and she used to be real friendly with Mayor Flaherty which is a big problem, right? Well, that ain’t the half of it, ‘cause the real problem was she also used to go with Johnny LaRocca who ran the gambling and girls and the whole mob there in Pittsburgh.
“So, the girl goes missing and it’s kind of a mess for all the muckety-mucks, but of course this poor girl’s family are wondering are they ever going to see her again. Well, the girl – her name was Rosie – she was last seen downtown near the Liberty Bridge with a couple of shady guys, then she just up and disappeared.
“Frank and me, we were helping out on the case on account of all the heat from the mayor’s office. I was thinking the girl skipped town or was hiding out but Frank, he was pretty sure she came to a bad end. The problem was, nobody knew where she was and the blame was going around and people were getting antsy.
“Now it’s the night before Halloween, right, and we’re all working overtime and Frank, he pulls me aside and says let’s go for a drive. I’m like, sure, I could use a coffee or something but Frank takes me up the Boulevard of the Allies there and at Grant he pulls over and he shuts off the engine.
“Now, I’m like, this is all fine, Frank, but we got work, right? But Frank, he’s just staring off and I can tell he’s got something on his mind. Frank points up at the street signs and he says, where are we, Jerry? And I say, on the Boulevard at Grant, so what? And Frank says, right, Jerry, we’re at a crossroads.
“I’m like, big whoop, so it’s an intersection, who cares? But Frank, he says, no it’s a crossroads and he tells me how a crossroads is a place where ghosts and stuff hang out or something ‘cause it’s a place between two places...I’m not really saying it right, but intersections are spooky places is all I mean.
“Then Frank says, what day is it? And I say it’s the 30th and Frank says, no, it’s after midnight, it’s Halloween. And then he tells me how on Halloween, the wall between us and them ghosts is thin, as thin as it gets all year, and sometimes you can see the ghosts.
“So, Frank had a double whammy here with it being Halloween and us being at that crossroads and I’m wondering what Frank has up his sleeve but he just tells me to wait and I say, wait for what? And Frank says, for Rosie.
“It must’ve been two hours we were on spook stakeout there and I was falling asleep and Frank gives me a nudge and points down the Boulevard and I look and there’s this mist come rolling down the street, right?
“Now, I’ve seen some heavy fog before but this was something else and it just came like a flood down the Boulevard and up over the car. Frank and me, we’re just quiet, watching and waiting, and then after a minute or so, the mist starts to thin out and then I see that, yeah, there’s people in there.
“They was moving down the street, the Boulevard, in a big group – a parade, I guess – and I say they was moving, not walking, ‘cause I didn’t really see any walking going on. They were whitish like they were covered in chalk dust or something and they were kind of see-through. I mean, they were ghosts, right?
“There must’ve been hundreds of ‘em and every kind of person, right? There were guys and ladies, adults and kids, some looked like they died yesterday and there was some looked like cavemen and must’ve died a thousand years ago.
“I saw a guy, he looked like he might be a Revolutionary War soldier, and there were lots and lots of Indians all marching together. There were men in suits and top hats and others in rags and all bloody. They just stared right ahead and kept moving down the street.”
“But there were these other ones, right? I don’t know what to call them exactly, but some were big, bigger than people ought to be, and they were black and shadowy – hard to make out – with what looked like big bat wings, and there were some were smaller, but they had these big claws and teeth and they looked more like animals than people.
“I said to Frank, what are those things? And Frank says, I got no idea, Jerry, but let’s hope they don’t notice us sitting here. And none of them did, in fact, I don’t think any of them moving down the street even looked our way once.
“I said to Frank, what are we doing here Frank? And Frank says, we’re waiting for Rosie, and I’m thinking if she ain’t dead, she ain’t here, but I know Frank thinks she is.
“Well, we watched all this go on for a good twenty minutes – longer than anybody ought to – and then Frank says, look, and he points and there in the crowd is a little figure, and I can see it’s Rosie, I recognize her from her picture, and, I mean, you know, jeez, she’s just a girl, and she’s as white as the rest of them and soaking wet from head to toe.
“Well, we watch her pass on by up the Boulevard and the whole crowd starts to thin out and then that’s it, they’re all gone with the fog. Frank and me, we’re both a little shell shocked here. I don’t think Frank even expected all that to happen, but now we know, right, now we know that Rosie’s dead and she’s in the drink somewhere, in the river.
“We can’t exactly go back to headquarters and tell ‘em what happened, but Frank fudges a bit about a tip we got and he gets them to search the Mon River there around the bridge and after a couple of days, they find her down there with a chunk of concrete tied to her legs.
“Things cooled down between the mayor and the mobster after they buried the poor girl and that makes me think they were all in on it and that girl must have known some bad stuff about everybody’s business.
“Frank and me, we never been back to that intersection – the crossroads, right – but I guess if someone wanted to, they could go down there on Halloween, wait for Rosie to walk by, and ask her what happened. Couldn’t hurt, I guess.”
Read more stories of the Midnighters here.
Read more stories of the Midnighters here.