In true Halloween fashion, my friends and I gathered together recently for our annual fright night. Since we’re grown-ups, this mainly consists of a few horror movies, our favorite bottles of wine, and a warm fire in the fireplace to illuminate the darkened room ever so slightly. I had my “movie-selecting” privileges revoked awhile back (after I chose a recent horror movie that was subsequently in subtitles), so I was anxious to see what terrifying and ghostly presence would emerge on the screen.
Looking at the DVD cover of the movie we were about to watch,The Strangers, I thought it was a good choice: “Oooh, ghosts wearing masks! This looks pretty cool!” I voiced loudly (missing the wry smiles that appeared on my friends’ faces since they knew what was coming).
Needless to say, it was one of the most disturbing movies I have ever seen. In fact, the “ghosts” were real people. The movie takes place in a remote home where an attractive young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) decides to spend the night. After receiving a knock on their door, they are terrorized, tortured, brutalized, and, eventually, murdered over the next several hours by a man and two women wearing creepy masks; a genuine home invasion at its worst. If I didn’t have my eyes covered (the masks, truly, horrified me), I was yelling at the screen at the lack of common sense exhibited by the victims, “What are you doing? Run for the woods, you idiot!” Clearly, I wasn’t entertained. When I sit down to watch a movie, I want to be catapulted from reality with no reminder of what can actually happen. I don’t need to be reminded; I saw it every day as a police officer. And, little did my friends know, that home invasions rank right up there as a crime that continuously turns my stomach. Imagine sitting down at your dinner table with your family, talking about the day’s events, or doing your laundry in the security of your own home watching soap operas when your door is kicked in and you are surrounded by vicious mask-wearing criminals who point a gun at you and your children before ordering all of you to the floor.
For the victims, it’s an indescribable horror. They have been invaded: their home, their lives, and their security. They don’t know if the invaders simply want money, or if they are there for the sole purpose of terrorizing the family. If it’s the latter, that is much, much, worse.
Before I retired, my jurisdiction was suffering a rash of home invasions. Some of the victims were beaten mercifully, while others were terrorized for hours. To look at their faces after something like this shows the depth of horror they went through—it wasn’t a movie, and it certainly wasn’t entertaining.Apparently, Hollywood thinks it is. On April 11, 1981, the Sharp family was brutally murdered and terrorized in a remote cabin of the Keddie Resort (pictured left). Known since as the “Keddie Murders,” some argue the case inspired the Friday the 13th movies—teens alone in a cabin being stalked and killed by an unknown killer. However, the first Friday the 13th movie was filmed in 1980, a year before the Keddie murders. Is this a case of life imitating art or vice versa? Or, did the movies really have anything to do with the murders at all? Of course, there are the Manson Murders. No one really knows for sure just how long Sharon Tate begged for her life and the life of her unborn child’s. And, like the Manson home invasions, another famed example of a murdered family was the Clutter family, gruesomely depicted in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. One of the most recent cases of a home invasion—the Connecticut case of Dr. William A. Petit, Jr. had some of us considering bars on our home windows; a day-long terror that resulted in two thugs beating and raping the doctor’s wife and daughters before setting the house on fire. There is also the case of the Groene family murders by serial killer Joseph Edward Duncan, another family terrorized in their own home before being murdered. I don’t think any of us could sit back and begin to imagine the sheer terror all of these people above felt before they died. Frankly, I don’t want to nor do I want to be reminded of it on my television. In breaking news, as I was writing this post Sunday afternoon, various news stations began to broadcast the untimely death of Arkansas news anchor, Anne Pressly (seen below), 26. Pressly, the victim of a brutal home invasion had every bone in her face broken during the savage beating. Although she held out for several days, she finally succumbed to her injuries on Saturday. The suspects are still at large and the police maintain that Pressly was chosen randomly.
Some feel that as the economy continues its downward spiral, these types of crimes will escalate. It is much easier to invade and rob a home than a bank or convenience store. I can only hope that the persons responsible for Pressly's murder will be brought to justice.I doubt that friends and family of Anne Pressly will look warmly to movies portraying her death for entertainment. The Strangers was supposedly inspired by a true story, but I couldn’t find one fact to back that up. The blogs and reviews say it was a compilation of the Keddie murders and the Manson murders but, it’s just another movie depicting the real-life violence that plagues our society daily. And, again, it was very realistic. I’ve had the experience of interviewing burglars/home invaders and their MO is usually standard. For burglars, they find it best to commit their crimes during the day when the homeowners are at work. For the home invaders—anything goes.
One suspect told me that he and his cohorts would purposely drive around remote areas looking for homes that “stood alone.” One of them would knock on the door and ask to use a phone as their car broke down, all the while scanning the interior, counting the number of people inside, etc. He would go back to the other waiting crooks and relay the information. They may hit the house at that moment, or return later. This is also one of those crimes where I see just as many women partake as men. Never the brains behind the crime, they usually tag along and quite enjoy tormenting families.
This is also one of those crimes where I see just as many women partake as men. Never the brains behind the crime, they usually tag along and quite enjoy tormenting families.Prevention, although never guaranteed, can be a simple integration into your daily lives. 1. During the day make sure your doors are locked. If you have a security system, have it on while you’re inside as well. 2. You teach it to your kids—never open the door to strangers. You can easily be overpowered. If someone comes to your door you can always crack a window nearby and yell out. 3. Keep a fully charged, emergency cell phone within reach. One of the cheap, convenient store track phones will do. On the flipside, keep a landline if possible. A lot of people are ridding their landlines for their cell phones. As long as landlines are available, I’ll keep one. In some rural areas, 911 have yet to obtain the capacity to pinpoint cell phone signals. 4. Dogs. Criminals are terrified of them. But, then again, so are the cops (my confrontation with a 150-lb Pit Bull will never be forgotten). Chihuahuas and Rat Terriers don’t apply here. 5. Trust your instincts. If a shady character comes to your door and leaves, call the police anyway. Don’t ask for a “drive-by,” insist they come to your door to contact you personally. That’s their job and if you’re worried about looking “too paranoid,” who cares. If you get a good look at the shady character, try to look for personal characteristics like scars, marks, tattoos, clothing, beards, mustaches, hats, etc. Don’t be dissuaded by stereotypes! I’ve seen some female suspects involved in home invasions that are attractive, young, and well dressed—they are the bait. 6. Guns. Some may or may not agree with this, but I have quite an arsenal in my home that I can access from any room within seconds. Should I be confronted with a home invader, he or she will be confronted by the end of my .45. 7. If you have an elderly relative that lives alone and has no immediate medical needs, think about getting them a medical alert necklace anyway—if possible. With the exception of the dogs (my yellow lab would just as soon lick a criminal to death) I practice the above safety in my own home. Keep in mind, my husband and I have had our lives threatened for years as police officers and need to play it safe. For those who find the above too intense for their own lifestyles, I completely understand. But, you can always keep the tips in the back of your mind for safekeeping. When someone (to classify them as a human being doesn’t apply) enters a family dwelling for the sole purpose of terrorizing and viciously murdering them, this portrays one of the most dangerous individuals in our society. These types of people were summarized well at the end of “The Strangers” when Liv Tyler’s character was pleading for her life and asking, “Why are you doing this to us?” Their response? “Because you were home.” Sorry, ladies; I think I’m going back to my subtitles. . . .