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My name is Ruth Hill. They killed me in the woods behind Hayswood Hospital on All Hallow’s Eve in 1966, and this is my story. Someone has to hear it, because people need to know the truth.
I wasn’t what you’d call one of those popular girls. My mom was a widow and I was the oldest of six kids, so we were poor. One of the rooms in our house had a dirt floor. We lived on food stamps and our water didn’t work half the time, so I had to wear dirty clothes to school once in a while. I didn’t like it, but that’s the way life was. Kids at school looked down their noses at me because we lived in a little shack on a hill. I would fantasize about what life could be like if I weren’t poor. Sometimes I went through catalogues cutting out pictures of the clothes and furniture I wish I had and taped them in a big scrapbook that I kept in my closet.
I wasn’t a cheerleader and not a beauty queen, and on a Saturday night could often be found reading Emily Dickinson in the library instead of hanging out drinking sodas at the local drugstore.
I did manage to meet a boy, though. His name was Ray and he was an outsider too. Not just because he was poor like me, but because he had dropped out of school. Big and strong and cuddly, sort of like a big teddy bear, he liked to work in tobacco and read Louis L’amour westerns. That’s how we met at the library. He was looking for a new book to check out.
When we were together, we could forget that we were poor. We lay on a blanket in his backyard lots of nights just watching the stars and dreaming of the day we could get married and leave home. We were smart enough to go to college, but that dream was for other people because we had no money, and people in our families had never been past high school graduation.
When you’re in love like me and Ray were, you don’t use your head, so I ended up with his baby inside of me. Still, we were happy about it. We were going to make the best of it and be the best mommy and daddy we could be.
My mother and grandparents and aunts were so mad.
“How could you do this to us? Why weren’t you careful?”
“I don’t know. It just happened.”
They were mad at me for a while. Why, I don’t know, because it’s not like they were married when they got pregnant with their kids. I think they were mad because they wanted better for me than what they had. They didn’t want me to make the same mistakes they did. I was supposed to be the smart one; the one who could make it out of poverty and do more than they did.
I started showing, and I was still in school. Kids in the hall would stare at my stomach and whisper about me like I wasn’t even there. It hurt my feelings, so I held my notebook to my breast like I was protecting my baby.
Back then, it was a no-no to be a pregnant girl going to school. It happened now and then, but it was shunned. I already had marks against me. Poor and shy. Now I was pregnant too. I only had a few months to go in school, but Mom pulled me out and kept me home. I was a disgrace to her. A shame.
“Nobody needs to know our business,” she said.
Back then, you didn’t go back to school once you had a baby, so the future held for me what it held for a lot of young women who got pregnant in the mid-Sixties: You stayed with your family, got a job, and took care of your baby.
Ray was already working, so that wasn’t a problem. He helped out with money, but Mom wouldn’t let him move in.
“It just doesn’t look right.”
So we slipped out whenever we could to spend time and nights together.
We still planned to get married. I would get a job after the baby was born, and Mom would babysit. We wouldn’t have a lot of money, but we would have enough to provide for the baby.
But those plans changed in a bad way one night when Ray left my house to go home. He rounded a curve in his old Mustang, and a semi hit him head-on.
My mom woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me. She told me they tried to save him but he died in the hospital.
It was then that I felt my little baby kick inside of me.
I think he felt the tragedy in my heart. It must have traveled through his umbilical cord all the way to his heart too, because he kicked and kicked until I thought my stomach would bruise from the inside out.
My mother told me to rest, but there was no rest for me for the next three days. Not until after his funeral, and even then sleep wouldn’t come. All I could do was walk the town hugging my empty arms.
I never had a daddy growing up. Now our baby wouldn’t have one either. It filled my heart with such sorrow. Why did life have to be so unfair? Ray wasn’t a perfect person, but he was good-hearted and hard-working. He’d have been a good daddy. He even picked out the name for our baby. Christian. Either way. Boy or girl. Christian.
“Christian,” I wept inside of myself as I roamed around the streets of town stroking my swollen belly, “I’m sorry you won’t have a daddy. I’m sorry you’re getting off to a rough start. But I’ll be here to protect you. I promise.”
The last month of pregnancy was the hardest. Physically and emotionally. Physically I was bulging, my back hurt, my legs ached, and I was exhausted. Emotionally I missed Ray, I worried about how I would provide for the baby, and I kept getting those stares from people in town. People who I guess never made mistakes or lived better lives or made the right decisions all the time.
I still took my night-time walks, which went down the slopey street and past the hospital that sat built into the hillside like it had been carved in relief right from the earth like a fresco.
There was always something going on at the hospital when I’d pass. An ambulance bringing somebody in or taking somebody out. Doctors walking in together. Patients or visiting families sitting on the steps and smoking. Nuns and preachers holding people’s hands and praying. The elevator doors opening and closing. People were warm and friendly to everybody except the poor young pregnant woman who should have known better and had ruined her life and her faith for good.
I was born in the hospital, but was never sick enough after that to ever have to go to it.
Except for that one night…my last night…All Hallow’s Eve they called it…I was taking my walk and thinking how I would finally be holding a real live baby in my arms in just a few days, because my due date was, well, past due. It could happen anytime.
It was late and I passed a few stray trick-or-treaters that were still out as I walked down the sloped street. My belly was starting to hurt and my legs were heavy, so I thought I would sit down on one of the bottom steps of the hospital up ahead, but I didn’t make it that far.
A car as shiny as black glass pulled up beside me and started driving slow.
The driver rolled his window down and smiled. He was dressed in a suit, his hair was slicked back, and he smelled like good aftershave.
“Need a ride?” he asked with a smile.
I trusted him. Maybe I shouldn’t have, but I did. He looked nice, was dressed well, and offered to help. I was hurting pretty badly, and I actually was beginning to think that there was no way I could make it back home on foot, so I got in the back seat where another man in an equally good suit put his arm around me and pulled me close to his side, the way a mother hen would cover her chick.
“Nice to meet you,” he said with the same kind smile as his hand slipped inside of his breast pocket.
I had never felt the texture of a suit or touched a well-dressed man before. It sent tingles up my spine. It felt rich, and powerful, and magnetic. I could smell his importance all over him. Maybe he was a politician or a successful businessman. Whatever he was, he looked like he was used to getting what he wanted and getting things done.
He brought out a small pretty bottle, of, liquor I guess. Twisted off the top and held it out to offer me some.
“Oh,” I said smiling nervously as my heart began to beat a little harder. “No thanks. I don’t drink. You can turn around here at the hospital. I live back that way.”
His smile remained as he handed the delicate bottle to the man sitting next to him, but the arm he had around me tightened and he pulled me so close against him it was hard to breathe.
“No,” I heard myself say as I reached for the door handle. “I want out. I’ll walk.”
But the car didn’t slow. I opened the door, to jump out if I had to, but his arm moved up around my neck and pulled me back, encircling, and squeezed around my throat like a boa constrictor until I couldn’t breathe and white spots swam before my eyes.
When I woke up I was lying strapped to a log on my back in the woods, and the four men in the car who had been dressed in suits were now dressed in long dark hooded robes and holding candles and holding ornately-carved silver cups.
And then two more men joined in.
I couldn’t tell one face from another because the candlelight was low and the hoods obscured their features. I didn’t know any of them, but they all spoke in a rhythmic low chant while they stared through me like I wasn’t even there. Some unholy prayer to their dark lord.
“Help me,” I said as I started to struggle out of the straps.
A pregnant body isn’t meant to be tied down this way. Knots on the log bore into my back. I was on a hillside. I hurt. Something wet was coming out of me. I started to cry. I didn’t want to lose my baby. What were these strangers doing? I didn’t understand why they were chanting or why they brought me here.
I turned my head to try to look around. Through the trees and down the hill I saw a flicker of lights, but I couldn’t tell what it was. Maybe a street light, maybe a porch light, I didn’t know.
“Please,” I said in a quivering voice because I was cold. “Let me go.”
They ignored me like I was nothing more than an animal or an insect. One of them opened a book and began reading in a language I didn’t understand.
The moon was full, I could feel that it was late, and I just wanted to go home.
“Mommy,” I began to cry, sounding like a baby myself and hating myself for it.
Why couldn’t I be brave? Why couldn’t I fight back?
And then snatches of their conversation sounded in my ears:
–”Angel of light.”
“Oh my God,” I sobbed up into the dark branches of the trees. “Are you doing this because I’m bad?”
My own words sounded crazy, even to me, but I was losing my mind. My brain was frozen mush; I couldn’t think. Didn’t know what to say. Maybe they drugged me. Why? What did they want?
And then, from deep inside me, maybe from my baby, maybe from Ray, or God Himself, a scream of terror and rage rose from my belly, up my throat, and out of my mouth into the orange-mooned sky:
“SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME!”
But that was my last scream. A silver blade came whipping out from under one of the robes and stabbed into my stomach.
Please, no. My baby.
My mind screamed out, but no sound passed my mouth, which was frozen in a big round circle of paralyzing pain as they encompassed me with their chanting and candlelight.
I came to, still in the darkness under the orange glow, but tasting mud and leaves and twigs where they had halfway buried me in a shallow grave.
The men were gone, and I was left spitting out dirt. Bitter grit ground between my teeth and I wanted to retch.
They had left me for dead.
There was no way they could do that to me and let me live to tell the tale.
But I’m alive! I screamed wildly to myself. And I will tell the tale! Someone will pay!
Facedown, I planted my hands into the earth and tried to roll over, turn over, move. Anything to prove that I was still alive.
My hands moved to my stomach. Still there. Still inside of me. My stomach was wet and sticky with blood and I didn’t know how I would get help, but I told myself we would die out here alone in the woods if I didn’t try, so I pushed myself to my hands and knees and began to crawl toward the light I had seen earlier.
How much earlier I didn’t know. I didn’t know what time it was or how much of it had passed.
The men could be lurking behind the trees for all I know, ready to attack me again any second.
“It’s okay, baby,” I sniffed as I crawled through the crisp autumn leaves and dry twigs and damp soil. “Mommy will get you some help.”
I felt my stomach again. Still bleeding, but I felt what I thought to be intestines trying to come out. But I was dizzy and light-headed and my vision was fading in and out, so that told me I was losing a lot of blood.
“Stay with me, sweetheart,” I whispered with a dripping nose. “Don’t leave me.”
Somehow talking to my baby kept me going. I had a purpose. A reason to live.
Who are those men? What do I tell the police? Will they believe me? It’s like something out of a book or a movie. It can’t be real. Things like that just don’t happen in real life. Not to me.
I was getting closer to the light. Closer to help.
“Almost there,” I breathed.
Blood was starting to bubble up in my throat.
How badly did they cut me? How many places?
My crawling was slowing to a drag. My heart slowing to a faint flutter against my chest. I could see Ray’s face in front of me and he was saying, “It’ll be all right, Ruthie. I’m right here. It’ll be all right.”
The light was bigger. Through the trees and down the hill I saw the back of a building, and doors, and windows, and curtains, and lights, and cars, and people.
Help, I said again, but it was only in my mind.
I never felt the hands picking me up and carrying me to the back door of the hospital. I watched it weirdly from somewhere above my body, detached and hovering above it like a helium balloon.
In the emergency room I lay on a gurney while the doctors and nurses tried to help me.
I wanted to go back into my body, I wanted to be with my baby again, but didn’t know how to get there. From outside of myself I watched them work on me, inserting tubes, turning dials, sticking needles, trying to stop the bleeding.
I kept hearing them say “blood”, and then they said, “she’s still with us”, and when they said that, I moved back inside of myself where I belonged, but strangely, felt no pain. An oxygen mask was over my face and I felt numb.
Other words: “Surgery”…………..”Baby”…………”Risky”
I saw Ray again, standing next to the gurney, taking my hand and smiling at me.
But I couldn’t smile back. I was in surgery. The surgeon’s masked face loomed over me as he spoke to the nurse and looked at me.
His eyes, above the surgical mask. In the car. Inside the hooded robe.
Oh my God.
You’re one of them.
You beast from hell.
“We’re losing her,” he said.
Yes! my mind screamed. Because you WANT to lose me! I’ll be an unsolved murder. An unexplained mystery. No one will know what to make of the young woman stabbed to death in the woods. Unknown assailants. Cold case. Closed case. No one will believe the stories of the secret society in the woods. I wasn’t their first sacrifice, and I wouldn’t be their last.
With my last breath I spoke my final words to him, forcing my head to lift from the operating table.
“I curse you,” I whispered into his greedy Luciferian eyes. “I curse you, and I curse this hospital.”
And then it was so easy. So easy to just let go, lie back, and look for Ray again.
I didn’t want our baby to die, but I knew this surgeon, this Satan worshipper, would have his way this night.
But I will return to this hospital to find my baby.