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1918 Birch Sororicide

On October 5, 1918, Dorothy Birch murdered her sister Lizzie while playing hide-and-seek. The following was taken from Dorothy's journal during her time at the Sunnyhaven psychiatric hospital.

Excerpt from the journal of Dorothy Birch(pt. 908-01)

April 12, 1923.


I suppose this is will be one of the last voluntary entries in my journal, even though Dr. Keating told me to write down everything that happened. But I'm going to tell the entire story, which is what I should have done in the first place; damn my pride. 


It was a biting and windy fall day, I still remember the date. October 5, 1918. Lizzie and I were playing hide-and-go-peek amongst the trees on the land behind my uncle's farm. She was only twelve to my fifteen, so she got her way most all of the time. It was my turn to find her, as I had given in to her incessant begging. She loved to hide. 


I hid my eyes in my hands and leaned into the sweet-smelling bark of a thick oak. I called out the numbers until I got to ...98...99...100...! and set off to find her.


Looking back, I should have noticed the signs immediately. The wind which had blown out of the east all day had ceased entirely and there were no sounds in the forest save for my own uncertain footsteps breaking the virgin, untouched carpet of dried and fallen leaves. I kept walking farther into the woods, occasionally calling out for Lizzie. I was not answered except for the greedy silence and the still trees all around. As I kept walking, the large and stout oaks gave way to thinner, taller trees. 


It was then that I should have turned around, it was then that I should have run back to Uncle Ed's cabin. But I kept walking. 


I stayed on my way, still calling out for my sister, a bit more panicked now, as I almost always found her within a few minutes of starting the search. The taller trees soon engulfed me and a slight mist began to drift through. Then, a sequence of events commenced that will be forever burned into my memory. 


I suddenly heard a cry of my name, “Dorothy~!” in a high-pitched, breathy sort of call. It was unmistakably Lizzie. I began to run now, my breath coming in harsh gasps as the cold air stung my throat. The mist came in quicker now, and it was difficult to see. Then, I got the unexplainable urge to hide behind a thicker tree, which I quickly obeyed, looking into the fog in front of me for evidence of Lizzie. 


I can't tell you how long I sat there, shivering behind the tree. Then, a very very tall figure appeared faintly in the fog. It appeared to be a man wearing a suit like Daddy's friends from the bank, but it also looked like he was wearing stilts too, like the clowns at the Fourth of July parade we saw. He seemed to be so tall that his head grazed the leaves. What really didn't make sense was his arms. Oh, his arms. They looked like several hoses left unattended and cranked up to full blast, but moving very slow. That's the best way I can describe it. This...man, I'll say, this man stood there in the fog for a good few minutes, his (arms?) waving very slow. I got this weird feeling from the tall man, like I was intruding upon something I was forbidden to see, namely his presence. 


I got a strange feeling as I gazed upon him, as if I wasn't looking at him, he was looking at me. No, looking through me. Then I realized that his head didn't quite make sense, in a way. It looked like it was moving, like, like.....there was a swarm of bees where his face should have been. Kind of like he was in between places and his head had not caught up with his body yet. I was very scared at that point and all thoughts of Lizzie had vanished from my head. 


Then, as quickly as he had appeared, the tall man was gone. He just faded away into the fog. It was then that I heard a whimpering sound close to where he was standing. I walked forward, propelled not by my feet but something else. I can't remember much of this time, I can remember walking up to Lizzie, who was lying amongst the leaves, and then my hands closed on something hard and heavy and holding it above my head. Then there was blackness.


The next thing I remember is sitting in Uncle Ed's kitchen, surrounded by Daddy, Ma, Uncle Ed, and a policeman, they were asking me questions and looking at me like we look at the tigers at the zoo; like I was something dangerous. Apparently I had....killed Lizzie with a rock to her head. I don't remember any of the actual...act. I still have trouble thinking of it now, but that's why I'm at Sunnyhaven, I suppose. However, the tall man still visits me in my dreams. I hope that Dr. Keating can help me banish him forever.


Below is a transcript of a conversation between Dorothy and Dr. Mitchell Keating.

_Begin Transcript/ June 23, 1923/ Patient 908-01_


Dr. Keating: Hello, Dorothy, how are you?


Dorothy: Just fine, Doctor, and yourself?


Dr. Keating: Well, Dorothy, I'm a bit concerned, to tell you the truth.


Dorothy: Oh?


Dr. Keating: Yes. I found your jounral entry, and there are some crucial details that you didn't disclose to the police or myself, particularly some of the details concerning the appearance of this, this...(ruffles through patient's journal) Sle-


Dorothy: DON'T SAY HIS NAME! PLEASE, I BEG OF YOU, DON'T SAY IT!


Dr. Keating: Shhh, it's okay-


Dorothy: NO IT'S NOT OKAY! SPEAK OF HIM AND HE WILL COME! PLEASE! DON'T! (patient begins to sob uncontrollably; a female nurse comforts her)


Dr. Keating: I won't say his name, Dorothy, I promise. 


Dorothy: Promise?


Dr. Keating: I swear it.


Dorothy: Good.


Dr. Keating: Now, would you mind telling me a little bit about this...man?


Dorothy: I can't tell you, even though you asked so nicely.


Dr. Keating: And why ever not, dear Dorothy?


Dorothy: (Silent, hesitant) Because, well, he tells me not to say anything. 


Dr. Keating: You mean, he speaks to you?


Dorothy: Not really. I can just tell. When he appears in my dreams, it's always in that forest behind Uncle Ed's farm. And he's...taller, like he's gained power or something. But he's just so menacing that I know if I say anything, he'll...he'll....(Patient begins to weep quietly)


Dr. Keating: Dorothy?


Dorothy: I want to...go back to my room now.


Dr. Keating: Very well. Miss Dunbury will escort you.


{mm - scribe}

_End of transcript_


On October 5, 1923, Dorothy was found dead in her room at Sunnyhaven Hospital. The following was taken from a local newspaper.

Teen Girl's Death at Sunnyhaven

Dorothy Birch, a nineteen year-old girl at Sunnyhaven Hospital, was found deceased in her room on the fifth of this month. The circumstances surrounding her death were mysterious. The county coroner, Marcus Green, confirms "no signs of poison or wounds on any part of her body. It's as if she just 'gave up the ghost', so to speak."

"I found her lying peacefully in her bed, as if she was asleep," a shaken nurse at the hospital tells the Bugle. As investigators searched Birch's room, they unearthed several notebooks with pictures and etched out writings of what appears to be a tall, slender man wearing a business suit. Her doctor, Mitchell Keating, is being detained for questioning.