Back in 1994 my brother Josh was working as an on-site technician for a large phone company. His role was twofold: Firstly to set up new lines, and secondly to find the problem with and fix broken landlines.
He was based in a small town, but most of his time was spent catering to farmers in the nearby areas. The problems were usually hard to find but easy to fix. Sometimes Josh had to walk half a mile up and down dusty roads to find where a particular cable was broken – and the repair didn’t even take ten minutes.
One of those calls, in August of 1994, led him to a rather large family-owned farm. A girl called Kasey had called in from a neighbors’ house, saying that the family’s phone was dead. Josh drove out the next day.
I don’t know how it’s done now, but back then Josh told me that phone cables are buried together with other cables, sometimes even together with piping, in hollow tubes of either hard plastic or cement. In areas where that wasn’t possible the cables were usually placed on high poles. But in rural areas where not all houses were connected to the electric grid, it was sometimes more cost effective to lead the wire, covered in a thick plastic coating, simply along a road.
When Josh was called out to a farm those ground-led cables were usually at fault. A machinery drove over the cable, an animal ripped it or maybe some bored kid cut through it. Either way, those jobs kept Josh employed and so he didn’t mind slowly driving along country roads, stopping every few meters to stop potential breaks.
The MacDonald farm was an easy case. Already while on the route to their house Josh spotted the ripped cable. It was a clean cut and the separated ends had been pulled apart for several meters. Josh figures it was likely from a plow or similar device, a simple accident, likely done by the farm owners themselves.
He had all the right tools and Josh fixed the cable break within half an hour. Then he drove to the farm to tell the family the good news and make sure that the problem was fixed.
He arrived at the MacDonald farm around 4pm. The heavy wooden gate was open and so Josh drove his van straight inside to drive up to the house.
When he turned into the gate Josh saw a cow lying on the driveway. He was used to that. He honked the horn to shoo the cow away. Usually that worked but this particular, all-brown cow refused to move.
Josh slowed down, drove closer and tried the horn again – longer, this time. Still the cow didn’t move.
There was no way around the cow, other than to drive into a ditch next to the driveway and Josh didn’t want to risk breaking the car. Finally, just a few steps away from the cow, he stopped and let the motor roar. When the animal still didn’t react Josh carefully and well-aware that a diseased cow might attack him without warning, got out of the car. He grabbed his toolbox from the back, then slowly walked around the car to pass the animal from behind.
Only then, two steps in front of his car, did he notice the puddle of dark brown, dried blood around the animal.
The animal was lying, with its head on the floor and towards the direction that Josh had come from. He saw a large, gaping cut through the brown throat and three long slits through the enlarged stomach.
Josh was on edge, but not seriously worried. Occasionally farmers have to put pregnant cows down when the calf refuses to be born – and to get rid of a cow’s body is not easy and it can take days for the specialist to arrive.
Josh figured the MacDonald family or the veterinarian had tried to save the calf by cutting open the mother’s body, like a cow’s C-section, just without the anesthesia that humans would receive. Likely they killed the mother first, by cutting her throat, then, when the animal sank on the floor, they cut the body open.
From the looks of it, Josh concluded, they hadn’t succeeded. The bulge in the cow’s body was clearly visible; the calf without a doubt still inside. The skin had been placed back into its original position, only the cuts and a small gap between skin flabs was still visible. Josh resisted the urge to look inside the animal’s body.
Holding his nose, Josh walked around the cow and further towards the farm. The driveway was long. To his right was a pasture with several cows, some were standing, but most were lying on the grass, probably chewing the cud. To Josh’s left was a thick corn field that made him feel slightly uneasy.
Josh reached the farmhouse about five minutes later. He called out and rang the doorbell but there was no response. He knocked against the wooden door and called out again. He thought they might be out, trying to organize the removal of the cow’s body in the driveway.
To make sure that they weren’t just not hearing him Josh turned to the right and circled the house. He glanced through the windows while he passed them, first the kitchen, then a living room window, but everything inside seemed calm and dark.
At this point, before he saw it, Josh told me, he began to feel uneasy. There was nothing unusual, except the dead, pregnant cow, but still he felt a tingling in his legs and back, like a warning of bad news.
Then he turned the corner.
Josh only saw the scene for a few seconds, but he says he still remembers it today in vivid detail; like a photograph burned into his brain.
A large dog lay on the back porch. His body was slit open lengthwise and the organs and intestine were pulled out.
Right next to the dog’s body laid the bodies of an older couple. The man’s body was naked, his head separated from the body and placed between his leg. Two large cuts went through his body, one from the throat to the groin and one from left to right through the abdomen. His intestines were pulled out and placed to the left of the body, near the dog.
The woman’s body was dressed, but the clothes were cut open. A deep cut went through her throat and a large sideways cut through her abdomen. She too was gutted. But what Josh remembers the most, the thing he still has nightmares about, are the bloody spots where her breasts should have been. There were two straight cuts, as if someone had carefully sliced the breasts off her body.
Both, the man and the woman’s eyes and mouth were sewn shut with a thick, dark thread. The man’s lips were split in several places, as if he had forcefully opened his mouth, but the thread had been stronger than his lips.
Josh threw his toolbox on the floor and ran.
He turned back around the corner, ran back onto the driveway towards the dead cow.
While running he saw that some of the cows on the pasture were looking at him, following his movement. But most of them were still on the floor. Most of them still hadn’t moved. Around one of them he noticed a large, dark puddle on the grass.
Josh ran so fast that he twice nearly fell over stones or potholes. He stumbled towards the cow, curved to the left around the body and ran around the back of his car to get to the driver’s seat.
Just before he reached the driver’s door Josh stopped dead in his tracks. The cow was still there. But the flap of skin was pushed further open. The bulge was gone. Inside the cow’s abdomen, where Josh had thought was a calf, was now just a large, gaping hole.
Panicked Josh ripped the car door open. He screamed when he felt the thick, brown-red liquid on the door handle. Still he pulled the door open, looked inside the car and jumped on the driver’s seat. He felt a large, squishy ball exploding when his feet pressed on the accelerator.
He looked down to his feet to see what it was – and just in that moment noticed movement in the corn field to his left. He slammed the key in the ignition, turned it, heard the motor howl, threw the car in reverse and hammered his foot through the squishy mass back on the accelerator.
The movement in the corn field came closer. The car moved backwards and swerved; Josh was barely able to avoid driving into the ditch at the side of the driveway. He slowed down to regain control over the car, saw the corn being pushed aside, then pushed again hard on the accelerator.
The car sped backwards, through the wooden gates and back on the country road. Back in the driveway, just when he was out of the driveway and backing onto the road Josh saw a figure emerging out of the cornfield, a few steps away from the cow. He swears the figure looked like a teenage girl with dark hair, covered from head to toes in dried blood.
Then Josh sped off.
Josh walked into the police station with the cow’s heart still stuck around his right foot.
The newspaper articles said that the MacDonalds didn’t have any children.