It's not uncommon that stories like mine start the way they do when talking about a man like Holland Chester, but, truly, there's no other way to start it than by saying " Holland Chester wasn't a kind man".
In fact he was one of the most foul humans ever to walk on God's earth.
He was never happy unless someone else was suffering.
He leveled pain against anyone he chose to target either through plot or fist.
He shamed women, killed beast, and stole from or battered man and child if they were unlucky enough to find his sites at the wrong time.
So monstrous was Holland, that folks in town sought to have him arrested or plain kicked out of town for his beastliness, but Holland always knew too many persons of influence
to suffer long.
Always some official or another would telegram the sheriff. Or the Mayor himself would
Come down to the courthouse and smooth things over and Holland Chester would grin that sick grin and stroll out of jail, waddle off to the bar and drink like a pig. Leaving the wounded party to lament injustice and fear the repercussions.
Holland wasn't rich. Though he was comfortable. Living on the swindled earnings of people far and wide. He had become though, as of late, a bit thin of coin as he had hunted down and wounded every source that would pay out in trust. Now as a result, Holland became cross.
He tapped out all but the dregs of his home supply of drink.
No woman within forty miles would as much as look at him.
Fist fights were becoming a vent for his ill temper and local men had taken to joining forces when challenged by Holland, giving back a bit of his own in full delivery.
Was it all this that set events in motion as they would turn out? Or did some force beyond have a greater plan to contribute? It seems as though, to me anyways, Holland Chester had set his foot into a bear trap that grey afternoon. Whether to some plan or not. Some force or … thing acted willingly against his rage.
As afternoon turned to diner time, and the children all scrambled inside to fill their bellies, Holland Chester, gripping his gut and mumbling to himself came swaggering down the sidewalk. Those he past would later say he reeked of paint remover.
Incoherent as he seemed, his temper was set on seething when his path was beset by young five year-old Emil Svauten, stooped over to recover a dropped lead soldier on the sidewalk, Holland struck.
His foot flew hard into the boy's stomach sending him sideways in the air and landing him on his side some four feet away.
Barks and swears went out from the bystanders as little Emil's mother ran to her son's side. The only movement from the boy was a shiver from his clenched fists. He was curled up on his side, his eyes, half opened and a soft moan rattled from his throat.
As the crowd grew and Emil was rushed inside to his house by his sobbing mother, Holland eyeing the situation, decided he may have just pushed an envelope a bit too far…
He staggered home.
What happened next is given through witness testimony from the inquiry.
I myself have filled in the rest based on latter conversations with some folks and a little research into certain cultural beliefs that came over with the Swedish and Norwegian folk
Who populated the area at the time. For something they said seems to add, as far as I can see, though to be sure it is the strangest answer anyone could hear, the only plausible answer to the unbelievable fate of Holland Chester.
At roughly 6:00 that evening, Holland was heard by neighbors wailing and cursing in his home. The tone swaying between anger and lament. An hour later, the lights were out in his house.
He could be heard mumbling on the street leading out of town. Until in front of one Mr. Peter Tracey who claimed to see Holland standing on the street facing back into town and staring down at a patch of earth which seemed to the witness "To be moving as though an animal of sorts was burrowing under it". Holland at the time seemed "Astonished by this happening" and"Vacant, or afraid to move". Mr. Tracey later confessed that he didn't watch long. He claimed a sense of uneasiness came upon him, so that he shouldn't watch the spectacle.
Later by Miss Badder's house, Holland was seen "Digging and swatting at his leg, like maybe they was a dog biting it or something clung to it. I didn't see nothing, but he was sure making a commotion over it. Yelling to be let go of, and swearing to an accident of some kind having happened. Well, I weren't about to go out there and help him, after what he done to poor little Emil. Besides, I figured he were just drunk on hooch".
Note: (a later examination of Holland Chester's house showed that he had been drinking paint remover in the absence of alcohol).
It was no less than five minuets later that Holland was seen "Crawling past my house and barking up a storm. All as though he was carrying a great weight on his back. I could hear him sobbing! Holland Chester, crying and moaning. The man never shed a tear for no-one. Never! I stepped out on my porch and said. "Chester, you ailing? Maybe your feeling guilty over what you did to the Svauten boy!" Well, Holland stops and with his left hand, reaches to me. The most pitiful look on his face I ever seen…I never seen anyone so…in pain. Like he was being crushed beneath something on his back, but NOTHING was there! I took a few steps towards him…when he shifted to move, I thought I could hear his bones crack, like he was busted up. I thought maybe some folks caught up with him and gave him his due."
This was the report from one Mr. Mangenstein, whose house is a short jog from town's end where the body was found. When asked why he hadn't helped Holland to his feet or offer any other kind of assistance, Mr. Mangenstein only shook his head. He claimed a sick "unnatural" feeling came upon him and he could do nothing more than leave the scene. He went back into his house and told his wife to "close the shades and stay away from the windows for the night". Even as this part of the testimony is given, Mr. Mangenstein seems to take on a disturbed and vacant tone himself.
That would seem to be the end of the witness reports from those who saw Holland Chester alive.
The next morning a paper boy following the trail of Holland Chester's crushed wares came upon a grizzly sight. Just past the border of town was what the paper boy took for a pile of clothes. But upon closer examination, he found it was a man, crushed and misshapen. The boy wisely ran for help.
Doctor Albert Haley, also the town coroner said he had never in his life seen anything to the like of the condition of the deceased man. "No part of his frame was higher than two inches from ground level. It was as if a great force had flattened the man from above, forcing him to pull forward and pressing him into the earth. An impression was found after removal of the body one inch deep and signs of a last struggle against death were present, and it would appear to all evidence that the victim traveled for some distance through town baring the weight upon his back until forced to crawl"
"He would have died in extreme agony over a long period of time. Death came by prolonged asphyxiation and the slow crushing of bones and internal organs". These were the Doctor's last words on the matter.
That "crushed frame" was buried outside of town and its burial was attended only by the curious. Today only a worn wooden marker with the name H. Chester tells any tales of its charge.
It had come to my ear that in certain folklore of Norway and kindred parts, that children killed in violent manner, may return as ghosts who take revenge on travelers on lonely byways by fastening themselves to the victim and growing in size until death takes its portion.
It was noted that one Emil Svauten passed from his wounds just ten minuets before the sighting of Holland Chester by Peter Tracey.