Sunday, May 5, 2013

LEFT INSIDE: A Cry for Help

This is the perhaps the strangest bit of writing I've ever found inside a book. I recently bought an old paperback edition of The Balcony by Dorothy Cameron Disney and in flipping through the pages (as I always do looking for something hidden inside) I discovered the last blank page was filled with bizarre writing.

I thought it especially ironic that something this desperate and fearful would appear in a book that has a fair amount of "Had I But Known" type narrative. At first I thought it may have something to so with Disney's story, but there are no characters in the book with any of the names in this scrawled message.

Transcription for those who have difficulty with script writing:

Why did Lynn call me to ask how are you doing[?] very odd
Why Linda not call or talk to me[?] its Sunday
Why did Ralph call me[?] very strange and it seems as if my time & Ebbys here is running out
I feel very scared
They get me a nice place he said
I am so sad never been so scared if only Don were here
Eban is very restless for the past 3 days too
I pray to join Don every night


  1. Hmmm. Makes me wonder if s/he read this while ill or in the hospital (or some other place where they felt nervous for their well-being). An elderly person who's lost a partner? Very curious.

  2. The first line is the oddest one of them all. You can explain the other lines with Bev’s comment, but the first one is not a question to herself.

    You can also you read it like a ghost story, if you imagine that the lines are from a dead woman. Lynn did call to ask Don how he was doing after his wife had passed away. They got her a nice place in the cemetery and she prays that Don was with her, because she’s scared.

    Carnacki has nothing on me! ;)

    1. Because there is no proper punctuation some of the sentences may appear unclear. If you read the first line this way: Why did Lynn call me to ask "How are you doing?" then it *is* referring to the writer.

      I could've punctuated the entire piece, but then I would've altered it to how I think it should be read. I only added the question marks in my transcription because I'm kind of anal that way.

    2. You're correct. I did not read that properly. Oh, well, there goes the last piece of "clutch-straw" for a romanticized explanation. I hope this mysterious woman found peace and not ended up in a scenario from an Anthonty Gilbert novel, because her taste in mystery writers was excellent.

      I'm tempted now to leave a baffling remark, along the lines of "why is raven like a writing desk?" or "why was the March Hare so important to the Aztects?," in a book.

  3. Quite scary. Wonder about the time that is running out.

  4. Very strange indeed, John. I wonder what it means? Maybe the person didn't have any writing paper and used the end-paper to jot down some quick thoughts then forgot about it.

    Maybe not.

    It's very unsettling.

    Maybe you should stop looking in old books.


  5. This is indeed bizarre. Watch your step, John -- the ghost of Harry Stephen Keeler is back on the loose and might be behind this message...

  6. Weird find, John. I'm inclined to agree with Yvette. I think the owners of the used bookstores I frequent go through all their books with a fine-tooth comb, hence I never find anything inside, not even a solitary scrap of paper. The only thing I ever found was a visiting card left behind by the director of a cruise tourism enterprise in British Columbia. I think he used it as a bookmark.

  7. Maybe you should write a mystery using this as the main storyline! The neatest thing I've found in a book is an old postcard with a sketch of winnie the pooh on it.

  8. It is indeed very odd. The part about get me a nice place could lead to all sorts of speculation, from travel to the grave.

  9. Congratulations on getting another recommendation in the July edition of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Your reviews and other blog writings are certainly some of the most consistently fascinating from week to week.

    1. Thank you, Holden, for letting me know. Another recommendation? You mean this blog was mentioned once before? Do you remember when? No one tells me anything. Clearly I don't have a lot of regular readers who also read EQMM. Now I'll have to find a copy of the July issue. I wonder who sells it in Chicago.