Empty

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it conscientiously.

Pascal

She was an explorer, a photographer a sometimes writer with no one in her life to notice if she never showed up after a day or a week or a month or ever again.

It had never occurred to her that this was a bad thing. That’s how she found these empty and abandoned. towns or maybe they found her, these concrete, brick and wooden corpses of dead little cities sitting alongside highways that tried to make their way to the outside world and tragically failed.

She was out on that Sunday looking for something to write about or maybe something to take pictures of for her library when she ended up on this particular road that simply ended and miles and miles of sand and nowhere stretched out in front of it.

Huddled there on the side of the Highway were the faded remains of a fast food stand that sold chicken in a basket and milkshakes – as promised by the weather worn giant plastic chicken in a blue and white basket perched precariously on the red tin roof.

There was the skeleton of a building across the street from the Chicken Stand that may have been a general store with a stack of empty shelves that served as it’s last remaining wall and a closed sign hanging from an empty socket where a window used to be.

Next to the all but dead store was a gas station with a faded blue horse painted on it’s side and a soda pop cooler with a missing door and an ice machine decorated with light blue snowflakes with it’s door chained shut

She slowed down and wondered about that chained ice machine- the chain was as rusted and worn as everything around it, but the lock was new. She wondered if anyone noticed it. If anyone had noticed it and just didn’t care enough to ask what it was they were looking at.

She stopped her Jeep and slowly backed up until she was right in front of the machine.

And it’s locked doors.

She shut her engine off. She unlatched her seatbelt and raised her hips off the seat and fished a scrunchie from her back pocket and tied her long dark hair back into a pony tail.

Her walk to the Ice Machine and it’s locked doors was a slow one. She looked up into the sky and she whistled. She wondered how far it was to the next rest stop. She wondered if it was almost lunch time because she was getting hungry.

When she got to the Ice Machine and it’s rusted lock she reached into her back pocket and took out a ring of little keys. She flipped through them and stopped at one with a little red dot and fit it into the lock.

It clicked and as it did she closed her eyes and lifted her face to the sun and smiled.

She unhitched the lock and opened the door- just a little. Just enough to let a little light inside and just enough room for her to place her eye right up against the little opening so that she could get a peek inside.

Satisfied she carefully closed the door and locked it again.

Because, we can ask ourselves, who on earth chains ice machine doors shut in abandoned towns on forgotten highways where nobody goes?

An explorer, a photographer a sometimes writer with no one in her life to notice if she never showed up after a day or a week or a month or ever again.

That’s who.

Dagmar Overbye (1887 – 1929)

This piece is just the first of a series for those who are interested in researching and portraying a female serial killer.

Danish serial killer Overbye murdered anywhere between 9 and 25 children during a seven-year period (1913-1920) although some historians believe the figure could be as high as 200. She was born in 1887 and little is known about her early life. Overbye worked as a professional child caretaker where she was supposed to look after children born outside of marriage. It was known as a ‘babyfarm’ or an unofficial adoption agency, and it was the scene of her serial killing spree.

All of the murders happened in Copenhagen, Denmark and she killed the unfortunate victims via strangulation and drowning or else she burned them to death. Overbye buried and burned the corpses or else she hid them in the loft. There are scant details regarding her arrest in terms of how she was eventually caught. It is remarkable that she was able to murder so many children over such an extended period without arousing suspicion. Her trial was one of the most talked about in the history of Denmark and her actions resulted in changes to the nation’s childcare legislation.

During the trial, Overbye’s lawyer tried to defend his client by saying she was abused as a child. This cut no ice with the jury as she was found guilty of nine murders and the judge had no hesitation in sentencing her to death. Only three women received the death penalty in Denmark during the 20th century, but like the other two, Overbye’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment.

After her arrest, over 180 children were reported missing from her ‘baby farm’. There is a possibility that these reports came from parents who committed their own misdeeds and they sought to cover things up, but one has to assume that Overbye almost certainly killed more than 25 children. She never spoke about her reasons for murdering the children; perhaps she saw herself as a missionary whose job was to get rid of unwanted babies. Whatever the reason, Overbye took it with her to the grave as she died in prison in 1929.