Ben W. Degand.
'In the spring of 2005, Altoona High school held its yearly Spring Talent Show. The events that took place that night have no explanation. After hundreds of man hours of forensic investigation, dozens of autopsies, and help from big city police crime scene investigators from Pittsburgh; the police are no closer to an answer as to what happened. Detectives actually have little to work with in regards to evidence. Dead bodies don’t have much to say, unfortunately. Witness statements were far and few between. Each witness statement contradicted the last.
It doesn't help when the very few witnesses that had anything substantial to say ended up dying. Whether it be by suicide or car accidents, all those close enough to recall the events of that night were dying off quickly. Some did not die. For example, firefighter and first responder Tim Collins complained of nightmares at first. Tim turned to the booze and oxy’s at an attempt of self medication. Tim’s issues were manageable until he began to have hallucinations, both auditory and visual. One night, Tim attacked Jessie, his 14 year old daughter, with a tire iron. Tim claims that Jessie wouldn’t turn down the music. Jessie was found in her room, beaten to death, along with her mother Joyce.
Tim’s misfortune is one of many real life horror stories that began on that April night. But, we are not here to tell those stories. We are here to tell one story. From what could be gathered from the evidence that fills over a dozen file cabinets and what little could be learned from witness reports, there is one single thread of commonality. There is one person that is uniformly mentioned throughout the investigation- her name is Anna. This is a compilation of accounts from the Altoona Police Department’s most “reliable” witnesses. What you are about to hear is… shocking to say the least. Is this a story that has been exaggerated to create a new urban legend? Or, are these accounts the truth? A truth that will test everything you believe in. Be warned, what you consider reality will be challenged by these events.'
-Anthony Quinn, Author of "Finding Anna: The True Story of Teenage Violence".
This is Brad Martin’s June 2006 police statement regarding the “Incident”. This statement was given before Brad was involuntarily committed to the Altoona Hospital’s Behavioral Health Unit. Brad never left the hospital. He hung himself with a 'rope' he constructed out of his bed sheet.
“If you want the truth regarding the 'incident' that happened on that spring night, then you came to the wrong fucking person. Thank god I decided to walk out before Anna’s performance.
So, I guess I won’t be very fucking helpful. What I can tell you about is Anna. I wish I could tell you everything there is to know about her. Since the… event… I have been obsessed with her. She was so shy and backward. Like a mouse, she was silent. Thin as a rail and awkward as a teen could be, Anna epitomized what a rough adolescence looked liked. Behind thick framed glasses and oily skin was an intelligent girl.
She always enrolled into the advanced classes and always did very well. The only reason I know she did very well is because I used to look over her shoulder during tests, trying to sneak a few answers. She used to catch me looking but would bashfully smile and ignore the invasion of her academic privacy. When my tests came back with B+’s, I knew it was because of Anna. Well, or her lack of concern for my deviant behavior. Between classes were the worst times for Anna. It always seemed like the hall way sharks, as I like to call them, came out to feed on Anna.
Taunts and barbed comments like, “Hey scarecrow bitch come study my DICK-TIONARY,” and, “Anna! Did your mom get your clothes from the dump?”
Even Anna’s personal life was held against her. Her mother worked at the recycling plant on Skyline drive. The guys used to make sure that Anna knew her mother had a less than a lucrative occupation. Anna always stayed composed and took all insults with stride. It was as if she gotten her revenge on them in some way. It was like she knew something that the bullies did not. I guess that is why I liked Anna so much. Not just because of the free answers I got from her, but just the way she held herself in the face of adversity. I wish I could say that I got to know Anna more.
At the time, I could see why my friend Tom liked Anna so much. You know, in an 'I want her as a girlfriend'- way. But, that was before we knew what the Spring Talent Show had in store for us all. If I did know what was in store… I would have killed that crazy bitch myself. I would strangle the life out of her. Because of her, I can’t sleep. Because of her my friends are dead. Because of her my college career never happened. It’s hard to move three hours away from home when visions of this bitch haunt me in my sleep. After being put on this medication, the Dr’s say the dramatic shift into college life would make me unstable."
April 2005- Altoona High school Music Director Mr. Jeff Gates; witness statement in the hospital. He supervised the spring talent show. He escaped the incident with minor injuries. Mr. Gates took an early retirement after the tragedy. He and his wife Stacy were moving to Arizona. Jeff and Stacy Gates were killed in a car accident leaving the city. The bodies were burnt so bad that dental records were used to identify the bodies.
"Hi, my name is Mr. Gates. I am the High school music director. You want to know what happened last night. I AM NOT GOING TO TALK ABOUT IT!!!! None of it!!!! Speaking frankly, I don’t even know what I saw last night. I will leave it at that. I guess I can tell you a little about Anna. Well, Anna was such a sweet girl. I always caught her in the band room before, during, and after school.
She was an amazing piano player. In fact, I would consider her a savant. When she sat down to play it was as if time stopped for her music. Her fingers were like musical pistons driving a symphony of wonderful sounds.
I wish I could have gotten her more interested in actually being in the band. When she would stop by and ask to play the school’s piano “she always asked for permission. Like I could say no to her” I would try and talk to her about joining up. She would always give a shy, “No."
She claimed to be very busy with work after school. I even called her mother for support in my plans in getting Anna in the band. Her mother would respectfully decline and say, “Anna is very busy with work after school.” When I found out that Anna signed up for the spring talent show. I was so excited for her. Maybe she would realize how fulfilling it would be to play in front of an audience of people. Anna was not very respected in the high school hierarchy. This could be her chance to change all of that. Unfortunately, I was too right. Things did change. After the events of that night, I wish that I never knew Anna. In fact, I wish Anna was aborted from her mother’s womb. To think she was capable of such pain is baffling to me. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. I am sorry."
Assistant Athletic Director Jim Cobretti’s police statement taken two weeks after the incident. He quit his job as the assistant athletic director. Over the years, he was a regular at the police station’s drunk tank. He is always talking about Anna’s music in his slurred drunk stupors. It is safe to say that Jim’s scared fatty liver would have killed him if the .45 caliber bullet to the head did not. Jim committed suicide in the spring of 2008.
"I was the assistant athletic director at the time. Somehow, I was asked to be a chaperone the night of the Spring Talent Show; Something about staff members being more active in student activities. I was really annoyed because the Penn’s game was on that night. But hey, what can I do? The talent show started like every other lame talent show that has ever graced a high school auditorium. First, Susan McMann did a cover of Katy Perry’s latest hit. More like a hit to the head by the way she was singing. It was proof that not every child is a talented American Idol contestant, no matter what mommy and daddy say.
There were comedy acts, dance routines, and one kid even tried magic. I almost died of laughter when the kid’s rabbit shit in his magician’s hat. But, that was about all the excitement that I could pull out of being at this Talent-less Show. [Laughs] Then, the curtain went down and the lights went dim. I thought the show was over that this point. But, wait. No. One more act. It was Anna. That’s right. She was going to play the piano. Apparently she plays very well. She was in my Gym class last semester.
The poor girl had it rough in my class. She was about as athletic as a 90-pound awkward skinny girl could be. Making her play dodge ball is something I regret. She practically begged me not to play. I told her if she did not participate, she would get a zero for the day. Anna being the diligent student she was, sucked it up and played. Dan, our school’s top athlete really had a hard on for Anna. I never understood why. I guess when you are a young hot shot; it is fun to pick on weaker kids.
Dan was notorious for bullying, but nothing to serious. This time though, he crossed the line. During the dodge ball match, he saw Anna hiding behind the rest of the students. Dan has a sniper rifle for an arm. I could see it in his eyes what he wanted to do. Before I could stop him, Dan blasted Anna right in her face, breaking her glasses that cut into her eye and cheek.
She hit the floor sobbing. Not one student came to her aid. I blew my whistle and ran over to her. In the back of my mind I thought she was being a little dramatic, I mean it was only a rubber dodge ball. But, I underestimated the extent of her injury. As I bent down and gently brushed the hair away from her face, I could see where her broken glasses sliced through her eye lid.
And in that instant, I witnessed feral rage in that little girl’s eyes. In all my years of coaching, I have never seen a look of such intensity and… rage in the eyes of a student. I tried to help her up. With surprising force, she slapped my hand away and ran off into the girl’s locker room. Before she got to the locker room, she turned around and gave a very odd smile. A smile that said, “Not right now, but someday you will pay."
Then she was gone. Dan was getting celebratory rounds of high fives from his “Bros” and even Susan McMann said, “Dan, you are so bad,” with a smile, a sick smile that turned my stomach. Dan got three days in school suspension that got cut down to one because of his lawyer father’s visit to the principal. Even the head coach backed up Dan’s claim of the incident being “just an accident”.
Now, I will never say that what happened that night was right. No, it was not right let alone even explainable. But, it does make you wonder about karma. You know the old saying, what goes around comes around. Well, it came around all right….That night; I actually didn't see what actually happened. I’m not ashamed to admit that I ran. I ran away when shadows began to form on the walls of the auditorium. I….I’m not going to talk about this anymore. If you want to get the gory details, go somewhere else. Isn’t it time we stop talking about THAT night?"
This is the only audio recording of a police interview from a surviving student, his name is Tom. Tom’s testimony is the only direct recreation of the events that night. This version of the story, though greatly debated, is considered what ACTUALLY happened that night. Tom was blinded during the incident that night. Tom has been to several entomologists. No medical explanation can be given to his blindness. Tom claims his blindness is a direct result from 'seeing' Anna’s music. This delusion is probably a direct result from post traumatic stress disorder. The grisly events are as follows:
“I decided to get a front row seat for Anna’s performance. I was surprised at how excited I was to hear her play. Rumor has it she is amazing. To be honest, I had another agenda that night. After the show, I was going to find Anna and actually ask her out. It was painful to endure the other performers. The whole time they were on stage, I was thinking about asking her out, and what she would say. If I was that nervous just thinking about asking her out, what would happen when I actually did? I wanted a pep talk from my friend Brad. But, since Brad has the attention span of a typical ADHD teenage male that he is, he left; leaving me alone to stew in my own fear of teenage dating rejection. I even bought her a dozen roses.
I don’t care what anyone says about her, she was beautiful in my eyes. I could tell that her personality had depth and there was a treasure trove of idiosyncrasies that made Anna, Anna. The curtain rose and the lights went dim. When Anna walked onto the stage, there were no clapping or shouted words of encouragement. In the back, I could hear Dan’s big mouth saying something derogatory. I looked back at him and just shook my head in disgust. I thought to myself, someone should really shut him up someday… and that is when things started to get… weird.
I heard a faint whisper that said, “Is that what you want? Because I can and will make it happen." I turned to my right and said, “What?” to the kid sitting next to me. He said, “I didn’t say anything, bro." And as I looked back to Anna, she was staring right at me with that smile. That 'inside joke' smile she gives to people when they make fun of her in the halls. She then looked to the crowd, gave a graceful nod, and sat at the seat of the piano. She then began to play.
There are NO words to describe the beauty of the music she was making. It set my heart and mind on fire. I am far from a music expert but what I heard sounded special. I can’t put my finger on it but there is something powerful about Anna’s playing. Her music was like the waves of the ocean; violently crashing down then elegantly retracting back to the calm sea. I had a flood of emotions. I felt happiness like a child on Christmas morning then sadness like the day of my grandmother’s funeral. The emotion of the music was thick with substance. Each note was a brush stroke on a master piece painting. The music was so dynamic. Anna’s music put me in a trance of ecstasy.
There were even tears in my eyes. It was an effort to tear my eyes away from watching Anna play. I was looking at the faces in the crowd, to see if my fellow students were as moved as I was. My words are still falling short describing how amazing this moment in time was. But, it would seem that not everyone enjoyed the music like I did. I seen faces twisted in disgust. People were getting out of their seats in a rush. The guy sitting next to me was even clutching his ears as if this wonderful music was equivalent to nails on a chalk board. This angered me to see people reacting like this.
Actually, it fucking pissed me off. To see a girl who has been beaten down all her life and now has the power to bring people to their knees, screaming in agony WAIT… No; Anna’s music gave her the power to… rip them asunder, blood covering the walls… WAIT! NO! I’m confused… That’s not what it was like. It was beautiful, it was graceful, it was… it was Death? Suddenly, the people around me erupted into a whirlwind of violence. Did something happen like an accident of some sort and people were fighting to escape? I heard that you can go into shock without knowing you have gotten hurt. What the fuck is going on?
I turned to the guy sitting next to me to ask that very question, and he was…disemboweling himself. He was looking at me with a dead eyed grin while pulling his own intestines out. He was shouting like a mad man “Do you hear? Do you fucking hear the beautiful sounds of hell?” My knee jerk reaction was to get up and run but fear turned my legs to jello. I was in such a state of confusion and paralyzed by fear. I wanted to help him, but the beautiful music shoved me right back into my seat. It was like Anna’s music WANTED me to witness this. But why? The rational part of my brain was frantically searching for a reasonable explanation but none were found. Could they not hear it?
Were they deaf to Anna’s magnificence? Was it the music that turned these people into psychos? While I continued to try and rationalize this situation and hid my eyes from the scenes of carnage, that whisper of a voice returned to me saying, “Open your eyes Tom. Please, you are meant to witness this." I didn’t want to listen to this disembodied voice but pure morbid fascination forced me to turn and 'witness' what the voice wanted me to see. Strange geometric shapes flashed like a strobe light and tattooed my retina with an afterthought of the shapes. I had no idea what these shapes were but I knew they were wrong somehow. The shapes alone made me sick. On some instinctive primal level, I knew I should not see these shapes, like how animals are naturally fearful of fire. For some reason I knew they were older than time itself and contained power that could never be explained with human vocabulary.
It was a charnel house inside the auditorium. Students were ripping their eyes out. Ears were bitten off of heads. Within seconds, blood flowed down the aisles and pooled in coagulated puddles at the front row. The math teacher Mrs. Brown repeatedly bashed her head into a wooden pillar while laughing and screaming in equal measure. The sound of the massacre never fell on my ears; it was replaced by the beautiful music, Anna’s music.
The violence flowed with the music itself. I turned to Anna, she was still playing. She was frantically pounding the keys of the piano. Blood soaked the keys from broken fingers. Blood dripped from the old wound on her eye. The entire time she manically played, she kept that smile. Shadows seemed to manifest like growing pools of water from where Anna played. They crept up the walls all along the auditorium. Within these unnatural shadows were tormented faces- screaming and angry. Ghostly claws ripped from the shadow into the violent horde of spectators.
Throats were slashed, spines broken, heads ripped from bodies. The crowd did not seem to notice the demonic apparitions while they dove deeper into acts of violence and self mutilation. What I seen is unspeakable. It was an orgy of the macabre, death intertwined with sexual acts to the flowing music that Anna pumped into the auditorium like the pulse to this massacre.
My head started to swim; the unexplainable shapes I seen were somehow an explanation to the violence around me. It was as if, these shapes were the blue print to the music. Not like musical notes like on sheet music, but they were the inspiration for the music; the primogeniture of the music. I was feeling faint. It was getting darker. Before I blacked out… I seen Dan on his knees as if he was praying to Anna.
She stared into his eyes and continued to play as the shadows came for him. He was screaming about forgiveness and mercy, what he exactly said, I will never know. A ghostly hand came through the ground and ripped his lower jaw off. Before his bleeding lifeless body it the floor, Anna’s whispering voice said to me, “See, my sweet Tom? I shut him up. Now please go to sleep while I finish my performance.” Without argument, I slumped to the floor.
The roof caved in moments later. I woke up to the sounds of sirens and a burly firefighter picking me up off the ground. “We got a live one here,” he said. I heard screaming from the crowed that formed outside the auditorium. I heard things like “Was it a Gas explosion?”, “A Bombing?”, and “Where is the Gunman?”. I tried to ask about Anna in my dazed stupor. I must have blacked out again. Next thing I know, I’m in a hospital bed with a nurse there, changing my IV bag. Was it real? Only the memory of the music is the reminder that what happened that night was real."
After Anna’s mother Debbie was found hung in her home on skyline drive, this note was found on her person. According to the date of the letter, it was written the day of the talent show. It was addressed "To Mom, from Anna.”
I am not going to get into reasons why I did what I did. Sure, I could talk about how I was picked on. I could cry about how I came from humble beginnings. I am not one of those cliché victims that you see on one of those cheesy day time talk shows. There is so much that I want to tell you. I just don’t have the time. See, what I am about to do tonight is a long time in the making. I may not complain about how shitty my life was, but that does not mean my rage wasn’t developing after all I have been through.
Oh yes, dear Mother. My rage has been honed to a fine point. I have never been more focused in my life. I know you had high hopes for me. Going to college, getting a degree, and we could move away from all this shit. After tonight, that will not be possible. Don’t get all self-righteous on me, Mom. Let’s be honest, you loved the bottle a little more than me. But that’s okay, I’m not mad. I have found… others… to replace a mother’s love.
One of the only good things you have done for me was buying me that small electric piano. I would spend hours in my room just playing until my fingers ached and bled. Do you remember? Probably not, you were drunk most of the time. But like I said, that’s okay. I hold no ill will towards you. See, like all tragic stories there is a part of the story where the main character has to make a choice. The character has to decide whether they want to follow their fate and travel the road that has been paved for them. Or, do they walk away from fate and build something that is theirs? Well Mom, I chose to blaze my own trail. With that decision, I was visited by… him. He is… I don’t even know what you would call him. Calling him a demon wouldn’t be right. He is not a ghost. I guess you could call him a form of energy. He has been around a very long time.
He is very old and very wise. He has told me some amazing things. He has taught me so much. He came to me in a dream at first. The dreams would get more realistic and detailed. Then, I started to see him at the corner of my vision. I would turn to see him and then he would be gone. After that asshole Dan hurt me in gym class, he finally revealed himself. When he finally showed himself to me, it was magnificent. There are no words to describe him. He picked me up and said he would help me. He said that we could hurt the ones who hurt me. Any other point in my life, I would say no to hurting people. But on that day, sitting in the locker room bleeding, I could only say yes.
After that, he would visit me nightly. The room always gets cold and dark when he shows up. He usually would come to me when I played my piano. He said that I am very talented and people should hear me play. He said that I have a gift and that I should share it with the world. He told me that if I played in front of everybody, people would respect me and maybe even love me. That’s why I made the decision to play in the talent show, to give everyone my gift of music. He will be there tonight. He said that he wants to see the looks on people’s faces when I perform. Wish me luck me. I have a feeling that I will not see you again. He said that if I play well tonight, he will take me with him. He wants to show me a place that is very special to him. I better practice before tonight. He said that my music will have a special… 'sound' tonight. I am so excited, Mom.
Anyway, goodbye Mom, wish I could say more, but he said not to ruin the surprise."
The following was supposed to be the opening to my book about Anna and the events that night. After recent events of my own, this has somehow become my suicide note. I have dug deep into this tragedy. In fact, I have dug too deep. For a year and a half straight, I have been searching for the truth. This truth is my nightmare, now. For all intents and purposes, I have found the truth- or more like the gaps in this story. Actually, these truths have found me. Where did Anna learn her 'power', who was this dark force that visited her, and why were all the other witnesses killed so mysteriously? I found all the answers. I even documented EVERYTHING. But, you will not know these 'truths'. Some truths need never to be understood. You will not understand right now, but my death is needed so others may live.
I know, you don’t get it, I’m not sure if I fully do. If you find my files, please do not read them. I made the mistake of being arrogant. I was stupid enough to think that this was just another story of a teenager violently breaking under the pressure of high school life. If you are an arrogant young author trying to write the next masterpiece of the century, like me, you will regret it. If you pick up where I left off, which I know someone is stupid enough to try, you will end up just like me.
What you have heard so far is just the beach and there is an ocean of horror left to be explored. Did you think that Anna was the first? Did you? You have so much to learn and understand. The past 20 years are filled with kids like Anna. But I don’t have time to explain this to you. I guess this is it. To save the lives of my family, I must fucking shoot myself in the head. My wife complained of seeing weird geometric shapes in random everyday objects. Just like me, only a few short weeks ago. Just like Tom said during the incident. I have to go, he is here, standing in the corner, just watching me. I know what he wants and he can’t fucking have it. I will do anything to save my family. I hope it isn’t too late to save them.
-Anthony Quinn, “was going to be the” Author of Finding Anna: The True Story of Teenage Violence.
This is a promotional email for Christian Stewart’s book “The Forbidden Story of Anna: The Truth That Was Denied.” An excerpt from the book was included with the email:
“Anthony Quinn, the author of the highly anticipated and unreleased book “Finding Anna: The True Story of Teenage Violence” was found in his home with a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. His wife and two sons were found in the master bed room. Their deaths are yet to be explained. According to autopsy results, the children died of traumatic brain injuries which caused a cerebral hemorrhage in both boys. The mother Janet died of a profound compression and dorsal dislocation of the brain stem. This autopsy report is the clean cut version for the papers. What really happened?
Janet bludgeoned her two children to death with her fists until her hands broke and somehow found the strength to snap her own neck with the same broken hands. There were strange symbols and shapes written on the wall with blood, as if some ritual occurred.” In this book, I, Christian Stewart, have found the truth of Anna and the series of deaths related to the incident that night. The truth WILL be uncovered and fully investigated. Many authors have failed, but, I; Christian Stewart found secret documents that have never been seen before. For the first time ever, these documents will be released to the public exclusively in my book.
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