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The Mystery of Bertshine, Iowa

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A house in Bertshine, Iowa

In the rural back areas of northwestern Iowa is a little town known as Bertshine. Although never a large town, Bertshine did at one time manage to boast a healthy population of nearly 2000 or so. Around 1985 however, census records indicated a noticeable drop in population, so much so that an investigation was launched. At the time, many of the few remaining townsfolk interviewed were also already talking about moving elsewhere, and some of those who were willing to participate in the interview process would share disturbingly similar stories.

Most of the townspeople all said the same thing: Business in the areas was no longer what it used to be so making a living was getting harder. Many people were now working in the surrounding areas, and preferred to move closer to their jobs. Despite any of their reasons for leaving town, all people interviewed at the time were noticeably anxious, some more so than others, and were very eager to end the interview; some were even very rude or abrupt with their answers.

Despite the little help from most of the townspeople, a few residents, without prompting, would recall strange happenings around the town within the past couple of years. Numerous residents mentioned a strange, faint light in the nearby forest that would appear roughly every other night. They said it began nearly two years ago, after a large crash and small quake were experienced one afternoon. Ruby Clemmins, an elderly and lifelong resident, claimed that she and her friend Edna Walker witnessed a strange object descend from the sky and into the forest after the quake. “It looked like a giant baseball,” Ruby recalls, “but it was real big and sort of a blackish-silver, if that makes sense. It even had this… this red wrapping around it.” Edna, who has since passed, could not confirm Ruby’s claim.

An investigation of the nearby woods revealed nothing but a small, almost perfectly round clearing, where the trees looked as though they had been pushed outward and broken by some force within the circle. Edward “Eddy” McKline, a local farmer who frequently hunted in these woods said that he no longer felt comfortable going into the woods. “My buddy’s teased me until one day when we all went into the woods together, and even they had this urge to leave. They kept talking about ‘feeling watched’.” At this point, Eddy looked towards the ground. “There’s something in them woods.”

Darren Johnson, the local bakery owner, claims that early one morning, he had a very disturbing experience. “I was in the bakery by myself getting ready to start the day. I was alone, and it was dark out. I was in the backroom with the screen door open because it gets hot when I’m making the bread…” he recalled. “Then without warning, I heard a crash behind me, and the entire screen door had been pulled from its hinges. I grabbed a knife and went to investigate, but all I saw was the screen door, bent in… a ‘V’ shape on the ground.” Darren’s eyes at this point moisten. “I know this may sound crazy, but I watched something move into the woods. It looked like a sphere, but it looked like it had these big, human like eyes. I… had never been so afraid in my life. I called the sheriff, but he never came up with anything.”


One of James' drawings, provided by Clara Pullins.

Another notable claim was from local school teacher Mrs. Clara Pullins. Clara, who was at the time a second grade teacher, recalls many of the children in her class who displayed strange symptoms. “They were always so tired every morning, and their work began to suffer. Clara recalls one child in particular, James (real name has been withheld) who had been known for his high intelligence, acting very strange. Although he did not usually associate well with the other children, he began to withdraw even more.

“During recess, James would just stay inside with me and color. Every day.” Clara looked at the ceiling. “He would always talk about the ‘face in the woods’… and his pictures that he drew… were so…” Clara trails off. “… He would draw these pictures of him asleep in bed, and this… this thing would be outside his window. It looked like a floating face, but the eyes were so big and real looking… No second grader should be able to draw that well.” Clara looked visibly disturbed. “And every day was like this. Every picture he drew, no matter what it was of, had that… that face in it. Sometimes, James would just stare out the window until I got his attention again. He wasn’t the only one though. Several of the other children would stare out that window. And everyday, when a little after two o’clock rolled around, many of the children, James included, put their hands over their ears and looked very distressed. After about thirty seconds, they would resume activity as though nothing had happened.”

James’ family, who have since moved from Bertshine, refused an interview.

Today, over 25 years later, Bertshine is virtually a ghost town. There aren’t any residents, and the buildings are boarded up and dilapidated. There was a report of three teenagers who had gone into Bertshine and the local woods, only to report strange happenings to nearby police. The group, who camped out in the woods back in 2007, claimed feeling uneasy the entire night, and that at one point during the night, they could see what appeared to be a floating sphere moving around the outside of their tent in the light of the campfire's fading embers. The teenagers recalled hearing no sound, but having the sensation of being watched. When morning came, a strange circle had been dug around the outside of their tent. Other than that, nothing had happened. The teenagers immediately left and refused to return with investigators.

Whatever happened in Bertshine has never been explained. However, two strange phenomena have occurred: Every member of the last four families to leave Bertshine, including Eddy McKline’s family, have all since passed away, and the three teenagers who camped there in 2007 are now on the missing person’s list.

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