Circa 1950, The Arcata Union Newspaper
Mystery Murders in McKinleyville Continue
“Locals say the horrific murders are happening during full moons and claim it’s an ancient Yurok curse.
This reporter was unable to get anyone in town to go on the record about the supposed curse.
All that’s known for sure is the victims were all horribly mutilated. County coroner reports have been consistent in the analysis that it was probably a wild animal attacking people.”
McKinleyville is a small town that proudly harkens back to its early pioneer days and independent citizens. A sign posted, as you come into town over the hill, says, “McKinleyville – Where Horses Have The Right of Way.”
It was a quiet unincorporated town without its own police force. The city fathers contracted with the County of Humboldt for protection.
As can be imagined, response times were often slow when an emergency happened in Mack Town (what the locals called it) because it was located 21 miles north. Residents of McKinleyville did their best to solve their own problems.
Grandpa Zeke was a moonshiner. His whiskey took the paint off metal, but was popular throughout the county. His still, set up east of the populated area of Mack Town, was a hand-me-down from his father.
The old man came into town every Sunday to sell his Hooch to the church-going husbands who bought his whiskey after church services were over, in a back alley. Children loved him because he was always telling tall tales.
Four months after the brutal murders began Zeke started showing up in town every night at the local bar. It became the talk of the small community. Old Zeke was buying commercial whiskey instead of drinking his own product.
Even more puzzling, Zeke wasn’t talking with anyone. He sat at a small table alone. After drinking steadily for an hour, or more, Zeke would start babbling gibberish about werewolves and moonshine not mixing very well.
The town fathers became concerned when the owner/bartender, Bob Goldswaith, told them about Zeke’s recent drinking habit during a town meeting. It was decided that two of them would have a talk with old Zeke the next time he came to town.
They found Zeke the next night drinking at Bob Goldswaith’s bar. The old man was well into his cups when they greeted him.
“Zeke…how are you doing old friend?” one man asked.
“Are you okay? I never saw you come to this bar in my life,” the second man asked, with a touch of concern in his voice.
Zeke looked at the two town fathers. He knew them well. They were among some of his best customers. “You boys will think I’m crazy if I tell you what’s happening,” he drunkenly replied.
“No! Not, at all!” they protested.
Zeke poured some whisky from the bottle in the middle of the table and invited them to pull up a chair.
“About four months ago some fella showed up at my still. Said he was looking for a safe place to stay in the woods. I said, safe from what? Myself, he said. Well, I can tell you right now, I thought that sounded odd.
“Said his name was Walt. No last name. I told him there were plenty of places to stay. I showed him a redwood that a natural hidey hole at the base. He thanked me and I went back to my still.
“The next day, I was sampling my latest batch of moonshine when Walt showed up. He asked if he could have a snort and I handed him a cup. Then another. Pretty soon he was getting lit up and telling me stories about his life.
“I was getting tired when the moon came out and Walt jumped to his feet and howled like a wolf! For a brief moment I thought that was the damnist reaction I’d ever seen from my Hooch!
“When he started getting hairy and dropped to all fours, I got up and ran like a buck chasing a doe in heat!
“Ran all the way to my cabin and sat there in the dark shaking like a leaf.”
Both men had skepticism edged on their faces, but one still asked, “So, what happened next?”
Zeke picked up the bottle and took a healthy swig.
“Nothing. Nothing else happened that night. About a month later Walt showed up as I was tending my still. We stared at each other a long time before he apologized for scaring me. Said he was a werewolf, but did his best not to kill folks, just animals.
“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I offered him a drink. He gladly accepted. We talked until the full moon came out and he ran off howling again.
“It wasn’t until the third time that I saw Walt, that I suspected he was killing people. By then it had become routine. He’d come by on full moons to swig my moonshine and murder my neighbors.
“So, I did the only thing I could, and destroyed my still and my whole stash of moonshine. It was apparent Walt could’nt hold his liquor and got murderous when he drank it. That was three weeks ago.
“The next full moon is coming up tomorrow night. Recon we’ll see if my plan worked out and Walt went back to catching animals instead of humans.”
As It Stands, what could be worse than a drunk werewolf?