3 From Castle Mysterii

 Just a dumb little tourist trap I went to a few times as a kid...

So why do I keep having nightmares about it? 

 
CASTLE MYSTERII: 
An Introduction to a Modern Myth
3 Documents From the Castle Mysterii Universe
The first piece House of Mystery is 
by DAVID BARKER
It is the basis for the entire CM universe. The boxed
"biographical segment" & everything that follows is 
by LAIKA PUPKINO
  
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HOUSE OF MYSTERY
I have not been able to find any information about this, at the library or talking to people, so maybe I am simply crazy and it’s all bullshit. I have tried for a long time to learn the truth about what I remember, or even to just confirm that there is some reality to it, that I am not imagining it, or remembering something basically real but misinterpreting or changing it. I swear I am not making this up, and why would I? What do I have to gain?
 
Am I the only one who remembers the Mystery House? I call it that, “Mystery House” or “House of Mystery” just to have a name for it, but I don’t know what it was actually called. I can picture it clearly in my mind, but no name or words come to me when I do. I don’t even know exactly where it was located, what part of the country. Most of the time I think it was in Southern California.  That’s where it feels like in my memories. But then again perhaps I’m placing it there because that’s where my family lived for much of my childhood. Or maybe I am confusing it with the times we went to Disneyland. That would have been around 1962 or 1963. Other times I am very unsure about it being in California at all, rather someplace in the south or east. We moved out west in 1959, and so it’s possible I’m remembering things that happened before we moved out here. If anyone has a better idea of where the house was, I’d be very interested in hearing it.
 
As I recall the house was some kind of attraction. Not an amusement park exactly, and not especially well known to the public. I don’t think there were any big newspaper articles about it when it opened, or ads. Or at least I don’t remember seeing any. But I could be wrong on that. A thorough search of the papers of the day might prove fruitful, and I would do that myself if I had the time, but my busy work schedule and family duties won’t allow. By whatever means, my parents knew about the place and felt compelled to take us kids there, although looking back on it they didn’t seem very happy about the whole thing, and I still remember vividly the look of dread on my mother’s face every time we drove there.
 
Although not exactly in the country, the house was situated on a large parcel of land, heavily shaded with fruit trees that must have been an orchard before the property was developed. My sense is that it was previously farm land outlying a large city and not too far out of town. The house and a gravel parking lot was the only development on the site, and there was still plenty undeveloped land all about, with lots of open land and trees. This was not on the main highway but offset a ways, down a narrow country road, paved, that twisted through the trees. You didn’t see the house and parking lot until you rounded the last curve and there it was. I’m sure you could drive right by it all on the main road and never know it was there, it was hidden from view.
 
Despite this secluded setting, there was nothing secret about the place. People came and went freely, and I recall telling my friends about going. As far as I know, none of them ever went, just my family among all the families on our block. But there were plenty of other families there every time we went. I think the first few times we went it was free, and then later they started charging a small admission fee, not very much. Less than a dollar a person, I believe. The price went up after a while, in keeping with the improvements and expansions they did, but it was never very high. I remember the tickets being printed on colored paper, with engravings that made them seem like foreign currency. We had some of the stubs for years, I remember seeing them laying in the bottom of my toy box when I was a kid, and I don’t recall ever throwing them out, but where they are now I have no idea. I asked my mom about them, but she says she doesn’t have them and doesn’t know where they went. I know she remembers going there but I can never get her to talk about it. She just clams up whenever I bring up the subject, like it is something she wants to forget.
 
If it is a secret now, it has become one in the years since then, for it wasn’t any big secret in those days. I believe people are suppressing the truth about it and the want to forget. I have asked childhood friends, grown up now with families of their own, and they say they don’t remember it at all. I can’t help but believe they are lying, but maybe they really don’t remember. It was a long time ago, and they have busy lives just like me. So why do I still think about the house? Why haven’t I forgotten like them?
 
It’s impossible to describe the house itself. Too weird! You would have to see it for yourself. My memories of the inside, of what we saw and did there, are very jumbled and confused, with lots of gaps where I remember nothing, and the stuff I do remember is so bizarre, it’s crazy. I recall only a small fraction of what happened there, and only some of the times we visited.  If I have time I’ll make a record of the parts I do remember, although I have to warn you ahead of time that it will make no sense. I hope maybe somebody will come forward who remembers other parts and help me put the whole picture together. I would very much like to know what it all means and lay the subject to rest. Right now, it’s kind of driving me crazy, and has been for a long time. I have tried to discuss this with my wife and she doesn’t want to hear about it. “That’s nuts!” she says. Maybe she’s right.
 
I’ll write down more about the house in the near future.
 
Andy Johnson 10/17/1978
 
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(The above text is: Copyright 2008 David Barker)
 
 
 Often called “the little article that started it all” and “The Grand-Daddy
 of Castle Research Pieces”, this article appeared in the Spring 1979
 issue of The Fortean Observer.
 
 That same year the article became one of the first pieces to be widely
 circulated on the Internet, when CompuServe began offering
 electronic mail service to personal computer users. 
 
 The piece’s author, Andy Johnson, is a total cipher. A few people wrote
 to him after this article ran, and he claimed that---his memory having  
 been jogged by their recollections---he was writing a much longer article,
 possibly even a book, full of  “astounding revelations” about what
 was now being called Castle Mysterii. 
 
 Then Johnson was never heard from again. His p.o. box filled up with
 mail, and no other address for an “Andy Johnson” could be found in the
 Twenty-Nine Palms area. (Some feel the original article had been a hoax,
 which he had simply lost interest in; or that he was now watching
 and laughing as this whole complex myth took form...)
 
 House of Mystery continues to be circulated on the web today,
 and has been published in a number of periodicals over the years. 
 It has been reprinted in French, Japanese, Serbian, German and Italian.
 
 
 
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AND THE BEAT GOES ON: JIM’S STORY
 
 
(Interviewed by Ian Munoz)
 
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The funny thing about the Castle was, I don’t think the old man was ever really in it for the money. There was the gift shop and the pony rides and the little train, but they didn’t even have an admission charge at first ....... But all that happened before I even heard of the place. Do you want stuff like this, or only what I saw with my own eyes?
 
Just relax, you’re not on a witness stand. Whatever you want to tell me is fine.
 
Okay, sure. It was his kid---Milo Gardylju Jr.---who got the idea the place could be a gold mine, a big attraction, and talked him into adding more stuff. But all his ideas about what to do to improve the place’s image and make it popular were about 180 degrees off. Cheap, chintzy stuff. The plastic pennants they strung up all over the parking lot just looked cheap, like you’d pull in there to buy a used car.  The castle, the building itself was kind of impressive before then. But at least those streamer things didn’t cost much. But there were other, how do I put this? ....... Aren’t you
going to ask me any questions?
 
If I think of something. Maybe I misled you when I said “interview”.
Just tell it like you’re telling a story to the tape recorder.
I could even leave if I’m making you nervous...
 
No, it’s fine. I just got to get started. I wasn’t there long before I went back with the Zolezzi Brothers, just for some of those improvements they made.  There were a couple of things. That cafeteria might have brought them in some locals, you got cheapskates wherever you go, so maybe that “Castle-teria” they had was cheap enough that some people might have aquired a taste for eel, or those weird nasty vegetables, if the cook had any brains at all. But the way he dumped in the spices. He or she...
 
He or she? You never saw the cook?
 
I did, but that didn’t help. Even when I looked real close I couldn’t tell. It was either a really ugly old woman or ........ What do you call those guys? A eunch.  The whole place was like that (shuddering gesture). Weird.
 
The whole place was eunuchs?
 
No. I don’t know. Not that, there was just that one. But the rest of them...
Just something weird and wrong. Physically.
 
They were deformed?
 
No, not Elephant Man deformed- where you’d go “OH MY GOD!” But the impression would sort of creep up on you. How they all had those froggy eyes (makes comical face) .......... puffy like. And the accents, it put people off. If they really wanted to make it more like Disneyland they would have got rid of the lot of them, hired college kids. Clean cut. That matters more than you’d think. People don’t even like carnies, and I guess a lot of us do look pretty hard and sneaky. But at least they have some idea of what we are, of the sort of things they suspect us of, and it’s all fairly normal. That we’re gyps and cheats, drifters, druggies. But a bunch of Igor-looking freaks like that,
it’s more like, I don’t know. What you're even worried about, is just so...
 
Nebulous?
 
I guess. But anyway, this weird food they had- sometimes it would be salty enough to turn your tongue into jerky, another time all oregano or all cloves; like they slipped and dumped in the whole can, but it was like this every time. It was nuts. Like somebody born without taste buds trying to cook, or some machine or something that never actually ate before ........ I know, because I
got one free meal a day there, until I gave up and started packing a lunch. I was one of the few “Americas” who ever worked there. They hired me away from Joey and Frankie, at first I thought they were related to them. The people in that business all have a “cousin” someplace, some shady deal or ........ (laughs)
 
The pay they mentioned sounded too good to be real, and it turns out it wasn’t what they told me, always some story about all the bonuses they promised; but they did pay better than the carnival, I can’t really complain. And they weren’t so damn uptight, always bitching at you, at least not to me. The ones who lived there got chewed out pretty good, in whatever language that was. I guess they knew I wouldn’t have stood for it, I would’a walked. What country were they from, anyway?
 
I’ve heard so many opinions on that you wouldn’t believe it. I was hoping you could tell me. Like what were some of their names, the villagers?
 
They all took American names, or they were given them. And I think half the time they wouldn’t remember the name. You’d say, “Hey Jeff, give me a hand!” and he would just keep blinking off into space, because he wasn’t used to being called Jeff ........ I know it wasn’t German. My grandma was German, they weren’t German.
 
What was nice was you weren’t expected to always be hustling people ........ It was refreshing, because I never liked that whole end of it. If you’re going to rip people off, then do it big. You know, white-collar shit. Not for chump change, some midway bullshit where they go in already knowing it’s rigged. A lot of guys made a game out of it, but I guess I was never that motivated. I was young, I liked the road and seeing all different places, I liked partying and just going with whatever came along. But a bunch of people in our crew were getting like this weird skin infection, and if you touched your eyes it really fucked them up, and whatever it was I didn’t want it. 
 
So when the offer came I went off with them in their van. You know, like: 
Oh boy, off on another adventure here!
 
So they just pulled up one day and yelled “Hey you! You want to work at our mystery castle?”
 
Just about. When Joey Z. called me into his trailer I thought: Damn, he’s gonna can me! You know how it is, even when you didn’t do anything wrong. But those two guys were in there with him. I don’t know why me, how they heard about me, that I could run all the rides---although there ain’t much to that really, most of them you just got your clutch and your brake and your throttle, and there’s a knack to getting the customers in and out of the cars smoothly---and that I was good at fixing and maintaining them-  to where everybody started calling me Miracle Jim. I think this was the main thing the Castle wanted. Or thought they wanted, until I started telling them about things that might cost money.
 
And about five minutes down the road I thought- Oh shit! I’m being abducted by some cult, a sacrifice or something! The vibes in that van .........  Because these two guys just didn’t seem right! In fact most of them there, there was nothing- it was like there was nobody home inside them, which made me think of some fucked-up religion or something in those first few days, until I saw it’s just how they were. You got any cream for this?
 
Will this stuff do? It’s kind of old...
 
Oh yeah! That’ll work. And when we got there they took me into this barracks---behind what looked like all different little stone and wooden houses pushed together, chimneys and weather vanes and window boxes with fake flowers---but inside it was just one plain room. They took me to a cot with a number taped to the wall behind it, just like a jail, florescent lights and no windows.  And this is when I really started to freak out! I thought oh shit, Zolezzi sold me to these fuckers! I was getting ready to fight my way out if I had to! But just then the old man, the big boss himself came running in: “No! No! No! Not here!”
 
They had a room rented in town for me already. Used to be a garage, but it wasn’t too bad. They even gave me a “car” to get there and back. A cart, like a Cushman cart, but made in Japan back when “made in Japan” still meant bad. I could walk almost that fast, so it was hairy, that little toy on that road, with the traffic and all the blind turns through the trees. I picked up a 10-speed, which was faster and less dangerous.
 
I knew I was hired to work on something called the Moon Jet ride. But I didn’t know I was supposed to help them build the damn thing! It was nuts! That engineer they had was useless. I think he knew less about mechanical stuff than me, with my tenth-grade education! The other rides were all right being hand-made and ricketty like that. I wouldn’t put any kid of mine on one, but they more or less held together. And I did what I could to help reinforce them, put screws back in and stuff...
 
But this was supposed to be their state-of-the-art thrill ride, the one that was
going to put them in the big leagues! It was their answer to Space Mountain,
a roller coaster in the dark. But where anyone else would do it right and stick the whole thing inside of a building, they thought they could save money by just putting lids on the cars. Cram you in there and close it up like a coffin! It was how they thought.  Just like the food- this vague idea of what a thing was supposed to be, but no real clue about what people might actually like. You can see how those space-alien rumors got started, but that’s stupid. Because if they were they must have been the rejects of the galaxy!
 
There were rumors that they were aliens? Who was saying this?
 
Our crew, and I heard guys from Wilson’s Fun Fair say it too. It was more like a joke than a serious rumor. Away of saying how fucked up they were, of how not to set rides up. Like “Where’d you learn that? Castle Mysterii?” I think it started with stories I told, about the weird people and that damn ride. They had parts from three Wild Maus rides they were going to cobble together. Which might have been kind of fun, like the time I was a kid and me and this other kid put both our tinkertoy sets together so we had one giant one---all the cool things we built---except this was dead serious. Sending people up sixty feet and then zooming around at fifty miles an hour- you can fuck around with any other part of the operation but not that!
 
You could see right off the concrete slab it sat on wasn’t near thick enough. I told them, and then the county building inspector told them. They thought he was just picking on them, or like he would just forget and not follow up on it, and started building it anyway. It seemed like they were just going until they ran out of track, because those plans they showed me...                
 
The cars were suppose to leave the track, roll out onto the concrete and scrape to a stop along this concrete railing, and then they would push them back to the power ramp and feed them onto the rails by hand. At first I hoped they were kidding, but I never saw anything like a sense of humor in any of them, in this supposed-to-be-fun place, and I realized they weren’t. It was insane! I mean first of all, the car’s wheel assemblies are not made for that kind of treatment, and over a few years they would wind up spending more replacing these than they would have on that last thirty feet of track. It was nuts! They were fucking nuts! They were cutting I-beams to length with a torch. One of them would stumble down the ladder with his hands held apart and go over to the cutter, showing him “this long”. Like kids building a goddamn clubhouse! And that crane they had! Jesus! 
 
I quit, and I called around, caught up with the Zolezzi outfit up in Corvalis. They were glad to have me back and I was glad to be back. To be working with people you could talk to. At the Castle you couldn’t chat someone up, it was like pulling teeth trying to get one of them to say anything! I thought at first they were scared of those supervisors, the guys in the vests. And they were scared of them; there were all these complicated layers of who ruled over who that I never did figure out. But they also hardly spoke at all. Their kids ....... Anywhere you go the kids will get noisy, playing and stuff. But the life in that village when I got there in the morning, before they opened, I hate to say it but it felt more like animal pens. Livestock ........ They say you can’t judge another culture by how we do. I’ve hung out and partied with dudes from the Fox tribe, and noticed how quiet Indians can be. They aren’t always gabbing just to be gabbing, like a lot of white people do. But this was different than that. They were ........ I don’t know.  Not right. I was there just over two months, and I know there’s a lot more I don’t know about the place than I do know. But I can tell you for sure they were dangerously lame about the rides! I kept checking the papers for news of people dying on that thing, until I heard the park was closed down. But I still have nightmares about it, these crazy dangerous idiots building something like that and then strapping me into it!
 
I told the old man they needed something big, some landmark, that people could see from the highway. I suggested a parachute ride, and the day I quit I saw drawings for one on his desk. And I was sorry I did, if it was going to be a piece of shit like the Moon Jet. Now he was the one who would always talk to me. Sometimes too much...
 
Really? About what?
 
Nothing much. Nothing you would probably want for your book ........ On the road you get used to the idea that if someone does not want to talk about something---their past or whatever---it’s best to leave it alone. To not be a snoop. And I never forgot he was the boss of the whole place. I did ask him a few things, like where you from and what’s it like over there; or what does that one display there in the museum part mean. And he would just sit there, sit and smile at me, and then say something about something completely different. So after a while I just let him steer our conversations, and it was just the dullest stuff ........ The peach trees out front, how can we get them to make peaches, do I think they need a soil supplement? He also gave me advice on health.  Vitamins, and how you got to take care of your teeth, they have to last you a lifetime ........ And his own health, he obsessed about that a lot. He would tell you way too much about his bowel movements. Not just “I had a good shit” or “I can’t shit”, but the shape and the color, it was gross! It was like he read  the fucking things, like tea leaves. I think he was another reason I quit.
 
He was by far the smartest and the most normal-acting person there, but in some ways he was creepier than all the rest of them, even that cook! When you talked he would look at you with this love in his eyes, all watery and concerned, like he was really listening and thinking about it ....... But then he would look at some cloud outside the window or that samovar on his desk the same way. Like it was all the same, all his wonderful possessions. He probably looked at those shits he took like that too ........ Is this the sort of stuff you wanted? Is that enough?
 
There’s lots of tape left on this side of the tape. I said an hour, remember?
But I’ll give you another twenty if you fill this side up.
 
Damn! I wish I stayed there longer, I would have more I could tell you. But no, I can’t think of anything. I couldn’t fill up that whole side ......... Unless you want to hear about Sonny and Cher. It’s not really much of a story but it’s all I can think of right now.
 
You saw Sonny and Cher there? Sure.
 
How much?
 
Five.
 
Ten.
 
Five!
 
(Agitated:) Fuck man, gimme a break! I could’ve just told you any old shit: I saw their space ship, the big Devil Machine.  The tunnel that went down to the temple of the ....... of the giant amoeba monster- I mean fuck! Like I said, I know what kind of stuff you want for this and believe me, there are plenty of guys who would have done just that. Made up a bunch of crap and took you for all they could! But I’m trying to be straight with you, Bro.
 
What the hell, I want to hear this. Ten dollars. Go ahead...
 
They had a brand new ampitheater in the side of the hill, in a horseshoe shape-  concrete steps and benches. I’m pretty sure this was the son’s idea. They had a wall around the front of it, some sun-screening over it on poles. It looked good .......    But that “Amuse-ical Review” they had was just weird.They put this big banner across the front of the Castle: AMUSE-ICAL REVIEW STARRING SONNIE AND SHER! That's Sonnie with an “I-E” and Sher spelt “S-H-E-R” .......... Like they hoped people wouldn’t read it too carefully and would come flocking to see it, thinking it was the real deal. Nowadays you have these copy-cat bands, people paying good money to see someone pretend to be The Beatles or Aerosmith, but back then to do that was just considered a rip off, a shitty scam. Their Sonny and Cher impersonators turned that song And the Beat Goes On into this creepy ......... like a dirge, that went on and on. 
 
The hip younger people laughed at first, thinking it was a joke, some kind of skit, but the song just kept droning on. And that might have been kind of interesting, with just the instruments, like if you were really stoned, this trance thing you could sort of get into, which I think was what the band was trying for, but their screechy vocals wrecked even that. They had two guitars, not counting the base, a drummer, electric organ. A guy with a fiddle for the gypsy numbers. They were called The Shame Ponies and they were good, too good for that crappy show.  But Christ they were nasty looking- like hard-core junkies! I don’t know where the hell they dug them up from, but it’s obvious they weren’t from that place ....... I thought maybe here was somebody I could talk to, maybe cop some pot, but they were a bunch of conceited jerks!  Like if you weren’t one of them you were just another square...
 
The castle people should’ve just brought their singers in from outside too.  Anybody would make a better Sonny and Cher than who they had. You and me would!
 
That's a scary idea!
 
And it wasn’t even the same two every time. One time Sonnie was like seventy under that wig. He actually sang better than the other Sonnies, although his voice was a bit too low and deep for hers. But he wasn’t the one they put on those cassettes they had for sale, and if anybody bought one it had to be as a gag gift, to torture someone with...
 
They did My Girl, and Summertime Blues, which were old songs by then. These were the only other decent songs, because the rest of the show was Popular Ballads From Many Lands, and the only two I recognized were Mack the Knife, which they sang in German for some reason, and that Russian song, you know:  (hums a few bars of Dark Eyes), and when it got going fast they did that dance (sound of chair sliding-) where you crouch down like this, and go: HEY! HEY!  HEY!  HEY! (sounds of heavy-footed dancing, chair falling over...)
 
(Laughs:) Watch out! Don’t hurt yourself!
 
(Laughs, coughs:) They were about as clumsy as that, too! And then they wrapped it all up by doing And The Beat Goes On again. It was terrible! 
That show was “a-musical” all right! I mean without music ........ I mean it wasn’t musical. You know what I mean.
 
 
((((- END  OF  TAPED  INTERVIEW -))))
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This was sent to the Cindy Donovan by Michelle Weisshart of Hermitage, Kentucky on a homemade cd. Cindy was nice enough to burn me a copy. Labelled UNCLE DAN in fat balloon letters, it had a large metallic sticker of a hummingbird on it. The note that accompanied it says only: “I believe my uncle to be an honest man.  Listen to what he has to say”,  then what might be a phone number but only has six digits (or does somebody know of some other significance to 85-0729?).  The details and dates “Uncle Dan” gives are consistant with what we know. The only problem is there doesn’t seem to be any such place as Ocean Grove. Call this transcript (minimally edited for grammar):
  
 
 
Y O U N G  P R I N C E  M I L O S
 
 
 
      I thought the kid was nuts when he said he lived in a castle. He was nuts all right, but the castle was real. My friendship with Milos was the weirdest part of what was turning out to be a weird summer, a weird and horrible year. This was a half a century ago, and I’ve forgotten a lot of my childhood over the years, but when your whole world changes so drastically, you remember.
 
      My Dad had killed himself just after New Year’s. Over the next few months we found out all the things he had been hiding from us-  like just how fucking in debt we were. It came as a total shock to my Mom and me, he had put up a front of everything being fine for as long as he could .......... Our upper middle class life, the only kind of life I knew, fell apart. We lost the house in Van Nuys---I spent my eleventh birthday packing and moving---and had to go live with these relatives I had never heard of on an avocado farm in Ocean Grove.
 
      Well not really in Ocean Grove but about six miles inland. My mom’s cousin and his wife were really nice, welcoming us like family. Their son was in the army now and they doted on me like you wouldn’t believe, Nellie always had cookies baking for me, but there wasn’t a lot for me to do.  Mom helped in the kitchen, feeding ten hungry braceros  three times a day, but my only real chore there was feeding their few chickens and collecting the eggs---which took minutes---and occasionally some job that needed an extra set of hands, like helping to re-string a fence or move the bee hives. The honey tasted like avocados, not the best honey you ever had. I never thought I would ever look forward to the start of a school year, but I did.
 
      Luckily I had my bike, a Huffy, that I got as a belated birthday present. A year earlier only getting one present would have been a bit of a let down, but I knew my mom had to borrow the money for it, so it was a big deal!
 
      It seemed logical to ride into town for something to do. But with just a bar, a post office and a barber shop it turned out to be a useless destination. I watched the old guy cut hair until he chased me away from his window. I hear that as the town started to grow they got a park, a movie house
and a Dairy Queen, and then all the rest of it, but this was 1956...
 
      So then I thought okay, I’ll go check out the beach. But that beach had to be the worst damn beach in California! The waves would just rear up out of nowhere and break right on top of you, and there were these big ankle-busting rocks underfoot instead of sand ........... So that was no good.
 
      And everywhere I looked, I could not find any kids! I met exactly three. Antonio, who worked there at the farm and didn’t speak much English at all. Now and then we would toss a ball around but he mostly had to work right alongside the adults. There was this little girl who would stick her tongue out at me whenever I rode past, and then ran screaming into her house when I stopped!  That didn’t seem worth investigating .......... So I went from my life in San Fernando Valley, on a block that was swarming with kids---a regular Our Gang comedy with wagons and wooden swords and all our dogs trailing along after us---to being this kid who read and colored pictures and rode around by himself on his bike. Then I met Milos, for what that was worth.
 
      Milos was ......... different. Not like he was crazy, although he definitely was a bit off, with his ridiculous fantasies and the way he stuck to them. But what he really was was just a goddamn asshole. A spoiled bully, only without the size or the muscle to back it up. And I wasn’t some pathetic pushover, so desperate for friends that I would let someone like him boss me around ......... But since he was the only kid in Ocean Grove I hung around with him a lot longer than I otherwise would have.  
 
      I spent a lot of time exploring the dirt roads, the fields and farms between town and the start of the Richard Henry Dana National Forest, and the national forest itself, which is where I met Milos.  Luckily this was back when people would just let their children wander off into the woods. I was a smart enough kid, I had my canteen and my compass, and my mom thought nothing of me disappearing all day with little explanation of where I had been- the kind of freedom I’ll admit I never gave my own daughters. When parents thought of “trouble” back then it was skinned knees, a nose getting bloodied in a fight, not all this drugs and guns and what have you...                   
 
      Only rarely would you ever run into anybody out there. Once in a while some hunters; or those bird-watcher ladies, this pack of weird old biddies from L.A. who mistook me for a local, acting like I was some charming little hillbilly kid, asking about my “Ma” and “Pa” and going Isn’t he just adorable? Talking slow so I would understand. But most days I met no one out there. So it was weird to come across him like that. Especially since he was dressed up like a Man from Mars!
 
      He had on a bubble helmet with little jet wings sticking out the sides, and a ray gun that shot sparks.  Silver plastic boots, a silver backpack with zippers everywhere, black shirt with this big red rocket embroidered on it. It was such an elaborate costume, looked like it cost a hell of a lot of money, and it was brand new ........ I asked him where he got it, and after he stopped insisting that he was from “Planet Overgod” he named some fancy toy shop---exclusive was the word he used, like I should be really impressed---in New York City.  
 
      I was impressed. With the outfit, if not with this arrogant little turd with the strange accent. I thought the accent was just another part of his act-  until I met his father and those weird servants they had, who talked even worse than he did. Now I think this costume was made especially for him, since I never saw it in any store or catalog. And believe me I looked!
 
      It was far too hot to be wearing such a thing that far out in the forest. His face was drenched with sweat inside that plastic bowl. You or I would have taken it off by then. I gave him some of my water, and when he was done drinking I was dumbstruck to see him just pour my canteen out on the ground. That’s how he was. Said his Planet Overgod germs would kill me. 
 
      I didn’t buy his idiotic story about being from outer space for even a second---a space suit would not come with shorts and wouldn’t have that grillwork of slots in the front of the helmet---and he admitted pretty quick he was only playing. And when I didn’t believe his “I can read your mind” bit---a different fantasy that had nothing to do with the Space Boy thing---he didn’t mind that either, but just smiled, acting like: “It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe me. I know it’s true...” 
 
      But when I laughed at him saying that he lived in a Castle he was furious! Screaming, “I do too! I do too! I’ll show you!”   
 
      His voice was really high pitched, and even higher when he threw one of his tantrums. They were the kind of tantrums a two-year-old would have: Flat on the ground, shrieking and kicking his feet, his face turning colors! And with how small he was, and the way he just sat and watched while the maid cut his food up for him, I found it hard to believe he was thirteen. If this is the same man my niece is researching---I don’t doubt it, how many castles can there be in central California besides Hearst’s---he must have really shot up after that, everything about him getting longer. His face.     
 
       Michelle showed me that photo of “Meelosh” from the sixties, standing at least a head taller than the thirty or so servants gathered around him. She calls them Villagers, but when I knew him there were only six or seven of them---the rest must of come over later---and he referred to them as their servants. Janet the cook, Tom the gardener, and like that. I remember thinking these couldn’t possibly be their real names, as foreign and peasant-like as they were. And it’s hard to tell with the beard and the long hair and with his face so much leaner, but the expression on the face, that’s the kid I knew! 
 
      No, even that’s not really the same, because in the picture he’s trying to look all kind and wise and saintly. But I get a feeling that this is exactly the sort of jerk he would grow up into after reading a few Kahlil Gibran books and taking acid a few times. Like Manson, who didn’t know shit about hippies when he got out of the pen, but he learned to pick up the talk pretty quick. Not that I’m comparing him to Manson, I’m just saying this was the con back then. Spiritual. Hiding his arrogance behind a mellow flower-child facade, when you can see he still thinks he is the heir to some kind of empire. I can see why you all call this photograph “Jesus Among The Pygmies”- that’s hilarious! Like Peter O’Toole in that movie The Ruling Class, if you ever saw that. When he thought he was Christ.
 
      The dad never did anything to discourage this. He yelled at the servants, and he yelled at me in a way I thought was way out of line, considering I was supposed to be a guest, but Junior could do no wrong. Even when he called his father a “penis fuck” because something he gave him wasn’t quite right. Or even when he shot me in the face! It was only a b.b. gun, and thank God didn’t quite hit my eye; but I think Milos could have emptied a .45 into me and it would have been, “Did that loud gun hurt my little Manooshja’s ears?” No apology, nothing even close. Just “We can take care of this. No need to make a problem...”  
 
      He came in from the construction going on out back after the maid screamed and ran and got him. My niece talks about these people they had like they were subhuman, and I do remember them as being a bit slow-witted, but she seemed like the only one who was reacting normally to this situation. The father had this old doctor’s bag full of shiny steel things that scared the shit out of me. He told me he had been a medical corpsman “in army”. He didn’t say which army but I thought it had to be the Nazis from the way he kept ramming that forceps into the hole in my cheek, telling me to stop being such a baby, like I’d deliberately ruined his afternoon. And then some curdled green gunk from a dusty old bottle that stung like iodine. I was glad when it did sting- figuring that this meant it had to actually be some kind of antiseptic and not some weird European peasant remedy---cabbage and dead fish juice---that would just make it worse! And then a bandage that I don’t think was that toasty shade of brown to start with.  
 
        My mom hit the roof when I got home, and forbid me to see him again, but I’d pretty much already decided not to. She hadn’t liked Milos to begin with. His bragging, and talking to her like a servant, and how he burst out laughing and could not stop when he saw this poodle kleenex-box-cover thing that she had crocheted for the house; Starting all over again whenever he would glance at it or at her! And I guess it was pretty ugly, but a lot of folks decorated like this then. Save a few bucks by making your own knick-knacks, from booklets you bought at the 5-and-10. Things you made out of macaroni and spraypaint, like only kids make now ........  But where was I? 
 
      So anyway, off we went, me and my Space Ranger friend. I offered to let him ride on the handlebars but he seemed afraid to, so I rode real slow while he walked. Out of Dana Forest and through an orange grove to his “castle”. And son of a bitch, there it was! Turrets sticking up above the trees, a big stone wall all the way around it. As you can imagine I was pretty damn impressed! I had known this girl in Van Nuys who had a maid that came in twice a week, but she was a tough old colored woman who let you know she would only take so much shit. She certainly didn’t fawn over Suzie...  But Milos, was like something out of a movie. This whole full-time staff that was totally at his disposal/
 
      I was real thirsty by the time we got there, and when I couldn’t choose between pink or regular lemonade or lime-ade he ordered me a glass of each. “Chop chop, Janet!”, and out it all came on a silver tray!
 
      About a third the castle was finished, and this was the part they lived in. The rest was under construction. He took me through some of it. “And this part is going to be our museum...” 
 
   It seemed weird to have a museum in your house, but I figured maybe this is what people who lived in castles did.
 
      The museum started to make sense when he showed me his back yard, “the grounds” he called it. Quaint little streets taking shape. A big carousel. At that age I didn’t get the point of carousels, they seemed like a wimpy-ass excuse for a ride, but to own one seemed very cool. A lake was being dug out by a bulldozer, little fiberglass boats sitting on a truck-trailer beside it ......... Then it dawned on me. This kid didn’t just live in a castle, when it was all finished he would be living in Disneyland!  
 
      When I said this to Michelle she sort of snorted, saying you could hardly compare that rinky-dink tourist trap to Disneyland- but remember what year it was. Disneyland would get more elaborate over the years, but when it opened it wasn’t that much better than this, maybe ten rides total.
 
      I made a vow to myself to remain this boy’s friend for life, but like I said this didn’t work out. I never even saw the place after it opened. Wound up in Alabama after my mom started to get on her feet, then in Kentucky when she remarried. Jules was a great step-dad, a lot more there-for-me than my real father was.  Wasn’t hounded by whatever gloomy shit had possessed my dad. Of course I was disappointed to never see the finished park, but if any of this horrible stuff you hear is true it’s just as well. Go into the mine train ride and get your brains scrambled. Your DNA or whatever it was...    
 
      On the surface it sounds like some bullshit myth but it would sound a lot crazier to me, I hadn’t met Gorval and his kid. In the six years I spent as a skip tracer I learned a bit about profiling people, reading people, and there was clearly something fishy about the two of them. Full of secrets, arrogant; the kind of arrogance that could lead you to believe laws and normal social rules don’t apply to you. “Sociopathic”- that’s a term that is used a bit too freely today, but let’s just say I wouldn’t enter into a binding contract with either of them! For all their aristocratic airs they were both as nutty as Goo-Goo Clusters .......... I can’t say I believe any of the supernatural stuff about the place; But they could have thought they were stealing children’s life essence with their radioactive voodoo so they could live forever, or whatever the story is, and harmed some kids in the process.  
 
      People can talk themselves into all kinds of insane nonsense: If we kill ourselves we’ll wake up on a space ship heading for Heaven ........ Or like those assholes over in Africa who rape little girls, not because of some fucked-up evil compulsion but because they think this cures AIDS, which somehow seems even more evil, for being calculating ........ Folks do all kinds of evil shit, and some manage to hide what they’re doing for years. Like that judge in Baltimore who when he died they found an operating room in his basement, and a very unhappy “torso girl” sex slave! Yeeeeeeesh! It’s no good to dwell on shit like this, but it’s just as dumb to deny it happens.
 
      The people building the park were all Americans, construction contractors just trying to get the job finished. More afraid of their insurers than some kid, no matter who he was or what kind of tantrums he flew into, and would run us off ......... Milos hated them for this, for treating him like an ordinary brat and not some little rajah, and he'd go out there at night and move all their surveying stakes a half a foot or so. He either didn’t get or didn’t care that he was messing with his father’s park, his own home...
 
      It’s hard to know what to think about the dad. Most of the time he was just this old guy with his pipe and rolls of blueprints arguing with some other man off over there, who would sort of wave, awkwardly, like he was suddenly remembering he was supposed to do this, when he saw me and Milos. Not that he didn’t love his boy, he did. They had a real bond, were extremely devoted to each other ........... I think it was more my presence that made Papa awkward. 
 
      There was one time he did make an effort to get to know me, this friend his unlikeable son had made. We had dinner in the “banquetry”- an enormous room that I hear would later become their cafeteria. This meal was a huge production: Salad and veal and truffles, banana fosters for desert. It was an awkward scene, the old man trying to make small talk. Asking me, “So, uh, Danny. Do you go to school in Ocean Grove?”   
 
      "No," I said, "It’s Summer."
 
      I think we both realized about then we had nothing to say to each other. And I think we were all glad when he got called away by some foreman.
 
      After that he stopped trying with me, would grunt some curt greeting at me and then ask Milos how us kids were doing today. Were we having fun? Did we need anything? And sometimes he’d seem to forget I wasn’t the help. But with Milos it was always: “Who’s my little manooshja?”   
 
      And Milos would squeak back, “I am, Papa!”    
 
      I wasn’t jealous of this, some reminder of the father I didn’t have, but instead it sort of creeped me out. They had an understanding about their place in the world, an attitude, that put them above everybody else. How else do you explain it? The little fucker shot me, scarred me for life! Okay, it’s not a huge scar, but it’s noticeable. And then he just laughed about it! And the dad acted like he couldn’t care less. This was the next time Milos Senior really spoke to me, and the last time. He was so goddamn rude about it!
 
      This one whole part of the grounds was tented off. Huge scaffolds that made like an oversized circus tent, where we couldn’t go. This was the only thing that resembled something his dad might punish him for.   
 
      Milos said this was so “Russian spy planes” couldn’t take pictures of certain rides, hinting that the place was some secret U.S. government facility merely posing as an amusement park. What’s funny is that in spinning this story about the spy planes he gave what I would find out years later was a very accurate description of the CIA’s U-2 program, even though they had just begun sending them up that Spring, and all this would remain top secret until Gary Powers got shot down in ‘63...   But if you believe the crazier rumors about the place it makes sense for them to hide it like that, not just from the Soviets but from U.S. intelligence too.  
 
      If you believe them, that is ........   I wouldn’t use Milos's stories as a basis for what to believe about anything. He was full of it, and if you tell enough whoppers one of them might turn out to be true, just from sheer chance. Because in the next breath he’d tell you about “subterrines”- these things that could dig through the earth like a submarine goes through water. A comic book fantasy, plain and simple. Or this business of how he could read people’s minds, saying mine was “an open book” to him. 
 
But then I beat him at that card game he taught me twenty hands in a row. Until he got all sulky and refused to play anymore. The incredible hate in his eyes when I called him on it. “Am I bluffing or aren’t I? You should know!”      
 
      I tried to be his friend at first, I really did! But it wasn’t long before it was obvious there would be this constant state of antagonism between us, sometimes right out in the open but usually unspoken, and some days I rode home with this tense achy feeling in my stomach, like I had done a lot of sit-ups, wondering why I even bothered going over there.  
 
      But the thing was, he always had tons and tons of the coolest toys, which I guess you should expect from a boy who lives in a castle...   And he  had this knack for enticing me with them-  pulling out some new one whenever he sensed he had gone too far and I was about to storm out and go home. And if it was one I had then it was the top-of-the-line deluxe model I really wanted. I felt compromised. Like a whore, that I could be bought so cheaply; although I’m sure I didn’t put it in those terms at that age, with how unworldly I was.
 
      Anyone looking in on us, in that play room the size of a basketball court---it was a basketball court actually, hoops high up on the stone walls, lines and arcs on the concrete floor, but it also had this enormous chandelier that we had to watch out for---would say they saw a couple of kids playing. And technically I guess we were playing. But I was always on guard, waiting for his next asshole stunt, and I never had to wait long...
 
      Most of the games we played ended like that. Either with Milos getting pissed because he was losing, or just suddenly wanting to do something else, and announcing this by knocking over whatever we were building or whatever. He seemed to enjoy making me angry, so I learned to give him his smirk and his sarcasm rightback- “Oh...   Little baby doesn’t want to do that anymore?” Letting him know his wrecking our game was just another dumb childish stunt, so predictable that it bored me! 
 
      But he was smart, I’ll give you that, and said some interesting stuff. When I was reading Two-Fisted Fighting Man Comics he was subscribing to Jane’s War Review. He said the Chinese had used “scopamine” and these weird dirty movies on the U.S. prisoners in Korea. That the Reds had fought that whole war not with any real interest in winning but just so they could send these guys home brainwashed---and not even knowing it---in a state he called “robotosis”.
 
      This is an old idea by now, you’ve seen it in movies.  But like a lot of things I heard about this first from Milos. Things like the spy planes, which turned out to be true;  and other things that weren’t so true but still live on as these conspiracy theories. He said that on July 4, 1957 all these ex-G.I.’s---the uncles and older brothers of kids we knew---would start blowing up dams
and shipyards, in what would be the opening shot of World War Three...
 
     But anyway, I had learned not to react whenever he did something obnoxious. To not give him the satisfaction. To act like he was acting.  Nobody had ever done this back at him, and I felt a real satisfaction from how flustered it got him! So then he fell back on his thing of threatening me, making his hand into a claw and waving it at me- like he was some warlock who could blast me with a lightning bolt! I don’t recall whether or not those servants of his cowered when he did this, but something made him believe he could do shit like this.
 
      I had this young neighbor a year ago, she was a Wiccan. Rented the  two-bedroom next door. I never figured I would meet one of these people, but she was nice enough, and more normal than you might think. Some of her beliefs were really dumb but there’s no law against that. But what bugged me was the things she said to her son. He was into all those Harry Potter books, a lot of kids are, and being a witch herself she was delighted. But when she discussed them with him she acted like it was all real! “Oh, this spell here, this is good for getting rid of bullies!” 
 
    And she sent him out into the world thinking he could take people on with a wand from Toys R Us. It bugged me... 
 
      But I can see that psycho dad of his doing something like this with him: “We’re not like other people, we are descended from ancient gods. We have great powers!”  But if those servants believed it too, his powers would have worked for him, at least better than they did for my neighbor kid, who got such beliefs that got knocked out of him the first time he tried one of his Harry Potter spells on some little hip hop thug-in-training!
 
      One day Milos had a b.b. pistol and he was going to shoot this dog with it. We were out in front of his place, in what would eventually be the parking lot. When we went out there we just planned to shoot tin cans, but then he saw the dog. I wouldn’t have been too happy about shooting a bird or a squirrel but I wouldn’t make a stink about it.  This was more or less accepted then. But there was no way I was going to let him shoot that dog!
 
       He kept calling out to it- “Here boy! Come on! Nice Doggy!” but the dog wasn’t having any part of it. He was running back and forth along the perimeter of the parking lot, looking lost and confused and thirsty. Milos told me to throw it part of the sandwich I’d brought from home,
to coax it closer, and I refused. 
 
      He thought the issue was me giving up my lunch. I’ll feed you, he said. Something a lot better than that stupid balogna sandwich!
 
      “No way,” I said. “That’s somebody’s dog!” 
 
      But he went, “Well, so what?”
 
      It was a big enough dog that I don’t think one b.b. would have killed it, but the idea of even hurting it sickened me. Pets are off limits. Even cats, as useless and obnoxious as they are. 
 
      I asked him, “Why the hell do you want to shoot it anyway?”
 
      He pointed the gun at me and smiled. “Because I have this. Here, why don’t we sit down?”
 
      We sat. The dog was getting used to us, now that he wasn’t calling it; and you could tell from how it was wandering it would eventually come nearer.
 
       I had made the mistake of telling Milos about my father’s suicide, and he was fascinated by the whole idea. How did he do it? Did you see it? Was it bloody? Like it was just another of his Civil War battlefield photos, something gory he could get off on. I had let him know I didn’t appreciate this at all, and that I didn’t want to discuss it. He left it alone mostly, but now he brought it up again. The dog was coming nearer.
 
     He said, “You know why your dad killed himself, don’t you?”
 
      “Yeah,” I said. “Money and stuff. I told you...”
 
      “That’s not it,” he told me. “Remember what I was saying about the Chinese Communists and their brainwashing?”
 
      “Sure,”  I said.  Just like that, one word.  I wasn’t going to encourage him.
 
      He said, “Well sometimes it doesn’t work so good. Sometimes the men they robotomize, they start to remember. They have all these nightmares, and they even start seeing things.  Because they’re not suppose to remember, they have all these hypnotic orders not to. So they start going crazy-”
 
      I didn’t have a lot of expectations of Milos in the sensitivity department, but this was more than I could stand. Using my dad---this horrible thing that happened to me---for one of his bullshit stories!   
 
      “This isn’t funny,” I said. “And what you’re saying isn’t even possible.”
 
      “But the Chinese, they know how to do it,” he insisted. “The prisoner gets so scared that he’ll listen to anything, believe anything just to make it stop!”
 
     Then I was shouting. I shouted, “Look, you stupid little fuck! It isn’t possible because my father didn’t even fight  in Korea! He fought in France and Germany! There’s no goddamn Red Chinese in France and Germany!”
 
      What I was saying didn’t matter to him at all, but my yelling it made the dog start to run away, and that’s what got to him. He started whining. “Aw man! You scared him off...”
 
      “And I’m glad I did,” I shouted, and jumped up and yelled, waved my arms, making the dog run even faster. Into the oaks and out of sight.
 
      He waved the gun around- “Well I’m glad your stupid dad is dead! He’s dead, he’s dead-  Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha! I’m glad!  I’m glad!  I’m glad!”
 
      I don’t know why I didn’t start pounding on him. I was just shocked. I can’t explain it, but hitting him didn’t just make any sense to me. It’s like he wasn’t a person who had mocked my grief, trying to push it into overdrive; he was just this malfunctioning thing when I looked at him...
That’s the best I can explain it.
 
      Which doesn’t mean I didn’t want to get out of there in the worst way. I knew the anger might come all at once. I looked around for my windbreaker- “Where’s my jacket?”
 
      It was up in his bedroom. He took me in to the foyer, that first room past the huge front doors, and went to go get it for me. As quiet as he was I thought maybe he was actually feeling some remorse, or he realized what thin ice he was on with me. That my calm, my total blankness was intimidating to him. Maybe this was true right at that moment. But when he came back...
 
      It’s funny how clearly I remember it all. How I was waiting there, this long brightly-lit room like a tunnel. The shiny polished wooden floor, the high arched ceiling. The empty display cases running down both walls.
 
      He came in. My jacket was draped over his hand in what I thought was an odd fashion. Maybe he was playing KGB assassin. Or maybe his father had brainwashed him with freaky movies and scopalomine, and this was a trial run, before he grew up and changed his name to Sirhan Sirhan...   
But he pointed the gun---which had been under my coat---right at my face and pulled the trigger.
This was at about four feet. 
 
     The pellet went in and I couldn’t see from the tears. Not boo-hoo crying, the pain was not all that excruciating, but that close to the tear ducts---in with the sinuses and everything---it had some effect on them and they kicked in big time. Some automatic defense measure my body was doing.
 
      Milos was laughing, a weird echoey sound in that hallway .......... and I was stumbling around, cussing and bumping into shit---a fat line of blood I could feel, wet and thick on my cheek---when the maid walked in and screamed! And then, like I said, the dad took me into the kitchen and fixed me up.
 
      I rode home with a folded patch of brown gauze in my periforal vision, strips of white tape from my ear to up over my nose. That weird little girl I told you about thought I looked hilarious like this. She laughed and clapped her hands as I rode past. 
 
      Fuck her, I thought. And fuck Ocean Grove! Fuck the post office and that grouchy barber and their weird tasting honey and their fucked up beach!
 
      In September my mom was offered a place to stay in Alabama. And a job with them too, a pet shop run by these other relatives I never knew before, and soon we had an apartment. The kids there were slow to take to me at first because of how I talked, damn Yankee that I was then, but by Halloween I was one of the gang. It was so good to have friends! It turned out that my summer in that strange, screwed-up placehadn’t caused me any permanent damage...
 
      That day was the last I ever saw of Milos, Meelosh, whoever he was. The last time I visited the castle.  And it’s a shame, because the next day he was supposed to show me the network of tunnels under the castle grounds. The one with the little train that went all the way down to the secret submarine docks under the rocky beach. Yeah, right...
 
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{Castle Mysterii is currently a closed story universe. any queries can be PM'd to Laika at this site}
 
 
~~~COPYRIGHT 2008 THE PULL MY FINGER CONSORTIUM~~~

 

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