After School Special
The visits of people such as the Games Player and Jay Edwards have become something of a modern legend – with online discussion forums debating what they have done. But in the early 1970s there was a series of incidents in the state of New England, in a town called Manchester, that had striking similarities to the modus operandi of those more well-known criminals. Tonight, on In Their Own Words, we reconstruct some of the incidents that took place.
We first talked to Coral Brown, who in 1972 was the mother of two young girls, nine year old Shona and four year old Amy. Her story starts as she picks up Shona from her school to bring her home…
I drove a ’70 Pontiac at the time, and my husband was the assistant manager of a furniture store in town, so we were comfortably well off. It was a summer’s day, and I was wearing a light green mini dress, with long sleeves, buttons up the front and a VERY wide collar. I was also wearing a pair of white leather boots which laced tightly up the front, and the windows were down as I drove along.
Amy was sitting in the back, playing with her teddy bear. She was also wearing a mini dress, but hers was an empire style one, the sleeves up at her elbows, a white lace top and cream sleeves and skirts. She wore a pair of white shoes and knee length socks.
I also remember it was school picture day, because as I pulled up outside the school Shona came out, wearing an identical dress, shoes and socks. Unlike Amy, who had my shade of blonde hair, Shona had her father’s dark brown hair, styled and waved specially for the day.
Anyway, she jumped into the front of the car, and we headed home. We had a little routine – the girls could watch some cartoons on television while I prepared their evening meal, then they could wash and Shona do her homework while I played with Amy. Well, that was not quite what happened that night when we got home…
I parked in the driveway and we walked into the house, the girls walking into the front room while I went to the kitchen. It was as I put my bag down on the table that I heard Shona shout “MOM!” and then silence, so I went straight into the room.
The girls were standing there, but there was also a man, and he had their mouths covered with his large gloved hands. He was wearing a roll neck sweater under a grey jacket and pants, and he had a pair of dark glasses covering his eyes.
“Hello Mrs Brown,” he said quietly, “I want you to do exactly what I tell you to do, and then you and your girls are going to have a story to tell their daddy when he gets home tonight. Do you understand?”
I nodded, saying not to harm my babies. “I won’t if you and they do as I tell you,” he said with a smile, “and you can start by drawing the blinds over the windows.”
I told the girls we were going to do what he said, as I went and lowered the blinds, while he told them to be quiet and go and sit on the couch, then they could watch the cartoons together. As he took his hands away, they ran over and hugged me, and then I went with them to sit on the couch.
We watched as he reached into his jacket pocket, and took out a ball of twine. As he looked at me, he told the girls he was going to use the twine to tie their wrists and ankles, and they were to stay sitting on the couch while he took me round the house. As they looked at me, I told them it would be all right, and we would all eat with Daddy that night. I then hugged them and kissed them on the forehead, then watched as he knelt in front of Shona, put her hands together in prayer, and then used the twine to tie her wrists together.
Amy was starting to cry, but I hugged her and said she had to be a very brave girl, and that everything was going to be all right. We both watched as he wound the twine between Shona’s wrists, and then lowered her hands onto her lap as he took the twine and tied her ankles together, before he cut the end free and tied it off.
He then looked at Amy, and I kept telling her everything would be all right as he secured her own wrists and ankles in the same way. As they looked at each other, he asked if they were both going to stay quiet, and watch the television, because if they could not he would do something to stop them talking.
They both nodded as I told them to be brave, and turned the television on. As Bugs Bunny started to appear, the man took me by the arm and whispered into my ear that I was to show him where I kept my jewels and valuables. If I did that, then when he left we would all be together.
I mean, what choice did I have, given he had tied up my girls in the front room? So we walked round the house, him holding a bag open as I tipped rings, earrings, pearls, watches, gold cuff links and money in. While we were in our bedroom, he picked up three other things and put them in the bag, before we went back into the front room – but before we did that, he used the penknife he had to cut a length of twine from the ball, crossed my wrists behind my bag, and tied them tightly together, the thin cord cutting into my bare flesh.
As we came into the front room, the girls looked at me as I sat down, and then watched as the man cut another length of cord, and used it to secure my ankles together. The leather squeaked as he did that, making them giggle.
“You have been very brave and good girls,” he said as he stood up, “but before I go, I need to do something to make sure none of you can call for help until your daddy comes in.”
“What are you going to do,” Amy said as he took from the bag my green triangle scarf, which I wear sometimes when I do the housework. Rolling it into a band, he walked behind her, and told her to open her mouth.
Amy looked at me, and I told her to do as he said, watching as he took the bad between her teeth and then tied it tightly round her head. As she closed her lips over it and looked at me, he took a red bandana, rolled that into a band and used it to keep Shona quiet.
He then moved her to the far end of the couch, as Amy lay on her side with her head on my lap. Then it as my turn – for me, he used a white scarf, and as he pulled it into my mouth I felt it pressing down on my tongue, the band pressing into my cheeks as he secured the ends at the base of my neck.
And that was how he left us – I heard him leave the house, and there was just the three of us and the television, until my husband got home at seven and found us…
The family were shaken and bruised, but unharmed. A few months later, however, eight year old Bobbi was bringing a friend home to have some tea, when she found out her mother had an unexpected visitor…
I had asked Mom if it was all right for Candy to come home with me that night – her folks were at a Church meeting that afternoon, so she said it would be okay. So we both rode home on the school bus together, and talked about our assignments as we walked to the front door.
Candy always dressed like it was Sunday – that day it was a long sleeved white blouse and a long burnt orange skirt with a green and a red stripe near the bottom. I knew she had sneakers on underneath.
I had something the same colour as her skirt on – a long sleeved jumper under a tartan slip dress that buttoned up the front, long black socks and black Mary Jane shoes. Anyway – I opened the door and we walked into the house, dumping our bags as I called out to Mom. She didn’t answer, so I figured she was upstairs, and I told Candy to come to the kitchen with me, and we’d get some drinks from the icebox.
When we walked in, however, I saw Mom sitting in a chair by the table, her eyes wide as she looked at us through her glasses. She still had on what she had been wearing when I left that day – a grey and black checked tunic with a matching cloth belt round her waist, brown slacks and shoes. The only thing she wasn’t wearing was the brown and yellow scarf she had tied round her neck – and that was because that was stuffed in her mouth, the edges sticking out between her lips.
That wasn’t the only strange thing about her, however – her ankles were tied to the front legs of the chair with ropes, and I could see her arms were round the chair back, and something must have been holding her wrists together. “Mom?” I clearly remember saying, and then Candy’s muffled scream as I turned round.
“Hey kiddo – you and your friend home from school? Well, behave and do exactly what I tell you, understand?”
He was tall, dressed casually with dark glasses over his eyes – and his gloved hand over Candy’s mouth, so I nodded and said we’d do whatever he said. Candy nodded as well, so he told us to sit in the chairs, and to put our hands on our laps.
Mom watched and nodded as we both did this, and then he knelt in front of Candy, taking a length of rope from his pocket and folded her skirt back, before he used it to tie her ankles tightly together. He then folded her skirt back, and moved over to tie my ankles together as well.
He then walked behind our chairs, and I turned my head to see him take more ropes out of a bag on the kitchen table, then used them to tie our waists to the chair back, leaving us with our legs dangling over the seat. He then guided my wrists through the gaps in the chair back, and tied them tightly together before he tied them to the back itself.
I told Candy we’d be all right as he did the same to her, and Mom nodded in agreement. I watched him tying her wrists together and to the chair back, before he folded up a clean napkin, and pushed it into my mouth. IT filled it, and spilled out from between my lips – and Candy sounded really strange when she tried to talk after he pushed a second napkin into her mouth.
Mom was trying to talk to us as the man went off again, and then we all heard the front door open and close. Mom then started struggling, and slowly started to try and move the chair – but we were too scared to try and move.
Pops came home an hour later and freed us – the man had surprised Mom by knocking on the door, and tied her to the chair, then pushed her scarf into her mouth when we came in…
This intruder had an obvious way of working – striking in the early afternoon in homes with young families, and making sure whoever was there was kept out of the way while he helped himself to whatever he could find. The fact it was often young girls – and occasionally boys – made it clear they were being used to make sure the mother cooperated.
One example of this was in 1975, when the Lewis family – twelve year old Ben, ten year old twins Claire and Mary, and their mother Eleanor were visited. Claire tells the tale…
Mom had picked the three of us up from school – she looked real nice in her yellow checked jacket and skirt, and her purple jumper, as well as her yellow shoes. She had allowed us to pick our clothes for school that day, so I was wearing a black and grey checked short sleeved dress with a red waistcoat, and red go go boots, while Mary had put on a long sleeved pink dress with white dots, and her black boots. I had my hair in pigtails, hers was straight. As for the pain that was my big brother, he was wearing a brown shirt and pants.
As we got out of the car, Ben stopped to help Mom with the grocery bags, while Mary and I went to our bedroom, and started to work on our assignments. We each had a desk with a wooden chair, and sat down to go to work. I clearly remember sitting there, chewing my pencil as I looked at the Maths problem, and kicking the underside of the chair with my boots.
I did hear a knock on the door, and Mom talking to someone, but as I said I wasn’t paying much attention – not even to the footsteps as they came up the stairs, and then into the other bedrooms.
So when the bedroom door opened, I thought it was Mom with a drink for both of us. It wasn’t – it was a man, wearing a wide collared shirt with a paisley pattern, jeans and trainers, and dark glasses. And he had a gun in his hand.
As Mary and I looked at each other, he closed the door and told us to stay nice and quiet. He was going to make sure we stayed in the room for a while, and that we would be quiet, but if we did as he said it would be like a big game.
I decided to be the brave one, and said we’d do as he asked, so he told us both to go and lie face down on our beds, and put our arms by our sides. As we did this, I watched him put a bag on the floor, and take out some lengths of what looked like washing line. I’d seen a few cop shows, so I knew he was going to tie us up, as I told Mary to make it a big game.
As I watched, he crossed Mary’s wrists behind her back, and then used a length of the rope to tie her wrists tightly together. She stayed still as he did this, and then crossed her ankles before he tied them tightly together, the rope rubbing on the black leather and making it squeak as he pulled it around and between her legs. He also tied her legs together below her knees, before he walked over to me, smiled and said “your turn.”
“It doesn’t hurt Claire,” Mary said as she looked over, and I felt my wrists been crossed behind my back. She was right – it didn’t hurt that much as he wound it tightly around and between my arms, but it felt strange. He tied the ends off, then crossed and tied my ankles together, and finally secured my legs below my knees. I tried moving my legs, but I couldn’t – and the squeaking leather made us both giggle.
He smiled as well, and then took out of the bag a roll of brown sticking plaster. He tore a strip off, and pressed it firmly over Mary’s mouth, covering he rips as it formed to the shape of her chin.
He then tore a second strip off and pressed it over my mouth. It pulled slightly on my skin, but when I tried to speak I was unable to move my lips at all! Picking up his bag, he then left us as we could hear the kids playing outside.
A few minutes later, we heard a thumping sound coming towards our room, and then the door opened inwards – and Ben looked in. He also had his wrists tied behind his back, his ankles and legs tied together, and a strip of sticking plaster over his mouth. He looked at us, mumbled, and then seemed to ask if we could get up. I twisted my ankles round and managed to uncross them, sat up and then stood up, but Mary stayed where she was as I jumped after Ban, and into Mom and Dad’s room.
Mom was lying on the bed, tied as we were, with plaster over her mouth – but she looked at us and nodded as we jumped over and joined her, trying to get free…
For a few months, there were no similar incidents – and then Tonya, a new teacher who had a niece at the school, was asked to take her and a friend home because her sister had to work late…
“Thanks for doing this, Aunty Tonya,” Suzie laughed from the back seat of the car. I had finished for the day, and was wearing a short sleeved, knee length dress with a brown zig-zag pattern. Suzie was wearing a blue striped skirt with dungaree style straps over a white blouse, and brown knee length boots, her light brown hair like mine cut in a bob.
Her friend Zoe had dark hair, also cut in a bob, and had on a black slip dress with a floral pattern, over a white top with elbow sleeves and a Peter Pan collar. She was also wearing a pair of boots – black ones over white tights.
So we got to my sister’s place, walked into the front room – and there he was. Dark suit, shirt, tie – and leather gloves as well as dark glasses, and a gun which her pointed straight at us.
“You’re not the lady of the house – but this is her daughter,” he said, “a friend?”
“My sister – who are you and what are you…”
“Hush,” he said as he looked at the three of us, “I need to make sure you three stay nice and quiet.”
“Is he a robber, Aunty Tonya,” Suzie said as he held my hand.
“I think he is,” I said quietly, “so we’re going to do what he tells us to do, all right?”
“Smart move,” he said quietly, “I want you to lie face down on the couch there, and the two girls are going to sit on the floor, back to back.”
“Do as he says girls,” I said as I hugged them both, and then lay down, turning y head to watch as he took two lengths of white cord from a bag, and tied Suzie’s left wrist to Zoe’s right one, then repeated the process on the other side.
Taking a much longer length of rope out, he then wrapped it round their upper bodies, securing them together as well as forcing their arms into their sides as they talked to each other. Once her had that tied off, he used smaller length of rope to tie their ankles together, then bent their knees so their feet were flat on the floor, and then tied ropes from those round their upper bodies to their ankles.
“are you both all right,” I asked, and as they nodded he walked over to me and took my hands behind my back, and tied them tightly together, before he tied my ankles together and then my legs below my knees. He also fed some rope under my stomach, and tied it round me so that my arms were forced into my sides as well.
I turned onto my side as he went, presumably to search the house, and told the girls everything was going to be all right, and that Suzie’s Mom and Pop would be very proud of her.
He came back a few minutes later, and used two long thin chiffon scarves as cleave gags for the two girls, and a knotted red bandana to gag me. We were then left as he went out of the house – with no chance of getting free.
Fortunately, my sister got back thirty minutes later, and discovered us. She freed and hugged the girls, freed me, and then called the police as well as Zoe’s parents…
Incidents of this type kept going on and off for some years after that, with little or no clues – although the thief’s only disguise were the dark glasses. He always was gentle with those he secured – as witnessed by Mai and her mother…
My mom was a clerk at a legal office, and she worked early so that she could pick me up after school. I remember this particular day she was wearing an orange short sleeved jacket, open at the collar, and a matching knee length skirt. Her shoes were black, with a cork wedge sole and heel. She was Chinese, and had dark hair cut short.
I looked a bit more like my dad, although my hair was also dark black. I had on a black short sleeved top with a white edged pocket at the front, and a black skirt with a white pattern and two white stripes. I also had on black go go boots that came up to my knees.
So she picked me up from school, we drove home, and I went to the front room, sitting down to watch television while she went to the kitchen to get me some cookies and milk. She came back in a few minutes later, with the cookies and milk – and a strange man I had never seen before behind her. He was wearing a jumper and pants, but he had on leather gloves and dark glasses – and in one hand he held a bag, and the other a gun.
“Hello Mai,” he said, “I want you to have your cookies and milk, and you can keep watching the television – but while you do that, I’m going to do some things to make sure your mom and you stay in here until your daddy comes home.”
“Do as he says Mai,” Mom said as she handed me the plate and glass, “and don’t be afraid, all right?”
I nodded as I bit into a cookie, while the man opened his bag and took out a length of white cord. He put the gun down where we could both see it, and then guided Mom’s hands behind her back. She kept smiling and talking to me as he did something – what, I wasn’t sure, but when he finished she could not bring her hands back round.
I then drank some milk as he took a longer length of rope out, and passed it round Mom’s arms and body, pulling tight under her chest and then wrapping it round several times. He then used two smaller lengths between her arms and body, which seemed to lock her arms into place.
“Does it hurt Mom,” I asked, but she shook her head as I finished my snack. The man then looked at me, and said “it’s your turn now Mai. Ready?”
I nodded as he took my hands behind my back, and then I felt the rope around my wrists as they were forced together, and he tied the rope around and between them. He then tied the rope round my arms and chest, and it felt really strange as my arms were fixed to my sides, especially after her used the two short ropes.
I wriggled round, wondering what he was going to do next, when he knelt down and used some more rope to tie Mom’s ankles together, and then her legs below her knees, taking the rope between her legs both times. When he had finished, I watched as she tried to twist them round, and then she smiled and said it felt all right.
As he tied my ankles together, my boots squeaked as they rubbed together, and then he tied my legs together, the rope sitting on top of my boots when he had finished. He turned the television up, and left me and Mom to watch Sesame Street as he went round the house.
When he came back, he had a roll of silver tape – strips of which he tore off and pressed over Mom’s mouth, and then over mine. He then left – and we had no choice but to watch the television until Dad came home…
So it seems the Games Player is the latest – and politest – in a long line of robbers and home invaders to use this technique. Next week on In Their Own Words…
Shona nodded as she looked at her granddaughters, eight year old Toni and five year old Kim, as they sat on the floor. Toni was wearing a pink t-shirt and checked shorts, while Kim had on a white t-shirt with diagonal stripes made of red dots of different sizes, and denim shorts. Both girls had bands of green tape holding their ankles tightly together, and their hands together palm to palm as a band of the green tape held their wrists together. A third band held then down to their legs, while strips of the tape covered their mouths.
Shona was sitting across an armchair, wearing a grey Yale sweatshirt and dark patterned stockings – but she had bands of green tape holding her ankles together, her legs below her knees, and her thighs. A bad of green tape was also round her body, holding her arms to her sides, and her hands were behind her back. The stocking masked man pressed the third strip of green tape firmly over her mouth, and smiled as he said “there now – you’re all the captives of the naughty woman, and you have to stay where you are until I’ tell you to start to try to escape. Understand?”
As Kim and Toni nodded, Shona relaxed. At least the Games Player made it a game…