ARE THESE SHEPHERD HORROR STORIES REAL?
DAMNED IF I KNOW.
PART OF ME SAYS ABSOLUTELY NOT.
THE OTHER PARTS SAYS THAT
I CAN TELL THAT THEY’RE REALLY FOR REAL
In the last part of his broadcast, with all the commercials out of the way, Shepherd gives more details about the young woman who killed six.
I’ve got something to tell you tonight about “Please Play ‘Misty’ For Me,” and it’s a pretty scary story. It’s–it’s actually scarier than the events that occurred with Clint Eastwood in the film. That was very straightforward. A girl got hung on this whole loneliness thing and she wound up wanting to kill. But I can tell you a story, that to this day, is inexplicable, and I’ll guarantee you somebody along the line connected with that film…either heard of this case or knew about the incidents that were around it. I’ll just let it stand for that.
Laurie Squire, who worked at WOR with Shep in the 1970s reports: “I actually remember an off-air casual conversation where Jean said, in essence, “And you know that Play Misty For Me was based on me.’ (Followed by a chortle.)”
Does the chortle represent that “I’m just putting you on”? Or does it represent that, “See, here’s another example of my life and work being referred to in the media.”?
I feel that the scary stories are for real for a couple of reasons:
- I’ve never heard Shep so awkward/repetitious/unsure–as though this is affecting him more than a fictitious story ever does.
- Someone telling a “horror” story does not begin by calling it “scary” and “inexplicable,” because that undercuts the story-teller’s attempt to make the fiction seem believable.
- I’ve never heard Shep tell such a true-sounding “story” about his real self before. He speaks more like telling an anecdote than telling one of his kid or army “stories.”
I feel that I can tell they’re fictitious because:
- They seem overwrought/overly horrific.
- Why have we heard nothing about these occurrences before in the professional life of Shep?
He talks about fans and groupies and assures us he doesn’t mean their kind of enthusiasm. He says:
“The media groupy is a solitary person. A solitary in a solitary room, and often, in the case of the neurotic, the only communication they’ve got–with the outside world–is this radio set….Radio presents a curious set of conditions to the neurotic. First of all he often believes he’s the only one who is getting this. Now a normal person wouldn’t think that way. But the neurotic we’re talking about, remember, he’s crossed the line of reality.” [He comments that in this case it’s a female.]
“…she believes that this thing that’s coming out is for her, and it’s only for her. That all the others are intruders. Incidentally, for your benefit, there have been two attempts on my life….the incident occurred right here [laughs] on Broadway at 1440 on a Saturday morning. And it was a wild fantastic moment. Every bit as frightening as the moment when the girl attempted to stab Clint Eastwood….
Well, before we go any further, I’m going to tell you a really hair-raising story–you better turn your lights on–that makes the Clint Eastwood story look like greasy kid stuff….This happened to me personally. This is not fiction, I’m not inventing it. This really happened.
Alright, I will tell you the story of what happened to me. [pause] and a–it was–it was–it, it forever changed my thinking, I suppose you might say–rationality, reality, all the other things we take for granted in our lives. Ah–it was a very odd experience. And I will tell you exactly what happened without embellishing it.
Radio is part of lonely peoples’ lives–three in the morning they’re out there in those dark hives, in the–in those unimaginable cells, with the radio going and this voice is talking to them and they begin to have all kinds of fantasies.
Well, I began to get, just out of the blue, one day–this was in Cincinnati, as a matter of fact….I began to get letters–of course you get thousands of letters in the media,…but there’s a certain kind of pattern that begins to develop. Immediately your senses–if you’re in this business enough, your senses begin to raise the little hackles in the back of your neck….there was something curious about these letters. Was a certain tone about them. Ah–they were written in green ink, a rather exotic handwriting–it was kind of backwards slanting and quite flowery and ornate. And the letters always came with some kind of face powder–had been sprinkled into the letter, so that when you opened it, this face powder drifted down….an odd combination of English and a few French phrases thrown in….This woman, or this girl, assumed that I was French [Because, he thinks, of his name, Jean] so I knew the language.
The letters began to get more and more verbose….They were verbose about things which had no relationship to anything I was doing. For example, she would say, “Well, of course you know that today I went to the bank….” the letters were getting longer and longer and after about three or four months, every day they began to arrive….Suddenly I was getting seven, eight, nine, ten letters in one mail, all in this green ink. and getting more and more–I can only say–feverish–is the best word–feverish.
Well now, it just so happened that I was doing at that time–just about–I started to do a show in a nightclub. I was doing a nightclub show–in Cincinnati. and the show actually, was broadcast at the same time.
From July 1949 to Spring of 1951 Shep did an
evening show from WSAI in Cincinnati.
This, according to current knowledge appears
to be the last time he had an evening show
in Cincinnati before going to Philadelphia.
Is this restaurant setting the “nightclub”?
Well, out of the blue I got a package–just came to the station. and it was like many packages some people send things to you. But this package was unbelievable–it was heavy, big, it was a big, thick package. About the size of a Sears Roebuck catalog it was. Opened it up and it was the biggest, longest, most unbelievable letter. It was a letter of about a thousand pages in length, written in green ink. A continuous letter. Imagine–can you imagine getting a thousand-page letter? Finely written in tiny handwriting?
I was getting worried about this. Really worried, because it seemed to have overtones that–that really started to scare me. Well, one night–a–we were setting up, and there were people arriving in the nightclub….So that night I see down in the crowd–I instantly knew-there was a strange-looking, very thin, hawk-faced girl, with unbelievably burning eyes, wearing what looked like a big leopard-skin beret. Strange-looking hat. And just looking. With no-blinking eyes. Just intense–intense, looking at me. And she’s down in this crowd.
And I turn to my friend–“Look out! I think we’ve got something going tonight.”
And he says, “Yeah, I think we have.”
When, right in the middle of the show–as I’m performing on stage–she got up off of her seat and walked forward and laid on the stage right in front of everybody–she laid a package–that was thinly wrapped with tissue paper in a box. [Shep’s 2-minute closing theme music starts] And–a–I paid no attention to it.
Bob very carefully opened it–off-stage–and in the box was a doll. Painted black. Wearing a red-lined cape. Well, wait a minute. Think about this. This is a male doll painted jet-black wearing a cape that had been put on it. Red-lined. Just–that’s all there was to it. At that point I began to see–that there was more going on here, friend–than I had bargained for.
And that was the beginning of one of the most bizarre, fantastic events–well, can you imagine coming out two years later–coming out of a television/radio station in Philadelphia–at two o’clock in the morning in a driving rain, with my MG parked out front. And standing in the doorway across the street–is the girl. Wearing the same leopard-skin beret, just watching me. Everywhere I went. What it finally resulted in–would make–I have to say–it would make the Clint Eastwood movie look like an episode of the Bobbsey Twins. It wound up with six people dead.
And it was a saga that went–over seven years. This woman constantly pursuing–a girl, really. She was only in her early twenties roughly. And she changed until she finally became a wild shrike with burning eyes, with only one desire–and that was to kill.
And guess who.
That is right.
Yes, and, perfectly timed, Bahn Frei ends with those last word of his story: That is right,” and with the music’s conclusion there is Shepherd’s familiar “Ahhhh.”
Don’t we get any more odds and endings than this?
“And you know that ‘Play ‘Misty’ For Me’
was based on me.”
(followed by a chortle)