The Inspiration for Barnacle Boy
In STORM OF SECRETS
In STORM OF SECRETS
A writer does a great deal of research when writing a novel, and sometimes we uncover some interesting gems that move and inspire us. That’s what happened to me when I was doing research for the book that eventually became HOUSE OF ASHES, the first of the Haunted Bluffs Mystery Series. In the early stages of writing the manuscript, I came across an unsolved mystery that intrigued me, and I was impassioned to find a way to incorporate that true story into the book.
When HOUSE OF ASHES was first written, the real-life unsolved case became a key part of the resolution to the novel’s mystery. It was initially meant to be a stand-alone book, however, the editor who acquired it for Crooked Lane Books suggested there was potential for a sequel. That meant a great deal of story revisions, including reserving the plotline inspired by the true-life mystery for the next book in the series. (Side note: Authors also must learn to be flexible enough to allow for detours in this great world of book publishing.)
Barnacle Boy is a local legend in the fictional town of Whale Rock, and only briefly mentioned in HOUSE OF ASHES. The young child’s sea-ravaged body was discovered washed up on the shores of Cape Cod decades earlier and he has remained a mystery to the townsfolk ever since. The story of this unknown boy, who was never claimed or identified, becomes an important element of STORM OF SECRETS, the next installment of the Haunted Bluffs Mysteries. However, to better suit the direction of the sequel, the nature of Barnacle Boy’s story evolved much differently than what was the intent of the original manuscript. In other words, the initial plans for incorporating the true story ended up on the cutting room floor. This is one of the saddest aspects for an author: cutting out parts of a book we absolutely love. It’s like removing a piece of our souls. But tough love is an important part of the editing process. Of course, I’ve kept that original unchanged manuscript, and from time to time I return for a revisit of the ending for my own personal enjoyment.
So what was that unsolved true mystery that so intrigued me to create Barnacle Boy’s fictional tale? In February of 1957, the battered, bruised and malnourished body of an unidentified boy was discovered in the woods near Philadelphia. The Boy in the Box, also sometimes referred to as America’s Unknown Child, estimated to be age four or five, was found in a bassinet box wrapped in a plaid blanket, face up with his arms folded across his body. His fingernails had been recently trimmed and his hair closely cropped to the scalp – possibly to disguise his identity – and there were surgical scars on his young body. Massive media attention failed to bring anyone forward with information to identify the boy. Even with recent DNA testing and ongoing investigations, criminologists have never been able to solve this crime. Many theories have evolved over the years, but most were dismissed. Only two generated significant interest by law enforcement and the media, the first involving a psychic who directed police to a nearby foster home where a bassinet that matched the box was found. However, after an in-depth investigation, no other definitive links were uncovered. Another was from a woman who claimed her abusive mother had purchased the child from his birth parents in 1954. Although her story was plausible, including details unknown to the general public, she did have a history of mental health problems and police were unable to verify her claims. Most recently, the genetic genealogist who helped to identify the Golden State Killer using a DNA profiling method, indicated she was also trying to learn the identity of the Boy in the Box.
The child was originally buried in a potter’s field, but after being exhumed for DNA extraction, he was later laid to rest at Ivy Hill Cemetery near Philadelphia. The reburial brought about considerable media coverage and significant attendance by local citizens, who now keep the grave well decorated with flowers and stuffed animals.
I was both fascinated and shaken by this story when I first came upon it. It’s hard not to wonder what happened to this unclaimed boy. How did he die? What happened in his short life? Was he ever loved? And mostly, why did nobody ever come forward to claim him? These questions may continue to plague us forever.
Even though the story in STORM OF SECRETS is now only inspired by The Boy in the Box, it is my hope that Barnacle Boy’s tale in some way pays tribute to America’s Unknown Child. I know it has made a lasting impact on me, and I’m proud that he has now been fictionally immortalized in my books.
Storm of Secrets: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery by Loretta Marion
About Storm of Secrets
Paranormal Mystery 2nd in Series
Crooked Lane Books (November 12, 2019)
Hardcover - 327 Pages
A deadly storm, a missing three-year-old child, a suspicious death, and the eerie presence of the spirits of the dead set the stage for the second mesmerizing installment of Loretta Marion's paranormal suspense series.
A powerful storm descends upon Cape Cod's Whale Rock at the peak of tourist season--and the weekend Cassandra Mitchell's and Daniel Benjamin's wedding is set to take place at The Bluffs, the magnificent Victorian mansion Cassie inherited from her family. In the wake of the storm's destruction, three-year-old Lucas Kleister goes missing--and the body of small-time drug dealer Lee Chambers is found in a restaurant dumpster. Now, the WRPD are faced with a murder to solve, a missing child to find, and the aftermath of one of the worst storms in recent memory.
"Modern and historic mysteries collide in Marion's bittersweet storytelling." —Kirkus ReviewsWhile aiding with the clean-up and helping the displaced, Cassie has been receiving cryptic messages from the spirits of her great-grandparents, Percy and Celeste Mitchell, the original residents of The Bluffs. At first, the messages are benign, but soon, they begin to point to something more sinister. As Cassie works to decipher their meaning, the specter of a mysterious local legend surfaces. The tale of Barnacle Boy--and what happened to him during another destructive storm decades earlier--will weave through the desperate search to find Lucas and the identity of a killer.
“[A] gripping sequel...Marion seamlessly weaves the multiple story threads together. Fans of tales of regional intrigue will be satisfied.” —Publishers Weekly
About Loretta Marion
A true bibliophile, Loretta Marion's affection for the written word began in childhood and followed her like a shadow throughout her life as she crafted award-winning marketing and advertising copy and educational brochures. She then applied her writing skills as a volunteer, establishing a Legacy Story program for hospice patients, which inspired her to create her own fictional stories. Her debut novel, The Fool's Truth, is a twisty mystery set in Maine. Her Haunted Bluffs Mystery Series is set on Cape Cod and was introduced by Crooked Lane Books in 2018 beginning with HOUSE OF ASHES. Her newest release, STORM OF SECRETS, is the second book of the series.
When not whipping out words on her laptop, she is traveling, enjoying outdoor pursuits, or is curled up with a delicious new book. Loretta lives in Rhode Island with her husband, Geoffrey.
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