Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Truth About Marian

The book, A Murder In Paradise, tells quite a story. Sadly, it  doesn't tell a true story. Readers in general place a total trust in an author when they devote their time to immersing themselves in a book.  I am a fairly tough reader. I lose confidence in material even at the slightest misspelling. I suppose that is the result of my upbringing, my education and the era in which I was raised. To this day I am offended and none to happy when I see misspellings on a crawl on the bottom of the daily news. Holding the passing on of information is a serious task to me. Unless you are genuine in your facts, even down to minutiae, you are simply sharing fiction. The book I referenced above was in good part, misinformation and fiction.

Yes, there are inclusions from the trial. There are paragraphs that expound on some personal contact or brief interview with people who knew Edward Lester Gibbs and others related to him. But it is of incredible importance that no one in Marian Louise Baker's family was interviewed by Richard Gehman, the author. Much was said about her in generality in the book. Much innuendo was printed. But not one person who knew Marian best was given the opportunity to tell the readers about her.

In most cases, books are written to make money. In rare cases, like mine, the task of writing a book that is nonfiction is a purpose to set the record straight, or explain things relating to an event that either have never been revealed before or to tell the whole and complete version of events. In my case, it is also to tell Marian's story, to tell her truth.

Other than gruesome trial testimony and interpretation, the previous story was all about Edward Lester Gibbs. The crime was grisly and horrendous. It shattered the somewhat "Camelot" delusion most held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania at that time in history. Books about grisly crimes and sexual innuendo sell. They make money for the writer and the publishing house. Books about innocent little girls picking huckleberries on the family homestead sell, but much less when placed in the story continuum of a brutal murder.

Marian's story cannot be told without at least a chapter given over to Ed Gibbs and his pathos, his actions and his crime. But the story of Marian Baker was never told. She was bludgeoned by Ed Gibbs on a "dull day" in January of 1950. Afterwards, rumor and supposition took the place of her truth. That stops now.

I couldn't care less if I don't make a penny on Marian's story. It's not about that. It is about someone finally standing publicly to set the record straight. Each human being brings gifts to this world in what could be seen as the smallest of ways. Many of us have had the blessing of a bad day being turned around because of the smile of a stranger, because of the kindness of another human being who crossed our path. The person who offers kindness to others, makes someone's day is a gift not less than the person who settles a world crisis or cures a disease. Many people may benefit from gargantuan feats, but to the person who is having a bad moment benefits from the Marian Baker's in the world just as heavily. It matters to that one person.

I am happy often to recall the story of a person seen throwing a fish back into the water on a beach where hundreds have fish have washed up, flailing in the sand. An onlooker says to the person holding a fish, "Why bother? You can't save em all..." The response resonates with me to this day. "It matters to this one."

Marian's story has to include the3 events of January 1950. It is where her earthly life ended. Her life and story before that have never been unimportant. And although she is no longer walking this earth, she goes on. For no matter the difficult life she was handed even as a young girl, she was blessed with a family that, to this very day, think of her, miss her and carry on her memory. It has struck me deeply that even though the family was fractured and even geographically separated in the early years, the ties and bonds that refused to give way to the circumstances were stronger than anyone can imagine. The utter pain and anguish of not only her horrific death but the resulting attempts to tarnish her reputation would have made many families shove the story and the life experience far down in the file cabinet. One of those things not spoken of.

It has been devastating to lose Marian in the way she was lost. That was compounded by the salacious treatment of her character after her death. It was not deserved then and it is not deserved to this day.

So, this retelling of events will not be a repeat of the degradation of Marian Louise Baker's existence. Rather it will tell the truth. It will set the record straight. To many it will not matter. Many will wonder, "Why bother?" My answer is simple. It matters to Marian. And it matters to those who loved her and think of her today. And to those who wish to grasp tightly to the rumors, I hate to break it to you. This will not be a current version of a True Confessions tabloid. Marian loved reading "True" magazines. Simply because it was so far removed from her real life and her real makeup.

Marian Baker said no to Ed Gibbs. It is a matter of fact that bad things happened when people said no to Ed Gibbs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

An Invitation That Is Always Open

I particularly like this picture of Marian. She was at work at F&M, around 1948, Such a horrible tragedy.
I am aware that some of Marian's family that I have not yet met or spoken to are reading here. As you all must know by now, I am approaching this revisit with compassion, respect and a search for the final truth. Contact me as you feel comfortable. As others have learned, I do not betray trust. I hope to hear from you soon. I will continue to pray for Marian and for those who still love her dearly to this day.

It's Almost Like Starting From Scratch

The Exact Location Of the Killing

I have been trying to ascertain the exact location of the Martin Mylin Harnish cottage. Thank heavens for GPS and a cemetery researcher who had the incredible sense to include the coordinates of the murder site in his short biography of Marian Louise Baker on her grave website.

As a small girl I had no idea how close I was when I played with a school friend at his home all those years ago.

I have been rereading the book, no title given, I refuse to give that author anymore advertising. I am documenting every error that I personally know of and will address them in my upcoming book. He got some of it right but got far more wrong. That is a great disservice to Marian and those who loved her, as well as the readers who relied on him for an honest retelling of the crime.

To quote one of Marian's relatives who loved her dearly and spent many days with her in the F&M days, "Ed Gibbs was a liar to the end."
Yes, he surely was.
His whole account of the ride to the cottage that is less and less plausible.
Earlier in the day, Marian was rushed and even said that she wished she didn't have to go downtown to the bank. She was worried she would miss her hair appointment.
According to Gibbs, when he offered her the ride back to campus he asked her if she was in a hurry to get back and she replied, "No." Really?
The personal friend and witness that Marian spoke to is far more believable than Ed Gibbs. What did he say to Marian as he made the left turn down onto Prince Street rather than head back to F&M? What lie did he conjure to head south and out of town?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Story Keeps Revealing Itself

East Hall, the dormitory on the Franklin and Marshall College campus for married students was where Ed and Helen Gibbs lived. I wish it was still standing. I honestly believe that we all have an energy and leave an imprint. Ed Gibbs pathos was exuded within these walls under the guise of normal day-to-day life.

I have been lucky enough to encounter someone who may give me a first hand account of what Ed and Helen were like, much as  anyone could have known of them from living in the space. The details are what fascinate me. I suppose that I still believe that I will someday, somehow come upon some seemingly insignificant little fact that will stun me and give me an "Aha!" moment. I truly believe that will happen. There is something more, something I haven't uncovered yet.

I have been contacted by several people with intimate knowledge of Marian, of Ed and Helen and the various aspects of their lives and personalities. The rub is this. In the late 1940s and into 1950, this was a very different world from the one we live in today. Things that we are becoming used to were shocking and kept well from public view and knowledge. People were much more aghast at horrific happenings then. Surely murders happened. Affairs and other sordid events happened. But they were kept secret. Appearance was everything. Especially to families like the Gibbs and the Woodwards, and even the Bakers, Smiths and O'Donels. It fit all families of that time. Things just weren't open for reveal or God forbid, discussion.

But human nature hasn't changed. The less detail and explanation, the more we question and search for answers that make sense. I know that  sometimes logic isn't logical and that there are no answers for some crimes. But I also know that in far more cases, what makes sense to the common person is exactly what caused an event or resulted in one.

As one friend said to me very recently, what's important is that the truth be told and it will fall where it may.

I have been very biased in my research and to this day hold Marian Baker in the highest regard. I have not changed my mind about that. No new evidence has yet been uncovered to change my mind. But as I progress with my pursuit of the total truth of this horrific tragedy I have to now remain open to all and any possibility.  Falsehoods and errors will fall away until nothing but the truth remains.

There is a reason why this case is still creating such an incredible stir sixty-five years later. It is because none of us have heard or read the total truth or the whole story. Once the facts are uncovered that lead to incontrovertible truth, the story will close and only memories will remain.

As long as the truth keeps quietly tapping on the door, whispering permission to come in, I will keep trying to pry that door open wide enough for it to enter.

This has always been a Marian vs. Ed thing. It has been all-or-nothing. No matter what events took place or what details remain, Marian never deserved to be murdered. Period. Her murder was horrific, senseless and a total tragedy. Even I have seen this as extreme ends of the spectrum. It only recently has become clear to me that human beings don't sit well on the ends of a ruler. No one fits on the ends of the spectrum. No one.  Like a teeter-totter, all humans are somewhere in between, balancing life a little more on one end and  then a little more on the other. It is in sad and pathological cases like Ed Gibbs where a human sits a little too firmly on the unstable and dangerous end. And when another human gets too close or enters the aura of that pathos, tragedy can and usually does, ensue.

Many questions remain about the events that led up to the murder of Marian Baker. Some roll easily off the lips. Why did she get in the car with Gibbs? Easy answer is that she thought it was a quicker way to return to the campus. Harder question: Marian was quoted as saying that Gibbs "disgusted" her. Why then would she get in the car with him? Another query....Why didn't she get out of the car when she saw they were going to a remote area at the Harnish cottage? Short answer: She may have been uneasy but no one, especially in that time period, would really believe that danger was present. Harder question: The Harnish cottage was in a very remote location. It was a bleak and cold January day. What scenic experience was there to have? What countryside drive was there to be had on that route, in that location? If you have accepted a ride from a man who you state disgusts you, and he has convinced you that it's fine to take a ride before returning to campus and work, what reaction do you have when he ends up on a remote lane, in a wooded area on a stark and drab, cold day? Was she uneasy? Was she fearful prior to his reaching over to choke her? What did she really say to him to make him want to choke the life out of her.

We all have to remember that we only have Gibbs story as to what went on in that car that day in January. I have to admit, it makes less sense to me today than it ever has. It just doesn't add up.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Marriage Record

It may be of no importance but according to this marriage license record Dr. Wilson's previous wife had only died less than 6 months before he married Helen Woodward Croghan. His late wife passed 6/12/69 and he and Helen married 11/29/69. She had a son, Thomas Woodward Croghan, who has born approximately 1955. She was then married to Francis Croghan. He passed prior to 1969.