Presently stories abound about haunted houses, castles, cars, collector items etc, but for me, the real question lies in how did this come about, and if there is really a way to truly release the agony, torment and terror of incidents that produced this haunting, whether intelligent or residual.
Sheila Sharp, 14, stepped from normal to a world of madness on the morning of April 12, 1981 when she returned to Cabin No. 28 at Keddie Resort where she lived with her mother and four siblings.
The walls were splattered with blood, the furniture was overturned, and her mother Sue Sharp, her brother John 16, and his friend Dana Wingate, 17, had been butchered to the point they were mostly unrecognizable. Her sister Tina, 13, had disappeared, and she found her two younger brothers Greg and Rick, and their friend Justin Smartt in a bedroom. They were all unhurt.
The victims were bound with duct tape and electrical wire, and they were attacked with knives and a claw hammer. This was one of 33 cabins, and despite the proximity of one to another, no other resident in the resort heard anything unusual.
Residents in a nearby cabin reported hearing what they thought was a muffled scream some time after 1 a.m. but they never investigated it.
Justin Smartt gave contradictory information, but enough for an untrained artist to draw a sketch of two suspects.
Despite this information, and the use of canines, suspects who should have been covered in blood after what they did, were not found.
Rumors and motives abounded from dangerous neighbors, a jealous wife, devil worshipers, a drug connection or just bad luck which resulted in a mistaken identity.
Why had this family been targeted? Some thought the killers had followed John Sharp and Dana Wingate when they hitchhiked from Quincy, California the same day. Others thought perhaps the murderers were already inside the house when they arrived.
Keddie Resort was established in 1910, and attracted visitors throughout 70 years for the scenic beauty of the place and the food served there.
In 1984, it was put up for sale for $1.8 million, but potential buyers recognized what the owner did already, which was that no one wanted to spend time in a place where a family could be savaged inside their own cabin.
In June of that same year, bones and a mandible were found at Camp Eighteen in Feather Falls, about 50 miles from the Keddie Resort. Later a cranium was recovered which allowed a positive identification to be made with Tina Sharp through dental records.
Soon after, the Butte County Sheriff's Office received a call from an unidentified male caller telling them what they had found was Tina Sharp's remains. For some unknown reason this call was not documented in the case, a recording of the call was found in 2013 by a new assigned deputy at the bottom of an evidence box.
Police found there was no sign of forced entry, and the phone lines had been cut. The drapes had been pulled shut, and they could not understand how the murderers were able to spend ten hours inside the walls of No. 28 without anyone noting what was happening inside.
One of the main suspects was Martin "Marty" Smartt who died in 2000. In a 2008 documentary, his wife Marilyn said she believed Marty and his friend Severin "Bo" Boubede had a hand in the murder. They'd gone out the night of the murder to a local bar and returned a little after 1 a.m. She went to sleep, and the men returned to the bar. She woke up a little after 2 a.m. to find them burning something inside the wood stove. Marilyn also claimed the Marty "hated Johnny Sharp with a passion."
Soon after the murders Marty Smartt left town and went up to Oregon. He sent his wife a letter which he ended with a rather telling passage, "I've paid the price of your love and now I've bought it with four people's lives." This letter like the anonymous call was "overlooked" and never admitted as evidence.
Bo Boubede who allegedly had ties to organized crime, returned to Chicago and died November, 1988.
In the same documentary Sheriff Doug Thomas said that he interviewed Martin Smartt, and that he passed a polygraph examination. This it turned out was a lie. Sam Lister who administered the test filed a false report stating that Marty Smartt had passed it, when in truth he'd failed on certain key questions. He filed an alternative report to the California DOJ, other officials including Sheriff Thomas with the true results.
In March, 2016, a hammer was recovered at the Keddie Pond. It matched the description of the one Marty Smartt said he lost. It was matched using DNA from Justin Smartt.
A mental health counselor who worked with Martin Smartt alleged his client admitted to the murder of Sue and Tina, but denied anything having to do with the boys. Tina had been killed since she was a witness.
In April, 2018, DNA evidence taken from a piece of tape at the crime scene matched that of Justin Smartt.
Within a few years of the murders, squatters and vagabonds moved into the once vibrant Keddie Cabins, and the owner renovated it, but No. 28 dubbed the "Murder House" by locals remained desolate and boarded up. Reports of moans, slamming doors and shadowy figures fueled its reputation as a haunted house.
The owner's stepdaughter described seeing the word "no" carved on the kitchen door with a pitchfork next to it. She returned in 30 minutes and everything had disappeared.
In 2004, the cabin was demolished. A psychic from Campbell said that even though the structure was razed, the haunting would continue until some type of spiritual ceremony was performed to ease the torment of the spirits there, who perhaps did not understand what happened to them.
Long after witnesses and family have passed away, and stories in newspapers or books are buried and forgotten, those that stumble upon these places will wonder how it became cursed. And this unfortunate story is how.
The events at No. 28 served as the basis for the 2008 film, The Strangers.
Despite its idyllic reputation, violence visited Keddie Resort in the past. In 1936, Hugh Garrett, a night cook was shot through the jaw and neck by an unknown man. He was dressed in a yellow slicker, gray hat and mask. Despite being identified as a robber, after shooting the cook he left without attempting to take the cash from the register.
Two years before A.C. Berry was critically injured when robbers busted into the lunch room and made the waitresses hand over the cash in the register.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer