Vampire Fantasy renewed

Links to a.d.sullivan & info on Susan Walsh

 

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While some friends and neighbors objected to the coverage, the town

fathers of Nutley remained strangely silent on the matter, giving its

tacit approval to the direction which the newspapers were headed. Paul

O'Keefee, of the Nutley Journal, the second of two weeklies in Nutley,

was particularly struck by this odd approach, saying that officials

seemed less interested in finding Sue than allowing myths of drug use,

sexual misbehavior and disreputable associations to foster. O'Keeffe

blamed town officials for not being more aggressive in seeking Sue out

to discover the truth.

 

Unlike Florida, the lead reporter for the Ledger, Bill Kleinknecht had

some journalistic experience. I brushed shoulders with him in 1985 on

the Paterson News. But like Florida, Kleinknecht was the wrong kind of

reporter to follow up on a story as serious as this. Others in the

industry said he was naive, and tended to believe what people told him

rather than rooting out information from alternative sources.

 

"He's a wide-eyed innocent," said one former co-worker. "He's a sweet

guy who would believe exactly what he's told. He was raised in

Ridgewood. He's led a sheltered life, though he thinks he knows his way

around the streets."

 

His two or three stories seemed to reflect no sense of how Sue connected

with the community in which she lived, or why she had been divorced from

it and the Nutley Sun, when she finally did connect.

 

While the Nutley Sun, the unofficial cheerleading section for the town

of Nutley, did little or nothing to push for action, it's competition,

unconnected with the current town administration, attacked the town's

lack of motivation and criticized the other newspapers for emphasizing

the dark side of her character.

 

In August, Paul O'Keefee wrote in the Nutley Journal: Was Sue's behavior

to blame for her disappearance? Or was everybody blaming the victim?

Even if Sue is a victim of alcohol, pills or powder, she should be

helped.

 

"I do not care whether a woman is a go-go dancer as much as I resent the

fact these women are particularly vulnerable to violent acts by men," he

said.

 

He wished newspapers would concentrate on printing information that

would help find her, instead of emphasizing the negative, saying that

these stories, are agony to the family.

 

And I, an old friend of Sue's, began to wonder if this tendency in the

press could be an intentional effort to discredit her, maybe to protect

some high official in the town who was involved with her, especially

when Community relation officer Sgt. Steve Rodgers of the Nutley police

launched a counter attack on the Nutley journal during a July board of

commissioners meeting. While Rodgers said he spoke for himself, and

suggested the Journal be expelled from the Nutley Chamber of Commerce

and that people cancel their subscriptions.

 

 

But by then on Aug. 2 the Ledger found juicier material to exploit,

leading with headlines that eventually made every New York television

newscast and was repeated again and again on all three Metropolitan area

all news radio shows.

 

"Hunt for vanished dancer leads to blood-drinkers."

 

This was Kleinknecht's follow up to his first news, and in this story,

he said "investigators are combing the various strands of her (Sue's)

racy lifestyle, but have yet to unearth a hard clue as to her fate."

 

Of the multiple worlds Sue inhabited while developing her career as an

investigative reporter, police announced that they would be

investigating her apparent contact with Manhattan's "vampire" scene-- an

obscure, sado-masochistic subculture (according one detective) in which

people engage in drinking of blood.

 

"There are so many things to check out because of the life style she

had," the detective said. "It's not possible at this point to say what

happened to her."

 

Melissa, however, refuted this, claiming Sue's interest was merely

intellectual, as part of an article she was attempting to write. But she

and other friends said Sue would never have abandoned her son unless a

victim of foul play.

 

While not ruling out suicide or that she is alive, investigators said

they were treating the case as a homicide."

 

 

Reuters News Service picked up on the story on Aug. 5, treating it a

little less outrageously in their headline: "Vampire Researcher

Missing."

 

"Police are looking for a woman who vanished outside her Nutley, New

Jersey home. Susan Walsh worked as a stripper, but was also researching

an article on Manhattan's `vampire' scene for the Village Voice. Some

club goers are said to pierce each other's skin and then drink the blood

in a bizarre ritual known as "feeding." Walsh has not been seen for two

weeks."

 

 

UPI took a slightly different slant, though also mentioned the

"Vampire-Goth" scene in its New Jersey News Briefs later that week:

 

"A North Jersey go-go dancer who's been missing for three weeks may have

fallen victim to a hit man, according to her boyfriend (Christian). The

36-year-old Susan Walsh of Nutley has been missing since July 16 and her

boyfriend says one of Walsh's ex-boyfriends threatened to take out a

Mafia contract on her. Police have been investigating Walsh's

connections to the so-called "vampire-Goth" scene where participants act

out vampire roles."

 

 

This was followed by a string of reports in the various occult magazines

such as the Modern Bite of the Occult. But the real irony came when the

New York Times and the Daily News both ran articles on the Vampire

scene, articles Sue should have had in the Village Voice months earlier,

but could not thanks to Ridgeway.

 

The Daily News article by Linda Yglesias did not mention Sue at all, but

detailed many of the oddities of the vampire world, and brought the

story into the beat of my own newspaper with tales of vampire shows in

the Meadowlands.

 

On Tuesday, August 6 at 11 p.m. -- apparently before Ridgeway called his

friends on Unsolved Mysteries to help promote his book -- NBC TV did a

show on vampires and featured Sue's disappearance. The show hosted by

Charles Grodin also featured the author of "Vampires: The Occult Truth."

 

 

The New York Times, at least, mentioned Sue, noting that "the existence

of this moonlit neither world, who denizens number perhaps a few

thousand nationwide, came into flickering, ambiguous view this week when

it was mentioned in news accounts about the disappearance of Susan

Walsh... Walsh, a go-go dancer and freelance journalist, had befriended

modern-day disciples of Dracula last year as she did research for Sylvia

Plachy and James Ridgeway, the authors of `Redlight,' a book on the

national carnal underbelly, and wrote an articles of her own. It was

never published. The police have declined to discuss details of the

investigation into Walsh's disappearance but relatives and friends

dismissed the notion that so-called vampires were to blame, saying that

the breed that Walsh had encouraged was hardly a sinister one."

 

 

In the original Ledger story, Sue's father Floyd said not knowing what

happened to Sue was torture, but he wasn't giving up hope.

 

"I don't know what else to do," he said. "I'm in deep grief over what

has happened."

 

Floyd said his daughter had done technical writing for companies after

graduating from William Paterson college, and was hoping recently to get

her life back on track. He partly blamed her regression on a doctor who

gave her a prescription for Xanax, a tranquilizer that Floyd said was

highly addictive, and may have led her back into drinking.

 

"That really started her downward slide," he said. "The worst thing you

can give an alcoholic is a tranquilizers."

 

Several people said Sue had gotten the prescription from a Belleville

foot doctor named Noonan, a man who is known as "Dr.Feel Good" on the

street. Other friends said Sue had begun drinking again after a decade

of sobriety, something that Melissa and Sue's neighbors denied.

 

"If she drank she only did it in the bar," Sue's upstairs neighbor said.

"We never saw any bottles around, and if she was drinking, we would have

noticed."

 

Detectives repeatedly visited go-go clubs in Central jersey where Sue

danced during the previous months. Carol Stella, a manager at the Shake

Her Lounge in Dunellen, claimed that detectives visited there twice

within the last few days, asking bartenders, dancers and others what

might have happened to her. None could say, but someone had taped up a

missing person's flyer behind the bar.

 

"She just started dancing here, Stella told Kleinknecht. "She was a very

nice girl. There really isn't too much more to say."

 

I ran my own story in several editions of the Hudson Reporter over a

two-week period. These stories were the same in all but one respect.

When I wrote the first -- based on information I first saw in the Herald

and the Ledger, but talked to the sources -- I actually believed the

James Ridgeway/Joel Lewis version of the Susan Walsh Story, that she was

most likely dead from drugs and alcohol, or lost and wandering as I had

painted her in my 1990 novel, Dancer on the Sand. But the more I dug

into the story between the publication of my first story and its

reprinted edition, the more suspicious I became. More than one source

from college began to restore memories of Sue's past antics, and one

source in particular, reminded me that Sue had pulled this vanishing act

before. So while the story I published on August 4 was a sympathetic

portrayal of her plight, the revised version printed a week later,

stated for the record that Sue had vanished before and that many of the

stories she told about mobsters and stalkers just before her vanishing,

she had told before when we were in college.

 

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