In 2001, I lived in a small western Pennsylvanian town called Warren. I was 21 and dating a guy named Rick. He was an amazingly talented artist with a passion like no other I had ever seen. He was equal parts mad, creative, delusional, and fantastical. He had an energy that could punch holes through this (our) dimension to the next with his stories and anecdotes of beings from other realms. In the physical world, this man drew upon an energy that to this day I still can’t put into words. Lets just simply say he attracted the most surreal of entities. These bizarre dementor creatures seemed to appear out of thin air if one would even mention their name.
Rick believed that dark portals could be opened through which devious entities might try to lure him in to their unholy world through trickery and promises of infinite power. He believed that on occasion, these beings could cross dimensions and even enter our realm… enter Katharyne, aka “Kitty”. Kitty, was undoubtedly one of these uninvited guests. For years I had heard stories of this tall, pale woman with long sable hair and a gate that seemed as though her feet never touched the ground. There were others too. There was “The Tall Man” who would chase him and his friends in the night, dancing on the roof top of their vehicle and walking down streets into oncoming traffic. Also, ‘Brad” who would send Rick scrawled letters in the form of poetry using the medium of his own blood drawn from a syringe. I admit his stories of these phenomena were entertaining but I never really gave them too much weight.
Then, I met Kitty. A knock at the door and there stood a soft spoken, ethereal embodiment surrounded by an almost ominous light. She had a story to tell. It was a sad case of what she claimed to be elder abuse. Her mother was in a nursing home in an almost vegetative state deprived of even the most basic necessities like food and water. At first, I felt for her and her story. She had a mission to promote awareness of this unjust treatment that her elderly mother was having to endure. She was constantly preaching to anyone who would listen, while passing out literature exposing her mother’s current physical state, legitimizing her concerns of this unjust treatment. These crudely photocopied pictures showed a woman in a state of decay on her death bed, mouth open, seemingly gasping for air and thirsting for water. It was a rather disturbing and upsetting crusade that she had set out upon, but something about her convictions just left me feeling uneasy and unable to really trust her intentions or motives.
Her main passion at the time was to tell her story through an informative documentary on her mother’s situation to promote awareness. Kitty felt that Rick was perfect for the roll of the leading psychotherapist in the film. She offered to pay him for his time, a mere $67, and made promises of grandeur that he would become “a star”. He was assured that this film had multiple committed backers and was destined for many well known film festivals. So, regardless of her obvious eccentricities we agreed to work with her on this “noble” documentary. At first this project seemed to be straight forward and uncomplicated. But the further we got involved with the project, the more this Kitty went crazy.
Early on something told us that we should probably just distance ourselves from the project before we were drawn any deeper into this mad woman’s precarious decent. Her tones started to shift from constructive criticism to destructive cynicism. She started exhibiting classic symptoms of untreated schizophrenia. She felt that she was under constant surveillance. These suspicions of being followed resulted in her aversion to answering or even using telephones accept for the purpose of leaving short cryptic voice mails. Then came the onslaught of bizarre letters. They would show up at our places of work, on the windshield of our car, and slid under the door of our home. She would never face us in person again but rather drift about like a specter delivering her incessant ramblings in the form of these letters, notes and cards.
(Examples of her increasingly manipulative and threatening letters to us)
At first it was the principle of the matter that we had let this woman into our home for days at a time to film her documentary for very little compensation. She had the footage and we simply tried to part ways. As the matter escalated, she grew more and more hostile about our relationship and the money. We ultimately agreed to give her the money back to appease her but with the added stipulation that she could not use any of Ricks previously recorded footage. This enraged her to say the least.
I’ve held onto these letters for years in the hopes of one day being able to share them in one way or another and tell this amusing tale. I had always envisioned a gallery showing of these letters on their own simply displayed in a series of large billboards showing the gradual decent of a woman succumbing to her own madness. For now I guess this blog post will serve as a microcosm of what I had intended. While this narrative may seem obscure and seemingly insignificant, this story and these letters raises many questions. Was her mother really starved to death and robbed of her basic human rights as she claimed? Did any of these other supporting characters actually exist? This woman was at one point in time a well-respected artist and researcher of short term memory at the Learning Research and Development Center at the University of Pittsburgh’s educational division. What coarse of events happened in her life that left her wavering in this disillusioned state between reality and fantasy?