I’m late to the game on a lot of things, and though I love podcasts, I’m chronically behind on all my favorite shows. Last week, my friend Jen mentioned The Bright Sessions, a fictional podcast that follows Dr. Bright, a psychologist, as she has short sessions with her young clients. The catch is simple: all of her clients have superpowers.
Ten minutes and forty seconds into the first episode of the Homecoming podcast, David Schwimmer deadpans: “Heidi, I’m gonna stop you right there.” It’s a situation that many women have found themselves in countless times -- their expert opinions being overridden by mansplainers. In Homecoming, the role of women — in particular, Heidi Bergman — is pivotal, deeply frustrating, and also true to life. In this way, Homecoming is a show that makes the point of view of women a dynamic and realistic one.
When I was 16 years old, two of my coworkers at the local public pool told me about the Witches’ Castle. The eerie, supposedly haunted structure was located in Utica, Indiana, just a few miles away from my hometown. The two girls were stunned that I’d never heard of it, especially since it was one stop on the all-night torture-and-beating spree of 12-year-old Shanda Sharer in 1992 – a night that ended with her brutal murder. The Witches’ Castle already had lore surrounding it, but after Shanda’s murder, it became a local legend.
Like any adventurous teen girls in this situation would do, the three of us planned an after-work trip to the Witches’ Castle to see it for ourselves. There, in some shallow woods on a hill overlooking the Ohio River, were the stone remains of an old, creepy set of small buildings. Weather-beaten and overgrown, the crumbling structures immediately gave me an unsettled feeling. Shanda’s murder had been 12 years ago, but knowing that she’d been brought to this spot and beaten was enough to make it feel weird – maybe even wrong – to be there.
After I got home that evening, the first thing I did was ask my mom if she remembered the story of Shanda’s murder, an event I had never heard of before that summer. She remembered it pretty well and told me a book had been written about it. I immediately found and read the book. Then I found another book. I had to know everything I could about Shanda Sharer and the four teenage girls, ages 15 to 17, who killed her.
Shanda’s murder was the crime that got me hooked on crime. I don’t know if it was her young age, the fact that her killers were the same age as my friends and me, or the proximity to my hometown, but I was fixated with what happened to Shanda and why. I wondered how disturbing my Internet search history would look to anyone else. I searched for articles about the trials, about Shanda’s family, about when the killers would be released from prison. I looked for photos of Shanda and her killers that might not have been included in the books I read. I wanted to know what our local papers said about this tragedy back in 1992. Was I a full-on weirdo?
But then the turn happened. (Spoilers to follow. Stop reading now if you don’t want to know more!)
About the Blog
The authors of this blog are four women with opinions about pop culture. That's all you really need to know.