Thursday, December 13, 2012

ISDP: Presenting the Winner of the 2012 Norman Bates Award™

We have a lot of new readers lately, drawn by our high-falutin’ posts on olfactory art and scent marketing. After seeing this post pop up on their newsfeeds, they may be asking themselves, “Well, how did I get here?”

No worries! You are looking at the latest edition of FirstNerve’s most popular recurring feature bar none. Some readers like it because it appeals to their inner Uncle Fester, others because it proves their olfactological mettle, much like eating stinky tofu.

This month we have only a single incident to report, but it’s a doozy and it introduces our final Norman Bates Award™ nominee of 2012. After which, we review the entire roster and select this year’s winner.

November’s incident is from Oceanside, California, and involves 69-year-old Frederick Hengel and his wife who lived in a small home on North Ditmar Street.
Erick Chavez, 21, who lives next door, told the [San Diego Union-Tribune] newspaper he started smelling something rotten about a week and a half ago. He and other neighbors described the couple as hostile. 
“There’s no other word for it,” Chavez said. About six months ago, Chavez said the woman began wandering around the neighborhood with a butcher knife and exposing herself with her pants around her ankles. That went on for about a month, he said. The woman would preach, as well, he said, saying such things as, “God will smite you.” 
One neighbor said Hengel had worked at Home Depot, and he sold her a ceiling fan. She said Hengel would sometimes wear blouses and makeup, including hot pink lipstick, and she saw him dressed in women’s clothing at a grocery store. Justin Kaufman, 27, another neighbor, said he saw Hengel this past summer wearing a floor-length purple dress, pearl necklace with pearl earrings, and carrying a fancy purse.
Here’s a screen capture of Mr. Hengel dressed to impress.

The gruesome details of what the police found are here. Mr. Hengel has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

The 2012 Norman Bates Award™

This prize is given to the person or persons who has shown exemplary, if bizarre, olfactory fortitude in living in close quarters with a dead body. This year’s nominees are:
Peter Coscia, of Seligman, Missouri, for continuing to live in his house after his 28-year-old daughter starved herself to death in her bedroom.

Christopher Aguilar, age 25, of Tucson, Arizona, for living with the decaying body of his 47-year-old mother, while telling the building manager the foul smell was coming from a nearby sewer.

Sixteen-year-old Kit Darrant of Miami, Florida, the youngest-ever nominee, for choking and stabbing his mother to death, living in the home for another eight days, and having friends over to party as her body decomposed in another room.

James M. O’Brien, age 68, of Knoxville, Tennessee, who lived for nearly a week in another man’s apartment after the occupant had died of natural causes.

The pair of adult, developmentally disabled sisters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who lived with their mother’s decomposing body for approximately two weeks until neighbors complained of a foul smell.

The elderly widow in the Rowland Heights area of Los Angeles, who left her husband’s body in the downstairs bathroom of their home for eight months until a visitor noticed the odor.

Linda Lou Chase, age 72, of Lansing, Michigan, who lived for over a year with the mummified remains of her boyfriend while collecting more than $28,000 in his pension and retirement checks.

Frederick Hengel, age 69, of Oceanside, California, for living for two weeks with the remains of his 74-year-old wife whom he is accused of murdering and eventually dismembering and boiling.

Christopher Aguilar

Kit Darrant

James O'Brien

Linda Lou Chase

Frederick Hengel

It is difficult to select a winner from such a highly competitive field. We begin by dismissing the Pittsburgh sisters and the Los Angeles widow on the grounds that they were mentally overwhelmed by circumstances. Mr. O’Brien, who is otherwise homeless, we dismiss because the foul smelling remains were those of a mere acquaintance. Mr. Coscia’s case, although it may involve some florid family psychopathology, did not involve deliberate criminality.

That leaves us with four candidates. Between Mr. Aguilar, whose mother died of natural causes, and Mr. Darrant, who allegedly killed his mother, we have to give the nod to Mr. Darrant. The potential criminality of Ms. Chase, who fraudulently cashed her deceased boyfriend’s pension checks as his remains sat upright in an easy chair in her parlor, pales beside that of Mr. Hengel, who allegedly murdered his wife and cooked her decomposing remains.

That narrows it down to Mr. Darrant and Mr. Hengel. The brazenness of Mr. Darrant’s behavior, along with the innovative touch of using deodorizers and scented laundry detergent to hide the scent of decomposition of his mother’s corpse, are strong arguments in his favor. On the other hand, Mr. Hengel before the demise of his wife and his attempted stovetop reduction of her remains, was a truly colorful character, parading around the neighborhood in full drag, apparently on days when his wife was not standing on the corner with a butcher knife, pants around her ankles, screaming about religious topics. Yet, colorful as it may be, the Hengels’ behavior was par for course in California—it wasn’t until a foul odor became noticeable in Mrs. Hengel’s prolonged absence that neighbors decided things were uncool.

And so, after due deliberation, we award the 2012 Norman Bates Award™ to Kit Darrant.



Laura Lee Schmidt said...

Is this for real? It's incredibly tasteless. Using the thought object of smell to cheaply exploit social problems is pretty effed up, First Nerve. I've seen some philistine, chauvinistic ideologies coming from the science of smell crowd, but this is the pits. I haven't dared look at the old "awards" for "living with the smell of dead people" but I can't imagine they are any better faith than this.

Avery Gilbert said...

Laura Lee Schmidt:

De gustibus and all that . . .

“cheaply exploit social problems”?

“philistine, chauvinistic ideologies”?

Wow. You almost sound like an angry, puffed up, Ivy League academic.

Olfacta said...

Har, har!

Noseating said...

Avery Gilbert's response can be (in)elegantly titled: "What the butt buts."

Gillian Doepke said...

Thoroughly enjoyed the post. Thank you.

Avery Gilbert said...

Gillian Doepke:

Glad you liked it. I won't tell anyone. It'll be our little secret.