Boy Scouts Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America currently has over 2.4 million youth participants and about one million adult volunteers. The organization prides itself on instilling a moral compass in its youthful members as well as helping them to participate in various outdoor activities.
DARK ORIGINS OF BELOVED ORGANIZATIONS
From camping and hiking to aquatics and fire building, such undertakings come with risks. Through the years, these activities have cost many lives. Here, we’ll look at some horrors that have befallen unsuspecting, adventure-seeking Scouts and their leaders in some of the most unforeseeable circumstances.
On the first day of the 2005 National Scout Jamboree in Virginia, four Boy Scout leaders took on the physical task of erecting a dining tent. Moments later, a weekend that was supposed to be filled with festivity turned tragic.
As the men were raising one of the metal poles, it tilted and struck a power line, setting ablaze the entire pavilion. While their children and fellow Scouts looked on in horror, the canvas—engulfed in flames—encased the men within the inferno. On that dreadful afternoon, Michael J. Shibe (49), Ronald H. Bitzer (58), Scott E. Powell (57), and Michael Lacroix (42) perished amid their loved ones.
Their deaths were eerily similar to those of three Boy Scouts in 2017 after their sailboat struck an overhead power line in East Texas. The boys—Thomas Larry (11), Heath Faucheux (16), and William Brannon (17)—were just offshore when the incident set their boat on fire.
Unfortunately, freak accidents among the Scouts are more commonplace than we may realize.
Case in point: In October 2018, a 12-year-old Michigan boy was buried alive while tunneling through a sand dune. Four months earlier, a 14-year-old Scout in Georgia was killed when a tree snapped in 80 kilometer-per-hour (50 mph) winds. It fell on his tent and crushed him.
The teen’s death was nearly identical to the tragedy that befell a 13-year-old boy and a 29-year-old volunteer in July 2016 when high winds caused a tree to fall in their camp. From drunk drivers plowing through hiking expeditions to flash floods sweeping Scout leaders and children to their deaths, exploring the great outdoors undeniably comes with risks.
In the Boy Scouts, it is common practice for adult leaders (who act as role models and mentors) to create their own activities within the troop. Such recreation can include camping trips, community service, and leadership activities.
In 1982, two Scout leaders from Missouri had a different notion when it came to insightful guidance and growth. While on a weekend campout in Huntsville, J.B. Gatzmeyer, 37, and Kenneth Willard, 19, had the bright idea to leave a lasting impression on seven boys whose ages ranged from 11 to 15.
Armed with a heated coat hanger twisted into the shape of male genitalia, Willard branded the buttocks of six of the boys—with one receiving brands on both arms—while Gatzmeyer sat on their legs. Evidently, the two stooges with an odd sense of humor said that the boys would be banned from future outings if they did not participate in the branding.
Gatzmeyer and Willard topped off the evening by giving each other brands on their own rear ends.
Of all the Scouts, the 11-year-old refused to participate. Even after threats of castration, the boy stood his ground. Although he left without a new tattoo, he probably arrived home with some psychological damage.
Ultimately, each of the so-called “mentors” was convicted of assault and related charges and sentenced to one year in prison. For unspecified medical reasons, Gatzmeyer was released after serving just three months.
A Wrong Turn
On November 15, 1958, six Boy Scouts set out on a hike in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. The temperature was comfortably warm with calm winds and no chance of rain. It was supposed to be a scenic, joyous occasion for the kids who were celebrating the 12th birthday of fellow Scout David Greenberg.
At some point in their journey up the mountain, three Scouts decided to head back down due to fatigue. It was the last time that anyone saw them alive. At the time, methods of weather forecasting were unsophisticated and they missed an approaching storm.
It ravaged the terrain and changed the lives of three families forever. As the sunset, the winds kicked up and showers poured from the sky. By midnight, several feet of snow blanketed the trails, the landmarks, and the bodies of the three boys.
In the days that followed, approximately 700 volunteers scoured the area in a fruitless effort that brought no closure. Nineteen days later, on December 4, a rancher tending to his land confirmed everyone’s worst fear.
Lost and unprepared for the subfreezing temperatures, Mike Early, Michael LaNoue, and birthday boy David Greenberg had frozen to death. Their bodies were carried off the mountain by soldiers from Fort Huachuca who stacked rocks and erected crosses where the boys’ lives had tragically come to an end.
Knife-Wielding Paranoid Schizo
In August 2011, Valerie Henson of northern Indiana called 911 to report that her son, 22-year-old Shane Golitko, had assaulted her in the home they shared. With a broken arm, Henson fled to a neighbor’s house while her crazed son grabbed a large knife and took off into the woods.
At that time, 76-year-old Arthur L. Anderson was leading a hiking trip near Bunker Hill when he stopped the young Scouts to discuss a particular tree. Moments later, the knife-wielding lunatic emerged from the brush and plunged the 30-centimeter (12 in) knife into Anderson’s neck.
As suddenly as he had appeared, Golitko vanished. The boys were physically unharmed yet horrified as they watched their beloved Scout leader bleed to death right before their eyes.
Returning home, Golitko stabbed his two dogs, broke windows, and trashed the entire house before escaping in his mother’s Jeep. A 13-kilometer (8 mi) chase with police ensued before he was finally apprehended.
Diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, Golitko claimed that he had stopped taking his antipsychotic medications. After pleading guilty but mentally ill to murder, he was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
‘The Killer Was Here’
The night was riddled with eerie happenings. From shadowy figures and strange noises to faint screams and cries, the Girl Scout Camp outside Locust Grove, Oklahoma, will forever be remembered as a place of horrors. Though we’ve focused on the Boy Scouts until now, what happened to three girls in the middle of the night four decades ago continues to haunt countless residents.
In the early morning hours of June 13, 1977, a counselor walking the campgrounds discovered the body of 10-year-old Doris Milner sprawled along a dirt trail. Nearby lay Lori Farmer, 8, and Michelle Guse, 9, dead inside their zipped sleeping bags a short distance from their tent. Two of the girls had been beaten to death while the other had been strangled. All three had been sexually assaulted.
Three K9s hailed as “wonder dogs” were rushed in from other states to aid in the investigation but were of no help. The sinister atmosphere was compounded when one of the dogs was killed after inexplicably dashing onto the road while another died of heatstroke.
Scrawled on the wall of a nearby cave, searchers discovered the taunting message, “77-6-17. The killer was here. Bye Bye fools.” In the end, the only piece of evidence recovered was a single hair found on the body of one of the girls. The analysis suggested that it was from a Native American.
This led sheriffs to Gene Hart, a Cherokee fugitive with a lengthy rap sheet. In 1966, Hart had received three 10-year sentences for raping two pregnant women, but he was paroled in 1969. Less than three months later, he was back in jail for burglary. But he escaped in 1973.
Hart remained in hiding until April 1978 when police tracked him to a remote tar paper shack. His trial began a year later and ended with a not guilty verdict because the evidence “didn’t add up” to the jury.
Even so, Hart was sent back to prison following his trial to serve more than 300 years for earlier crimes. In June 1979, he died in prison after suffering a heart attack at age 35. To date, the brutal murders of Doris, Lori, and Michelle remain unsolved.