Sybil Bruncheon's "A Whole Month Of Thanksgiving!"...


True Crime Stories For the Holidays!… In 1919, it came to the attention of local school authorities in the Murray Hill neighborhood of Manhattan, that little Stephanie Strothers had been exhibiting unusually cheerful, almost frenetic, behavior as the Holidays approached. Frequently sullen and even depressed throughout the Spring and Summer when most children are delighted, Stephanie would not eat for days on end, nor leave her room to see her playmates. But as the weather chilled, Stephanie began to... well... "animate". It started with decorating the house for Halloween, carving the pumpkins, designing and making costumes, first for her own siblings and then for several of the neighborhood children. As Thanksgiving neared and Christmas too, she took over all the preparations that her large family would plan. Sending out handwritten invitations in beautiful calligraphy to a dozen relatives, and coordinating the recipes and doing all the shopping, Stephanie at 12 years of age stunned the adults as she got everything "just right"!

It had been this way for years, but this particular Holiday season in 1919, several neighbors happened to compare notes, and it was discovered that Stephanie had been especially attentive to getting everyone their turkeys, pheasants, or geese, and in just the right sizes too. It happened that kindly old Mrs. Straycosh from East 36th Street walked in on Stephanie "hugging" a turkey in an alleyway behind the Lefkowitz Candies & Fruitarium. The little girl hadn't heard Mrs. Straycosh round the corner, nor did the elderly lady notice that the hugging had a slightly combative energy to it... at first. But when they both caught sight of each other, the strange glint in Stephanie's glaring eyes, and the growing horror in Straycosh's eyes as she tried to believe what they were seeing was too much. With a deranged yowl, Stephanie released the bird and swooped towards poor Mrs. Straycosh whose shriek of terror attracted the attention of Jamie O'Hanrahan and the Biggy Shamrocker Gang. They rushed the alley and managed to scare off Stephanie, now snarling and drooling heavily. Armed with their home-made truncheons, the boys chased her down Third Avenue and into the arms of two policemen from the 17th precinct who thought at first that the Shamrockers were trying to mug her. But NO! A crowd had formed led by the gasping Mrs. Straycosh who could barely get her tale of horror out without wailing and weeping. Someone carried the lifeless bird forward, and it was Stephanie's own continued writhing and gnashing of teeth that indicted her and convinced everyone of her guilt. The reporters gathering with their pads, pencils, and flash camera boxes immediately tagged her as "Stephie The Strangler" before her parents could even get to the precinct where the deranged mob had already gathered. Needless to say, that was the last Holiday season with any peace or comfort for the Strother family. Shortly after Stephanie was confined in the Bayonne Institute for the Emotionally Inconvenienced, they skipped town late one night, never to be seen again. Stephanie lived to be at least in her late 80s and was kept subdued and serene through most of her life. Her doctors prescribed a steady regimen of experimental drugs made from Madagascar orchids and provided Stephanie with a lifetime supply of second-hand Raggedy Annes and sock-puppets that she could strangle to her heart's content.

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