Blogs > Frye on the News

Keeping his eye on the news and offering commentaries and insights on what is happening in Oakland County, around the world, on the tube and in the news.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Horror stories prove true

A shocking story came out Austria this week, that of Josef Fritzl, who is accused of keeping his own daughter a sexual captive for 24 years in a secret dungeon -- or windowless cellar room -- in his home.
The latest is that he threatened to gas to death her and the children he had fathered with her if they tried to flee.
It is the type of story that I would expect to see in a Hollywood thriller or blockbuster, the kind of movie that would have me rolling my eyes at the fantastic plot. "Why do they insist on making things more fantastic and so unreal?" I would likely complain to my wife, despite enjoying the film and its performances.
Of course, I've learned that reality can be crazier and more disgusting that anything dreamed in the head of a screenwriter.
I've seen and heard of stories like that, covering police and courts here at The Oakland Press. 
A couple of years ago, a lawyer mentioned he had a case starting that week involving two men who had taken turned sexually abusing one of their daughters. One would commit the abuse and the other would play a video game; then they would trade.
I had already seen and heard quite a bit by then, but even I was blown away. I told the lawyer that his defense would be a pretty basic "who could believe something like this could ever occur?" He said, yes, but.
But what?
But the other man had already admitted it, pleaded guilty and been sent to prison. He would testify against the lawyer's client. So your guy is going to prison, I said.
And that is where he is today and will be for decades.
I learned never to disbelieve something based solely on its outrageousness. Skepticism is good, but I've seen that anything is possible.
Another time, as a police reporter more than a half dozen years ago, I was sent to St. Joseph Mercy hospital in Pontiac with a late Friday night report of a man who had attacked his wife, started a fire and disappeared in the massive building. Arson, domestic violence 
Every stupid cop movie -- starting with 'The Blues Brothers' and its massive police chase at the end -- I had bemoaned for an exaggerated police response suddenly was no longer that stupid. 
The story turned out to be a false report, a prank, but for the 45 minutes I stood outside on Woodward Avenue, police cars came screaming up to the building. Dozens and dozens of police cars from Pontiac, the sheriff's office, and state police arrived that Friday night, creating a surreal scene that meant every speeder in the county was going home that night ticket-free.
It was unbelievable, but there I stood among any number of possible police convention punch lines. The culprit was never caught, though I was curious about the man who had brought his son out to check the excitement. But whoever had done it had proved that it was possible to recreate a Hollywood movie set on Woodward Avenue.
And I learned for the first time to hold off when tempted to say "but that could never happen."


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