Before I was born, my parents and brother lived in a small apartment community in Yardville, New Jersey. It was the kind of community where almost everyone knew each other. Kids were free to run around and play, leaving their bikes out on people’s lawns without worry of theft, and curfews were loosely enforced. It was a true archetype of the eighties suburb.
Which is how every true crime story begins.
Except that there is no crime to speak of, at least according to my parents. I BELIEVE OTHERWISE. Growing up, I heard plenty of stories about my family’s life in Yardville, most of which fall under the category of interesting, funny, or generally fond to remember. Except one.
When my brother was seven, he claims to have seen a dead body through the window of someone’s basement. This is a story that has remained in my brain ever since my brother told it to me. And while he’s told this story to me a number of times throughout the years, I still have many questions.
So, as Oprah would ask, what is the truth? I sat down with my brother and parents—who remain skeptical, blaming this tale on an overactive imagination—to ask them some questions; an effort to determine whether this story leans more toward fact or fiction.
Greg: Why don’t you start by telling me what you remember about that day.
Andy: I was around seven. There was this house that was built fairly recently. It was located at one of the entrances to our apartment community. I was outside one day when my friend, Dan, found me and told me he saw a dead body.
Greg: Was he by himself?
Andy: If I remember correctly, yes.
Greg: OK, then what?
Andy: We got our friend, John, and we went to the house [with the supposed dead body]. We looked through the small basement window and saw what appeared like a white bedsheet with a leg sticking out of it.
Greg: How far away from the window was it?
Andy: I would say like twenty feet, at most.
Greg: Describe what looked like a leg. How much of it was exposed?
Andy: I could see the calf and the foot.
Greg: Any distinctive features?
Andy: It looked white, but that’s about it.
Greg: Anything else? Tattoos, anything of that sort?
Andy: I couldn’t really tell.
Greg: Wait. Let’s rewind. How did your friend Dan find it?
Andy: I really don’t know. I just remember all of us looking through the window and freaking out.
Greg: Hmm, that’s not really something you stumble upon, though. Dan seems suspect.
Andy: We were seven, Greg.
Greg: Don’t let that fool you.
Andy: All I remember is that Dan saw it first and then got John and me.
Greg: What was Dan doing peering through people’s windows? Does he remember any details? Is he available for comment?
Andy: We’re friends on Facebook. I messaged him a few weeks ago but haven’t heard back. But that house was right next to his apartment. I don’t know what led him to look through the basement window, though.
Greg: What do you remember about the basement?
Andy: It was very dark. The only light was coming from the windows and the only thing you could see was the alleged body underneath the white sheet.
Greg: How long were you looking at it?
Andy: Maybe like a minute.
Greg: Did you try to pry the window open?
Andy: No. We were too freaked out.
Greg: OK. What did you do after seeing it?
Andy: I remember running home and telling mom and dad about it. I don’t know if they remember this, though.
Greg: Well, let’s ask them since they’re in the room. Mom, dad, do you remember this?
Dad: I don’t really remember much.
Greg: You don’t remember your seven-year-old saying he saw a dead body?
Dad: The only thing I remember is the story.
Greg: How do you remember the story if you…don’t remember the story.
Dad: I don’t know.
Greg: You gotta try to remember something or else you’re not getting a lunch stipend for this.
Dad: The only thing I remember is driving by the house over the years and remembering the story with Andy.
Greg: But you don’t remember Andy coming home right after seeing it?
Dad: Not really.
Greg: Whom did you tell first?
Andy: I think both mom and dad.
Mom: I don’t remember.
Greg: How do you not remember this? If my kid told me they saw a body, I would remember.
Mom: I don't think we took him seriously. I still don’t believe [it was a body].
Greg: Do you remember their reactions?
Andy: I don’t really remember.
Dad: Greg, you know me. I don’t really believe in—
Greg: Dead bodies? They’re real; there's proof.
Dad: I think it was some sort of reflection of light. I’m a technical guy. I approach things with logic. It would be strange for someone to have a body in their basement. But with seven-year-old children, and it’s dark out—
Greg: Was it dark out, Andy?
Andy: It was dusk. There was still some light out.
Greg: Do you know the person or people who lived in the house?
Greg: Anything weird about the house?
Andy: Not really. There’s a pool out back.
Greg: HOLD THE FUCK UP. Was the pool there when you saw the alleged body?
Andy: I don’t really remember.
Greg: BITCH, THAT BODY WAS PROBABLY BURIED IN THE YARD AND THE POOL WAS BUILT OVER IT.
Dad: Why are you yelling? And don’t call your brother a bitch.
Greg: I mean, c’mon. The pool was definitely built over [the supposed dead body].
Andy: I mean it’s possible, but I don’t know.
Greg: Should we call 911?
Andy: What? No.
Greg: I can’t believe no one called the police at the time.
Mom: Maybe it was a mannequin.
Andy: To this day I swear it was a body. Or at least it looked like a dead body. But I don’t think we would have been taken seriously if we called the police.
Greg: Have you tried googling news stories about murders in Yardville in the eighties?
Andy: I did, but found nothing.
Greg: That’s because they’re probably buried under the pool and no one thought to do anything about it.
Dad: Greg, please.
Andy: Next time you’re in town we can drive by. I’ll show you.
Mom: I think they have evergreens around that house now. They look nice. If you go to the house, can you ask them what they use to fertilize them?
Greg: I’m not asking possible murderers what brand of fertilizer they use to feed their evergreens.
Andy: The evergreens are in the front.
Dad: Yeah, they’re in the front.
Greg: Y'all can remember evergreens and where they are, but not your son claiming to have seen a dead body?
Mom: It was just kids’ imaginations running wild.
Andy: No, I’m pretty sure it was a dead body.
Greg: Also, how can all three kids collectively imagine the same thing?
Dad: It was dark—
Andy: It was dusk.
Mom: If one boy says something, the other boys will believe him, and they will all think they see the same thing.
Andy: I’m pretty sure I saw what looked like a leg sticking out from under the sheet.
Greg: What position was the leg in? Could you see toe nails?
Andy: The bottom of the foot was facing up, so I think the alleged body was lying on the stomach.
Greg: So you can describe the outline?
Andy: Yeah, you know how some people sleep on their stomach with one foot sticking out?
Greg: Truly no better way to sleep.
Andy: That’s what it looked like.
Greg: And the sheet was cut off at the what looked like a calf, right?
Greg: Were there any visible markings on the leg, like lacerations? Contusions, maybe?
Andy: I don’t know. It was too far away.
Greg: Did you note my use of the word “contusion”?
Andy: I can’t really tell you much more. All I can say is that it looked like a leg under a white bedsheet.
Greg: Was the leg hairy?
Andy: It didn’t look like it.
Greg: Did you notice any smells?
Andy: None that I remember.
Greg: So the allegedly deceased was possibly murdered right before you saw it. Otherwise, it would smell like a, well, dead body.
Mom: The windows were closed.
Greg: Doesn’t matter, it would become increasingly malodorous if kept out in the open like that.
Andy: I don’t remember. It was thirty-three-years ago.
Greg: Any blood?
Andy: I don’t think so. I don’t remember.
Greg: Any stains on the sheets?
Andy: I don’t remember.
Mom: Who would leave a body out like that where anyone can walk up and look through the window?
Mom: OK, sure. Maybe someone got annoyed with grandma and put her in the basement.
Greg: I don't think now's the time for jokes, mom. Wait, were they old? Any visible varicose veins?
Andy: It was too far away.
Greg: My theory is that this person was killed shortly before you and your friends came to the basement window, and whoever killed them buried the body in the yard and then had a pool built right over it.
Andy: I don’t know.
Mom: Can we go back to watching The Crown now?
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity, except no clarity was achieved whatsoever. If anything, I am even more confused. Was there or was there not a dead body? Why hasn’t Dan responded to Andy’s Facebook message? Is he hiding something? Where the fuck is John???? Do you have any possible theories based on the information available above? If so, please share below because now I have a headache.
Cover art by: James Jeffers
Editorial assistant: Jesse Adele