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The Barton Disappearances by M. R. Christoffersen

Fifty years ago, the small town of Barton, New South Wales, was rocked by the mysterious disappearances of five children. Even today, The Barton Disappearances rank among the world’s most famous unsolved cases.

The first victim was seven-year-old Jack Hobbs. His parents called the police when he wasn’t home by dinner, and a massive search for Jack began. Community volunteers joined the hunt, while police established a town-wide curfew. Three weeks passed, but police were no closer to 

finding Jack. Pressure from the mayor led to the curfew lifting in an attempt to return to normality. Then the second disappearance occurred.

Angela Chester vanished from her bed in the middle of the night. When her parents came to check on her the next morning, they found her bedroom windows wide open and bed empty. They wasted no time in notifying the police. Terror spread through Barton. Parents forbade their children from playing out of their view, and a neighbourhood watch formed to report strange behaviours to police. Some were too zealous, and police received dozens of false reports.

It was around this time that police arrested Mr John Grant. They’d received reports he’d been spotted outside the Chesters’ house the night Angela vanished. Mr Grant had a weak alibi, leading police to suspect his involvement in Angela’s disappearance. However, subsequent events vindicated him, but only added to the investigators’ confusion.

Twins Catherine and Grant Gibson vanished while at school, surrounded by their teacher and fifteen fellow students. The windows had been locked and the door closed, yet no one noticed them vanish. Local papers pounced upon the story, and rumours of everything from the supernatural to alien abduction soon followed. Barton mayor Jonathan Adam was quick to deny claims the police were investigating such rumours, but John Grant left custody soon after the Gibson twins disappeared.

Speculation ran rife in Barton, and theories on the Gibson twins’ disappearance abounded. Investigation by the police continued, and detectives from Sydney came to Barton to aid the search. None of this proved fruitful. Families left Barton at an astonishing rate, while curfews tightened and police presence in the town increased. Gangs of teenagers armed with cricket bats roamed the streets, quick to confront anyone they deemed suspicious.

Chelsea Carter was the fifth child to vanish. She’d been playing in her backyard with her friend Lucy Wilton. Investigators were keen to take Lucy’s statement, but what they learned pushed the case further into the realm of the bizarre.

Lucy claimed she and Chelsea had been speaking with an entity she called The Smiling Man. She described him as tall and thin, with pallid skin and long, slender fingers, wearing a black coat and black hat. The most striking feature, and the source of his name, was his smile, which stretched from ear to ear upon his pale face. According to Lucy, The Smiling Man could ‘step between places’, which he used to vanish without a trace. She had remained behind when Chelsea had been taken because The Smiling Man ‘hadn’t liked her silver bracelet’.

Barton Police were quick to dismiss Lucy’s claims as the work of an overactive imagination. Their investigations continued, but no further disappearances occurred, leading Barton Police to declare the case closed in 1980. This didn’t stop amateur investigators from swarming Barton in recent years, seeking to solve the disappearances which haunted the town. Some in the community welcome the newcomers, while others wish the events of that time could be left in the past.

To this day, Lucy Wilton wears an assortment of silver jewellery. She now lives in Sydney and refuses all requests for interviews.

About the author
M. R. Christoffersen is an emerging young writer with an interest in a variety of genres, from fantasy to thriller and mystery.