The haunted memories of a gruesome Otter Tail County pig farm murder
In fifth grade, Sam Huseth and I sat at her kitchen table among scattered belongings. We collected prized possessions to “freeze” in a time capsule to later uncover our senior year (thank you, Crossroads). We thoughtfully selected objects that we imagined might predetermine our future—a microphone made of tin foil for me (an aspiring pop star) and a homemade stethoscope for Sam (who is, interestingly enough, now a nurse).
After sealing them in Ziploc baggies, we tucked them into a shoe box and placed that in a plastic grocery bag that would surely preserve our memories for years to come.
With our hair soaked and dripping into our eyes like a creepy scene from The Ring, we dug a muddy hole with our shovels in the pouring rain—all in an effort to bury our precious time capsule.
It was then that Sam chose to share the local horror story that had been passed down to her from her mother.
It was the tale of carnage that took place just miles away where a girl was slashed by the hired hand, chopped up, and fed to the pigs.
They called it the Ashby pig farm murder.
By the time Sam finished the horrific story, we were both trembling, opting to throw our shovels aside as if they would take on hands of their own—chopping us up and burying us with our memories.
In the many years since then, I have all too frequently revisited the story in my mind—all 26 versions that have skewed over time like the expected outcome of a game of “telephone.”
Throughout high school, many friends visited the murder site, claiming to hear the pigs squeal… despite the fact that the farm and any of its remains hadn’t existed since the early to mid-80s.
It was pure curiosity (paired with Halloween anticipation) that eventually led me to Karen A. Field, co-author of The Pig Farm Murder of 1887, seeking answers to the paralyzing questions that haunted my youth.
Who was the girl? Why was she murdered? Was it a stranger who came knocking at her door or the hired hand that fed their pigs? Karen had answers to these questions and many more.