The Legend of Otis Hatcher

A newspaper article dated November 1, 1959 serves as the only surviving firsthand account of what happened inside the house at 821 Hyde St. on a night now known for the Hyde Street Massacre.

Details are limited to a few words uttered in a hospital emergency room by a man who, nurses would later say, was missing his face and at least one limb. Police reported that the scene was grisly and that the house looked like a twisted, sickening carnival exhibit gone horribly wrong. Some neighbors saw it coming and can still recall how the bloodshed began

The year was 1933. The Great Depression was changing America’s economic landscape, and money was tight. Groceries were hard to come by, so it wasn’t surprising that children in small towns weren’t spending money to make Halloween costumes. Ten-year old Otis Hatcher loved Halloween, though, and found ways to bring it to his neighborhood. Otis found scraps of cardboard, pumpkins, old metal signs, sticks and torn sheets to make scarecrows and other scary decorations for his yard. He even did odd jobs just so he could buy penny candy to hand out Halloween night. The children came, and their parents praised Otis for his generosity in providing a little Halloween fun during such depressing times. Otis was very happy. Years went by, then decades. Otis’ father mysteriously died and Velda, his mother, became a gypsy, so Otis lived in his childhood house alone.

It was the 1950s now, and Otis still decorated every Halloween. However, as houses sold and new neighbors moved in, people questioned why an overly large man who lived alone and collected dolls spent his free time creating a Halloween playground for local children. People talked. For the most part, Otis seemed to ignore what the cynics said, but over time, deep anger must have infested his brain like maggots or a flesh-eating disease. Newcomers avoided him in town, and some drove slowly past his house at night to see “the freak,” just like at a carnival sideshow. Teenagers in cars yelled obscenities from the street then laughed and sped away. Sometimes they threw eggs at his window. Otis was losing a grip on his sanity, and no one even knew it.

 On October 31, 1959, life in the little town changed permanently. Neighbors who reported seeing vandals destroying Otis’ Halloween display late one night would later say they couldn’t have dreamt the carnage that was to follow. Otis Hatcher snapped. Catching the vandals in the act of smashing his pumpkins, destroying scarecrows, and shredding the sheets and haystacks, Otis lost his grip on whatever sanity he ever possessed. It was a very bloody night. Once the police entered the Hyde St. home after midnight, it was too late. Deep in the basement, they discovered a boiler room and several skinless corpses showing evidence of torture; another room sparked and crackled with electricity, making it almost impossible to retrieve three dangling electrocuted bodies as the police sloshed around in ankle-deep blood. Worst of all were the chunks of human flesh and body parts sectioned neatly on a butcher’s block as if awaiting human consumption. Insects flew everywhere, infesting the rotting tissue, making it impossible for anyone to breathe or to walk without being swarmed. Some police officers took personal leave after this night.

Otis Hatcher was never caught, and he never returned to the dilapidated, condemned house. Some say his sanity drove him to suicide but others, who still live on Hyde St., know better. Every year on October 31, the house where Otis grew up inexplicably comes back to life. And every year at midnight, if you stand in just the right place, you can still see the lights flickering, smell the flesh burning, and hear the plaintive wailing of the victims of the Hyde Street Massacre