Monday, March 24, 2008

John List

In the area of New Jersey where I grew up, Westfield was affluent old suburbia. You got on Westfield Ave. drove a few miles west & there you were. Westfield had a south side of expensive newer houses & a north side of very expensive, large, older houses on beautiful tree-lined streets. There was an excellent high school, a big library, & impressive churches. It was where we wanted to live & raise our own kids. Westfield represented upward mobility.

On Nov. 9, 1971, a crazy dad in one of the stately old Westfield homes murdered his wife, mother, daughter, & two sons. He informed the school the family was traveling to North Carolina for a few weeks. He stopped the mail. Then he disappeared for 18 years. His name was John List. It was a cold, calculated plan for Mr. List's midlife crisis. The bodies weren't discovered for almost a month. For years afterward, until he was caught, mentioning the List murders was aways good for stirring up conversation at social gatherings in central Jersey.

John List made "normal" a synonym for "facade." He just died at age 82. It's a famous crime story.
"It was my belief that if you kill yourself, you won't go to heaven. So eventually, I got to the point where I felt that I could kill them, hopefully, they would go to heaven and then maybe I would have a chance to later confess my sins to God and get forgiveness."
John List interview with Connie Chung
List may have sold himself this nonsense, but he was losing his mind because the facade he had constructed was falling apart. He was living way beyond his means. His wife had advanced syphilis contracted from a previous husband. His mother was old & headed for a nursing home. His children were approaching college age, & they didn't have Union County Junior College in mind. His family had become a hindrance. List could have taken a powder without killing anybody. The authorities wouldn't have put much effort into finding him - they couldn't track him down as a most-wanted criminal, & his family didn't have the resources for an expensive private investigation. News like that is forgotten. A family left destitute. John List was nuts, but he knew exactly what he doing. He was an evil man who, for 18 years, derived inner satisfaction from getting away with a horrific crime. Strange, that he died on Good Friday. Thanks to NJ Dept. of Corrections for good judgment in sparing us this news over Easter weekend.

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I have never understood what it is called Good Friday. Christ was nailed to a cross, and left to die. What's so good about that? It should be known as Bad Friday, if anything. At least for Christians.
Good question. Googling around, apparently it's called "Good Friday" only in English-speaking countries, which may be a corruption of "God's Friday." It's not used liturgically in the Catholic Church.

Daniel Benedict of the United Methodist Church writes:
Popular names for the day are "Holy Friday" among the Latin nations, "Great Friday" among the Slavic peoples, "Friday of Mourning" in Germany, "Long Friday" in Norway, and "Holy Friday" (Viernes Santo) among Hispanic peoples.

Also discovered that it's a state holiday in India & predominantly Muslim Malaysia, no doubt a leftover from the era of the British Empire.
John List was a most amazing character. In the end, I think,
he just wanted to be free of the
family obligations. He knew he
could provide for himself, but he
couldn't take care of his mother,
wife, and 3 kids too. So, he just
eliminated them and took off until
they found him 18 years later and
then spent the next 18 years in
prison, being an accountant, which
is what his vocation was.
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