Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The last scene of Georg Buchner’s incomplete 1820s play Woyzeck is only one line long. It takes place in a courtroom, as the prosecutor says, “It’s been a long, long time since we’ve had a nice juicy murder like this!” Yesterday, a trial began very near here for a very juicy murder indeed—the trial of The Epping Dominatrix.

Dominatrixes (dominatrices?) have provided good journalistic and media sensationalism the last several years. A little south of Boston a couple of years ago, there was The Quincy Dominatrix who had her client bound to something like a cross when he suffered a heart attack and died. Instead of calling the police and just saying that she was catering to a gentleman caller’s preferences during an afternoon tryst (which was actually the truth), she panicked and called her regular boyfriend. The two of themcut the body into pieces and stuffed them into plastic garbage bags, which they disposed of in an insufficiently safe and obscure place. The trial was evening news headline material for weeks.

Well, we may not be greater Boston up here—we’re a bit too far away to be even greater Manchester or Portsmouth. But we’ve got our very own Dominatrix, and this lady could teach her sister to the south a thing or two about domination.

Sheila LaBarre owns a farm in Epping, one town to the east of Raymond. Physically, she’s nothing like the lady from Quincy, a tall, 30-something leggy blond with a penchant for tight-fitting leather. Sheila, 49, is an earth mother type with a taste for younger men who would be invited to rent apartment space in her big old farmhouse. After a while, they quietly dropped out of sight. Parents and friends would miss them and begin asking questions, eventually going to the authorities. So, the authorities visited the farm one day and took a good look around.

Right out in plain sight they found a shallow pit filled with ashes. A preliminary investigation turned up some charred bones that were identified as human. This sort of thing tends to be a red flag to the police. They occupied the place, arrested the lady and began to collect evidence. In due course they found evidence of the death, dismemberment and incineration of two young men.

Ms LaBarre has admitted to killing Kenneth Countie, 24, of Massachusetts, and Michael Deloge, 37, of Somersworth, NH. Her defense is that she was insane when the murders were committed. Insanity in her case is apparently a sometime thing, as she’s considered sane now to stand trial and has been sane at times when she’s not overcome by her praying mantis tendencies to destroy males who mate with her.

But insanity is a very risky plea to make as it’s almost invariably rejected by juries. In LaBarre’s case, however, one of her two attorneys has actually argued an insanity defense to a successful “not guilty” verdict. The insanity in this case centers on LaBarre’s declaration that she'd somehow felt both men were pedophiles and that she was God’s angel sent to protect children from such men. God apparently didn’t frown on her having the guys demonstrate their technique on her before she spread her protective wings over the children of the area, however.

Last week, as final preparations for the trial were wrapping up, it was announced that toes belonging to a third man had been found on LaBarre’s property. Beyond the horror movie aspects of such a discovery, identification of a third victim makes it possible for both prosecution and defense to call experts in serial murder cases to testify. For several weeks to come, it’s going to be ALL dominatrix ALL the time around here.


Something else is all the time around here now and it’s black flies. Black fly season is one of the more dreaded rites of spring in northern New England. Those of you who know them will understand; those of you who don’t know about them, you don’t want to know!


As promised, here’s a shot of the façade of the house with the piers sheathed in New Hampshire fieldstone. We’ll be constructing the low stone walls in between the piers and filling the space with good topsoil ourselves to form the “planters” that will, by June, I hope, be growing herbs and colorful annual flowers for us every spring, summer and fall.


Ladies and Gentlemen, Wotan has left the building

The following is an edited and slightly expanded version of an item on Alex Ross's essential music blog, The Rest is Noise. Potentially, one of the most contentious and problematic transitions of administration in any arts organization anywhere may be drawing to a close:

The official announcent was made late last week: Wolfgang Wagner, Richard Wagner's grandson, will step down as director of the Bayreuth Festival on August 31, one day after his eighty-ninth birthday. He has been in charge since the first postwar festival in 1951, though he shared power with his brother Wieland until Wieland's death in 1966.

For at least the past decade, Wolfgang has refused to step down or in any way settle the huge rifts in the Wagner family that have led more and more members of his childrens' generation to be "exiled" from the Festival, the town of Bayreuth, and any hope of succeeding to management of the unique theater and festival that Richard Wagner built and with which he radically transformed the way theater and opera were presented to the public. Wolfgang's niece Nike Wagner once commented that being born a Wagner was akin to being raised in the German branch of the House of Atrius (the legendary Greek family in which murder, exile, and revenge were handed down through the generations).

Wolfgang's daughters, Eva Wagner-Pasquier (a professinal arts administrator and vocal scout for New York's Metropolitan Opera) and Katharina Wagner (a budding opera director in a style frequently labeled "post-modern" or "Eurotrash"), have made a joint bid to take direction of Bayreuth in his wake, Katherina in collaboration with the brilliant German conductor Christian Thielemann. The three of them together would make an admirably strong Administrative/Artistic/Music Directorship for the Festival.

sounds like that old Guy de Maupassant short story about the woman that stuffed (as in taxidermy) her boarders.....
she's completely whacked. but i doubt she's legally insane. i can't recall the last time someone was let off the hook in nh with an insanity plea.
i was not aware of the Wagner family and their ongoing feud. but it makes sense I suppose. I would hate to be part of it though.
The Epping Dominatrix. I love it. You have a strong, demented woman, attractive young men, a remote location, lots of death, and a great deal of ignorance about the details of what happened. In other words, the perfect subject matter for a new opera.

Hubris, in-fighting, and cruelty in the Wagner family? I am shocked. Shocked.
I've been missing New England a lot lately. Your post about black flies (which only rarely become noticeable here in northern Illinois) makes me miss the place a bit less.

I really like the stone cladding on the piers of your new house. We have some similar architectural treatments here at the museum.
God the black flies. I remember pulling over to dig up some irises around the foundations where a farmhouse had once stood. Those flies attacked as if they were the demon ghosts of the revolutionary era farmers.

Your house is incredibly beautiful. You will need to host a blogger sleep-over house warming party (but not in black fly season) I will donate some plants from my garden.
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