The Face in the
Submitted by Elaine Rathmann
Heinrich and Olga
Schultz owned a farm in Cherokee County, near Washta, at the turn of
the century. They were a kindly, old couple who had immigrated from
Germany a few years earlier. Heinrich’s dream had always been to own
his own farm, and that wish had at last come true. The couple was
well liked in the community
and participated enthusiastically in social events, and were quite
active in their church.
One day a drifter
named Will Florence showed up at the farm and asked for work.
Florence was a taciturn man, who refused to say much about his
background other than he had recently come up to Iowa from Texas,
where he had experienced some medical problems. Despite the fact
that several men in the area warned him against it, Heinrich hired
Florence, paying him a small salary and providing his room and
board. For awhile things went smoothly. Heinrich taught Florence how
to do chores around the farm, as the stranger was obviously
unfamiliar with that type of labor, and Olga treated him as a
long-lost son, cooking his favorite dishes and mending his clothes.
About that time,
financial institutions around the country were failing, and one day
word began circulating that the bank in Washta might fail. Heinrich
and Olga decided to withdraw their money from the bank and keep it
at the farm, where they considered it would be secure.
Three days after Heinrich had last been
seen in town, a friend decided to pay him a visit. What he found at
the farm was horrifying. Heinrich and Olga lay murdered in a pool of
blood on their kitchen floor, butchered with an axe. The house had
been ransacked and the money was gone. So was William Florence.
tracked Florence down and arrested him in Nebraska a few days later.
However, a Grand Jury could not find enough evidence to charge him
with the crime, so he was released from custody and promptly
Soon a strange story
began spreading around the community. It was rumored that a face was
beginning to appear on Olga and Heinrich’s grave stone. As time went
on the facial features became increasingly and uncannily clear.
Townspeople and folks from the surrounding countryside traveled to
the cemetery to see the odd occurrence. It was said that the face
was that of William Florence. Was this the power of suggestion or
were effects of the weather causing the natural characteristics of
the stone to appear as a face, as a marble dealer explained, after
visiting the stone?
Around this time, the
police discovered new evidence that strongly implicated William
Florence in the murders. A new warrant was issued for his arrest,
but he had vanished without a trace, and although he was never seen
alive again, his face remains a haunting imprint on the gravestone
of the hapless murder victims.