Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mystery of the Suspicious Packets: A Frank March Adventure

It's been a while since I reported on any of my cases, quite a while; years I think. Here is a recent mystery. I was hiking about in Rockford Museum Park, a regular morning routine, when I noticed beneath a stone bench some kind of packet tucked back in the showdown of the support stone. He, I though, someone forgot their lunch. But on reflection I figured someone sat there, ate their meal and hid the refuge beneath the bench.

A litterbug!

I continued on. This was the Northern Delaware Freeway Trail that ran from the Brandywine Creek State Park through Alapocas, Rockford, Rockwood, Bringhurst Woods, Bellevue and Fox Point State Park. Where I saw the packet was the beginning of the long and winding hill, up into the woods and to the highest point within these grounds.

At the top I turned right onto a dirt trail up to that very highest point where a gazebo sat overlooking the
Southern vista. There, to the rear near the gazebo seating, was another packet. These consisted of a plastic storage box, one of those you might stick a sandwich in. The top sealed down very tightly. This, in turn, was inside a clear ZipLoc bag.


Since this was not so tucked away I could take a closer look. You could see through the baggie right on through the lid of the box. Inside were two vials, similar to those you are given with your prescription pills. There were no pills here. The contents inside the vials appeared to be a white powder. Ut oh!

What in the world was the purpose of these packets and was there something nefarious in the works.

I went down the steep side of the hill and eventually wound my way around into the Kitchen Garden behind the Carriage House. This area is surrounded by a stone wall. To one side are trees with thick drooping branches, evergreens of some sort, that form a canopy. They sometimes hold weddings in this courtyard and the bride will enter from beneath this canopy, so obviously you can walk beneath the branches. It is much like walking through a cave. In the center inside there is another bench. I walked through the tunnel of nettled branches and stopped to stare at two more of these mysterious packets under that bench, one to each side.

I went to the Mansion and saw the lights were on in the upstairs office. I rang the doorbell. Shorty a man came down and opened the door. His name was Phillip. He was the Park Director. I inquired if he knew anything about these packets. He did not.

I wrote about these discoveries later on Facebook.

I received several comments all advising me to contact the police.

I emailed the New Castle County Police, enclosing the photos I had taken of the various packets. Next morning I received an email in return. It informed me my original notice and pictures was being given to an officer. It then spend some time telling me I should have phoned the police rather than send an email.  I though an email was more effective since I could include photos. Oh, well.

I then got a phone call from this same police contact, who spent more time telling me I should have called rather than emailed. I'm sorry. She said I would hear from an officer. I heard from a Police Sargent about two hours later. He asked several questions.

"Are you at the park now?"
"No, I'm home. But the packets are still there. They have been there two days. I actually found another one this morning. It is down on the porch of what is called the Porter Lodge."

"Did you collect the packets?" he asked.
"No," I said, "I wasn't touching those things."

He paused as if forming his next question, which was, "Is the Park Direct there?"
"No," I said. "I'm home. He is probably in the park. But I spoke with him and he knew nothing about them."
"Okay, I'm going to drive over to the park and talk to the Director."
"Fine, but he doesn't know anything. The easiest one to find is at the Porter Lodge." I figured the cop could stop on his way in, he would have to drive past where the Porter Lodge was in order to get up the hill to the office.

The next morning all the packets were still in place, except the one on the stone bench was pulled out from underneath partway. As I went on the route about the paths and drives I saw the Manager of the Carriage House arrived just as I was about to leave. I hurried across the lot to speak to her, leaving my walking stick behind in the car, which meant I really didn't hurry very fast. Still I caught her.

Her name is Barbara, but it turned out she knew nothing of the packets either. She said she would call the police, but I told her I had already done so and also reported them to the Park director. Barbara said she would follow up with the police. My goodness, we are getting quite involved here and still don't know what these mysterious packets are. Or what was in the vials each packet contained.

The next day, no change, except the Stone Bench packet was now on top of the bench. Another day passed and the packed was again tucked in the showdown beneath the bench.

On the next day, this packet and the one in the Gazebo were gone, but the two under the tree canopy remained, only one was outside the bench and both had been flipped over.

Now on what, the seventh or eighth day, all the packets had disappeared as strangely as they had appeared. I still had no clue to what they were for. This was driving me crazy. I hate not knowing. Especially, since on the next day after they all went away, they came back.

However, the content was different. There were no vials. Instead they contained a rock and paper. I looked closely at the one on the stone bench. Yes, this packet was atop the bench, not under it. The paper inside looked very much like folded up money. The ploy thickens or the mystery deepens or some such saying.

Okay, so this morning, after over a week of mysterious packets, all were gone, except one. That's right, there was a packet sitting atop that blasted stone bench where all this first began for me. I sat down next to it and opened it up. I had a great deal of difficulty opening the lid of the box inside the ZipLoc bag, but persisted. Inside beneath a rock were the cut up pieces of a photograph, but no money. There was also a piece of paper. Typed upon this strip was, "Mr. Salisbury once lived here."

Mr. Salisbury had been Joseph Shipley's gardener and when the wealthy merchant banker retired and built Rockwood, he brought Salisbury with him as his landscaper. But the cut up photograph was of the Porter Lodge, not the Gardener's Cottage. At any rate, I tucked everything back away and left it where it was.

The mystery was about to unfold.



Up at the high point, within the Gazebo was no packet found this morning; however, the rock that had been in the second set of boxes was there as was a long strip of paper it had contained.

Those were direction that took one from this gazebo down to that infamous stone bench.

I ran into the Park Director as he arrived this morning and asked him if they had found out what the packets were. He told me, "Yes. The police were out to investigate. They checked out each site."

So what were they?

There had been some organization that held a scavenger hunt for children this past weekend. They had planted the original packets as a test run. Nobody informed any authority at the park. It was just a harmless game. Still, I was thanked. I did the right thing on seeing suspicious packets laying about. It could have been something no good. Never be afraid to report strange packages or odd behavior, especially in our current age. Risk the embarrassment of looking a fool, better that that a tragedy or crime because you ignored such things.

Case closed on the Mystery of the Suspicious Packets.