Going Deep: Beware The Night Puncher
Welcome to another edition of ‘Going Deep,’ and boy am I feeling nostalgic! For my second story I dissect, I thought I might as well tackle my first actual story told. So, brace yourselves, because we are jumping head-first into the fist of evil in episode 1’s first story: Beware The Night Puncher.
With our one-year anniversary episode coming out next week, and its recent appearance in my episode 50 ‘Top 5’ segment, I wanted to look at the story that started it all.
When Amanda and I started this show, our scope was very realized, but there were still some parts of it that we didn’t plan out or discuss. One of them being the stories. All we knew was that we were going to be taking very anticlimactic occurrences and playing them up to be huge crimes worthy of an emotionally heavy documentary.
It wasn’t until our one-year anniversary episode that Amanda and I realized that we didn’t even talk with each other on if we were able to write a good story. We just said “hey, show up on this day to record and we will both present a story.” I know what you’re thinking, and yes, that really would have been awkward if we both showed up to read each other terrible tales with a child’s precision. There definitely would be no show for us to be looking back on now.
With our intro, we state that “names and places have been changed to protect the hosts’ legally.” That intro idea was a funny way of making fun of the Law and Order intros, but our whole entire plan was to change names and places for EVERY crime, even ones from the news. Not far into the show, we decided that it was silly to change that information, except for listener stories and certain people involved in our personal stories.
This was especially brought to my attention after I had given the final version of episode 1 to some people. One of our first listeners was so bothered by this that they wouldn’t stop reminding me - “Where did this happen? The listener will want to know where this is taking place.” Fine - So, the story of The Night Puncher takes place in Plattsburg, Missouri. That is the small town in which I graduated, and where I stumbled upon this information.
This will be a little different, compared to how a lot of our ‘Going Deep’ segments will go, because I do not have any official news reports on the happenings. This is a detail that I make sure to poke fun of in the narrative version of the story itself. These were not reported in articles with headlines, but in the back of the newspaper.
My current events class gave us time to read and write reviews on articles, and my favorite day was when The Clinton County Leader came out. The Sheriff’s Report section was my all-time favorite. It was a small town. This guy typed how he spoke, and being rural Missouri, it wasn’t very well.
The Sheriff’s Report was a messy section with time stamps, each chronicling what mundane task the police had to deal with, as they happened. It read like the ending monologues to a Sex In The City, assuming Carrie Bradshaw was a backwoods member of the local law enforcement. The guy had a sense of humor though. Even if he thought he was wasting his time on the call, he sort of take a break from his current sentence to add in his own two cents. Mind you, a lot of the time, this was made without any change in punctuation. I will put my own version of how one of these would go below:
Tuesday 5:32 A.M. Woman calls because horse got out of fence. She said she ran out in her robe to catch it but it went straight down the road I bet that was a sight until she eventually called the station for help. The horse was caught but I don’t think the call was necessary.
But who knows, maybe my memory is still giving this guy a bit more credit than he deserves with how it read. There were many entries about helping with escaped animals. There were probably three different reports about the overnight punchings. He wouldn’t be afraid to make a little joke about it, but he never did much but respond to the house way after they happened.
There’s not a ton of extra details that I can go into on the true story of it that I didn’t already get into in my story, so I will let that part speak for itself. The main gist is that people would get a knock at the door, in the middle of the night, and as soon as their face would appear from behind the door, that person would punch them directly in the face and run. The punches came so fast that no one could ever get an ID on the person. I imagine they were masked, but I don’t believe that was ever confirmed.
It’s so interesting to me, going back to listen to these older episodes. I believe that for an independent podcast, we did pretty good at keeping our audio quality better than most. But as we went on, small tweaks were made in editing, mastering and buying new gear that it really is so much higher above the earlier episodes.
One of the first parts that really sticks out to me is the speed of my speaking cadence. I was still finding my cheesy reading voice at this time, but I was going way faster than I do now. Of course, this story was a first-hand, noir styled, account. So I hadn’t actually found my slow “Twilight Zone” voice, as I like to call it.
“In the fall of 2007, my small town was ravaged by a sadistic madman..”
The beginning of the story starts with what I consider to be the perfect horror feeling soundtrack. A droning low synth pad driven by plucked strings. How classic. Much like everything else you’ve come to expect from Seriously Sinister, this is a lot more stripped down. There’s a much more modest amount of sound effects and the music is a lot more minimalist.
I begin the story with painting a picture of fear, in an almost Dick Tracy or Maltese Falcon sort of way. The town is small, but the monsters it conceals are huge. To follow the noir tropes, I make sure to continue to paint this picture with a very cynical view.
“It seemed that the local news was too focused on sporting events or who made the honor roll to truly give this horror it’s due..”
As I explain how my current events class worked, it was my goal to try and get Amanda to react. At this point, we weren’t sure what kind of show we were going for, and I almost expected to have Amanda’s laughs in there. It wasn’t until I got the tracks in the studio that I decided against that. This is one of the only times we ever had another person read another part of the story live. All the other times we’ve done it, it was all done in post. But I wanted to let Amanda feel caught off guard by where the story was going. I texted her the lines and told her she couldn’t look until time to read.
“..opening the door to urgent knocking, a masked man punched him in the face and ran off into the night.”
This was the major turning point for our show. When I added the original music with some of the sound effects, I thought to myself “what if I had a punch sound in the background?” Playing around with my collection of Soundtrack Pro & Apple Logic samples, I strung together a dramatic knock at the door, with a punch and then a man yelling.
THIS. PART. KILLED. ME.
I couldn’t help but giggle to myself. It was so dumb and so funny. A story told with dark music and me putting on the straightest voice I could, going around the sound of a weird guy’s yowl when getting hit. It caught me off guard and I KNEW it was coming. That’s when I rethought everything and decided that we were going to go a much higher-production and campier direction. The Night Puncher’s punch was where our show was truly born.
“With the new developments of a woman being punched, it seemed no one was safe..”
The story goes on to explain that more victims came up in time, and one even being a woman. As the narrator, I explain that with women involved, children could be next. I describe a small town life of fear and anxiety, knowing that an evil entity circles the city.
The story ends wide open. No person was ever caught and we have no idea how many other victims may have gotten punched in the face and just went to bed, not thinking it was a big deal. We all fear a villain with an unknown body count, so I felt this was a good dramatic twist to add. Our story ends with the truly terrifying line..
“The Night Puncher is still at large, waiting to fist his way back into small town’s nightmares.”
After the story, Amanda does explain how she relates to the story, as she was once punched by a stranger. This, of course, was an early foreshadowing to her later birthday episode. Looking back at it, in the context of someone who has listened to a year’s worth of this show, it is cool to see the tease of a future story.
Altogether, this is the perfect first story to motivate me to do better and keep this show going. Listening now, I can hear so many mistakes and see so many things I could have done more, but it’s really cool to see where you came from. No matter where this show ends up taking us, I will always look back fondly at The Night Puncher… Even if I did edit it in a way that it sounds a little like I have a lisp.
Beware The Night Puncher
In the fall of 2007, my small town was ravaged by a sadistic madman. There were no headlines or panic. It seemed that the local news was too focused on sporting events or who made the honor role to truly give this horror its due. The only information that was given out was through the ramblings of the sheriff, in the local paper’s ‘Sheriff’s Report.’
I was a senior in high school, mainly taking blow-off classes. I had already passed all of my required credits to graduate, so my schedule was multiple art classes, drama and things that didn’t make much of a difference. I basically wanted my senior year to be as low stakes as possible, but little did I know that low stakes came at the high price of pure devastation.
My third period class was Current Events. It really felt like a class created to keep the 11th grade history teacher busy, but as a lazy senior, I didn’t mind. Every day, we would have a stack of different newspapers available, to read and write a review on an article of our choosing. Before taking my seat, I would always grab a copy of the local paper.
I loved spotting the typos in their articles, and the tiny little things that they passed off as “news.” The highlight of every day would be the Sheriff’s Report, tucked away on the second to last page. You could tell this small town man wasn’t particularly wordy, and only filled out the report as an obligation to the job. Many of his reports started off as a short-hand account of a 911 call, and ended in a very sarcastic thought about how avoidable the call really was. This was all fun and games to me, until I came across something seriously sinister.
A few months into my senior year, I was going through my local paper reading routine, when I saw it… ‘Wednesday 1:15 AM: Local man calls in. After opening the door to urgent knocking, a masked man punched him in the face and ran off into the night.’ l was stunned. THIS was news. This should have been on the front page, not Dolores’ pig winning a bronze medal at the state fair. Could this be the beginning of a serial punching or perhaps someone getting revenge on someone else, when they are too tired to fight back? I eventually calmed my nerves and got back to the struggles of being a teenager.
The next week, the highly anticipated local newspaper came out. I quickly ripped open the paper and turned to the third page. Earlier in the week, another call had come in. This time a woman had answered the door and got an eye full of mystery fist. The call description ended with a funny little line from the sheriff, “it seems the night puncher strikes again.” That’s when I knew it was time to sound the alarm.
As a teenager who loved to stay up late, playing video games and drinking soda pop, I was an easy target for a psychopath looking for a house with someone home. Any random knock or creak I would hear in the middle of the night would set me off. “Could this be it? Will he finally make his way to me?” With the new developments of a woman getting punched, it seemed that no one was safe. Could children be next? I spoke to local parents. Many had placed bedtimes on their younger children, and would not let them stay up past midnight. The Punching Hour. It was clear to me that this town was scared, but the incidents never ventured from the Sheriff’s Report.
Was this an attempt to keep the city from reaching a wider state of panic, or was the local newspaper simply trying to cover something up? Could the Sheriff’s Report have just been a twisted confessional for a man who can’t keep his fists to himself? And if so, why would he give himself a nickname? That never seems to work.
Every smiling face I past in this small town, I began to see as the face of a future victim. Belonging to a future of chaos, where we all must live in fear; Fear of what happens when the Night Puncher comes knocking.
In the fall of 2007, The Night Puncher laid fist to 4 reported victims. To this day, we have no way of knowing how many unreported people may have been punched in the face, and went back to bed, thinking it wasn’t a big deal. All we know is that The Night Puncher is still at large, waiting to fist his way back into a small town’s nightmares.
To hear the full story, with sound effects, check out Episode 1 of Seriously Sinister: The Mellified Man Always Knocks Twice.