Foreword from J.P. McNair
I’ve tried to tell this story the best I could. There are few people left alive to tell it and those that are don’t want to put their names to paper, nor do they want to put their mind back where it once was. The story of The Fredrick Street Five, The Wells Foundation and the events that took place both close to home on a small Scottish and simultaneously far away are mostly unknown. Until now. What follows, is the truth, or as much of the truth as I could muster. Usually, when writing a story based on a real event involving real people, it’s a lot easier. Survivors will talk to you. Information is, if not easy to find, at least it’s there to find. Not this. For a story of this horror, tragedy and sheer human cruelty I would have hoped I wouldn’t have to imagine it so much. I would have hoped I wouldn’t have had to write so much. But the information was scant, those left alive even fewer. But I’ve done my best with the few interviews I managed to undertake, the slim writings on The Wells Foundation, newspaper clippings, extracts from essays and articles. But of course, much of the story appears as written like a book of fiction. I hope this doesn’t detract from the truth too much. I had to fill in the blanks with the information I had. Events may not have played out exactly as this, but it will be as close as we will ever get to the truth of this quiet horror. And I hope you find the truth in here as I did.
J.P. McNair, Journalist and Author of The Fredrick Street Experiments
Transcript of Interview with Sarah Barr. August 25, 2015. Conducted by J.P. McNair.
I had approached Ms Barr several times for an interview to discuss what she remembers of Fredrick Street. Several times she rejected. The other survivor has all but fallen off the face of the earth. Without an interview with Ms Barr, the project is dead. Without her, I have nothing substantial and this may as well be a work of fiction – and will probably be seen as such.
I was persistent though and finally, she agreed to meet with me and tell not only her story, but the story of the others, as much as she could. None of the court records after the incident are public record. The record details everything from the Fredrick Street Five, Dr Tom and Isabel Archer, Ray Samson, Harold Wells & The Wells Foundation. If I want to piece together the events, and what happened, Sarah Barr is my only hope. I approachedthe interview with great caution. She lives alone, in a bungalow in a quiet and sleepy Scottish town, with views out onto the river that runs between here and Glasgow.
When I visit for the interview, one look at her tells me she’s been through a lot; it looks like she’s lived life twice over. Her hair is slightly frayed and her is skin taught, yellowing ever so slightly through years of misuse. Whether it be self-inflicted or as a result of what happened, I don’t know. Not yet, at least. She offers me a cup of tea. The china jingles on the saucer as she brings it to me shakily. When she sits down, she tries hard to smile.
Are you nervous?
She nodded. “A little.”
Don’t be. I won’t push you to tell me anything you don’t want to.
Can I start by asking why you finally agreed to meet me?
She thought for a minute before answering. “I guess, I hope, when I tell you the story of what happened, then it might help me to forget.”
How much do you remember?
The question seems to elicit a shiver. “Of what happened to me? Everything. The rest, I know from what I read in the media coverage, after, and from what I heard during the trial. Will that be enough?”
Yes, of course.
Then she caught me off guard by asking a question herself.
“Why do you want to tell this story?”
I had to approach this answer carefully. It was a question I was often asked by the people I interviewed for my books, particularly as I wasn’t a journalist, and the way I tell my stories are framed as fiction. Most of the time, my subjects are just happy to get their story out there, but on the rare occasion, they’re concerned that people won’t believe it because it’s listed as being Based On A True Story.
When I was initially forwarded the story of Fredrick Street and The Wells Foundation, I was sceptical myself.After I read more about what had happened though, the inherent tragedy and trauma apparent within the events that transpired, I wasgripped and appalled. I felt the story deserved to be told and to be told to as many people as possible. Not everyone is interested in the truth, unless it’s dressed up in fiction. And what happened to you and to everyone else, deserves to be told.
She didn’t say much after that. She simply nodded.
I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much and was concerned that perhaps the fictional manner in which I write my stories may make her uncomfortable. I have spent years pursuing this particular story and didn’t want to let the opportunity I now had slip away.
If it makes you feel better, I plan to include within the book excerpts of our conversations, something I have not done before,to cement the fact that what people are about to read is a true story. Would that be OK?
She nodded again and seemed happy with the offer.
We sat for a few moments, drinking tea and looking out onto the view. I observed Sarah closely, trying to form my first question carefully. It was she, though, who broke the silence first, fixing me with a steely gaze.
“Where do you want me to start?”
From the beginning.
I took out my pen, and started writing.
The Strangeness Of Fredrick Street
For the residents of Fredrick Street, life was just perfect and just perfect was just so. Everyday, they woke how they wished and worked where they had always dreamed of working. Everyday, they lay with whom they loved and slept like a baby in the womb. Everyday, they were exactly the person they had always wanted to be. Life was nirvana and nirvana was life as the hours rolled on by like tumbleweed on a dusty desert track. Everyday felt like the day before and that, to the small community of Fredrick Street, was sheer perfection. They each had the life of a snake charmer with an eternity of missed bites.
It was flawless.
So flawless, in fact, that they didn’t notice what was going on around them. They didn’t notice that the lights in some of the houses on the street hadn’t been switched on in months, some of them close to a year. They didn’t notice that each night they dreamed a similar dream and woke with no memory of what they’d seen and of where they came from. They didn’t notice real life as it passed them by, because they were living their best one.
Each day and each night however, they were watched. They were watched by a man who dreamed of nothing more than living his perfect life. This man knew more about them than each knew of them knew about themselves. This man had a job to do – one he hadn’t quite been able to bring himself to do yet. For as he watched, unseen, by the residents of Fredrick Street who were hiding secrets even they never knew they had, this man wanted nothing more or less than what the residents of the street had. He longed to be able to stay in bed a little longer and watch his partner sleep with her grumpy frown and her leg draped over his. He wanted to check on his sleeping angel of a daughter after he tucked her in goodnight with a bedtime story. He wished he could surprise his girls with a duvet day on the couch or a trip away to the place of their dreams. But that’s all they were, to him. Dreams. Wishes. For they would no longer come to pass – his life was not lived like the people he had been watching. He knew the tragedy of real life.
As he watched Sarah with her beautiful kids and athlete in training body, Kim with her movie star career and baby on the way, Kim’s husband Mark with a surgical career to rival any, Jessica with her simultaneous popularity and burgeoning academic career and Albert Molineaux with his wife of 60 years, this man wondered if these people had any idea what lay ahead of them, or indeed, behind them. When they started to remember, that’s when the problems would begin. When he started to make them look a little closer at the life around them in their sweet little cul-de-sac, that’s when everything may fall apart. It’s not that he, The Watcher, wanted them not to be happy – it was just the way it was. And the job he had come here to do.
For the residents of Fredrick Street, life was just perfect and just perfect was just so.
Unfortunately, the world had other plans.