THE BUTT-FACED BOY

submitted by Murphy Giberson

MUSCATINE: The University of Emmetsburg Center for Human Cognitive Research this month released the results of a forensic analysis performed on the preserved head of Ollie Svenson from the town of Myrtle, in Muscatine County. The analysis was part of a survey of anatomical anomalies collected by the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health's Human Genome Project.

However, when this information was compared to the disturbing details of Ollie Svenson's life and how he passed on, an all together eerie, unnatural conclusion suggests that Ollie Svenson not only eluded death once, but may yet again.

Ollie Svenson was born in 1910 to Mr. and Mrs. Aaron Magnus Svenson, operators of a sawmill on the banks of the Cedar River in Muscatine County, IA. A singular defect in the formation of his skull caused a cleft running from the midst of his face to the back of his head. His skull swelled greatly on either side of the cleft to the point that his cranium occupied a space nearly 3 times that of normal. This deformity forced his eyes closely together and pushed in his nose, distorting his face. Because of his skull's weight, he was unable to raise his head until he was over two years old nor able to walk unaided until four and a half. Despite his physical challenge, his intellect developed quickly, displaying an uncanny knack for mathematics and spatial relationships-and unconfirmed feats of telekinesis.

Frontal X-ray EU/OS.018 University of Emmetsburg, 1995.

Frontal X-ray EU95/OS.018
courtesy,
University of Emmetsburg.


Undeterred by his appearance, his parents enrolled him in Myrtle Public Schools. At the age of five, this small, bright boy set off on his first day of kindergarten, only to face vicious taunts and slurs. "The Butt-Faced Boy" became the one that stuck...

Memories are sketchy about precise dates, but certain incidents remain vivid to his surviving class mates. Mr. David Dunkleiter recalls

"We made fun of Ollie's face everyday. We'd say we could ne'er tell if he was comin' or goin'-or that he'd made an ass of his-self, again. He tried to laugh it off once in awhile, and he'd hold things, like apples, between the lobes on his forehead. Hell, once he balanced three or four books on their corners one on top 'tother on his forehead. One winter, we were 13 then, and Jack Davidson chucked an iceball at Ollie's head. He threw it pretty hard, too. Laid Ollie out cold. Never the same after. He kept away from all us kids. An' started talking to his-self. Weird little bugger."

Mrs. Betsy Long remembered the Svenson boy

"One day, Jack Davidson knocked Ollie's book bag to the ground. It was windy and all of Ollie's papers and books were blowing around. I stopped to help him. Jack was such a bully, and Ollie---he used a cane to walk, then-he looked so pathetic chasing down all his precious things. As I helped gather his stuff, most of his papers seemed to actually float back into his book bag-but it was a very windy day. Then, I noticed he had an anatomy book full of horrid dissection pictures. Ollie was a strange kid, so I didn't think anything of it at the time. But when they found Jack's body that summer all cut up in that gunny sack, I knew."

But no evidence was ever discovered to tie Ollie Svenson to the murder of Jack Davidson. That fall, The Butt-Faced Boy began the ninth grade. The tiny town would enjoy its tranquility for 3 more years.

On October 19, 1927, Lester Saarhausen, 17, star football quarterback for Myrtle Highschool, stole Ollie Svenson's clothes from a gym locker and hurled them into the school's heating furnace. The Svenson boy had naught left but a towel. One half hour later, Saarhausen stood up in the midst of his American History Class to announce his sexual predilection for sheep. Then he screamed and fell to the floor. In five minutes, Saarhausen lay in a puddle of his own blood, dead. An autopsy revealed that Saarhausen's brain had suffered a series of massive trauma and subdural hematoma---injuries common to being bludgeoned to death. Yet no corresponding injuries were found on his skull.

November 27 dawned brightly over the body of Mitzy Forbush as it swirled lifeless in an eddy beneath the Burlington, St. Paul and Northern Railroad bridge, just 1 mile downstream from the Svenson sawmill. Her parents were told that she fell from the bridge and drowned. However, the official pathology report maintains that her body's musculature bore signs of rigidity and necrosis common to electrocution. But the singular alarming detail was that her brain had been removed without any incision or opening made in her skull. No other marks on the body were found, but a small quantity of fresh sawdust was found inside her shoe.

At 134 pm on December 1 in Myrtle Highschool, students witnessed Nicholas Slavitsky, 16, Wendell Jenkins, 15, Turner Hamilton, 17, and Nathan Farnesworth, 16, corner Ollie Svenson at the top of a stairwell. Suddenly, all 4 boys doubled up and flew down one full flight of stairs. They lay writhing on the landing, struggling to breathe, and turning blue. Students in the stairwell witnessed Ollie laughing derisively down at his tormentors, shouting that they looked like fish out of water. In minutes, the four suffocated. Autopsies revealed each boy's brain stem had mysteriously vanished.

Svenson was questioned and for a time confined to the county psychiatric home for observation, but shortly released. Two other deaths occurred at the home during his stay; a drowning and an cardiac arrest. Yet, neither featured the incredible disappearance of organs.

In 1935, Svenson appears to have died. He was admitted to Muscatine County General Hospital suffering acute coronary artery disease. On May 12, he was placed in a room with Tom D. Hutchins, a handsome Mississippi riverboat pilot known for his amorous exploits. Hutchins was unconscious from a tumor engulfing the putamen region of his brain. Neither man was expected to live out the night.

The next morning, Svenson was pronounced dead in his hospital bed. Tom Hutchinson, meanwhile, was awake and joking with hospital staff, complaining only of a slight headache. Against medical advice, he discharged himself the next day and vanished without further trace.

State pathologists gained permission to autopsy his body, theorizing at the time that his brain may have grown to 3 times that of normal. Due to the nature of the consent form filed and the lack of any recorded protest, it is not known if Svenson's parents knew their son's head was severed from his body, placed in a large formaldehyde filled jar, and kept for future study.

Ollie Svenson's remains were buried near the family sawmill along the Cedar River, possibly on the small rise adjacent the family home. The property has since been sold, the house demolished, and the area now under cultivation. All trace of the Butt-Faced Boy's grave seems lost.

Last year, in 1995, a medical researcher from the University of Emmetsburg Center for Human Cognitive Research examined Svenson's brain. When the researcher opened vault of Svenson's deformed skull, he found a normal-sized brain. But during the pathology assessment, he made an alarming discovery a fatal tumor in the putamen region.

This discovery, coupled with what is known of Svenson's life and of what is intimated about his abilities leads one to cringe with horror, "Will Svenson be seeking a new body, soon?"





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