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Y'all wanna hear the story about the time my stepbrother and I accidentally ended up in a serial killer's lair, and helped the police track him down? We were only 11 years old. This is a wild one...
So, my aunt and uncle lived in this little town called Vidalia, Georgia. If you known the onion, you known the town. Honestly, it's a really pretty part of Georgia. I highly recommend it.
They belonged to this local church, I wanna say it was something generic like "Vidalia Baptist" -- anyway, there was a family there called the Wynn family, and they had like... a zillion gazillion acres of land. They were really wealthy old money.
If you've ever been to rural Georgia, you understand this: In 1997, there wasn't a damn thing to do.

My stepbrother and I passed the time playing basketball at the local church, or catching catfish in one of the Wynn family ponds.
Now, I can't quite give you a grasp on this, but the Wynn family had like a few hundred acres, and also like 15 ponds. They were all full of catfish. Around that, it was all farmland. It'd take you 20 minutes on a four wheeler to get anywhere on their property.
One day, Ryan (that's my stepbrother) and I got bored, and decided we wanted to just... explore.

If you grew up small town, you get it. Parents don't care. Kids just go out on a four wheeler and get lost. It happens. (The 90s were wild.)
Now, my aunt ant uncle's little property was directly adjacent to the Wynn property, and the family was really nice. They were totally okay with us exploring it, fishing, etc. (This was the kind of family that did decade-long mission trips in Africa. Super nice people.)
So, one afternoon, my stepbrother and I decided to get out, and just... explore it.

We drove about 15 minutes on our four wheeler, and we came to a clearing. At the edge of the clearing was this HUGE old barn. I mean, this thing was a big one.
I don't know if you have ever seen a really old barn, but they start looking gray and dry after a while. This one had that gray, old, falling apart kind of look -- but it had this majesty about it.

It was big. This was a barn that mattered.
So, we parked the four wheeler, and we go to open it. But the old wheels that the doors were supposed to slide on were useless. Rust had completely taken them for time eternal.

That's when grit came in. We pulled. Inch by inch.

Until about a foot opened.
This foot wide sliver of light peeked through this old barn, and you could see all this antique machinery. It looked like one day in 1930, everyone had just... disappeared.

I'm not an expert on farm equipment, but there was a tractor and a few larger combine-style machines.
You know, we were just kids, so we started exploring around. Old farm equipment is kind of cool, you know?

Anyway, I was on the seat of the tractor, and my stepbrother says, "Shane, what's that?" He points to a ladder in the far corner.

(It's clearly a ladder.)
Logically, in my 11 year old head, I see this ladder in a barn that is falling apart, probably 100 years old, so I'm thinking, "I better climb this dangerous ass 25 foot ladder above a bunch of rusty farm equipment."

(How am I alive?)
My stepbrother and I do rock paper scissors to see who goes first. It was Ryan. So he starts climbing. I tell him I'll stay below to catch him if he falls.

This is easily a 20 foot ladder to the loft. I'm gonna catch him?
About halfway up, I hear this loud crack, and a rung comes flying down. Ryan catches himself.

We ain't dead. Whew.

When he gets to the top, there's a little door to the loft, and it's stuck as hell. It won't budge. So I look around this barn for a lever.
Finally, I find a piece of flat steel. I'm not sure if it was a slingblade or a lawnmower blade. Anyway, I carry it up to Ryan, and he uses it as a crow bar to pop open the loft.

I mean, it was a loud ass *CRACK* and it opened.
So, it's dark up in the loft. There is a little bit of light coming in the slats, but not a ton. It smells...

... well, awful. There were bales of hay in the loft, but I think they were like, decades old. It was this sick, blackish-gray looking hay.

They were rotting.
Around the side of the loft was one little break. It was maybe a foot wide, and it was... What's the word? A gangplank? Just like this tiny piece of wood build as a ledge. It wouldn't pass OSHA today, that's for sure.

So we decide to walk around this gangplank. (WHY?!)
After we get around the side of this gangplank, there's a clearing in the hay. It's like this little room.

But, it is almost pitch black. Yes, it's daylight outside, but this barn barely let any light in.

I'm in a room. That's all I know. I wait for my eyes to adjust.
Ryan gets the idea to just kick out a wood slat. I didn't want to do any damage to the barn (it belonged to the Wynn's), but honestly, I didn't think they would notice. Also, the barn was like 100 years old.

So we got to kicking.
Probably 2-4 kicks each, and this barn slat was gone. Once again, a sliver of light illuminated the barn loft.

... and that's when it got REALLY fucking weird.

I saw a doll hanging from the ceiling. By a little noose.
Down on the ground, was like, baseball line chalk. The kind of thick white chalk you see on the clay. It was in a perfect circle.

Around the circle were these little trinkets.
There was a little lock of curly hair, tied by a string.

There were some GI Joe toys.

A few dolls.

There was a baseball glove, covered in what looked like dry blood.
Then, the chalk line led to more baby dolls. Each one was pinned into the Wal by kitchen steak knives.

It was a little map of horror, and that was when Ryan and I shared the look of... "Let's get the fuck outta here."
There was a loft door. Ryan and I pounded open that motherfucker like...It took us two seconds. No shit.

Light floods in, and man, it's a 25 foot drop from the loft to the ground. We both jumped. Who cares, right? Get the fuck outta there.
We got about a quarter mile up the dirt road when we saw this blue truck coming towards us. I recognized it was my uncle's brother, Ellis. (He had this amazing F-250 from the 70s in baby blue; one of those guys who doesn't buy something new until the old one can't be repaired.)
So Ellis gets us in the truck and he says, "What the hell are you boys doing out? There's a serial killer on the loose!"

Ryan and I looked at each other like, "WHAT?!"

So then we wordvomit to Ellis what we just saw. He slams on his brakes.

"What now?"
We tell Ellis about the barn, and he (reluctantly) decides to go back and see it with us. He was *not* happy about climbing the ladder, or sneaking along the gangplank.

But then we showed him the lair.

"Holy shit." He just looked stunned.
In like two seconds, he's like, "We gotta go."

He rushes us back to the truck, and we haul ass back to my aunt's house. When we get back, he's like, "Call the police. CALL THE POLICE!"

Police show up and Ellis, me and Ryan are trying to tell the police about the barn.
Finally, the cops get the picture.

See, while Ryan and I were out, the cops had come by my aunt's house, because this dude had just murdered a family, and perhaps taken a few of the kids alive.

In small town Georgia, when that happens, you notify everyone.
The cops took off down the dirt road towards the barn, with the children's toys and the serial killer lair.

That's where they found Jerry Heidler.

They call him the Santa Claus Killer, but not because of the toys. Because the town next to Vidalia is called Santa Claus.
Jerry Heidler had killed like half this family, but then he kidnapped the girls and he was going to take them back to his weirdo serial killer lair.

He kept their dolls, their hair, their games, and little odds and ends. He put them in this fucked up barn lair.
It just so happens, my stepbrother and I found his memento room, in a barn in rural Georgia, and ended up telling the police where to find it.

He was with the three girls he kidnapped, on the way to the barn, when the cops stopped him.
... anyway, that's the story of the time my stepbrother and I accidentally found a serial killer's memento room, and reported it to the police, and helped find a serial killer.
... And I know I don't have all the facts right about where he was found and all that.

Wanna know why? Because I was 11 years old, and I didn't bother Googling it to fact check it, except for the spelling of his name.

And yeah, he probably gets caught WITHOUT us. Duh.
But it's still wild as fuck finding the dude's memento room on the same day he caught got.

I dunno. Go look up the police reports for "kids find his weird serial killer shit in a barn" -- that was me and my bro, and I remember it being scary as fuck.

Y'all hate stories, huh?
I mean, I reckon (in retrospect) we *probably* didn't have much to do with him getting caught. I just remembered a bunch of police tearing ass down the dirt road, and then seeing on the news later he got caught.

But like, adults in the room were saying otherwise.
Ellis and his wife were like, "I bet he kidnapped those girls to take him to the barn!"

I mean, shit man, at 11, that sounded logical. (Given the circumstances.)

I thought the police caught him on the dirt road on the way to the barn until just now, when I Google'd it.
In real life, the guy was... well, still relatively close. He let the girls go, and a whole hostage thing or whatever at his mom's house.

I never actually bothered Googling the real story until my buddy Ben texted me and said my story had plot holes.
I guess it's just a question of whether you want a good story from how I imagined it at 11, or the facts with the benefit of Google... 21 years later.

It's about how you view the world I guess. I'd rather just remember things as they were.
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