dramatizes the misunderstanding and mythmaking that surrounded him all his life. EQMM âs attempt to obtain that photograph to publish with these materials was thwarted by Butch White, who oversees the communityâs grange hall. White âaccidentallyâ dropped it into a lighted potbelly stove moments after our reporterâwho had discovered it tacked under a wad of announcements on the hallâs bulletin boardâasked White who it was. The snapshot mustâve been put up as a joke so long ago that people had stopped seeing it. Our reporter protested, but White told her:
âYou better clear out of here if you know whatâs good for that pretty neck of yours.â
Why would the people of Marshville want to suppress information about a man who had no contact with (or interest in) them? From the cold shoulders and slammed doors and outright threats aimed at her, our reporter suspected that people in this solemn, oak-locked town were afraid of drawing attention to themselvesâof disrupting their simple way of life. But as she found out more about Masterson, she thought it more likely that the townspeople were behaving peculiarly out of an irrational terror they felt toward the secret experiments that had been conducted in the sagging house on Cobalt Hill (a name that may come from its steely hue at dusk). They seemed to think that if the reporter stirred up the strange dust of Mastersonâs work, it might contaminate them all.
One person who seemed anxious to speak out cast a more specific focus on the nature of the townâs fear. The pastor of the First Presbyterian (and only) Church, Rev. Leopold Ossip, suggested that being mentally ahead and physically less appealing than the âlocal folksâ made it impossible for Grist to make friends or even casual connections. Ossip decided this had led Masterson to seek out and establish an unholy alliance with âdark supernatural forces.â Here is his statement, slightly edited, as taped by our reporter:
âFacts all point in that direction. Grist came into town less and less, barricading himself in the broken-down house left by his folksâJosiah and Elsie died more or less simultaneously some years back, you know. (By the way, no oneâs been able to figure out how it happened. And I would not entirely discount the talk that Gristâs ma and pa perished in one of his mad experiments.) Living off his folksâ savings, and on vegetables he grew in vats in the house, under heat lamps, using kerosene for heat and power (heâd welded himself a huge tank and has it filled once a year, you know), Grist was more or less self-sufficient. Near as anyone in the congregation can figure, he never did anything but read, perform experiments in that fiendish cellar, and tend his indoor garden. (They say he grew tomatoes the size of cantaloupes!) God knows he didnât come to church! Queer thing is, you know, people passing near his place some nights could hear him reciting the Bible loud and clear, like he was committing it to memory. That gave me hope that there was an ounce of religion left in him, so one afternoon I walked up Cobalt Hill, stepped onto the Masterson porch bold as you please, and knockedâhard. But he wouldnât open the door. When it comes to saving souls I can be pretty stubborn, though, so I stood there and called out in the name of the Lord: âNow, Grist,â I said, âyou know darn well that business youâre engaged in is contrary to a moral life, contrary to the laws of God.â And you know what he said to me? With his door still locked, mind you, he said in that scratchy hiss of his: âThe secret of all that was, all that is, and all that will be lies in my experiments.â I never tried to save him again, you know, for heâd convinced me Iâd been right all along: He was in cahoots with the devil!â
When Rev. Ossip had said all he was going to say, our