Monday, August 15, 2016

The Adam Walsh Effect: 2016

The summer of 2016 must cause us to revisit the Adam Walsh Effect. 

Adam Walsh

Who was Adam Walsh? He was the son of John Walsh, best known for his successful series, America's Most Wanted (Fox, 1988-2012) and currently Hunted with John Walsh (CNN, 2014-Present). John Walsh was propelled into crime-fighting after the murder and beheading of Adam Walsh.

Adam John Walsh (November 14, 1974 – July 27, 1981) was a six-year-old American boy who was abducted from a Sears department store at the Hollywood Mall in Hollywood, Florida, on July 27, 1981. His severed head was found a little over two weeks later, on August 10, 1981, in a drainage canal off of the Florida Turnpike.

During the 16 days he was missing, Adam Walsh's photograph, especially one of him as a tiny baseball player, was all over the media.

It became a memorable image, haunting parents for years to come.

Indeed, many point to the Adam Walsh beheading and chilling nature of the post-traumatic stress caused in repeated viewings of the photograph of Adam as leading directly into the era of the helicopter parents.

One mother, who identifies herself as "Marianne" wrote about the "Adam Walsh Effect" in 2013, as she struggled with letting her three sons get their pictures taken with their Little League teams:
As someone who grew up in the wake of the 1981 kidnapping and murder of little Adam, the image of the sweet little boy smiling from beneath his too-big baseball hat has haunted me for 30 years. This baseball picture was widely circulated throughout the media at the time of the kidnapping, and for many mothers, it served as a reminder to hold tightly to their kids and trust nobody.
As a mother now, I have forced myself to shake off some of my Adam Walsh fears. I realized that I needed to allow my boys to use public restrooms without screaming "EVERYTHING OKAY IN THERE?" every 10 seconds. I needed to learn to let them cross the street without my all-clear. I needed to fight the urge to homeschool them whenever I read a story of a shooting or child predator.
I started relying on statistical data and odds relative to stranger abductions in this quest. For the first time ever, I have consciously suppressed my helicopter tendencies. Most days, it is physically painful, but I am determined to ease up or I know my children will end up fleeing to Alaska to escape me.
I must say, though, this thing would be a whole lot easier if our last name wasn't Walsh. Source.
[As an onomatological aside, Walsh is a common Irish surname, meaning "Briton" or "foreigner," literally "Welshman," taken to Ireland by British (Welsh, Cornish and Cumbrian) soldiers during and after the Norman invasion of Ireland.]

During the summer of 2016, the Adam Walsh Effect - down to the similar photos and decapitations - are part of the news of some days.

After I posted this blog essay, I became aware that Time Magazine just published an article, "The U.S. Is Still Dealing With the Murder of Adam Walsh" on the 35th anniversary of the discovery of Adam's head, August 10, 2016. (August 10th popped up again this year as a focus date; see below.)

The Time article noted:
“[The Adam Walsh case] created a nation of petrified kids and paranoid parents,” says Richard Moran, criminologist at Mount Holyoke College. “Kids used to be able to go out and organize a stickball game, and now all playdates and the social lives of children are arranged and controlled by the parents.”
Even despite the decline in actual abductions, Moran says, “the fear still lingers today.”

Lane Graves

You know the story of little Lane Graves and the Disney alligator(s), from a previous posting here. His picture was one of the first kids this summer you may have seen a great deal of, via the media.

Some of the Lane Graves images had a Adam Walsh reflective aura.

An alligator snatched the 2-year-old boy and dragged him under water in the Seven Seas Lagoon on the evening of June 14, 2016, between 9 and 9:15 p.m. at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa in Bay Lake, Florida. His father Matt desperately tried to rescue him, but was reportedly attacked by a second alligator and forced to flee. His mother, Melissa witnessed the attack as well and tried to save him too. Lane's four-year-old sister was standing there as well and saw the tragic event take place. The Orange County Sheriff's office and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission conducted a search and recovery effort to locate the boy's body, which was recovered on June 15, 2016, at approximately 1:45 p.m.

His body, which was intact, was found about 10-15 yards away from the location of the attack. It is believed that he was drowned by the alligator, which was 4-7 feet long. It took authorities about 17 hours to find and recover the body.

Some of the media montages were ill-conceived and in bad taste.

Brodie Copeland

On Bastille Day, July 14, 2016, a truck rammed through a crowd in Nice, France. The first two Americans identified as having died in that attack were a father and son from Lakeway, Texas.

Sean Copeland, 51, and his 11-year-old son Brodie were among the more than 80 people killed when the truck zig-zagged through a screaming crowd for more than a mile along the Promenade des Anglais.

The first picture shown of Brodie was of him in his Little League outfit. 

Caleb Schwab

Then the boy with a bat returned in a big way when on August 7, 2016, Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old son of Kansas state representative Scott Schwab, died riding when he was thrown from the Verrückt. Schwab was decapitated. He was one of three passengers on a raft with two women, one of whom suffered a broken jaw, and the other a broken bone in her face requiring stitches in her eye. The park was closed for two days following the incident, pending inspection results that took place during the time. The park reopened on August 10 but the ride itself has been shut down indefinitely (at least for the rest of the season), pending further investigation. (Graphic details of Caleb's death were carried by some media.)

The Schwab family lives in Olathe, Kansas. 

Olathe was one of the towns attacked by William "Bloody Bill" Anderson's and William Quantrill's raids in "Bleeding Kansas." Anderson "is known to have personally executed several people during William Quantrill’s raid on Lawrence, Kansas, and his unit’s savage tactics reportedly included cutting off enemies’ ears, decapitation and scalping." Source.

The first published photograph of Caleb Schwab showed him in his Little League outfit, baseball bat in the resting position, a la' Adam Walsh.

In an unfortunate photo montage, a news picture shows Caleb Schwab's headshot floating above the waterslide ride that resulted in decapitating him. Unconsciously, other media outlets did the same thing.

Caleb Schwab was the son of a state representative in Kansas. He was decapitated on a water slide. The name of the slide caught Andrew B's attention: "The Guinness World Records has certified the ride called Verruckt — or German for 'insane' — as the tallest in the world." Source.

Declan McClain

Declan McClain, 3, of Jeanette, Pennsylvania, fell from a 78-year-old wooden roller coaster at Idlewild Park and SoakZone at about 1:00 PM, on Thursday afternoon, August 11, 2016.

The McClain incident was the fourth amusement park accident in five days when a boy apparently fell out of roller coaster in Pennsylvania.
In the other recent accidents around the country, one child has been killed, another suffered a brain injury and at least two others were hospitalized.
Idlewild and SoakZone spokesman Jeff Croushore provided few details regarding the accident, but he said it happened on the Rollo Coaster, an old-style wooden ride, about midway to the finish, CNN-affiliate WTAE reported.

Recent Incidents:

Recent accidents of amusement park rides have been summarized by CNN (with dates added by me to clarify the chronology):

The Pennsylvania amusement ride accident comes after several others across the nation.
A 10-year-old boy died on a water slide at the Schlitterbahn Water Park in Kansas City, Kansas, on Sunday, August 7, 2016.
Two riders were injured when a launch cable detached at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, that same day, August 7, 2016.
Three children fell from a Ferris wheel at a Tennessee county fair on Monday, August 8, 2016, critically injuring two of them.
On Thursday, a 6-year-old girl remained in critical condition with a brain injury and a 16-year-old girl had been upgraded to stable condition.

Other Incidents:

A soldier who lost both legs serving in Iraq fell to his death from a roller coaster in upstate New York in 2011. Sgt. James Hackemer, 29, was riding the Ride of Steel roller coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort when he plummeted about 200 feet to the ground. Hackemer's remains were laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. 

A teen was decapitated by the Batman roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia in 2008. He was struck by a train after he scaled two fences around the ride to retrieve his lost hat. 

Kaitlyn Lasitter lost both feet when a free-fall thrill ride malfunctioned at the Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom Amusement Park in Louisville in 2007. A cord wrapped around the then-13-year-old's feet and severed them at the ankles on the Superman Tower of Power. 

A group of high-schoolers' pre-graduation outing turned into a nightmare when a water slide collapsed at Waterworld California in 1997. The accident injured at least 30 people and killed a teenage girl. The girl's family settled a lawsuit against Waterworld USA and its parent company Premier Parks Inc. for $1.7 million three years later, according to the Los Angeles Times
James A. Young II, a 45-year-old special-education teacher, lost his cell phone and wallet when riding a roller coaster at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, in 2015. When Young jumped over a fence into the restricted area under the roller coaster to look for his belongings, he was hit and killed by a coaster train. 

In 2013, Rosy Esparza was thrown out of her seat on the Texas Giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Texas and died from multiple injuries. Her family filed a civil wrongful-death lawsuit accusing Six Flags of negligence. The ride was closed for nearly two months and reopened in September 2013 with improved safety measures.

The Adam Walsh Effect: 2016 Edition

In a year that is rapidly becoming filled with terrorist attacks, mass shootings, and violent incidents, it remains to be seen what impact this new wave of publishing young boys' photographs who died tragically will have. The public's attention is being overwhelmed with dreadful news, and the overall ripple repercussions of the Adam Walsh Effect revisited are unknown.


Tom Mellett said...


I've actually been “pausing and pondering” over TL ever since you urged us all to do so a few weeks back:
and as I was pondering over the Fortean/TL death circumstances of Justice Antonin Scalia, I came across this quote by Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas (1898-1980) which really validates the pursuit of “Twilight Language.”

As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air — however slight — lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.

Tom Mellett said...


I was struck by the German names in Kansas City:
Schlitterbahn (lit. “slide-way”),
verrückt = crazy, insane,
and Caleb's last name of Schwab.

In German ein Schwabe is “a Swabian,” someone from the old Duchy of Swabia, which today is restricted to the Southernmost section of Germany just West of Bavaria. Albert Einstein, being born in Neu Ulm, could be considered a Swabian.

You mentioned the unfortunate media photo montage showing Caleb's headshot hovering above the slide. I find a similar bit of an unfortunate linguistic “pun” as it were with this photo.

If you scroll down past the sepia-colored video and photo of the early tests to the color photo showing the green raft hovering or hanging in the air over the track, and then below that the “head shot” photo of Caleb with the bat, then the unfortunate linguistic “pun” I find is that the German verb meaning “to hover, hang in the air, levitate” is schweben, just a single vowel shift from the name Schwab.

Then you have the “head shot" photo of Caleb Schwab schwebend = “hovering, floating, hanging, levitating” over the track.

Tom Mellett said...

Your mention of “helicopter parents” reinforces my focus on the close homophonic nature of Caleb's last name Schwab and the German root schweb- of the verb meaning to “hover, float, levitate, hang, waft, impend.”

(German W is pronounced as English V so we have: SHVOB and SHVAYB.)

If I were to translate your sentence into German
“The headshot of Caleb Schwab floats over the slide.”
I get
Die Kopfaufnahme von Caleb Schwab schwebt über die Schlitterbahn

And then, by definition:
“Helicopter parents hover over their children”
Helikopter-Eltern schweben über ihre Kinder

Syncra said...

Thanks Loren. Not any easy topic.

My heart goes out to all those parents and family members who lost children.

It's a blurry line between sensationalism and sensibly informing the public.

The intensity of an emotional story about the death of a child can be used by the MSM to divert attention from the more complex stories of the day.

I agree these stories can create a herd panic followed by vast lifestyle and cultural changes. Call me paranoid, but I just have to wonder if it is not intentional.

Tom, your word research made me think of the Charles Schwab Corporation!

little dynamo said...

Agree on Walsh incident. In retrospect, the slaying and resultant hysteria, including television dramatics by grieving dad, greatly contributed to the physical, spiritual, and psycho-social shutdown of America. Very profitable and useful for certain interests. Instead of fields and streets full of playing kids, there's endless Homeland Security, paranoia, and helicopter parenting of Special Snowflakes.

I think it likely the Walsh murder was a psy-op. The decapitation -- also suspicious. That conjures up a very potent and lasting image in the collective Dreaming Mind. Also spot-on concerning the baseball and uniform imagery being repeated -- good catch lol. The LL World Series concluded yesterday. Won by a team from Endwell, NY. Yep.