On the 8th of September, 2015, 32 year old Henry McCabe went missing after spending the night drinking with two friends. His body was found in a nearby lake, and it was determined that he had drowned, probably as a result of being inebriated.
However, the police noted some odd inconsistencies in the the testimony of his friend William Kennedy, who claimed to have dropped McCabe off at a gas station and who was the last person to see him alive. The discrepancies weren't serious enough to get Kennedy arrested for murder (McCabe's death is still considered an accident), but questions remain about what exactly happened that night.
Oh also, McCabe made a totally spooky phone call to his wife shortly before he died. Yeah, it's another one of those.
The call (which I can't seem to find in its entirety online) consists of McCabe screaming, moaning, and making odd gurgling sounds; the audio is choppy and distorted, and at times you can hear what sounds like growling, and other animalistic noises. Naturally, this led to speculation that McCabe had been attacked by something; if you search around for information about this topic, you'll find a lot of stuff from someone named Dave Paulides hinting at the possibility that he was killed by a bigfoot, or possibly multiple bigfeet (keep that name in mind for the next post).
This idea, along with more believable theories about McCabe being murdered by Kennedy or someone else, face the signficant problem that his body didn't have any defensive wounds or other signs of trauma that you'd expect after a life or death struggle. But at the same time, something clearly happened to the guy, and we've got audio of him screaming in terror right before he died.
I don't have any theories about what that might have been (although I will say that the sounds on the call seem in line with a disoriented and drunk person who's just fallen into cold water and can't get out), but I wanted to use this case as a lead-in to a wider subject. I think some of the interest in McCabe's death stems not just from the mysterious call but an unwillingness to believe the mundane explanation. The lake McCabe was found in was miles away from any place he would have gone to that late at night and not easily accessible, so how did he end up in the water?
Those questions are often asked about unexplained deaths in water. America in particular seems to be plagued by cases of people (usually young, college-aged men) disappearing and then turning up dead in water with no convincing explanation of how they got there, and at least two former detectives believe that not all of them are accidents. Enter: the smiley face killer theory.
The idea is that there are tons of cases of young men dying in water near conspicuously-placed smiley face graffiti, which are actually the work of a serial killer or killers. Before we get any further, I should say up front that this is almost certainly not true--it's been debunked by everyone from criminal profilers to the FBI, the "evidence" seems like nothing but confirmation bias (drownings and smiley face graffiti are very common; it's only natural that they'd overlap from time to time) and the sheer breadth and number of supposed victims would require a vast network of killers who somehow manage to pull off their murders without leaving a trace of evidence.
But the existence of the theory, and its widespread popularity, speaks to something in the human psyche, a need to draw connections between isolated data points and an unwillingness to believe in random coincidence. In the drowning cases factored into the smiley face killer theory, there's a conspicuous gap in time between the person last being seen at a party or a bar, and their body being discovered in water. When the human mind is presented with white space like this, it immediately tries to fill it in, and thus we get a conspiracy theory.