One of the strangest things I’ve discovered while investigating the Gingerbread Man serial killings is that there are so many individuals who appear to have zero recollection of them, including myself. In fact, I would dare say that there are sufficiently few people, compared to the former, who actually remember the events that transpired with any sort of clarity. This alone should make the task of researching the events for this paper quite difficult; long days and longer nights were spent reaching out, advertising, contacting such individuals, and composing no less than twenty manila folders full of notes before I could sit down to write this. The task was made even more difficult by the fact that, even though these individuals remember the serial killings, even fewer of them remember with crystal clear clarity. The rest, for strange reasons that I hope to unveil through this paper, possess a certain amount of difficulty in reminiscing to the time that these events occurred.
Even stranger is the fact that so few people remember these events despite the fact that the entire ordeal–at least, according to those I interviewed–gained a sufficient amount of media attention. Over the course of five months in 2014, every major news outlet in the United States (and, in the last month, the entire world) reported consistently on the latest updates regarding the investigation, an investigation that drove local law enforcement to utter exhaustion and cost the Federal Bureau of Investigation countless dollars and hours of tireless work. Every news channel, every newspaper, every tabloid across the nation spent its time delving into the mind of the notorious Gingerbread Man, who gained his name due to circumstances surrounding his methods (methods which shall be discussed in greater detail later). For five months, the nation watched with a certain level of fear as the next great manhunt of our time took place.
Even more significant than the supposed media coverage is the daring tactic used by the Gingerbread Man with his final victim. Deciding that the time was right to remove the veil over his actions, the Gingerbread Man opted to live stream the events transpiring for his last victim across the Internet, allowing the entire world the chance to act as a witness to what was about to occur. For two weeks, the world kept a hopeful eye on the news and a woeful eye on the victim, switching back and forth between a feeling of certainty that the F.B.I. would catch their man and a feeling of dread as the victim’s time surely came closer and closer. The anxiety that was felt by the human race was grand and unanimous.
Yet now, in the year 2015, you cannot find one scrap of evidence, not one newspaper clipping or recorded interview, to prove that the events ever actually occurred. Indeed, I’ve searched and searched as much as time has allowed me. Even the individuals who believe wholeheartedly that the Gingerbread Man actually existed have been unable to find or provide even one piece of physical evidence to prove their statements to be fact. The story of the Gingerbread Man has, as a result, deteriorated from an interesting phenomenon to nothing more than an urban legend passed around the Internet.
The story for each of the Gingerbread Man’s first four victims is more or less the same tale. An individual would go missing from their home on a Friday, and for two weeks they would never be seen again. The police and the F.B.I. would work tirelessly to track them down, hoping to save them and catch the Gingerbread Man in one excellent motion. Every time law enforcement would receive a new lead, however, it always turned up dead. No matter what they did, the Gingerbread Man was always one step ahead of them. Finally, at the end of two weeks, the victim’s body would be found dumped along the road somewhere, usually thousands of miles from where they went missing.
Little investigation was required into how exactly the victim died. The Gingerbread Man made sure of that. Each victim was always found with a flash drive containing two weeks’ worth of video feed. The killer had recorded his victim in a holding cell, ensuring that those chasing after him could see what he was doing to these people. The videos, for obvious reasons, were never made public. Only certain information regarding the videos was.
The victim was always held hostage for three days. On the third day, the killer would enter the cell, torture and kill his victim, and then exit the cell. The body would be kept in the cell for the next two weeks. On the last day, the killer would enter the cell and look over the body. It was through two individuals I interviewed that I discovered the Gingerbread Man would actually talk to the body, even laugh at it. Afterwards, he would remove the body, and the video would end.
There was always a debate amongst the criminal psychologists over the exact reasons for the Gingerbread Man to record his victims. Some argued that the act of recording the victims and leaving the evidence for police to discover was a sort of taunt against law enforcement. Others argued that he recorded his victims to satisfy his own twisted urges. On the day that the live stream for his last victim went online, this made the debate over his exact reasoning even more difficult to discern.
The events surrounding the Gingerbread Man’s final victim were already strange in their own right, but the killer’s apparent discarding of his previous modus operandi was what truly stumped the world. As I’ve said before, it had become widely accepted fact that the killer would hold his hostage in their cell for three days, and on the third day he would torture and kill them. This was the F.B.I.’s primary concern, not only because it was another life on the line, but because now the entire world was watching. They only had three days to track him down before it was too late. Yet, for reasons unclear, the victim was not killed on the third day, nor the fourth, nor the fifth, nor sixth, nor seventh. For two weeks, the world watched, and the victim lived.
There was one final, disturbing quality to all of this; every video had a caption. The video found with the first victim, whose name was Jacob Simmons, possessed a caption which read “Do you see?” The videos found with the second, third, and fourth victims (named Robert Duprey, Harvey Walters, and Jessica Langley, respectively) all possessed the same caption, which read “Catch me if you can.” It was this specific caption which led to the media naming the serial killer the Gingerbread Man. “You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.” Twisted, of course, but that’s the media. However, the strangest part of all this is the final victim. When the video feed went live, one of the first things the world noticed was the caption: “You won’t believe your own memories.”
It has become apparent that the Gingerbread Man loved to talk to people during the live stream of his last victim. For a few minutes each day, the stream would cut away from the victim in his cell to the Gingerbread Man sitting at a desk. His dirty sweater, grey and red, almost seemed to blend in with the rusted steel wall seen behind him. His voice, despite the fact that he was clearly a chain smoker, was as smooth as silk. He had a voice that could tame the devil, and he knew it.
I’ll point out the obvious fact. The Gingerbread Man made no attempt to hide his face or distort his voice. The F.B.I. worked day and night to identify him by any means necessary, a task which–given the circumstances–should have been fairly simple. In fact, finding the location of such an individual should have been simple since the entire nation was watching. Yet, strangely enough, the killer was never identified. No record of his existence was available. The Gingerbread Man was, just as he still is now, a complete mystery.
As I interviewed more and more people about the tale of the notorious serial killer, a pattern quickly emerged that I couldn’t help but notice. Despite having trouble remembering certain facts, every individual displayed the ability to remember the words of the Gingerbread Man himself without any hint of difficulty. Many of them have compared this to remembering conversations held with important people earlier in their lives, in which every small detail could be recalled. Some even suggested that the Gingerbread Man seemed to remind them of people they knew many years beforehand, which may have been the cause for them to remember his words so well.
“The beginning of a story,” the Gingerbread Man once said, “is so important to the structure of the plot. It’s the headline of your news article. It’s the icebreaker to an awkward silence. The beginning of a story has to capture your audience and lure them in. Otherwise, why should they care to read the rest? Treat every story like a dangerous trap for your reader. The beginning should ensnare them. It should set them up for the final blow.”
The above quote is something of a rarity, it seems. Every individual I talked to stated that it was such an uncommon topic for the killer. His most common topic was not of philosophy or plot structure or things of that sort. Instead, his most common topics involved jamais vu, deja vu, time travel, paradoxes, and any number of related topics. For reasons the world didn’t seem to understand, the Gingerbread Man appeared to be rather obsessed with the theoretical concepts of time travel.
“People seem to be in such a fuss over what I do,” he said. “Why though? The physicists and mathematicians have already calculated the number of possible realities, covering all the possible ways our history can play out. In this reality, I’m holding this old man hostage. In another reality, I’ve already killed him. In yet another, I’ve released him. In some realities he and I never meet, and in some realities he died of other causes before I could get to him. In other realities, I’m still sitting here, talking to all of you, while holding yet another individual hostage. Why prosecute me for what I’m doing when you’re all secretly happy that I’ve got the old man and not you?”
The Gingerbread Man seemed to know exactly what his audience was thinking, and it frightened everyone. He had a way of getting under your skin, maybe because if he didn’t do it with his voice, then chances are he’d do it with his knife. Yet it surprises me that his time was not spent taunting. It instead seems as if his time was spent educating.
“Did you know,” he once said, “that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people alive today who will swear on their lives that they remember Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1970s? They swear that they recall hearing about it, seeing it on the news. If you tell them they’re wrong, they get such a confused and frustrated look in their eyes. The community of curious individuals one day realized that this was such a common phenomenon, yet it was so difficult to explain. An individual having faulty memory is one thing, but an entire group of people having the same faulty memory? It just didn’t make sense.
“Well, what if their memories weren’t faulty? What if what they remembered was true, even if it wasn’t necessarily true in this exact universe or timeline or whatever the hell this is? What if they were actually recalling memories from an alternate history altogether? See, the community realized that explanation was just as strong of a possibility as any other. Now they call it the Mandela Effect.”
For two weeks the world watched, and for two weeks the victim lived.
Now it seemed almost purposeful, as if the act of displaying the victim alive was a greater torture to the world than to actually kill the old man. We hoped and prayed for the F.B.I. to bring an end to the madness, yet each day that passed was another letdown. The Gingerbread Man was playing us like one would tease a cat with a laser pointer, and he was enjoying every minute of it. You could see it in his grin; you could hear it in his voice.
While several theories regarding his identity were passed around during the course of the events, even more wild theories were passed around after the fact. Certain paranoid individuals who spend their days obsessed with conspiracy theories have testified to the belief that the Gingerbread Man himself was some sort of time traveler. These people will swear up and down that this was how the Gingerbread Man was always able to stay one step ahead of law enforcement and remain uncaptured. They swear that this was how the Gingerbread Man managed to dump bodies at locations thousands of miles away with such ease. They even believe that this is why the Gingerbread Man was never identified. They believe that no record of his existence was discovered because the Gingerbread Man, in fact, did not yet exist.
Naturally, these theories have only been backed up by the theorists with the stories of the last day the world saw the Gingerbread Man, a tale which is, in its own right, as wild as they come. I won’t sugarcoat the fact that, at this point in my investigation, the testimonies of the individuals I interviewed all became singular in the sense that each of them told the same, wild story. I don’t quite know how much merit I am prepared to give to these stories, but in the interest of this paper and finalizing my investigation, I will share these stories nonetheless.
On the final day, at roughly 3:30 PM Eastern Standard Time, the video feed cut from the victim to the Gingerbread Man. He had a smile on his face that said he was about to do, or had already done, something bad. There was a light in his eyes like never before, a sense of excitement and joy mixed with something far more sinister. He leaned in close to the camera, a half-smoked cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth.
“Time,” he said, “doesn’t work the way people like to believe. It’s not perfect. It’s not instantaneous. The popular theory regarding time travel is that changes aren’t possible at all. The act of going back and attempting to change things in the past could, ironically, lead to the same exact fate in the future. In fact, an individual being in the past and accidentally causing the same history to unfold could be proof that the individual was always meant to appear in the past. They’re just completing the loop. This is the predestination paradox.
“Of course, the other popular theory is that you can change things in the past, and it should have a direct influence on the present. You can certainly go back and change things, but those changes won’t take effect in the present in a heartbeat. They come in waves, slowly but surely. The past has to catch up to the present, so to speak.
“Time travel itself isn’t nearly as fluid or as simple as the movies make it out to be, either. Just because you travel through time doesn’t mean you’ll end up exactly where you were in space when you departed. Why would you? The Earth rotates at a speed of about 1000 miles per hour, and it orbits the Sun at a speed of about eighteen and a half miles per hour. If you were to travel just one hour ahead in time, you’d find yourself one hour ahead and 1000 miles away from where you departed. If you traveled six months ahead in time, you’d find yourself in the vacuum of space because the Earth is not where it was six months prior. In order to effectively move through time, you must also effectively move through space.
“So on that magical day when some scientist out there decides to invent a time machine, he’d have to be really smart about it. He can’t just calculate how to move through the space-time continuum to go from one point in time to another. He’d have to also calculate how to move through the space-time continuum to go from one point in space to another. Otherwise we’d see a lot of dead people just floating around in space because they got the wild idea to travel back in time to prevent themselves from doing something stupid, but without taking into account the Earth’s orbit around the sun.”
At that point, the video feed cut from the Gingerbread Man back to the old man in his cell. After a few minutes, the Gingerbread Man entered the cell, his hands in his pockets, standing as if he was casually visiting a friend.
“So,” he said, “how have you enjoyed your stay?”
The old man spat at the killer. “How do you think I enjoyed it? You’re holding me hostage, for Christ’s sake! Why? Why won’t you just let me go? What have you got to prove?”
The Gingerbread Man chuckled. “Oh, I’ve got quite a bit to prove. You’re part of something far bigger than yourself, old man: something grand. A new age for humanity. The next step through a great door. Although, I’m a little shocked.”
“Shocked?” the old man asked. “Shocked at what?”
“Shocked by the fact that you think I’ve held you hostage this entire time,” the Gingerbread Man replied. “It’s true I held you hostage for those first three days, but I haven’t held you against your will since then.”
“Just what the hell are you talking about?”
“Why, you’ve been dead this whole time.”
The feelings of those watching certainly matched the feelings of the old man in that instant: confusion and fear.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” the old man asked.
“Don’t you remember?” the killer asked. “Don’t you remember me coming into this cell when you had only been here for three days?”
It was in that moment that the old man, as did the entire world, indeed remember the Gingerbread Man entering the cell on the third day.
“Don’t you remember me beating you into a bloody pulp, until you were too weak to fight back?”
Not only did the memory come flooding to the minds of all, but the old man’s appearance changed. No longer was he clean and healthy, but now he was a complete mess. His face was covered with dark bruises, his nose visibly broken. Dry blood smeared his face. Now the Gingerbread Man began to slowly walk towards the old man, staring him down into submission.
“Don’t you remember me taking out my knife, slowly, menacingly? Don’t you remember me holding down your hand on the ground and chopping off your finger?”
“What in god’s name is happening?” the old man asked frightfully. “What are you–ah!” The old man screamed in pain, for no sooner had the words left his mouth that his fingers fell from his hand, bloody and pale. Now the Gingerbread Man was standing over him.
“Don’t you remember me putting the knife to your throat and slicing you open?”
No sooner had the killer said the words than the memory flooded back to all who bore witness in shock. No sooner had the memory returned than the wound appeared. The old man’s throat had been sliced open cleanly, his shirt stained with dark, dry blood. His body lay on the ground, pale, stiff, and appearing to have been dead for quite some time.
The Gingerbread Man left the cell, and after a few moments, the feed cut back to him at his desk.
“We often wonder,” he said, “which theory is correct. Are we allowed to change things, or are we doomed to a predestination paradox? Why can’t both be true?”
In that moment, the Gingerbread Man disappeared, the live stream still live.
When the Gingerbread Man disappeared, he revealed a sign on the wall behind him for a long-forgotten brand. This immediately led the F.B.I. to an abandoned factory in Central America, which in itself led them to the old man’s body, as well as the great deal of computer equipment left behind by the Gingerbread Man. The victim’s body was found in such a state of decay that it was determined he had been killed two weeks prior. No trace of the Gingerbread Man was to be found, and he was never seen or heard from again.
To most of the world, this was how the story had played out the entire time. During the course of the live stream, the world had watched as the victim was held hostage for three days, killed, and then displayed for another two weeks before the Gingerbread Man had given away the final clue to the victim’s location. The world was in such a state of shock over the gruesome events.
To a few, however, things were not so simple. They recalled the victim being alive for longer than three days. What’s worse, they recalled the strange events of the last day, at which point the victim died without the Gingerbread Man ever touching him. They felt as if two sets of memories were now being shared in the same head. Making matters worse, they found that all news articles and video clips regarding the final victim had been changed to fit the now widely accepted story. Their confusion and frustration led to riots in major cities across the United States.
Sometime later, another change seemed to occur. According to those I’ve interviewed, all evidence that the serial killings had ever taken place began to disappear. Fewer and fewer people recalled that the Gingerbread Man had ever existed. Eventually, the only ones who seemed to remember his existence were those whom discussed it in secret on message boards in the far corners of the Internet. Even during the course of my own investigation, I must admit that I never found evidence to suggest that the murders ever took place. I even went as far as to search for the four victims. Jacob Simmons, Robert Duprey, Harvey Walters, and Jessica Langley are all alive and well. What’s more is that none of them recall ever hearing of the Gingerbread Man.
The final piece to the strange puzzle was given to me by a single individual. Naturally, I’ve agreed not to share his name, especially because he claims to have worked for the F.B.I. during the time that the serial killings took place. According to this individual, one of the first things done when the F.B.I. raided the abandoned factory was to get fingerprints off of the computer equipment. Full, clean sets of prints were recovered for both hands. While the autopsy of the old man was being performed and an investigation into his identity was being held, something truly peculiar was discovered. It’s not known how the Gingerbread Man managed to do so, but it appears that he was able to replace his own fingerprints on the computer equipment with those of the old man.
If you enjoyed this story, let Marcus know by commenting — and please use the Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus buttons below to spread the word.
Story illustration by Dominic Black.