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Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mystery: The Woman in the Oven

Warm it up, boys.


Some time back, I did a really half-baked riff of this story that I’ve since deleted because I was both deeply disappointed in it and because I found it to just not be worth keeping around. I sometimes wonder if anyone inexplicably saved that dreadful thing—if you have, I’d love to know why. Oh well, that’s besides the point. This story is a fairly well known creepypasta that’s no doubt been around for longer than that term has been around. Though what floors me is that some people think that it’s real. Because of this strange fact, today’s story will be centered on the story known as The Woman in the Oven. Let’s get to it!



The Story


First up, let’s get the story out of the way. It goes as follows: during the summer of 1983, in a quaint little town near Minneapolis, Minnesota, the charred corpse of a woman was discovered inside of an oven in a farmhouse. Nearby was a video camera that had been aimed at the oven, though there was no tape inside of it. This peculiar case was marked as a homicide until the following year when a VHS tape was found in the farm’s well—which apparently dried up that year.


Upon reviewing the tape, authorities saw that a woman had set up a camera in the kitchen where the corpse was found. The woman then turned on the oven and crawled into it, shutting the door behind her. After eight minutes, the oven began to shake violently as black smoke seeped out from it. The video then went on for another forty-five minutes until the batteries died.

The story concludes by stating that the police didn’t release any of the information in regards to this tape, let alone that it was even found. The authorities were also unable to determine who had placed the tape into the well or why the height and stature of the woman in said tape wasn’t even close to the one that was discovered in the oven.


I must admit that I actually like this story for its simplistic nature, though there are so many grievances that I have with it that I could write about it for the next 5,000 words. Though in short, I think it’s too short to be scary (I also think the twist ending doesn’t work given the story is a pitiful three paragraphs long). I digress though: the story is available on various creepypasta websites and there are videos of people who’ve narrated it on YouTube. So where’s the mystery? I mean, it’s a creepypasta after all, right?


Well, if you go by some comments on websites like Creepypasta.com, then no, it isn’t.


This is based on a real story.  It was investigated by real police, no conviction.


Okay champ, where’s the mystery? I don’t see—




Holy shit it’s real.


Indeed, this is one of the most fascinating examples of a creepypasta having its roots in the realm of reality. As such, allow me to say that your expectations have been subverted. It’s time to dive into the real story. Unfortunately, I can’t find a lot of information on this case and the link above—if you didn’t click on it—leads to the Wikipedia page. That’s the only site I can find that has any information on this case, though there is another Blogspot that covered this case. There’s also a book on Amazon that has this case as a topic it covers. Keep this lack of information in mind though, it’ll be important for later. In spite of this, I’ll be using the Wikipedia article as the primary source since it’s the most thorough and I don’t want to drop some money on the book (sorry to the author if they happen to read this).


Our central focus is a 33-year-old Finnish lady named Hilkka Saarinen. She was married, lived in a sizable, wooden building that had belonged to her grandparents and served as her childhood home. However, given that this is literally called the “Oven Murder”, it stands to reason that not all ends happily in this story. Indeed, that’s the case with Hilkka; she went missing at an unspecified date in December, 1960. As is the case with any case, suspicion fell on the husband and with good reason. Hilkka, in spite of having had five children, legally had none because of the family’s tumultuous nature. Neighbors and even the children themselves stated that their dad was something of a dick, stating that he would turn into a jealous and violent man whenever he was drunk.


However, despite this, the eldest son opted to visit his family on Christmas Day of 1960 with a schoolmate, though they decided to arrive a day earlier. Upon their arrival, things got really weird. Both noticed that the front door hadn’t been locked, so they decided to go to the foyer and opened the door. As they did this though, the father opened the kitchen door from the inside and barred their entrance. He was shocked to see that they’d arrived earlier than they announced.


That night, the boys went to grab additional pajamas from the son’s mom’s room, which was located behind the kitchen. However, no lights were on; the son asked his dad why the lights weren’t on. The father said in response that the lamp was broken. Defeated by the work of Edison, the boys walked through the kitchen and quickly noticed that the floor was littered with garbage. When asked why the floor looked like a landfill had a baby with a New York City subway, the father said that he’d been cleaning it up—presumably in the near pitch black setting. Also, somehow, they noticed that his knuckles were scrapped.


For whatever reason, the story then jumps ahead to 1966. In this time, Hilkka has never been seen once; she’s vanished from the face of the Earth. The husband/father stated previously—and I left this out because I couldn’t find the proper context in the way of the Wikipedia article—that Hilkka was “never” at the home. For all intents and purposes, she’s just gone poof. Because of this, the son finally sent a letter to law enforcement stating:


I suspect that my father knows more about the disappearance of my mother than he has told me. He has clearly opened the oven and walled it shut again. However, the oven had not been used in seven to eight years before this. My father was cleaning in the dark, even though another room was lit, when I arrived. I think the oven should be dismantled. My father could do anything.


Absurdly, the letter was never noted and nothing was ever done. In May of 1967, in an issue of a magazine called Elämä, the eldest son wrote an article called “Where do they disappear/I suspect my father is a murderer”. It’s in this article that the son wrote about how he suspected his father had murdered his mother. In response to this, when the son met his father, the father simply told him:


Let’s just both mind our own business.


A staggering twelve years after Hilkka went missing, in 1972, investigators were ordered to go through old, unsolved cases. It was only then when the eldest son was contacted thanks to the letter he’d sent six years prior. After looking over various files that contained information on interrogation material, the son’s belief in his theory about his dad was reinforced. As such, on November 27, 1972, authorities arrived at the house with authorization to dismantle the family’s oven. The father was taken into custody and the oven was taken apart. That’s where they found the mummified head of a woman, a foot, and the rest of the body. This body was identified as belonging to Hilkka Saarinen. She had been stuffed a meter (or just over three feet) into the oven.


As for the husband, he denied any and all wrongdoing. He also opted to represent himself, but was still given an attorney. As for his argument, he claimed that gypsies broke into his home and murdered his wife.


This was quickly shot down; witnesses stated that Hilkka repeatedly complained about her husband beating her and that she frequently had to visit the doctor for her various injuries. There was also a claim that the husband had borrowed upwards of 75 fictional crime novels from the library; most were centered on murder and one was apparently centered on the murder of a character’s wife. There was also the scarring on his hand, which if I’m to add in my two cents, is an injury very commonly seen when defending yourself from an attacker. Given that this guy appears to have the subtlety of a steam engine barreling off of the rails, I suspect he tried to attack his wife while she was awake and with his bare fists.


Despite that level of evidence, the local court stated that the husband hadn’t caused Hilkka’s death “on purpose”. As such, they sentenced him to a pitiful eight years in prison for “severe assault”. However, he only served a single year because the district and supreme court overturned the sentence, stating that neither the cause nor the manner of Hilkka’s death was known. They also stated that he couldn’t be sentenced after the amount of time that had passed since Hilkka’s disappearance. Because of this, her husband returned to the house, which had been empty all the time, and was well on its way to deterioration, and lived there alone until his death on August 1, 1986. He was widely known after his freeing as a "free mason". Why that is, I don’t know, there’s no implication that the husband was a mason of any sort.


Though because of this, the case of Hilkka is officially marked as an unsolved crime.


So that’s certainly real. Although it’s a well known creepypasta, the case of a woman in the oven is actually a real one. Or is it? As I said earlier, I could find next to no information on the story. There’s the Wikipedia page and a book. So, case closed, right? It’s got nothing, it’s probably an urban myth that evolved into a creepypasta. A lot of stories do that; they make a transition from being stories told at sleepovers or around campfires into legends sent around direct messages, on message boards, and in chat rooms. Big whoop, there’s nothing to—




Oh give me a break.


Okay, so I was holding back a bit because I wanted to try something new; to string you all along with a half-baked Wikipedia entry that read more like an urban legend. Don’t judge, I need to spice things up a bit. While I won’t go over every single new detail due to time constraints and real life troubles as of the time of this writing (which is the day that it’ll go up actually), the article above—although it’s in Finnish (if you have a Google Chrome extension for translating, you can easily go over it)—helps finish the picture that was painted with the Wikipedia one; it tells of how the husband would chase his wife around with an axe and gives a bit of insight into who he was as a person. Also, as a side note: why the Wikipedia article is so shallow, even by the standards of Wikipedia, I don’t know.

A comparison of the oven where Hilkka was buried. The condition of the oven between the time of her discovery and 2014 shows it's not aged one bit.


Despite that, there does remain one question that makes this a mystery: did the husband kill Hilkka? Or was he actually innocent? Did she commit suicide? Well, let’s move onto the theories section.


Theories


1. It was a suicide


Just like the creepypasta, this theory posits that Hilkka committed a rather grisly suicide. This is actually a thing I should note: people have stuck their heads into an oven and even a microwave to kill themselves, so while it may seem rather preposterous at first, it’s unfortunately happened. Though in this case, evidence would point to the husband, right?


Well, those who’ve been in abusive relationships don’t always escape them. Some will kill their abusive partner in order to flee. Others will run away. Some never escape. Then there are others who feel hopelessly trapped and end up committing suicide. As such, this theory, morbid as it may be, isn’t implausible. Though let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are three other theories left.


2. It was a murder and the husband did it


Moving onto our second theory, we have every crime author’s favorite trope: the husband did it. Indeed, whenever the lady dies, look at the patriarch of the family. Heck, they do it in real life and with good reason. A killer typically has close ties to the victim; it’s not often that someone randomly walks up to a stranger, pulls out a gun, and then shoots them. There’s usually an emotional reason for the crime and as such, it would stand to reason that Hilkka was murdered by her spouse.


3. It was a murder and the husband didn’t do it


Then there’s the other side of the coin: Hilkka fell victim to someone that wasn’t her husband. Whether that was a gyspy (as her husband claimed) or a burglar is up for debate. Though odds are, the killer had targeted her in particular because her husband was left unscathed. Nor did he ever report her missing.


4. It was natural causes


This theory is posited in the final article I linked and I have no idea how this would work. Unless the husband decided to stuff his wife into the oven as a way to bury her after she died of a disease, heart attack ,or something else,  it seems incredibly peculiar. Though it’s possible he didn’t want to seem guilty of murder because of his abusive ways. That’s happened before—with spouses burying their significant other because they’re fearful of being accused of murder—so they bury them in the backyard, dispose of them in some grisly way, or throw them into the river. It’s strange, but hey. That’s life. It’s anything but normal.


My Take


The husband did it. That’s all I’ve got. I won’t play stupid, I won’t play coy, I won’t play ignorant, the husband did it. While he may not have killed anyone else after fleeing, not all killers end up becoming serial killers. Given that this man never remarried, I’d be remiss if I said he was innocent. He was an abusive man and it’s likely his wife was planning on finally leaving him. He was already described as jealous when he was drunk. Put two and two together. If you can’t: he never reported her missing in spite of her being dead in his oven. It’s really obvious who did it.


Conclusion


I think it’s fascinating how a creepypasta can actually have its roots in reality. Sure, it’s nothing unique (Robert the Doll is a creepypasta, but he’s also a real doll), but I believe that this is the only time a real murder has been used as the basis for one. I could be wrong though. I rarely go out of my way to read creepypastas nowadays. So until tomorrow, take care and have a great day, afternoon, or night, dear reader.

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