January 09, 2019Editor's note: This is the seventh installment in an ongoing series entitled 'Capac's Unsolved Mystery' detailing the events surrounding the disappearance of popular merchant Hale Currier on October 17, 1948 while on a hunting trip with friends in the Upper Peninsula. The first installment appeared in the October 17, 2018 issue of Tri-City Times.
The cry was faint... "Help me, help me," as Lieutenant Chrispell leaped from his bed. The missing hunter had crept into his psyche, infiltrating his dreams.
Gathering his thoughts, he had heard of others complain of this phenomenon that winds its way into a person's inner self. Again and again he resurrected the scene. Again, no clues, no evidence of a crime or a medical issue.
It was 3:30 a.m. and the lieutenant was wide awake. "Might as well go to the post and review again what little I have," he thought.
At the post, the dispatcher greeted him and said, "Lieutenant, there is a pile of messages and requests for interviews from every news organization I believe on Earth. How do you want me to handle them?"
"Just reply," Lt. Chrispell responded. "We'll have a news briefing with the press as soon as the situation allows."
The disappearance of Capac's Hale Currier was such a big concern that officials flew in a helicopter from Selfridge Air Force Base to assist in the search. It was considered the height of technology in the mid-1940s.
The dispatcher relayed more information.
"Also, Lieutenant, an aide to the governor called and said more troopers have been temporarily assigned to our post, including two at the Straits at the ferry crossing, one at Mackinaw and the other at St. Ignace to assist searches or anything else involved in the case," the dispatcher said.
"Did he leave a name?" asked Lt. Chrispell.
"No sir. I asked him and he said you know who he is," the dispatcher said.
Sitting in his chair, the lieutenant thought to himself, "How could one man—Hale Currier—command so much respect that the governor could make such drastic changes to protocol and established procedure?"
"What about the dog," Lt. Chrispell asked the dispatcher.
"Yes, sir," came the reply. "The dog will be on site at 6 a.m. Actually, the trooper called in and has the dog and its owner in the cruiser and they're on the way."
"Excellent," the lieutenant replied. "Tell them I'm leaving now and would like to introduce the dog to the scene before the two hundred-plus searchers arrive.
"Calling him now, sir," the dispatcher replied.
When Lt. Chrispell arrived at the lodge, there were already men drinking coffee around campfires in the darkness. Knocking on the door, two young men opened it.
"I'm Lieutenant Chrispell. Can I speak to Lucie Currier?"
Just then, she appeared.
"Lieutenant, how are you?" she asked.
"I'm fine, Mrs. Currier. How are you?" he replied with concern.
"These are my sons, Jim and Phil," Lucie Currier replied, pointing to the young men. "I have told them how helpful and sincere you have been to me. I can't thank you enough for the care and sincerity you have shown to us all."
"Thank you, Mrs. Currier," Lt. Chrispell said. "The dog will be here shortly. I need some clothes recently worn by Mr. Currier, particularly socks and undergarments."
Sure, shall I get them now?" Lucie asked.
"No, not yet. Let's bring the dog in here first," Lt. Chrispell replied.
"Alright, whatever you think is best, Lieutenant," Lucie said.
"Oh, Mrs. Currier, one more thing," Lt. Chrispell said. "If any people from the press bother you—and they can be a pain—please tell the trooper and he will stop the harassment. Starting today, there will be troopers assigned to the site until we find your husband."
"Thank you so much, Lieutenant," Lucie Currier replied.
"What a woman," Lt. Chrispell thought. "Inner strength, class, and dignity during the worst time of her life..."
Just as the woods started to light up and the darkness faded, in pulled the State Police cruiser. Hurriedly, the lieutenant raced to the vehicle and said, "Bring the dog into the lodge immediately. I don't want him to pick up any false scents."
Inside the well-lit lodge, Lt. Chrispell studied the dog. He was a labrador retriever, but he had hound characteristics—droopy skin, long ears, and eyelids that sagged.
As Mrs. Currier put the socks and other garments on the floor, the dog approached and took in many deep breaths before yelping with his nose high in the air.
"He's ready," the dog's owner said. "Give me the socks to remind him periodically of his quarry today."
Into the semi-darkness, the dog ran sounding like a coon hound on a hot trail, stopping to check for scent every few feet. Within minutes, the dog, his owner and the trooper were out of sight. Straining his ears, Lt. Chrispell could hear the occasional yelp of the dog.
From his slight incline at the lodge, he could see the red light on the cruiser approaching, but could not count the cars behind it. It was a solid stream of light.
As the cars parked, the lieutenant attempted to get a count of the volunteers, but soon lost it. There had to be over two hundred. Reddy Waltz, Elmer Lang, Harry Bissell and other first responders greeted them.
As they congregated around the lodge, Reddy Waltz—normally a quiet and reserved man— said, "Lieutenant, this is Capac's finest. Every businessman and workers from every business are here to help you find Hale. We have bankers, teachers, store owners, every preacher and minister, farmers, factory workers."
Lucie Currier soon joined the group.
"I can't thank you enough," she said. "My boys and myself are overwhelmed by the support of that little town we call home, Capac. We love you all..." she concluded, her voice trailing off in tears.
A voice came from the crowd.
"No, Lucie. We're here to thank you and Hale for being our family."
Elmer Lang spoke up.
"Could one of our ministers say a prayer before the State Police give us our assignments for the day?"
Four men moved up the incline, speaking amongst themselves. Then one said, "God above, give us strength and perseverance today, and let us find Hale Currier and return him to his family, and the larger family of Capac, because God, we are your family on earth. May God bless us all today."
As the minister finished, a loud and strange sound began to resonate throughout the entire forrest.
It was a strange sound, and the men looked up in every direction, straining to see where it was coming from.
Was it a tornado? Was it God's answer to the prayer?
Instinctively, the Lieutenant and every trooper put their hands on their sidearms. The noise was a sound no one had ever heard before.
From behind a hill, it swooped over the crowd. It was the helicopter!
After it passed, the Lieutenant explained what it was and how it was going to assist in the search and rescue.
Then Lt. Chrispell wondered, "If it had this much affect on people, what about the dog?"
Part VIII 'The debriefing of the biggest search so far' will appear in the Jan. 23 issue of Tri-City Times.
Doug Hunter is a lifelong Capac resident, a farmer, historian and writer. His great-great grandfather, Noble Hunter, founded the Capac Journal in the late 1800s.