It’s 6:45 AM and New Trier High School senior Kiefer Cromwell-Johnson is in bed, staring at the ceiling. He’s internally counting every second before his alarm goes off in fifteen minutes because this is a day he would like to delay as long as possible.
Cromwell-Johnson has two weeks before he graduates and gets to enjoy one last summer at home before he starts “real school” in a different state, free from the parental leash that is wrapped around his neck and suffocating his ability to just do whatever the fuck he wants.
For the tennis team captain who is affectionately called both “KC” and “CJ” by his friends, it’s just a waiting game before he heads to Arizona State University, where it’s hard to tell what’s more gorgeous: the weather or the girls.
Yeah, things look pretty peachy, but there’s one little problem. Actually it’s a very serious problem and he has to address it today. He made a bet a few weeks ago in a misguided attempt to impress a junior considered to be the most attractive girl in school. Normally, a bet wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but this was something on a whole different level.
There’s a tunnel at the corner of Willow and Green Bay, right next to North Shore Country Day School’s soccer fields. It’s a narrow tunnel for pedestrians should they have business on Wilson St (and vice versa). Nobody seems to use it and there is an abundance of urban legends that revolve around the mysterious tunnel and they all inevitably involve grisly deaths and such.
Cromwell-Johnson has no reason to be particularly frightened – it’s a tunnel available for public access and as far as he knows, nobody has literally died in it – but he can’t deny the heavy feeling of dread that has permeated through his entire stomach. His arms and legs are leaden and he just wants to stay in bed all day.
Alas, fifteen minutes is nothing but a drop in the bucket and it’s time for him to get up. So he does and he goes through his normal morning routine. When he rides his bike to school, he has to pass the tunnel and he usually rides with a friend or two. Today it’s just one friend and he enlists this friend to wander into the tunnel to take some pictures.
It’s daytime, so the (perhaps naive) assumption is that nothing will happen. But nothing does happen. Cromwell-Johnson’s friend takes some pictures for him to stare at all day and this is a small sample of what he gets:
A tunnel is just a tunnel at the end of day and Cromwell-Johnson can take some comfort in knowing that the tunnel is not very long and more importantly, it doesn’t look bad at all. Of course, this is where we need to talk about the logistics of the bet and how they probably led to, well, a grisly situation.
Cromwell-Johnson said he was going to not only walk the length of the tunnel at midnight, but also stay inside the tunnel for fifteen minutes. Nobody would be in the vicinity; it was expected of him to record the entire incident on film and his peers trusted him to go through with it anyway.
The mistake he made, if you haven’t figured it out yet, is that he did this all alone. There were no witnesses and nobody to help him, save him, or even call the police. It was just Kiefer Cromwell-Johnson, a high school student with decent, affluent parents who were perhaps a little strict, but not overly so.
There’s no footage to be found either, if you’re morbidly curious. It looks like the killer took it with him (or her) to do whatever with. Precious few answers are to be found, whether it’s from the authorities or any crackpot conspiracy theorist you talk to.
People can agree on a few things, however:
- It was messy. While his body was never found – as of this writing at least – skull and brain fragments of various sizes were in abundance and concentrated on the Willow side of the tunnel.
- He might be the first known death of an unknown serial killer who has targeted the few individuals who ever enter the tunnel at night; after Cromwell-Johnson’s death, police have been finding signs of other malicious activity within the tunnel at a rate of almost one every four months.
- It was probably one person, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if some type of bizarre cult was involved. The blood splatter seemed too organized for Cromwell-Johnson’s death and the blood became increasingly complex in design for every ensuing murder.
Kiefer Cromwell-Johnson’s death is a tragedy, as are the deaths of those other unfortunate souls who had the misfortune of using the tunnel at the wrong time, but they are just one big example of the many sinister occurrences in the North Shore. For such a quiet and allegedly peaceful place, there’s a lot of evil lurking in the shadows.
“The School” is here.