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Published:October 15th, 2013 08:27 EST
The Strange Saga of JoAnn and James Nichols Up In Poughkeepsie, NY, Is a Perfect Halloween Tale!

The Strange Saga of JoAnn and James Nichols Up In Poughkeepsie, NY, Is a Perfect Halloween Tale!

By John G. Kays

I found myself looking around frantically for an out-there-on-the-fringe story this morning, in conjunction with a rapidly impending Halloween holiday, which (when I take a furtive glance at my Whole Planet calendar) is popping up in just two weeks time! Eureka! I did discover what I was searching for in the not too pleasant account, of a tardy discovery of the remains of a missing teacher, a Southern Belle by the name of JoAnn Nichols, back in late June, early July. I don`t have a good excuse as to why I didn`t hear of this mesmerizing chronicle much earlier, say 3 months ago, but I`m lucky it came knocking on my door when it did, shortly before Hallows Eve!

I enthusiastically researched the particulars of this sinister uncovering (by contract workers) on the internet, until I came on something a bit more pithy, which was ironically, on page 2 of the Google query; that is, it`s a New York Times piece published on July 15th and written by Vivian Yee, In Cluttered Home, a Dark Secret 3 Decades Old. I`m more free with praise for it, since the article gives more biographical information on JoAnn Nichols, who mysteriously vanished from her Poughkeepsie, N.Y. home on December 20th, 1985 (that`s 28 years ago, people).

Well, I suppose I ought to add to this, what we know, or what we`re given (by news reporters) on her eccentric husband, James L. Nichols, Jr., who died of natural causes last December, at the age of 82. James was very weird character, from what neighbors have said to reporters, and from what we heard from a retired Town of Poughkeepsie Police Capt., Charles Mittelstaedt, who characterized James Nichols as cold. Charles was investigating JoAnn`s disappearance at that time, which happened around the Christmas holidays of 1985.

Charles was suspicious of James right from the get-go, and remained so over the course of the next quarter of a century (with change), but never had enough evidence, that would amount to probable cause, where you can obtain a search warrant, so you can go over the house with a fine tooth comb. 

I realize the severity of Capt. Mittelstaedt`s dilemma during all those years, who (through the years) would drive by the Nichols home, thinking that JoAnn Nichols might still be there. And you know, his hunch was right all along; the profundity of that realization is haunting us now, consummately (and it probably did so to both Charles and to the old man, James, even more intensely).

While I`m not of a law enforcement ilk, one problem I`m having, when reviewing the bewildering facts of the case (which are only revealed in a fragmentary way), is that a day or so after JoAnn Nichols vanished, her vehicle suddenly re-appeared in the home driveway. Well, James claimed (at the time) that he had found it at a mall abandoned, then just drove it back home. To back up for a moment, investigators must have noticed her car was absent when first looking into her disappearance (Duh!). I`m just saying, why didn`t that suspicious occurrence (a re-materializing car) comprise probable cause (to ransack the debris-filled WEIRDO`s abode).

If an ambitious screenwriter was nosing about for a good tale to tell, perhaps loosely associated with the inevitable unfolding of Halloween, which needs a great deal of catchy B movie releases to spice things up (a tangy pumpkin curry sauce), I don`t think they could do any better than the Strange Saga of JoAnn and James Nichols. The word ODD comes up frequently when describing James, who was seen driving around with a mannequin in the passenger`s seat! Did he fancy this was his LOVE JoAnn taking a Sunday drive with him? NoOne will ever know for sure, but I suspect this is the truth.