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‘He’s with them still’: Family reunited with message in bottle written by son who died decades ago

August 18, 2022

A Mississippi family has been reunited with a message in a bottle written by their late son 33 years ago, reports USA Today.

“Love never goes away,” said Eric Dahl, 68, who—with his wife Melanie and son Chris traveled about 200 miles from Oxford, Mississippi to meet the shipyard workers in Vicksburg who found the bottle during an otherwise ordinary salvaging trip on the Yazoo River.

The bottle was completely intact and still remained sealed.

“I’m always that way,” said Billy Mitchell, the salvage diver who first spotted the green bottle floating above a barge. “I always look for stuff that’s unique —driftwood or anything … I told my buddy, I said, ‘there’s a message in this bottle!'”

Mitchell grew even more curious; in his 20 years in the business, he says he’s never once found anything like it. Half an hour later and with the help of “shish kebab sticks,” he says he gently extracted the wilted paper from the glass bottle and let it dry out.

Most of the note was destroyed but he and his boss, Brad Babb, started to reconstruct what was left of it. They deciphered the last name Dahl, the year 1989, the location of Oxford Mississippi, a “please”, “thank you,” and a phrase that made them laugh: “Call or phone.” It was all in a child’s handwriting.

“We’re all kids at heart really. We could all envision ourselves as that 11-year-old boy,” said Babb, safety manager at Big River Shipbuilders in Vicksburg, Mississippi. “It really just fueled us to go and say, ‘let’s go find this guy’ cause this is kind of a kindred spirit where, ‘would I want somebody to find me? Yes I would.'”

They stayed late at work and started calling nearby school districts for leads. They kept each torn piece of the note in a safe place—even taping it down to the desk, so it wouldn’t be accidentally thrown out by someone cleaning up. And they talked about it day and night at work and at home. But it wasn’t until they posted a photo of the note on the company’s Facebook page, which was widely shared, that the mystery began to reveal itself.

“Never thought it would take on the life it’s taken, but so glad that it has,” said Babb.

On an extremely hot and humid summer day, the Dahl family saw the bottle and note for the first time sitting on a table at the shipbuilders’ office. They take a moment to examine the unbroken glass and read the note.

“One thing that jumps out at me is an 11-year-old boy saying ‘please’,” says Eric with a smile. “Knowing that something he wrote is connecting strangers, that really helps.”

While the shipyard workers initially thought the Dahl’s son Chris had written the note, it was Eric and Melanie’s other son, Brian, who composed the message. An athlete who beat cancer at one point, Brian died in an accident at home at the age of 29.

“He was victorious in his life because of the relationships he established, the bonds with other people,” said Eric. “And he continues to inspire connections.”

The message in a bottle was a sixth-grade class project in 1989. Martha Burnett, now 82, was his teacher. “We had a field trip. We dropped our bottles in the water, and for many years we heard nothing,” said Burnett from her home in Oxford, Mississippi.

The class had launched their bottles in Mississippi’s Talahatchie River. Burnett says one bottle was found years later in Louisiana. Brian’s, however, floated an estimated 200 miles to the Yazoo River.

It happened to float into a canal, where Mitchell was able to find it. But had the bottle taken just a slightly different turn, it could have ended up in the vast Mississippi River and possibly even the Gulf of Mexico.

“Who would ever have imagined this would happen?” said Burnett. “I think it brings him back to life in a way.”

Burnett says she told all her students to write their names and hometown on the paper and seal their bottles with wax to keep them tightly closed. The bottle’s survival is a testament, she says, to how well Brian listened in class.

Eric, Melanie, and Chris all marvel at how something so small from decades ago could prove so meaningful all these years later. Eric says they don’t feel like new friends, but rather, like instant family.

“He’s with them still,” said Mitchell. “I think that’s what the note meant when we found it. To let his parents know that he was watching over them as well.”

Research contact: @USATODAY

Five-year-old in a Chucky costume terrorizes unsuspecting Alabama neighborhood

July 28, 2022

“Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?” There are some things in life that require a double take. For Kendra Walden, it was seeing what appeared to be a Chucky doll come to life walking down the street in her Alabama neighborhood.

The 31-year-old, who works in Albertville, Alabama, was in a car with two other women when she first spotted a life-sized version of the murderous doll from the 1988 horror film, Child’s Play.

“I was remodeling a house in the area and me and some of my employees were headed home from that house,” Walden told Today Parents—a segment of the Today morning show on NBC-TV.

Walden said she thought she was hallucinating. “When we got closer to him we saw that it was real,” she said. “It scared the heck out of us.”

Walden told Today that everyone in the car was “screaming like little kids.”

“My brother Zack, who is a Marine, was working on this house the day before,” Walden said. “His biggest fear in the entire world is Chucky so he would have died on the spot.”

Walden said her employee driving the car, Alexis Atchley, turned around so everyone could get a closer look.

“When we circled back around [the boy] had his mask off, but quickly popped it back on and crossed the street after we passed,” Walden told Today. “We turned around again and that’s when we got the photos.”

Walden uploaded three photos to her Facebook page of the encounter.

Dear Parents of the little boy in the chucky costume in Pinson,” Walden captioned the photos. “GET YOUR KID….I almost had a heart attack.”

Walden said her social post, which has garnered more than 51,000 likes and 105,000 shares, was “just for fun” and she did not expect it to go viral.

“At first it was private and then a friend asked to make it public and after that it’s been crazy,” she said. “I can rarely check my notifications because so many are on the Chucky post. I’ve had so many people reach out about people sharing it and such.”

Research contact: @TODAYshow

Very good boy lands gig as Busch’s ‘Chief Tasting Officer’ for Dog Brew

May 25, 2021

After several weeks of searching, St. Louis-based Busch Beer—a division of Anheuser-Busch— has found the best of a bunch of “very good boys (and girls)” to be its official Dog Brew Chief Tasting Officer (DB-CTO), CNN reports.

“Meet Ethan, a blockheaded, jowly rescue pup who had ‘a fur-rific resumé’ and story that will inspire us for years to come,” Busch said on its Facebook page.

Busch announced last month that it was sniffing around to fill a newly created role for Dog Brew—its canine-friendly, nonalcoholic bone broth.

The job pays $20,000 a year (plus free Dog Brew, of course) and includes such vital responsibilities as “taste-testing, quality control, and fulfilling duties as an ambassador for the product,” the company said.

And Ethan’s is a compelling, rags to riches story—as well as his “massive goober” grin—won the day.

Indeed, four months ago, Ethan was abandoned, fighting for his life, in the parking lot of the Humane Society in Louisville, Kentucky. He was severely dehydrated and malnourished, weighing just 40 pounds

With help from the organization and his adoptive family, Ethan defied the odds and became a happy, healthy pup with an absolutely stupid grin. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, he is now 85 pounds of pure goofball energy.

And plenty to drink.

Research contact: @CNN