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Carroll County Conspiracy of Anna Tinkle

Carroll County, Indiana is a small community where word travels fast and gossip travels even faster. This is how the story of Anna Maranda Parse Brookie Tinkle (yes, that is her name) became local lore, and how this same story became family lore for my grandparents, parents, and now, me. In a place like this, it’s no wonder the story of a woman called the devil spread so quickly. Anna’s granddaughter Leona always would tell anyone who asked all about her grandmother Anna, and the horrible things she had done.

We still own the farm of the story, though not the land where a certain well sits, dried up, mysterious. Anna and Harvey Tinkle are my great-great-great-grandparents. Their story is now one to sit around the dinner table telling and giggling at, but it wasn’t always this way. Some in the community say that the FBI became involved in the case of Anna, Harvey, and George. Some even went so far as to threaten and publicly shame Anna for what she’d supposedly done.

My grandfather and his 13 siblings, not to mention members of the Carroll County community, tell this story with true belief in their tone. A folk tale as intriguing and intense as any other they grew up hearing, but this one draws their attention; it entices them. They discuss the family drama that came from the rumors. They sit around at the site that used to be the farmhouse they grew up in, the very house in the story.

They tell their children and grandchildren how this family, the Tinkles, have always had conflicts with us, the Carters and their forebearers. They gossip about the possibilities and hear-say that surrounds the tale of Anna Tinkle. They tell stories of a man they call “Crooked Denise” (yes, a man named Denise), who created farm drama and problems for the family. And, they tell this story as well, Anna’s. It’s a story about their grandmother, a source of gossip and lore, that’s spread well beyond the family table, a hundred years hence. And they love every telling of it, every spine-tingling detail.

They tell this story:

Harvey, a man in his late twenties, a farmer by trade, is husband to Anna. Harvey is a gentle, kind man, a fair boss, and a fair husband. He loves his wife above all things. She is the only apple of his eye. His goal in life is to care for her in every way possible and care for his farm. Harvey wants nothing more than to leave a legacy of love and hard work for his children, though he has none yet. Anna is a beautiful woman by any standard, fair-skinned and well-mannered. A few years her husband’s junior, and every bit his opposite. Anna commands attention with her beauty. She likes the attention, wanting all eyes to be on her in all situations. She loves the feeling of drawing eyes across the room.

This is the only part of Anna that Harvey dislikes; he dislikes the attention that she draws to him. Harvey would be far happier to stay on the farm and work, but Anna loves to be with people, out in the community, talking, and drawing attention. Having eyes on him makes Harvey feel like bugs are crawling on his skin, afraid, uncomfortable. He would far rather be with his cows and pigs back on the farm, or even with George, the farmhand.

Now George is an interesting man. Far more interesting than Harvey ever could be, or want to be. George is a lady’s man by all regards, handsome and strong, as farmhands should be. He is good at his job, and Harvey greatly appreciates the help. What Harvey does not appreciate is the attention George pays to a particular person on the farm: Anna. Everyone pays attention to Anna, she makes sure of it, but George watches her every move, every breath, enamored with this woman. This is another thing that causes Harvey’s skin to crawl: the thought of that man’s hands on his wife’s body, intimate, naked, secure.

George is everything that Harvey is not, adventurous, fun, dangerous. Anna likes these things; she likes George. And that makes Harvey dislike him even more. Of course, Harvey knows that Anna would never be disloyal to him, he puts these thoughts out of his mind, never treating George as anything but a friend and employee. But he should have. He should have listened to himself. He should have trusted that gut feeling. Because when Harvey is gone, selling produce in town or in the fields late at night, George disrupts Harvey and Anna’s wedding bed, becoming more intimate and close with Anna than Harvey ever has been.

Of course, Harvey has no idea that Anna has these dark secrets. He doesn’t know that she is breaking their wedding vows. Anna knows that Harvey would be sick at this fact, but she also knows that he would never do anything to stop them. He doesn’t have it in him to keep Anna from what she wants, he lives to make her happy.

Anna wants to tell Harvey of their secret life, but George is adamant that she mustn’t.

“Anna, darling, Harvey can never know! He would send me away, fire me!” George says every time that Anna brings this up, as she does time and time again.

“Then I’ll tell him that if you leave, I will leave with you! He won’t dare send me away, he won’t want me unhappy.” Anna always replies. But she remains quiet, as George asks her to. She can’t risk George leaving her any more than she can risk leaving Harvey.

Anna has everything to lose in this situation. She could lose her life if Harvey so chooses. He could harm her if he wanted to, though she knows he would never lay a hand on her. He could divorce her, ruining her status in society, though she also knows he would never do this. He could banish George from her life, though she knows all she would have to do is ask, and Harvey would do anything for her. Harvey plays right into her hand. She controls him. But she still fears the unpredictability of the situation. More than anything, she fears how George would react if she defied his wishes and told Harvey the truth.

George and Anna are at a stalemate. They can leave their situation as it is, and never be truly together, or they can risk everything they’ve built together. So, they begin to conspire, thinking hard, late at night after their intimacies have come to an end, trying to find a solution to their dark secret. Anna begins to be scared. George is harsh and brave, wanting to take drastic steps. George plans to kill Harvey. Anna will be his.

George and Anna sit up all night, as Harvey is away at market, selling hogs to provide for his wife. They conspire to commit this heinous act as they sit in Harvey’s home, in his bed, his wife naked with another man. What an ultimate, deep, final betrayal for a wife to commit against the person whom she vowed to love and value for the rest of her life. Their wedding vows are totally and completely desolated, crushed under the foot of a man Anna repeatedly allows into her bed. George and Anna destroy everything that Harvey built for himself and his wife, whom he believes is loyal to no end. How wrong can a man be?

What George and Anna do not know, however, is that Harvey has returned as they’re plotting against him in his marriage bed. He returns in the darkness and quiet that George and Anna think is protecting them. He sees them from outside the bedroom window, intertwined together, naked, and it breaks him. Harvey sleeps in the barn that night. He sleeps among the only true friends he has in the world, it seems the cows and pigs. Although he doesn’t really sleep, for he could not get that image out of his mind: that man’s hands on his wife.

One might expect that Harvey would be angry, furious, enraged even. But he isn’t. Harvey is sad. His heart is broken. Everything that he thought to be good and pure in this world turns out to be evil and lying, the serpent in the Garden drawing his Eve away. He has resigned that he should leave. It is the only answer. He will leave. George can run the farm and have his wife. Harvey just wants to be alone. He decides to talk to George the next day. Calmly, kindly even, giving only the facts, not allowing his emotions to take over.

What he doesn’t know is that George has other plans for Harvey. Plans that Anna knows about, and can’t stop, even if she wants to.

In the morning, George climbs out of bed, Anna’s bed, Harvey’s really. He puts his clothes back on, kisses Anna’s forehead, sure that she will be all his later in the day. He makes his way to the barn to start his day. Harvey sees George enter the barn, he doesn’t have time to move before being seen. The two men connect eyes across the barn. Harvey is nervous; he doesn’t know what George will do. George is surprised. He doesn’t know why Harvey is here. He is confused; then it strikes him. Harvey slept here. George charges toward Harvey in a rage. He shoves the smaller, weaker man to the ground. Harvey hits his head on the old wood flooring. A loud crack resounds throughout the building. Harvey’s body goes limp.

George walks over to Harvey’s body on the ground, limp, unmoving. He puts his ear to Harvey’s chest. He hears his breath still rising and his heart still beating. George is annoyed; he hoped it would be over with. Harvey is unconscious. George, the strong man that he is, stoops down and lifts Harvey’s body from the floor, or at least attempts to. As strong as George is, he isn’t quite strong enough to carry Harvey’s bulk by himself. He goes and gets Anna.

Anna follows her lover to the barn, anticipating the ugly sight of her husband on the ground, unmoving; her stomach churns at the thought of it. They return to the scene of the incident and stare down at Harvey’s limp body on the floor. Anna begins to cry, silently, afraid to let George see how scared she really is. She wipes her eyes while George’s back is still to her, hiding her fear and emotions. He turns to her sternly, a hard-set frown sitting upon his angry brow.

“Pick his legs up.” He says shortly, to the point, almost angry with her.

She does as he says.

She goes over to Harvey’s legs, She steps to Harvey's body, grabs his ankles, lifts them up, and waits.

George then walks over to the other side of his lover’s husband. He bends down and lifts his arms up with the rest of his body. Together, Anna struggling immensely, the two forbidden lovers carry Harvey over to the house. They carry him the way soldiers might carry a fallen brother in arms; solemnly, not daring to make eye contact with each other, not daring to speak.

Until finally, Anna says in a voice not entirely her own, mouselike in its quietness, its squeak of uncertainty, “What are we going to do with him, George?”

At the question, George stops cold in his tracks, his frown deepening upon the question reaching his ears. He looks around at the area. In their arms, Harvey begins to moan, a clear sign to both of the others that he will soon be awake. Finally, George’s eyes lock on something close by, the house’s well.

Anna follows his eye line to where the well sits, not far from their current spot. George turns back to her, their eyes finally meeting for the first time since seeing the results of their heinous plotting. Anna nods, signaling to him that this is the right course of action; they drag Harvey’s body the rest of the way to the well.

Upon reaching the well George drops Harvey on the ground, tired from this long and harrowing journey. Anna begins to cry, unable to keep her emotions and guilt inside any longer. George looks upon his love’s sad face; he turns away from Anna and Harvey, allowing them one final moment of solitude. Anna collapses onto her knees. She crawls, quickly, like a wild predator pouncing on the first prey seen after a long, cold winter. She cries over her husband’s body as he begins to wake, moaning and groaning, confused, in pain. She kisses his lips once, that’s all she can give. And she whispers to him, “I loved you, I really did.” The past tense used is a final betrayal of their marriage.

George turns back and lifts Harvey back into his arms, not allowing Anna to help with this final evil act. He heaves Harvey’s body over the lip of the well, dumping his body into the deep hole, with no hope of escape.

It was interesting, to say the least, growing up hearing my great-great-great-grandmother called the devil. Her story was always a source of lively conversation and debate. My grandfather and great-aunts and uncles will jump at the chance to discuss George Tinkle and the possibility of his body at the bottom of the well on the farm. We love this story and all of the other stories that it has fostered and birthed. This story has become a source of community and discussion for my family, a story to bring us together and remind us that we are Carters.

Of course, we now, just in recent years, have discovered that Anna’s is not true. Sad, I know. We have done some further research and found records indicating that Harvey Brookie moved to the Pacific Northwest and is not dead at the bottom of the well as we almost wish he were. Despite this fact, this story still matters to my family, it is a part of who we are, what has shaped us. We gather around and tell it at every holiday, reunion, birthday, and funeral: the time when Anna Maranda Parse Brookie Tinkle helped murder her husband.

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