A Wild Cathulu Appears
There was an especially strange murder case in Canada recently.
It involved two young men, Kam McLeod and Bryer Schmegelsky, who were 19 and 18 years old respectively. They lived in a small town in British Columbia, and both worked at the local Wal-Mart. One day, they left town and headed up north. They said that they were going to the Yukon to look for jobs. But they never made it to the Yukon.
In northern BC, they killed three people, seemingly at random. Then they burned their vehicle for some reason, which made them into suspects. They drove a stolen car across half the country, ending up in northern Manitoba. They burned their stolen vehicle (why?) and then disappeared into the bush (“bush” means forest/wilderness in Canada). It’s not clear what they did next. They seem to have wandered more or less at random for 10 days. At one point they stole a boat, but didn’t travel very far in it.
Their bodies were found two weeks after their car was abandoned, only 8 km away. They had committed suicide.
We will probably never know why they did it. It is a great psychological mystery. They were not ordinary young men, but they didn’t seem to be that extraordinary either. They were into video games and playing war games in the forest. So, they were a bit larpy and weird, but so are millions of young men who never commit murder.
There is surveillance video of them walking through a store in Saskatchewan, after they had committed the murders. At the time, they must have known that they were suspects. Kam is wearing a shirt that says “A WILD CATHULU APPEARS” and depicts Cthulu with cat ears. The entire image, including the caption, is styled like an old comic book cover. (Cthulu is a fictional monster-deity created by H. P. Lovecraft.) Kam walks in front, and seems like the dominant one. Bryer is wearing a full camouflage outfit and looks dorkier — he is very skinny and seems less confident.
That video captured my attention, because it reminded me of my own youth. Bryer and Kam were declaring their outsideness. You don’t wear a Cthulu shirt or full camo to fit in. You wear it to fit out. If you can’t fit in, at some point you place yourself outside society’s moral boundaries. They were outsiders who rejected society and morality. I could relate to that, because I had the same attitude in my late teens. I viewed society as a stupid joke.
But I can’t relate to killing random strangers and then running away, only to kill yourself later. They didn’t have an epic adventure. They didn’t display their superiority. They didn’t get laid. They just committed murder and suicide in a way that was so random it baffled everyone.
Committing murder is the ultimate rejection of society. Once you commit murder, you can never redeem yourself. Murder can be a way of expressing your contempt for society: a declaration that you refuse to be governed by its rules. Was that why they did it?
What went through their heads when they left their hometown in an old pickup truck? Did they have no hopes or dreams that fit within the rules of society? Did they plan to go rogue from the day they left, or did the idea emerge as they drove, talking and sharing fantasies? How did fantasy become reality? Did they consciously choose to cross that boundary? Or was the first murder an impulsive act, a sudden bursting through of fantasy into reality? Did they expect to get caught? Did they plan to commit suicide?
Whatever went through their heads, they can’t tell us now.