Under Penalty of Death
By Lester & Charlie
Recently, after a long investigation by researchers for the location of the executions of 19 accused witches in Salem, Massachusetts 300 years ago, its exact coordinates were found. Through aerial photography and a faded eyewitness account, it is now confirmed that the alleged witches were hanged in a place that now hovers above a Walgreens parking lot.
The alleged witches, however, may have gotten the last laugh: the parking lots of major retailers -- particularly retailers with names that start with a "W" -- seem, by definition, to be accursed. In 2012, one Rob Hall drove into a Walgreens parking lot and shot his wife's alleged lover in the forehead and heart, and then unsuccessfully tried to shoot and kill himself. The wife remained in her relationship with Mr. Hall, making it an even more tragic parking lot story. In 2015, an 18-year-old man stabbed to death an American veteran of the war in Afghanistan in a Walgreens parking lot. Zoe Hastings was abducted in Walgreens parking lot and then killed by someone who also crashed her family's minivan into a creek. A 17-year-old Philadelphia mother of two received mortal knife wounds in a Walgreens parking lot after a squabble with some other teenage girls. One mother in Las Vegas was stabbed to death by an on-again-off-again lover when she and her daughter drove into Walgreens parking to "buy some juice after cheerleading practice." (Oddly, that Walgreens was located on Tropicana Street.) Danielle McGowan of Tacoma drove into a Walgreens parking lot and simply dropped dead, found in the car about a week later. A Boise man was sentenced to 40 years last February for a Walgreens parking lot murder.
Never one to be outdone, the other conglomerate that starts with the letter "W" -- Walmart -- has its own death- and mystery-ridden parking lot track record. In February of 2016, a 22-year-old woman in California was found dead in a Walmart parking lot, having gone unnoticed for three months. Four apocalyptical horses in Omaha escaped their corral and hauntingly fled to a Walmart parking lot. A man who was shot in the groin and tried to drive to a hospital ended up at a Walmart parking lot instead. A suspected fugitive in Hilo got out of his car in in a Walmart parking lot and shot four police officers, who shot back and killed him.
A Craiglist cellphone sale -- the transaction scheduled to take place in a Walmart parking lot -- resulted in a shoot-out that forced the adjacent Walmart to shutter it doors for a full 20 minutes to protect its customers. An 81-year-old man ran over a pedestrian and then crashed into a Walmart store in Lakewood, Colorado. A small dog was skinned and beheaded and then tossed into a Walmart parking lot Washington state. All of these incidents – just a smattering of the total – took place in the first month and a half of 2016. There was even a blog (until 2014) that kept track of Walmart shootings and used the tag line "Walmart. Save Money. Die Faster."
Most people know, whether through anecdotes or research studies, that major chains like Walgreens and Walmart have not necessarily been the best things for America's economics or safety. Their presence in a town tends to shut down local stores, and once-prosperous business owners are sometimes forced work for low wages in the company that put them out of business. Many entrepreneurs report that Walmart, in particular, fools them into believing that they should sell their wares for less than their manufacturing costs "but make it up in volume" -- a mathematical impossibility. And it might be hard to find someone who has never heard about the Black Friday sales that too often involve violence and even death.
Perhaps, though, the real danger is not in the stores, but in the stores' parking lots. Perhaps the accused witches of Salem were indeed witches who simply tried to send a word of caution to future generations -- a warning that shopping in conglomerates with names beginning in "W" is not a good idea. "W" just might be the warning of the witches.