ZYTARUK: Of all the strange stories I’ve covered, cursed family tops them all

So let it be written…

What’s the "weirdest" story I’ve covered in Surrey-North Delta?

I was asked that question the other day.

There are many candidates: The murder victim whose remains were found cooking in a pizza oven in Newton; an exorcism at a schoolyard in Guildford; crosses burned deep in a park in Port Kells; claims of alien abduction in North Delta; the Surrey transsexual who savagely beat her ex with a tire iron and then blamed the gory attack on her former male self…

I also wrote a story about Canada Post taking no less than 11 years to deliver a letter from Newton to Whalley. Maybe that last one isn’t so unusual…

Anyway, there are many runners-up too numerous to mention here.

But without a doubt, the "weirdest" story I’ve covered was that of Harold and Michelle Baumann, as revealed in the autopsy report of Coroner Chuck Standish.

Witnesses reported Harold taking a last look at his wife before plowing their TransAm into a concrete pillar, killing the couple, their baby daughter, and freeing them from a gruesome belief they’d been cursed by Satan.

The tormented Vernon family died on Nov. 3, 1993 after Harold, age 34, appeared to have deliberately crashed the family car into an Alex Fraser Bridge support column near what used to be the Sidetrack Pub in North Delta.

The coroner found the family had died instantly of multiple blunt-force injuries. There was no trace of drugs or alcohol and no evidence of braking or evasive steering.

Witnesses were baffled as the car blasted into the corner of the pillar.

It had been a dry, clear night and the gravel parking lot was well lit. Standish concluded that Harold Baumann knew exactly what he was doing, and so called a behavioural analyst to investigate the family’s background.

Harold had met Michelle, age 25, in Calgary in 1989. They wed in Hawaii in 1992, and their daughter Cherelle – three months old at death – was born on July 16, 1993.

The investigation revealed a couple very much in love, enjoying a happy marriage and taking great delight in watching their daughter grow.

But in 1991, when they lived in Burnaby at a trailer park, a neighbour claiming to be Lucifer apparently put a curse on Harold and demanded to be the godfather of all the couple’s future children.

In September 1993, the couple was worried because their daughter was having seizures and they increasingly became convinced an evil force had them under siege.

Claiming Cherelle’s cradle rocked by itself, the tormented parents burned it in an effort to exorcise the spirit.

"Something went terribly wrong in the last month or so of their lives," Standish wrote in his report. "Michelle began having nightmares and visualizations of their baby being taken out of the bedroom by a supernatural force or some type of evil spirit."

Suddenly, and without warning, the young family left Vernon and travelled to Metro Vancouver. When they arrived they booked into a hotel in Richmond. The next day, they were dead.

Standish declared the case to be a suicide-double homicide.

And that, to my recollection, is definitely the "weirdest" story I’ve written about here in Surrey and North Delta.

Let’s hope it stays that way.

…So let it be done.

Tom Zytaruk can be reached via email at tzytaruk@thenownewspaper.com

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