“I don’t understand where they got it,” said Kyle Wright of Middletown. “I don’t know there’s any sheep in Middletown.”
A few weeks ago, a crew of Wesleyan students set about filming a horror movie in a foul-smelling abandoned house on River Road. Unbeknownst to them—or their director, Ethan Young ’13—the real horror lay in the black bags in the house containing entrails, fleece, and heads of 26 sheep and goats. Just another day in Middletown.
According to reports in the Courant, WSFB, and NBC Connecticut, it’s unclear how long the carcasses have been sitting at the abandoned property, but Connecticut’s Animal Control Division as well as the Department of Agriculture have been called in to investigate. The state’s veterinarian office has concluded that the bags were likely the renderings from a slaughter, which could bring about illegal dumping charges. In a video report on WFSB, a reporter nearly gags on scene while describing the putrid smell at the site:
The news reports claim that Wesleyan students called the police to report the awful stench. NBC Connecticut suggests that the Wes kids actually discovered the carcasses. But when I contacted Ethan Young for details, that was the first he was hearing of the dead sheep. His crew had never called the police, he told me. Nor did they know what was causing the horrible smell throughout their shoot.
Young’s own intriguing perspective on the story adds a new dimension to the reports that have been circulating:
Holy fuck. What the fuck.
I acquired the house as a location by calling the phone number on a For Sale sign out front. The guy who owned it was super nice and accommodating and said we could use both the interior and exterior as long as we got production insurance. The place had no heating or electricity and was “condemned.”
We started shooting on the night of Thursday the 8th and there was no smell. We took Friday off and came back on Saturday afternoon to continue shooting. When we arrived we immediately noticed an unidentifiable rotting smell. Since it was a condemned house and the windows to the basement were smashed open, we all sort of assumed that something had crawled in there and died in the intervening time period. I did notice that pile of black trash-bags in the back of the house, but I assumed that had been there before and I just hadn’t noticed them earlier. However, we did find that one of the doors in the house that had been locked on Thursday was now kicked open and there was a distinct urine smell. We had a busy day of shooting, this house apparently gets broken into by bored reckless teenagers and homeless people all the time, we didn’t think much of it, and continued on our way. After Saturday we didn’t shoot again until the following Thursday, at which point we assumed the smell would have dissipated. Again, it’s a condemned house, the lawn is completely overgrown with weeds and shit. So a dead animal smell didn’t seem like anything worth freaking out about in context—we just dealt with it.
The smell got worse, though.
On the final night of shooting (Saturday the 17th), the police showed up around 8:00 pm or so. We hadn’t called them. Some guy had driven by, seen a bunch of kids pointing big lights at the house and thought we were having a party or something. There were like five cop cars that pulled up simultaneously, I guess assuming that they were gonna have to arrest like 12 people for breaking and entering. We were very polite, explained the situation and they left after a couple minutes.
We wrapped around 9 pm that night and the smell was still going strong. We had almost gotten used to it at that point. There were pretty continuous flippant comments on set like “Wow, that thing is really taking its sweet time decomposing.” We had no idea there were that many “things,” how close they were, and how they got there.
I asked Young how he thinks the police found the sheep carcasses if he never reported the smell. His theory seems to make sense:
We never called the police. As I said we noticed the smell on the 10th, but ignored it. When I emailed the owner of the house on the 20th to thank him for letting us use the house, I mentioned that we had noticed an odd smell coming from the back and that one of the doors on the 3rd floor had been kicked in. He never responded to my thank you email and this news story is the first I’ve heard of it since. My guess is that after receiving my email he went over to the house to investigate, found the dead animals and then called the police.