In 1958, Robert and Barbara Castile became the proud parents of a beautiful pair of fraternal twins, one boy, James, and one girl, Linda.
Sensing that their downtown apartment was too small for their rapidly growing family, the couple packed up and headed across the newly finished Mississippi River Bridge to make their way to the more suburban westbank in hopes of finding a decent home in a quiet neighborhood.
And that was exactly how they lived for several years as they raised their children in the quiet of the new New Orleans.
That is, until tragedy struck them when they least expected it.
In 1965, the family was preparing to celebrate the childrens’ seventh birthday and had prepared a massive party and the whole neighborhood was invited. There was tons of food, clowns, a puppet show and even a small band.
The family had been scrimping and saving for nearly a year to make the day special and it showed. Every detail was perfect and little James and Linda were beyond excited. Their eyes grew wider and wider as the pile of presents turned into a mountain and they basked in the picturesque scene that was their perfect party.
But when the cake was being wheeled out something was missing: James and Linda.
In the excitement and confusion that was their party, the guests of honor had disappeared. After a brief search the police were called and the neighborhood was canvassed. However, as day turned to night and night back into day, panic began to set in.
Though rewards were offered and public appeals were made, weeks passed without a word and, for Robert and Barbara, the pain was simply too much.
Eventually, months later, two young bodies were found floating in the river, though decay and conditions made a positive match difficult, it is widely believed they were James and Linda.
Suspicion immediately fell on one of the clowns performing at the party, a man by the name of William Oakley. He had had a long criminal record and it was widely believed he kidnapped the kids in hopes the family was wealthy and could pay a ransom.
Unfortunately, evidence against William was thin so he didn’t even face trial. But it’s not as if Robert and Barbara even noticed. The weeks of torment and waiting had taken its toll on both of them and warped their minds. They had become reclusive, rarely leaving their house and the once-active members of the neighborhood became ghosts living in a dark house.
But one year later, on the even of the one-year anniversary of the children’s birthday and death, the couple did venture out.
They found and captured two children, one boy and one girl, both eight years in age. The couple brought the children home and gave them an impromptu birthday party. The kids, even as they were crying in fear, were fed cake, ordered to open presents and even treated to a chorus of “Happy Birthday”.
Though the sobbing children didn’t enjoy the party very much, the faces on Robert and Barbara told the tale. They were lost in their minds, reliving memories that should have been and experiencing events that should have happened.
But then, after the party was over and the cake was blown out, the couple dispatched the children, with a simple blow to the head and placing their bodies where they would never be discovered.
The process repeated itself, year after year, for a decade. A kidnapping, a birthday party and an increasingly brutal execution. The children were brought in, played their part and then disposed of.
The only thing that changed was the age of the children, every time keeping in pace with the age of the couple’s kids who, in their mind, were not really gone.
So the process went until 1975 when, a few days before the big date, Barbara realized that their “children” were now 17 and were all grown up. She felt, perhaps experiencing a moment of clarity, that it was outrageous to press on.
Robert disagreed and struck out on his own. Using chloroform and the cover of darkness, he eventually returned with two 17 year olds, one boy, one girl. He threw them in the garage and began to prepare for their party.
When Barbara protested, Robert tooker her aside and, using the chains normally meant for their victims, bound her to the wall, where she screamed for him to stop and let everyone free.
Unfortunately for Robert though, this left one of his victims free and, when she came to, she struck Robert over the head with a loose board, knocking him unconscious and eventually clubbing him to death.
But then the young victim made a terrible mistake, she thought Barbara was just another captive and set her free only to be attacked by the now enraged woman. The two struggled and though Barbara emerged victorious, eventually choking the young woman with her bare hands.
She then turned her attention to their other captive, still bound in his chains, and strick him dead with the same board that had been used on Rober.
However, the violence had caused a commotion and the neighbors called the police.
The police, however, didn’t know what to make of what they had found. Three dead bodies and Barbara, who had locked herself back in her chains to escape suspicion.
Barbara then told them everything, babbling hysterically about the tragedy that set them down their dark path and all of the deeds they had done along the way. The only detail she omitted was the truth about that final night, instead telling them that Robert and the two victims had killed each other in a three-way battle while she watched.
Barbara was committed to an asylum. Though the police had evidence of her crimes it was determined she was far too insane to even stand trial. Eventually, life in a cage took its toll on Barbara’s already frail mind and body, killing her within a few short years.
Their story, it seemed, would die with them. But, here at Bernie Baxter we believe in second chances and that is exactly what Barbara and Robert are getting. One more chance at a happy birthday, one more chance at the perfect party.
While that’s good news for them that may be bad news for you. They need two people to be the guests of honor and, of course, other guests are welcome as well.
So come one, come all and be prepared. The next time you hear “Happy Birthday” could easily be your last…