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Final Edition

Willey Day 1988: A Chronicle of Celebration and Mystery

Seventeen-year-old aspiring journalist Abigail Flynn reports on the enigmatic happenings of Willey Day, blending tradition with intrigue.

By Abigail Flynn | February 29, 1988

Every four years, the town of Question Mark, Ohio, gathers together to celebrate Willey Day, honoring the legacy of its founder, Reginald Willey. This year, amidst the familiar joy and pageantry, a series of mysteries added an intriguing layer to the festivities, sparking curiosity and speculation among everyday citizens. Even for me, a person who has spent her entire life in Question Mark, the day still holds both a sense of nostalgia and magic.

The day began with a vibrant parade outside Town Hall, where children, dressed as our town's founder, paraded through the streets in top hats and oversized pocket watches, embodying the civic-minded spirit of Reginald Willey. This display of both tradition and reverence set a festive tone, uniting the entire community in celebration. This was the first year, as an eighteen-year-old, I would not be dressing up. Instead I stood on the curb along Main Street, watching third and fourth graders reenact the important moments of Reginald Willey’s life: the creation of the envelope factory, the founding of the town, the building of the public library and town clock, all ending with the recitation of the poem he wrote before his death.

But amidst the pageantry, a series of mysterious occurrences unfolded, casting a fog of intrigue over the festivities. Apparently a float dedicated to the missing British soldiers vanished for several hours, only to reappear unexplainably at the town fairgrounds, sparking whispers and speculation among the crowd.

Later, in another curious incident, Grimsby Towns, a figure known in Question Mark for his previous claims of extraordinary experiences, reported seeing a ghostly factory materialize in the Question Mark Motel parking lot. Though met with skepticism, his account added another mystical element to the day's strange events.

The mysteries continued at the Hall of Dazzling Glass in Question Park, where visitors celebrating Willey Day claimed to experience disorienting music and nausea. The origin of these unsettling melodies remains a puzzle, contributing to the day's enigmatic occurrences. Was it the spirit of Reginald Willey reaching out to the town he so loved from beyond the grave? Or more likely a broken music system at an amusement park struggling to stay open?

Compounding the day's intrigue was the discovery of a cryptic message written on the south-facing wall of the public library: "Vevibgsrmt vmwh." I spent a good part of the day trying to figure it out, but no luck. And maybe that was what Reginald Willey day is about after all: learning to live with the uncertainties of the past, present, and future. Maybe it was indeed a message from our town’s founder or simply a reminder to try to find something beautiful in the unknown all around us.

Covering Willey Day '88 for the Question Mark High Inquirer taught me a lot—not just about reporting, but about the spirit of our town. We live in a place where mysteries are not just part of the landscape, they are an important part of our history and who we are as a town. It's a reminder that, in Question Mark, the story is never just about solving life’s biggest mysteries; it's about the adventure of finding magic in the here and now.

This story was the winner of this year’s Samuel Lindholm Prize for High School Reporting.

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