Thoughts on Christy Hayes: Between the Quick and the Dead

For Robert Hansen, the “idea” of The Bush was a place where women could scream and no one would hear them. Christy Hayes was too quick for that. When Hansen failed to get her to The Bush — when she refused to go where he wanted to go — when she, finally, refused to relinquish herself to him — these were the things that saved her life.

It could have turned out otherwise. The troopers would end up with a long list of could-have-been-otherwise. But Christy kept working Hansen’s last good nerve until he was out of ideas. Next time will be different, he told himself. Next time will be different.


One supposes that Christy Hayes thought sex with Robert Hansen would be quick and dirty. She already had his money. Just go to his camper, do the deed, and be done. She brushed off his suggestion that they take his airplane to Palmer. Christy was all about business. She had three kids waiting at home. This was to be a brief diversion.

Christy Hayes never lost sight of what was most important.

Once inside the camper, Christy stripped naked. Hansen did not. This was another clue. Suddenly there was a silver colored revolver, a stern lecture about cooperating, and guitar wire to bind her feet and hands. Hansen shoved her onto the camper’s bunk, locked her in the camper and drove off, to destinations unknown.

Back in the camper, Christy Hayes went full mama bear.

This man needed to understand that she didn’t have time for this nonsense. “This gotta be quick. I gotta get back to my kids,” she shouted from the back of the truck. “If I don’t get back, they ain’t gonna have no babysitter.”

“They gonna be by themselves. You hear me? I don’t want nobody messin’ with my babies. You hear me?”

Her shouting served to divert Hansen’s attention. He was already paranoid about getting stopped with a woman in his car. No way he could explain this one. He had to get off the main roads, take the back way to Muldoon.

This was no longer about the money, or the sex. This was about her kids.

While Christy Hayes seemed nonstop with her mouth, her hands were twice as busy. Hansen could hear, but barely see her. Soon, she was out of the restraints. Maybe… Nope. The camper door was locked. From the outside.

Suddenly, the brakes slammed, sending Christy to the floor. There was the gun again, pointing at her head through the open window, between the cab and the camper. Christy ducked. Hansen jumped out and ran to the back, determined to regain control.

Robert Hansen, 1969 (courtesy Anchorage Times)

Christy knew that “quick is, as quick does.” She squeezed through the open window and into the cab of the truck. Locked the window behind her. Locked all the doors. Find the damn key and drive away from here.

Not that quick. Hansen had the truck keys.

The keys gave Hansen only a small measure of control. He tried to reason with her. Fail. He tried to reason with her using his revolver. Double Fail. “Just give me my clothes,” she demanded. She didn’t want to go naked on this chill October night. Fail.

In the cab of the truck, Christy Hayes went full mama bear.

When she started tearing out the truck’s wires, Hansen could no longer keep his patience. When he shattered the side glass, Christy Hayes skipped into the night. That morning, she would hug her kids like no other.

Purchase Butcher, Baker

Butcher, Baker: Hidden City, Pt. 2

There’s a wonderful bit in the Robert Hansen portion of Hidden City: Anchorage where Marcus brings in professional tracker Ty Cunningham to give a sense of what Hansen’s victims were up against. It’s an extremely powerful segment. Except that the segment was filmed in winter snow. According to Robert Hansen:

“This was a summertime project.”

Since Hansen’s wife was a teacher, and often travelled during the summer, it kind of makes sense, you know? When the cat’s away, and all that… But let’s not take this summertime thing too far. Hansen kidnapped and raped a woman back in 1971, just days before Christmas.

Of course, he also had the good sense to take that victim to a motel.

Bonus: Video Clip: Hidden City Anchorage: Tracks of Terror (tracking in the snow)

What about the chase? It is, after all, a recurring theme in discussions about Robert Hansen. Well, the chase started the minute he first stalked his victims. But in Hansen’s universe, the chase was always (out)balanced by questions of control.

We know that Hansen worried about the intangibles. The known unknowns. The women had to be alone when they reached the rendezvous. Hansen always picked a spot where he could see everything and everyone. Even early on, he used a restraint of some type, eventually graduating to handcuffs. By his own admission, he was obsessive about the mechanical reliability of his car when he kidnapped women. Didn’t want to break down with some woman in handcuffs.

Those control issues extended to the bush. Even in the bush there’s the risk that some hooker can outrun him, even for a little while. She can kick her heels off, right? And, you know, the Alaska bush ain’t no frickin’ island. Those were troubles he just didn’t want. Given all that, it’s my view that he started shooting sooner rather than later.

Loss of control, baby. Not so good. And being “in control” ultimately trumped other considerations. Including the chase. He really, really liked this “game.” Lose control, you lose everything. In fact, there was one who got away. Yeah. She was the one who brought him down.

Quotes from Robert Hansen’s Inconvenient Confession (February 22, 1984)

RH: I only, I only used the airplane three times and maybe if I kept on going like that I would have had a problem… [But] where I have my plane parked there isn’t a lot of people in and out right there and the girl was almost more scared of being in the airplane than she was scared of me…

GF: Scared of being in the airplane. You mention that this area was pretty populated but in the winter time with skis you were somewhat unlimited as to where you could go. Your privacy was pretty much up to you. Or were you concerned about flying a long time? You mention three girls but I’m just wondering, with skis, you know in the winter, you could go just about anywhere.

RH: I could but winter time wasn’t the time to do it. Things were dormant in the winter time. This was a summertime project.

GF = Glenn Flothe
RH = Robert Hansen

Want to learn more about the Robert Hansen murders? Read “Butcher, Baker,” by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale. More here…

Butcher, Baker: Hidden City, Pt. 1

If you saw last night’s great Hidden City episode on Anchorage, you were treated to an excellent — and highly-graphic — overview of the Robert Hansen murders. One of the segments featured the ballistics test on the murder weapon which, as host Marcus Sakey points out, was critical to getting a Robert Hansen confession and conviction.

The true story of the ballistics test on the murder weapon is actually MORE dramatic. Much more dramatic.

Trooper Sgt. Glenn Flothe’s plan was to send the rifle to the FBI Quantico, Virginia, lab for the ballistics. To make sure it got there, he requested that a Trooper hand-deliver the weapon. That request was turned down, so the rifle was sent to Virginia by mail.

Then Flothe got a call from the FBI. Wondering where the rifle was. It hadn’t arrived as expected. As you might imagine, Sgt. Flothe went into a panic. This was the crucial piece of evidence. And now it had gone missing. If only they’d let him hand-deliver that weapon… If only…

Bonus: Video clip of ballistics test, with Bob Shem of the Alaska State Crime Lab.

Thankfully, there was a happy ending. Days later, the rifle showed up on a loading dock. It was sent on to the FBI Quantico, where ballistics tests proved it was the murder weapon. Close call. Way too close.

Want to learn more about the Robert Hansen murders? Read “Butcher, Baker,” by Walter Gilmour and Leland E. Hale. More here…

Robert Hansen’s Attic (with murder weapon)

Cache of weapons found in Robert Hansen's attic. Included is the murder weapon.

Hidden City: Anchorage

Marcus Sakey’s Travel Channel series, Hidden City, recently filmed in Anchorage, Alaska. Among the topics: Robert Hansen. Well, of course; Hansen is the state’s worst serial murderer. (The series calls it Robert Hansen’s Most Dangerous Game.)

The show marks the incredible resurgence of interest in the “Butcher, Baker” story. First the movie, The Frozen Ground. And now a Hidden City episode.

The episode also covers the infamous Blackjack Sturgus murder. Sturgus, the first police chief in Anchorage, was shot in the back with a bullet from his own gun. He is said to haunt the Anchorage Hotel, working on the ultimate cold case. His own.

Mark your calendars! We’ll be watching. Hope you will, too.

Air Date: Tuesday, September 21, 2012.

Travel Channel: Hidden City – Anchorage

We received an update this week on the Travel Channel series, “Hidden City,” starring Marcus Sakey. Its February 21, 2012 episode (episode 112, if you track these things) will feature Anchorage, Alaska.

One of the segments will focus on Robert Hansen. Well, of course.

These things tend to run in cycles. As Aaron Godfred, our film producer friend notes, “It seems like everyone is all hot and bothered about Hansen.” You know, there’s the movie, starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack (The Frozen Ground). Some other projects that are in the works. And now this.

Well, we are pleased to announce that we’re helping with the Hidden City episode. Yeah. I took some photos of Robert Hansen’s house “back in the day,” (after visiting and talking to his ex-wife, Darla). At least one of these photos made it into “Butcher, Baker.”

The production company (Crazy Legs Productions) saw the book. And now they want the photo. Glad to oblige. Proper credit, please!

Odds & Ends

A few tidbits that caught my attention during the holidays. Or about the holidays. Or ignoring the holidays, for as long as possible.

Book & Movie News

  • Alaska filming has ended on “Frozen Ground,” starring Nicolas Cage and John Cusack.
  • From the you-can’t-make-this-up department: As the story goes, there’s a scene [in Frozen Ground] where a moose menaces the teenage hooker-heroine who helps nail Hansen. So they rounded up a regular street moose that promptly got spooked and charged for real.
  • Anchorage even cooperated with moviemakers by delivering an early big dump of snow.

Black Friday/Monday News
Mobile (and cyber) sales are finally taking off, as recent IBM data for Black Friday shows.

  • 10.3 percent of online sales came from mobile shoppers.
  • 17 percent of all shoppers used mobile devices to track exclusive offers and sales updates.
  • iPhone continues to lead all mobile device traffic at 6.58 %, followed by Android at 5.20% and iPad at 4.71%.
  • Equally interesting, iOS led mobile device traffic at 11.29% compared to 5.20% for Android. Or more than double.

The biggest change here is the that retailers like Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Macy’s and Apple targeted mobile devices with shopping apps, notifications and alerts. In the grand scheme of things, this tells us at least two things: First, retailers have found ways to go directly to consumers and skip Google’s intermediating engine; second, it further explains Amazon’s strategy of putting out a device that’s a pipeline to their retail experience — and which, by the way, also skips Google’s intermediating engine.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

  • Finally, there’s this story about how two recent market studies leave out iPad sales in their tablet market reviews. This lets them write headlines suggesting that “a large group of consumers are looking for alternatives [to the iPad tablet].”
  • But it’s not true, actually. John Gruber estimates that the iPad actually has, oh, something like 89% of the market. Which means that 11% are truly looking at alternatives — and some of them bought HP tablets at fire sale prices.

Here & There

Today’s blog is a grab-bag of stories, culled from a range of sources. We’ve still got crime on our mind.

First up, Frozen Ground film news fresh from Alaska.

  • We have a couple of shots of Nicolas Cage in Anchorage. In this slideshow, Cage is seen on the Frozen Ground set. And what would a Nicolas Cage story be without some smack from gossip site TMZ? Their spy camera captures him purchasing a $2,000 ivory-handled knife.
  • The Anchorage Daily News reports that Alaska filming on “Frozen Ground” could wrap by Friday, November 18 — a one-month shooting schedule.
  • The Alaska backlash against film subsidies, meanwhile, is starting to heat up. More on this issue in another post.

We also have an update on the Mike McQueary story, in what amounts to another round of media counter-attack. I’m guessing anyone who follows the news is already aware of these revelations.

What’s worth comment here is that the basis for much of the reporting is a 23-page grand jury presentment. A summary document. It leaves out details. That gives the folks involved a brief-window to manage the news by releasing self-serving details of their own. My money is still on Sara Ganim, the intrepid reporter who first broke this story.

Moving Beyond the Page

Augmented Reality (AR) is a fairly new concept, in which mobile devices are used to add layers of information to a physical setting. One of the best early manifestations of this idea comes from the Dutch developers of an app called Layar. In one of their earliest concepts, a smartphone’s camera, GPS, WiFi and compass were used to identify buildings in Amsterdam. Once identified, users could obtain actionable data about the building, including rental and contact information. That’s just the beginning.

Here’s a video that illustrates some of the possibilities.

Layar is not alone in imagining AR.

  • There is an iPhone app that uses an iPhone’s positioning system to play an ever-changing soundtrack for visitors to Central Park.
  • London Unfurled uses geo-positioning to provide a guided landmark tour along the River Thames.
  • Peter Meyers, meanwhile, blogs about an “infinite canvas” that opens numerous possibilities outside the boundaries of the eBook (frankly, some of the ideas remind me of envisioning projects that should stay in the lab. Maybe I spent too many years in the Microsoft Office Labs).

So what does all of this have to do with “Butcher, Baker?” A book like “Butcher, Baker” is a perfect candidate for AR. It is set within an identifiable physical reality: Anchorage and the Alaskan Bush. A “Butcher, Baker” app would guide users through that physical reality to, for example, the Knik River, the Kenai Peninsula and the former site of Hansen’s Bakery in Anchorage. Yes, it would be a very different journey, not for the faint of heart.

Will it really happen? Who knows. Today I am channeling Mr. Meyers, imagining the possibilities…

Copyright, Leland E. Hale (2011)

Mrs. Hansen

Since Darla Hansen has lately been a topic of discussion in Anchorage, what with the movie crew and everything, I thought I’d add my first-hand impressions.

I met Darla Hansen twice and talked to her by phone a third time. The first meeting was at her home on Old Harbor Road, the year after Bob confessed. It seemed like she was still in shock, but she was a considerate, almost fussy, hostess. She dutifully showed me the house, which was for sale at the time. We only talked briefly about Bob; she told me she’d taken care of all the legal issues, so his life would no longer rule hers. She added that most of her neighbors wanted her to stay; she wasn’t so sure. In all of this, she was determined and matter-of-fact, like many midwestern women I’ve met over the years.

The second time we met was at a Bible study group with some of her church friends. I recall that the topic of discussion was “talking to God.” Everyone said that, yes, they did talk to God. Only Darla said that God talked back. One of the men in the study group subtly rolled his eyes, but none of us commented further. If anyone needed divine guidance, surely Darla qualified.

By the time I spoke to Darla the third time, she had moved back to Arkansas. She didn’t much want to talk about Bob. She wanted to leave him in another place; she wanted to leave him in the past. But she did confirm this much: she suspected he’d been up to something, but had no idea how deep that something went. As a recent book by an FBI profiler notes, this is often the case with dangerous criminals; their success depends on disappearing into the shadows of “good appearances.” When he needed to, Bob Hansen was very adept at doing “nice,” “hardworking,” “family man” and “upstanding citizen.” He fooled a lot of people for a long time.

That said, in all our conversations I was struck by Darla’s sensitivity and intelligence, though I couldn’t help but think her willfully naive. Like all of us, she is a flawed being. Unlike most of us, she happened to marry a monster, who used her good-heartedness against her.