You've got to be kidding someone actually did this????? That is truly terrible. I hope the town of Nutley can come to grips with this awful event and that they do indeed reconstruct the Nativity Scene.
| In the third week of April, 1993, four persons yet to be identified perpetrated an abduction that few would have imagined possible, and fewer still would have imagined. Their crime was vast in concept and intention, yet simplistic enough that some would wonder why it had not been attempted before. It was a Thursday night that would not soon be forgotten by the denizens of Nutley, New Jersey. It was the night they kidnapped Baby Jesus.
Most of North Eastern America was hit hard in ’93 by one of the hardest and longest winters since the big Blizzard of 1970, and while it still wasn’t as bad as the “Big One”, it was still the kind of winter that made you believe in global warming and contemplate self-immolation as a reasonable way to stay warm. Unprecedented downpours of freezing rain followed by unnaturally late in the year sub-zero temperatures combined to turn segments of the state into bizarre living ice sculptures, and made shoveling the drive impossible without the aid of a pick axe. Freak blizzards shut down roads for days at a time. In short, it was damned cold. Heavy snow and rough driving conditions may be the norm for winter weather and enough to tolerate on their own, but Mother Nature started fighting dirty when she stretched the chilly season beyond February, straight through March, and well into the tail end of April. All in all, it was a winter wonderland that Charles Fort would have been proud of.
Lost among the chaos of the freak weather patterns was the Township of Nutley’s Holiday Nativity Scene. It had been the yuletide tradition for many years for Nutley officials to show their love of Christmas and blatant disregard for Separation of Church and State laws by proudly displaying a large, life size nativity scene in the dead center of the Nutley High School Football Field. The Field (as it was known amongst the natives) was the perfect place for such a display, as it could be plainly seen from the Main Street of Nutley, yet was safely enclosed behind the gated grounds, which were left locked and unusable during sports seasons involving round balls.
Perhaps the inhabitants of Nutley can not be blamed for overlooking the Nativity scene. It was common enough fixture during the holidays that most would consider it less of a display and more of a natural landmark. April brought with it the biting sting of an unusually resilient Jack Frost, so it didn’t seem out place for the Nativity to remain beyond its usual January 7 removal date. If anyone needed for a reasonable excuse for the prolonged display, they needed only to glance at the three inches of solid ice covering The Field and the feet of the replica religious icons and farm animals. So the people of Nutley waited with the rest of the Northeast for spring to poke its head out like that damned groundhog, and the realistic plastic replica of Baby Jesus, along with the life size Nativity Scene, waited patiently with them. Until the night of April 19.
The disappearance of Baby Jesus was not officially recognized until four thirty the following afternoon, when the owner of the comic store across the street from The Field phoned the police. By Friday morning, the crime scene had been investigated repeatedly, and an official reconstruction of the crime had been released.
Tire tracks and footprints located behind The Field confirmed that an older model Chevy van had been parked and then used to climb over the eight foot high steel fence, along with the use of a wooden stepladder and a tattered quilt featuring a depiction of Santa and his Eight Reindeer, which was used to cover the spiked top of the fence. Three of the four persons then made their way across The Field towards the Nativity. The fourth person, presumably left behind as a lookout, apparently passed the time waiting by drawing mustaches on all of the reindeer with a red felt marker.
The three trespassers had come prepared with several dozen Sterno cans and three butane torches, all of which were left behind at the crime scene. These implements were used to thaw the ice around the base of the manger, as well as the feet of a plastic goat that had been standing near the manger with his head bent over Baby Jesus. It was thought that the goat had been moved to allow access to the manger, but the disappearance of the goat as well cast doubt upon this theory.
While the theft seemed to have been well thought out and expertly executed, there were still those who theorized that alcoholic consumption may have been a contributing factor in the abduction. The curious circling patterns that the footsteps took around more than half of the field before actually reaching the manger aroused such suspicions, as did other items left behind, such as the cardboard thought balloons taped above the heads of Mary and Joseph exclaiming “Oh No!” and “Wise Men My Ass!”, and the three unopened jars of peanut butter inexplicably hidden behind various plastic farm animals in the Nativity.
Any speculation as to the reason for the dastardly crime, however, was cast aside when a letter comprised of letters cut from cereal boxes was sent to the local paper, which printed it in its entirety:
"People of Nutley. We, the Ecclesiastical Liberation Force, Inc., have saved the plastic infant known as Baby Jesus from his icy prison in the center of Debtor’s Fifty Yard Line. For too long we have passed by this abomination and shaken our heads as the neglectful nature of your town has been proudly displayed for passing motorist and pedestrian alike. This defenseless child has been left exposed during the harshest of winters, with nothing but fake clumps of hay (which have gone unchanged throughout the season!) to provide him with warmth and protection, while you skip about the Holidays professing your love and devotion to his very existence. After months of bearing witness to this perverse public display of apathetic hypocrisy, we have decided to take matters into our own hands. We have your precious Baby Jesus, and it will take more than a guiding star to lead you to his whereabouts. We will keep him far safer than your Yuletide Gulag did, but we will not release him until our ransom has been met."
"Our demands are simple. Prove to us your true Holiday Spirit, beyond the trappings of cliché commercialism and sentimental claptrap. This plastic molded newborn has suffered so you could feel good about your beliefs without actually putting them to use. Now, the proof must be contained within the Christmas Pudding! We will not tell you how this must be done. You are smart and creative people, you can figure it out for yourselves. Prove to us your stark naked feelings, and we shall return the facsimile child unharmed. Until then, know only that he is in the hands of people who cared more for him than you!"
"P.S. We took the goat to keep Baby Jesus company. We have named him Cecil."
Despite an extensive investigation that is ongoing to this day, the culprits behind the Baby Jesus kidnapping were never apprehended. Speculation has since given way to accepted truth, and it is still believed that the kidnappers never intended to return the plastic Baby Jesus, or his goat companion. No serious thought or discussion was ever given to the ransom demands, which were simply dismissed as frivolous and nonsensical.
Baby Jesus and Cecil still have not been returned to the township of Nutley. And to this day, there has been no life size Nativity display in The Field.
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