Cottage in the Woods by Gisele Peterson



Gisele Peterson

If the recently unsealed court records are accurate, public opinion of the Eberstark siblings’ virtue may change. Hansel and Gretel Eberstark and the media have depicted Sibyl Smythe as an evil ugly witch, but her testimony, taken from the recently released transcripts, presented below show that justice may not have been served.


Your honor, if you would please allow me some discretion to tell my story and explain why I am innocent of the charges. Hansel and Gretel are devilish creatures preying on the disadvantaged and portraying themselves as angels to the public; twisting the details to paint themselves as the victims instead of the aggressors that they are.

Before I can describe the incident with the Eberstark’s, I need to explain why and where I live. Many years ago a tractor trailer rammed my car and mangled both my vehicle and me. I spent months in physical therapy learning to walk again and perform tasks that others do easily. After many challenges and suffering, I decided to stop the doctoring. The physicians wanted to continue, plastic surgery on my face and other scarred parts of my body, but I refused. My vision was severely damaged and would never improve; I am legally blind and cannot see my scars and deformities, merely shadows and movement.

Instead of enduring more endless surgeries so that I would look better to other people I don’t care about, I used my insurance proceeds to buy a cottage in a valley about fifteen miles off Route 9. The previous owner, Ted Katz, was a recluse who built the home to survive without depending upon other people. Power is generated through windmills and solar panels. There is no phone or cell phone coverage in this part of the woods. Mr. Katz died from a fall and his heirs put the property up for sale. It seemed like the perfect place for me to live, away from eyes judging me on my looks.

Even though I didn’t want to be around people every moment of the day, I desired the basic modern comforts. I hired a neighbor, Delores Larson, to drive me to town for weekly shopping or doctors’ visits as needed.

Other than those trips, I saw no one and enjoyed my solitude. My garden supplemented the provisions obtained at the market. I planted strawberry vines on trellises attached to my house, which is where I encountered the plaintiffs.

One evening I heard voices outside and even with my poor vision, I was able to make out two giggling young adults with mouths full of my strawberries. I inquired what they were doing and they told a story about their stepmother not feeding them and throwing them out of the house. They asked for food for their empty bellies.

Calling for help wasn’t an option since I didn’t have a phone; it was getting dark and a five-mile walk to the nearest neighbor, so I invited them in for dinner. As I prepared the meal they described their plight, their poor family and lack of food. Hansel even had me feel his finger to demonstrate how undernourished he was.

I later heard him brag to the press that this was a trick; he had me touch a fake finger. I have recently been told Hansel and Gretel have never been thin; in fact they are plump teenagers, but they presented themselves to me as poor and unloved.

Because of their story, I suggested they should spend the night and made up the sleeper sofa. Besides, I didn’t think it would be safe for them to walk in the dark. In the morning I informed them that after a hearty breakfast they would need to leave. As I was putting a pan of sticky buns in the oven, one of them shoved me so hard that I hit my head and passed out.

Delores found me on the floor with gas permeating the house. She helped me to the car and as we traveled to the hospital I told her about the teenagers who spent the night. She said the house didn’t show any evidence of anyone else being there, but she had passed a little electric car on her way up to my house.

She stayed with me while the doctors stitched my head and I was settled into a room to be observed for signs of a concussion, and then she went to get the sheriff so I could report the attack.

When the sheriff arrived several hours later, I was perplexed as he ranted about arresting me. He accused me of locking up children in my shed, starving and torturing them. He told me I was a monster. That two beautiful children had escaped from my clutches, made it to the station, and reported my crimes. The authorities had been searching for the Eberstark children for five days. Their parents, a prominent family in the community, were demanding justice for the mistreatment of their children.

I didn’t understand what he was talking about. My head throbbed and I couldn’t keep my eyes open. When I was discharged from the hospital several days later, a deputy took me to the jail and arrested me on kidnapping charges. I protested and proclaimed my innocence, but no one would listen.

When I finally was released on bail, Delores brought me home and helped clean the house, as the search the authorities conducted had left my home in disarray. At this time I discovered that my jewelry and cash were gone.

Delores drove me back to the sheriff so that I could report the theft. The sheriff refused to take the information. He said I was fabricating another story to try to discredit the Eberstarks. They didn’t need my money or jewelry as they came from a wealthy family.

Your honor, please believe me. I did not do the things I have been accused of. I am old; not strong enough nor can I see well enough to manhandle two healthy teenagers. If there is evidence of them being in my shed for days, they must have hidden there, maybe as runaways. I did not lure them to my home, drug them, lock them up or torture them. I am the victim, not them.


Miss Smythe avoided people including the press and never told her version of the events in public. Her untimely death during the trial from a blood clot, which may have been caused from the blow to her head, ended all investigation into the incident. The Eberstarks had requested the records be sealed, as Hansel and Gretel were juveniles at the time. The transcripts have recently been released in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act and may demonstrate that beauty, wealth, and power have an undue influence on public opinion and our justice system.

Food for Thought

How does wealth and beauty affect our justice system?

In fairy tales ugly equals evil, is this attitude still prevalent today?

About the Author

A short non-fiction story I wrote about my father was published in his home town paper and a short non-fiction article of mine was in the October 2014 issue of The Futurist.

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  1. Really enjoyed the story. I thought it was a clever twist on an old story. It made me think about how things can be looked at from different angles.

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