The Escape Artist Of Saint Christopher's
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PodunkTownRez #555000777

Mayford, Tennessee is a shithole town.

I would know, because my family and I used to live there.

It's miles away from any of the nearest towns. Most of the residents are as bigoted as you'd expect a rural town to be. The roads are full of potholes, none of which have been fixed. And the only interesting landmarks are the post office, and part of the subject of this post.

Saint Christopher's Mental Institution.

It used to be called Saint Christopher's Insane Asylum, but they were forced to change it after the state government got on their ass in 2008. It was situated on a large hill overlooking the rest of the town, surrounded by a tall spiked fence and gate. It was constructed in 1901, and you could tell. One of the most entertaining things you could do in Mayford was bet with the other locals how many bricks or tiles would fall off this time.

But I'm not here to tell you about the structural failings of the building, or how the place was finally shut down in 2020 due to grossly unethical medical practices (though our subject does have a part in it).

I'm here to talk about the Escape Artist of Saint Christopher's.

I'm not going to mythologize him, like most people who know about Mayford do. I'm going to tell you the facts, as I know them.

Thomas Jan Yaltz was born to Sophia and Jason Yaltz on Wednesday January 1st, 1997. Descendants of Polish immigrants (their surname is an anglicizing of Yelez), the Yaltzes lived an uneventful life until a rabies scare happened with 5 year old Thomas. While he didn't contract it, it still left him with a high fever that left him bedridden for a week.

He would make a full recovery, but after that day, something seemed to irrevocably change with Thomas. What used to be a quiet boy who tended to blend into the background, according to his teachers, all of a sudden became both talkative and imaginative.

It can be said that the roots of his reputation as an "Escape Artist" really began when Thomas was 6 years old. His teachers reported that he had not returned to class after asking to go to the bathroom. It was only when, after the school was searched top to bottom, that they heard crying from the rooftop.

Up there, hyperventilating and trying to jiggle the roof access door's knob to no success, was Thomas.

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Questioned repeatedly by his teachers, his parents, and the police, Thomas was consistent with his account throughout. He had been about to leave the bathroom after washing his hands, when "the room changed." It looked like his school's bathroom, but "something was wrong" and "the me in the mirror wasn't copyin' me."

Suddenly, his reflection began climbing out of the mirror and began chasing him. "He said he only wanted to play with me," Thomas would recount, "but I didn't like his smiling, so I ran. I ran as fast as I could."

The entire school was empty, according to him, as he went from classroom to classroom away from his reflection. The floors were "dirty," all of the windows and doors were open, and the air outside was "hot and smelled like wet dog" as he finally decided to run upstairs to the roof and call for help from a grownup.

The reflection, he claimed, started sprinting towards him once he reached the roof access door, and he was only barely able to slam the door shut on it. Pressing his back against the door as hard as he could, he could hear it "scratching on it like a cat" and spewing profanities at him.

Suddenly, however, the air became clear again, and the scratching stopped.

And he was stuck on the roof with no way to get down.

That was what led up to him crying up there, or so he claims.

Now, like me, you're probably dismissing his tale as the overreactive imagination of a terrified kindergartener, trying to come up with a lie that would get him out of trouble. But there's two things of note.

1). Thomas continued to stay adamant about his version of events, even through the timeouts and groundings he subsequently endured.

2). The roof's door was locked from the inside. No one could come up with an explanation of how he could even get up there without either being seen or seriously hurt.

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Of course, this would not be the last time that Thomas Yaltz would come up with an extravagant tale to explain his disappearances.

In fact, they seemed to increase in frequency the older he got, according to documents.

From when he claimed that his disappearing during a camping trip when he was 7 years old was because "a mermaid made me come to the lake, and took me to an underwater city".

To him being treated as a runaway teen when he was 17 years old and vanished from home, only to be found shaking and shivering in his father's closet two weeks later, muttering about "too many spiders".

The final straw, however, was when Thomas was 18 years old, and he disappeared during a relative's funeral, only to be found back at home almost five hours away from the proceedings.

No one was able to explain how he'd gotten there before his parents, when walking home would require an eight hour trek across a highway and multiple interstates. Or how he'd even gotten in, when the front and back doors were locked and bolted, and the windows didn't open.

This time, no one even bothered to listen to Thomas' fantastical explanation for how he'd gotten there, and the police would drag him, kicking and screaming, into Saint Christopher's Mental Institution, to be committed for schizophrenia.

Of course, after Saint Christopher's was shut down, this would be heavily scrutinized by mental health professionals, and would be called bullshit not just because there was no history of it in Thomas' family, not only was it at odds with his prior mental health checkups, but also because the paper diagnosing him was not reviewed by peers or supervisors. Just rubber-stamped before the ink even dried.

Thus begins Thomas Yaltz's time while institutionalized.

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The first month of Thomas' institutionalization - or to be described more accurately, incarceration - was uneventful, but no less horrifying.

He was placed in a locked room with no windows, and not just orderlies, but security cameras placed in front of the door at all times. He was to be straitjacketed unless he ate with the other "patients" or he needed to use the facilities. He was not allowed outside by any means. He was called all manner of ableist slurs by the staff (which I will not be repeating here due to site rules). And all mail sent to him by his family was intercepted and thrown into the building's furnace.

Thomas grew thinner and more withdrawn the longer he was kept like this, refusing to eat too much food and barely speaking a word to anyone who said anything to him. It got to the point where they needed to get a tighter straitjacket, because his normal one was becoming too big for him.

And then, one day, he'd vanished. Or rather, escaped.

No one was able to figure out how he'd done it. There was no way in or out of that room except the door, and that opened only when the orderlies were mandated to let him out. No security cameras caught him coming out of the building, either. It was just one moment, he was in his room; the next, he was gone.

He wouldn't stay gone for long, however. The sheriff of Mayford and police forces would find Thomas in his family's home, hugging his mother tight and crying. They had to physically restrain her from fighting the officers, who proceeded to beat her with their batons while he was dragged back into his prison.

Security was tightened. An orderly would stay in his room until midnight, more security cameras were placed inside and outside of the institution, and now he could only eat from a slot in his door, the orderly having to feed him themselves because Thomas was now straitjacketed at all times.

But, miraculously, he somehow managed to escape again.

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It was during the morning security check one day, when they found that Thomas was not in his room. This time, the entire police force combed the decrepit institution from top to bottom, detaining other patients, sometimes (read: always) violently, but once again no one could find him or fathom how he'd done it.

Despite the deplorably brutal measures the pigs inflicted on the Yaltz family, they were adamant about not having any physical contact with Thomas since he was re-institutionalized. A bulletin was sent to all other police stations in the Tennessee area, fabricating that Thomas was "armed, mentally unstable, and extremely dangerous", and wanted posters were plastered across the state.

It would be three months before Thomas would be spotted again, eating at an Arby's in Memphis. Their police force swiftly barged into the restaurant, slamming him against the table and battering him with their steel batons until bruises could be seen on his body, before cuffing him and throwing him into a squad car, to be kept in a jail cell until Mayford's cops could haul him back.

It just kept happening, no matter how much security was tightened around him. And no matter how rough the interrogations got, or how much food was deprived from him, Thomas never, ever said a word on how he'd escaped or where he'd gone.

By the time the most stringent measures were put in place-strapped to his bed, fed intravenously, and watched by an entire team of orderlies 24/7- Thomas Jan Yaltz had become something of a legend amongst the other patients of Saint Christopher's Mental Institution. Whether it'd been out of envy, admiration, or perhaps both at the same time, Thomas was all the patients would talk about during meal periods, until the staff-predictably-cracked down on such "nonsense", threatening electroconvulsive therapy on anyone who even alluded to his name.

After that, things seemed to have finally quieted down with St. Christopher's "problem patient".

Until the breakout happened, that is.

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You've probably heard the story. The report on it by Stuart Milin put him, and Mayford as a whole, on the map.

For those of you that don't, however, I'll summarize what happened.

On the night of February 1st 2020, just before dinnertime ended, masked men in brown suits and wielding firearms breached the front door of St. Christopher's, firing warning shots into the air and causing the patients to scramble into a panic.

However, these men ignored them, instead making their way towards the corridor that Thomas was kept in. Any staff that attempted to stop them were fired upon by rubber bullets that knocked them unconscious. The door to Thomas' room was rammed and rammed until the hinges gave way, the men subduing the orderlies promptly before freeing Thomas from his constraints.

According to the patients that were brave enough to witness this event, Thomas Yaltz was a husk of his former self. His cheeks were sunken in, his ribs could be seen through his chest, and he didn't even stir as the men carried him out from the building, before slamming the door shut.

That was the last time Thomas Yaltz was seen alive.

No one knew who these men were, what they wanted with Thomas Yaltz, where they took him, or what they did with him. For everyone involved, however, it was like one last escape from his prison.

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The Tennessee state government came down like a hammer on Mayford after that day. St. Christopher's was indicted with lawsuit after lawsuit, by transferred or released patients, for institutional abuse, bigotry, medical torture, forced conversions…you name it. Unable to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars slammed against them, the mental institution was forcefully shut down on March 15th 2020. The building was demolished to the ground the following year. From what I've heard, they're planning on converting it into a memorial site.

Mayford's police force was gutted like a fish, the entire branch shut down and authority subsumed by the nearby county of Erwin.

The Yaltzes moved out of Mayford less than a day after the institution was shut down, to live a quiet and private life elsewhere.

Thomas Yaltz was declared legally dead in 2023.

PodunkTownRez #555000777

Was Thomas Yaltz really telling the truth, whenever he told people what sounded like fibs? How did he escape from such seemingly airtight security measures? And where is he now?

I, unfortunately, cannot answer that. It goes beyond the boundary of facts that I swore to tell, and into speculation.

I will, however, leave everyone off with an anecdote, from a relative of mine.

Yes, my aunt was among those forcefully institutionalized by that pig-headed sheriff and those loathsome doctors. She's back at home now, with me and the rest of my caring family, having endured the shocks, the "therapy sessions", and all attempts to crush her spirits and what made my aunt my aunt.

She'd always been a little different than other people. She calls it "being in tune with my mystical side". Whatever it is, she witnessed the beginning and end of the breakout of Thomas Yaltz. However, please take her words with as much or as little grains of salt as you wish.

It weren't vigilantes, or mercenaries, or whatever codswallop that plagiarizin' hack Milin tried to explain them as, that got Tommy out of that hell. It was mystics, just like him an' I. Oh, they musta put up some kind of glamour to make it look like they were carryin' guns and whatnot, but they didn't fool me. Ah could see their robes, the spells they cast on those bastard staff, hear the words they spoke in another tongue as they left.

Wherever they took poor ol' Tommy, ah hope he's in a better place now.

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