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Making a Murderer: The South Bend Shovel Slayer

RCT takes a closer look at the so-called Good Samaritan from Home Alone.

Besides being the greatest holiday movie of all time, Home Alone just touches the surface of a great murder mystery. Let’s go back to the movie’s beginning. The McCallister Family’s Christmas trip of a lifetime suddenly comes to a shocking halt when Kate realizes Kevin isn’t on the plane. Halfway across the world from their child, panic ensues.

Once on the ground, the family begins dialing neighbors and friends. We of course know that those phone calls bring in no help as every single neighbor is out of town on holiday (which, let’s be real, is completely weird). There seems to be one neighbor that we know is home. Buzz knew it. Kate and Peter very likely knew so, too. He works selflessly to make sure the sidewalks are shoveled and salted. Why wasn’t he called?

We are first introduced to the man known as Old Man Marley at the beginning of the movie. Buzz tries to scare his cousin and younger brother with a tale about the old man. For those who don’t know, this is what Buzz tells the two boys:

In ‘58 he murdered his whole family and half the people on his block. Been hiding out in this neighborhood ever since.

If he’s the shovel slayer, how come the cops don’t arrest him?

Not enough evidence to convict. They never found the bodies.

Later on in the movie Buzz tells his sister they live on the most boring street in the United States where nothing remotely interesting will ever happen. This makes it clear that his story from earlier is something he doesn’t actually believe. I mean of course it’s ridiculous. A serial murderer living right next door? That’s crazy, right? Or is it? Here we will dissect the tale of Old Man Marley and understand why he isn’t the ailed and lonely man he wanted us to believe him to be.

When we are formally introduced to Marley towards the end of the movie, he denies being the shovel slayer:

You live next to me, don’t you? (Kevin nods) You can say hello when you see me. You don’t have to be afraid. There’s a lot of things going around about me, but none of it’s true. Okay? (Kevin nods) You’ve been a good boy this year?

Notice how quickly he changes the subject after denying being a mass murderer? Sure he says he didn’t do it. We can take that for what it’s worth. However not many serial killers would freely admit so to a 9 year old. Rather than take his word for it, we should take a look at his actions.

Kevin’s first meeting with Marley occurs after Kevin scares off the Wet Bandits on his first night alone in the home. Kevin walks outside and yells into the void that he isn’t afraid anymore. We aren’t told the time difference between the Wet Bandits leaving and Kevin going outside but we can assume it isn’t that long. Instead of smiling or offering a kindly “is something wrong?” Marley just coldly stares at the distraught child.

The next meeting occurs at the drugstore. Marley quietly walks up behind Kevin, plops one bloodied and crudely-bandaged hand down on the counter and again gives Kevin a cold stare. A cold stare that would send terrified shivers into the toughest of men. As Kevin backs away in fear, Marley doesn’t break eye contact or show any kind of reassuring comfort to the obviously frightened child.

Finally, in the scene in the church Marley weirdly bares his soul about his dysfunctional family adding that he got in a fight with his son and hadn’t spoken to him in many years. According to Buzz’s story earlier, the murders occurred in 1958. The story takes place in 1990, or 32 years after the ‘58 shovel slayings. We don’t get a good look at Marley’s son but given his youthful head of dark hair and his young daughter, it isn’t unreasonable to estimate his age at…...32. Born the same year as the South Bend Shovel Slayer murders.

Did Old Man Marley want to start a new family and so he killed his old one to make that possible? Did the son find out the truth which resulted in the years of estrangement? There are far too many coincidences here to take Marley’s word that “none of it is true.”

So where do the stories come from? Given that the McCallister’s refusal to call the one person who could help them take care of Kevin until they returned, it’s entirely possible that Buzz heard this story from his parents. Marley is their next door neighbor and Kevin didn’t know who he was, this man who walks around the neighborhood night after night shoveling snow. That is someone who has been actively shielded from this man.

Old Man Marley is the South Bend Shovel Slayer.