As far as history goes, Wanet Mcneill could probably be described as a minor player. She had her fifteen minutes of fame back in the later 1940’s and has had little, if any, impact on current events. You won’t see her name plastered all over the internet and her name is hardly on the tip of anybody’s tongue but for reasons you will see later (should you continue reading), she holds a high place of esteem in the borgo household.
We Didn't Start the Fire
Wanet was a young girl growing up in the small town of Macomb, Illinois back in 1948 and when her parents divorced she was forced to live with her father on his farm on the outskirts of town. Apparently the farm life didn’t agree with young Wanet and she decided to use her special powers to the best of her ability to alleviate the situation. Think of the young Drew Barrymore in the Stephen King movie Firestarter.
During a one week period in 1948 over two hundred fires broke out on the Mneill homestead with no obvious cause other than the Wanet wishing them so. At first she would stare at a place or an object and a small brown spot would appear. After a few minutes, the spot would begin to smolder and not long afterwards, would burst into flames.
Officials were mystified and couldn’t determine the cause. Experts from around the country were called in and even the United States Air Force got into the act and tried to blame it on the Russians (Commie bastards!) and their use of radiation. Word soon spread about Wanet and investigators and newspapers around the country soon started calling for answers about her special powers.
Local authorities were a bit more skeptical, after a few weeks of intense questioning, Wanet admitted it was all a fraud and little was heard or said about her since.
Flash forward to a few years ago
When I think about it, me and my ex did a pretty good job as being single parents and raising our kid. From early on, we tried to foster her independence that we thought might come in handy as she moved on to adulthood. Sure, there were some bumps in the road and some twists and turns along the way but all in all, things were on the straight and narrow.
One of the things we did was to enroll her in an acting class at something called CATCO (Children’s Art Theater Columbus Ohio) with the hope it would help her get used to public speaking and enhance her presentation skills. I happened to mention this little event to a neighbor of mine who was studying film at Ohio State University and who happened to mention it to a friend of hers who happened (that’s a lot of happenings!) to be making a film at the time. My kid tried out and got a small part in the movie and little was said or heard about it in the ensuing years.
Flash forward to a few weeks ago
I’ve been out of work now for almost a year. During that time I’ve been enjoying reading books and catching up on the finer things in life. I’m not much into social media but every now and then I need to get my internet fix and headed off to the local library to do just that. Just for grins, I decided to Google my kids name and see what came up.
Imagine my surprise when I saw it on a link to the ImDb site. I decided to follow the links and lo and behold, the movie she was in was listed with her name as one of the credits. Naturally, a little more research was in order.
The movie itself is called “The Illinois Parables” and is described as an experimental documentary and documents the weird shit that went down in the state throughout history. One of them dealt with the aforementioned Wanet Mcneill and guess who got to play the part.
A little more research revealed that as of last month, the film was shown at Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival and a few weeks after that, at something called the Berlinale (Berlin International Film Festival). I couldn’t find any future showings and am trying to get in touch with the person who made the film to see if I can get my hands on a copy. Any suggestions would be welcome.
In the meantime, I think it’s pretty freakin’ cool that something like this just seemed to fall out of the sky via a random search on the internet.
In closing, I’m glad my kid didn’t take her role too seriously at the time. Lord knows, I might have burst into flames if I had crossed onto her bad side.