Monday, March 1, 2010

Rabies Outbreak Terrorizes East Spartanburg

When 13 year old Carla Owens came home from an afternoon in the woods behind her house with a squirrel bite, her mother didn't think to rush her off to the hospital for such a seemingly mild injury. Apparently during the following night the child became seriously ill and crazed, viciously attacking her parents in their sleep and infecting them as well with what authorities claim to be the most severe strain of rabies they've ever seen.

The next morning Spartanburg county police and rescue received calls from Drayton area homeowners concerning several crazed individuals roaming the area attacking anyone in sight. Police reports verify several incidents of vehicles running off the road to avoid hitting pedestrians in the middle of the street, only to be dragged from their cars and violently mauled. The people attacked apparently became crazed themselves, attacking others, to where by mid-day reports were coming in from all over the east side of town.

Greg Fowler, a gas station attendant on East Main street, managed to avoid what he described as a violent mob of blood stained lunatics by hiding in his stores beer cave. "The first one was a large bearded man in nothing but his boxer shorts, I thought he was just another drunk till I saw the blood dripping off his deeply bitten face." Fowler explained as he warmed himself after his nearly week long stay in the refrigerated safe haven of a beer cooler. "Luckily for me he went for a customer using the ATM machine first, giving me just enough time to make it in the beer cave, barring the door behind me. I don't remember much after the first 24 hours or so because I didn't have any food or water and had to drink beer to survive in there."

While some got through the ordeal by barricading themselves within their homes, others attempted to survive the tragedy by locking themselves in the old Hillcrest shopping plaza, but when they tried to make a break for it in two Spartanburg regional shuttle buses, reinforced with vinyl siding, they were overrun by the bloodthirsty infected. Paul Blart, a security officer at the plaza, survived by staying behind and shared his story with us. "It was me, a nurse, a cop, some guy that sold TV's, and a few others. I told them it was insane to go out there, but they were determined to reach an island in the middle of lake Bowen, thinking it was their only chance to survive. I told them it was suicide, but they wouldn't listen."

Another couple of survivors crawled out of the ruins of the old Winchester Pub on Fernwood and Glendale. Shaun Taylor and his girlfriend Liz ended up there with others and shared with me how they barely escaped with their lives. "It was us, and my mom, my best friend and another couple. We were fine the first night, but then the jukebox suddenly came blaring on and I guess they heard us. They came crashing in through the barricaded windows like a nightmare." Shaun recalls with terror in his eyes, "They made lunch meat out of everyone but us. The place somehow caught on fire at that point, and we were barely fending them off from behind the bar when luckily we found a trap door and got ourselves underground in the crawlspace to safety."

After many days, and several hundreds dead, the infected seemed to stop being aggressive and came back to their senses. Julie Hartford was one of the infected whom we talked to following the ordeal, and one of the few who were willing to explain her thoughts on what had happened. "All I remember was being attacked while going outside to my mailbox Thursday morning, and then suddenly I realized I was in the Wal-Mart parking lot covered in blood with raw flesh in my teeth." She explained in gory detail. "I've been a vegetarian for over three years now, and this relapse shouldn't count I believe. I was out of my mind, I don't remember a thing, but they said I attacked several people and bit some guys ear off, I'm so ashamed."

It was a tragedy this town won't soon forget, and all squirrels in the area are being systematically destroyed to prevent future outbreaks. The close proximity to Milliken's new umbrella factory has come under scrutiny, and an ongoing investigation is underway. Whatever the cause of this disaster, one can only feel sorrow for the lives lost, and sympathy for their families. We can only hope nothing like this ever happens again, and now the survivors must pick up the pieces and live life the only way they can, one day at a time.

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