The Helling Family Story so far
The Helling Bros.
The Helling brothers, Robert and Edward, used their father’s inheritance to purchase land and establish a farm that made some meagre profits growing strawberries. An accidental discovery one day lead the brothers’ profits to sky rocket. What Robert and Edward thought to be a weed actually turned out to be the biggest money maker they ever could have imagined. It was a peppercorn tree.
The groves of peppercorn trees soon filled the farmland from one end to the other. It didn’t take long for them to take off and not long after that the Helling brothers were making a small fortune.
Within 5 years of establishing their business, Robert and Edward Helling had built large factories and the small community had grown into a lively little village. The river was renamed in honour of the brothers to Helling River and the little township was born.
Robert married and had children, living in a part of the factory which was converted into living quarters while Edward, the younger brother, built himself a house overlooking the farm and township on the highest hill.
The Great Depression of 1929 hit the Helling Bros. business hard. The township soon halved in numbers as many of the workers left to find employment elsewhere. The Helling brothers were losing money, and fast.
To make matters worse, the peppercorn tree groves were hit by a bushfire which destroyed most, if not all, the precious trees.
Robert Helling himself spiralled into depression as he struggled to make ends meet for his own family. It came as no surprise to many the day that Robert Helling disappeared. He left a letter to his wife and children apologising for abandoning them. He wrote of his inability to continue living with the constant pressures of caring for them. He too had packed his bags and left town.
It was Edward Helling who stepped in to take care of his brother’s family. He took on the role of family man and became a father figure to Robert’s two children. Robert’s wife, Gretel, had also maintained hope that Robert would someday return to his family. But he never did. Gretel fell in love with Edward and they were married soon after. They lived as a happy family in the house on the hill that Edward had built.
Jack and Elias Helling
Over ten years had passed since the Great Depression of 1929 and Edward and Gretel Helling’s peppercorn farm was once again booming. As was the town. Edward had become a father to Gretel’s two children. They had grown older and helped out on the farm.
Jack and Elias Helling were both barely of age when they enlisted in the military in 1941. The young Helling brothers soon left to fight for their country. Even though Edward and Gretel would see little of their children during the war, Jack and Elias would write home often. Hearing from their children is what got them through and they were counting down the days that they would see both their sons again.
It was the letter they received from Elias Helling in 1942 that told them that both of their sons were returning home. One son, however, would not be returning alive.
Jack Helling was one of the first to be buried in Peppercorn Patch’s cemetery.
Edward Helling had been the last person to see Gretel Helling alive. She had left the house one morning as she had done nearly every other morning to go on her morning walk along the tracks through the hills behind the Helling House.
Edward and Elias Helling set out on a quest that morning in search of Gretel. Their search ended an hour later at the foot of a rocky cliff.
Mystery remained as to whether Gretel had accidentally fallen on her walk, or whether she had decided to end her pain and take her own life.
Years passed and Edward and Elias both managed the running of the Helling Bros. business. Fairly soon they were being offered large sums of money for the farm land they were using. Over time they sold off most of the land until they only had a small parcel of land left. By this time the Helling Bros. business had ceased to exist and Elias Helling had set up the local camping grounds to cash in on the booming tourist industry. Elias married and had a child of his own; a daughter named Constance.
An elderly Edward Helling years later sat propped up in his bed. His son, Elias, sat by his side. Edward knew that he only had a few short breaths left before he would say goodbye to his son for the last time.
“My son,” Edward spoke slowly to Elias. “You have been my pride and joy. You would have been my brother’s pride and joy too.”
“You’re my father. Not Richard. You have been the one that has been there to look after me and treat me like his own son,” Elias fought to hold back tears.
“There are many things in this world that will remain a mystery, Elias,” Edward informed his son. “There are some things from our family’s past that should also remain a mystery.”
Elias Helling was intrigued by what his elderly father was trying to say to him.
“Our family has many secrets, Elias,” Edward continued. “And if you ever want to find out what they are, then all you need to do is open this box.”
Edward handed Elias a small brown wooden box. On the front of the box was a bronze keyhole surrounded by the engraved initials, H.B.
“Only open if your heart tells you, Elias,” Edward warned his son. “But remember that some things are best left unopened.”
Elias looked the box over. “Where’s the key?” he asked his father.
It was too late. His father had found peace.
Constance pulls out the wooden box that her father, Elias Helling, had given her from her handbag. She opens the box and lifts out its contents. She twirls a golden skeleton key in her fingers. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
Constance pulls a faded pink bed sheet off of one of the nearby tables and its dust flies through the air making her cough. As she throws the sheet on the floor, she notices a wooden box sitting on the table – a jewellery box with a hand-carved pattern of flowers on the outside.
Constance lifts the jewellery box up and notices a name carved in the top: Gretel.
“My grandmother’s jewellery box,” Constance says excitedly.
The lock of the jewellery box clicks and a surge of excitement shoots through Constance’s body. She slowly lifts the lid of the jewellery box up to reveal its contents.
“Oh my!” Constance gleefully exclaims as she sees the white pearls inside the box. She reaches down inside the box to lift out the shiny beads before suddenly reeling back and screaming out in horror.
The jewellery box is knocked to the ground, along with its contents. Hundreds of pearly white beads disperse across the floor. Constance looks down in disbelief at the sea of human teeth.
The newspaper clippings sit on the floor surrounding Constance Helling. They all date back to 1965. Constance picks up one of the newspaper articles and skims through it hastily before throwing it to the side and picking up another. She had found the clippings in an old folder sitting next to the jewellery box she had found in the shed.
“I don’t understand…” Constance says to herself as she picks up another clipping to read. She skims the first few lines of The Holgate Times article:
At least 20 human skeletal remains have been located at the site of the old dam in the small town of Peppercorn Patch. Local law enforcement have advised that the bodies have yet to be identified, however all have been found to be missing their teeth.
Having entered the town of Holgate, Constance Helling slows to a stop outside a large grey coloured building. Its drab façade does not make for a warm welcome.
“I knew I’d seen it before,” Constance says to Dustin as she points up to the large sign above the building’s entrance. “I walked under it nearly everyday for years.”
Dustin turns to Constance and gives her a blank look.
“I used to work here,” she continues, “as a nurse.” She pulls out a small wooden box from her handbag and shows it to Dustin. He looks the box over and his eyes suddenly light up. He looks quickly up at the building’s sign again.
“This box belonged to my grandmother,” Constance runs her finger over the initials, H.B., on the front of the box. Above them, on the building’s sign, they can see the same initials.
“Holgate Bedlamites.” Constance smiles at Dustin. “Welcome to the asylum.”
“The mental hospital?” Dustin asks.
“Yes, I initially thought the initials stood for Helling Bros, as in the business my grandparents founded, but then I remembered the hospital I used to work at; Holgate Bedlamites. The small wooden boxes were used to store medication for the patients.”
“So your grandmother was a patient?” Dustin asks.
“No,” Constance says to the elderly councillor, “she was a nurse, like me.”
“Robert and Gretel Helling’s first child was actually a girl. A daughter named Maria,” Dustin says, continuing to shield Constance from the rain. “Maria was born with a condition which meant she would never have any teeth.”
Constance hides her shock from Dustin, and recalls the jewellery box of human teeth that she located.
“She didn’t survive,” Dustin informs her. He leans over and pats the small grave that Constance is kneeling in front of. There is no gravestone to identify the grave, only a small cross.
“She was only a baby,” Constance says. “They must have been heartbroken.”
Councillor Dustin Harris
“I believe that my father was killed, murdered even,” Dustin tells Constance. “He disappeared without a trace when I was a boy, and I believe that his body was one of the skeletons that was found.”
Constance looks at the man in front of her, her mouth wide open in shock.
“I was hoping that by helping you,” Dustin continues, “I would be able to find out the truth about my father. And help you in the process.”
“I knew you weren’t telling me the whole truth,” Constance says.
“I didn’t want to make you feel like your family wasn’t important, but I’ve been trying my whole life to find out the truth about my father.”
“There’s one other thing I haven’t told you yet,” Constance says, picking up a brown paper bag. “I found this with the newspaper clippings.”
Constance passes the brown paper bag to Dustin. He looks at her quizzically before opening the bag up and peering inside.
“It’s a diary,” Constance tells him, “belonging to my grandmother, Gretel Helling.”
“We have to read it,” Dustin says. “What if it has all the answers we have been searching for?”
“I couldn’t read it by myself, but maybe we can read it together.”
Dustin unties the leather bind at the front of the diary and opens it up to the first page. “Are you ready to do this?” he asks Constance. “Are you ready to find out about your family?”
Season Three begins Monday September 14