Theodore Marlowe, internationally known for his novel The Secret Whisperers, which was shortlisted for a Nobel Prize, and whose Silent Forests of the Soul was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film, is buried in the churchyard of Our Lady of St. Clair in Detroit, not far from where he died in 1980. The church has been boarded up since 1985, and much of the surrounding cityscape has succumbed to urban blight and is abandoned or giving way to prairie.

Alone among the graves, though, Marlowe’s is kept tended. Twice a year, around his birthday in April and his deathday in September, his grave is quietly cleaned and restored with a bouquet of wild daisies–familiar to readers of The Secret Whisperers, naturally–and a bottle of Marlowe’s favorite Kentucky brandy with two snifters and a note. After a Detroit Democrat-Picayune story on the practice in 1995, a small crowd has gathered at each sighting of the mysterious custodian.

Volunteer DPD officers keep onlookers from interfering with the ritual, which is performed by a person of indeterminate characteristics in a dark hooded jacket and balaclava. As far as is known, the mystery person performed the ritual twice yearly without interruption for 34 years.

Until 2014, when they failed to appear in either April or September.

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