Owing to the numerous conflicting accounts of the bizarre 1964 case, the truth behind the so-called Blood Carnival Incident of New Jersey will likely never be known.  Going by the official story there were only four actual fatalities at the hands of a single perpetrator, one Gerald C. Flagg.  One thing that is agreed on is that Flagg was shot while fleeing the scene of the final killing.  The official police report has, however, been shown to have been revised repeatedly, and it remains significantly at odds with documented accounts from witnesses of the notoriously benighted dance-hall rampage that was allegedly the conclusion of Flagg's two-day crime-spree.  The obscurity of this event has inspired endless fascination.
The most voluminous unofficial investigation is known as the Madison Files, after the man who compiled it, Madison Fillmore, the brother of Gerald Flagg's girlfriend Angela.  In Fillmore's treatise of events, Flagg was really just the hapless somnambulist pawn of the enigmatic Madame Estrella (actual name unknown), the carnival's resident gypsy palm-reader, and her vile henchman Ortega.  Naturally, critics have found much to dispute in Fillmore's sensational investigative work.  That a lowly coven of carnival gypsies would be in possession of a preternatural drug or method of hypnotism that enabled them to enslave a human subject's will, even to the degree of being able to direct them to carry out a bloody homicide in front of a crowd of witnesses is a good starting point for asking questions about Fillmore's journalistic integrity.  Yet before the determined Fillmore undertook to investigate the myriad odd circumstances at work behind the scenes of the Blood Carnival Incident, the police would publicly acknowledge neither the existence of Estrella or Ortega.  They had their lone killer on ice, after all.
Fillmore had only to interview a few of hundreds of carnival patrons who had their fortunes read by Estrella and had paid to see the dancer Carmelita's act.  One of Fillmore's witnesses was a county judge who'd had Estrella in his court once for petty theft.  The victim of Estrella's crime claimed that she had hypnotized him beforehand, and the case was promptly thrown out.  Most shockingly, a few un-named sources seen the bodies of Estrella and Carmelita near the scene of the climactic dance-hall rampage.  The district attorney's office seemed stubbornly determined not to investigate, or even respond to, these and many other assertions.
Fillmore and a number of his witnesses complained of intimidation, while others changed their stories or claimed never to have spoken to him at all.  A dancer who'd sworn she and the others had been attacked by someone other than Flagg that day soon died, apparently from a mysterious infection stemming from her injuries.  For Fillmore's part, though he was always eager to secure more witnesses, he seemed to recuse himself as a witness, presumably in the interest of maintaining the appearance of objectivity in uncovering new details.  This recusal would be a point of controversy until the end.
But many have taken Estrella and Ortega to be simple performers who melted back into the woodwork after their strange act was rather awkwardly interrupted by an actual murder.  Ortega's grotesque appearance would seem to support this, as would reports of the other unidentified assailants who were described as wearing Halloween masks.  Ortega was said to grunt incoherently rather than speaking, which might be the consequence of wearing restrictive prosthetics.  And if these three people were murdered by Flagg, why would the authorities go through so much trouble to deny their existence?  Had they eluded the police somehow?
And what of Flagg himself?  Though he was said to have a problem with authority figures, he had no real criminal record prior to the violent public stabbing of the first known victim, Marjorie Nielsen.  Unemployed, Flagg spent most of the time in the weeks before his crimes with his girlfriend Angela, and working on cars with his Romanian immigrant friend Harold Kang.  Both Angela and Harold claim Flagg was a gentle, friendly man who was behaving perfectly natural prior to the day the three of them visited Madame Estrella's tent at the carnival, and more particularly before he went to see Carmelita's act following an argument with Angela that same day.
Before Flagg's friend Harold returned to Romania, he mentioned to Fillmore that the three of them had seen the first victim Marge Nielsen emerge from Madame Estrella's hovel in a state of near-panic, actually colliding with Harold in her haste to get away.  It was only in the days after Flagg's demise that Harold made the connection.  Their desire to see the case come to a swift conclusion didn't keep the police from repeatedly questioning Harold Kang about his own private conversations with Flagg, and Fillmore believes that a call from immigration ended Kang's willingness to contribute to his investigation.
Flagg's activities between the time that Angela and Harold left him at the dance-hall where Carmelita did her act and the time that he stabbed Marge Nielsen and her dance partner William Ward to death in front of a shocked audience at the lounge where they performed two blocks distance are unknown.  But the startling connection between Flagg, Estrella and Nielsen, whether a coincidence or otherwise, is difficult to ignore.  According to Harold Kang, Estrella had refused to give Flagg a reading.  According to Madison Fillmore, his sister Angela had been struck by the sheer strangeness of Estrella's demeanor during this exchange, as if Estrella somehow knew that Flagg didn't have a future.  It's since been suggested that this could have been some sort of carney trick to convince the "mark" to pay out more than the standard rate to learn whether or not they were in genuine peril .
At fifty cents a reading, Estrella's rates were not exorbitant for the time, though there is no little speculation about what other services she provided without advertising.  Since a number of the dancers at the carnival were known prostitutes, it stands to reason that Madame Estrella, older sister of the star dancer Carmelita, may have been a Madame in a very real sense.  Yet most reports indicate that Estrella and Ortega were not often seen mixing with other carneys, Ortega himself apparently being a mute.  Estrella was actually infamous for her frequent drunken belligerence.
Alcoholism seems to be something Estrella had in common with her previous customer, Marjorie Nielsen.  According to her employer, Martin Hecht, Marge would drink heavily throughout the evening and he had recently threatened to terminate the dancer for collapsing during an act.  But a few infrequent patrons of the lounge intimated to Fillmore that the place had it's share of funny-business.  The lounge's only two regular acts, an amateur stand-up comic and Marge's routine with the other dancer, William Ward, were described as remarkably stilted, even downright awful.  Reputedly, most of the lounge's regulars weren't there for the scheduled entertainment.  The establishment indeed seemed to attract locals who were too odd and subversive for even the distinctly Bohemian atmosphere of the surrounding neighborhood.  The lounge burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances not long after Flagg's crime spree, and if the proprietors were ever investigated by the police the results were never publicized.  Fillmore did catch up to the retired Hecht almost a decade later and an interview provided several more twists to the controversy.  According to Hecht, the lounge was actually a store-front run by the syndicate, who torched the building for insurance.  Fillmore supposedly promised not to release this information until Hecht, who was in declining health, died a year later.  Thus, like a lot of Fillmore's evidence, Hecht's revelations were unverifiable.  Among them was Hecht's stated reason for being so tolerant of Marge's regular intoxication.  Nielsen was apparently the wayward daughter of a military scientist who was employed in the government's chemical warfare department.  The rumor mill soon turned this angle into a full-blown conspiracy.  Had the mob blackmailed the scientist for access to experimental chemicals including, presumably, the acid that Estrella was said to have used on her victims?  The mob, he said, did advise Hecht that firing Nielsen would be "bad for business".

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