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Written by Rick Archer



We are going to take a step back from my Saga.  I have not exaggerated about the facial scars.  The rest of my story will make no sense unless the Reader understands just what a staggering blow that Acne Attack was to me.  My life would never be the same. 

When I speak of High School Hell, this is no exaggeration either.  The coming chapters will make this abundantly clear. 

At this point in the story, I am 14.  For the next 18 years, one strange thing after another took place.  I peg the number of suspicious events at 25, but these are just the ones I remember.  The coming chapters explain how a series of uncanny situations helped me slowly overcome the crisis I found myself in and allow me to one day create SSQQ Dance Studio, the crowning achievement of my career. 

At this point, the Reader has realized this is no ordinary book.  The Reader has also concluded this is a very long book.  So, one will surely ask if there value in continuing to read further.   After all, we all know that Rick Archer is not famous.  So why bother?

I suggest you continue reading for one very good reason.  If I can convince you there is more to this world than meets the eye, then you might just change your entire outlook on life.  Or, in case you already agree with me, you will no doubt be encouraged to see your own views about the Meaning of Life corroborated in a very powerful manner.


I believe my life unfolded in such an unusual way that I have often felt like the actor in a drama called Destiny.  Some very curious things happened to me in my life.  As these initial chapters have shown, the Mystical element began in childhood.  There were times during my childhood when I was so lonely and bitter that I was on the verge of going off the deep end. 

And yet no matter how disturbed I was, someone would appear just in the nick of time to help me pull through.  After the third or fourth rescue, this series of lucky breaks felt so unusual and so improbable that I actually began to wonder if a Hidden Hand was guiding me.  Thanks to the unusual nature of the interventions, I began to develop a lifelong curiosity about Coincidences, Lucky Breaks, and unusual situations. 

At this juncture in my story, no one could possibly be much more unlucky than me.  And yet, the day would come when I would change my mind.  Now I would conclude no one could possibly be as lucky as me.  I did not get one break of a lifetime, I got ten of them.  My luck was so powerful that I began to wonder.

I became convinced there had to be a better explanation than dumb luck.


We all know that coincidences and lucky breaks can be unsettling.  Often we have no idea what to make of them.

A coincidence can be something odd like running into a childhood friend in an unexpected place years later.  Or it can be getting a phone call from a distant relative just moments after thinking about the person for no reason.  Ordinarily we readily dismiss these moments and turn our attention elsewhere.  However, once in while, we run across a coincidence so profound that we are forced to stop and consider the possibility of a supernatural explanation. 

"The more frequently one uses the word ‘Coincidence’ to explain bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not seeking, but rather evading the real explanation." -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson.

Could it be there are Unseen Hands manipulating pulleys and levers behind a curtain?  Who can say?  I for one believe that certain events are so weird that once in a while the best explanation may not be a Realistic one, but rather a Mystic one. 

This story about the 'Church Choir Coincidence' is a perfect example. 




The strange story you are about to read appeared in the March 27th, 1950, issue of Life Magazine.  Titled 'Why the Choir was Late', this story detailed a peculiar series of mundane delays that were responsible for saving the lives of seventeen different people.

The story took place in Beatrice, Nebraska, a small agricultural community about 450 miles due east of Denver, Colorado.  The population in 1950 was around 5,000 people.  If you have any doubt as to its authenticity, then Google it and decide for yourself.  



The First Delay

March 1, 1950, was a bitterly cold day in windswept Beatrice, Nebraska. 

Reverend Walter Klempel knew that the evening's 7:20 pm choir practice would be quite uncomfortable unless he heated the church ahead of time.

So that afternoon Reverend Klempel visited West Side Baptist Church to light the furnace.   Reverend Klempel then returned home to change clothes and have dinner.  As usual, he left the door open so anyone who wished to come early could come in out of the cold.

At 7:10 pm that evening, as was his custom, he rose from reading his Bible to drive to the nearby church five minutes away.  However, just as he was about to leave, his oldest daughter Marilyn Ruth, 18, cried in dismay when she discovered her dress was soiled. 

Her mother said not to worry; it would only take a few minutes to iron another dress.

Reverend Klempel, Mrs. Kempel and Marilyn Ruth would be late. 



The Second Delay

Ladona Vandegrift, a high school student, did not want to leave until she finished a nagging geometry problem. 

Ordinarily Ladona was the most punctual member of the choir.  In fact, she was typically early for choir practice.

Tonight would be the first time Ladona had ever been late for choir practice.




The Third Delay

Royena Estes was ready to leave on time.  However, to her dismay, her car wouldn't start on this cold Nebraska night. 

Royena's sister Sadie suggested they call their neighbor Ladona Vandegrift for a ride.

To their surprise, the ordinarily reliable Ladona was still at home.  They thought she would be gone by now.  Then to their further surprise, Ladona asked them to wait.  Ladona said she would come pick them up just as soon as she finished her knotty math problem.  Ladona's tricky geometry issue ended up making all three ladies late. 




The Fourth Delay

Mrs. Leonard Shuster was always among the most prompt of the choir members.

Ordinarily she and her small daughter Susan would have been on time. 

However tonight Mrs. Shuster had received a phone call from her mother asking for a favor.  At the last minute, Mrs. Shuster had to make an unexpected detour over to her mother's house to help her mother get ready for a missionary meeting.

This delay caused Mrs. Shuster and Susan to be late for choir practice.

3 + 1 + 2 + Mrs. Shuster and daughter Susan = EIGHT PEOPLE DELAYED ON THEIR WAY TO CHURCH


The Fifth Delay

Herbert Kipf was a lathe operator.  He was late because he wanted to finish writing a letter.

When asked later why the letter was so important, Kipf replied, "Funny you should ask.  I can't think why."



The Sixth Delay

Machinist Harvey Ahl got distracted.  His wife was away, so he was busy watching his two boys that evening.

Mr. Ahl was planning to take the two boys with him to choir practice, but ended up playing with his sons and lost track of time.

By the time Harvey Ahl looked at his watch, to his surprise he realized he was already late.

3 + 1 + 2 + 2  + 1 + Harvey and two sons = TWELVE PEOPLE DELAYED ON THEIR WAY TO CHURCH



The Seventh Delay

Marilyn Paul was the pianist.  She planned to arrive half an hour early to practice her songs for the evening.   However, Marilyn was feeling tired, so she decided to take a nap after dinner. 

Marilyn fell into a deep sleep.  At 7 pm, Martha Paul, Marilyn's mother, awakened her.  However, Marilyn fell right back to sleep.  At 7:15 pm, Mrs. Paul was annoyed to see Marilyn was still asleep. Now she was forced to awaken her daughter again.

Mrs. Paul was fit to be tied.  As choir director, she was adamant that everyone be punctual.  Now her own daughter had made them both late.

3 + 1 + 2 + 2  + 1 + 3 + Marilyn and Mrs. Paul =



The Eighth Delay

Lucille Jones and Dorothy Wood were best friends in high school.  They were also neighbors who rode together for choir practice.

Lucille was another person who had a reputation for punctuality.   However on this night she had become mesmerized by a radio program.  The 7:00-7:30 pm program of This is Your Life featured the life story of Edgar Bergen, the famous ventriloquist and puppeteer.  Lucille simply could not tear herself away from the program until she knew the complete story.

Meanwhile Dorothy waited patiently as Lucille stayed glued to her radio program.

3 + 1 + 2 + 2  + 1 + 3 + 2 + Lucy and Dorothy SIXTEEN PEOPLE DELAYED ON THEIR WAY TO CHURCH




The Ninth Delay

It was a cold March evening indeed.  As the stiff Nebraska winter breezes stirred the trees outside, stenographer Joyce Black dreaded facing the cold night air.

Oddly enough, Ms. Black lived right across the street from the church.  Nevertheless, she couldn't seem to force herself to go outside in the cold.  That three-minute windswept walk to reach the comfort of the church made her shiver just thinking about it.

So Joyce Black put off leaving until the last possible moment.  She remained in her cozy warm house until finally her conscience kicked in and told her to get up and get moving.

When later asked about it, Joyce Black replied she was feeling "just plain lazy".

3 + 1 + 2 + 2  + 1 + 3 + 2 + 2 + Joyce =  SEVENTEEN PEOPLE DELAYED



At 7:25 pm, Joyce Black was finally able to make herself face the cold. 

The moment Joyce opened her door to cross the street, the night lit up in fire!!

There was a massive explosion in the church!

The night turned scarlet in a violent burst of flames.  Joyce Black was almost knocked off her feet by the nearby blast. 

The woman covered her mouth in horror.  Right before her eyes, the West Side Baptist Church was burning like an inferno.  The shock was so overwhelming, Joyce screamed in fear.

Someone had surely been killed, more likely the entire church choir.  Joyce knew this for a fact. 

Choir practice was scheduled for 7:20 pm.  The church had exploded at 7:25 pm. 

Had even one person made it to the church on time, they would be dead now. 


The entire church building had been instantly demolished by a gas leak that had caught fire.  After the supporting walls fell outward, the heavy wooden roof came crashing straight down. 

Joyce Black felt sick.  The fire and the collapsing roof would have been fatal to anyone inside.  There was no possibility of escape in a blast of this magnitude.




At the exact moment Joyce Black was staggered by the explosion, thanks to the various delays, seven different cars carrying sixteen people were late getting to the church.  Every single one of those people had been saved from a fiery death because they were still on the road.

The powerful roar of the explosion was so loud that it was heard in every corner of Beatrice... that included the choir members driving to the church.

Each choir member distinctly heard the loud roar as they drove to practice.  One woman said she was so shocked she nearly drove off the road.  Everyone was deeply worried because they were certain the sound of the blast had come from the direction of their church.  Each person in the seven cars fully expected that if this was indeed the West Side Church that had blown up, someone was surely hurt or maybe much worse.  However, they need not have feared.  Through a very strange set of coincidences, no one died that night.  Not one person was even hurt. 

As each person arrived at the burning church, they gasped at the flames.  Once they saw the burning church, they were stunned to realize that their lateness had saved them from certain death.  Thank goodness they were spared, but now their thoughts turned to their friends at risk.  At this point, they believed that someone had surely lost their life in there. 

Standing in the parking lot despite the cold, they huddled together and began to take count with each new arrival.  Once the entire choir had arrived, the individuals were shocked to realize every single person in the choir group had been spared. 

Not one person had perished in the flames.

Goose bumps and a profound sense of eeriness overwhelmed each individual.  Tears of gratitude poured out.


As they slowly recovered from their fears and their strange feelings, the members of the choir began to compare their stories.  It became apparent that each reason for lateness was quite ordinary and completely unconnected. 

When viewed separately, each delay was unremarkable in itself. 

Yet when each reason was laid side by side along with the others, a strange hush came over all of them.  They were in awe as they calculated the enormity of this series of delays.   Several were convinced this had to be "An act of God."

Someone estimated the odds.  Typically one person in four was late on any given night.  To have 17 different people be late on the same night was one in a million.

To the members of the choir, these delays amounted to a very strange Miracle.  The choir members had no particular theory about the fire's cause, but each of them asked themselves at what point was it fair to say this had been an Act of God. 




I have no trouble believing the Miracle of the Church Choir.  I once experienced an event of my own that I consider to be a Miracle to this day.  In other words, when I say I am serious about discussing 'Fate', I am very serious. 

Although my story is a long one, I promise you will not be disappointed.   However, there is one problem... you already know my life turned out well. 

Dumb move.  Any good writer will tell you when someone is trying to build the drama, it really helps not to reveal the happy ending.  Oops!  Too late now. 

But what you don't know about are the curious events that caused me to conclude there are things to this world that transcend sight and sound.  The only way I can convince anyone is to let me tell you my story one step at a time from beginning to end. 

At this point in my tale, we see that I have reached Rock Bottom.  Due to the Acne crisis, I was overcome with an overwhelming sense of futility.  It was from this enormous hole that I began a long, unusual Path towards the happiness of my later life.

I would one day own the largest independent dance studio in America.  400,000 people would walk through my doors during a 32 year career.  400 couples would find love at my studio and go on to marry. 

No one could have foreseen this at age 14.  My life was in terrible crisis and soon to get worse.  There were terrible misfortunes awaiting me.

Not once in my entire life would I ever see another person with an acne condition one-tenth as severe as mine.  There is a reason for that.  Middle class kids with normal parents are taken to the doctor.  But who ever said my mother was normal?

During my leprosy period, I always carried the hope that my face would return to normal when the acne cleared.  No one had the heart to tell me what awaited me.  I never suspected the cruelest blow was yet to come. 

As the pimples slowly vanished, like a receding glacier they left behind a series of peaks and valleys in my skin.  I was full of despair to discover my face was permanently pockmarked worse than the cratered landscape of the Moon. 

I was beyond sick.  It was one thing to withstand a temporary shame, but this scarring was permanent.  I could not bear the thought of looking like this for the rest of my life. 

I was fortunate to receive two skin planing operations to get my face back to a semblance of normalcy.  But the doctor was not satisfied.  He offered to do one more operation at half-price.  He said with problems as severe as mine, the third time was the charm.

At this point, my father put his foot down and said forget it.  Two operations was enough.  I was furious.  So pay the goddamn 20% deductible, Dad!!  $260 would let me look like a normal human being again.  My father said no.

Not once in my entire life would I ever see another person with facial scars as bad as mine.  There is a reason for that.  A normal parent would have listened to the doctor.  But who ever said my father was normal?

Before the acne, I had already developed a serious sense of inferiority.  Pock-mocked for life, I now concluded I was the ugliest boy in school.  That sense of inferiority would be amplified many times over. 

As an only child with two of the most neglectful middle-class parents imaginable, I was more or less left to raise myself.  As we will see, I did not do a very good job of it.  I turned out crooked and twisted.  I had emotional problems akin to a ticking time bomb.

These problems came very close to crippling me for life.  Indeed, the problems associated with this acne attack would cause me to develop a fear of women so severe that it bordered on mental illness. 

And yet I came back.  I would overcome my disfigurement to one day hold beautiful women in my arms.  I would marry a beautiful wife.  I would be blessed with a beautiful daughter. 

In short, I would have a wonderful life, a wonderful wife, and a wonderful child.

Could I possibly have been more blessed?  Absolutely not. 

So how did I do it?

I believe I had Supernatural help. 


Who ever said that Life was fair? 

I think I was a handsome boy.  And I was a heck of a basketball player.  I could very easily have been the best basketball player in that school.   But I will never know, will I?

I believe my life would have turned out much differently if I had two eyes and a normal face.  Or a different mother and a father.  Instead, I became full of hate.  I was scarred inside and out.

Tormented by the scars, I turned into a bitter, anti-social loner who wanted to lash out in the worst way. 

Consider the monsters at Columbine High School.  Yes, that is how bad it was for a time there.  I was consumed with dark, angry thoughts.


And yet I eventually turned into a pretty nice person. 

Not perfect by a long shot.  I made plenty of mistakes, but I learned from them.

Fate had been cruel to me, but a powerful Supernatural event would change my Path completely. 

I hope you will join me in the following chapters for a wilder ride than you can possibly imagine.

Rick Archer




Chapter EIGHT:  Paint it black




  1955   Cut my eye out (01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
  1959-1968   Nine year career at St. John's
  1959-1960   Divorce, start 4th Grade at St. John's, Mom falls apart, Dad abandons me,
Feelings of inferiority begin to develop vis a vis the Mother's Guild, fascination with Mrs. Ballantyne begins
  1960-1961   5th grade, Terry runs away for over 2 days
  1961-1962   6th Grade, Hurricane Carla, Dad refuses to send to SJS beyond 6th grade, Granted half-scholarship to SJS
  1962-1963   7th Grade, Fred Incident - Illness at boy scout camp leads to invisibility, Katina Ballantyne joins my class
  1963-1964   8th Grade, Knocked unconscious playing football due to blind eye, Caught stealing candy at Weingarten's ,
Discovery of chess book (03), Granted full scholarship to SJS, Summer basketball project
  1964-1965   9th Grade, Acne Attack (04), Basketball strike on swollen face (05)


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