Lying in his uncomfortable bed in Granite Park Chalet on the night of Aug. 12, Dr. John Lipinski laughed to himself as he thought about the situation. Thirteen years before, he and his wife Ann had grown tired of the increasing congestion in the city of Chicago and decided to head for the Wild West, where they could indulge their love of nature and spend day after day hiking on wilderness trails. Lipinski was a surgeon and his wife was a nurse, and when they had set up practice in the lumber town of Kalispell, Mont. the demands on their skills had been so incessant that it had taken them four years to find the time to make their first overnight hike: into Sperry Chalet, to see the mountain goats. Now, eight years after that momentous occasion, they were on their second overnight hike, into Granite Park to see the bears. With them were their daughter Terese, 16, and their two sons, Robin, 5, and Karl, 4.
Dr. Lipinski drifted off to sleep, but Ann pitched and tossed. Now and then she would hear a brief snore from her husband, but her mind raced. Slowly her thoughts became more and more indistinct, blessed sleep on its way at last. Just then she heard a muffled scream. It seemed to come from the direction of one of the outside bathrooms, and it occurred to the nurse that someone was being attacked. She shook her husband.
"John!" she said. "There's a lady in trouble! John, did you hear the lady scream?"
"Now why in the world would a lady be screaming way up here?" Dr. Lipinski asked thickly.
Outside, the wall of silence fell again. Not a whisper of wind disturbed the night and Ann Lipinski let her head fall back on the mattress. She was absolutely certain she had heard a female scream, but for the life of her she could not figure out how to communicate the fact to her husband. She was pondering the problem when an unmistakable, distinct scream shattered the night. Both Lipinskis were on their feet instantly and rushing out to the balcony. As they did, they heard a far-off woman's voice cry, "Get out! Get out! Get away from me!" As the doctor and the nurse peered into the dark night, trying to pinpoint the sound, the voice came clear and terrible across the stillness from below: "God help me, he's stabbing me!" There were a few seconds of silence, then: "God help me! Somebody help me!"
Terese was the only member of the Lipinski family who was dressed. Her parents sent her downstairs to awaken the management. Now they knew beyond any question that something was wrong. Ann Lipinski thought she had it figured out, and she told her husband, "My Lord, we've got a murder on our hands." Her husband did not disagree.
Terese banged loudly on the first door she came to, and in a few seconds a young woman appeared and asked what was the trouble. Terese recognized Joan Devereaux, the ranger-naturalist who had guided them into the place. Terese blurted out that someone was screaming and could be heard from the balcony above. The ranger said gently, "You've been dreaming. Nobody's cried out. Now just go back to bed." Although Joan was only 22 years old and barely out of college, she had a great sense of responsibility and leadership. It was natural for her to try to calm the (as it seemed to her) nervous fear of a child.
But Terese insisted and several minutes went by before she was able to convince the drowsy naturalist that something was amiss. Wearily, Joan agreed to go upstairs and see what she could hear. When one of the kitchen workers came into the room to find out what was happening, the naturalist told her to get the chalet's packset radio and turn it on, just in case. Then she finished lacing her boots, turned to Terese and said, "Let's go."
Innkeeper Tom Walton and his wife Nancy were sound asleep in their upstairs room when a loud banging on their door awoke them both. Tom looked at his watch; it was 12:45. Hastily yanking on a pair of old Levi's, he walked out to the balcony. He recognized Joan Devereaux and the Lipinski family and a few others standing quietly, listening to the silence.
"I heard screams and so did my husband," Mrs. Lipinski said.