This is an editorial, not a news piece, written by Ithaca Voice Contributing Writer Brian Crandall. 

Over the past few years, I’ve contributed nearly five hundred articles to the Voice. There’s one Ithaca Voice article that I wrote that I am not proud of.

It had languished in my drafts for about a month, going through four or five rewrites because I was uncomfortable about it. I decided to post it to my personal blog, where it made no waves. Jeff Stein, the founder of The Voice and managing editor at the time, saw the piece and was intrigued. He wanted to run it on The Voice.

The article was called “The Dark Days of Dryden.” It was about Dryden’s string of tragedies over 20 years ago, where the town reeled from crimes and horrible personal losses that shook the community to its core.

As Jeff and I learned that day, neither of us understood just how raw the emotions were all these years later. Neither of us had really understood the pain of those who lived through it. We were naive. It was a sobering wake-up call to be more respectful of the community that The Voice serves.

With those memories still as clear as yesterday in my mind, it comes with some concern that the Discovery Channel Network has decided to exploit the town’s traumatic past for ratings. They will be airing a five-part series starting later this month called “Village of the Damned”.

This opinion piece won’t link to their web page; if you want to watch it, that’s your right, but I feel no need to assist. A search on google will turn up on just as much reading material for the morbidly curious. There is something especially callous in preying on a town’s misery and suffering for “good television”, especially when the families of those involved pleaded with them to stop the filming.

It is our understanding that family members of people who died were repeatedly harassed during the filming of this series and it was filmed without their consent or input.

It’s even more amazing that the network claims that residents adhere to a “code of silence”. In fact, the staff of the Voice would argue quite the contrary. Dryden Lion Legacy has worked to reclaim Dryden from the media frenzy, to warmly remember and honor those lost, and to celebrate the community’s resilience in the face of tragedy. The non-profit group awards scholarships, and hosts the Walk to Remember to raise funds to pay for those scholarships, as well as maintain the memorial garden. Lion Legacy’s good deeds seem a far better way to acknowledge and the history of Dryden than a dramatically-overhyped TV mini-series.

Related: Dryden org. looks to reclaim town’s legacy after deaths, tragedy in the 90s

For all the glitz and glamour that a TV camera provides, and all the slick packaging and bit-part actors they can pay for, there is one thing that the program will never truly capture, and that is the strength and spirit of the Dryden community.

Brian Crandall

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at bcrandall@ithacavoice.com.