Friday, November 27, 2015

Tarot Of Terror: Thomas Brown Hewitt/Leatherface

I'm still working on some cool little Cryptkeeper-ish introduction to this, but honestly just can't cram that many puns into a couple paragraphs. But anyway, it's been a while, so let's go down to the catacombs and see what's on the slab this time around. Today's tawdry tale brings us the unfortunate, star-crossed story of Thomas Brown Hewitt, later to become known as Leatherface. Thomas appears in the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and gets the origins treatment in 2006's Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. This was followed by about 8 comics published under DC Comics, and continuing the Hewitt story. So, before we get into the reading, let's go over a brief timeline of Hewitt's life. It's impossible to understand Thomas Hewitt without getting some background on the Hewitt family as well. So here goes. 
- August 7, 1939: A baby is born to a woman working at the Blair Meat Company in Fuller, Texas. The mother gives birth while on the job and subsequently dies due to complications. The infant, apparently suffering from physical deformity, is disposed of by the plant manager, who believes the infant to be dead or soon to be dead. 
Blair Meat Company, Fuller, TX

Luda May Hewitt, a local woman whose family works at the meat plant, finds the baby, still alive, while hunting through the dumpster of the plant, looking for food. She takes the baby home and adopts him, naming him Thomas.  
Luda Mae discovers Thomas. 
August, 1951: Thomas is diagnosed with a neurologically degenerative condition, as well as numerous psychological issues- a history of violence and self-mutilation is documented. Around this time Thomas has been learning needlepoint and sewing, and has sewn a suit of animal pelts. He has trapped, killed and skinned the animals himself. His facial deformities have become more marked, and he has taken to wearing some manner of mask or covering over his face due to constantly being tormented and bullied. His deformity as well as neurological conditions and muteness cause his peers to fear and shun him, and his adopted mother to become overly protective, believing Thomas to simply be misunderstood. Thomas' adopted uncle, Charlie, murders one of Thomas' bullies after Thomas kidnaps him and imprisons him in the Hewitt house. Thomas removes the skin of this bully's face, prompting Charlie to wonder what need in Thomas this satisfies. It's worth noting that Charlie expresses little surprise at this, and simply disposes of the bully and prepares him for butchering, much as the Hewitt family has done in their long careers at Blair Meat. This has been a long-standing tradition with Charlie, who returned from the Korean War after having resorted to cannibalism and murder to survive a POW camp. Charlie, to whom Thomas becomes very attached, has developed a taste for people, and has returned home with what appears to be a severe case of PTSD. This environment, along with the Hewitts' isolation in general, prompts a suspicion and hatred of anyone outside the family. Thomas, being constantly bullied and tortured, internalizes this to a great extent. 
1969, Summer: The Blair Meat Company, where Thomas has worked for some time, finally is shut down due to health code violations. (Gee, big surprise there). The company has been failing for some time, and the town of Fuller is all but extinct. Thomas, working on the same floor for the same person that his biological mother was working for at the time of her death, kills this same boss after being told that the plant is closed by bludgeoning him to death. Sheriff Winston Hoyt, the sum total of law enforcement left in Fuller, is called in to arrest and detain Thomas, who has left the plant and heads for home. Accompanying Hoyt is Charlie Hewitt, Thomas' uncle, who insists to Hoyt that Thomas isn't dangerous or mentally unfit, he's just "misunderstood". Charlie and the sheriff find Thomas walking, and Charlie then shoots the sheriff with his own shotgun, bringing the body home for food. Charlie then adopts the office, badge and identity of Sheriff Hoyt. Lacking much of anyone else in town to dispute this, Charlie remains the sheriff, so to speak. 
Full Metal Jacket it isn't. 
1973, Summer: Erin Hardesty and friends are traveling through Fuller when they encounter 'Sheriff Hoyt' and the rest of the Hewitt clan. Hardesty ultimately escapes, though none of the people she was traveling with do, falling victim to Thomas and his family. Hardesty certainly goes out fighting, as she manages to hack off Thomas' right arm and kill Charlie by running him over. She tells the police her story, and the case is later turned over to the FBI. She then is committed to a mental institution. The Travis County police subsequently investigate the Hewitt home and surrounding areas as a crime scene, however Thomas is still present and attacks the police investigative team. Subsequently, the case is turned over to the FBI, where it remains in their cold case files, unresolved. 
Still shot from Travis County Police footage

1974:  Two FBI agents, Agent Henkle and Agent Hooper, (an in joke referring to the production team of the original film) are sent to follow up on the murders. They find the Hewitt residence, and more importantly, the sheriff's office that Charlie had taken over. It seems Charlie has gone to great lengths to cover up much of the original investigation, acting in his assumed identity of sheriff. The agents find a network of tunnels under the office, and this is revealed to be where the Hewitts have retreated to. 
Luda May and Thomas. Note the prosthetic arm.
A battle between the agents and the Hewitts ensues, and all are presumed killed by a grenade explosion (hey, if you're going to cause some destruction, might as well go all out). Thomas survives, and one year later we find him living with two other older men who are not identified. It seems the Hewitts are an extensive clan, and have relatives all over the place. 

So, to review. Thomas' psychological profile is an interesting one. We know from his birthdate that he is a Leo. Interestingly, he displays none of the common characteristics of leadership you often see in this sign. However, you do see much of the loyalty and eagerness to please that also accompany this sign. Thomas is completely dependent on his family, and they in turn are the only people who, in their odd way, have ever shown him kindness or given him a sense of belonging. Thomas' whole identity is based on and revolves around his family. He sees himself, and his family sees him, as something of a protector and servant. His large frame, strength and skill on the slaughterhouse floor give him natural advantages in this, and he turns from a ruthless, thoughtless juggernaut to a kind and doting son in an instant. These are roles the family has put on him, and Thomas accepts them, almost seeming to lack a separate sense of identity on his own. 
Now, on to the reading. Operating from Thomas' warped mental state, the cards take on something of a different cast. This was one of the more grim readings I've done. Fortunately, it's just fiction. I used a Celtic Cross spread for this case, and the reading picks up where the comic book narrative leaves off. Thomas is living with a new family or set of family members, and nothing has changed for him. 
The first card was the 9 of Cups, representing the current situation. This gave me a strong impression of Thomas simply exchanging one scenario for an identical one in every way except the persons involved. Here once again we have Thomas as servant and protector, his family being the most important, and perhaps the only important thing to him. He knows this role and falls into it effortlessly. Thomas is where he feels comfortable, and knows what is expected of him, There are no unknowns and he feels safe. Any outsiders are regarded (still) as a threat, but Thomas knows he can deal with them as he has always done.
Covering this, indicating influences over the situation, was the 8 of Wands. The psychological state of the whole Hewitt clan is obviously pretty questionable, but we have sympathetic delusions here. The Hewitts are united in their hatred and fear of the outside world, and time has done nothing but strengthen the bond between them and increase their isolation. Tearing Thomas away from his family would be all but impossible at this point, though the way in which family manifests will become clearer as well.
In the past, which I related to about the time that the Fuller County police team was attacked, we have the High Priestess. The High Priestess is all about revealing hidden things and putting the pieces together. Did Thomas receive orders from another family member (Luda Mae, let's say) to attack the police team? This card is an indication that no, he did this on his own initiative. However, Charlie, his link to the outside world and source of direction, had been killed not long before. While it's possible he was acting on orders, as before, it seems Thomas has internalized a Charlie-persona, granting him a degree of autonomy. The leadership Charlie provided is now a part of Thomas, and this would also jibe well with his other Leo traits. To what extent this was a calculated attack instead of just impulse, we may not know. Perhaps it was both. 
The Foundation position held, fittingly, the 10 of Pentacles. Thomas has and maintains a strong sense of family. One interpretation for the 10 is that of inheritance or legacy. The Hewitts created a perfect murderer, and this Thomas likewise has taken to heart and makes use of. Again, we must remember that we're seeing this from Thomas' perspective, thus the Pentacles card here takes on something of a positive context. Thomas finds he can function on his own- the High Priestess representing this new-found knowledge, and the 10 representing the skills and abilities, as well as the mental abnormalities Thomas has in his arsenal. 
However, problems remain, judging from the Aspirations position. Here we see the best (relatively speaking) outcome and what the subject might like to see. Here is the Strength card reversed. What this points to is though Thomas has to some extent internalized Charlie's role, it's still not a perfect system. Keep in mind we're looking at a person who has been isolated his entire life, with no normal socialization with anyone, and the only social interaction he has ever known has been with family members. Trouble is bound to arise, though it seems he can continue on in the roles he has long known. 
In the Near Future position, we find another Major card, here the reversed Lovers. Could Thomas, now in his middle 30s, ever become properly adapted to life in a normal world, or is violence too ingrained in him to ever bring him out of his current state? The reversed Lovers suggests again that internalization. Thomas hasn't moved any closer to a normal life by losing Charlie, but rather has added a new fracture to the already shattered pieces of his mind. Left to his own devices, it seems Thomas would more than likely implode. His tendency towards self-mutilation and dementia would likely take over, though he's shown himself to be more than capable of supporting himself in terms of shelter, food and stealth. It seems likely he would not want to go on living, but would be able to do so. Perhaps the Charlie-persona would keep him alive. Thomas needs some focus, and cannot continue without it. We see this in his new family, and without that family, it seems likely that he would simply look within his own mind for that guidance. Again we see that Leo nature poking through, as Thomas is nothing if not a survivor. 
Now, on to the 7th position. For the final four positions, I again used two cards instead of the traditional one. The 7th position deals with the future- what likely outcomes will we see? Here was the reversed Star and the Moon. Guidance in the form of the Star is there, though I suspect with both of these cards the sources of guidance (internal, that is, part of Thomas' psyche, and external, that is, whomever the family members are) may at some point come into conflict. Throughout this reading I noticed almost a sense of Thomas repressing an innate tendency towards leadership. Looking back to the reversed Lovers as well, it seems Thomas has indeed at least two sources of guidance- one his own mind, the other the roles he sees as a sacred duty, coming from his family. 
The 8th position deals with the subject's hopes, aspirations and. more often than not, fears. Here we had two reversed Knights, the Knight of Cups and the Knight of Wands. The reversals indicate both of these are in conflict with themselves as well as with the outside world beyond the boundaries of Thomas' own mind. 
A face only a mother could love? 
The Knight of Cups does bear with it a sense of duty and family. The reversal here indicates that there is more at work there than we readily see. The Hewitts want Thomas to fit into a certain niche in their collective structure, and Thomas is generally willing to do so, though sometimes he wonders if there are perhaps different things he could be doing- ones he himself wants rather than those for the good of the family. The Knight of Wands in a reversed position indicates an amount of mental instability, impulsiveness and lack of control, and it seems this does affect Thomas' ability to fit in with his family. Prone to violent outbursts, Thomas can be unfocused and is easily frustrated. His automatic response, again emphasized by the reversed Knight of Wands, is to lash out violently at anyone or anything nearby, and this often works against him, As before, left to his own devices Thomas may not last long. Fortunately (?) he has some degree of structure. 
The 9th position deals with influences from the world around the subject. Though seriously flawed, within their own context, it seems this works. Here was the Emperor and the reversed Ace of Swords. It seems Thomas has sought out structure and guidance from the world around him. He's nothing if not a creature of habit, and since his entire life he has defaulted to an authority figure within his immediate family for any decisions, it stands to reason that this trend continues. To Thomas' mind, the Emperor represents an authority. Though it can be a harsh taskmaster, it is not to be disobeyed, as that way lies madness. (...) However, the reversed Ace of Swords next to it reveals that Thomas still retains a glimmer of independent thought. It seems unlikely that it will come to anything, but still, try as he might, he seems unable to snuff it out. Perhaps some dim memory from his days in school remains with him, or something from his days of working at the meat plant, where he no doubt would have come in contact with more... conventional persons. There remains a part of Thomas' mind that is "sane", although more often than not this is more a nuisance than any coherent reasoning. It seems, unfortunately, unlikely that this will ever become large or powerful enough to become an active force in Thomas' decision making process, and he will likely continue to operate on habit, taking on a more servile role, 
Finally, the 10th position represents the outcome of this situation. Here was the reversed 8 of Swords and the 3 of Pentacles. This latter card interested me, because again it shows this odd delusional matrix we're working with. Here we have Thomas gaining approval (a form of reward, and apparently a potent reinforcement) for continuing in his established and habitual role. He continues on doing what he's been doing all along, and gains whatever rewards from the murders he has always had. The reversed 8 of Swords next to it offers little hope for that glimmer of sanity in Thomas' mind- upright, the 8 has a promise of escape from the prison of uncertainty, but reversed, it indicates more than likely falling back into, you guessed it, habitual patterns. 
From the Forest Folklore Tarot
One of the things that was unclear with the ending of Thomas' story is how he came into the company of these two new family members. However, whether they took Thomas under their wing or Thomas sought them out, the net result remains the same. Thomas now is falling back into the patterns that, perhaps most important of all, provide him some degree of certainty and security in a world he regards as hostile and unpredictable. It seems somewhat natural that he would seek out security, when the only family he's ever known are those who encourage a certain set of cautions to avoid meeting up with the law, or perhaps with some form of vigilante justice from murdered relatives. One of the FBI agents who investigate the case, incidentally, is later revealed to be a relative of a previous victim. At any rate, the patterns of behavior for all of clan Hewitt are very fixed, and clearly defined actions are at every turn. Thomas uses these first because they provide security- we see him often engaging in ritualistic behaviors, presumably for the comfort they provide. But in his own mind, these behaviors are tied to the need for secrecy and security that keeps the Hewitts from the public eye. The fact that Thomas had escaped this situation and then gone right back into a functionally identical one gives us little hope of him ever returning to anything resembling a normal life. Perhaps Luda May sums it up best when asked about the town's goings-on. "Young man, what you do is your own business."

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