Guest Post: Smiley Face Murders by Ann M. Noser

Check out ‘How to Date Dead Guys’ by Ann M. Noser, a new urban-fantasy & paranormal novel from Curiosity Quills Press.

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Series: Under The Blood Moon
Genre: urban-fantasy, paranormal
Category: new-adult
Publisher: Curiosity Quills Press
Date of Publication: July 15th, 2014
Cover Artist: Alexandria Thompson
Purchase: Amazon US | Amazon UK | B&N


My novel How to Date Dead Guys borrows heavily from the Smiley Face Killer Theory. In fact, learning about this theory provided the inspiration for the main story line. If you look closely at the book cover, you’ll discover smiley face graffiti haunting a tree in the background. Just like the warning sign over the Chippewa River, the book cover is “beautiful but treacherous”.

My first experience with the “Smiley Face Killers” occurred during a spooky late night drive from the Twin Cities, MN to Eau Claire, WI. NPR aired a program advancing the controversial idea that many of the “accidental drownings” of college-aged men in the Midwest were actually murders.

Two retired NYPD detectives, Kevin Gannon and Anthony Duarte, were the driving force behind this theory. Investigating cases back to 1997, they found eerie similarities between at least 40 of these unexplained drowning deaths. Most victims fit the same profile: white college-aged male, popular, athletic, with good grades. When their bodies were found, many were missing cross-shaped necklaces or St. Christopher medals, although their wallets and identification remained.

This string of cases occurred along the Interstate 94 corridor between Minnesota and Wisconsin. The victims were college students from Collegeville, St. Cloud, Minneapolis, Eau Claire, and LaCrosse.

Police knew where the bodies had been found. Gannon and Duarte were more interested in discovering the sites where the bodies had been dumped. Using GPS, river flow patterns, water levels, and police dogs to guide their investigation, they figured out where the bodies entered the water. At these sites of entry, the detectives repeatedly discovered trademark “Smiley Face” graffiti. They also found multiple symbols suggesting gang graffiti, but to protect their investigation the detectives refuse to discuss these findings.

Gannon and Duarte speculate that the victims were drugged, tortured, then disposed of into the water to make it appear as if they’d drowned. Autopsy reports from several cases didn’t find any water in the lungs, which helps support this theory.

River disposal removes evidence from the victim’s body, such as fingerprints and fibers. Instead of “homicide”, these deaths are designated “accidental drownings”, making this an almost perfect crime.

Although one Minnesota victim’s death has been re-ruled a homicide, Duarte and Gannon’s Smiley Face Killer Theory remains just that: a theory, which has been mocked by the FBI and the local police. To date, it does not appear that any arrests or convictions have been made.

Yet the aura of mystery linked to the “Smiley Face Killers” continues to grow. The most recent coincidence is the disappearance of Andrew Fitzgerald, the director of The Smiley Face Killers. While filming this documentary, he went missing on May 8th, 2013. His whereabouts remain unknown. In his absence, his friend Andy finished the film. The creepy promotional blurb for the movie (released January 2014):

80 young men dead
1 missing filmmaker
1 gang of serial killers

What if you were making a documentary
about a gang of serial killers
and they found out? 


The more people delve into this conspiracy theory, the more questions bubble up to the surface. Are the killings part of a gang member initiation rite? Are the missing items of religious jewelry kept as tokens by the killers? Has the director of the documentary really gone missing, or is this a hoax in the vein of The Blair Witch Project?

In How to Date Dead Guys, I propose my own (fictional) basis for the “Smiley Face Killers”. The further the reader gets into the series, the harder Emma Roberts will work to bring the killers to justice.


how to date dead guys ann m. noser book coverCollege sophomore Emma Roberts remembers her mother’s sage advice: “don’t sleep around, don’t burp in public, and don’t tell anyone you see ghosts”. But when charming Mike Carlson drowns in the campus river under her watch, Emma’s sheltered life shatters.

Blamed for Mike’s death and haunted by nightmares, Emma turns to witchcraft and a mysterious Book of Shadows to bring him back. Under a Blood Moon, she lights candles, draws a pentacle on the campus bridge, and casts a spell. The invoked river rages up against her, but she escapes its fury. As she stumbles back to the dorm, a stranger drags himself from the water and follows her home. And he isn’t the only one.

Instead of raising Mike, Emma assists the others she stole back from the dead—a pre-med student who jumped off the bridge, a desperate victim determined to solve his own murder, and a frat boy Emma can’t stand…at first. More comfortable with the dead than the living, Emma delves deeper into the seductive Book of Shadows. Her powers grow, but witchcraft may not be enough to protect her against the vengeful river and the killers that feed it their victims.

Inspired by the controversial Smiley Face Murders, HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS will ignite the secret powers hidden deep within each of us.

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ann m noser author bioMy to-do list dictates that I try to cram 48 hours of living into a day instead of the usual 24. I’ve chosen a life filled with animals. I train for marathons with my dog, then go to work as a small animal veterinarian, and finish the day by tripping over my pets as I attempt to convince my two unruly children that YES, it really IS time for bed. But I can’t wait until the house is quiet to write; I have to steal moments throughout the day. Ten minutes here, a half hour there, I live within my imagination.

Like all busy American mothers, I multi-task. I work out plot holes during runs. Instead of meditating, I type madly during yoga stretches. I find inspiration in everyday things: a beautiful smile, a heartbreaking song, or a newspaper article on a political theory. For example, a long drive in the dark listening to an NPR program on the SMILEY FACE MURDERS theory made me ask so many questions that I wrote HOW TO DATE DEAD GUYS to answer them to my satisfaction.

I’d love to have more time to write (and run, read, and sleep), but until I find Hermione Granger’s time turner, I will juggle real life with the half-written stories in my head. Main characters and plot lines intertwine in my cranium, and I need to let my writing weave the tales on paper so I can find out what happens next.

Connect with Ann: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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by Ann M. Noser

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4 responses to “Guest Post: Smiley Face Murders by Ann M. Noser

  1. Pingback: How To Date Dead Guys Blog Tour - Curiosity Quills Press·

  2. Pingback: How to Date Dead Guys | BLISSFUL BOOK REVIEWS·

  3. I just saw it on YouTube and for the first 30 minutes gave it the benefit of a rapidly increasing doubt. At the halfway mark I was pausing to cross check alleged disappearances & smiley faced murders ‘theories’, as well as details on the main investigator. Nothing was popping up except suspicion. As I continued it just seemed like a lot of apophenic, post hoc laziness. It may have had a skeric of credence until the terribly conceived and executed ‘murder’ at the end. It’s horribly poor film-making.

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