His name was Jesse, but he went by Scarab or Drake. He was 24, stood five-feet, nine-inches tall, and had reddish-brown shoulder-length hair. He’d driven to the 12th annual Gathering of the Juggalos this year with his girlfriend, a young woman named Melody, who’d been handcrafting boxes with Insane Clown Posse’s Joker’s Card figures to sell at the festival for five bucks a piece. And then on Friday, he vanished.
On Sunday evening, a barricade fence inexplicably went up by the Gathering’s Main Stage, in a stage-left area adjacent to the Ohio River. Rumor was that the Coast Guard found a floating person in the water near the Kentucky-Illinois state lines, a fact confirmed Monday by Illinois’ Hardin County police. Yesterday, Kentucky’s Union County coroner identified the body found on nearby Sturgeon Island as Jesse Waters from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
“Jesse was in a way like a modern day Kerouac, as after he left home, he never stayed anywhere for long,” writes John Pace, the grandfather he called Poppy. “He wrote and did wonderful art. His writing, which he sent me samples of when he was 16 or so, was quite mature and adventurous. There was the touch of the poet in him.”
“Scarab was a writer, a smart outdoor enthusiast, and a caring soul,” writes friend Hao Ly, who’d just recently become close with Waters. “He told me he had plans to attend the Gathering of the Juggalos because he wanted to accompany his girlfriend and made sure nothing would happen to her. He’s been with her for eight years and loved her very much.”
The weekend before the Gathering of the Juggalos, Waters volunteered at the proudly off-the-grid Unitus Arts & Entertainment Festival in Gruetli-Laager, Tennessee, a camping event of drum circles, eco-friendly workshops, and the Southeast’s largest fire-poi competition. This is where Ly met him. “He had such an amazing personality and was so ambitious that he helped us out more than the required eight hours,” the Unitus founder says about working with Waters. “He took care of everyone during the festival including, finding mint leaves outdoor to help aid sore throats, to cooking for the staff and covering their nightshifts.” Ly adds, “He even stayed after the event and was one of the couple to help clean up after everyone has left.”
On Saturday, Waters’s friends were scouring the HogRock campgrounds, showing a picture around and asking if anyone had seen him. Union County, Kentucky coroner Stephen Shouse doesn’t suspect foul play, reports no signs of trauma, and when we spoke with him this morning, confirmed that the autopsy was “unremarkable, pending toxicology results,” which will be available in approximately 30 days.
“He asked me and my buddy the best way to get down to the river,” posted Gathering attendee Kyle Willard on Facebook. “We told him not to get in it, as it is a powerful river with an undercurrent. I guess he didn’t listen to us.”
Waters did have a Gathering of the Juggalos wristband on when he was found, but that’s a mandatory bracelet for admission. “He was in no sort a Juggalo from what I collected,” says Ly. “I know he would not be happy being labeled by the media as a [Juggalo] and I hope that this could be changed.”
Regardless, Juggalos have been posting tributes online. “Everyone please say prayers (or whatever your belief might be) for the family of [Jesse] Waters,” wrote Mr. Hatchet of the Web site True Juggalo Family. “We lost a homie at the Gathering this year,” posted RuthlessNinjette. “May you rest in peace brother til we see you in Shangri-La! MCL!!” Monoxide from Saturday night’s headliner Twiztid, Tweeted, “A moment of silence for the fallen juggalo, Jesse Waters RIP.”
This isn’t the first time someone has died near the Gathering of the Juggalos grounds since it’s been held at Cave-In-Rock. Last year, Hardin County then-Sheriff Thomas Seiner told us that another young man was found dead in the Cave-In-Rock woods at a previous Illinois-based Gathering, a young Juggalo who’d wandered off alone and died from dehydration. The biggest difference between this one and that one is that the national media didn’t notice.