by John Johnson, staff writer
ATWATER, CA—After an exhaustive three-day manhunt, Harold Stokes, 63, an invisible Atwater man who had been reported missing by his daughter, was found yesterday, apparently in the throes of watching television in his own living room.“Nobody answered when we knocked on his door,” said Don McFarland, one of the officers involved in the search. “So we peeked into his living room window. We didn’t see anybody in there, but suddenly the TV started changing channels all by itself. Then a few minutes later, when we saw a bag of potato chips float from the kitchen to the living room, we knew we had our man.”
Police chief Linda Poole admitted the search was difficult. “We’ve gotten calls about invisible people before,” she said. “But this particular case was unusual because it seems he was home the whole time. Boy, it sure is hard work keeping track of the invisible.”
Stokes’s 36-year-old daughter, Sheila Branch, who lives in Dallas, reported him missing on Monday. After not hearing from him for nearly a week, she became worried and thought he might have absent-mindedly wandered too far from home and gotten lost, as she said he has done on several occasions.
“I don’t see my dad too often,” said Branch. “Actually, I never see him. But he usually calls every couple days to ask how I’m doing. When I didn’t hear from him all week, I tried calling him several times but couldn’t reach him. That’s when I started to worry.”
Stokes told police he was not aware he had been reported missing. “I haven’t heard the phone ring all week, but the TV’s been turned up so loud that I—well, didleyhickens, there’s the culprit,” he said, tugging on the phone cord, only to reveal it had come loose from the jack. “One week’s worth of no phone calls, right here.”
Stokes became invisible in 1998 during a medical study gone wrong. Scientists in charge of the study, who were testing a new pain-killing medication called “Invisi-Pain,” allegedly failed to mention that people with certain genetic makeups could experience invisibility not just of their pain in a figurative sense, but of their entire bodies in a literal sense. Stokes sued the following year, but the case was summarily thrown out of court when the judge proclaimed that he and Stokes “just didn’t see eye to eye” on the issue.
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