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[Closer to Death] ‘Rites of Spring’ And The Tara Grinstead Coincidence

The opening of Rites of Spring claims:

In the spring of 1984, five teenagers went missing, including Mississippi Beauty Queen Tara Grinstead. Then suddenly, it stopped. The following Spring, it began again with the disappearance of a string of young girls, most notably Wendy Mullins, honor student and valedictorian of her graduating class.

For the next 24 years, the disappearances continued.

No bodies were ever recovered.

While we know (or are pretty sure) that Wormface doesn’t actually exist, and while the film never claims that this is “based on a true story”, is any of this legend connected to reality?

Coincidentally, YES.

See how below, and at the same time, perhaps assist in cracking open a cold case that has yet to be solved….

While Rites of Spring is an edgy and exciting thriller/horror film, noting the rise of a new fictional serial killer referred to as “Wormface” – it opens to a prologue screen denoting the information above – that this has been going on mysteriously since 1984. It drops two names in particular. Tara Grinstead, a Beauty Pageant queen from Mississippi, and Wendy Mullins, a valedictorian and honor student.

Always curious about reality and how it connects to a good horror film, I did some quick investigating on those two names and locations and came up with something quite interesting.

While I found no disappearances connected to the name “Wendy Mullins” I did find a treasure trove of information behind the name Tara Grinstead.

As stated by Wikipedia, “Tara Grinstead (born November 14, 1974) is a high school history teacher who lived in Ocilla, Georgia, USA, and has been missing since October 22, 2005. She has not been found dead or alive. Neither police nor the Georgia Bureau of Investigation ever identified any suspects.

The night before her disappearance, Tara had coached at a local beauty pageant and attended a barbecue. The next morning, she was nowhere to be found – missing without a trace. Her car was in the driveway, and her cell phone in the house, but her keys and purse could not be located. No sign of forced entry. No sign of a struggle.

Somewhat coinciding the theme of Rites of Spring, wherein its fictional horrors continued mysteriously every March equinox – the reality with this case is that CBS News and 48 Hours Mystery brought to the investigation’s attention (in 2008) that a very similar disappearance of a young girl happened in Orlando, Florida. Only it was three months later.

While I couldn’t help but speculate and assume that perhaps these real tragedies acted as an inspirational foundation for Padraig Reynolds to imagine and write Rites of Spring – I contacted him and asked him if this were true. The surprising response I got back was: “I’d never heard of these girls at all.”

The main lead thus far in this case?

Police revealed that they had found DNA on a latex glove which was found in Grinstead’s yard, “just a stone’s throw from her front stoop,” according to a 2008 interview with Gary Rothwell of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Rothwell did not identify as a suspect the person whose DNA was found in the glove, but he said that person could help lead to a break in the case. ‘We believe it is a critical element to solving the case,’ Rothwell said.

Rothwell said the DNA has been analyzed and agents know it’s a man’s DNA. But they haven’t identified the man. Over the course of the investigation, he said, agents have compared the DNA to dozens of men who knew Grinstead or who were associated with her. “None of them matched,” Rothwell said. The DNA also has been entered into Georgia and national databases, but still no matches.” – Wikipedia

Below are four links leading to all the information you’ll need to further investigate on your own. Below those are also the numbers to call if you have any information on this cold case. just please, don’t call or write in mentioning Wormface. This is a real person, and a real family that is hurting.

Otherwise, I’m challenging Bloody Disgusting’s readers to bring something forth to the table, and crack this case wide open.

Report a Tip to help Answer the Question: Where is Tara?
GBI – (478) 987-4545
Local Tipline – (229) 468-TIPS (8477)
Toll Free – 1-800-597-TIPS (8477)



  • grayghost

    Maybe somebody should question Padraig Reynolds.

  • WTF is this?

  • nikkilove10

    I did a Google search for Wendy Mullins, and though there are a bunch of them out there only one had to do with a disappearance. A 17 year old disappeared from Streamwood, IL. in 2010. All I could find on the disappearance is this one post on

  • concernedcitizen604

    I think that they should make a data base of everyones DNA just for this reason. There are a lot of people out there who never commited crimes but had something happen and it turned out to be a crime but nothing could be found. Now, they can be matched up only if they have commited a felony and upon release will have to submit DNA and if they had DNA collected for previous cases. It is so sad these girls/women are missing. What is even odder is that they are missing without a trace. No struggle, no clues, no nothing. It is not one girl but many. Where can they be. It reminds me of another case I read about that pertained to boys and this one boy said to police that there was a guy burying other boys at this place or something like that. It turned out he was being molested by him and was his favorite and he killed and buried the rest but this boy opened the can to the solving of many missing boys. I wonder if something like this is the same thing. Are all these in the same area of the country or scattered?

  • Kaye from Ohio

    I would like to know if Tara’s parents and Marcus Harper’s parents were business partners and if they had hoped Tara and Marcus would marry and become the next generation to carry on the business. I also would like to know what reason Marcus gave Tara for stringing her along for so many years and then being very vehement (at their last known meeting, the Friday before she vanished) about not wanting to marry her.

  • Barry O’Kenya

    Latex gloves can be traced to a specific manufacturer. Did anyone bother to find out who made the glove, who sold the glove and which organization purchased and uses this brand?

    • ARTS2000

      Forensic Files.. yes! good one. they are able to trace to the store to the video tape of the purchase.

  • ARTS2000

    the Ranger Boyfriend whom she broke up with.. I’m sure they compared his DNA to the glove, but what about the others he was with that evening – didn’t he confirm he was out on a “ride along” just wondering.

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