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Nicely’s Neighbors ponder friend’s ‘Big secret’

Mary Bozeman of Goshen didn’t know anything about the Howard Hughes mystery until she read about it in the newspaper. She knew about the book titled “Boxes” but she didn’t know the content.

“Mark Musick came by the house and told me that he had been involved in writing a book that had just come out and that I would find it surprising,” Bozeman said. “But he wouldn’t tell me what it was about.”

Bozeman thought the book had something to do with Eva McLelland, a former Goshen neighbor. Bozeman and her husband, Paul, were friends with McLelland, as was Musick.

“Eva was a very smart and talented lady,” Bozeman said. “She wrote beautiful poetry and she gave me a copy of her book of poetry, ‘Restless Winds’ that had been published. I thought Mark Musick’s book was about her and her poetry. But, when I found out what is was about, I was surprised.”

What Bozeman “found out” about the book was that the title was actually “Boxes: The Secret Life of Howard Hughes” and it claimed or “revealed” that Verner Nicely, to whom Eva McLelland was married, was actually Howard Hughes – the billionaire playboy.

“I didn’t know what to think,” Bozeman said, laughing. “It sounded so far fetched. We knew Nik and he was unusual. He was reclusive, eccentric and very paranoid. He was scared to death of germs – but Howard Hughes? That didn’t seem like it could be.”

But the more Bozeman thought about “it” the more she thought “maybe?”

“What struck me about Nik the first time I saw him was that he had such a nice smile,” she said. “And, he had these deep creases around his mouth. The picture of Howard Hughes in the paper … the smile looked a lot like Nik’s.”

Bozeman said Nicely, who died in 2001, was one of the most intelligent individuals she has ever known.

“He knew a lot about everything, especially mechanical things,” Bozeman said. “He had a photographic memory. He was just about a genius. And a lot of the things that he said about his childhood and his family were very similar to Howard Hughes.”

Bozeman said McLelland and Nicely sometimes mentioned that their telephone was bugged and that people were spying on them.

“They were both very secretive but nice,” she said. “After they moved to Whittington Manor in Brundidge and then to Dothan, they kept in touch with us. After Nik died, Eva asked me to go over to their place and find some things that she wanted. I did and took them to her. She kept a few of them but sent most of the stuff back home with me to keep. One thing was the family Bible.”

Bozeman said McLelland sometimes confided in her.

“She told me of times that men dressed in suits came to their place and talked with Nik,” Bozeman said. “And, she told me several times that she had a big secret that she was having to keep. She said the secret couldn’t be known until she and Nik were both dead.”

After Nicely’s death in 2001, McLelland shared a long held secret with Musick. For seven years, he checked and rechecked her story and researched the life of Hughes.

Eva McLelland died in 2009.

Her “secret” was revealed in the spring of 2010.

“I don’t know what to believe,” Bozeman said, with a smile. “I’m not saying it’s true and I’m not saying it’s not. But, if that was Eva’s secret, it was a big one.”