Classics Translated

The Tell-Tale Heart

Edgar Allen Poe, originally published January 1843; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

Who’s ready to hear another phenomenal narration by my amazing friend, Danie Dreadful? YouTube
Illustration by Harry Clarke

It is true! I had been – and am – very, dreadfully nervous, but why would you say that I am crazy? The disease had sharpened my senses – not destroyed or dulled them. Above all was the acute hearing; I heard all things in the heavens and on the earth, and I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I crazy? Listen! and observe how sanely – how calmly – I can tell you the whole story.

It is impossible to say how the idea first entered my mind, but once it was there – it haunted me day and night. It was not because of an objective or hatred; I loved the old man. He had never wronged or insulted me; I had no desire for his gold. I think it was his eye! Yes, that was it! One of his eyes was like a vulture’s; it was pale blue and covered with film. Whenever it fell on me, my blood ran cold; very gradually, I made up my mind to take his life and be rid of the eye forever.

Now, this is the point where you think I am crazy. Madmen know nothing, but you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded with caution and foresight; no one could have guessed my intentions when I went to work! I had never been kinder to the old man than the week before I killed him. Every night – around midnight – I turned his doorknob and opened it very gently! When I had an opening big enough, I put in a dark, closed lantern before sticking in my head. Oh, you would have laughed to see how cunningly I stuck it in! I moved very, very slowly, so the old man would not wake. It took an hour to place my head in far enough to see him lying on his bed. Ha! Would a madman have been this smart? Then, when my head was in the room, I opened the lantern with extreme caution to avoid the creaking hinges; I did it just enough for a single, thin ray to fall upon the vulture’s eye. I did this for seven long nights, but the eye was always closed, making it impossible to do the job; it was not the old man who irritated me but his Evil Eye. Every morning, I went into his room with confidence and spoke to him fearlessly – calling him by name in a friendly tone, and asking how his night was. He would have been very insightful to suspect that every night – just at twelve – I watched him sleep.

On the eighth night, I was even more cautious than usual when opening the door. A clock’s minute hand moves faster than mine did. Never before had I felt the extent of my own power and wisdom. I could hardly contain my feelings of victory. There I was, opening the door little by little, and he had no clue of my secret actions or thoughts. I laughed at the idea, and he may have heard me; he moved suddenly, as if startled. You may think that I withdrew – but no. His room was pitch black; the shutters were closed for fear of robbers, and – knowing he could not see the open door – I kept pushing on it steadily.

My head was in, and I was about to open the lantern when my thumb slipped on the tin fastening, and the old man sprang up, crying out. “Who’s there?”

I stayed quite still and said nothing. I did not move a muscle for a whole hour, and I did not hear him lie down. He was sitting up in the bed, listening – exactly as I have done night after night – listening to the signs of imminent death.

Then, I heard a slight groan, and I knew it was the groan of terror. It was not a groan of pain or of grief – oh, no! It was the low, muffled sound that comes from the bottom of the soul when it is filled with anguish; I knew the sound well. Many nights – at midnight – when all the world slept, it came from my own chest; it deepened with dreadful echoes and distracting fears. I knew what the old man felt and pitied him, although I laughed in my heart. He had been lying awake ever since the first slight noise when he rolled in the bed, and his fear had been growing ever since. He tried to convince himself it was nothing, but he could not; he tried thinking, “It is only the wind in the chimney, or a mouse crossing the floor, or a cricket chirping.”

He tried to comfort himself with these thoughts, but his efforts were in vain. All in vain, because Death’s black shadow had already consumed its victim, and it was the sorrowful influence of the unseen shadow that caused him to feel my presence in the room.

When I had waited patiently for a long time without hearing him lie down, I decided to open a very thin slit in the lantern. You cannot imagine how stealthily I opened it until a single, dim ray – like a spider’s web – shot out from the crack and fell upon the vulture eye.

It was wide open, and I grew furious at the sight. I saw it perfectly – a dull blue, covered with a hideous film that chilled me to be bone; I could see nothing else of the old man since the ray of light fell directly on that damned spot.

Did I not say that you would mistake acute senses for madness? Then, I heard a low, quick sound – like a watch makes when wrapped in cotton. I knew that sound well, too. It was the old man’s heart beating. It increased my fury just as the beating of a drum inspired a soldier’s courage.

Even then, I remained motionless, scarcely breathing. I held the lantern steady, keeping the ray of light trained on the eye. Meanwhile, the hellish beating of his heart increased, growing quicker and louder every second. The old man’s terror must have been extreme! It grew louder every moment! Do you understand? I have told you that I am nervous, and I am. At that late hour of the night – among the dreadful silence in that old house – this noise drove me to complete terror. I stood still for several more minutes, but the beating grew louder! I thought his heart would burst, and a new worry gripped me; the sound would be heard by a neighbor! The old man’s time had come; with a loud yell, I threw open the lantern and leapt into the room! He only shrieked once; in an instant, I dragged him to the floor and pulled the heavy bed over him. Then I smiled happily, glad the deed was done, but – for many minutes – the heart continued its muffled beat. This, however, did not bother me; it would not be heard through the wall. Eventually, it stopped; the old man was dead. I removed the bed and examined the corpse. Yes, he was stone, cold dead. I placed my hand on the heart and held it there for several minutes. There was no pulse; he was dead, and his eye would no longer trouble me.

If you still believe I am crazy, you will not think so after I describe the wise precautions I took when hiding the body. As the night wore on, I worked hastily but in silence. First of all, I dismembered the corpse by cutting off the head, arms, and legs.

Then, I removed three planks from the living room floor and deposited everything between the joists. Next, I replaced the boards so perfectly that no human eye – not even his – could have detected anything wrong. There was nothing to wash – no stains or blood whatsoever. I had been too cautious for that; all was done in the tub – haha!

When I finished these chores, it was four o ‘clock and still dark as midnight. As the bell announced the hour, there was a knock at the door. I went down to open it with a light heart – after all, what was there to fear now? Three men entered and introduced themselves as police officers. During the night, a shriek was heard by a neighbor, and there was suspicion of foul play. A report was filed at the police station, and the officers were sent to search the premises.

I smiled; what was there to worry about? I welcomed the gentlemen, saying the shriek had been my own – caused by a dream – and I mentioned the old man was visiting the countryside. I took my visitors all over the house, telling them to search well. I led them to his chamber and showed them his valuables – secure and undisturbed. In the excitement of my confidence, I brought chairs into the room – inviting them to rest – and placed my own seat directly above the hidden corpse.

The officers were satisfied; my demeanor had convinced them, and I was completely at ease. They sat, and while I answered cheerfully, they chatted about familiar things. Though, before long, I felt myself getting pale and wished they would leave. My head ached, and there was a ringing in my ears, but still they remained. The ringing became more distinct as it continued – and I talked more to be rid of the feeling – but it persisted and grew louder. Finally, I realized the noise was not in my mind.

There is no doubt I grew very pale, but I talked faster with a louder voice. Still, the sound increased – and what could I do? It was a low, dull, quick sound – very close to the sound a watch makes when wrapped in cotton. I gasped for breath, yet the officers did not hear it. I talked faster – more intensely, but the noise steadily increased. I stood, arguing insignificant matters in a high voice with wild gestures, but the noise increased. Why would they not leave? I paced with heavy strides – as if infuriated by the men’s observations, but the noise continued increasing. Oh God! What could I do? I ranted, raved, and swore! I threw my chair, and it struck the boards, but the noise rose above it all and still increased. It grew louder, louder, and louder, but still the men chatted – smiling pleasantly. Was it possible they did not hear it?… Almighty God!… No, no!… They heard!… They suspected!… They knew!… They were mocking my terror!… This is what I thought, and what I still think, but anything was better than that agony! Anything was more tolerable than their ridicule! I could not bear those hypocritical smiles any longer! It felt like I must scream or die! Now – again!… Listen! Louder, louder, louder!

“Villains!” I shrieked, “mock me no more! I admit it! Tear up the planks! Here, here! It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

Classics Translated

The Phantom Coach

Amelia B. Edwards, originally published 1864; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

1

What I am about to tell you is the truth. It happened to me, and I remember it like yesterday despite the fact twenty years have passed since that night. In all this time, I have only told the story to one other person. Even now, it is difficult to overcome my reluctance to share it. I must ask that you avoid forcing your own conclusions onto me; I want no arguments or explanations. My mind is already made up on this subject; I prefer to believe what I saw with my own eyes.

Well! It was twenty years ago, and a day or two after the end of grouse hunting in December. I was on a cold moor in northern England with an east wind, and I became lost after being out with my gun all day. It was an unpleasant place to lose one’s way; the first flakes of a snowstorm were falling, and the sun was beginning to set. I shaded my eyes and stared anxiously into the darkness; a range of low hills were 10-12 miles away. There was nothing to see in any direction – not so much as a fence or sheep’s track. All I could do was continue walking and hope to find shelter along the way. I had been going since breakfast and eaten nothing since; shouldering my gun, I pushed forward.

Meanwhile, the wind was blowing, and it snowed with ominous persistence. The cold became more intense, and the night was rapidly approaching. My hopes darkened with the sky, and my heart grew heavy as I thought of my troubled wife sitting at the window – watching for my return. We had been married four months and spent autumn in the Highlands; for the winter, we traveled to a small, remote village near the great English moorlands. We were very much in love; when we parted that morning, she begged me to return before dusk, and I promised to do just that. I would have given anything to keep my word!

2

As tired as I was, I thought it might be possible to return before midnight with a little food and rest if I could find shelter or a guide. The snow fell and thickened; I stopped to shout occasionally, but my yells only made the silence feel deeper. A vague sense of uneasiness came over me, and I recalled stories about travelers who walked in the snow until they collapsed dead from exhaustion. I wondered if it would be possible for me to keep walking through the night; eventually, my legs would fail along with my resolution, and I would die.

I shuddered; it would be very hard to die when my whole life still lay ahead! It would be hard for my darling – she has such a loving heart – but I could not think of that. To distract myself, I shouted again – louder and longer – then listened eagerly. Was my call answered, or did I only imagine a far-off cry? I yelled again… and the echo followed once more.

Then, a wavering speck of light suddenly came out of the darkness – it was bobbing – getting closer and brighter. Running towards it at full speed, I found myself face to face with an old man and a lantern. “Thank God!” I exclaimed involuntarily.

Blinking and frowning, he lifted his lantern and peered into my face. “What for?” He growled, sulkily.

“Well… for you. I was beginning to worry I would be lost in the snow.”

“Oh, folks do get lost here from time to time; what’s stopping you from being lost as well if that’s what the Lord intended?”

3

“Friend, if the Lord intends for you and I to be lost together, then so be it, but I won’t be alone. How far am I from Dwolding?” I asked.

“A good twenty miles, more or less.”

“And the nearest village?”

“The nearest village is Wyke, and it’s twelve miles the other way.”

“Where do you live, then?”

“Over that way,” he said, vaguely pointing with the lantern.

“You’re going home, I assume?”

“Maybe I am.”

“Then I’m going with you.”

The old man shook his head and scratched his nose with the lantern’s handle. “It’s no use; he won’t let you in… not him.” He growled.

“We’ll see about that; who is He?” I replied, briskly.

“The master.”

“Who is the master?”

“That’s none of your business.” He replied abruptly.

“Well, then; you lead the way, and I assure you that the master will give me shelter and dinner tonight.”

“Oh, you can try him!” my reluctant guide muttered; still shaking his head, he hobbled away like a gnome through the falling snow. Suddenly, a large structure appeared in the darkness, and a huge dog rushed forward, barking furiously.

“Is this the house?” I asked.

“Yea, it’s the house. Down, Bey!” He fumbled in his pocket for the key.

4

I stood close behind him – determined not to lose my chance at entry – and in the lantern’s light, I saw that the door was studded with iron nails – like the doors of a prison. In another minute he turned the key, and I pushed past him into the house.

Once inside, I looked around curiously and found myself in a raftered hall – which apparently had a variety of uses. One end had corn piled to the roof, and the other had flour-sacks, farm tools, and lumber. Rows of meat and dried herbs hung from the rafters for winter use, and in the center of the floor was a huge object covered in a dingy blanket that extended halfway to the ceiling. Lifting a corner of the cloth, I was surprised to see a telescope mounted on a crude, mobile platform with four small wheels. The tube was made of painted wood and wrapped in bands of rough metal, and the reflective glass was at least fifteen inches in diameter. While I was still examining the instrument, a loud bell rang.

“That’s for you,” my guide said with a malicious grin. “His room is over there.”

He pointed to a low, black door at the opposite side of the hall. I crossed over, knocked somewhat loudly, and entered without waiting for an invitation. A huge, white-haired old man rose from a table covered with books and papers, confronting me sternly.

“Who are you? How did you get here? What do you want?” He demanded.

“James Murray, attorney-at-law. Across the moor on foot. Meat, drink, and sleep.”

His bushy eyebrows bent into an ominous frown.

5

“This is not a boarding house,” he said, disdainfully. “Jacob, how dare you let this stranger in?”

“I didn’t,” the old man grumbled. “He followed me over the moor, and forced his way in before me. I’m no match for someone six foot two.”

“Excuse me, sir, but what gave you the right to force your way into my house?”

“The same right I would have to cling to your boat if I were drowning – the right of self-preservation.”

“Self-preservation?”

“There’s already an inch of snow on the ground, and it would be deep enough to bury me before dawn.” I replied.

He pulled aside a heavy black curtain and looked out the window. “It is true. You can stay till morning if you choose. Jacob, serve supper.”

With this he waved me to a seat, and sat down to resume the studies I interrupted.

Placing my gun in a corner, I pulled a chair to the fireplace and leisurely examined this new room. Though it was smaller and decorated more normally than the hall, it contained many curious things. There was no carpet on the floor, and strange diagrams were drawn on the white walls; shelves were filled with dingy books and scientific instruments I couldn’t even identify. Beside the fire was a small piano – wonderfully painted with medieval saints and devils. Inside the half-opened cupboard at the far end of the room was a large display of special rocks, surgical tools, crucibles, beakers, and chemicals; next to me – on the mantle – was a model of the solar system, a small battery, and a microscope. Every chair was filled with more items, and books were stacked high in every corner; the very floor was littered with maps, carvings, and papers. My amazement increased with each new object I saw; I had never seen such a strange room – especially not in a farmhouse on a wild, secluded moor!

6

I looked at my host, asking myself who and what he could be. His mind was remarkably sharp, but it was more of a poet’s mind than a philosopher’s. His broad temple protruding over his eyes and abundance of rough, white hair made him look like Beethoven; he had the same furrowing brow and deep lines around his mouth that gave him an appearance of deep concentration. The door opened while I was still watching him, and Jacob brought in dinner. His master then closed his book and invited me to the table with the most courtesy he had shown yet.

A plate of ham and eggs, a loaf of brown bread, and a nice bottle of sherry were placed before me.

“I only have the dinner of a poor farmer to offer you, but I trust your appetite will make up for the lack in taste.

I had already begun eating and excitedly announced that I’d never had anything so delicious.

He bowed stiffly and sat down to his own dinner which mostly consisted of milk and porridge. We ate in silence, and when we were finished, Jacob removed the dishes. I moved my chair back to the fireplace, and – surprisingly – my host did the same; abruptly turning towards me, he said, “I have lived here in retirement for 23 years. During that time, I have not seen many strange faces, and I have not read a single newspaper. You are the first stranger to cross my threshold in over four years. Will you tell me information about the world I have been away from for so long?”

7


“Absolutely! Ask away; I’m happy to be of service.” I replied.

He nodded and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees; staring into the fire, he began to question me. He mostly wanted to know about new scientific advancement and how it affects daily life; he was completely ignorant of such matters. I answered as best as my limited knowledge allowed, but it was not easy; I was very relieved when the interrogation ended, and he began discussing his own conclusions. I listened intently as he talked until seeming to forget my presence; I have still never heard anything else like it. His subtle analysis and bold generalizations spilled forth uninterrupted as he drifted from topic to topic. From science to philosophy and from the greatest doctors to the greatest artists – he seamlessly transitioned from one subject to the next. I have forgotten how he linked each point together, but it went beyond what any man could know for fact. He spoke of souls, psychics, ghosts, and prophecies – of things that skeptics say cannot exist.

He said, “the world grows more skeptical by the hour, and our scientists have a fatal habit. Anything they can’t prove with an experiment or dissect in a laboratory is disregarded as a myth. What superstition causes them to be so stubborn about the possibility of ghosts? Show me any fact in physics, history, or archaeology that has such a wide variety of testimonials. There are witnesses of all ages from every culture around the world, yet the supernatural is treated like a nursery rhyme by the philosophers of our century. Circumstantial evidence carries no weight in the matter; regardless of how valuable cause and effect might be in physical science – it’s worthless here. A reliable witness – despite being conclusive in a court of law – counts for nothing, either. A moment’s pause before speaking is considered a sign of lying, and believers are called fools.”

8

He spoke with bitterness and sat silently for several minutes before raising his head. With an indifferent tone, he added, “I investigated and believed; I was not ashamed to state my convictions to the world. I was also labeled as a visionary, ridiculed by my peers, and laughed out of the industry where I spent the best years of my life. These things happened just 23 years ago. Since then, I have lived like this, and the world has forgotten me – as I have forgotten it; that is my history.”

“It is a very sad one,” I murmured, not knowing what to say.

“It is a very common one; I have only suffered for the truth – just as so many others before me.” He rose – as if wishing to end the conversation – and went over to the window. “It has stopped snowing.” He observed, dropping the curtain and returning to the fireplace.

“Stopped!” I exclaimed, eagerly jumping to my feet. “Oh, if it were only possible – but no; it’s hopeless! Even if I found my way across the moor, I couldn’t walk twenty miles tonight.”

“Walk twenty miles tonight?” My host repeated. “What are you thinking?”

“Of my wife,” I replied, impatiently. “She doesn’t know I got lost; right now – her heart is breaking with worry and terror.”

“Where is she?”

“In Dwolding, twenty miles away.”

“Dwolding,” he echoed, thoughtfully. “Yes, it is twenty miles, but… are you truly that desperate to save just 6-8 hours?”

9

“Yes! I would pay a fortune for a guide and a horse!”

“Your wish can be granted at a lower price,” he smiled. “The night-mail changes horses at Dwolding and passes within five miles of here; it is due to arrive at the crossroad in an hour. If Jacob were to take you across the moor to the old coach road – could you find your way to where it connects with the new one?”

“Easily – and gladly!”

He smiled, rang the bell, and gave the old servant his instructions. Taking a bottle of whisky and a wine-glass from the cupboard, he said, “The snow is deep; it will be difficult to walk on the moor. Would you like a drink before you go?”

I would have declined, but he insisted so I drank it. It went down like a liquid flame and almost took my breath away.

“It is strong, but it will help keep you warm. Now, there’s no time to spare; goodnight!” He said.

I thanked him for his hospitality and would have shaken hands, but he turned away before I could finish my sentence. Outside, Jacob locked the outer door behind me, and we were once again on the wide, white moor.

Although the wind had fallen, it was still bitterly cold. Not a single star shined in the black sky overhead, and there was no sound to disturb the heavy stillness of night except for the crunching of snow beneath our feet. Jacob – unhappy with his mission – stumbled ahead with his lantern in sullen silence. I followed with my gun over my shoulder – not wanting to chat any more than him – and day-dreaming as I mused over my experiences. Thoughts of the old man filled my mind – I could still hear his voice, and his words had captured my imagination; my over-excited brain retained almost every detail exactly as he relayed them.

10

At the end, Jacob came to a sudden stop. “That’s your road. Keep the stone fence to your right, and you can’t get lost.”

“Then, this is the old coach road?”

“Yes, it is.”

“How far is it until I reach the crossroads?”

“About three miles.”

I pulled out my wallet, and he became more helpful.

“The road’s good enough for walking, but it’s too steep and narrow for the carriages. Be careful near the sign-post where the bridge is broken; it’s never been repaired since the accident.” He said.

“What accident?”

“The night-mail fell into the valley below; the drop is a good fifty feet or more. It’s the worst stretch of road in the whole county.”

“That’s horrible! Were many lives lost?”

“Four were found dead, and the other two died the next morning.”

“How long ago did this happen?”

“Just nine years.”

“Near the sign-post, you say? I will keep it in mind; goodnight.”

“Goodnight, sir, and thank you.” Jacob pocketed his money, lazily tipped his hat in farewell, and walked away.

I watched the light of his lantern until it disappeared, and then turned to go my own way. This was now a simple matter; despite the darkness, the stone fence was easily seen against the pale, gleaming snow. Only my footsteps broke the silence, and a strange, unpleasant feeling of loneliness consumed me. I walked faster, humming a random tune or adding large numbers in my head; I did anything I could to forget the startling claims I heard that night, and – to an extent – I succeeded.

11

Meanwhile the night air grew colder and colder, and though I walked fast, it was impossible to stay warm. My feet were frozen, and my hands went numb as I clung to my gun. Breathing also became difficult; it felt as if I were scaling a mountain instead of walking along a quiet road. It became so distressing, I had to stop and lean against the stone fence for a few minutes. As I did, I happened to look back up the road, and – to my immense relief – I saw the faraway light of an approaching lantern. At first, I thought Jacob had returned to follow me, but then I saw a second light next to it – moving at the same speed. I quickly realized they must be the lamps of a private carriage, though it seemed strange that someone would take their own vehicle down such a disused and dangerous road.

However, there was no doubt the lamps grew larger and brighter every moment, and I could even see the dark outline of the carriage between them. It was coming very quickly and quietly, and the snow was nearly a foot deep under its wheels.

Then, the body of the coach became visible behind the lamps, and it looked unusually tall. I suddenly became paranoid that I had passed the crossroads in the dark without noticing the sign-post, and wondered if this was the coach I had come to meet.

I didn’t need to wonder long; it came around the curve with a guard, a driver, one outside passenger, and four gray horses – all wrapped in a soft haze of light which made the lamps blaze like a pair of fiery meteors.

Apparently this story has been added to numerous collections, but I think this is from the original.

12

I jumped forward, waving my hat and shouting. The carriage came at full speed and passed me. I feared they had not seen me, but only for a moment. The driver pulled over, and the guard – wrapped to the eyes in blankets – was apparently sound asleep because he failed to answer me or make room; the outside passenger did not even turn his head. I opened the door and looked inside; there were only three travelers so I got in, slid into the empty corner, and congratulated myself on my good fortune.

The air inside the coach seemed colder than outside and was filled with a foul, wet smell. I looked around at my fellow-passengers; all three were men and all were silent. They did not seem to be asleep – but absorbed in their own thoughts. I attempted to start a conversation. “It’s intensely cold tonight!” I said to the man across from me.

He lifted his head and looked at me, but made no reply.

“The winter seems to have begun in earnest.” I added. He was staring at me, but he never said a word; it was so dim in his corner, I could not see his features clearly.

Any other time, I would have felt – and probably shown – my annoyance, but at that moment I felt too sick to do either. The icy coldness of the night air chilled me to my bones, and the strange smell inside the coach was making me terribly nauseous. I shivered from head to toe and asked the neighbor on my left if he objected to an open window.

13

He didn’t move or speak.

I repeated the question louder but with the same result. Then I lost patience and pulled the strap to open it. As I did so, the leather strap broke in my hand, and I saw the glass was covered with a thick coat of mildew that appeared to have been accumulating for years. This drew my attention to the coach’s condition; with the faint lamplight, I could see that it was in the last stages of ruin. Every part of it was beyond repair; it was actually decaying. The straps splintered at the touch, the leather fittings were crusted over with mold, and the floor was almost crumbling beneath my feet. The whole thing smelled putrid – like it had been dragged from an outhouse after being left to rot for years.

I turned to the third passenger and tried one more question. “This coach is in horrible condition. Is the regular mail-coach being repaired?”

He turned his head slowly and looked me in the eyes without saying a word. I will never forget that look for as long as I live; it made my heart turn cold – and still does even now. His eyes held an unnatural, fiery glow, his face was as pale as a corpse, and his bloodless lips were drawn back to reveal clenched, gleaming teeth as if he were in the process of suffering a painful death.

My next words died on my lips, and I was consumed by a dreadful fear. My eyes had adjusted to the gloominess of the coach, and I could see much better. I turned to the man sitting across from me; he was looking at me with the same startling paleness and stony glow in his eyes. Wiping my hand across my brow, I turned to the passenger next to me and saw— oh Heaven! How will I describe it?

He was no living man; none of them were! A low, glowing light reflected upon their awful faces, and their hair was still damp with the dew from their graves. Their clothes were stained and falling to pieces, and their hands were those of corpses long buried. Only their malicious eyes were alive, and they were all staring directly at me!

14

I screamed a wild, unintelligible cry for help as I flung myself against the door and struggled in vain to open it. In that one brief and vivid instant – I saw the moon shining down through a gap in the stormy clouds, the ghastly sign-post, the broken bridge, the plunging horses, and the black gulf below. Then, the coach lurched like a ship at sea followed by a mighty crash – a sense of crushing pain – and finally, darkness.

It seemed as if years had passed when I awoke from a deep sleep and found my wife sitting at my bedside. I will skip that scene and tell you the story she told through thankful tears. I had fallen over a ledge near the intersection of the old coach road and the new one; I was only saved from certain death by landing in a deep snowdrift at the bottom. I was discovered there at daybreak when a couple of shepherds carried me to the nearest shelter and fetched a surgeon. The doctor found me raving deliriously with a broken arm and a compound fracture of the skull. The papers in my wallet revealed my name and address, and my wife was notified. Thanks to youth and a healthy lifestyle, I was able to pull through. It goes without saying that I fell precisely where that frightful accident occurred nine years before.

I never told my wife these terrifying events; I told the surgeon who helped me, but he treated the whole adventure as a delusion. We discussed it over and over until we lost our patience, and then we dropped it. Others may form whatever conclusions they wish; I know that twenty years ago – I was the fourth passenger in that Phantom Coach.

Classics Translated

The Pale Man

Julius Long, first published in Weird Tales magazine, September 1934; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 



If you would prefer to hear this tale narrated, my very good friend, Danie Dreadful did another amazing job with this one! Here’s the Youtube link, and if you enjoy scary stories don’t forget to subscribe and check out her other videos!
Cover of Weird Tales September 1934 issue

An odd little tale, about the eccentric behavior of a strange guest in a country hotel

I have not met the man in room 212. I don’t even know his name. He never visits the hotel restaurant, and he does not use the lobby. The three times we passed each other, we did not speak, but we nodded politely. I would really like to meet him; it is lonely in this depressing place. With the exception of the old lady down the hall, the only permanent guests are the man in 212 and myself. However, I should not complain; this complete silence is exactly what the doctor prescribed.

I wonder if the man in 212 also came here to rest. He is very pale, but I do not think it is from an illness; overall, he seems rather healthy. He is tall, has excellent posture, and a brisk, athletic stride. His paleness must be hereditary, or he would tan under this burning, summer sun.

He must have driven here; I am certain he was not on the train that brought me, and he checked-in shortly after myself. After a brief rest in my room, I was walking downstairs when he was coming up. It is odd the bell-boy did not escort him.

With so many vacant rooms, it is also odd that he chose 212 at the far end. The building is long, narrow, and three stories high; the rooms are all on the east side since the west wall is flush with an old business. The dull corridor – with its stiff, bloated wallpaper – smells musty, and the dim light bulbs make it feel like a tomb. Disgusted by this hallway, I insisted on having room 201; it is located at the front and has a southern entrance. The clerk – a disagreeable man with a Hitler mustache – was reluctant because it is usually reserved for his more profitable short-term clients. Unfortunately, my stubbornness has made him an enemy.

If only I had been as assertive thirty years ago! I would be a full-fledged professor instead of a broken-down assistant. The casual way the president of the university recommended my vacation still hurts. There is no doubt he acted in my best interests; the people controlling my poor life always do.

Oh well, the summer’s rest will probably benefit me considerably; it is nice to be away from the university. There is something very satisfying about the absence of graduate students. If only it were not so lonely! I must find a way to meet the pale man in 212. Perhaps the clerk can make arrangements.

I have been here exactly one week, and if there is a friendly soul in this miserable little town, we did not meet. Although businesses eagerly accept my money, they deliberately avoid even the most casual conversation. I fear I will never be accepted by them unless I can arrange to have my ancestors recognized as local residents for the last hundred and fifty years.

Despite my cold reception, I go out frequently – secretly hoping to encounter the pale man. I wonder why he left 212; surely there cannot be much gained by moving one door closer to the front. I noticed the change yesterday when I saw him exiting his new room.

We nodded again, and this time I thought I detected a sinister satisfaction in his gloomy, black eyes. He must know that I am eager to speak with him, yet his demeanor discourages introductions. If he wants me to do all of the work – he can forget it; I am not the type to chase after anybody. The surly clerk’s shyness has been enough to stop me from questioning him about the mysterious guest.

I wonder where the pale man gets his meals. Instead of dining at the hotel, I have been going to restaurants in town. At each one, I asked questions about the man in 210, but no one remembered serving him. Perhaps he knows people living in this town, or he may have found a boarding-house; I must learn if there is one nearby.

The pale man must be difficult to please – he changed rooms again; I am baffled by his behavior. If he is so desperate for a more conveniently placed room, why not move to 202? It is the closest to the front they have available.

Perhaps I can use his relocations as an excuse to start a conversation. I might casually say something like, “I see we are closer neighbors now”… but that is too obvious; I must wait for a better opportunity.

He did it again; he is now in room 209. I am intrigued by his little game; I waste hours trying to understand the point. What possible motive could he have? It must be annoying for the hotel staff; I wonder how our combination bell-hop/maid feels about preparing four rooms for a single guest. If he were not totally dense, I would ask him – but for now, I am too exhausted to attempt such a draining conversation.

I am tremendously interested in the pale man’s next move. He must either skip a room or stay where he is because the old lady lives in 208. She has not budged from her room since I have been here, and I doubt she plans to.

I wonder what the pale man will do; I await his decision with the nervous excitement of a race-track junkie the night before a big race. After all, there is nothing else to do.

Well, the mysterious guest was not forced to remain in 209, nor did he skip a room. The lady in 208 simplified matters by conveniently dying. No one knows the cause of her death, but the general assumption is that she died of old age. She was buried this morning, and I was among the curious few who attended her funeral. Upon returning home from the mortuary, I saw the pale man leaving her room; he had already moved in.

He favored me with a smile, and I have tried in vain to decipher its meaning – it must have some significance. He acted as if there were a secret meaning that I failed to appreciate; though, perhaps his smile was meaningless after all, and only ambiguous by chance – like the Mona Lisa’s.

My man of mystery now resides in 207, and I am not surprised in the least. I would have been astonished if he had missed his scheduled move; I have almost given up trying to understand his eccentric behavior. I do not know a single thing more about him than I knew the day he arrived. I wonder where he came from – there is something indescribably foreign about him. I am curious to hear his voice; I like to imagine that he speaks the language of some far-away country. If only there were some way to trick him into a conversation! I wish I possessed the abundant confidence of a college boy – one capable of introducing himself to distinguished people without hesitation; it is no wonder that I am only an assistant professor.

I am worried; this morning, I woke up lying flat on the floor – fully clothed. I must have collapsed from exhaustion after returning to my room; I wonder if my condition is more serious than suspected. Until now, I have ignored the fears of loved ones. For the first time, I remember the prolonged handshake of the president when we said good-bye at the university; he obviously never expected to see me alive again.

Of course, I am not that sick; nevertheless, I must be more careful. Thank heaven I have no children to worry about; there is not even a wife since I was never willing to exchange a bachelor’s loneliness for a husband’s loneliness.

I can sincerely say that the prospect of death does not frighten me; speculating about life beyond the grave has always bored me. Whatever it is – or is not – I’ll try to get along.

I have been so preoccupied with the sudden turn in my own life that I neglected to make note of an extraordinary incident; the pale man has done something astounding! He skipped three rooms and moved all the way to 203. We are now very close neighbors and will meet more often; my chances for an introduction are much better.

I have confined myself to bed during the last few days and my food has been delivered. I even called a local doctor, though I suspect he is a quack. He looked me over with professional indifference and told me not to leave my room; for some reason he doesn’t want me to climb stairs. This bit of information cost a ten-dollar bill which he fished out of my coat pocket as instructed; a pickpocket could not have done it better.

The doctor was not gone long when the clerk visited; he feigned a show of kindly concern while suggesting I go to the hospital. It is supposedly very modern and all that. With more firmness than I have been able to muster in a long time – I told him that I intended to stay, and his posture stiffened as he departed with a gloomy frown. The doctor must have paused long enough to tell him a pretty story. Obviously, he is afraid I will die in his best room.

The pale man is up to his old tricks. Last night, when I walked down the hall, the door of 202 was open. Without thinking, I looked inside; the pale man sat in a rocking-chair, idly smoking a cigarette. He looked into my eyes and smiled that peculiar, ambiguous smile that has so deeply puzzled me. I moved on down the corridor, not so much mystified as annoyed. The whole mystery of the man’s behavior is beginning to irritate me; it is all so silly and pointless. I feel that I will never meet the pale man, but – at the very least – I am going to learn his identity. Tomorrow, I will ask for the clerk and interrogate him.

I know now… I know the identity of the pale man and the meaning of his smile. Early this afternoon, I summoned the clerk to my bedside. “Please tell me who the man in 202 is!” I asked abruptly.

The clerk stared, tired and confused. “You must be mistaken; that room is empty.”

“But I saw him only two nights ago! He is a tall, handsome fellow with dark eyes and hair; he is unusually pale and checked-in the same day as myself.” I snapped in irritation.

The hotel man regarded me doubtfully, as if I were trying to play a joke. “But I assure you there is no such person here. As for his checking-in when you did – you were the only guest registered that day.”

“What? I’ve seen him twenty times! First he had room 212 at the end of the corridor. Then he kept moving toward the front, and now, he’s next door in 202.”

The room clerk threw up his hands. “You’re crazy!” He exclaimed, and I saw that he meant it.

I immediately shut up and dismissed him. After he left, I heard him rattling the knob of the pale man’s door. There is no doubt that he believes the room to be empty.

That is how I came to understand what happened over the past few – including the significance of the death in 207; I even feel partly responsible for the old lady’s passing. After all, I brought the pale man with me, but it was not I who set his path. I cannot explain the mystery of why he chose to approach me room after room through the length of this dreary hotel, nor why he chose to visit the old woman.

I suppose I should have guessed his identity when he skipped the three rooms on the night of my collapse. In a single night, he advanced until he was almost at my door. He will be coming to inhabit this room – his ultimate goal – soon. When he comes, at least I will be able to return his smile of grim recognition.

Meanwhile, I must only wait behind my locked door.

The door slowly swings open…

Classics Translated

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Washington Irving, first published in 1819 in a collection of 34 essays titled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. Translated into Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

FOUND AMONG THE PAPERS OF THE LATE DIEDRICH KNICKERBOCKER…

On the eastern shore of the Hudson, at the heart of a spacious cove near the Tappan Zee bridge, there lies a small rural port; it is properly known as Tarry Town, but some call it Greensburgh. It was named by the housewives of sailors who lingered in the Tavern on market days. Two miles away, there is a little valley among high hills which is the quietest place in the world. A small brook runs through it just gently enough to lull one to sleep; quail and woodpeckers are almost the only sounds to break the perfect tranquility.

As a child, my first time squirrel hunting was in a grove of walnut trees that shaded one side of the valley. I wandered in at noon, when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun breaking the perfect stillness. If I ever wish to leave my troubling life and world of distractions, there is no better place than this little valley.

For those qualities and for the strange character of its inhabitants – who are descended from the original Dutch settlers – the glen became known as Sleepy Hollow; the wild children living there were called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout the neighboring countries. A drowsy, dreamy influence hangs over the land, spreading through the atmosphere. Some say the place was cursed by a German witch-doctor during the early days of settlement; others, that an old Indian chief held powwows there before the land was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. It is certain that some spell still holds power over the minds of the good people, causing them to remain lost in fantasy. They have all kinds of marvelous beliefs; they are prone to trances, strange visions, and hearing music or voices. The neighborhood is filled with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; shooting stars and meteors race across the valley more often than anywhere in the country. It seems to be a favorite trick of evil spirits.

The ghost that commands the most power is the apparition of a headless man on horseback. Some claim he is the ghost of a Hessian soldier who was beheaded by a cannonball during the Revolutionary War. Now, the country folk see him hurrying along in the gloom of night as if carried by the wind. He is not confined to the valley, and often extends his haunts to the connecting roads – especially to the nearby church. Respected historians who have carefully studied these stories claim that the soldier’s body is buried in the churchyard, and that his ghost rides to the scene of battle in a nightly search for his head. The rushing speeds at which he passes through the Hollow are attributed to his hurry to reach the church before sunrise.

This is the event that many of the region’s scary stories are based on; the specter is known as the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. These visions are not exclusive to the valley’s natives, but affect anyone who resides there for a time. However aware they are when entering that sleepy region, they eventually succumb to the witching influence and begin seeing apparitions.

I mention this peaceful spot with all possible praise; it is in such valleys that population, manners, and customs remain fixed while the outside world passes by unnoticed. They are like little nooks of still water bordering a rapid stream, undisturbed by the passing currents. Though many years have passed since I walked the drowsy lanes of Sleepy Hollow, nothing has changed.

Some thirty years ago, a man named Ichabod Crane came to Sleepy Hollow in order to teach the children. He was from Connecticut – a state which supplied the Union with pioneers for the mind as well as the forest; each year they sent woodsmen and teachers throughout the country. The name “Crane” fit his appearance; he was tall and lanky with narrow shoulders, long limbs, and feet like shovels. His head was small but flat on top with huge ears, green glassy eyes, and a long nose; from a distance, one could mistake him for a famine victim or scarecrow.

His log schoolhouse was a low building with one large room, and the windows were half glazed – half stuffed with leaves. When vacant, it was locked with a flexible twig twisted in the door handle and stakes set against the shutters. The school was built in a secluded but pleasant location at the foot of a wooded hill, next to an impressive birch tree and brook. From there, one might hear the low murmur of students studying their lessons – often interrupted by their teacher’s commanding tone as he urged the lazier children along the path of knowledge. He was a conscientious man, and always remembered the golden rule, “spare the rod and spoil the child.” Ichabod Crane’s students were not spoiled.

He was not cruel, he did not enjoy disciplining them; his punishments were dealt with discrimination. The weak were not stricken with the same force as the strong, disrespectful brats who sulked and squirmed beneath the paddle. Ichabod called this “doing his duty by their parents”; he never administered spankings without reassuring the students they “would appreciate the gesture as adults.”

When school ended, he was even a friend to the older boys. On holiday afternoons, he escorted the younger children home if they had pretty sisters or mothers who might feed him as thanks. It benefited him to stay on good terms with his students. The salary from his school was scarcely enough to buy daily bread. Though skinny, he possessed the consumption powers of an anaconda; it was customary in those parts for the children’s parents to house their teacher. With that assistance, he survived week to week – making his rounds through the neighborhood with all his worldly possessions tied in a cotton handkerchief.

To prevent things from being too inconvenient on his host’s wallet – who often considered him a grievous burden – he had various ways to make himself useful. He occasionally assisted farmers in their lighter chores – making hay, mending fences, watering horses, driving cows from pasture, and cutting wood. Ichabod laid aside the dominant ego which he lorded in his schoolhouse empire – becoming wholly gentle and kind. He found favor with the mothers by coddling the youngest children; he would sit with one child on his knee while rocking a cradle with his foot for hours at a time.

In addition to his other skills, he was the best singer in the neighborhood and often earned extra money by teaching the young children hymns. On Sundays, Ichabod proudly gathered his chosen singers to stand in front of the church, where – in his mind – he completely stole the show from the pastor. It is certain his voice was the best of the congregation, and – to this day – his student’s descendants can still be heard singing on Sunday mornings. It was by these clever strategies the worthy teacher got along and was thought to have an easy life.

In the rural neighborhoods, women generally regarded the schoolmasters as important men with superior tastes and accomplishments when compared to laborers. When they come to dinner, special desserts are made, and the fine silver is used. Ichabod, therefore, was particularly happy in the country women’s company; in the churchyard on Sundays, he visited with each lady – gathering grapes and reciting poetry as his country bumpkin counterparts envied his elegance from a distance.

Thanks to his well-traveled lifestyle, Ichabod was also a walking gossip factory which meant his arrival was always met with satisfaction. Women respected him as an intelligent man for the many books he read, and he was an expert on Cotton Mather’s History of New England Witchcraft – in which he firmly believed.

He was actually an odd mixture of shrewdness and gullibility. His hunger for the extraordinary and ability to understand it were equally remarkable – and heightened by this spellbound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his curiosity; after school, he often laid in the clover-patches nearby and read old Mather’s scary stories until it was too dark to see the words. Then, at the witching hour, he made his way past the swamp, stream, and awful woodland to the farm where he was currently staying; every sound of nature excited his imagination from the moaning whippoorwills to the foreboding cry of the tree toads. The fireflies sparkled vividly in the darkest places, startling Ichabod when they shot across his path; if a large beetle surprised him, he thought it came from a witch. His way to combat the evil spirits was to sing hymns; the people of Sleepy Hollow were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal melody floating along the dusky road.

In the winter months, he enjoyed sitting by the fire as wives roasted apples and tended their needlework because they shared stories of the local haunts and Headless Horseman. In return, he delighted them with witchy anecdotes, dreadful omens, and old, Connecticut legends; though, they were frightened by his speculations of comets and meteors – especially coupled with the knowledge our world sits at an angle— rotating!

On his subsequent walks home, he paid for these pleasures in terror. Frightening shapes and shadows haunted his path in the dim glow of snowy nights. He eyed every trembling ray of light that reflected from distant windows. Several times along his route, he mistook the snow-covered shrubs for ghosts or shrank with fright at the sound of his own steps on the frosty ground; he could not look over his shoulder for fear of what he might see, and he was often dismayed by blasts of wind howling through the trees – believing it was the Galloping Hessian on his nightly ride!

However, these were merely terrors created by the mind; though Ichabod had seen many ghosts, daylight brought an end to all of these evils. He would still have led a pleasant life despite the devil’s work had he not crossed paths with an entity far worse than ghosts, goblins, or the whole race of witches combined— a woman.

Once a week, Ichabod gave music lessons, and one of his students was Katrina Van Tassel – the only child of a substantial Dutch farmer. She was a beautiful, flirty eighteen-year-old with rosy cheeks and was adored by all. Her charms were perfectly accented by a mixture of old and modern fashions; she often wore a short petticoat and gold jewelry which her great-great-grandmother brought over from Saardam.

Ichabod Crane had a soft spot for women, and it is no surprise he favored Katrina. Her father, old Baltus Van Tassel, was a thriving, content, liberal-hearted farmer. He seldom thought of anything beyond his happy, comfortable farm; he was satisfied with his wealth and did not spend it frivolously. His home was in one of those green, sheltered nooks on the Hudson, beneath the branches of a great elm tree. At the bottom was a spring of the sweetest sparkling well water which ran through the grass to a neighboring brook. Next to the farmhouse was a spacious barn big enough for a church. Every window and corner were filled with the farmer’s prized tools; swallows flew around the eaves, and rows of pigeons enjoyed the sunshine atop the roof. Heavy, grunting pigs ran about their large pens while squadrons of snowy geese swam in a connecting pond with ducks, and turkeys gobbled through the yard; a crowing rooster dug into the dirt and crowed called his family to enjoy the delicious worms.

The teacher’s mouth watered as he imagined the delicious holiday feasts. He pictured every pig already roasted with an apple in its mouth and a side of bacon carved out. The pigeons were put in pies and covered in crust. The geese swam in their own gravy and the ducks in onion sauce; around the turkey’s neck hung a necklace of savory sausages, and even the rooster lay sprawling as a side-dish.

Ichabod liked all of these, and then he saw the fields of wheat, rye, buckwheat, and corn; the orchards surrounding Van Tassel’s home were overflowing with fruit, and his heart yearned for the lady who would inherit them. He dreamed of selling them quickly so he might purchase large tracts of wild land to build upon. His busy imagination already realized his hopes and included Katrina with a whole family loaded in a wagon with all the household trimmings; then he included himself atop a pacing mare with a colt at her heels, setting out for Kentucky or Tennessee.

Once he entered the house, Katrina’s hold on his heart was complete. It was spacious with sloping roofs, and built in the style learned from the first Dutch settlers; the low hanging eaves form a porch along the front that is capable of being closed up in bad weather. It is where the flails, harnesses and fishing nets were kept; a spinning wheel sat at one end, and a churn at the other. Benches were built along the sides for summer use, and from there, Ichabod entered the hall, which was the heart of the mansion. Rows of impressive pewter dazzled his eyes. In one corner stood a bag of wool ready to be spun, and in the other was a pile fresh off the loom; ears of corn and strings of dried apples hung along the wall with red peppers. Through an open door he saw into the parlor where claw-footed chairs and mahogany tables shone like mirrors; the fireplace irons glistened, and conch shells decorated the mantle while colorful eggs were strung above it. A great ostrich egg hung in the center of the room, and an open cupboard displayed old silver and china.

From the moment Ichabod saw these delights, he focused his efforts on gaining Katrina’s affection. For this endeavor, he imagined himself as a knight storming the castle gates to rescue the captive princess, but reality proved more challenging. He had to win the heart of a vibrant, clever woman while engaging in cut-throat competition against other suitors.

His most formidable adversary was a strong, burly man named Abraham who was considered a local hero for his amazing strength. He was broad-shouldered with short, curly black hair and a pleasant face; his Herculean strength earned him the nickname, Brom Bones, and he was famous for his skill with horses. As the strongest man in a country town, he settled all disputes with a tone of finality that left no room for argument. He would fight if necessary, but his heart was filled with more mischief than cruelty; beneath his rugged exterior was a great sense of humor. He had three or four friends who looked up to him as a role model and followed him around on his travels. During the winter months, he was recognized by his fox-tailed fur hat. Sometimes, his group would ride through town in the middle of the night, laughing and cheering; their neighbors woke with a mixture of awe, admiration, and goodwill. When any prank or brawl occurred in the vicinity, all shook their heads knowing Brom Bones was behind it.

Though this unruly hero displayed his affections for Katrina in rude, lustful ways, it was said she did not reject his company. His advances were meant to discourage rivals; when his horse was tied outside Van Tassel’s home on Sunday nights, all other suitors passed by in despair.

Ichabod was dealing with a formidable foe; a stouter man would have backed down from the competition, and a wiser man would have worried, but Ichabod possessed a happy mixture of flexibility and perseverance in his nature. He was yielding but tough, and though he bent – he never broke; he may have bowed beneath the slightest pressure, but when it was gone, he walked away with his head held high as ever.

To face his rival head on would have been madness; Brom was not a man to be thwarted. Therefore, Ichabod’s advances were smooth and subtle. He visited the farmhouse frequently as a singing instructor, but not much was gained in those visits; her meddlesome parents were quite the hurtle. Balt Van Tassel was an indulgent soul and always nearby, enjoying his pipe; he loved his daughter even more than his tobacco and spoiled her greatly. His wife was always busy with her housework but never far away. Meanwhile, Ichabod would carry on with their daughter by the spring under the great elm or walking along in the twilight hours.

I confess to not knowing how women’s hearts are won; to me, they are matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have only one way to win their affection while others have a thousand. It is a great triumph to gain the former, but it is an even greater victory to maintain a relationship with the latter because the man must face all types of rivals. This was certainly not the case with Brom Bones; from the moment Ichabod made advances – Brom’s interest declined. His horse was no longer seen at the farmhouse on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose between him and the teacher.

If Brom had it his way, the matter would be solved with a duel, but Ichabod was too smart to fight when he was at a clear disadvantage. He had overheard the brute bragging that he would lay the teacher out in his own school, and Mr. Crane was careful not to give the man an opportunity. His tactics were infuriating to Brom; he and his goons were left with no choice but to waste money on pranks. They made loud noises outside his home, smoked out his schoolhouse by blocking the chimney off, and ransacked his classroom so he might blame witches. What the teacher found most annoying was being ridiculed in Katrina’s presence; the brute even trained his dog to whimper during their singing lessons.

Things went on this way for a long time without either man making progress. On one fine autumn afternoon, a pensive Ichabod watched over the students from his high stool – holding a scepter made of birch; it was a source of fear for all misbehaved children. On his desk were numerous items of contraband – everything from munched apples to pop guns. His dark mood had the children intently reading their books, and if they whispered to a friend – it was with one eye on their teacher. Class was suddenly interrupted by a dark-skinned man in old clothes; he was riding a half-wild colt with a rope instead of a halter. The stranger clambered up to the door with an invitation for Ichabod to attend a party at the Van Tassel home; after delivering his message, the visitor dashed over the brook and up the hollow – off to his next mission.

Now, everything was done quickly as the students were rushed through lessons without pause. Those who were quick-witted skipped more than half without fear of punishment while slower children were encouraged with a smack on the rear. Books were flung aside, inkstands were overturned, benches were knocked down, and school was dismissed an hour early.

Ichabod spent an extra half hour grooming and dressing; his only suit was a rusty black color, and his only mirror hung on the wall in broken shards. To make a grand entrance, he borrowed a friend’s horse and set out for the party. The animal named Gunpowder was a broken-down plow horse that had outlived everything but his viciousness. He was thin and shaggy with a head like a hammer; his hair was tangled, and one eye had lost its pupil while the other still had the devil in it. The steed’s master was the choleric Van Ripper, and some say he infused part of his own spirit into the animal; there was more of a lurking devil in him than any filly in the country.

Ichabod rode with short stirrups which brought his knees close to the pommel; his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers, and he carried his whip like a scepter. As the horse jogged on, his arms resembled flapping wings; a small wool hat rested atop his nose, covering his small forehead, and the tail of his black coat flapped on the breeze as they left the property of Hans Van Ripper.

It was a fine autumn day, and the sky was clear; some trees were already nipped with frost and turning brilliant colors of orange and scarlet. Wild ducks flew in file, barking squirrels were heard from the hickory groves, and quail whistled pensively from the fields. Small birds were preparing to fly south for the winter as they fluttered and chirped from bush to bush.

As Ichabod rode slowly on his way, he enjoyed every one of these jolly sights. Apples were all around him; some still in trees, some already placed in baskets. Farther on, he passed golden ears of corn, yellow pumpkin patches, fragrant buckwheat fields, and beehives; there he fantasized of being fed delicious pancakes by his lovely Katrina. It was with those sweet thoughts he traveled along the hills overlooking the mighty Hudson as the sun gradually made its way west. The wide Tappan Zee bridge prolonged the blue shadow of the distant mountain, and a few amber clouds floated in the windless sky. A small boat lingered in the distance, dropping with the tide while her sail hung uselessly against the mast, and the sky reflected off the still waters, causing the vessel to appear as if it were floating.

It was evening when Ichabod arrived at the castle of Heer Van Tassel. Old farmers appeared with leather faces, homespun clothes, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles; their wives wore small hats, long gowns, and homespun petticoats. The daughters were dressed almost the same way except for the occasional fine ribbon or white frock; the sons had short square-skirted coats with rows of brass buttons, and their hair cut to the fashion of the era. Brom Bones came to the gathering on his favorite steed. It was as mischievous as its master; no one else could handle the fierce horse. The man had a reputation for preferring vicious animals that could break the rider’s neck.

Inside the mansion were the charms of a genuine Dutch country tea table stacked with platters of delectable dishes, cakes, and pies; Ichabod patiently spent ample time with each dish. He was a kind, thankful man whose cheer grew in proportion with his filled stomach as some men’s do with drink. He could not help searching the room with his eyes and chuckling at the notion he might one day be the lord of such luxury. Then, he thought of how fast he would abandon the schoolhouse – snapping his fingers at Hans Van Ripper and any other who would dare call him comrade!

Old Baltus Van Tassel cheerfully visited with his guests; his attentions were brief but sincere whether it was a handshake or invitation to make oneself at home. When the music began, so did the dancing; the musician was an elderly dark-skinned man who had been performing in the area for over fifty years; he bobbed his head and stomped his feet with every note.

Ichabod was as proud of his dancing as he was his singing. To see his loose frame in full swing was like watching a Lord of Dance move about the room; not a single part of his body remained idle. Every child from the poor neighborhoods gathered at the windows, eyes wide with delight and grinning ear to ear. Katrina smiled graciously in reply to Ichabod’s lustful stares as they danced, and Brom Bones sat brooding alone in the corner – seething with jealousy. When the party ended, Mr. Crane joined the older folks who sat smoking and gossiping about the war with old Van Tassel.

There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large, blue-bearded Dutchman who almost stole a British frigate with nothing more than a gun, but it burst on his sixth shot. Then, there was a wealthy gentleman who shall remain nameless; in the Battle of White Plains, he parried a bullet with a small sword and felt it ricochet off the hilt. He was always ready to show the dent it left as proof. Many more fought equally well, but these tales were nothing compared to the ghost stories that followed; the neighborhood is rich in those treasures.

Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these secluded towns, but the cause for spooky stories in this region was Sleepy Hollow. There was something in the air that blew from that haunted place; it gave life to an atmosphere of dreams and fantasies that spread throughout the land. Several locals from the Hollow attended Van Tassel’s gathering and told the wild legends as usual. Very dismal stories were told about funeral processions and mourning cries occurring near the great tree where the unfortunate Major Andre was killed. They also mentioned the woman in white who haunts the dark glen at Raven Rock; she died there, in the snow, and is often heard screaming on winter nights before a storm. The most interesting stories, however, centered around the Headless Horseman. His patrols were heard more frequently in the past months.

The secluded church is a favorite haunt of the troubled spirits. It sits on a hill with its white walls shining through the elms. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water surrounded by high trees – beyond which are the blue hills of the Hudson. On one side of the church is a large brook running through a wooded hollow. In the past, a wooden bridge stretched over a deep, black part of the stream; due to the overhanging trees, it and the road leading to it were gloomy even in the day, but at night, it was a frightening darkness. This was a favorite haunt for the Headless Horseman, and where he was most often encountered. Old Brouwer – a hardcore skeptic – told of how he met the horseman when returning home to Sleepy Hollow and was forced to ride behind him. They galloped over bushes, hills, and swampland until they reached the bridge; then, the horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, and threw old Brouwer into the brook before leaping over the treetops with a clap of thunder.

This story was immediately outdone by Brom Bones who mocked the galloping Hessian as a jockey. One night, when returning from a nearby town – he was overtaken by the midnight rider and challenged him to a race; he claimed his own steed defeated the goblin horse, but as they arrived at the bridge, the Hessian vanished in a flash of fire.

These tales were always told in the same, drowsy undertone, and the listeners only nodded with polite interest, but Ichabod hung on every word. He repaid them with long excerpts from his favorite author, Cotton Mather, and added extra events that took place in his native state of Connecticut or on his nightly walks around Sleepy Hollow.

The party gradually broke up. The old farmers loaded into their wagons, and for a long time, they could be heard rattling along the Hollow’s roads. Some of the ladies mounted behind their lovers, and their light-hearted laughter echoed along the silent woodlands. Ichabod stayed behind to have a moment with Katrina, now fully convinced he was on the road to success. I do not know what was said, but something must have gone wrong; when he left, he was noticeably crestfallen. Could the girl have been at her flirty tricks? Was her encouragement all a ruse to secure her conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows! The disappointed teacher marched out the door and straight to the stable where he roughly woke his horse from slumber.

It was the witching hour when Ichabod made his way home alongside the lofty hills. Far below him, a small boat sailed quietly down the river. In the complete silence of midnight, he could even hear the dogs barking on the opposite shores of the Hudson, but it was faint. There were no signs of life near him except the occasional cricket or frog.

All the spooky tales he heard that afternoon now came to mind, and the night grew darker as clouds covered the stars. Never had he felt so dismally alone, and to make matters worse, he was approaching the place where so many of those ghost stories took place. An enormous tulip tree stood in the center of the road, high above all the others, and acted as a landmark in the area. Its limbs were the size of ordinary tree trunks, twisting down towards the ground before rising back up. Being connected to the downfall of the Hessian, it became known as Major Andre’s tree. The people regard it with a mixture of respect and superstition; partly out of sympathy for its tragic namesake, and partly from the unfortunate tales told about it.

Ichabod began to whistle as he approached this fearful tree, and – for a moment – thought it answered him, but it was only a sharp blast of wind blowing through the dry branches. As he came closer, he saw something white hanging in the tree; he paused, but upon closer inspection – it was only scorched by lightning. Suddenly, he heard a groan; his teeth chattered and his knees struck the saddle, but it was only two branches rubbing together in the breeze. He passed the tree safely, but new dangers lay before him.

Two hundred yards away, a small brook crossed the road and ran into a marshy, wooded glen known as Wiley’s swamp. A few rough logs bundled together served as a bridge over the stream. To the side – where the brook entered the forest – a group of thick oaks and chestnuts cast gloomy shadows over it. Passing this bridge was the severest trial. That is where Andre was captured after soldiers ambushed him from the grove. Ever since, the stream has been considered haunted, and every child is afraid to cross it alone at night.

As the teacher approached the bridge, his heart began to pound, but he summoned all of his courage. Urging the horse into a run, he attempted to dash across the bridge, but instead of going forward, old Gunpowder turned away. Fear increasing with the delay, Ichabod jerked on the reins and heartily kicked the animal to turn him around, but it was all in vain; his steed only plunged into a thicket of brambles on the opposite side of the road. He resorted to using his whip on the poor horse who then dashed forward – snorting angrily – but came to a sudden halt that nearly threw off his rider. At this moment a splashing by the bridge caught Ichabod’s ear. In the dark shadow of the grove, he saw something huge, misshapen, black, and towering. It did not move, but seemed to meld with the darkness – like a gigantic monster waiting to leap out at the traveler.

The teacher’s hair stood straight up with terror. What was he to do? It was too late to run away; besides, there was no chance he could outrun a ghost – not one as fast as the wind. Summoning his courage he stammered, “Who are you?” But there was no answer. He repeated his demand in an even more agitated voice, and still received no reply. Once more he kicked poor Gunpowder in the sides, and with his eyes squeezed shut, he burst into song. Just then, the shadowy figure moved, and with one giant leap, it was suddenly standing in the road. The night was dark and dismal, but it was now possible to identify the unknown form. It was a large horseman, mounted on a black, muscular steed. He did not stop to speak but kept running along the road.

I hope this is some of the original artwork, but it was harder to figure out with this story.

Ichabod did not enjoy this strange midnight companion, and – thinking of the story Brom Bones told – spurred his horse in hopes of leaving him behind; however, the stranger sped up to match his pace. The teacher slowed to a walk in hopes of falling back, but the other did the same. His heart sank; he tried to resume singing, but his dry tongue clung to the roof of his mouth. His companion’s ominous silence was mysterious and appalling. On the next hilltop, the gigantic traveler was silhouetted in the sky, and Ichabod was horrified to see he was headless! He was even more frightened upon noticing the head was carried on the saddle’s pommel. His terror turned to desperation, and he kicked at Gunpowder hoping to escape, but the specter lunged forward as well. They raced along, stones flying and sparks flashing at every turn. Ichabod’s baggy clothes fluttered in the wind as he stretched his long body flat, over the horse’s head.

They had now reached the road which veers off to Sleepy Hollow, but Gunpowder – as if possessed – turned, plunging downhill. This road leads through a sandy hollow, shaded by trees; it crosses the bridge mentioned in the ghost stories, and just beyond is the whitewashed church atop the green hills.

For a moment, the steed’s panic appeared to give its unskilled rider an advantage in the chase, but the saddle girths came loose halfway through the hollow. Ichabod felt it sliding and seized the pommel – struggling to hold on – but his efforts were in vain; the saddle fell to the ground – trampled by his pursuer – but he managed to grab Gunpowder’s neck at the last moment. For a brief instant, the teacher dreaded Hans Van Ripper’s wrath because it was his best saddle, but this was no time for petty worries. The horseman was hot on his heels, and he was a poor rider before the added challenge of riding bare-back; he feared the high ridge of the horse’s spine would split him in half.

An opening in the trees gave him hope the church’s bridge was near. A reflection in the brook confirmed his suspicion; the church walls dimly glared under the trees beyond. He remembered that’s where Brom Bones’ ghostly competitor disappeared, and thought he would be safe if he reached the bridge. Just then, he heard the black steed snorting close behind and even felt his hot breath. With another convulsive kick in the ribs, Gunpowder sprang onto the bridge. He thundered over the reverberating planks, and looked back to see if his pursuer would vanish in a flash of fire and brimstone as the legends claimed. Instead, he witnessed the specter rising in his stirrups – preparing to throw his head at him. Ichabod tried to dodge the horrible missile, but he was too late. It crashed into his head, knocking him face-first into the dirt; Gunpowder, the black steed, and Headless Horseman passed by like a whirlwind.

The next morning, the old horse was found eating grass at his master’s gate – without a saddle – and his bridle was under his feet. Ichabod did not appear at breakfast or dinner. The boys gathered at the schoolhouse and strolled along the brook, but there was no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper began to feel uneasy about Ichabod and his saddle; an investigation began, and they soon found traces of his passage. The trampled saddle was in the road before the church, and the horses’ deep tracks led to the bridge. Once across, Ichabod’s hat was discovered lying near the brook – next to a shattered pumpkin.

The brook was searched, but the teacher’s body was not found. As the executor of his estate, Hans Van Ripper examined the only sack of possessions he owned; it contained clothes, a rusty razor, a worn hymnal, and a broken pitch pipe. Everything in the schoolhouse belonged to the community except for Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft, a New England Almanac, and a book about dreams and fortune telling. Folded inside the last was a scrap of paper filled with several fruitless attempts at love poetry dedicated to Katrina. Hans immediately burned both books and the poems, deciding his children would never go to school again; he never understood what use reading or writing could serve. Any money the teacher possessed must have been in his pockets.

The mysterious event caused much speculation at church on the following Sunday. Clusters of people gathered to gossip in the churchyard, at the bridge, and where the shattered pumpkin was found. The current circumstances were compared to the stories of Brouwer, Bones, and all the others; it was soon concluded that Ichabod was carried off by the galloping Hessian. Since he was a bachelor who didn’t owe any debts, no one worried any more about it. The school was relocated to a different corner of the hollow, and a new teacher was assigned.

An old farmer visited New York several years later, and returned with gossip that Ichabod Crane was still alive. It was said he left the neighborhood partly for fear of the Hessian and Hans; partly from shame at Katrina’s sudden dismissal. He moved across the country, studied law, was admitted to the bar, became an elected politician, wrote for newspapers, and was finally made a Court Justice. Brom Bones married Katrina shortly after his rival’s disappearance, and the way he laughed when anyone mentioned the pumpkin incident led many to believe he knew more about the matter than he admitted.

The old country wives, however, – who are the best judges in these matters – maintain Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; it is a favorite tale told often around the winter fires. The bridge was feared by the superstitious more than ever; in later years, the road was altered to approach the church by the millpond. The deserted schoolhouse soon fell into decay, and was rumored to be haunted by the unfortunate teacher; the plowboy sometimes claimed to hear a distant voice singing hymns on his evening walks home along the tranquil roads of Sleepy Hollow.


POSTSCRIPT

FOUND IN THE HANDWRITING OF MR. KNICKERBOCKER

The above tale is written almost exactly as I heard it at a corporate meeting in Manhattan where many of its most illustrious citizens were present. The narrator was a pleasant, shabby, old fellow in salt-and-pepper clothes with a sadly humorous face; he made such efforts to be entertaining – I strongly suspected was poor. When his story ended, there was much laughter and praise – particularly from the aldermen who slept for most of the time. There was one tall old gentleman with knitted eyebrows who maintained a grave and severe face throughout – sometimes folding his arms or looking at the floor as if contemplating doubts. He was one of those wary men who never laugh unless it is completely proper. When the cheers subsided and silence was restored, he leaned forward, one arm stretched high, and demanded to know the moral of the story.

The narrator – who was just taking a sip of wine – paused to look at the other man with an air of infinite deference, and lowered his glass to the table. “That there is no situation in life without its advantages and pleasures if we can take our jokes where we find them. Therefore, he who races ghostly troopers is likely to have a hard time of it. Ergo, for a country teacher to be refused the hand of a Dutch heiress is a certain step towards popularity.”

The cautious old gentleman knit his brows even closer in confusion at the extremely literal explanation while the storyteller eyed him with a triumphant leer. He observed that all of this was very well, but he thought the story a little extravagant; there were a couple points on which he had doubts.

“As to that matter, sir, I don’t believe half of it myself,” replied the storyteller.

Horror Fiction

Easter Memoria

This story is dedicated to Coach Freeman; she was one of those special teachers who touched the life of every student she taught, and the best damn coach anyone could ask for. Rest In Peace, we love you always. 


The CreepyPasta


My amazingly talented friend, Danie Dreadful, did another phenomenal job narrating this one. If you haven’t subscribed to her yet, make sure you do; there’s going to be a lot more where this came from! Here’s the YouTube link.
Mr. Easter

Easter is always the first Sunday following the full moon after the spring equinox. Sounds a little weird, doesn’t it? This holiday’s origin varies depending on your chosen religion, but that’s not important for what I’m here to talk about. Instead, I’m going to tell you something that used to be common knowledge, but was scrubbed from history due to global mass murders and suicide.

Long ago, Easter was celebrated on the full moon; it’s the only day Easter Memoria can be performed. Yes, memoria – as in Latin for memory; it allows you to remember everything – including past lives – until sunrise. When the night ends, so does the spell; you might remember flashes or a name, but most is forgotten. The concept sounds great at first, but it’s extremely dangerous. It’s not like watching a movie; these memories are as real as what you did yesterday.

When we die, our souls either hang around as a ghost or pass on. Explaining every aspect of both possibilities would fill a book, so we’re going to ignore the complexities of ghost life completely. Passing on also has quite a list of subcategories, but our focus is on when a soul enters a new vessel.

There’s a lot of fear and misconception about being reincarnated as something terrible, but don’t worry; people are people, just like dogs are dogs, and no, that doesn’t mean Hitler is back. The truly evil souls never make it past the Bad Place, but drunk drivers and rage killers… Eventually, they’ll return; it’s an important distinction.

Deep inside – at the core of our souls – lies the essence of who we are, but when our slates are wiped clean through the process of death and rebirth, we’re forced to start fresh with a new family, body, and brain – sometimes gender or race. Every aspect influences who you ultimately become; it’s entirely possible for a serial killer to have been a surgeon in the past or vice-versa.

Another common belief is that our souls stay around the people or places we share a connection with; that one is absolutely true and played a big part in why the ritual was banned. When it comes to our loved ones, we can see beyond their physical appearances and recognize them for who they were in our past. It made for many heartwarming reunions, but it ruined even more lives. Eighty percent of married participants were having affairs; parents who lost a child would kidnap them when they were reborn, and good people were murdered for past mistakes. That’s only a few of the problems, but they were enough to start our Easter Sunday tradition. Of course, that was only the beginning; it took centuries and countless of executions to get where we are today.

Now, let’s switch gears and think about what it’s actually like to remember all those past lives. Aside from inducing a terrible headache, most people agreed the good memories weren’t worth the trauma endured afterwards. The mind still suffered extreme emotional damage, and nothing can change that. For example, if someone were shot in a previous life, they might suffer crippling panic attacks around guns even if they aren’t consciously aware of the reason.

With the points made so far, you might wonder why people would still do it or how they made use of the knowledge. That part is simple; if you have a private place and way to take notes – you’re all set. Thousands of years ago, there was a decent chance one might remember burying a fortune or any number of useful secrets. With today’s ability to record and travel – the possibilities are limitless. You can probably see where this is going… I did it last year. Thanks to the cameras, I learned more than I bargained for, but I’d like to take you through a summary of what I learned; it will help me organize my thoughts while deciding my next steps.


The Ritual Room

Some people might be curious about how it was done so I’ll start with that, but it’s nothing complicated. First on the list was finding a quiet, indoor location without mirrors. I used our family’s cabin in the woods and drove out three days in advance.

The room can only be illuminated with yellow candles; no other light source is allowed. The number doesn’t matter, but I didn’t relish the thought of sitting in the dark. There was enough to worry about without adding a possible house-fire, so while I did fill the basement with tiny flames – it was done in the safest possible way. Anything with a screen – such as phones or laptops – will effectively taint the ritual, so I used security cameras and put tape over the red lights.

Next, I placed several bowls of rosemary around the room and scattered the rest of my supply onto the floor; traditionally it’s used for multiple reasons, but here it’s to open the mind to lost memories.

Then it was time to fill the room with sentimental possessions. Our basic tastes don’t change much regardless of lifestyle; this can include anything from the foods we eat to the entertainment we prefer. Have you ever seen an old movie or book and felt a connection; almost like you were meant to know it? That’s the sheer bliss of rediscovering a previous love. This step relies mostly on instinct, but it’s easier after the first year since you’ll know what to bring for future rituals. A few examples of my items include a copy of Homer’s Odyssey, pictures of loved ones, and a poster of Van Gough’s Starry Night.

The final step is a doozy; Peyote (pay-oh-tee) is a cactus with a fascinating history, but due to possible mind-altering side-effects, I’m not comfortable detailing step-by-step instructions for this part. If you want to know more, it’s very easy to Google.

Once a comfortable nest was built in the center of my most treasured possessions, there was nothing more to do except have a good night’s rest. The following morning, I ate well, took it easy, and began lighting candles around 4:30; an hour later the full moon was already showing itself. After consuming the recommended Peyote dosage for my size, the meditations began, and it was off to the races.


Prime Memoria

It’s extremely important for the mind to be relaxed; any stress or anxiety will delay the process from starting, but once it does start there’s no stopping it. It’s difficult to describe what it was like, so bear with me. It’s not like opening a floodgate; it happens gradually – starting with the most recent life, then the one before and so on until sun-up. No one has ever been known to reach the end – er… beginning – but that’s probably for the best. The headaches are barely tolerable after a single night; any longer could be deadly. Plus, where exactly would it end? Were we all dinosaurs at one point? I honestly don’t want to know.

Anyway, in the beginning there was only a slight pressure in my skull and it was easy to call out what I saw as memories of being a little girl in the 50’s surfaced. A sense of dread formed while realizing there was hardly thirty years between that date and my birthday, but then I was distracted by moving into a new home at age six. The concern for dying young was nothing compared to the absolute horror that washed over me at remembering that house. The following is everything I know about my tragically short life as a girl named Bethany.

From the moment I saw my pink and white nightmare of a bedroom, something about it made me queasy. It and my parents’ rooms were on the opposite sides of the home, and they never heard me cry. For the first few weeks, I had terrible dreams but couldn’t remember them after waking. My bed was placed in a corner, and the only way I could fall asleep was by pressing my back against the wall. That way, I could make sure the closet stayed shut, no spindly fingers crept from beneath my bed, and no shadows stood outside the window. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked until the nightmares suddenly evolved.

One night – as I was finally drifting off – fingers began lightly caressing my back in the same way Mom sometimes would. In my half-dreamy state, it took a moment to register how wrong the situation was. There was no room for anyone to be between the bed and wall; plus, the fingernails were too pointy. They would break skin at the slightest encouragement, and I knew that’s exactly what they would do if I moved or spoke.

I could only lay there frozen in horror as the nails slowly dragged across my skin, and I shivered beneath them. Hours passed, and my tiny bladder emptied, but I still couldn’t move; it was like being a helpless spectator in my own body. Finally, when the first rays of sunlight beamed through the curtains – a single finger ran through my hair and whispered, “we meet again” before departing.

My initial instinct was to run away, but I imagined a hand reaching from beneath the bed just as my feet touched the floor; it would grab my ankle and pull me under – that was a fact. Dad found me in urine soaked sheets a few hours later and got me cleaned up, but he didn’t believe my story. Later that night, I begged to sleep somewhere else, but the best I got was Mom’s offer to sit with me as I fell asleep. Nothing happened while she was there, and I quickly passed out from pure exhaustion.

It was several hours later when I woke to sharp fingernails trailing down my back, and once again I was completely paralyzed. Hot tears spilled over my cheeks and onto the pillow, but I couldn’t wipe them away. We stayed like that all night until those slim rays of sunshine finally banished the monster. I felt its cold breath in my ear when it teased, “see you tonight,” and – as if a switch were flipped – the tears began in earnest. My body convulsed under the forceful sobs, and I struggled for every breath.

I was still crying when Mom came in hours later; once again, I told my story, and although they didn’t believe it – they were convinced I did. That night, I slept on the couch, and nothing happened; it became my routine for several weeks until Dad decided enough was enough. The back scratching resumed that very night, and this time it was accompanied by the stench of spoiled meat. When the glorious dawn finally came, the fingernails dug into my skin like hooks, and a gruff, menacing voice spat, “you can’t avoid me” before disappearing.

I cried harder than ever before, and later found five red punctures in my skin. The experience bred a healthy resentment towards my parents; I understood only that someone was hurting me, and they didn’t make it stop.

Here, I quit talking to the cameras and simply lived in the moment – forgetting my present life and purpose. I had prepared for assaults and murders – not ghost and demons; I wanted to get off the ride but it was stuck upside down, and there was no surviving the fall. In real life, I was hugging my knees, rocking and whimpering; there was no talking until I – Bethany – was eighteen and getting the fuck out of that house.

For a time, I managed to escape my nightly tormentor by moving. It took three months for the bitch to find me, and I got five deep cuts trailing between my shoulder blades as a greeting; they were next to the five triangular scars from my first transgression. There was a strip of unmarked skin on the right that would look even worse next time…

It was obvious she wasn’t attached to the house – only to me – and life was hard in general. After years of slowly losing my mind, college wasn’t really an option. A woman’s best-case-scenario was to marry a good husband and hope for sons. As if things weren’t bad enough, I had zero interest in men; being a lesbian in the (now) 70’s wasn’t a viable option – especially not in the south. For the first few years, I lived in an apartment, but each time a roommate moved out, the witch grew bolder during our alone-time.

A few months before turning 25, I hopped on one of those hippy buses traveling across the country; it didn’t matter where I was as long as people were nearby, and I wasn’t sober. Most of the time, we didn’t even know what state we were in, and we only paid for three things – drugs, gas, and sometimes food. When we were sick of being on the road we camped in the woods until supplies ran low. People were always coming and going, but there were a few like myself who stuck around. It wasn’t a bad way to live except for the fear of being found… and the overwhelming need to know “why me?”

After two years on the road, I hardly thought of the witch anymore – drugs worked miracles in that regard. Staying in one location longer than two weeks made me nervous, but those times were exceedingly rare. The day she found me, my guard was completely down. I never gave a second thought to the states we would cross on the way to Florida, but somewhere in the middle of Georgia – probably near my hometown – I fell asleep.

It started as a dream; I was very young, and lying next to Mom as she gently rubbed my back. Soon, my eyes began to droop, and she hummed a soft melody while her fingernails grazed my skin under her firm caress. I was drifting away completely when the hand stopped, and my world exploded. Time slowed as claws tore through my back and into my ribcage. Somehow, the witch’s voice found a path through the fog of agony and into my ear; “found you!” She cooed as her claws ripped downward, and blood filled my throat; her cold, putrid breath was the same as before.

Suddenly, my eyes opened wide with shock, and my senses were flooded with chaos; my head throbbed from the screams of those around me and approaching sirens. The brief instant my vision cleared, I saw the twisted remains of our bus and had just enough time to wonder… Did the witch cause the crash or merely take advantage of it? Knowing what I do now, I’m sure it was the former, but we’ll get to that.

In the real world, every camera stopped recording simultaneously when I tried to describe the witch; I think I saw her true form in that final moment, but I can’t be sure now. That’s when I carved “never again” into my arm; when the cameras come back on, there’s a bandage tied around the wound, and I’m still shaking from the memory of dying as Bethany. I would have sold my soul to quit before the next one started, but I barely had time to catch my breath.

Fun fact: When people actually do sell their souls, it’s not to Satan like in the movies – hell it’s not even to the same entity. It’s usually a demon, but as far as the owner is concerned… Well, let’s just say reincarnation is off the table. Trust me folks, never sell your soul.


The Carter House

Now, it was the early 20’s, and all I could do was brace for impact. The only consolation was how little my brain can hold at once; the slight pressure evolved into a full blown headache as new information poured in, and the old was pushed out. Unfortunately, the bad memories stick hardest, and even when they’re gone, they leave behind a nasty residue. What little I said over the following hour was mostly gibberish; when I finally calmed enough to speak coherently, I was being drafted into World War II, and soon, the screams began anew.

Something haunted me in that life, too; something worse than the war. I survived two years in battle before going home with a Purple Heart, yet the worst of my reactions happened long after being discharged. Based on the few understandable things said, my death wasn’t natural or any longer than Bethany’s. Thankfully, whatever happened was enough to scare me straight; I suddenly became very serious and managed to compose myself before the next round.

The time between death and rebirth varies from years to decades pending each person’s situation; it’s impossible to know when someone will be reincarnated. That being said, a definite pattern was beginning to emerge as I was plunged into the late 1880’s – the same timeframe as the two before. It’s even more concerning when you take my current age of 28 into consideration.

My childhood as Charles began well enough; my parents were farmers, we lived in a grand antebellum home, and I was the youngest of five. My siblings weren’t cruel, but they were several years older and held no interest in me. Much of my time was spent at the creek behind our house; it was only a ten minute walk through the forest, and I enjoyed skipping rocks across its surface.

At age 8, I was trying to build a dam when another boy leapt from the woods on the opposite bank. I was so excited to meet someone my own age, I answered all of his questions and asked a slew of my own. His name was Daniel, and he lived on the other side of the forest. We played together until dusk and agreed to meet again the next day. For the next two weeks, I woke early, hurried through my chores, and rushed to the creek.

Then came the Fourth of July; every year, the town threw a huge celebration. Such events were taken very seriously in the days when there was literally nothing else to do. The idea someone might wish to stay home was practically unthinkable, yet that’s what Danny claimed – stating his family didn’t like the loud noises or crowds. I was disappointed, but my parents were suspicious; being antisocial wasn’t just frowned upon, it was downright sinister. They already thought it was odd someone moved into the old Carter house – the only home on that side of the creek, apparently – without their knowing, but shrugged it off as a consequence of a secluded farm life.

When the celebration began, I joined the other kids, and we played while the adults gossiped. It was surprising to learn not one other child knew Danny, but I still wasn’t concerned until the next day, back at the creek. We were only there for a few minutes when my two brothers appeared; judging by their facial expressions, they were there for something I would find extremely unpleasant. Sure enough, Eric (the oldest) said they were tasked with inviting Daniel and his parents to supper.

My brothers were almost triple our size, and not easy to handle when provoked. I countered each smartass remark Danny threw with groveling apologies and promises to invite his parents myself; when they ignored Daniel’s remarks – a temporary relief washed through me. If nothing else, I wouldn’t be forced to watch them kill my only friend, but they still continued across the creek. Danny ran ahead, disappearing into the dense forest, leaving me to awkwardly follow my siblings.

We walked for almost 45 minutes before finally coming to the old Carter House. It needed a fresh paint job, but structurally, it wasn’t that bad. There was no sign of my friend, and I stood far back as Eric knocked on the front door. When no one answered, he walked around back; a few minutes later the door opened, and John – who was still on the stoop – walked inside. My heart raced as I imagined the various ways they were sabotaging my only friendship. It’s hard to say how much time actually passed before Eric called for me from a second story window, but it felt like hours.

The moment I crossed the threshold, two things happened. First, I realized the house was empty; no one had lived there for years. Second, John grabbed my wrist and pulled me to the ground. Once pinned, Eric began the interrogation. “Why wouldn’t you admit he was imaginary before we came all the way up here?” They demanded.

I was naive enough to think we had the wrong house, but there were no others in the area. The only logical conclusion was that Daniel lied to me, but why? That’s when I realized my brothers didn’t ignore him at the creek; they genuinely hadn’t seen him. It was too much for me to comprehend, but I had plenty of time to think about it after Eric and John locked me in the basement. They said if I tried hard enough I would find a way out… I couldn’t believe they really abandoned me. When their laughter faded into the distance, the silence was absolute.

Every spooky tale my siblings ever told filled my mind, and then I heard it; the front door opened… Someone came inside, (thud) but it didn’t sound like my brothers. There were no taunts or jeering, and as the footsteps continued into the house, (thud) I could tell it was only one person; (thud) one person who was moving extremely slow, (thud) and had loud, heavy footsteps (thud). When they were directly above me, dust showered onto my face, (thud) and I struggled not to cough. Wiping the grit from my eyes, I moved beneath the staircase and positioned myself behind the few boxes there (thud). I sat, desperate to control my breathing as each thudding step reverberated through my body, (thud) and finally, they came to a stop at the basement door (thud).

As the doorknob turned, I clasped my hands over my mouth to stifle a scream, but my whimper was surely heard. The door creaked open on rusty hinges, and it lasted for so long I wanted to leap from my hiding place and finish it myself. Had I the presence of mind to remember what an orgasm was – I would have recognized the euphoric sensation I felt when the beautiful sound of brass meeting wall announced the end of that damned creaking!

Then the steps resumed, (thud) and slowly made their way down the stairs (thud). Shielding my eyes from the fresh shower of dirt, (thud) I waited anxiously for my tormentor to come into view (thud), but they stopped before reaching the bottom (thud). In the small gap between treads, a tall shadow could be seen looming on the wall, and for a moment, I thought it had eyes, but on the next glimpse, they were gone. Finally, when I thought the tension would suffocate me – a young, familiar voice spoke. “You never learn do you?” It was Danny.

Relief was my immediate reaction, though it was quickly pushed aside for embarrassment – which was actually just a precursor for fury. I decided whatever was said should be done face to face, but upon trying to stand, I noticed my pants were soaked in urine; the blood-boiling rage threatening to consume me suddenly vanished and – in the end – shame was the prevailing emotion.

When I didn’t respond, Daniel took a few more steps and stopped at the bottom of the staircase. Between the treads, all I could see now was the black outline of his body; it was too dark to make out any features, but from my position on the floor, he appeared much taller than he should. After a long, tense moment of silence, he spoke again, “Over and over, we play this game, but you’re just as clueless as ever.” It was almost a sigh.

Had I understood what he was trying to say, I might have answered, but nothing made sense – not his words, not the house, not why my brothers couldn’t see him – nothing! Whew, it’s getting harder to talk about this… what he said next… I thought I was going to die right there in that basement.

“How many times will you fall for the same trick? How often have I told you? I can look however I want!” As he spoke, his voice was changing – becoming the high, shrill voice of an old woman… or more specifically, an old witch. I didn’t recognize it at that moment, but yea, it was the same one who tormented Bethany. Of course, for now, it was enough that I watched my only friend’s shape grow taller and thinner before my eyes.

Despite my best efforts a loud groan escaped my throat, and the thing I once called Danny cackled the most sinister, maniacal laugh I’ve ever heard. Even now, a year later, echoes of that laugh haunt me; it only stopped when the loud bang of the front door surprised us both. At the sound of my brother’s taunts, I wept openly with relief, but the witch had one more thing to say before vanishing. “I’ll see you soon, Charlie boy!” It used Daniel’s voice, and left behind a horrid stench of rotten meat.

Seconds later, Eric burst through the door; apparently, it had never been locked. I could have left right behind them had I bothered to check. Mom sent him to fetch me when they returned alone; in exchange for not telling her they left me behind, he agreed to help me hide the shame of my wet trousers.

My entire world changed that day; there was no more Danny at the creek, only the witch in my dreams… except sometimes they weren’t dreams. For seven years, I periodically woke to light scratches on my back, but those were the least damaging encounters. Sometimes, I woke to pebbles being thrown at my window; if I looked outside, Daniel would be there, pale and black-eyed. Sometimes, he morphed into a monster that I can only describe as an evil Chewbacca.

At eighteen, I joined the military; it was a hard, miserable life, but it was preferable to being tortured in my own home. As an adult, it was easy to convince myself the witch’s cryptic remarks were meaningless – just another psychological warfare tactic – but sometimes, late at night, a voice in the back of my mind made me wonder if there wasn’t more to it; I should have listened.

I did well in my chosen career, and life improved slightly when I was no longer at the bottom of the pecking order. The first time I returned home was over a decade later, after my thirtieth birthday; my success in the military made me mistake foolishness for bravery. One of the first things I did upon returning was mock the witch; sitting on my old bed, I said all the things I was too afraid to say as a child. Nothing happened; it was almost disappointing until I realized how silly it sounded to have expected anything else.

I thought no more of her as I enjoyed reuniting with family; Eric and John kept me awake with talk and liquor late into the night. When I finally stumbled upstairs, my head was swimming with their finest homemade reserves, and I was unconscious before my boots were off. The next thing I knew, there was a burning, itching sensation spreading down my spine; it felt like ants were in the bed.

Still half delirious, I reached back to scratch, but something grabbed my wrist in a cold grip of steel. It didn’t feel like flesh and bone at all; my mind struggled to shake the sleep away, and upon remembering my location, I understood what was happening. Thinking that monster would show itself when challenged was simply moronic; of course it would wait until I was most vulnerable.

“Did you miss me?” It used Daniel’s voice – pulling my arm down painfully as it leaned forward to whisper in my ear. If its cold, putrid breath weren’t bad enough, an oddly dry, pasty tongue licked around my earlobe before plunging all the way inside. Just when I thought my arm would break from the pressure, I was flipped over onto my back and face to face with the ugliest creature I’ve ever seen. It was humanoid but with dark green skin that was covered in sores and boils; though it appeared frail in size, it had me pinned as effectively as if I were strapped to the mattress.

“Do you remember me yet?” It smiled wide, and its black tongue slowly ran across two rows of sharp, yellow teeth as drool dripped onto my chest. Every drop burned into my skin like acid; I opened my mouth to scream, but no sound came out.

“You better hurry; we’re almost out of time and then you’ll have to start all over again in the next life!” It threw its head back and laughed that insane, maniacal laugh. I didn’t have to wonder about the last remark for too long; I saw thick clouds of smoke floating by the window in the same instant I smelled it. Our house was on fire, and my whole family was asleep on the upper floors. I poured my entire being into trying to scream; I didn’t care about myself – I only needed to wake the others, but it was no use.

Thankfully I can’t physically remember the details of burning alive in that moment, but I’ll never enjoy a bonfire again. Last time I went near one, I collapsed the moment I smelled the smoke. There’s actually a lot of things I can’t enjoy anymore, but for now let’s get this last part over with. Recounting these experiences has been less therapeutic than hoped, but they’re helping me organize my thoughts so I’m trying to see this through.


Easter Egg

The splitting-pain in my head was now a full-blown migraine; trying to sit-up was impossible, my skull was filled with cement, and I genuinely wondered if I would die. I know at least two more lives played out while I was half comatose, but the details are lost. They were no doubt strikingly similar to the others; the important thing is that I was able to save what is likely the most vital piece of information from my entire existence.

When I finally had enough control to talk to the camera again, I wasn’t sure of the date, but it was still the 19th century. This time I was a woman named Penelope, and yet again my romantic preference skewed towards women; it was dangerous in the 70’s, but downright deadly in that era. Though I was never brave enough to pursue my true interest, I couldn’t force myself to be with a man, either. Unfortunately, being single wasn’t much safer – it was practically scandalous by age twenty.

I made it to 25 before my father arranged a marriage, and I ran away three weeks before the ceremony. There was no chance of escape in my hometown; it was small, and everyone knew me. My chance came when we journeyed to the city. On the first day, I feigned weariness from travel and stayed at the inn while my family enjoyed the shops. When they had enough time to be well away, I walked out with nothing but a bag of meager supplies; no one even noticed. My only regret was never learning my family’s reaction. Did they think I was taken? Did they suspect the truth? I have no idea.

Getting through the streets was easier than my best expectation once I pinned my hair and put on a hooded cloak. When the city sounds were nothing but fading noise, I felt happiness for the first time in decades. Kicking off my shoes, I ran and jumped like an elated child; it was pure ecstasy. I intended to go as far as my legs would take me; there was enough food in my bag to last a week if I was careful. Beyond that I didn’t have a clue.

When the sun began to set, I searched for a place to spend the night. Wandering along a high cliff-face, I stumbled onto a small recess, barely big enough to crawl through. I thought it was a crevice, but was shocked to find it opened into a large cavern! The sparse light remaining was dedicated to starting a cozy fire in my new home; it was easy once I’d gathered the wood and lit a few torches. With the cave illuminated, I could see another opening in the back wall; it was a tunnel – almost four feet wide, and high enough to stand.

I walked for roughly a mile and was almost ready to turn back when the passage suddenly veered left. I was only planning to look around the curve, but it was impossible to stop once I saw what lay ahead; the tunnel continued for another 30-40 yards before opening into a second cavern. It was too dark to see well, but something in there was emitting a soft, purple glow; I had to know what.

This, my friends, is a tragically perfect example of ‘curiosity killed the cat’; deeper and deeper I traipsed into the lion’s den – because why not? I was very familiar with monsters; they’re people – humans, like you and me. They live in my home and in yours; they live next door and in the streets, but there were no people in my heavenly cave!… Now, let me tell you what was

With the torchlight I could see the walls were covered in some kind of fleshy, pink membrane, and the strange light was coming from dozens of colored eggs. They stood on intricately designed pedestals and cast their strange glow on the boulders surrounding their nest. I thought it was the most marvelous sight in the world; how they came to be never crossed my mind. I leaned in closely with the torch – only wanting to see them better – but the very second the light fell on them… They erupted into flames.

Once the first ones were burning, the rest soon followed, and the entire cavern became bright as day. In the same instant, the things I mistook for boulders formed grotesque faces with bulbous black eyes and curved needle-teeth. Now that I could see clearly, I noticed thousands of thin tendrils all over the cave-floor, connecting the creatures and eggs. Their deep, guttural moans made my bones shake; the only thing I wanted to do was crawl out of that cave and get married in three weeks. Covering my ears, I hastily backed away from the hungry flames, but I collided with something.

Cold, hard arms lifted me high into the air, and no amount of kicking or pleading was going to save me. During the walk, my captor showed me things; it wanted me to understand what was done, and what price I would pay. I was helpless as visions of our planet’s darkest secrets raced through my mind.

Long before the first white man came to America, the entity was worshiped as a god. When other nations tried to settle their land, his followers rapidly dwindled until none remained. Though the creature killed many of these invaders – they refused to submit; instead they chose to flee or return with an angry mob. Over the centuries, circumstances only worsened until those caves – and eggs – were are all that remained.

The eggs weren’t conceived in the traditional sense, but born of tormented souls. When enough malice and hatred are collected into one being – it’s morphed into a horrible abomination. Those eggs were like little incubators; they grew until the transformation was complete, then a new nightmare was unleashed into our unsuspecting world. Monsters that, today, people call Cryptids – but it takes centuries for those eggs to hatch, and I had just destroyed 42 in seconds.

I’m being primed for one of those eggs; my soul is marked. Each time it finds me, it thinks of new, creative games, and – each time it kills me – it takes a piece of my soul for the incubator. I don’t know why it hasn’t come for me yet, but I’ve never known about Easter Memoria before meeting him like I have this time… or… wait… maybe that’s what it wants me to think; maybe it’s already in my life! What if my being raised around people with this knowledge was part of its master plan?

I need to get the fuck out Georgia, now. If I can find a safe place to do the ritual just one more time… I think there’s a reason those cameras cut out when Bethany died; it has to mean something. This revelation might just give me a fighting chance; if I’m able to update this one day – I will.

Thank you all so much for listening… Wish me luck.

Horror Fiction

I Work for the National Park Service; Something Disturbing is Going On (Pt. 1)

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to YouTube, Podcast, & Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m (still) binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Nohope, Washington

Hello Mr. Dweller,

I work for the National Park Service in Washington and found your channel last week. The fact you created a safe place for people to share these stories is amazing, and I’m finally ready to tell mine. My family would worry themselves sick, and friends would never believe it – but maybe the good people here in the Swamp will. At this point, I’m frightened not only for the park guests, but for myself and my partner as well. It would be an honor – and truly appreciated – if you would consider reading this to your viewers.


I can’t risk saying the park name or personal details; we were specifically warned not to discuss this outside of work, but I’ll lose my mind if I don’t tell someone. I’m not a Ranger – my crew only works at night; we’re called “park attendants” because it sounds friendlier than security guards. We were hired to patrol from 6:00pm to 6:00am after a series of strange… incidents.

Now, don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying we’re from one of those fancy ex-military security firms – not even close. We’re just regular people – the kind hired when the mere presence of a body is enough to deter would-be vandals. Most of the others are like me – middle-aged men with large physiques – but there’s a few women and college kids, too.

On my first night, I reported to the visitor’s center where Ranger Rick introduced me to the other “attendants” and prepared us for the tour. We weren’t meant to cover the entire park – only campsites, lodges, and connecting trails – but it’s still a huge area. They wanted to make sure guests knew we were there; our purpose was to reassure them as much as it was to scare assholes or pick up trash.

Their advertisement made it sound like they wanted to keep pranksters away from campers – nothing implied danger. Rick said someone was walking around the sites and lodges – just out of view – at all hours of the night, whistling. Hikers hear it as well; despite numerous complaints, no one had ever caught a glimpse of the source… or so they claimed.

Do you see how easy it is to blame these occurrences on human mischief? There was nothing to indicate anything… unnatural. It wasn’t until speaking with guests that a hint of something sinister arose.


Rick’s tour ended by 9:00, and then we received our assignments. I’ve never been an anxious person, but walking those unfamiliar trails alone – in the dark – had me on edge. My route covered half the campsites – most of which were occupied – but the trails and vacant sites were pitch black on that starless night. Armed with only a reflective vest, flashlight, and pepper spray, my journey began.

The first path led to Campsite A, and walking beneath its canopy of trees was like entering a different world. Being out there has a way of making the impossible seem not only possible, but probable. There was absolutely no reason to feel that way, but my pace steadily increased from speed-walking to jogging.

It was the soft glow of firelight ahead that suddenly made me feel foolish; the change happened so fast it was like pressing a button. I stopped to listen for any sound that might justify my panic, but there were only insects to be heard. After turning a few slow circles with the flashlight, I attributed the incident to first-day jitters and resumed my route at a normal pace.

As Ranger Rick requested, I introduced myself to the campers; we couldn’t specifically ask if they experienced anything strange, but we provided opportunities to share concerns. The theory was that guests might witness something important yet deem it unworthy of reporting – especially if it required hiking back to the visitor’s center. More often than not, that theory was proven correct, and it’s obvious when someone wants to talk. They’re more hesitant to answer and can’t quite look you in the eye; they don’t want to see your expression change when you hear their wild claims.

The family of four who occupied Site A weren’t shy about anything; they were on vacation all the way from Mississippi, and the father – who dwarfed me in size – was quite vocal. The night before, they woke to footsteps at approximately 1:30; something on two legs was shuffling around their campsite.

Not wanting to spotlight himself in the dark clearing, Jim waited until the person was close before leaping out of the tent. He was armed with a Smith & Wesson .45 and his wife with a shotgun; they had waited to take action in hopes of letting the stranger get close enough to see his face, but – not only was there no retreat – there was no-body. At the very least, they expected to hear a frenzied escape or to catch a glimpse of the perpetrator’s back, yet the couple was met with nothing.

After several minutes passed in silence, they returned to their sleeping bags only to have the footsteps pick up exactly where they left off a few yards away. Jim described it as playing Red Light/Green Light with a ghost; had I known how preferable a simple haunting would sound only days later – I might have quit that very night.

Eventually, they left the tent open and alternated sleeping until dawn. When asked why they didn’t report it, Jim said he planned to do more than that if it happened again, but wouldn’t elaborate further. I felt confident for the family’s well-being knowing they were prepared, though it did nothing to quell the rising doubts for my own safety.

Forcing my feet onto the next long, winding trail was a challenge, but even more difficult was approaching the second group of campers; I was horrified by what they might say, but all was well on their end. In fact, Site E was the only other group to report anything unusual. Four college guys were studying away from their loud dormitories; that might sound like bullshit, but they had books everywhere. These weren’t rowdy frat-jerks; they seemed like genuinely good kids, and if nothing else, I have no doubt they believed what they said – it wasn’t made up for laughs.

I’m sure they had booze and who knows what else, but they were sober when we spoke. Those fellas told their story in clear, concise points; it was obvious they discussed it amongst themselves at great length. Their visit was normal until the night before when they woke to long, high-pitched whistles. Each time someone spoke, the noise stopped; when it didn’t happen again, they fell back to sleep. The third alarm occurred at 3:03 and stopped the moment they emerged from their tents – each convinced of the other’s guilt. When it happened again at 5:05, they gave up on resting and began the day.

After more coffee than one should ever consume, they hiked to the river for a day of exploring before finding a trail that circled back to camp. Unfortunately, they underestimated the distance of their final path and were still a full mile away when it grew dark. Your phone light might seem bright in the bedroom, but they’re infuriating in the woods.

The one who did most of the talking, Pete, was the first to hear anything strange; he stopped suddenly, signaling the others to follow suit. The sound of someone taking a few more steps before also coming to an abrupt halt was unmistakable. One of the boys called out a tentative “hello”, but before he could say more, Pete silenced him with a sharp tug on the arm. Pulling the others along, he listened intently for the sound of pursuit; it came almost instantly, and everyone heard it.

The faster they moved, the faster their pursuer moved, but as they grunted from painful cramps, and their breath became ragged – they noticed no similar sounds of exertion were coming from the rear; only that steady stride – gaining inch by inch. That’s when the other three realized what Pete had noticed before – whoever (or whatever) was chasing them didn’t need a flashlight.

Then, the whistling began – similar to a higher yet slower rendition of the London Bridge. None of those boys were in excellent shape, but Michael was a heavyset asthmatic. The shock caused him to gasp in surprise, triggering a full-blown attack. Pete’s voice shook as he described what it was like to drag his friend along with those heavy footsteps gaining close enough to smell rotting meat. It was at the last second – when the would-be assailant descended on them – that it vanished. They were at a complete loss to explain what happened, and I certainly didn’t have any suggestions. It’s hard to excuse yourself after a story like that, but I had to keep making the rounds.

I went by once more before the end of my shift, and they were packing. One of the tents had four long claw marks over the entrance, but they wouldn’t stop to discuss what happened. After a rushed apology, they were gone; I wasn’t far behind them, but I was only in time to see their van speed away. Had I caught them in the parking lot – outside of the scary forest – they might have shared what happened, but I’m just glad they got out safely… if only I could do the same.

It’s fine and dandy to scream at movie characters to run for it, but in real life – people need money. Most of us don’t have the luxury of quitting our jobs on a whim; I’m looking for new work, but I’m stuck here until I find it. That’s why I said “yessir, boss” when Rick asked if I’d be back for more.


In the warm light of day, I felt like the world’s biggest chump; I was ashamed of myself – of me, a grown ass man turning yellow as chicken piss over walking some park trails in the dark! Everything made so much more sense in the daytime; ‘I let first day jitters get under my skin, and got all worked up over some paranoid hillbillies and drunk college kids’, there was nothing else to it. Any asshole can go out into the woods and whistle while they terrorize innocent people!

That night, I was responsible for two of the lodging areas. We aren’t allowed to bother guests in their cabins – only to show our presence by patrolling the blessedly lit sidewalks. All of my earlier righteous anger powered me through the night’s first dark path, but I found myself stalling before the second; the next trail sent a shiver racing down my spine, and the temperature felt several degrees colder.

I walked another lap around the lodges hoping someone would call for assistance or provide a reason for further delay, but none came. There’s no way to explain what it was like to make myself enter that trail; it felt like waves of pure evil were wafting on the breeze, but I couldn’t very well hop on the radio and request an escort either. Teeth gritted, I concentrated on how ridiculous I would later feel, and that helped a lot. The air was a little lighter, and my heart was trying to crawl out from my clenched ass cheeks when I heard it; footsteps matching my stride – following me from somewhere on the left.

My immediate reaction was to speed up, but then I thought of those college boys and how the footsteps vanished when the moment came to face them. Stopping went against every instinct, but I forced myself to stand still; the whistler also came to a halt. It was still half a mile to the lake lodges – too far to run. After an internal pep talk, I turned and marched back the other way; fantasies of catching a crazed homeless person filled my mind, and I focused the flashlight on where it sounded like the bastard stopped.

I’d gotten so worked up, my only fear was what I might do to the guy for making me look foolish. When a stick snapped near the light’s beam, I crawled into the brush, swatting aside thorny vines and bramble as I searched. Finally, the light caught movement ahead, and I peeled back one last branch before screaming my throat raw. The area beyond was covered in blood, and the only visible part of my stalker was one horrible, glowing red eye lost in a clump of pitch-black fur; the rest of it remained hidden, and my legs carried me away without conscious instruction.

People Watching

There were no sounds of pursuit as I ran back to the first lodge area and waited for reinforcements under a street lamp. Thankfully, none of the blood was human, but there wasn’t so much as a bone shard left of the animal; who knows how many that thing has been killed! None of the local predators are known for that level of brutality; not even cats play with their food to such an extent. After describing the creature – my bosses claimed it was a bear! I’m far from an expert, but on my son’s life – that wasn’t the eye of any regular animal! I can’t get it out of my mind; every night I see it in my sleep like a brand on my soul.

Maybe this is karma; my wife loves the ghost and demon shows, but I had something smart to say for every overused line in the script. The retorts for “it still haunts my dreams” were particularly snappy, yet – here I am – lucky to sleep four hours a night. The next morning, they installed trail-cams and had a full surveillance system scheduled for the following week. It sounded great for investigative purposes, but they were little comfort to those of us in the war-zone.


The next few shifts were gloriously peaceful, but disaster was waiting around the corner; I suspect many details were omitted in the official version, but on my night off, one of the other attendants was killed. They say he died a hero, but Tyler was 21 – he wasn’t trying to be anyone’s hero! A couple reported their son missing only half an hour into his shift, and he radioed for help; while waiting for backup, he and the parents searched for the boy just off-trail. The dad found a toy in the brush about fifteen yards away and tried to run in that direction.

Worried the man would also become lost, Tyler had him wait with his wife and took it upon himself to chase after the kid. He was only 10-15 minutes ahead of the others when they finally arrived and began the official search. For forty minutes they called to the missing boy and Tyler before encountering a wall of fog. It was solid white beneath their flashlights except for a small shadow figure walking towards them; I can only imagine how terrifying that sight must have appeared.

When the child emerged, he was alone and unresponsive to questions; two attendants escorted him back to the trail while the rest remained to search for Tyler. By then, the actual Search & Rescue had arrived and taken control. Apparently it was too dangerous to enter the fog; instead, a perimeter was set and guarded until it was clear enough to proceed. It was the first time I’d heard of Search and Rescue carrying weapons or guarding anything, but nothing surprises me anymore. The weather didn’t clear until dawn, and by then, the only thing left of Tyler was DNA. If the lost kid ever provided information, no one deemed it necessary to tell me; I’m not sure he and Tyler even crossed paths that night.

Until then, I never told my wife exactly how dangerous the job could be, but hiding the death of a coworker proved too challenging. I hate that she thinks I’m living out some Stephen King story about killer mist, but it’s preferable to a whistling monster that might attack me anywhere at any time, right?

The next night we started working in pairs. I was partnered with Amy – she’s in her 30’s with a wife and two kids; we instantly clicked, but I would prefer a teammate with less to lose – or an asshole. That probably sounds horrible, but now, it’s not only my life at risk – it’s someone I care about; my stress limit was already maxed out.

I’m grateful to not be alone anymore, but there’s always a little awkwardness when you’re plunged into potentially life-threatening situations with a stranger. Of course, our initial responses were to finally discuss the insane things we’d experienced on our patrols, but can you imagine what that was like? Picture yourself walking down a dark, dense trail with only a flashlight and the person you met a few hours ago. The mood is already tense, yet now you begin to relive horrifying memories… Can you see where I’m going with this? I shared what happened with the red eye, and she shared her own moment of terror, but that was all for a while.

In truth, I expected Amy’s story to fall short of my own in terms of sheer fright, but it was quite the opposite. She was patrolling the route I had first, but it didn’t turn bad for her until after midnight. She had already spoken to the campers once, and the only report logged was a complaint of someone whistling on the trail we nicknamed Crow’s Foot.

It was actually her third lap when she heard screaming at Site B. She radioed the office while running and emerged from the trail’s end less than sixty seconds later – in time to see the back of something massive, fury, and black hulking over a small shape on the ground. The moment her light came near the creature, it vanished; she described it as someone donning an invisibility cloak… which is apparently a Harry Potter thing but self explanatory nonetheless.

When the light fell to the motionless form left behind, Amy saw it was a child, and ran to it instinctively – as I’m sure any parent would. It was a young girl, curled into the fetal position, her eyes squeezed shut. Nearby, her parents were calling; Amy drew a deep breath to answer, but something suddenly yanked off her feet. She tried to scream, but a wet, hairy hand covered her mouth. In her gasping attempts to receive oxygen, the smell and taste of spoiled meat assaulted her senses. Just as she thought she would lose consciousness – the parents appeared; the monster disappeared as it had before, and Amy fell hard to the ground.

A warped version of Ring Around the Rosie, was the only tune whistled to the Meyers family, but Amy didn’t hear it. Needless to say, those kinds of stories weren’t being shared with us lowly attendants, and it scared me to think what the others might have experienced. I thought about Tyler a lot that night, too.


Three days later, the fancy surveillance system was finally installed, and they asked us to watch for any trail-cams that may have been overlooked. We thought it was weird at first – wouldn’t you want as many eyes as possible out there? Then we realized they didn’t like the fact that just anyone could walk up, and pop out the SD card; it would be a nightmare if the wrong person saw something… unnatural. We were assigned to the last cluster of campsites – the area farthest from base; if any were forgotten, it was one of those.

We checked every spot along our route and found one at the very last campsite. The camera was in a tree, and with a little teamwork, we got it down no problem. As I turned back to the trail, Amy cut me off; she was digging in her bag and wore a devilish grin that made my stomach flutter with anxiety. When she pulled out one of those mini Chromebooks, I knew we were in trouble.

“Are you sure you want to see what’s on there?” I asked, knowing full-well I didn’t!

“I am” was her only answer at first, and I held my tongue; she was fully focused on her task. Of the numerous pictures taken, the last three were the only ones of interest. The first showed an image of the creature from behind; it walked on two legs and was carrying a deer carcass over its shoulder – the biggest buck I’ve ever seen!

The second was nothing but forest so we assumed the monster moved on; when Amy scrolled to the third, she dropped the computer, and we both screamed. It was that damn eye again, looking directly into the camera lens like it was doing a retinal scan! I closed the screen as I picked up the laptop, but the images were still clear in my mind.

Amy apologized meekly as she accepted the laptop and removed the SD card. She’s been having the same nightmare since her encounter with the creature. Every night, she returns to the moment she saw it standing over the little girl and forgets it’s only a dream. This time, when the light falls on the hulking monster, it doesn’t vanish; it turns to face her with its piercing red eyes glaring through knots of black, matted fur. It has less hair around its lips and chin; the mouth is easier to describe as a quarter-sized hole, but it expands and contracts in order to eat and whistle.

The first time she dreamed it, that was where it ended, but it goes a little farther each night. After Amy has time to comprehend its horrific features, it begins walking towards her; she wants to run, but her legs won’t move. That morning, she woke when the creature was only three feet away. She had hoped to see something different in real life, but I knew that eye had been enough to confirm her worst fear. I wish there was something I could do to help, but I’ve never felt so worthless in all my life.

We were a nervous wreck for the remainder of the shift, but we had a pretty slow night. Luckily we were able to leave the camera on Rick’s empty desk; had he been there, he would have known we looked the moment he saw our faces.


That brings us to what happened last night – the reason I finally decided to sit down and write this. We were working the lake lodges again, and it started as another slow shift, but at 1:15 our radios crackled to life. A thirteen-year-old girl went missing from Campsite D, and all employees were ordered to join the search. I’m sure we weren’t the only team thinking of Tyler; it was impossible not to – especially if you knew what was out there!

Even so, it’s still a missing kid – we hurried off in that direction, but we were far away; it was doubtful we’d arrive in time to do much. Because of our significant distance, we were extremely confused as to how a thick mist seemed to be forming all around us. It started low – crawling across the ground – and spread faster than a fog machine. We ran both ways, but within minutes, our trail ends were completely blocked by solid white walls of fog.

Venturing off-trail wasn’t an option; Amy and I felt certain that’s what it wanted us to do, anyway. Instead, we held hands and tried to distract ourselves with mundane conversation as a haunting rendition of Ring Around the Rosie filled our ears. It wasn’t coming from any one direction, but from everywhere; there were no forest sounds left – no birds or insects – just whistling.

Soon, we felt the ground shake with the creature’s heavy steps; we would die if we didn’t move, but we were equally certain of our doom if we tried to walk the trail. I froze under the pressure, and Amy pulled me into the bushes. Thanks to her, I’m alive to write this now; the creature didn’t appear from the direction its steps indicated, but the one in which I wanted to flee.

It passed us by without a glance – probably focused on the young girl thrown over its shoulder – and Amy lunged forward as if to intervene. It took all my strength to hold her back; the kid was already dead. The way her head hung against the creature’s back was… wrong. There was no reason for us to die with her.

It only walked a few yards further before leaving the trail and settling down to eat. The sounds we heard over the following half hour will play in my head for as long as I live. Bones were snapped, organs were squished and the monster made a horrible slurping sound when it drank her blood. When it was finally over, we heard it walk deeper into the forest, and the fog began to dissipate.

We crawled from our bushes, tears streaming down our faces; we were filthy but alive! Every second inside that fog felt like hours; we ran into Search & Rescue a few minutes later and explained what happened. They couldn’t say any of it to the young girl’s parents, and ultimately chose to let them think we’re still looking. It makes me sick to think of them sitting by the phone – praying it rings but dreading it at the same time; they deserve closure – they need to grieve. This one has me really upset; those poor parents will end up moving here just to keep searching, and it’ll be for nothing.

I’m also worried about Amy; thinking of how far her next dream might go is terrifying. Surely it can’t actually kill her – it’s not like Freddy Kruger possessed Bigfoot, right? I’m going to call her before tonight’s shift – just to check-in. After what we went through yesterday, I don’t know how I’ll force myself to go back tonight; I’ve never been this frightened in my entire life.


Well, Mr. Dweller, that catches you up with where I am now, but if anything new happens, I’ll be sure to send an update. Thanks again for letting me get this off my chest; you take care, we’re always rooting for ya!


Part 2

Horror Fiction

The Original Fools



My wonderful friend, Nightmare’s Edge has narrated this with a few extra dark additions you won’t find the written posts - I like to call it the Nightmare Cut! Here’s the link to it on YouTube, don’t forget to subscribe!



The CreepyPasta




⚠️TRIGGER WARNING⚠️
This story involves strong implications of sexual assault.
Fool Origins

Did you know April Fools dates back to the 1500’s? Its origins revolve around France switching to the Gregorian calendar. People who were slow to learn of the change still celebrated New Years according to the Julian calendar – meaning April 1st – which resulted in their mockery. In the 1800’s, it spread through Britain, and before you know it, here we are.

Those statements are true, but the French switching calendars has nothing to do with our April Fool’s day. It just sounds better than the truth – especially for a fun-filled holiday enjoyed by millions. Historians will never say different; look what happened to the guy who ruined Pluto. That being said, I think the CreepyPasta community would appreciate knowing what actually happened.

Approximately 10-20 years before France changed calendars, a small mountain village was suffering an especially cold, brutal winter. The only road leading in or out was impassable during the snowy months, and the closest city was several day’s journey. If they didn’t find a new food source, they would all starve before the ice melted. A meeting was called, and no suggestion was too outlandish, yet they adjourned with little hope.

The first to exit stopped suddenly, noticing a stringless marionette on the stoop. It wore a black, hooded robe; the face bore a cruel expression, and a tightly wound scroll in its lap. Upon closer inspection, they saw the note was tied with hair, and the writing was a deep crimson. The message itself:

I am the Chaos in Darkness and Commander of the Dead. On the First of every April, you will bring a boy aged between six and eight to the North Peak cave. The child will enter alone. Harvests will be bountiful, and winters comfortable. A wagon of wheat and corn waits in the stables. Payment must not be late. Failure to comply will incite my Wrath.

Obviously, no one believed it until they saw the food, and even then, most remained skeptical. “But how would anyone bring a wagon up the pass?” Believers argued.

“It was already here!” Skeptics shouted. Regardless, their hunger left little choice.

“There’s not one of us who isn’t half starved, no one could conceal this much for so long!” Believers insisted.

“Does it matter? That cave is a maze of dark tunnels and dangerous drops! What child do you propose we sacrifice?” Skeptics exclaimed. Despite a few noticeable hesitations, all agreed it simply could not be done, and life moved on.


The snow melted, spring came, crops were planted, and fish were caught. April 1st passed with little notice; a few doomsayers were anxious, but – as a whole – most had forgotten about the strange letter until the morning of the 2nd. A quarter of every farmer’s crops were destroyed, torn from the ground and trampled by something which left enormous, clawed footprints.

The villagers argued until the sun set and rose again, but were no closer to agreement. Farmers guarded their fields through the night, and on the morning of the 3rd, not one more crop was lost. Instead, half the river’s fish were dead, floating downstream, and the winds carried their rotten stench through the town square; still, no concessions were made.

The believers wouldn’t have a majority vote until fifteen of their new cattle were found slaughtered on the morning of the 4th. An angry mob hiked the treacherous path to the North Peak Cave; twenty feet beyond the entrance was a narrow tunnel, forcing them to advance single-file. At a cautious pace, they proceeded another thirty feet before reaching a sharp turn. Suddenly, the lead-man fell back, violently pushing past his fellows; as others saw around the corner, they too, screamed for retreat.

Haunted April

Once the regretful heroes returned, they described a humanoid, skeletal figure with the head of a horse and a sickle for an arm. An eerie orange glow illuminated the creature and the monstrous stone face it stood beneath. The carving’s mouth was ajar and producing the same strange light, but none dared cross the great chasm to investigate.

That’s when they suggested an orphan, and even the skeptics held their tongues. Thanks to the previous famine, many children were left homeless. Soon, a seven-year-old was discovered begging at a bakery; one man earned his trust by claiming to be an uncle, and the desperate boy gladly followed his new guardian. At the cave entrance, the little one was sent inside to wait while his “new uncle and friends gathered wood.”

As the men fled, a loud, gut-wrenching scream shook their resolve, but not enough to save the boy. His wails turned to muffled sobs and faded into the distance as the frightened villagers ran. Upon their return, no questions were asked, and no answers were offered; again, life moved on.


Each person doubled their efforts to conserve. Jars of preserves filled cellars, new crops were planted, and no more disasters befell the secluded mountain village. Men who traveled to the city for summer work returned with half their wages in grain, and in fall, special care was taken with the harvest.

Despite having more food than ever before, many were still traumatized by the previous winter. Those with the means to do so left town before the first snowfall, but most had nowhere to go. Each morning they feared disaster would strike, yet each night they slept in warm beds with full bellies.

“It must be the Demon’s promise!” They rejoiced; yet, as weeks turned to months, their happiness began to fade. Dreading another April sacrifice, many felt disappointed by the fair weather and prayed for misfortune – for any excuse to refuse the creature’s demands – but by February’s end, it was clear their prayers would go unanswered.

Every parent held their children a little closer at night. The torturous “what if’s” were endless; no mother could sleep – no father could rest – until the next child was chosen. They needed to see him, to know he was real and the burden would not fall on their own; if no boy met the age requirement, who would take his place? Someone would – of that there was no doubt; none were foolish enough to believe differently.

On March 3rd, the search began; every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother and sister were looking for a boy between 6-8 to ensure their own family never saw the inside of North Peak cave. By the fifth day, tensions were running high. Children were hidden away, changing their appearance, and lying about age. Word had spread to every villager’s ear – even the homeless knew to flee, but the children had no way off the mountain.

It was March 10th when a suitable boy was found in the woods. He understood why they took him and tried to escape many times over the following weeks. Even so, tempers cooled with the relief, and lives mostly returned to normal until the morning of April 1st.

The sacrifice was thrown into the cave upon refusing to enter. His cry grew sharper with the soft thud of impact, and the guards listened closely at the entrance. Scuffling steps were heard, followed by a sharp gasp and shrill cry. At that sound, they knew it was safe to leave.

Filled with the knowledge their crops would flourish, farmers expanded their fields, and ranchers increased their livestock. A bustling summer led to an astonishingly successful harvest, and all openly praised the Dark Savior. Winter was now a time for rest and relaxation, not fighting for survival. When the roads filled with snow, life moved happily along.


Spoiled by their new way of life, the search for the next boy began immediately; no one wished to revisit the previous year’s panic. When January came and still no child was had, talks of searching the city began. Many were uneasy about involving the outside world; if authorities intervened, what might the captured man – or men – say? One doesn’t need to believe in demons to believe others believe. No matter how favorable the chances – comfortable winters were too valuable to risk.

On February 1st, a manhunt was organized to search the mountainside; villagers checked behind every tree and under every rock, but no child was compatible. After weeks of heated argument, the inevitable was finally accepted. A child from the lowest class would give their life for a greater cause; the few who spoke out were easily silenced and the law no longer applied to enemies of the Dark Savior.

In total, six children were thrown into North Peak cave. The seventh was meant to be a young boy named Vincent. His parents died that January, and his last relative was an ailing grandfather. Though the elderly man was small and frail, his mind remained sharp; his grandson turned six only the month before, and those were the days when each child’s birth was carefully documented. Their circumstance was dire, and they had neither the strength or resources to flee.

The grandfather made a desperate attempt to save the last of his family line. On April 1st, a small figure presented himself at the mountain’s base, and the Honor Guards escorted him to the top. It was no longer a treacherous climb but a proper trail – cleared and raked for easier travel. So long as the sacrifice walked willingly, there was no reason to crowd or hassle the doomed soul.

The seventh year was perhaps the easiest trek of all; the small procession journeyed at a slow but steady pace, and not once did the sacrifice attempt to run – which could almost be considered tradition. The guards could hardly believe when he entered the cave without so much as a look back. Their shock was likely the reason they lingered slightly longer than usual; they’d only begun to turn away when a furious shout echoed inside. “How dare you! I know your face, Felix Felonious!”

Hearing the wildly unpopular man’s name, those outside began to creep further. Next was the old man’s cry for help, and the men recognized it immediately; understanding what geezer attempted, they rushed forward, hoping rectify their mistake. Truly no fate could be worse than ending the generous agreement.

Except, when the Honor Guards entered, the only thing they saw was the village idiot bashing in the old man’s brains – no demon. Two men cautiously crossed the chasm – a risk they were happy to take under the circumstance. What few questions remained were answered with a grotesque figure crafted from human and animal remains; string and adhesive held it together, but barely. Though it was falling apart with age, the witness descriptions were a perfect match.

The guards holding Felix at the entrance had no trouble detaining him; the challenge was keeping him alive as they processed the true depths of his actions, and – as a result – their own. The village was in an uproar when they returned – even the women and children screamed for blood. The boy’s grandfather was dead, but his sacrifice was not in vain.

No more children were lost; although natural disasters and hard winters would come, the people were better prepared. They would never see a year quite so dire as the one permanently etched into their memories. They tried to hide the horrible secret, but – as it always does – word slowly spread to the city and beyond. The yearly tradition of embarrassing one another with elaborate pranks spread far and wide as each country adopted the fun-filled holiday.


The poor villager’s only solace for years of manipulation, was the horrible torture Felix endured after a full confession. It wasn’t hard to fool him; his worst fear had come to fruition, and he was desperate to see a way out. They could not change what was done, but they could damn sure learn from it.

Felix – more than anything – was a sick opportunist; a very lucky – yet disturbed – opportunist. His childhood was spent playing alone in the woods. By entering the forest from his backyard and mapping game trails, he eventually discovered a way down the mountain; it was purely by chance, and his own special secret. The path involved many narrow ledges and steep drops; he worried its use would be forbidden if his parents knew.

As Felix grew and became more adept at traversing the difficult terrain, he began climbing the mountain as well. At 16, he found a second way into the North Peak cave; it bypassed the dangerous dead-drop of the main entrance and allowed access to the spacious caverns beyond. Soon, he knew its tunnels as well as the forest.

When the village hovered on the brink of starvation, Felix almost revealed the way down, but if only a small amount of food were found – a deadly confrontation would ensue. The frozen trail was even more treacherous than normal; each step was tested before shifting his weight, and the caution paid off when he finally reached the bottom.

It was late, and the sun was setting. While preparing a fire, he noticed a figure approaching from the distance. It was two men with a wagon; when they were close enough to hail, Felix raised a hand in greeting and recognized his neighbor’s son. Luca began a city apprenticeship the previous summer, but was worried for his parents. Food donations were collected, and he swore to deliver every grain if he had to carry them up the mountain by hand; Luis, a fellow apprentice, offered to assist.

Felix happily shared village news while filling himself with corn but quickly realized his mistake. If he led Luca and Luis up the mountain, all would learn of his secret trail. He truly appreciated the young men, but not enough to spare their lives. After convincing them the wagon must be left behind, it was agreed three men could carry the sacks if they formed a chain up the steep slopes.

Not wanting the horses to suffer when their masters failed to return – Felix offered to tie them near the river, when in reality, he set them loose. Hiking up the mountain was far more difficult than coming down, but separating Luca from his friend proved little challenge.

Near the summit – light fading – they formed their final chain with Luis at the bottom. Luca was positioned at the top, and while his back was turned, Felix reached for the next sack; in the brief moment both held it, Felix pushed forward. Luis fell back with a panicked cry, and went silent when his head connected with the ground. Luca – unsuspecting of foul play – rushed to his friend’s side; as he knelt to help Luis, Felix snapped his neck from behind.

He worked well into the night – hauling each sack into his cellar one by one. When the food was safely stowed – Felix returned for the bodies. Once loaded onto a sled, they were hauled to the caverns. Too exhausted for the return hike home, he slept through the afternoon. Upon waking, he saw the bodies were preserved by the cold and filled his stomach. After packing enough for dinner, what remained was buried for later.

Upon finally returning home, three men stood at his door. They were talking amongst themselves, and one pointed to the stables; the others nodded and began walking in its direction. Quickening his pace, Felix called out a greeting. To his great relief, the gentlemen stopped, but when they turned – he recognized Luca’s father and uncle. The third was a farmer and friend of their family’s.

Baffled by their presence, Felix simply asked, “How did you know?”

Taking Felix’s unsocial reputation into consideration, the boy’s father thought he was referring to the town meeting; Francis – months away from learning of his son’s disappearance – replied “We happened to be in town when it was announced.”

There was an awkward silence as Felix carefully processed those words. If it was already announced to the village, killing his visitors wouldn’t help. His only hope was to dispute their claim, but first, he needed to know what that claim was. “Then why don’t you tell me?” He stated dryly.

Annoyed with his rude neighbor, Francis informed Felix he could attend tomorrow’s meeting at noon or stay home, and that most preferred the latter.

Finally understanding his mistake, Felix was flooded with noticeable relief. “I will most assuredly be in attendance; thank you gentlemen kindly for the visit!” He replied with a gleeful tip of the hat.

Mouths agape at the sudden change of character, Francis and company returned the gesture with slight nods before departing in silent confusion.

After tending to his own food stores, Felix loaded an old wagon with what remained. The idea to pretend it was a demon’s gift came in stages. He genuinely wanted to share it with the village – it would disrupt his daily life if they all starved – but he needed a way to do so without assuming any risk. Eventually, Francis would learn of Luca’s disappearance, and that it occurred while attempting to deliver a wagon of food.

Claiming it came from a demon simply amused him, but then he thought of the young boy in his stables’ loft. Had he returned only a few minutes later, he would be chained in a dungeon! Had the child been alive and called out upon hearing their voices, what then? How would he explain? He couldn’t… not those remarks from a child; not paired with those wounds. The thought alone was enough to turn Felix’s stomach.

It was the first time he had a boy in the village, but that year’s winter yielded so many orphans – he simply couldn’t resist. He’d been without company since a city-trip in June, and despite knowing he should at least use the cavern – his house was much closer. Normally, Felix couldn’t risk being with anyone for longer than a single night, but the comfort of his secluded home offered tempting scenarios. The warmth of another body in his own bed was a pleasure he’d never known and could not easily forget. To honor his lost companion, a shrine was built over his grave – deep in the caverns.

That’s when he realized the “demon” should be paid for its service, and cut an incision into his upper thigh. Using the blood as ink, he wrote a letter to the villagers explaining the terms; next, he exhumed a horse that was eaten the previous week, and – after making a few alterations to an old marionette – he was ready to prepare the cavern. With the horse’s skull, he began the hiked up the mountain yet again.

It only took a skeleton, sickle, string, adhesive, candles, and a few pieces of orange glass to create his demonic lair. He installed the animal’s head onto the human skeleton and placed his creation beneath the giant stone face he had slowly carved over the years. He never expected anyone else to see it, but the idea gave Felix immense satisfaction.

He delivered the food in the dead of night, and ensured he was last to arrive at the meeting. Placing the letter would carry the most risk, and he couldn’t fully relax until it was finished. There was still some concern the wagon would be discovered early, but when that didn’t happen, Felix began to feel invincible. He sat smiling quietly until the first battle between skeptic and believer began.

To maintain his normal character, he silently and indifferently listened from the back. When they finally located the food, Felix lined up with the rest, behaving as if his starvation hadn’t ended the night before; no one suspected a thing – at least – not from him. He was disappointed no one inspected the cave, but he left his creation up; knowing they’d check eventually, he performed regular maintenance as it continued to decompose. The look it created combined with the rotting stench only made it more convincing.

In his best estimations, Felix thought he might get one or two boys at most. He knew weather and harvests were beyond his control, but he felt his chances for the first were fair – if he could pull off a few destructive feats. Anticipating their reluctance to sacrifice a child, he chose April to allow extra time for preparation.

He was almost afraid to employ his smithing skills lest it cast suspicion, but the idea was too tempting to resist. Soon, a heavy pair of iron, monster-shaped shoes were strapped to his feet. They were tested only once before use – around the cave’s north entrance – but the rain washed them away overnight.

The hope was for their sight among the destroyed crops to prevent the need for further action. Felix understood his urges were wrong – he didn’t enjoy causing pain; he didn’t want to poison the river or slaughter those cattle, but they didn’t give him a choice. There were times in the past when fish were found floating; no one drank the water then, and he was confident they wouldn’t now.

The cattle were the easiest trick to manage, but the most difficult for his conscience. As a man who has known hunger, it was sacrilege to waste so much meat, but it was necessary to maintain every facet of the illusion. If prime cuts of beef were removed from even one carcass, suspicions would shift to the motives of man. Thankfully, it ended there, and he wasn’t forced to burn the silo.

When his fellows finally found the courage to suggest an orphan – as all knew they eventually must – Felix dared hope he could choose his favorite. It’s true there was no shortage since the famine, but only a handful were the right age. Three to be exact, and he preferred the red-head often found begging at the baker’s; his heart and stomach throbbed in unison as he led the others to him.

When little Edward went willingly with the men, Felix could hardly maintain the expected mournful disposition. He forced himself to walk home before beginning a hurried trek up the mountain, and arrived only seconds before the boy. There was no time for the black robe he acquired specially; instead, he approached quietly while the boy’s eyes were still adjusting to darkness.

In a state of disbelief, he placed a long, cold hand atop Edward’s shoulder, eliciting a shrill cry of terror from the boy and a warm shiver of anticipation from himself . Frightened the villagers would suffer a change-of-heart, Felix quickly clamped his hand over the boy’s mouth, and only muffled sobs could be heard.

It wasn’t his intention to frighten the boy; he genuinely hoped they would become friends. Pulling Edward into a hug, he whispered in his ear, “It is only me, Felix, the iron-worker; you remember me, don’t you? I bought you bread once.”

At that, the child eased his struggles, and turned to see the familiar face. Edward asked for his uncle, but upon learning the truth – hot, fresh tears flowed freely. Felix held him as the boy’s body convulsed with violent, and his own convulsed for entirely different reasons. He vowed to be all the child would ever need – a father, brother, friend… and more – so convincingly he even fooled himself.

He’d often fantasized about that first meeting, but when the moment came he lost all words and the truth – as Felix had come to see it, anyway – spilled from his mouth. “Single men are not allowed to adopt, but I fooled the villagers.” He proudly boasted to the now beaming child.

Infused with confidence, he held little Eddie close and carried him across the dangerous chasm with practiced ease. The boy giggled in delight at the fake Demon and excitedly agreed to never leave the caves. “Just for now.” Felix promised; “Besides, it’ll take you a few weeks to learn your way around the tunnels and to your cave.” He added nonchalantly, hands roaming freely.

He was patient at first; the boy’s mere presence was exciting, and – once past the admittedly poor introduction – their conversations were fulfilling in a way he never knew was missing. Felix was unshakable in his conviction; ‘Edward would never be like the poor boy from his stables’, he thought. ‘He could control himself now’, he decided and this child was likely his last chance for a special friend. Kidnapping was too risky, and when the upcoming winter was filled with hardship, there would be no more sacrifices.

The 16th century man could never fathom how basic psychology would aid in his plan, but it was the reason for his success. Due to the paranoia created during that first, deadly winter, and the appearance of a “demon”, villagers essentially created a self-fulfilling prophecy by taking extra care in everyday life.

Felix dared not hope for his luck to hold, but the more people came to believe in the Demon, the more he caught himself fantasizing a world of ‘what if’s’. For instance, what if they greeted new arrivals as a family? They would share the same story, and elicit a good scream for the growing legend; it would be the children’s parting gift to the cold world that shunned them so cruelly. Then, they could drink and be merry; the nights would be for play and the days for resting!

Felix could see it no other way. Thus every year, a new boy joined their merry band; even those ripped from parents arms decided to stay. Great fun was shared, and their love for one another was second only to their Father’s. That’s what Felix believed, and you can too, if you’d prefer a happy ending.

If you want the truth – the only thing those boys saw in that cave was a wild, naked man surrounded by the dead little children who came before – their bodies bruised and broken, but their faces carved into wide, eternal smiles; then life moved on.

Horror Fiction

I Found Something Disturbing in Aokigahara Forest

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast,and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m (still) binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

⚠️TRIGGER WARNING⚠️

This story contains much talk of suicide.

Hello Dweller of Swamps,

It’s strange to finally write this after months of meticulously crafting the perfect letter with which to grab your attention, but sadly those hours were in vain. It’s impossible to express the entirety of what happened without including some rather embarrassing details, but I can’t keep this to myself any longer. Hopefully, you can see past my mistakes and consider reading this to your viewers. There is no defense for my intentions, but I would like to conclude this preface by saying that I am a different person now.


My name is Parker, and I’m a 21-year-old manic depressive, bipolar, college dropout; I’m also a snob and all around asshole. This isn’t a cry for help – it’s an explanation. You see, I’ve been coming to The Swamp since 2018; it’s one of few pleasures in my pathetic life. Any tale where someone suffers more than myself is a treat, but here… I don’t know, there’s something special about the atmosphere; I’ve nearly convinced myself I’m visiting a real place. Did I cross a line from loyal fan to obsessive psycho? Probably, but listen to my whole story before passing judgment.

Eventually, listening wasn’t enough anymore; I wanted to “keep the show going daily” – to hear my words shared with everyone here in the Swamp! The problem? I was a boring nobody, and apparently, so was my family; there wasn’t a single haunting or stalker among us. Finally, I decided to create a work of fiction, but they were dull; even if you read them, they’d be immediately forgotten. No, if I was going to lie, it was going to be something memorable!

After trashing a dozen more drafts, the entire world stopped. My sister died, and I experienced real pain. The previous depressions were nothing compared to the new torments of daily life. Leslie was walking to her car after work when some shitbag just… grabbed her, but that’s not the story I’m here to tell; it’s only the catalyst.

I’ve always wanted to die; not in a ‘I can’t take it anymore’ dramatic way; in a ‘this is pointless and I don’t wanna’ passive way. After Leslie, it became the bad kind. Wanting justice kept me going at first, but when the shitbag went down shooting, that was gone too.

There’s a calmness that comes with the decision to die; the pain finally stops because it doesn’t matter anymore. It felt like my mind was clear for the first time, and I understood exactly what I wanted to do. Opening a new doc, my fingers danced over the keys as words practically wrote themselves. In minutes, three perfect paragraphs introduced myself as a adventurous hiking enthusiast; I explained my love for this channel and lifelong desire to visit Aokigahara – Japan’s Suicide Forest. It was far from finished, but a beautiful beginning.

Next, I bought a plane ticket (round-trip to support my claims), got a passport, and packed my bags. The plan was nearly flawless; I would write of my daring adventures, and when the audience was captivated with my unbelievable discoveries, I would deliver the clincher – the “returning tomorrow, will update soon!” Of course, that was never going to happen. Later, when my body was discovered… Well, you get the idea.

There was a chance details about my true personality would surface, but most people want the mystery; they’ll overlook a few discrepancies if the story is good enough, and I thought mine was. I researched the area to ensure no claims contradicted the legends too much and found the subject fascinating. In 2003, a record breaking 105 bodies were discovered; in 2010, over 200 suicide attempts were made! Due to the drastic increases, they won’t release the numbers anymore.

In the year 864, Mount Fuji erupted and where the lava flowed, Aokigahara eventually grew. Halfway up the mountain, one can see the forest from high above the treetops; that breathtaking view is the reason it was named, Jukai, or Sea of Trees. Unfortunately, the surrounding villages were poor and starving; it was common for families to abandon their elderly in the woods and call it mercy. Many of them committed suicide rather than face weeks of starvation and exposure.

This brings us to the Onryo – vengeful spirits capable of causing physical harm. Many claim these malevolent beings are responsible for most – if not all – of the forest’s deaths and disappearances; even experienced hikers tend to lose their way. Now, the public trail ends with ‘No Trespassing’ notices and warning signs. Those who are determined to die simply venture forth and do it;. if they’re unsure, they tie a ribbon in the trees to guide their possible return.

Sometimes, locals volunteer to perform suicide checks and know what it means to find one of those trails. In case you’re wondering, I took camping gear, but only to support future claims. We can skip the swank hotel, weird toilets, and actual trauma of public transportation. I’d rather jump to where fantasy and reality diverged.


Once I learned what it’s like to travel in a crowded city – I knew multiple trips were out of the question. Instead, I took everything on the first day. Finding reception at the bottom of the mountain seemed preferable to another round trip. Plus, it fit my narrative better – “I was just camping, but things were so scary I came down to send this!” At least, that’s what I told myself.

It wouldn’t matter why I went back afterwards – people always make dumb decisions in those situations. Let everyone speculate I forgot something, or maybe I was forced. The important thing was to steer them away from suicide. I didn’t care what went in its place – Onryo, Yakuza, Aliens – pick your poison!

From the moment I arrived, things were more difficult than anticipated. The insects were drawn to me like they smelled a foreign delicacy in my blood, and the weight of my gear increased with every step. When the trail split in two, I stopped for a much needed break. The signposts were in Japanese, but a passing elderly couple spoke English well enough to help. They exchanged worried glances after noticing my tent; I insisted my interests lay only in camping, but it’s doubtful they believed me.

I’m still in awe of the forest’s beauty; it’s amazing what nature can do when the trees aren’t cut every 10-20 years! If you leave the trail – even before the forbidden zone – it’s practically guaranteed you’ll get lost. I stopped for a few more breaks along the way and reached the end in roughly two hours. A small barrier with numerous warnings offered no challenge in preventing my entry, but that’s what marks the point of no return for so many.

My first glimpse revealed tattered ribbons of all colors and sizes blowing in the breeze. I worried my line would be too easily seen if it started within view of the trail but then noticed a uniquely shaped tree in the distance. Halfway there, a blue, uncut ribbon could be seen stretching into the dense foliage ahead; it inspired a combination of fear, curiosity, and regret. Turning back, I found a new landmark to the right; when sure no others were nearby, I started my own red lifeline.

It was a solid hour before I found a suitable place for the tent. It was the lightest available, but as the clouds gathered overhead, the choice felt regrettable. Not checking the weather is a perfect example of the basic things I overlook in laziness. I set up between two huge trees and hoped heavy rocks would help against the wind; there was nothing to do against flooding except hope it didn’t happen.

It wasn’t until resting inside that I heard the sporadic patter of raindrops and realized the trees blocked most of it. Luckily it never rained hard enough to be more than a nuisance, but the soothing sounds lulled me to sleep. Nightmares are a common theme in the forest’s legend, but that’s true for most haunted places. Regardless, bad dreams are ineffective threats against those of us intimately familiar with night terrors… as long we realize we’re sleeping.

One moment I was resting comfortably; the next – footsteps were crunching in the distance. I rose to look outside, fully expecting a deer or bear. My ears couldn’t discern how many legs it walked on – just that it was heavy. The sound stopped instantly when I unzipped the flap; taking a few cautious steps forward, I scanned my surroundings. It was then I realized Aokigahara was a serial killer’s paradise, but it was too late for new worries. Besides, I was there to die; if someone wanted to help – why complain?

I turned and felt urine stream down my leg. Standing not five feet behind my tent was the elderly couple from before… except now they looked like zombies! They weren’t ghostly apparitions but solid bodies! Their faces were chalk-white and peeling; the woman’s neck had a jagged red slash, and her husband was missing a portion of his skull.

With a sickly, rotten smile, the man – in perfect English – asked, “Are you sure you’re only here to camp? Is there anything you’d like to talk about? We’re wonderful listeners.” As he spoke, they advanced from both sides, and I stumbled backwards.

“Oh don’t be frightened dear,” his wife added, “We only want to help; we have a grandson your age! Or we did… until he left us to rot, the sorry, selfish bastard!” Her voice became deeper with every word until it no longer resembled a human’s.

I retreated faster and soon fell flat onto my back. Twisted roots and rocks jabbed painfully into my skin, but there was no time to stop for the stars dancing in my vision. The couple’s approach grew louder with each step, and their cold, iron grips would come any second. I flailed, desperately propelling myself backwards, but my clothes snagged in several places. Finally, when I thought my heart would fail from pure terror, I jolted awake to a loud clap of thunder.

Outside in the cool, fresh air, I noticed my clothes were soaked in sweat. Once changed, I started a fire and wondered at the possibility of staying awake for the rest of my life; having one of those dreams at night was something to avoid. A phantom-pain lingered from the imaginary fall, but as a lifelong hypochondriac, I’ve learned to ignore most aches and ailments.

In a blatant act of rebellion, my brain showed me awful things waiting in the forest – creeping closer by the minute. I didn’t care about the story anymore, but I was trapped. If I fled in the dark – every branch would be fingers, every animal would be demons, and every cold breeze would be the Reaper’s breath.

Shadows darted about in the corner of my eye, but I was paralyzed. The trance was only broken when a figure suddenly lunged into the clearing; I turned my head in time to catch a glimpse of a pale, angry woman before she vanished. Taking advantage of my regained mobility – I dove into the tent. I felt a cold certainty that’s what They wanted, but my anxiety grew in tandem with the darkness; staying outside wasn’t an option. I felt naked and exposed; countless eyes were watching, waiting… but for what? The whispers hinted suicide, but I wasn’t ready to admit I heard them yet.

Things were almost calm during the first hour; writing seemed like a good distraction, but it was difficult to focus. It wasn’t until accidentally dozing that I heard real footsteps – several. The firelight cast tall, exaggerated shadows onto the tent, and they grew taller with every step. There were at least six, maybe more; I thought they would force their way inside, but they circled me like vultures! Round and round they went, slowly, never stopping or talking, but – occasionally – they showed me things.

I could hear, smell, and feel everything; most husbands granted their wives quick, painless deaths before committing suicide, but sometimes they tried to survive out there. Either way, death always came, and the men were always furious when it did. Their rage and hate poured into the land, strengthening its curse with every fresh infusion of fury.

What’s interesting is how the same children who left them on the mountain were in turn abandoned by their own offspring years later. The Onryo never forgot, and their sons were greeted accordingly. The practice of abandoning the weak may have ended, but its victims remain – and they hate us, all of us.

The visions continued until all meaning of time was lost; my head ached and my eyes grew heavier with each passing minute. I had drifted off for only a moment when the sound of tearing fabric startled me. Inches from my ear, a long, black fingernail poked through a small hole, and I screamed in surprise. The finger was immediately replaced by a glazed, blue eye. Gripped by panic, I leapt away from the tear, covered it with my pack, and sobbed as the circling footsteps resumed. I stayed that way until dawn, when all fell gloriously silent.


There were no retreating footsteps into the forest; they vanished mid-stride as if never there. I opened the flap wide enough for a peek but saw nothing. The gray light of morning filled me with renewed determination; it was imperative to finish my business before sunset, but I was no longer sure what that entailed. Not wanting to trust any decision made under duress, I reassessed my situation from the beginning.

The real doubts began with my letter to you, Mr. Dweller. It was nothing compared to the nightmare of reality. After much soul searching, the file went into the trash bin where it belonged. When I decided to visit Aokigahara, no part of me expected to witness any form of supernatural activity; now that I had – it would practically be criminal not to share it with the Swamp, right?

Admitting I might want to live was too scary; that would mean returning to my miserable existence of everyday life. It was easier to postpone the suicide rather than cancel, but my priority was getting the hell out of that forest. My gear was packed in ten minutes, and leaving the tent behind was an easy decision; no matter how long I lived, there would be no more camping in my future.

Following my red line back to its starting point, I remembered the stranger’s blue ribbon. My intention was only to take a few pictures – for the story – but then it was clearly older than I first assumed. The chances of finding a corpse at the other end were extremely high. Seeing a corpse wouldn’t bother me half as much as a living person would. I could be like the YouTubers and claim it was to give closure to a grieving family – or that it was the right thing to do – but I was chasing a story.

After twenty minutes, the sound of rushing water alerted me to a stream beyond the cliff-side, and the terrain was much better for walking. The forest’s beauty, made it easy to forget the previous night’s terror and the morbidity of my current objective. Lost in another fantasy, I wandered past the ribbon and into an old campsite. A gray tent was flattened beneath a large tree limb, and personal effects were scattered throughout the area.

Initially, I worried a person was inside the tent when it was crushed, but that wasn’t the case. After a brief inspection of the belongings, I noticed a yellow ribbon leading further into the woods. The dead woman was at the end of a much shorter hike. She’d been there long enough for the rope to eat through her decomposing neck; the noose still hung from the tree, but her head and body lay separately on the ground. Taking a picture was horrible, but no one would believe me without evidence.

Her icy, dead stare gave me chills; I couldn’t look directly at her – only through the camera. With my finger over the button, I took a few more steps and waited for the auto-zoom. When the shot came into focus, I screamed and fell hard on my ass.

The woman’s face was back to normal – her lips slightly parted; in no way could she be described as smiling. Yet, when the picture came into focus, that’s exactly what she was doing. Her terrifying grin stretched ear-to-ear, her lips were blood-red, and her eyes were suddenly aware and full of hatred. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her or she might make that face again, but I desperately needed to see that picture.

After several minutes spent blindly running my hands over the ground, I finally found it. The sad, broken remains of my phone only displayed the soft glow of nothingness; we can fast forward past my tantrum. Without a phone, there was no way to judge time, but I knew it was early enough to be safely locked in my hotel room before nightfall.

When retracing my steps through the ruined campsite, I heard a strange, gargled cry – like someone was drowning – and instinctively ran towards the sound. Looking down from the cliff’s edge, I froze at the sight below. It wasn’t water flowing through the stream but blood and bone! Skulls littered the banks, and spines stretched far beyond my sight. My head began to spin, and I sank to my knees knowing another vision would soon assault my senses.

Skeletal Stream

Countless people jumped from that very spot, and countless more were all but pushed. I watched them in an endless loop; so many people – just like me – were surrounded by a horde of ghoulish figures taunting and poking them until they fell. Death wasn’t always instant – some only suffered broken bones; those begged for help until their heads sank below the surface. They were the same gargled cries which led me there in the first place.

I only returned to my senses when leaned forward, hovering at the tipping point. It was my own doing, but not my conscious doing; it required all my willpower to carefully lean back and avoid panicked movements. When there was a comfortable distance between myself and the cliff, thunder boomed overhead, and the sky was quickly growing dark. That’s when I remembered my laptop; it had a clock, but with a little luck – my phone would appear on the Wi-Fi options!

At first, I assumed it must be on American time – because why else would it say 5:15pm? The battery was over half full, but the power died when I opened the Wi-Fi settings. When pressing the power button, the light blinked and died. If it was almost 6:00, that meant I missed the sun’s entire journey across the sky while I was… what? What could account for so much time?

The answer hit me, and I almost lost the little food in my stomach. It hadn’t felt long at the river, but my muscles were weirdly stiff when I returned to my senses. As if confirming my worst fear, the bottom of the sun dipped just behind the mountain’s back and a long shadow fell across the land. That’s when the whispers returned, but it was hard to distinguish the outside voices from my own while crying in the dirt. “Kill yourself now; forget the story. You can’t spend another night out here.” No matter who said it – truer words were never thought.

After repacking the computer and finding my flashlight, panic finally consumed me; I ran without looking back. The headless woman would be there; there’s no way to prove it, but she would. A painful stitch in my side soon forced me to a stop. The flashlight wouldn’t have enough battery to last all night, but if I didn’t turn it on until it was pitch black – it should have enough power to make it to the public trail. The plan was to walk until the light dimmed, then start a fire next to the path.

If nothing else, having a plan granted me several minutes reassurance. I genuinely saw myself making it out of there and being a better person for it – like one of those life-changing experiences you see in a movie where the main character is an entirely different person at the end. All I needed to do was walk back to the blue ribbon; even I couldn’t get lost in the short space between it and the public trail!

The ribbon was gone; I followed it when fleeing the river, but it wasn’t there anymore. As if answering my screams of frustration, a violent wind blew, and a wall of dirt hit my skin like a thousand needles. Underneath the howling wind and crunching leaves there was another sound – whispers – floating to my ears off the cold breeze. They were secrets and knowledge, questions and answers, promises and threats – all for my ears alone! When the trees were calm once again, I opened my eyes in time to watch the last blue tatters fall to the ground.

Instead of being consumed by terror, I felt relieved… The whispers were pleased, and so was I, but immediately upon that realization, was the now familiar feeling of waking from a trance; those feelings hadn’t been my own, and the appropriate response of panic began in earnest. Thinking the trail must be close, I used the flashlight and kept moving in the same direction.

Fun fact: Walking in a straight line is impossible without a guide; you’ll always make a circle. Feel free to Google it; I didn’t believe it either, but it’s an interesting read.

I pointed the flashlight into the cluster of trees and took three deep breaths before proceeding. The light bounced with my unsteady movements, and the whispers begged me to look for their faces – to follow them home – but if they were trying to lure me right – I needed to go left; that’s when the old couple returned.

The moment the light fell on their rotting faces, I came to an abrupt halt, and they laughed at my fear. “You think he’ll wet his pants again?” The man asked his wife.

“Oh, hush, that doesn’t count! That was a dream… wasn’t it?” The woman teased.

“No telling, he was soaked clean through afterwards, who knows what fluids came from where.” The husband answered, and they both laughed.

My eyes only glanced away for a second, and my head never moved an inch, yet they halved the distance between us. Despite every conscious effort to avoid it, I yelped and fell once again. Standing no more than five feet away, they cackled maniacally while the whispers in my head turned to screams, “there’s only one way to end it!” They warned.

Consumed by panic, I struggled to my feet and ran around them while (hopefully) staying on course. When their wild, mocking laughter was gone, I slowed to catch my breath. Turning the flashlight off at that moment was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but every second of battery power was precious. In the dark, my breaths were loud and jagged; it felt like the sound would carry for miles.

As my heart began to slow, a soft whisper spoke into my ear, so closely I felt breath on my neck. “Come play with me.” It was a child’s voice that time, and before a chill ran the length of my spine, small fingers brushed the tips of my own! I frantically fumbled with the flashlight, nearly dropping it before finding the switch. It was on for only a brief instant, and immediately began to dim. As the beam slowly faded, faces began to appear between the trees, watching and smiling.

A whimper escaped my lips as I banged the flashlight against my palm – causing it to flare back to life for short spurts, only to immediately dim again. The pale faces in the forest blinked in and out of existence with the light – appearing closer with every flash, and the whispers promised, “soon!”

My entire system shut down; I collapsed and between loud, wracking sobs – apologized for every horrible thing done to the spirits in life or after. Somewhere in the corner of my desperate brain, I remembered the only paragraph involving “how to appease” an Onryo. They want justice; for many reasons – that wasn’t feasible here, not in the traditional sense, but I promised to share their story with as many others as possible. Then, I repeated it a second time; part of me hoped if I kept talking, I wouldn’t feel hands reaching from the darkness.

The words did nothing to appease the Onryo, but something appreciated the sentiment. The next time the light roared to life, it stayed on. Most of the faces were gone, and the ones that remained were beyond the beam’s reach. Rising unsteadily to my feet, I was surprised to see the clouds had parted; the moon and stars were shining brightly.

I wasn’t foolish enough to let my guard down; there was still a heavy tension in the air, but it was possible to breathe again. Forcing myself to move slowly, I turned in a circle, hoping to see anything familiar. On my third pass, I finally saw it; the end of a blue ribbon tied around a tree. The rest was torn away, but that one beautiful scrap remained; I ran to it – the possibility it would vanish was too real.

Halfway there, a cold, steel hand clamped around my ankle, and I face-planted, hard. If not for the mouth full of dirt and leaves, my scream would have surely woken the dead – though, to be fair, most were already awake. As I tried to rollover, a heavy weight fell onto me; it felt like a knee was pressing into the center of my back with two hands on my shoulders. My terror was complete; I couldn’t move or think. No air was getting through, and my vision was going black, but everything was just… blank.

I thought the distant voices were hallucinations until whatever held me down suddenly vanished with the appearance of multiple flashlights. Fortunately, the hotel manager was always suspicious of my reasons for camping at Aokigahara; when I hadn’t returned that day, he reported me as missing. The officials refused to start the search until morning, but the manager said he had a “bad feeling”; he’s friends with a few of the locals who volunteer there, and convinced them to come immediately.

So yea, I definitely owe that guy my life. There’s a lot I’ll never know about what happened out there, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What you believe is up to you, but I have a theory.

Suicide was viewed differently in Japanese culture; in the Feudal Era, the act of Seppuku was an honorable way to take one’s own life. It was most often carried out with a short blade to the abdomen – ensuring an especially agonizing death by disembowelment. There were a variety of reasons – usually to restore lost honor or to prove one’s loyalty, but the important thing is – it wasn’t the shameful, cowardly act most Americans view it as. They had a special name and honored traditions to show it was not for the weak.

Many poor souls were happy to die; they saw it as putting extra food in their children’s mouths and freeing their caretakers from an unnecessary burden. They expected their sacrifice to be honored and remembered – not forgotten on the mountain with their rotting corpses! So, I promised to remember – to pass their story on to all who would hear it. I think that’s why some decided to let me leave; not out of kindness or mercy, but a desperation to be known. I’m not sure if that conveys the profound life lessons I learned, but if nothing else, please try to be less judgmental towards others; not everyone is raised with the same ideals or opportunities, but we all bleed.


Anyway, that’s my story. Even if you don’t use it for the channel, I don’t care; the fact you saw it is plenty. Most importantly – thanks for all the shitty nights you’ve gotten me through. Whether you knew it or not, I think you might have saved a few lives when you started this channel. It’s not just that you provide quality entertainment; it’s that you include us – all of us – in every episode. You created a second home where all your friends are welcomed like family. I hope you knew that.

PS: Sorry again for being such a dick before.

Horror Fiction

The Last Settlement (Pt. 7)

Pt. 7 of the Settlement series. 

Now a CreepyPasta
The Cursed Woods (1888)

Hey, hey! Welcome back; come on in! The rain is pouring, and the fire is roaring; soon as we saw those storm clouds, we doubled the wood supply. It can do this all week, I’m just glad the snow is gone.

… … … You bet, friend – we’ve been watching YouTube since you left; the last phone didn’t die till yesterday!

… … … Fantastic, thanks for charging the other battery; it’s like having the ole geny back! That Somnium guy is incredible, isn’t he?! Can you imagine if we had sound effects for the journals?!

… … … Wait, you wanna what?!

… … … Pft, a guy like that wouldn’t wanna read my chicken scratch… would he?

… … … Wow, if you think he’d like ‘em I’ll give you a copy of Pappy Grant’s journal!

… … I wrote them… how else would I make copies?

… … … We have lots of spare time, and those babies are too valuable not to. Plus the originals have all the “thee and thou” nonsense; trust me – you want the copy. Oh, and we’ve acquired a few more phones since your last visit… do you think you could—

… … … Great, you’re the best kind of good people! Ethan, get everything together!

… … What do you mean, why? Why wait?

… … Don’t mind us; he’ll have you loaded up lickity-split. Oh goodness, where are my manners? Here, take a blanket; it must be fifty degrees in here. Later, I have questions about those CreepyPasta things, but for now, we should get started.

… … … … Yep, this was the last group; calling a bunch of outlaws “settlers” is a stretch, but ‘The Last Settlement’ sounds catchy, doesn’t it?

… … … It was a complicated situation; there wasn’t much our people could do. If they came here, they were liable to get shot; if they didn’t, the demon might acquire a body.

… … … Tonight’s tale took place in ‘88; we’re gonna mix things up and tell it from two perspectives. The first author is Joshua’s great, great grandson, Thomas. That boy was a wild one – born in 1856. He had a hard time choosing just one lady, but Margaret managed to settle him down. When was that, Trish?

… … … … That’s right; he did a bit of traveling in ‘91 and came home a married man, but we’re talking about his bachelor days. Most of his time was spent hunting and trapping, but he had a strong love for the written word. It’s a shame we were never given a chance to speak.

… … … The second author is me again!

… … We were a far cry from the stamina we have now, but I was able to write a bit each day.

… … Don’t get sidetracked; we can talk about how I got the journals here another night. Back then, I didn’t have blank paper… so I carved the story into the bottom of these very floors.

… … … I couldn’t write where just anyone would see it; you never know what people might do.

… … … I’m glad you asked! When the French left, we caved-in the basement entrance and made a home away from Breather drama. We made new rooms when we were bored, but they filled fast once we started collecting lost supplies.

… … … Yep, they could burn this place down and build a Costco, but we wouldn’t lose anything important. Hell, I wish they would! Can you imagine living under – not just a grocery store – the Supreme Daddy of grocery stores?!

… Oops, I rambled anyway; let’s get started before it happens again!


September 5, 1888

Those Cursed Woods have remained silent for almost ninety years, yet today the fishermen saw smoke rising from the forest. It was gone within minutes and likely from passing travelers; I cannot imagine any would choose to live in such an awful place.

Years ago, curiosity overtook my better sense, and I ventured there alone; the place was not fit for habitation, and conditions have certainly worsened since. Storms converted most homes to rubble, and those remaining lack roofs or walls. The ground is bare of grass, and if there are fish in that cesspool of a lake – I will eat my hat!

If smoke is sighted again, I shall accompany the Sheriff to investigate. Is it horrible to wish for the opportunity? Our town is dreadfully boring; any break in the monotony is a welcome reprieve. I have dreamed of holding the enchanted bow since childhood; it was used by my great, great grandfather, Joshua Cooke. As a boy, I spent many hours refining my archery skills – hoping to follow in his footsteps.

We should wait not one day more; that the demon remains confined is nothing short of a miracle! How long should we expect such luck to hold? Sleep will undoubtedly be elusive this night; perhaps I will begin the day early. If my work is finished quickly – I might join the fishermen after lunch… just in case.


September 6, 1888

My mouth has landed me neck deep in the muck this time; Father always says “show caution with desire”, and now his meaning is clear! I believed the Elders might be swayed to action if I were to… “discover” heavy activity at the old settlement, but the truth is far worse; even I hesitate to return! There will be a meeting tomorrow morning, and I am expected to recount my experience to all.

I traveled to Dirge Lake. Instead of finding a cold trail, I witnessed four outlaws and six horses; we should proceed under the assumption there is a rider for every horse – maybe more. I am exceedingly fortunate to have escaped without notice!

Bishop King and Kitty Bang (those absurd names) were recognizable by their wanted poster, but the other faces were unfamiliar. One was tall and fat with a shaved head; the other possessed dark hair and was quite young. They were outside playing cards and arguing.

It was difficult to hear their words, but there was mention of a bank robbery, and they have planned for an extended stay. We must all proceed with due caution – especially at night. The food is sparse in that area; eventually, they will need supplies, and we provide the closest solution.

We should locate the posse hunting these men; they have the necessary force for confrontation, and would likely welcome additional volunteers. News of the robbery will travel quickly; we would not be long upon the road before learning which town was assaulted. If I were to propose such action, the Elders would be obligated to honor a majority vote.

That concludes today’s findings; may tomorrow bring better news!


Last Cabins by the Lake

Now, let me tell you what was actually going on over here. Eight outlaws were laying low after a robbery down south; they started as ten, but two died during the escape. You don’t want to know what happened to the horses, but rest easy knowing we turned those six loose that very night.

Our home was a fortress compared to the rest, but they found two more good enough to stay dry. At first, we thought the woman named Kitty was a hostage, but that lady was pure evil. She was dating Bishop, the leader; he was a great chess player, but it’s hard to respect a man who can’t control his temper. The lovebirds stayed here while the rest split between those other two.

Dinky was only 17 and not very bright; his fire wasn’t burning five minutes before Fatso doused it. I’m surprised they didn’t hear his cursing in Jamestown. As for the rest- Red was half Indian, and a decent man; he wasn’t with those fellas by choice, but no one wanted to hire him for honest work. He had a sick mother back home and damn near got his head blown off for refusing to shoot at the posse; he wouldn’t trade one life for another, but if robbing white men facilitated medicine costs, so be it. That was hard logic to argue with in those days.

Marco was a middle-aged Spaniard with a bullet in his leg, and Hops was an old man running from a murder charge; he got shot twice – once in the shoulder and once in the gut. Flint was in his 40’s, obsessed with fire, and covered in horrible burn scars. He tied himself to the saddle after being shot in the back and wasn’t aware of his head wound until they stopped here. It was only a graze, but he lost too much blood. Even with a doctor, he would’ve died.

Splitting the money was the biggest problem. The shares grew with each dead body, and that was hard for those boys to ignore. Paranoia spread through the group like wildfire, but none would risk leaving; they were stuck together.

I didn’t catch the names of the two that died during the robbery, but one was killed in the bank; the other was shot out of his saddle and dragged.

… … … Oh sure, if your boot got caught in the stirrup… well, unless the horse stopped – it was a bad way to go. Alright, back to Tommy!


September 7, 1888

Men were dispatched to make inquiries in nearby towns. It is disappointing not to be among them, but no matter; I simply have additional time for preparations. Our town also holds stake in this situation; allowing others to blindly enter the Cursed Woods would be disgraceful and cowardly! They may not believe my warning, but it will save precious time when they witness something unspeakable.

I am equally disturbed by the personal betrayal from my own blood! After the meeting, my father distracted me while others retrieved the enchanted weapons! Apparently, I have not “matured” enough to be trusted with their location!

Despite this, they have asked me to carry the bow. While I am confident in my ability, the pressure of having a single arrow is overwhelming. When Joshua Cooke was forced to leave two behind – I did not consider how many remained; it was a foolish oversight, but my resolve is unshaken.

The weapons are even more beautiful than imagined; I cannot fathom the hours of delicate work required to produce such magnificent pieces, but the real mystery is what makes it glow. When in total darkness, they produce enough light to guide one’s way. Whatever magics are behind the effects would be highly desirable; imagine if one could eliminate the need for lanterns!

My brother-in-law, Douglas, will carry the dagger; he is a large, bear of a man, and if any hold a chance of using the close-ranged weapon, it is he. Of course, Mother and Margaret are cross, but our honor will allow no alternative. There are times when a man must put fear aside and protect his people. When I eventually marry, I do not wish for my children to be born with only a river separating us from hell!

Alas, that is all at this time.


Tommy didn’t have much to say that day, but I sure did. Do you need a drink or snack before we start my account of the 7th?

… … … … Oh, you’re right, it is louder than usual outside, but they always get like this when it’s so close to their… holiday.

… … … It’s nothing fancy – think of it as a reunion. They just kind of gather and… hang out.

… … Why does anyone hang out? They build a few campfires, chant a little, and go home; no biggie.

… … … Hmm? No, no, no – not “chant” I meant “chat”. We don’t know what about – we stay downstairs.

… … … Worry not – we got you covered. Those phones you’re taking have calendar alerts; it was the boy’s idea. All you gotta do is stay away that one night, and everything will be gravy!

… … … Hey, that’s what friends are for; now let’s get back to those squatters. The three of us made a game of it; there were no points, rules, or winners – only losers. Basically, we were creative when screwing with them, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t do most of the screwing to themselves! Although, Gale genuinely wasn’t part of the game; she dropped in of her own accord as she’s prone to do.

The three injured guys were sharing the cabin farthest from the lake. The others reasoned if the wounds didn’t kill them – starvation or bullets would. Food was too scarce to share, and if they were discovered, it’d be every man for himself.

We were planning to visit Dinky and Fatso, but we knew real trouble was coming when Gale emerged from the forest. You could tell she was having a bad day because her hair was in flames. She floated through the wall of the injured men’s cabin, and within seconds, the first screams erupted. She thinks every man is Trish’s dad. Honestly, Patrick was a wonderful father and friend, but he was a downright awful husband; the man couldn’t keep it in his pants – that’s what got him killed, too!

Anyway, we rushed in – couldn’t have been thirty seconds behind her – and even I was mortified! Gale was squatting over Flint – straddling his chest; her bones bent at sharp, impossible angles, and her mouth was over the man’s remaining eye… sucking. It was the worst sound we’ve ever heard; it took longer than you’d think, but soon, it was just another gaping hole.

With her hanger-pains satiated, Gale visited with Trish as if having afternoon tea. Hops whimpered with a blanket over his head, and Marco alternated between screams and prayer. Dinky and Fatso came, but too late to see a ghost; they saw the terrified, eyeless face of their dead partner and ran for Bishop.

The fearless leader didn’t believe in spirits, but he was pleased to have another man down. Kitty laughed; that woman had a bucket of loose screws rattling in her brain! When the arguments ended, the body was buried in a shallow grave and promptly forgotten.

Hops and Marco tried to warn everyone of the “eye-sucking demon witch” but to no avail. Despite their injuries, the men dragged their pallets into a shared corner and slept in shifts. The poor guys were so rattled they didn’t notice they were out of food, and I didn’t want to be there when they did. Instead, we followed Fatso and Dinky.

They were hiding in their hovel; it had four walls, but half the roof was caved in, leaving only the front portion accessible. It was barely tolerable for sleeping, but to avoid Bishop, they gladly endured the cramped, pungent space. Red moved into a barn loft the previous night. No one could access it without climbing through a noisy pile of rubble. It’s too bad he didn’t know what happened to the previous occupants.

Anyway, Fatso theorized they would be killed after the injured guys were out of the way, but that was slightly off the mark. Kitty only wanted Chubs dead. Dinky was easily manipulated, and that was valuable to her; there wouldn’t be a reason to kill him unless the food situation worsened – which is why Red was vital; if not for his knowledge – they’d all starve. Don’t misunderstand – they still considered him a deadman but after returning to civilization.

It was almost enough to pity the fellas, but then they swapped stories about their experiences attacking women. While Fatso was describing the final moments of a young lady, Trish was getting closer. The look on her face was worse than any Demon – wasn’t it, Ethan?

… … Trish went through the crate-table, stopped in front of the lard ass, and raised her foot over his Jimmy Johnson; we had to look away, but the sound he made! I’ve heard tamer death wails! He didn’t know what the hell happened, but Dinky did. For a moron – he had surprisingly good instincts when it came to ghostly business; it’s a shame he sounded like a raving lunatic.

The more he talked, the angrier Fatso became. It was tempting to let them fight it out, but to end the argument quickly, I pulled Dinky’s knife from its sheath and pointed the business end at his business. They ran out screaming – probably like those poor girls they were mocking – and straight to the Boss-man.

I would love to take credit for timing this to interfere with the couple’s mating ritual, but it was a happy coincidence. Regardless, their interruption was received poorly, and matters escalated quickly. In the end, Dink and Fatass fled as bullets sprayed the ground around them.

Things were mostly quiet until the early hours of morning, but Thomas has the telling of this incident – having received Red’s firsthand account. That’s another thing Tommy and I had in common – he had a sense for good people; he’d have loved you, friend.


September 8, 1888

I have made a new friend; we met after the noonday meal, when I discovered him emerging from the river. Here, I shall call him R; his mother is ill, and the cure is absurdly expensive. It is no wonder he resorted to acts of thievery; charging such prices for life-saving medication is simply criminal! If it were my own mother, what might I do? Of course, that is assuming he speaks the truth; think me a fool if you wish, but I believe he is. That he spoke honestly of his experience at the old settlement, there is no doubt.

Ignorant of its history, he slept hidden away in a loft. Last night, he woke to the piercing cries of an injured animal. His first thought was of a deer, but as the fog of sleep dissipated, he realized it sounded… wrong. As it grew louder, he crawled to the window and peered out. There, standing in the moonlight not twenty feet away, was an enormous buck with a coat black as pitch. Its tremendous antlers tangled together in the center to form a solid knot of bone; its haunches were slick with blood and deep, gaping wounds revealed the muscles beneath.

Head raised, it emitted another distorted cry as it rose to stand on two legs. R gasped in horror, and the beast’s head turned sharply in his direction. It came for him, but slowly; my friend readied his weapon, put his back against the wall, and held his breath when the creature’s heavy steps pounded beneath him. It knocked over his hastily stacked climbing crates and growled at the offensive noise, but luckily failed to understand their purpose. After thrashing about for several long hours, it finally returned to the forest.

At sunrise, R packed his meager possessions and left without a word to his former companions. Fortune favored us both that it was I who discovered him. In hopes of catching a thief, I paid special attention to the river trails, but imagine my surprise to see this lone, dark man crawling ashore! He hurried to conceal himself in the brush and watched the opposite bank carefully. It was curious he did not fear exposure from our side but his own. When certain none followed, he stripped his wet clothes. When his holster was safely hanging over a branch, I stepped out to introduce myself.

We each had valid cause for wariness and quickly agreed to move our discussion indoors. In no time, I found myself inviting him to the use of my spare room until he might journey home safely. As he held no stolen currency , there was no evidence with which to prove his guilt – or some such technicality. Additionally, there are no others to care for his mother should he fail to return.

There will doubtless be more to report soon!


I know what you’re thinking, friend – and any other time, I’d figure the kid was being played for a sucker, too – but it really wasn’t like that with Red. The only thing he wanted besides medicine was to be left the hell alone, and I think we can all identify with that to some degree. We knew he made it across the river, but not what happened on the other side. I had faith though, and I kept right squirreling away his cash.

… … Sure did! Every night, I took a little more from the stash and set it aside.

… … … Those banks had plenty of money; it only seemed right they should help an old lady.

… … … For whatever reason, we can take inanimate objects through floors or walls, but nothing organic. When Red left, I worried he’d never get the money, but it worked out.

… … … We’ll circle back to that – it’s hard enough to stay on point without the extra distractions. The outlaws piecing together Red’s disappearance was like watching those Three Stooges skits… except with more stooges.

Most didn’t notice his absence until there was no lunch – then he became the top priority. When he was nowhere to be found – Bishop decided to interrogate the injured. Marco and Hops gave exactly zero shits about Red, but they cared deeply about food. After a round of pointless arguments, all agreed on one thing – the man was dead; they couldn’t fathom another reason someone might abandon money.

The lovebirds stormed out – their concerns were eating and plotting an extra murder. You’d think the others would understand that and consider an alliance – but nope. Both Hops and Marco’s wounds were infected; the stench in their cabin was enough to gag a ghost, and the noises they made were inhuman. The men stood in awkward silence until Dinky and Fatso left.

They were imbeciles, but preferable to absorbing anymore death-rot. They surprised us by entering the forest to find vines and branches suitable for fishing; all we could do was watch from a distance. The resulting poles were an odd sight, but technically functional. I don’t know where they got the hooks, but if that lake still had fish – and only fish – they would have caught a few.

We kept our distance from the water but stayed to watch the excitement. Bessie – the baby Kraken everyone is calling a Lake Monster – is pretty tame when she’s full, but she’s wiley when hungry.

… … … Oh, I don’t know how long their infancy is; they’re extremely rare and live thousands of years. All I can say for sure is – we’re extremely lucky the parents don’t return.

… … … No, they only leave the ocean when giving birth. If an adult remained in a single location, they would throw the whole ecosystem out of whack. They stay on the move; towards the end of their lives, they’ll find a mate and travel to a place like this. The young are left to grow and mature until they can survive in the open – at which point they’ll naturally migrate to the ocean.

Yep, Bessie was plenty hungry that day. Both men were standing almost knee-deep in the water, and Fatso’s bait wasn’t in for sixty seconds before something nearly snapped the line. He pulled hard as he dared, but the branch was cracking. Dinky threw his own to the bank and rushed deeper into the slimy muck – wrapping the vine around his arm along the way; he was almost waist-deep when he called for a shirt – we assume to use as a net.

Fatso took two steps before falling backwards and losing his pole. We couldn’t hear what Dink was saying, but his lips were moving when it happened. The arm tangled in the vine was pulled hard; the kid’s words briefly turned to screams before being abruptly silenced. The water churned and grumbled, but the only scraps of fabric surfaced.

Chubs was out of the water before the last air bubbles popped, and he was promptly greeted by the Bishop and Kitty. They were hiding nearby – hoping to steal food – but were once again forced to reevaluate their plans. When shooting blindly into the lake didn’t yield results, the fearless leader really lost his shit. Without speaking, he walked straight back to Hops and Marco’s hovel.

Kitty and Fatso were trailing several yards behind, and froze in their tracks when the gunfire resumed. Bishop mercilessly emptied his weapon into the wounded men and ordered the others to “start cooking”.

… … … Of course they did, most people would. They had weeks before it would be safe to leave; as far as they knew, anyhow. I’m sure they would think differently if they knew how soon it was going to hell. Possessing no interest in cannibalism, we went home for a quick rest.

Fatso moved in with the lovebirds hoping to find safety in numbers. In truth, having them in one place made our lives easier, but they’d had a rough day, and we like to play fair; we meant to stick to the basics. After supper, there were loud noises and moving objects, but then the fat one started running his mouth about a teenager!

Her father was an innkeeper in Massachusetts; Fatso rented a room, hid in the girl’s closet, and waited. That night, he stole her away to a secluded area in the woods where she suffered for hours before he abandoned her corpse to the local wildlife. The way he described her desperate pleas for help was too much… I couldn’t hear another word!

I’ve always been a cautious man; this is a dangerous world, and you never know what’s lurking in the dark. That’s why – despite being fairly certain those three would die soon – I couldn’t stop thinking ‘what if’, ya know? When it’s a matter of whether someone’s daughter is safe in her own home, is there a sure enough bet? I don’t think so.

A knife was left on the table, and I picked it up before I knew what was happening! Time stood still, and everyone fell silent, mesmerized by the “floating” knife. With one enthusiastic thrust, all my worries faded. Mr. Fat’s dingle would now only dangle; blood sprayed the ceiling, and his screams were triple what they were when Trish kicked him… not that it was a contest.

Kitty hid in our old bedroom, but Bishop helped him stop the bleeding. We were surprised by his generosity until we realized he was keeping his meat fresh; there was no cool place to store it while finishing their Marco steaks. The mood was deader than we are, so I took a few extra bucks for Red, and we called it a night.

Is it just me, or do these stories get longer every time?

… … … I tend to agree, friend, a story can never be too long, but if you want to finish this tonight – we should get on with Tommy’s next entry.


September 9, 1888

It is a miracle R escaped when he did. Three hours ago, Gerald Miller returned with news that his fellows learned the posse’s location; all should arrive before dusk tomorrow. When they do, we can inform them that five men and one woman remain in hiding. With luck, we will depart on the morning of the 11th.

R wishes to join the manhunt, but it is too risky. One false move and he would go straight to the hangman! Though I cannot force him, I advised he remain as my guest until the old settlement is cleared. Prisoners are rarely taken alive in these situations; there would be none left to recognize him if he waited a few days more. For his mother’s sake, I hope he will see reason.

These next days will decide our very futures, and I have prepared a score of new arrows for the occasion. It is best to avoid explaining the uniqueness of our true weapons if possible. The dagger and arrow will remain concealed unless needed, and – though it was painful – the bow’s intricate designs are hidden beneath a coat of mud. The urge to clean it is almost unbearable, but it is a necessary evil.

Douglas has likewise prepared the dagger’s hilt, but it is not his primary weapon. Unless confronting the demon directly, the blade need never leave its scabbard. Margaret continues to hold anger in her heart, but I cannot condemn her feelings. The father of her children – the man they depend upon for shelter and meat – is leaving for battle and may never return. Our country has seen enough war… I was still a lad when it ended, but I will never forget what it was like.

Occasionally, survivors passed through and told their stories. Entire towns were burned, and people were thrown into the streets while their family homes were given away. Some stayed in Jamestown, but many wished to travel farther north. A few neighboring villages were destroyed, though we were fortunate to never see battle in our streets. Of all our men who joined the fight, only nine returned; fortunately, Father was one of them.

It seems I am drifting from topic. There is much to do in little time, my brain has amassed everything into a jumble. Hopefully, a good night’s rest is the remedy.


It’s been a long night, but we’re finally on my last entry!

… … Keep in mind – we weren’t sure if the folks in Jamestown knew people were still here, and – if they did – we damn sure didn’t expect them to know who they were.

On the morning of the tenth, Fatso was crying on the floor, and the lovebirds were arguing. There was no denying the place was haunted; Kitty wanted to leave, but Bishop refused. There was nowhere else to hide, and neither could enter a town without being recognized. Instead, he buried the knives and unloaded their guns. He did it as much for his partners as he did for us; men like that don’t trust their own mothers.

Then, Mr. Macho taunted us – he said without the weapons, we were no worse than angry toddlers! He spat at our “tantrums” – said to “do our worst”! Well, challenge gleefully accepted, dear sir! He’s lucky I didn’t have white glove to bitch slap him with.

Whew, that man always got me a special kind of riled. Anyhow, we couldn’t sit on our hands after that, but little did we know that Ethan already struck; I couldn’t have been prouder if he was born directly from my own loins! How he kept a straight face when Kitty said she was going to fetch the jerky – I have no idea, but I’m glad he did. Their reaction was priceless, but not knowing it was about to happen? Epic!

He went back the night before and stole their entire food supply – granted, it was already turning sour, but it would have kept them going for days. Fatso was barely conscious for everything else, but when Kitty screamed you could almost see his attention focus. For all the man’s faults – stupidity wasn’t one of them. Before that, there was a chance he could make it out alive; no matter how slim – it existed, but with the food gone, so was his last hope.

I can’t fault him for his logic. He was injured, defenseless, and knew the couple would kill for food. It surprised us all when Bishop cracked Kitty’s skull with a log, but he said it was only a matter of time before she tried it first. He couldn’t see it, but we shook our heads in agreement along with a wide-eyed Fatso.

Chubs wasn’t fooled; he understood it was only postponing the inevitable, but it gave him more time to think and heal. Based on the waves of pride and greed radiating from Bishop, we’re fairly certain there was an added factor of wanting to keep the largest meat source for himself. To avoid seeing what he did with his lover’s corpse, we stayed behind while she was dragged to the shed.

The moment Fatso was alone, his eyes searched the room suspiciously. It was a look we’ve grown to know well; every time we meet a skeptic – they get that look when gathering the courage to communicate. We sat next to him as he stared at the ceiling; they always think we’re floating, go figure. Barely above a whisper, he asked, “is someone here with me?”

I almost answered; one day, I’m going to whisper into someone’s ear just for kicks, but we held our tongues. If you let them think they’re in control – they’ll be nagging you for parlor tricks til sun-up. Of course, when we don’t answer – they assume it’s because we can’t, which inevitably leads to, “knock once for no and twice for yes” as Chubs did.

We gave him a few seconds to feel stupid and knocked twice; if for no other reason, it’s funny to see their reaction. Even when they reach that point – no one actually expects a response, and he was no exception. If he coulda heard us laugh, he’d have been redder than the log used to bludgeon Kitty!

… … … Aw, I’m sorry darling; I didn’t think it counted as insensitive since she was already an evil bitch before she died. You remember what she did to that lost couple last week, don’t you? If we wouldn’t have crushed those SIM cards before giving our friend the phones – a SWAT team would be breaking down their door tomorrow!

… … … Sorry for the interruption, friend; yes, that’s correct, Kitty still haunts these parts but she’s more Banshee than Ghost nowadays.

… … Whoa, that’s way too complicated for tonight, but you’ve heard about her new husband – remember Mr. Long?

… … Sure, just remind me to tell you next time. Now, let’s wrap this up.

Fatso tried to sell us his soul, his body, and anything else he thought we might want if we’d only kill Bishop and let him leave in peace. Under normal circumstances, we probably would have assisted in his escape, but it was hard to forget what he did to those girls; furthermore, if his injury healed – he wouldn’t necessarily be harmless. In fact, anyone he hurt from then on would be our fault!

So, as you can see, our hands were tied. I only knocked once to indicate our refusal, but my darling prankster of a wife added an additional knock. The fat man’s eyes shined brightly with false hope, and we had to smile.

Don’t think us too horrible, friend; Trish was already seeing people’s memories sometimes, and he told every one of those poor girls he wouldn’t hurt them if they played along. Plus, we had his victims to think about. With deaths like that, you can bet your knickers they were ghosts. That means part of their spirit was tied to Lard-ass, and they couldn’t have it back until he was gone.

His tone changed fast once he considered the deal made; he wanted us ready to do it on his signal when Bishop returned. When he came back twenty minutes later, Fatso unleashed all the aggression he’d suppressed since coming here. It was like seeing one of our books brought to life! We were on the edge of our seats, waiting for Bishop to snap, but he didn’t; he only stood there, silent and motionless.

At first, we thought he was letting Chubs get it out of his system before exploding, or maybe he was more concerned with his food supply than a mouthy deadman; then we recognized his stiff posture and forced speech. He was exhibiting signs of Demonic Exposure!

We didn’t expect them to go into the Cursed Woods. With the exception of the fishing attempt, Red was the only one who ventured in – and he wasn’t exactly the Demon’s type. Four out of seven dipshits were already dead, and damnit, that crooked pecker wasn’t screwing us this late in the game! If the Demon got its claws on him again, we were in deep shit.

Fatso’s rant wasn’t funny anymore; even we were scared. Then it happened – he shut up, but he wore a disgusting grin to let us all know exactly how pleased he was with himself. The tension was so thick we saw it as a cloud of black smoke. Bishop spoke in a quiet but forceful tone; he asked what suddenly changed to make the fatass think he was invincible…

Friend, I wish you could see the shit-eating grin Chubs had when he answered, but you’ll have to take my word for it when I say it was a gloriously satisfying display of Karma.

Fatso boldly proclaimed he was now our Master! Did he forget he was a blubbering mess thirty minutes prior? When we didn’t leap into action, our master lifted the bloodied log and yelled “catch” before throwing it into the wall. Haha, I don’t care who you are – that was funny.

Both men stared at the fallen log for several silent seconds. Then, Fatso cursed, demanding we honor our agreement, and Bishop retrieved the log manually. While they settled personal matters, we went to find Gale. The time for games was over – there was work to do before night came and lured the psychopath back into the forest.

When we returned with Gale – Fatso was no longer recognizable and Bishop was gone. We raced to the forest and followed a trail of his clothes, but we didn’t find him. He was naked somewhere; we’ve never been more confused. After Tommy’s last entry, you’ll see what happened, but don’t expect to understand why.


September 11, 1888

I have seen strange things this day. I would almost trade my very soul to know what transpired before our arrival, but I fear it is a mystery we will never solve. R was finally in agreement to stay behind, and our people returned with the promised company; All was progressing as planned.

We departed with the sunrise and made good time crossing the river. Then, we began the slow, stealthy crawl to the houses near Dirge Lake. There was no sign of the outlaws or horses; we feared they moved on but waited before advancing. It was possible they ate the animals in desperation – especially if we guessed their numbers correctly.

We watched for hours with no activity before the Sheriff signaled the first group to advance while we stood ready to provide cover fire. Five men raced across the clearing, and one was shot. We could not discern where the shooter was, and panic quickly ensued. The remaining four did not know whether to continue or retreat, and the hesitation cost another life.

Our eyes desperately searched every window, but we saw nothing. I felt a terrible certainty many more would perish before discovering their location, but then I spied something strange beneath a large oak tree. I did not immediately understand the blurry mass was man-shaped, but the longer I stared, the more details I noticed. It was the visage of a young man, perhaps a teenager, and he was pointing into the tree above him.

I’m not sure what made me trust him… I know it is foolish, but he had a kind face. I turned my aim away from the houses and fired into the treetops. A deafening scream silenced all additional shots, and I watched in amazement as a naked man fell to the ground. Correction – he wore chaps, a hat, and a gun-belt, nothing more. He was hit in the shoulder, but rose as if he felt no pain. As he attempted to raise his weapon, he was promptly filled with additional bullets.

We recognized the man as Bishop King and recovered most of the stolen money, but no other bodies were found; we fear the others have escaped. The visiting Sheriff has quit the search; they have recovered enough funds to ensure their people will not starve. I agree with his decision; surely their wives will as well.

There was a time not long ago when such an ending would fill me with disappointment, but now I am glad more good men were not lost. It is one thing to read of battle, but it is another to stand shoulder to shoulder with friends, knowing you or they may drop any second. It seems I still have much to learn, perhaps it is time to see what else this wide world has to teach.

Damn, the time! I wish to send R home with proper farewells and a gift for his mother; this journal is more demanding than any wife!


Holy cow, we’re finally done! The end! Alright, I know you’re ready to burst, but I ran my mouth too long so make them snappy. If I gotta fight the Demon over you – I will, but it won’t be with a smile.

… … … Of course nobody fought the Demon. We keep saying its still out there, and it’s unlikely that changes anytime soon. This is real life, friend. It’s happening now; we can’t help it’s not over yet. Did you forget this isn’t one of them stories with a neat little ending? Believe me, I wish it was; then some hero could come along and finally be rid of the sucker.

… … … Ah, I see what you’re asking. It’s all about territories with us. This house is our domain like the Cursed Woods is the Demon’s and the lake is Bessie’s; at night – the other ghosts roam about everywhere else.

… … … Ha, goodness no. The myth about spirits doing their haunts at night comes from the fact most prefer a nocturnal lifestyle, and therefore recharge during the day.

… … … Glad you reminded me! This is my favorite part. I accepted I wouldn’t get to share the money with Red, but this route was the fastest way for him to get home; when he came back – we left the cash where he wouldn’t miss it!

… … It gets even better! The following year we met Red once more; he was moving to Jamestown with his recovering mother! Isn’t that great?

… … Goodness no – he couldn’t stop to chat! He had to get that sweet lady into her new house.

… … Well, like I said – it’s just a theory, but we think Bishop went bat-crap crazy and hid. I’ll admit, we didn’t think to look in the trees; when you see a trail of a man’s clothes leading into the Cursed Woods – you assume the Demon ate him, what else can I say?

… … … Oh don’t worry about us, friend; you can explain CreepyPastas next time. We got plenty of new stories left to keep us busy and a slew of ones we want to hear again. Right now, our only concern is seeing you safely to that bridge and not seeing you again until the… festival ends.

… … … Look, I know we had some laughs tonight, but don’t forget how dangerous this place is. Mark the calendar in your phone when you get home, too; I can’t stress how important it is to stay away that night – even we couldn’t guarantee your safety!

… … … I never want you to think you aren’t welcome, but there’s no such thing as too careful around here.

You too, friend. See ya next time, and be sure to make me one of those Gmail things – it would be nice to have my own YouTube account. If we ever get internet out here, we’d like to pay our respects to Mr. Somnium and Family; until then I’ll leave to you to pass along our sentiments.

Horror Fiction

The National Park Service is Hiding Something

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Here are the links to his narrations on YouTube, Podcast, and Spotify. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! I’m binging the podcasts, and he uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

I’ve been a fan for a long time and knew you had to hear this! Last week, my cousin from Alabama disappeared. We weren’t close, but his brother went missing last year, and his parents couldn’t handle going through his things. Mom and I flew out to help and found some crazy stuff on his computer. He posted two audio recordings to the Park’s website – both of which were immediately removed – but the files were still on his laptop. Honestly… I don’t know which is more disturbing, but I can tell you one thing, Nate was no actor. I’ve transcribed everything in hopes you might read it. Thanks for the amazing work you do, keep it up!


[feedback] Whoa, hold on. [tap, tap] Okay, it’s working now. [clears throat]

[hesitant] Hello, my name is Nate; I’m twenty-six and I’ve been a Park Ranger in Alabama for almost a year. If you’re hearing this, I’m either dead or missing… [light cigarette] hopefully, dead. I recorded this message three days ago, but didn’t make it back in time to cancel the upload. This is a confession, a warning, and a farewell. Please, don’t look for me.

I was the black sheep in my family. There’s no excuse or trauma to blame; my parents were great, my older brother, Eric, wasn’t a bully. I’m just… a lazy klutz, if I’m being honest – and why not – there’s no reason to lie. Most people won’t believe a word of it anyway – hell, I barely do.

It’s important you understand I’m not a paranoid loon locked in a basement; my world revolves around logic and facts. I never believed in Santa or thought a monster was under the bed – not once. This is so you understand I’m not exaggerating; I don’t scream “ghost” when a door slams, and I don’t see things from the corner of my eye.

Each denial you’re about to have – I had; each question you’re about to ask – I asked. I’m going to start at the beginning, but even then, it may not be enough. That’s okay; you can believe me later. If you ever find yourself lost in the woods, something you learn here just might save your life.

It began in April of ‘21; my drinking was out of control, and I was on thin ice with my boss and girlfriend. It felt like I was past the point of no return, idly waiting for the end. Looking back, it sounds pathetic – I should have stopped drinking; I could have apologized to Jen when it mattered, we would have— [sigh] well… shoulda, coulda, woulda, am-I-right?

Let’s put aside the lies I told in order to continue drinking and focus on the key details. As you can see, I’m a straight shooter; I’m not here to bullshit, so I’ll admit – I deserved to get fired. Bartending is a horrible career for a budding alcoholic, and I’m shocked it didn’t happen sooner. Unfortunately, Drunk Nate couldn’t understand that, and he made a scene…

Normally, if someone breaks a window and steals a $600 bottle of scotch – police are contacted; when you live in Nowhere, AL – parents are called, and money is exchanged. Unfortunately, it was the last straw for Jen; my stuff was packed and waiting when I finally stumbled home. Not that I remember – that’s just what I learned upon waking in my childhood room.

These events were what led to my exceedingly fragile sobriety. If I didn’t want to spend life asking “Do you want fries with that?” I had to work with my brother; no one else would take me. Park Ranger life suited Eric; he was made for the outdoors. Me – not so much, but it meant a place to live for the summer. They like having staff on site for the busy season, though people with families are generally displeased with the idea.

A few white lies and blatant acts of nepotism later – I was starting my first day on the job. I was exactly fourteen days sober when Eric gave me the grand tour – and I do mean grand; we barely covered our territory before quitting time. The whole first week was dedicated to learning my way around; he didn’t start easing me into the weird stuff until the second week, and that, friends, is where this story really begins.


Happy Trails

Remember, at this point – I’m still a barely-functioning alcoholic desperately resisting temptation every second, and I didn’t play it off well. Eric saw me struggling and did his best to help; he tried to distract me with shoptalk – I was expected to know a few basics – but even he was bored. It didn’t seem unreasonable to think he would stretch a few details to get my attention.

Until then, my lessons consisted of which hikes and berries were dangerous; now, it was what to do when someone goes missing. Not “if” mind you – “when”. How often do you think people disappear in a state park? Not lost – missing – as in never seen again? Because I thought two per year was an extreme guess, but it was insanely naïve.

Last year – in our park alone – 138 people vanished. It was hard to wrap my head around that number; how could so many disappear in one place without being all over the news? Well, a couple things contribute to this, but the answers are far from satisfying.

Our statistics are nothing compared to the bigger parks – which would make sense if those places were getting the expected attention, but they’re not. Some of their numbers are triple ours, yet there’s hardly a word to be found! There’s a surprising amount of reasons people won’t report a disappearance, but those with active warrants or lacking citizenship are the most common. Personally, I’d prefer jail or deportation, but [light cigarette] to each their own. The point is – even if we ignore those – there’s more than enough to justify an investigation. You’ll learn the rest as we go; I have much to say and precious little time.

Eric saw my skepticism and showed me the Lost & Found cabin. Some of the stuff in there dates back to the ‘70’s; that’s fifty years of missing people’s crap! Inside, he went to the more recent finds and opened a bin labeled “D. Hill 7/19”. It contained reports from the Dylan Hill disappearance. That July, a family of four drove up from Montgomery for a week of camping; their son was nine and the girl, six. They checked in on a Sunday morning and chose the campsite closest to the welcome center; families always do because it feels safer.

On the third day, Mike Hill rushed into the office – frantic – saying his son disappeared. He and his wife were adamant Dylan vanished; he wasn’t abducted, he didn’t wander off – he vanished. Sherri was preparing lunch while Mike watched the kids. They were never out of sight until Dylan ducked behind the tree-line of a particularly dense area. Even before his sister caught up – Mike was on his feet. When interviewed, he said it was the darkness of the thicket that initially bothered him. There were dense patches everywhere, but none so dark as where his son entered.

Over the next weeks, Park Rangers assisted with Search & Rescue operations while doing their best to comfort the grieving family, but they knew it was too late; the ones who seem to vanish into thin air are never found.

You probably think what I thought – that the parents were responsible and coached their daughter to lie, right? It’s technically possible, but the kid was six; I read the transcript from her interviews, and kids aren’t that good at lying. Even if one could keep a straight face – they couldn’t handle a convoluted story, especially not for several weeks under intense pressure.

When asked if she or her brother had met anyone else at the park, she claimed someone with “backwards arms” and “long feet” stood outside their tent the night before. Eventually, it was determined she saw a man, but her imagination invented a monster after losing Dylan.

It seemed like a reasonable explanation until I heard similar reports from other guests. It’s not always a kid, and there aren’t always creature sightings, but when there are, it’s always with the same description. People from all over have described an emaciated animal with long, canine-like feet, no hair, and strangely bent arms – or possibly wings, but I’m jumping ahead a little.

I didn’t believe a word about monsters; I thought it was a gag for newbs. My first personal experience was two weeks later when a woman went missing. It was June 5th, and I had just moved into a staff cabin the week before. Being sober was still a bitch, but there were whole hours I didn’t think about drinking. Having my own place helped immensely, but Bethany Anderson almost pushed me clear off the wagon.

This is what made me understand lives were resting in my hands; if I missed a sign or clue… [shudder] I wasn’t built for that kind of pressure. My focus should have been on her, but it was on a rabid monkey relentlessly clawing my back. That’s also the day I found an AA group; if nothing else, it worked for fear of returning.

Beth and her boyfriend were camping for a long weekend, but they got separated on a hike. Grady claimed they were only apart for a few minutes, but when he walked back to join her – she was gone. The trail didn’t diverge at any point, and everyone she knew agreed that she wasn’t the type to wander off. Her partner believed a tall, deformed man took her. There were several times on the first night when they heard rustling nearby; they assumed it was an animal, but each time they tried to discern the source, it stopped – like someone didn’t want to be found.

That night, Grady crept out of their tent to relieve his bladder and saw a dark shape standing several feet away. It was so thin, he thought it was a tree – especially with the awkward angles of the protruding limbs. Then, it bent drastically near the base and leapt into the trees. The man possessed enough sense not to investigate. When he later relayed the events to Beth, she disregarded it as a dream.

After enjoying a normal morning, she convinced Grady to go on that fateful hike. He hasn’t meant to walk ahead. She was next to him moments before, and thinking she stopped for a photo – he turned back right away; unfortunately, it was already too late.

Obviously, the police thought his entire story was fabricated. If there was any way he could have known about those other cases, I’d think the same – but these people were from Florida! They weren’t locals who happened to know a few stories, and they damn sure didn’t hear in on the news!

It was a miserable two weeks before Search & Rescue left, and four more before the Anderson family flew home. I’ll never forget the sound of the mother’s wails; I heard it in my sleep – and not in a metaphorical way – her cabin was close enough to literally hear it. That’s when I got serious about my training. Maybe there was nothing I could’ve done, but if there was a chance to help the next one, then yea, I was ready to get off my ass.

Cue the training montage; I worked harder than I’d ever worked in my miserable life! The funny part is that’s what got me past the worst drinking urges. I don’t think the cravings will ever fully stop, but I experience entire days without temptation.

By August, I felt like a real Ranger; I was trusted to work without supervision, and my co-workers no longer saw me as Eric’s screw-up little brother – I was part of the team! Life was too good, I should’ve known disaster was coming.


[light cigarette] On Friday, August 13th, everything went to shit; I think the date was coincidental considering how often it happens, but you never know. It was my last two weeks living at the park, and if I didn’t find an apartment soon – I’d be back with my parents which is obviously not ideal.

There’s a kitchen in the welcome center where we have lunch, and that day, I ate with Eric and Teri; she’s a been a lifer and could fill a book with all the strange shit she’s seen. The main reason I didn’t have an apartment yet was laziness; the research alone is a long, tedious process. I avoided it by asking if anyone knew of a good place to rent, and surprisingly, Teri did.

It was a small house only ten minutes away, but the landlord was leaving town the next morning and wouldn’t return for three weeks. Instead of living with my parents for a week like a reasonable person, I was an impatient asshole. The world would end if I didn’t immediately get those keys, and – as usual – Eric went out of his way to help. He was scheduled in the welcome center with Teri, but she agreed to cover for him.

When we finished the last task, I was an hour ahead of schedule, but before I could feel too relieved, our radios crackled to life; there were multiple reports of a bear near Campsite C. They wanted us to investigate, and if that was my worst delay – everything would have been fine.

We drove to the location figuring the animal was long gone but couldn’t risk tourists crowding one for a selfie. After scanning the area, we left the trail and advanced slowly; we only needed to ensure it wasn’t loafing nearby. It made sense to spread out, but there was no more than 15-20 feet between us; plus, I glanced over often to match his pace, and it was never difficult to see him.

Not until he vanished, that is… I still don’t understand how it happened. How can he be there one second, and gone the next?! I called his name, but there was no answer. Bear forgotten, I walked to the last place I saw my brother. I had always felt safe at work – like Rangers were off limits to the misfortunes that fall upon our guests. We’re only here to restore order afterwards – a maintenance crew, if you will – but when my eyes fell upon the void left by Eric’s absence, that illusion crumbled.

It was foolish not to radio for backup. I ran blindly into the forest without caution nor care. It’s a wonder I didn’t disappear as well, but I felt like my only hope was to find him immediately – before a report solidified the event as real. Deeper and deeper I barreled through the woods, ripping my clothes and scraping my arms in the process. I mistook my shock for reason and continued screaming for my brother.

I’m not sure how long it took to reach the clearing with the strange snowman rock, but seeing it was like waking from a trance. I had no clue where I was; the full weight of my situation sank in, and my stomach lurched painfully. Eric was likely dead, our ATV was abandoned at Camp C, and I would return alone, beaten, and without an explanation for… anything. Even if other Rangers believed me – I’ve seen firsthand how badly the police need closed cases.

That’s when I learned the radio was dead, and my phone was in the ATV. When something genuinely terrifying happens – the resulting fear is so intense that the possibility it could grow worse is unimaginable. It can always be worse; that much, I guarantee.

Wandering aimlessly is the worst thing you can do when lost. Unfortunately, it’s hard to stay put while your world is ending. I tried retracing my steps, but nothing looked familiar. Eventually, I rounded a curve to see my path blocked by what I thought to be another strange rock formation. It was big, and trees grew around it to form an almost hidden alcove; had I approached from a different angle, it would’ve been invisible.

Unhappy Trails

There was an almost… hypnotic quality; it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t place what. I was so consumed with identifying this foreign, yet familiar shape, I didn’t realize my feet were taking me closer. My knees went weak as I saw only part of the formation was rock; the rest was… flesh. The realization only came as its top half suddenly stood to its full, breathtaking height. Before, it was merely crouching behind the boulder; now, it was staring into the depths of my very soul… I could feel it inside of me.

My limited reserve of composure evaporated as I fled into the forest once again. The urge to look back was intense, but I resisted. With a loud, guttural roar came the clear sound of flapping wings; the image of that thing soaring above was enough to keep me going well beyond my normal limit. I didn’t notice the familiar surroundings until I emerged onto a trail near E Camp.

I was quickly spotted by a fellow Ranger who informed me it was almost 7:00! That’s when I noticed how low the sun had sunk, and how close I was to being lost out there in the dark. Eric was still missing obviously, and search efforts were already underway. I was forced to recount my story to the police before speaking with friends. Despite what they suspected, the evidence was only circumstantial, and I was asked not to leave town. Mr. Davis, my boss, believed me and was kind enough to let me keep the cabin while I wait for the other place.

My parents were an absolute wreck and also allowed a cabin while the search continued; everyone put in an extra show of effort just for them. Watching Mom suffer is the hardest part of this madness; if she loses me too… I can’t think about that. None of this concerns them anyway. The parts you – whoever ‘you’ are – need to know happened after I finally made it home that night; well, Saturday morning, technically.

The unexpected knock at my door was timid but frightening. It froze me in place while I imagined that creature waiting on the other side; had Teri not called out, I wouldn’t have moved. It had started to rain, and flashes of lightning lit the sky; I invited her in and fetched a clean towel. She dried off while the coffee brewed, and we talked for hours as the storm raged outside. Not only did I recount my story, but she told me much more about the disappearances than Eric had. I’m not sure if he knew or not; it’s possible he didn’t want to scare me more than necessary.

Maybe it’s a testament to my selfishness that I only cared about research when it concerned my own brother, but it never occurred to me before that moment. Teri showed me more subreddits, YouTube channels, and podcasts than I could count as she explained something people refer to as the “Missing 411”. I’m going to do my best to pass that knowledge on to you, though there’s not enough time to read every piece of evidence I’ve uncovered over the last several months. The best I can do is point you in the right direction, but hopefully anyone who hears this will decide to stay the hell away.

If one types “Missing 411” into Google, a plethora of films and documentaries appear; a cursory glance leads one to believe these are fictional horror stories. If you skim a few articles, it starts sounding like some grand-scale human trafficking ring, but if you’re willing to take a deep dive something much more sinister rises to the surface.

To put it simply, monsters – or some prefer “Cryptids” – are real; if you can’t accept that basic fact by now, there’s no point in listening to the rest. You can’t look at the Missing 411 as a whole; that’s a rookie mistake full of false leads and deadly misconceptions. Yes, as records of the missing are gathered from across the globe, there are many commonalities, but this is not a singular mystery with a singular answer; it is a collection of thousands, probably millions!

Every case must be considered individually to determine what’s at fault; it’s common for large forests and mountain ranges to house multiple creatures. Whether this be Skinwalkers, Wendigo, Dogmen, or – as in our case – Vetti, it’s vital to prepare for the right creature. Please understand those are just a few examples; it would be impossible to list all the known Cryptids. That’s why the best course of action is to avoid them completely.

[alarm clock] Damn, I’m almost out of time; I must tell you about the Vetti before it’s too late. Teri and the other lifers were only able to identify it two years ago when she found one of the missing. She was alone in a remote area of the park when it happened. Some kids left their trash behind, and a chip bag was tangled in the bushes just off-trail. When she retrieved it, she noticed a candy wrapper a little further in – so she got that, too. Then she saw a water bottle, and it wasn’t until the following soda can that she realized how far away the litter had taken her.

Realizing her mistake, she turned back to see Jason Fuller – a Ranger who disappeared six years prior – blocking her path; he was injured and filthy, yet not a day older. Teri struggled to avoid the word “zombie”, but that’s exactly what it sounded like until she relayed their brief conversation. He claimed to have escaped captivity and asked her to return with him so they might help the “other hostages”. Teri said pure malice exuded from him in waves. Too frightened to refuse, she asked him to lead the way.

The thing wearing Jason’s skin gave a sick, evil grin and walked past her. She held her breath as his rotting stench wafted in her face, and the moment his back was turned, she fled. The sound she describes coming from him was eerily reminiscent of what I’d heard only hours before. She was barely able to make it to her ATV before he was on her heels.

She reported the incident at base-camp, and the old-timers filled her in just like she did for me – except she had provided a missing link in their information. Knowing what hunts you can be the difference in life and death. That night, twenty-seven men went into the forest; only sixteen returned, but Teri was told she wouldn’t see Jason again.

There are hundreds of Cryptids with information available, but we got stuck with a rare one. Most monsters are born as what they are, but Vetti are created. They begin as humans; when someone suffers unimaginable anguish – the type bred from years of brutal torture or a life of enslavement – they become consumed with fury and hatred. When they are finally granted the sweet release of death, their souls are doomed to wander the Earth as vengeful spirits. They know nothing but the desire to share their endless pain with others, and that pain is like catnip to Harpies. Yes, Harpies are real, but I don’t have time to make this a double creature-feature; you can research those for yourself.

Information on what the Harpies do after locating the spirit is vague, but whether it merges with or transforms the spirit – the end result is a Vetti. These things exist purely to cause misery; they should be avoided at all costs. Destroying one is extremely difficult, but barring a few exceptions they normally hunt alone. Their bloodlust isn’t the most dangerous aspect of these creatures; they can do much worse than kill. No one is sure of the commonality between victims, but on rare occasions – such as with Jason Fuller – the corpses are possessed.

I know my brother is dead; that’s not why I keep studying and searching. I need to confirm Eric’s body isn’t being used, and to put whatever I do find out of its misery. If I die in the process, so be it, but I’m taking that thing with me. If I can take it down with hollow points, I’ll let fire take care of the rest. I have a shovel, two cans of gasoline, plenty of ammunition, and a few blades for good measure. If I don’t make it back, I’m sorry; I wish I had been a better son and brother.


Posted one hour later:

Sorry to worry anyone who heard that… unusual message before; I was rehearsing for a play! Everything is fantastic here. Please come for a visit, and let me show you around our beautiful park. Remember, ask for Nate!