Horror Fiction

Do Not Explore the Alaskan Wilderness

🚨ATTENTION🚨

This is a Swamp Dweller exclusive; he owns all rights to this story and it cannot be used in any way/shape/form. Be sure to enjoy the full experience with his wonderful narration - available on YouTube or Podcast. If you haven’t heard his work, I highly recommend checking him out! He uploads so often that new viewers will be hard pressed to run out of content!

Hey Swamp,

My friends call me Ray, but I’m changing the names of everyone else involved. We lived in Texas until last year when we moved to Alaska. There isn’t much I can say about my job without giving away the company, but – needless to say – my time is spent outdoors. Two years ago, my wife (Hailey) was involved in a car accident, and we fell on some fairly hard times. We also have two kids, so when it seemed like we were being offered an opportunity to get back on track – I could hardly say no. While we didn’t expect to love it out here, we thought it would be bearable long enough to pay off some debts… but no amount of research could have prepared us for this place…


It took over a year for my wife to physically recover, but she still suffers from PTSD. Working from home and not traveling on interstates fit into our new lifestyle nicely, though there are plenty of downsides. The fact that an ocean now separates us from the rest of our family is what bothers me the most. The kids didn’t want to leave their friends, but luckily they haven’t hit their teen years yet, or the resistance would have been much worse; Jason is only ten and Jenny is seven. Surprisingly, they’ve adjusted better than we could have dreamed.

The strange day and night cycles aren’t split into six month cycles like we had always heard; there’s a couple of occasions where it’s one or the other, but it’s mostly just long summer days and winter nights. The kids were happy to discover what a novelty it all was to everyone back home; during the first two weeks, they practically lived on FaceTime. It made us feel like everything would be ok – which was a big deal considering how poorly Hailey and I were coping.

The overall stress was unbelievable; moving to a new city is a major undertaking, but this was a different league entirely. We failed to appreciate the fact that Alaska is very cold; obviously, we knew it was something to prepare for in terms of buying the necessary supplies, but those who have never experienced a true winter simply can’t grasp how drastically it changes your daily life. We couldn’t afford four entirely new wardrobes on top of new tires and the countless other items we didn’t consider. Thankfully, our families were able to help; I don’t know what we would have done without them.

Our house is far nicer than what we had in Texas which was another plus for the kids if not slightly ironic. Normally, it’s more expensive to live in the city than in the country, but that’s not true here. We got a great deal on our house thanks to my company, but everything else is nearly double the price. We almost sold our vehicles rather than pay to have them brought over, but thank goodness we didn’t. Had we understood my drastically higher salary was to cover basic living expenses – I’m not sure we would have moved.

Our only neighbor (Odette) lives across the road; she and her husband bought their home over forty years ago, but sadly, he passed away last spring. She doesn’t get out often, but she’s very kind. The day we moved in, she came over with a delicious casserole; there’s nothing like a free meal after a long, hard day – especially when that day involved your first glimpse at the grocery store’s outrageous pricing.

Odette accepted our invitation to stay for dinner; she may be in her late sixties, but she can keep up with the best of us. She has a thousand stories, and the kids would have listened all night if we let them. Once they were finally in bed, the rest of us had coffee in the den… That’s when Odette’s stories started to get a little weird.

The light-hearted tone in her voice suddenly turned very grave, and her gaze dropped to the floor. “When you bought this house, did Allan tell you about any of the local legends we have around here?” Her words ran together as she blurted them out.

“Uh… nope; none that I can remember.” I was certain because there had been almost no contact with the actual owner; I looked to Hailey for confirmation, and she was also shaking her head. The drastic change in our neighbor’s demeanor made us feel like she was about to deliver terrible news – like one of the previous owners slaughtered his family or a serial killer was loose in the area – something dangerous.

“I had a feeling…” she sipped her coffee and took a deep breath before continuing. “Did you know Alaska has its very own Bermuda Triangle?”

We most certainly had not – but she told us all about it. Something like five out of every thousand people go missing around here, and most of them happen in that area. I was surprised but not necessarily frightened. A vast amount of the state is uninhabited; it wasn’t a stretch to assume people might go out, lose their way, and succumb to wildlife or the elements.

It was like Odette could hear the thought forming; that’s when she explained the Kushtaka legends. Apparently, Kushtaka are Otter-men. I remember hearing a few Bigfoot stories in the past, but nothing we dreamed could be real. Even as we listened to her describe the eight-foot-tall shapeshifters, I couldn’t create a serious mental image of a giant, man-like otter walking around on two legs – at least, not in a malicious way.

Our neighbor went on to describe how they would sometimes take the appearance of a loved one to lure their victims into the woods. There’s no shortage of people willing to give firsthand accounts of their own experience, though witness testimony doesn’t mean much to me. It seemed like the Kushkata were Alaska’s version of cow-tipping; just because something is impossible doesn’t stop everyone and their brother from saying it happened.

Even though these creatures usually lure victims to their doom – Odette claimed they sometimes appear in human form to approach those who are lost or injured. They pretend to offer the victim aid, but in reality, they intend to lead them deeper into the forest where they will turn the human into one of their own. I’m still unclear as to what that process entails, but I admittedly didn’t try very hard to learn. Even now it’s difficult for me to wrap my head around this.

When I asked Odette why she was telling us these things, she said it was because several years ago, her son (Cam) hired a Kentucky boy to work on his crew. From day one, they warned Kyle of the various dangers, but he thought they were “hazing the newbie”. When his aggravation began affecting his job performance, Odette invited the whole crew to a barbecue in hopes the boy would take her words more seriously… Unfortunately, he chose not to attend.

Then, at roughly 3:00pm the following Tuesday, Kyle signaled a bathroom break to his supervisor and stepped away; he was never seen again. No one expected him to actually vanish in the middle of a shift, but concerns grew rapidly when twenty minutes passed without his return. Initially, they hoped he was only trying to scare them for revenge; Cam and three others searched for him while the rest continued working. Formal searches were conducted over the following weeks, but there was simply no trace.

There’s nothing Odette could have done, but she clearly feels a deep remorse for his loss. Our hearts ached for the poor woman; Hailey and I found ourselves “believing” in the Kushtaka purely to ease her mind, but after she left, we began discussing it between ourselves. As someone who wasn’t raised with Otter-man lore, it was extremely difficult to take seriously, so what did we do? We turned to YouTube, and we discovered Alaska is known for many creepy cryptids, and Kushtaka stories are definitely among them.

The History channel has a great show called Missing in Alaska, and episode ten has what we were looking for. It told of a writer who came down to research the legend for a book, but he vanished, too! That’s insane! I won’t go through the whole video, but while it was enjoyable – it didn’t convince us Otter-men existed. We believed the locals truly believed in them, and that was good enough – we decided to humor the legend as a show of respect. Honestly, it encourages safer practices in the wilderness, and that can only be a good thing.


Overall, our strategy worked well, though I was admittedly nervous starting the new job when I learned some of our work would take us through the Triangle. My coworkers’ stories didn’t help, but after the first month passed without incident – things got easier. The days began to bleed together as life moved on in a beautifully mundane blur, and eventually, I forgot about the legends completely… until late February.

The job should have been simple; clear some land, do some digging, and get home before something gets frostbite. It was the same routine as any other day except for one thing – Jason’s birthday. He was disappointed I had to work and didn’t want to open his presents without me. We FaceTimed long enough for him to rip some paper, but the signal dropped. Luckily, Hailey had the foresight to give him the iPad first, and I felt less guilty about his decision to wait for the rest.

I worked like a machine; I didn’t even stop for lunch. My mind was laser focused on getting the job done and making it home. That evening, in the gray light of dusk, we packed up and made the short hike back to our trucks. It had been a long day, and no one lingered to chat. I was 5-10 minutes down the road when I realized my phone was back at the site. I had propped it up in a tree when talking to Jason and forgot to grab it when my hands were free again. If it had been anything else, I would have left it for the next day, but not my phone.

No thoughts of danger entered my mind; why would it? I was just going back to a place I knew well, and it would only take a moment to walk in, get my phone, and be back on the road. I drove as close to the site as safely possible and found myself running the rest of the way; I don’t understand why I felt so rushed. There was no doubt Jason had been fully engrossed in his new tablet all day – his other presents weren’t going anywhere – yet there I was – running through the wilderness like a total fool.

It was almost completely dark when I reached my phone. I hadn’t thought to grab a light so I’m not sure what I would have done if it had gotten dark first. As I stood there trying to turn on the phone’s flashlight, I heard what sounded like a fox crying out. A friend had recently found one trapped in an old hunter’s snare, and I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving if the same thing happened again.

I rushed off with my light pointed at the ground ahead. It made me nervous to leave the trail, but the cries sounded close by. I continued straight for twenty yards without seeing any sign of the fox. No matter how far I walked, it always seemed like it would be past the next shrub, but it never appeared. I must have walked 50-60 yards when the noise was immediately cut off – like someone pressed stop – and it suddenly began to snow. The weather out here is completely unpredictable, but that instance was strange even by Alaskan standards.

The howling wind was the only sound in the forest, and I had to move quickly. It doesn’t take long for flurries to become full-on snowstorms, and I didn’t want to think about what that could mean for me. I turned back the way I came as the snowfall increased, and the light began reflecting back into my eyes. The temperature was dropping rapidly, and my truck was the only shelter for miles. I opened the phone’s compass to ensure I maintained a straight line, but no matter which direction I pointed – it wouldn’t spin.

Hoping to use GPS, I hunched down against a tree and turned off the light while trying to open Google Maps, but there was no signal – not even to send a text. To make matters worse, I only had 48% battery remaining, and I was now surrounded by solid, white walls of snow. It’s a miracle I didn’t lay down to die on the spot; if I weren’t a father, things might have gone differently… I don’t know. Forcing myself to leave the tree’s illusion of safety was extremely difficult; I was practically crawling when I continued my desperate search for the path.

The wind tore into me from the right; my beanie doubled as a face-mask, and thankfully, I developed a habit of putting my gloves in a coat pocket, or they’d be in the truck with my boots and earmuffs. The body loses the most heat through its ears and feet. The added layer of my coat’s thick hood helped protect my head, but I feared the worst for my numb toes. No expense is spared when it comes to the boots we wear out here. They’re knee-high, insulated, and clunky as hell – perfect for the job, but awful for the roads. Like most of the guys – I change into something lighter at the end of the day, and that’s why I was out there in a pair of regular Red Wings.

Even though my feet were too cold to feel it, I knew each step forward was filling my boots with more snow as their rims dipped beneath the surface. If nothing else, the sheer weight increase was enough to be sure. My mind was overrun with daydreams of a life on disability after losing my feet; I would become an alcoholic, Hailey would leave me, the kids would hate me, and I would move in with my parents. It was as clear as the air was white as I realized my hands were also going numb from clawing myself forward against the worst gusts of wind. I would have cried, but I’m fairly certain my tear ducts were frozen shut. My… ‘snow-balls’… were lodged somewhere between my lungs, but I’m trying to keep this PG.

I was on the verge of digging a hole behind the next tree I stumbled into when I froze in place at the sound of a familiar voice calling my name. It was faint over the storm – I thought I imagined it, but then I heard it again, slightly louder. It was my boss, Brian. I screamed so loud, my raw throat felt like it was cracking open, but I wasn’t going to waste my chance at survival.

My heart swelled with overwhelming relief when he answered my cries, and I pulled myself upright while impatiently waiting for rescue. The wind calmed slightly, allowing me to hear his footsteps; the sound was both beautiful and terrifying. He was approaching from my left – that meant I had been going the wrong way. My sense of relief was tainted with horror as my brain entertained several what if’s in the short seconds it took for Brian to come into view. A fierce gust of wind stopped him roughly thirty feet away, and he shouted, “follow me” before turning to lead us back.

The thought of reaching my truck – mostly the heater – pushed away the flood of worst-case-scenarios; there would be plenty of nightmares and therapy bills for those later. Staying low, I hurried forward to close the gap between myself and Brian, but he was picking up speed as well. That was fine with me, the faster we got out the better, but I was so focused on trying to catch up that I failed to notice we still hadn’t reached the path. Even worse, I was moving at a dangerous speed with only a dim light pointed ahead of my feet. Any misstep could have easily twisted my ankle or worse.

Eventually, common sense took control over mindless panic. “Brian, wait!” I shouted as loudly as my raw throat would allow, but he didn’t seem to hear me. I tried again and again as we continued to speed through denser foliage. My feet were getting tangled in vines, thorny branches were tearing my coat, and I knew something was wrong… I should have known much sooner. Finally, I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around, and resumed moving as fast as I dared – fully aware I would not survive a fall.

My encounter with the… figure I called Brian played through my mind in a split-screen fashion alongside Odette’s warnings of Kushtaka taking on the appearance of friends to lure victims deeper into the forest. The only thing capable of pulling me from those thoughts was the horrifying sound of Brian’s voice calling out. “What are you doing? That’s the wrong way!”

I know it’s always a mistake to look back, but that’s exactly what I did. On the first glance I only saw an enormous, black shape dart past a tree and vanish from sight. My heart skipped at least three beats before I could force myself to move; the shape I saw was a minimum eight feet high, and there was a dark undertone in the voice that yelled, “come back, we’re trying to help you!”

It sounded so close when it spoke that I stumbled and couldn’t help casting a quick glance to my right. I didn’t think it was possible to feel more frightened than I already was, but the image of a giant, hairy, disfigured face was seared into my mind as I struggled to regain my footing. It was poking its enormous head from behind a tree; I can still see it clearly now, and there is little to no hope of forgetting in the future.

I’m not sure how long I ran, but it felt like an eternity. All I can say for certain is that I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and, eventually, I heard several voices calling my name from multiple directions in the distance. To say I was skeptical would be a vast understatement, but I didn’t know what to do. Every move felt fatal. What if they’re Kushtaka – or one of the several other cryptids I’ve heard about? What if they’re real people, but I run away? What if the first monster catches up while I’m standing here?

Hoping it was reasonable to assume monsters wouldn’t have flashlights – I decided to shout a tentative cry for help and run towards the first light I saw. Unfortunately, that cry turned into the high-pitched squeal of a teenage girl when a branch snapped directly behind me – in complete darkness. I surged forward – not sure if the snag at the bottom of my coat was real or imagined – and a dozen shouts rang out in reply. In seconds, spotlights were pointed in my direction, and the sound of weapons being prepared to fire was sweet, sweet music to my ears. I screamed, “it’s behind me” several times before collapsing, but I didn’t need to say more; everyone understood my meaning perfectly.

I was later told the Kushtaka probably left when it heard all the other people. As I thought, Hailey called Brian when I didn’t come home, and he took care of the rest. They all raced back to search for me; apparently there’s no point in wasting time with police in those weather conditions, and I’m grateful they didn’t. There’s no doubt I was close to the end.

After I collapsed, they zipped me into a sleeping bag Tommy had the foresight to bring from his truck, and basically carried me out of there like it was a body bag. I wasn’t too far off in the direction I was traveling, but I wouldn’t have found the trail. Even without the possible Kushtaka encounter or psychotic break – whichever you choose to believe – there’s no doubt I would have died out there if they hadn’t found me.

I had to spend a little time in the hospital because of the frostbite. It’s a very difficult healing process, but, miraculously, I’ve gotten to keep all my fingers and toes! I’m mostly ok now – but my sense of touch isn’t quite what it used to be in the worst places. There’s absolutely no circumstance that will ever get me to step foot into the wilderness alone again. In our original budget, we planned to live here for 4-5 years, but that increased with the unexpected living costs. I’m not sure if I can last that long…

Hailey and I have decided to call our families tomorrow in order to discuss possible options. If we could find jobs beforehand and arrange a place to stay while we look for a new house – it may be possible to leave sooner. We don’t plan to tell them about the Triangle – they would be deeply concerned for our mental health. We’re extremely unhappy, and I regularly work near dangerous wildlife; those are facts. I’m sure there are more, but those are enough.

I’m ashamed of how stupid it was to put myself in that situation at all, and it must be obvious to others. I can guarantee every person in our tiny town heard what happened that same day, but not one has questioned me about it. I don’t think I could say all of this if they did – not face-to-face – and I’m sure they know that, too, but writing it out like this… I don’t know, I kinda do feel a little better.


Well, that’s really all I have to say besides – thanks for doing what you do. Even if you don’t use this for your channel, I just appreciate that you took the time to read it. If I wasn’t trying to move away from this frozen wasteland, I would definitely be supporting you with more than likes and shares. Keep up the great work, and best wishes to you and your family!

Horror Fiction

The Current Settlers (Pt. 8)

Part 8 of the Settlement Series!

The CreepyPasta

[upset] I knew it! I knew you’d come today of all days. Damnit, we gotta get you out of this forest!

… … One day a year – one! And it’s the day you show up! I knew it, I tell ya! Ugh, it’s too late… we’d never make it to the bridge; hurry up – come inside. [door slams/locks]

… … … What do you mean you have no clue how you got here?! You have your pack and everything!

… … … I’m not sure I understand how you could be compelled to pick it up, but we don’t have time to chat. There’s a horde of evil outside, and more are on the way. We don’t even know what half of those things are anymore. Based on what we do know – ignorance is probably a blessing, but we can speculate later.

[Trish] We need to open the floor, it’s our only chance.

… You’re right; there’ll be nowhere left to hide once it begins. We could make a hole under the bed… Once our friend is behind the barrier, it’ll be like every other year.

… … [walking to bedroom] We’ll have to explain later, but I’m sure you remember my telling you about converting the basement, yes?

… Good. Long story short – there’s also a few magical protections around it. We couldn’t have survived without them.

… … [defensive] I’ve been brutally honest about how dangerous this place is, I’m not sure why you look surprised.

… … It’s amazing yet frightening how many questions you have in the face of certain death. Stand back, please. Come on, Ethan, help me move this thing.

… … [bed slides across floor] You’re gonna be just fine, friend, we’ll get through this together. I’m surprised they haven’t smelled you, but maybe they’re too preoccupied… or lulling us into a false sense of security…

… … [wood creaking] I’m only planning for every possibility, but those guys aren’t exactly known for their patience. If they knew you were here – we wouldn’t be considered much of a threat. It’s more likely they’re too busy to notice. These rituals have been happening for centuries; they probably can’t remember the last time one was interrupted—

[wood cracking] Whoa, hold on, boy! Just because the bed will be covering it doesn’t mean we can rip the boards in half! It would be nice to lay them back in place afterwards. Once our pal is safely hidden, we’ll make it look like this room hasn’t been touched since those kids with the tie-dye van.

[Ethan] The ones who thought we were all acid hallucinations?

… Yep, but this time – we stay quiet and lay low; there shouldn’t be any problems. I bet we can even manage a few stories to help pass the time; how’s that sound?

… … Hah, I thought that part would be well received. [board set aside] Alright, it’s time.

… … Don’t worry, friend, Ethan will lower you nice and slow; he’s stronger than he looks. You’ll be on the ground and taking the grand tour before you know it.

… … … … [shout/echo] See? No problem at all. You two go ahead; we’ll get this mess cleaned up and be with you in a few.

… … [distant/fading voice] See, Trish? I told you it was best to keep the height a surprise.


Great news, family! We’re officially bunkered down, and the ritual has begun. Only something fairly extreme could stop them now, and we aren’t giving them anything but distance; tonight, we don’t exist!

… … Thank you, friend, I’m glad you like it! This is my real library; the original journals, every book, and all our downloaded entertainment are right here. I often worry they aren’t safe enough, but I fear no amount of precautions would make me feel differently.

… … … Oh my! I was so worried about the ritual I’ve been a terrible host! I’m ashamed of myself, truly I am. You haven’t had a chance to say more than two words since you got here; hell, I didn’t even ask how you’ve been since your last visit!

… … …Well, “gracious host” is probably a stretch, but it’s kind of you to say so – I do try – but no more about me; what’s the big news? You’re grinning ear-to-ear, and the curiosity is killing me.

… … You… I mean… I know you said you were going to email Mr. Somnium, but… Are you trying to tell me he actually responded? As in he read it?

… … … He wants to narrate it? For his actual channel? When?!

… … It’s already done?! Are you screwing with me, friend? Because this is a cruel joke to play on an old man no matter how long ago his heart stopped—

… … … [whisper] Sweet cricket… okay… don’t sugarcoat it; what did people think?

… … … Shut up! I’m not crying! You’re crying! Holy, sweet mother of all crickets… You even took pictures of the comments? You, my friend, hold the special power of restoring one’s faith in humanity.

… … … Shush, everyone; of course I want to hear it, but we need to be quiet – no unnecessary risks, remember?… But don’t worry, friend – you’ll be across that bridge before you know it!

… … Hell yea, I’m positive! And – once you’re home – would you have time to pass along a message to our Dark Family? It should be heart-felt, yet stoic – humble but not desperate; maybe I should draft a few key points. First impressions are every—

[Trish] You’re doing it again, dear.

… Oops… umm, enough of all that; we’re in for a long night. What would you like to hear about next? The Mountain Settlement, maybe? How about the Civil War or the Revolution?

… … … [disappointed] Really? Firsthand accounts of America’s entire history are at your disposal, but you want to know how Trish and I got here? You’re one strange cookie, my friend, but that’s the main reason we like you so much. Alrighty then, I aim to please! Hang tight while I find the right journal; we’ll need to go back to a couple weeks before we died.

… … … [shuffling books] Oh, yea, those are the Weapons; Those have been down here since the ordeal with the outlaws. It’s kinda nice not having anyone else to meddle in what we do with our own family heirlooms.

Ah, here we are, [wipes off dust] I only hope you aren’t too disappointed. When you get bored we’ll switch to a different journal; until then – sit back, relax, and try to ignore any strange noises. Now that the Ritual has begun, they can’t leave the circle… Well, they could, but they’d be forced to start over which would be extremely inconvenient.


April 5, 1696

It has been a hard day – the kind that makes me long for the years I could work without pain in my back. If not for the grandchildren, my fields would be empty this season. It seems like only yesterday I was teaching their fathers how to plant and plow, yet now, I ramble incessantly like the old men we mocked in our youth. Even when there is actual news to speak of, I somehow default to writing the same, dull drivel as always.

Bill Sanderson returned from a business trip two days ago, and today, his entire family is ill. The doctors were only notified when his children failed to attend class for a second morning; Ms. Harvard sent one of the students to the Sanderson home, and the lad went for help upon finding the family confined to their beds.

No one dares speak the words we all know to be true, but— [woman’s scream]


… … [exasperated] Damn, that one was loud.

… … [hesitant] Well, um… it sounds like they’ve brought out a sacrifice…

… … … I can understand why you might be upset, but we didn’t see a reason to worry you when there’s nothing we can do to help that poor soul.

… … I know it’s hard to hear; in the beginning, we wanted to help, too, but you gotta trust us. Our first time hearing it, we rushed into the middle of them like fools; they had some poor girl – must have been between 17-20 – and she—

[Trish] Maybe skip that part, dear.

… Right. The point is – they almost ate us, and if you go running out there, I’m not sure we could save you at all, but we’d try. The one thing I am certain of is that we would be consumed either way. [whining] Please don’t get us eaten before I can hear Mr. Somnium read Pappy Grant’s journal! Please!

… … Yes, exactly! The demon himself is smack in the middle of it all and growing more powerful as we speak! He’s surrounded by every evil thing this place has to offer; We can’t help them in the same way you can’t walk on the ceiling.

… … … [whining] Aw, why aren’t you understanding this, friend? Yes – killing the demon would mean an end to the sacrifices, and this place would finally stop attracting new monsters, but—

… … … [sigh] Yes; it would make it possible to deal with other creepies and crawlies as well, but—

… … … Because we can’t! Even if the demon wasn’t surrounded by his minions – we wouldn’t stand a chance!

… … … Tell me you did not just point to the Weapons. [louder] No, better yet – tell me what we did to make you hate us? Why are you trying to re-kill us?

[Trish] Volume, dear.

… … [softer] It’s a moot point, anyway. The girl is dead by now, let’s not dwell on what we can’t change. I’m sorry, but if y’all don’t mind, I’d like to continue read— [man screams]

… … [annoyed] Oh, Jiminy-friggin-Cricket! Yes, I heard it! [throws down journal]

… … [exasperated] Yes, I know it was a man that time.

… … I don’t know how many more.

… … I swear, I don’t know; they don’t hunt for a specific type or number of sacrifices, but if an opportunity presents itself in the months leading up to the ritual…

… … Yea, I’m afraid so; they’ll use as many as they find. There’s no maximum limit, and the more lives they take – the more powerful the ritual becomes.

… No, please! Don’t touch the Weapons!

[Ethan] Actually, I have an idea.

… An idea on how to calm our friend down?

[Ethan] Sort of!

… Nope; sit down and zip it.

[Ethan] but—

… Sit! [clap] Zip! [clap] We are survivors! Do you understand what that means? It means we survive! We keep going; we record the story! Just now – finally – that story is making it to the outside world. We can’t let it end here. If we can get the rest of it out there, real help will come! People who know what they’re doing – hell, maybe someone with a YouTube channel—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right. The point is – someone who isn’t us! We have two choices. We can go out there – become dinner – and let the world forget about that one random story, or we can be strategic; we can forfeit the battle to win the war and enjoy victory together – as a family. Then, when it’s time to deal with the other unfriendly inhabitants, maybe some of those Paranormal Investigators will visit! I don’t think I’d be comfortable with Ghost Hunters; I know you said it’s not the same kind of hunter but—

[Trish] Dear…

… Right, sorry. Can we please just go back to reading? If they had another— [man screams]

Well, that was obviously the same one as before— Wait a second, friend! You do realize those Weapons are useless in our hands, right? They wouldn’t work even if we could land a hit; that means you would have one shot with only a dagger to fall back on!

[Ethan] Seriously, I have a plan.

… Please, boy, I’m serious, too.

[Trish] It’s a good plan, dear.

… [heartbroken] Aw… you too? But… how do you already know what it is? Why are none of you concerned with—

[Trish] Dear…

Fine, fine, fine; go ahead, Ethan. Take your time and explain in as much detail as possible.

[Ethan] Since the entire horde of bad guys are confined to the ritual circle – no one is guarding the Demon’s Path. Those egg sacs have been incubating for ages; tonight will probably be enough to put a few more monsters into the world. Unless something happens to them…

… Ok, since we’re completely ignoring my strategic plan for victory – let’s hear it. How do you propose we bypass the fact they’ll smell our flesh-and-blood pal the moment we stick our heads out of the hole? You know – the one we hid under the bed that happens to be the only exit for someone incapable of passing through solid objects?

[Ethan] Um, actually only two of us need to go. Technically, they could burst the sacs with a regular crossbow. The only reason I never have before is because the demon would know it was one of us, and we never had a way to fight back until now. Don’t you see? This is why our friend was brought here! It’s fate! We could make a real difference! The demon will feel what happened and rush over in a blind rage; he’ll pass straight by the lake! Someone on the roof could probably get a clear shot…

… … Oh, and our friend is suddenly an archer now, eh? Hell, let’s pretend that part is true – you realize the demon won’t simply be strolling by, don’t you? Even our eyes can barely keep track! That’s a vital detail since a miss would mean we all suffer fates worse than second deaths! Dying the first time was bad enough, thank you very much!

[Ethan] I could do the aiming, and I remember the demon’s name well. You know I can make that shot; let me have revenge… Imagine if Jamestown could really expand; how long do you think it would be before they brought in some electric poles? Surely WiFi wouldn’t be far behind…

… Damn you, boy. Taunt me with sweet dreams all you want, but none of those things would matter if we weren’t around to enjoy them.

[Trish] We can destroy the eggs much faster than the demon can break their circle; we could be back before they need to shoot. If the worst happens – one of us will get our friend to bridge while the others stay behind… We can pack the journals now as well – then, our story will live on, and your plan will still work. What do you think?

… I think it’s horrible! It doesn’t change a thing about how it will end. Besides, have you noticed how long it’s been since— [woman screams] Oh, come on!

[Ethan] Please, we don’t have much time; you know full well they’ve barely gotten started. This has gone too far! Once the demon is dead, we’ll be the last thing on anyone’s mind. Most of them will run scared back to their dens, and some will move on to darker pastures entirely. While that’s happening, Trish can get our friend back to safety, and we’ll go after the hostages!

… I don’t like it.

[Trish] That’s a shame dear… Based on what mother saw, I could have used your help. Oh well, sit tight – we’ll return as quickly as possible; try not to worry.

… [grumble] You can be a cruel woman sometimes… Ethan, listen to me very carefully; don’t extend a single hair beyond the protection barrier until we’re finished, you got that? Then it’s straight into position; do not overestimate the amount of time it will take him to break the ritual’s circle! We’ll clear the path for you on the way out.

[Ethan] You got it, uncle!

… Alright, let’s get it over with. If it’s the last thing I do – I’ll fit in some “told you so’s” before going loudly into that dark, eternal night.


[Trish] We’ll stay underground as long as we can and come up by the path’s entrance.

… Are you going to explain what happened with Gale? I didn’t want to worry our friend anymore than you two already have, but she clearly saw something that shook you up.

[Trish] Last week, she was having a good day and said this year wasn’t like the others. The demon was angrier after the French settlement than we realized. In our grief over lost friends and enchanted arrows, we failed to realize that several of the sacs were destroyed as well. Rather than replacing them – he poured everything into what was left—

… We should be close, let’s go up… And they’re supposed to hatch tonight? Is that what you were saying?

[Trish] You’re right; we’re here… But no – those eggs hatched ages ago. However, the results were so promising – he tried something new. This time he divided everything equally between two sacs. They’re already massive, and when the 24 sacrifices are dead – there will be two more extremely dangerous monsters loose in our forest.

Twenty-four? How? It’s never been more than a dozen!.. And wow, this place really has gotten dismal. I remember when it was impossible to see more than a few yards into the tree-line, but now there’s hardly any green left in the forest!

[Trish] The bulk of the sacrifices are boy scouts; they weren’t camping here – their bus broke down. The repairs were going to take a few hours, so their troop leader suggested bringing the restless kids for a hike. The worst part is – they never told anyone what happened; no one knows they came here. When the repairs were complete, those who stayed with the bus drove down to retrieve the others; they had no clue what they were driving into… Of course, there are probably a few other sacrifices mixed in; surely they aren’t all with the scouts.

… [pouty] I just wanna go home and listen to my story… Geez, the ground is so hard and black it feels like concrete…

[Trish] If we can end the reign of terror, you’ll have eternity to enjoy all the stories you want, dear. Now, move your ass; my baby is practically alone back there. Is your crossbow ready? I think I see the first one ahead – look up and to the right. Mother said these were bright yellow instead of orange – that has to be one of them.

… Yea, that’s it; the other is on the ground to the left, do you see it? We should stand back; that gunk inside could still hurt us… Or we could turn around and go home now – no harm done.

[Trish] Wow, they really are massive!.. Wait – did you mean ‘no harm doneaside from tonight’s 24 sacrifices?

… [sigh] Are you ready? We shoot on three… One… I love you… Two… Three! [both shoot, sacs burst with liquid explosion]

… [ground shakes and rumbles with guttural roar] Go!


… [panicked] Can you feel that? The air is heavier; it’s like walking through deep water.

[Trish] Yes, and we need to go faster.

… No, darling; just me.

[Trish] What’s in that vial? Did you try brewing potions again?

… It’s just something I’ve been saving for an emergency. Don’t worry, if the worst happens, the enchantment will weaken overnight; you’ll be able to free yourself by morning. [cork pops]

[Trish] Alex, no; we don’t have time to argue; you don’t— [Trish sucked in/Alex corks bottle]

… It’s ok to be mad; I can handle that, but not losing you. I’m sure you’re frustrated that I can’t hear what you’re saying, but if it’s any consolation – I can feel your displeasure loud and clear. Hopefully, I’ll be back for you— [frightened] Oh no; the air is getting even heavier… [sweeps leaves aside] Ok, ok… Ok, hun, you’ll be safe here, and I’ll be right back… [covers bottle with the leaves]

[speeds away, muttering to self] Alright, ole boy, – she’s safe – totally, completely safe, yessir. Now, you’re gonna bottle up that loud-mouthed nephew and hope to hell the demon is satisfied with only one savory morsel… And that our friend skews towards flight rather than fight…

[gasp] There they are – thank Jiminy! They’re on the roof; all I need to do is drag— [earth shakes and rumbles with a roar like thunder] No, please no, not when I’m this close!


[Ethan] This is it! Remember – just like we practiced; don’t panic… keep your eyes closed… body relaxed… mind clear… and—

[confused] Hey, why is uncle— Shit! [shoots arrow] No!

[everyone screams, demon screeches, arrow thuds into tree]


… … [panicked] I’m not gonna make it… Oh, no! No, no, no! It only scratched the bastard!… Holy mother, he’s looking right at them! The arrow! It’s so close; I have get to it… [pulls arrow from trunk]

… [screaming] Oi! Hey, look at me, asshole! Yoo-hoo! [whistles]

Crap, he’s really coming! Even uglier than I remember… Looks like a tall Quasimodo caught leprosy and went into the final stages of liver failure… Oof! My throat… Jiminy, he’s a big mother… lucky I don’t need to… breathe… just need… arm… free… legs are already gone…

[strained] Boy! Catch! [arrow whizzes through air, thuds into roof]

[mutters to self] Thank goodness, it got through… Wow, everything is going all wonky… sorry, fam


[Ethan] Bastard! He’s absorbing Alex! We have to shoot before there’s nothing left! [pulls arrow free, Alex groans in the distance] Hold on, we’re coming! [bow-string tightens]

[Ethan whispers] Are you ready?… Now! [fires arrow] Say it!

[demon screeches in agony, drowning out all other voices]

[Ethan, yelling over the demon’s wails] Alex! Uncle!… Why isn’t he reforming?! Stay here, I need to get down there!


… … [voice confused, disembodied] Is it over?… Is this where the dead go when they die?… Or is this a black void unique to the demon’s victims? Maybe I’m being stored away until needed… At least Trish is safe, and I thinkyes! Before everything went dark, that bastard took an arrow in the neck! I remember hearing the start of his name before the sound was cut off by screaming. It’s too late for me, but surely my boy got our friend away from this place. The demon is still dangerous even in this condition. [Ethan calling in the distance]

… … … [voice slightly more focused] Was that Ethan calling for me? No, it was too close; maybe I’m hallucinating after all… [woosh]


[Ethan yelling over demon’s continued screams] Uncle, if you can hear me – I found your dirty bottle trick lying next to what was left of you. Hopefully, I got all of you, but… umm… it looks like I’m stuck… Alex, I can’t move my legs… [whimper] He’s… g-ot me… I g-guess this guy r-really doesn’t want to die… I’m gonna throw you while I can still move my arms— [shocked gasp, dagger stabs into demon’s foot]

[demon roars in guttural agony as the ground rumbles with the force of an earthquake]

[Ethan] Holy shit! You stabbed him! No; don’t pull it out! We need to go; get on my back! [leaves rustle in the wind as the group flees] Alex, where’s Trish— Oh, right, he can’t answer…

… … … [angry and frustrated] I can answer; you just can’t hear me! What the hell is happening out there?! I can’t see or sense anything! We better be headed away from the demon with our friend in tow, or I swear before the sweet cricket I will find a way to tan your hide! [bangs loudly on the bottle walls] Ugh, you best find a way to hear me, boy! Hello?!

[Ethan continues speaking] —Yes, I’m positive Alex is in this bottle; here, you can hang onto it. Oh, wait! [hears light tapping on glass] Do you hear that? This is fantastic; I must have gotten all of him! Hey, Uncle – tap once for yes and twice for no; do you understand? [single tap] Is Trish safe? [single tap] Whew, thank goodness. Uncle! You won’t believe it! Our friend came out of nowhere and stabbed that bastard in the foot, haha! I think this is really it! He was falling apart as we fled! I’m trying to get us to the bridge – then we can find a way to get you out of that bottle.

… … … What do you mean ‘find a way’? Open it!— Wait, what are you two saying out there? No, no, no! [frantically bangs on glass] No way, friend! You are not staying one second longer! We can check on the sacrifice hostages after you’re safe! Ethan, don’t you dare listen to that nonsense! Get your ass to the bridge! And open the damn bottle! [continues banging on glass]

[Ethan] Sorry, friend, but I can’t take you to the ritual circle; Alex would kill me. Just listen to him in there – he’s going nuts!… Whoa, what are you doing?! Sit still or we’re gonna— [everyone falls to the ground, glass bottle breaks]

… … … Holy Cricket, that’s better! Now – we were all human once – let’s talk about this like reasonable folk.

[ground shakes with loudest roar yet]

… …. [disbelief] It really happened… He’s gone… Even after everything… I just didn’t believe it… But, damn, can you feel it, too? The air is normal again! The looming sense of dread is— actually… it’s stronger than ever… Let’s get Trish before we do anything else…


… … [hysteric] How?! How is it empty?! It shouldn’t have weakened that fast! How is she gone?! [sobs/smashes bottle]

[Ethan] Wait… Calm down and focus for a second… Do you feel that? There’s another fight happening, and she’s definitely part of it… [demanding] I’m going now! Are you coming, friend? Or do you want to stay here and argue with Alex?… Great, let’s go!

… No, umm… [defeated] ugh, wait up. Damnit, Trish! Why’d she have to go over there alone!

… … I know, friend, you don’t need to remind me. I’m clearly surrounded with ‘kind souls’ but, you see, we are a family of survivors, and avoiding danger is the key to being a survivor. This expedition is in direct conflict with our mission statement; she’s breaking the prime directive – that’s not ok!

[Ethan, patronizing] There, there, uncle; we can have a court martial after we help her. For now, we need to hurry! We should find a vantage point before showing ourselves. If it looks too dangerous, one of us will rush our friend to the bridge while the other helps Trish. Fair enough?

… … It’s not like I have any choice in the matter! You three have been forcing my hand all night anyway, so come on! Let’s go before it’s too late!


… … [shock] Are… are you two seeing this? It’s absolute chaos down there… [children shouting war cries] and it looks like… is Trish leading a platoon of boy scouts?

[Ethan] Hell yea, she is! Look! Everyone must have fled; only the Walker is left! Geez, where did they get all those weapons? It’s been ages since I’ve seen a mob like that – some of them are actually carrying pitchforks!

… … Don’t stand there gawking, boy! That Walker isn’t going to wait by idly while they fill it with holes! Why would she do this?!

… … Friend, if we survive this ordeal – remind me to explain the definition of a rhetorical question.

[Ethan] It won’t fight outnumbered either; I think it’s waiting for— [hostages screaming in the distance]

… … … Yep, you saw it right, friend. It waited for one to come within reach and fled with him. It’s safe for you to come down with us now; [leaves crunch beneath feet] we need to get everyone back to the cabin and calmed down so we can discuss what story you’ll tell the police.

… … Well, of course I mean you; who else is gonna take them? Their last chaperone was just carried off by the Walker and none of us can cross the bridge. We can’t send a group of traumatized kids off on their own.

… … I have no clue what you’re supposed to tell them – we haven’t discussed it yet!

[Ethan, yells over chaos of frightened boy scouts] Trish! Over here!

[Trish] You’re all here! I’m so relieved! When I was able to free myself, you three were fleeing towards the bridge – so I came straight here.

… … [muttering] How considerate of you…

[Trish] What was that, husband? Did you say something?

… … [perky] I love you, and I’m delighted you’re safe…

[Trish] You’re such a dear. [whispers] Don’t let the children know we’re ghosts; I don’t think their fragile minds could handle it.

… … Fair enough; I suppose we’ll take the long way home, then.

[Trish] Actually, I’ve had a rather long night, and so has our friend. I think it’s best if we go ahead while you and Ethan bring the boys along behind us. We’ll make sure your path is clear, of course.

… … [monotone] Of course… Come on, Ethan, you heard the lady. Round ‘em up…


[Trish] —I can’t believe the demon was finally defeated! So, you went right up to the monster and stabbed him in the foot?!… You really are amazing, my friend, and I know you’ll understand why we had to make this little detour… We need to get any demon goop left behind into this jar. [unscrews lid] We’ll burn it in the fireplace, and then you can take the ashes with you… [closes lid] There, that’s all of it; we better get moving.

[Trish, nonchalant] Oh, you don’t remember what my brother-in-law learned from the Mountain Settlement? The ashes must be spread over salt water – never fresh. Do you see any salt water in our territory? Alex doesn’t want to think about it yet, but you and I know better than to wait, don’t we?… I knew I could count on you! I can never repay you for saving my boys, [cabin door creaks open] but you’ll always have a home with us. Although, I’m sure you’ll be hearing those words in abundance over the coming months. Those children are probably assumed dead; the news crews will be rolling in before lunch – I guarantee it! [distant chatter] Oh, shh, they’re almost here! I’ll put this in the fire and get the ashes into your bag discreetly. Once you’re safely across the bridge – I’ll let the boys know we have everything under control.

… … … [several pairs of footsteps file across the wood floor] That’s right, this way fella’s; y’all are safe now. You’ll be home with your families in no time. We’re just gonna have a little chat to make sure everyone is on the same page while we wait for the sun to rise; then, our friend is going to take you all to see some nice policemen! How does that sound?

… … [exasperated] Come on, guys. We’ve been at this for over an hour; I don’t think you understand what’s waiting for you on the other side of that bridge. Do you know what it means to be national news?

… … I didn’t think so; it means you can say goodbye to your privacy for a long time, my little friends. You boys have had multiple agencies searching for you across multiple states; you’re already national news, but with our story – people will leave you alone when the next tragedy strikes. With the truth – your names will be synonymous with this event for the rest of your lives. The story for this place is older and darker than you can fathom, and I promise – you boys don’t want this shadow looming over you forever… So, what’s it gonna be, kids? Were you lost and found? Or kidnapped and rescued?

… … That’s a great choice, guys! I knew you looked like a reasonable bunch; I got a sixth sense about these things. Now – how many people found you?

… … That’s right! Only our friend! You boys are gonna be just fine – chins up, now! Remember – you’re all traumatized children; don’t be afraid to cry if they ask uncomfortable questions. As for your chaperones – you got separated; how should you know what happened? They’ll come down here to poke around and look for the bodies, but it won’t trouble us any. There’s nothing left to find, and we’ll be settled in with our new stories!

… … [sarcastic] Haha; yuck it up. Yes, I only want to listen to my story; is that so much to ask?! I’m sure they’re desperate to go home, too!

[Ethan] He’s right guys, and look – there’s a hint of sunlight out there! How about it? Are you ready to finally get out of here?

… … See! I told you they were reasonable chaps. My friend, I eagerly await your next visit when we’ll have time to thank you properly. Until then, we wish you the safest travels, and don’t forget – you deserve every reward they give you!

[Ethan opens creaking door] Hey, everyone, come take a look at this… What the hell is that?!

… … [door softly clicks shut] Umm… ok, on second thought – let’s go ahead and wait for the sun to fully rise… Anyone up for a quick game of charades?

Classics Translated

The Night the Ghost Got in

James Thurber, originally published 1933; translated to Modern English, otherwise exactly the same. 

This story has been added to our Classics in the Rain collection! Hear Danie Dreadful’s magnificent narration here for the full experience!

The ghost that got into our house on the night of November 17, 1915 caused a horrible mess; I should have just kept walking and went to bed. Its presence caused my mother to throw a shoe through the neighbor’s window and ended with my grandfather shooting a policeman. I regret ever stopping to pay attention to the footsteps.

They began around 1:15am – walking around the dining-room table at a quick but steady pace. My mother and my brother, Herman were asleep upstairs; grandfather was in the attic – in the old walnut bed that once fell on my father. I was drying off after a bath when I heard the steps. It sounded like a man was running around the dining-room table downstairs. The light from the bathroom was shining down the back steps – directly into the dining-room; I could see the faint shine of plates on the shelf and table. The steps continued to circle, and a board creaked at regular intervals when stepped on. At first, I thought it was my father or my brother, Roy; they had gone to Indianapolis but were expected home any time. Next, I suspected it was a burglar. It was not until later that I realized it was a ghost.

After the walking had continued for roughly three minutes, I tiptoed to Herman’s room. “Psst!” I hissed in the dark, shaking him.

“Awp,” he said in the low, hopeless tone of a beagle; he was always paranoid that something would “get him” in the night.

I told him who I was and said, “there’s something downstairs!” He got up and followed me to the back staircase. We listened together, but there was no sound; the steps had stopped. Herman looked at me with surprise – I was only wearing a bath towel around my waist. He wanted to return to bed, but I grabbed his arm.

“There’s something down there!” I said. Instantly, the steps began again; it sounded like a man was running around the dining-room table, but then they rushed towards us – taking the stairs two at a time.

The pale light was still shining down the stairs, but we saw nothing – we only heard the steps. Herman rushed to his room and slammed the door. I slammed the door at the top of the stairs and held my knee against it. After a long moment, I slowly opened it again. Nothing was there; all was quiet. None of us ever heard the ghost again.

The slamming doors woke mother, and she peeked out of her room. “What on earth are you boys doing?” she demanded.

Herman came out of his room. “Nothing,” he said gruffly.

“What was all that running around downstairs?” Mother asked. She had heard the steps, too! We only looked at her. “Burglars!” she shouted.

I tried to calm her by starting downstairs. “Come on, Herman,” I said.

“I’ll stay with mother; she’s all excited.” He said.

I stepped back onto the landing. “Both of you are staying right here,” mother said. “We’ll call the police.”

Since the phone was downstairs, I didn’t see how we were going to make a call – nor did I want the police – but mother made one of her quick, uncompromising decisions. She flung open her bedroom window and threw a shoe through the neighbor’s window. Glass fell into the bedroom of a retired engraver named Bodwell and his wife. Bodwell had been rather ill for some years, and was prone to mild “attacks.” Most everybody we knew or lived near had some kind of attack.

It was now about 2:00 on a moonless night, and black clouds hung low in the sky. Bodwell was at the window in an instant – shouting and shaking his fist. “We’ll sell the house and go back to Peoria,” we could hear Mrs. Bodwell say.

It was some time before mother got through to Bodwell. “Burglars!” she shouted. “Burglars in the house!”

Herman and I hadn’t dared tell her differently – she was even more afraid of ghosts than burglars. At first, Bodwell thought she meant there were burglars in his house, but finally, he calmed down and called the police for us. After he disappeared from the window, mother suddenly tried to throw another shoe, but I stopped her. It was not because of a necessity, but because she greatly enjoyed the thrill of breaking glass.

The police arrived in an impressively short time; there was a Ford sedan full of them, two on motorcycles, and a patrol wagon with eight more plus a few reporters. They banged on our front door, and flashlights searched over the walls, across our yard, and between the houses.

“Open up!” cried a hoarse voice. “We’re from Headquarters!”

I wanted to go down and let them in, but mother wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re naked,” she pointed out. “You’d catch your death.”

I wound the towel around me again. Finally the cops put their shoulders to our big, heavy door with its thick windows and broke in. I could hear wood breaking and a splash of glass on the floor. Their lights danced all over the living-room and dining-room, stabbed into hallways, and shot up both flights of stairs. They caught me standing in my towel at the top.

A heavy policeman ran up the steps. “Who are you?” he demanded.

“I live here,” I said.

“Well, what’s the matter, are ya hot?” He asked.

As a matter of fact, it was cold; I went to my room and put on some pants. On my way out, a cop stuck a gun into my ribs. “What are you doin’ here?” he demanded.

“I live here,” I said again.

The officer in charge reported to mother. “No sign of nobody, lady. He must have got away. What’d he look like?”

“There were two or three of them, whooping and hollering and slamming doors.” Mother said.

“Funny; all your windows and doors were locked tight.” The cop said.

Downstairs, we could hear the other officers stomping around. They were all over the place; doors and drawers were yanked open, windows were thrown up, and furniture fell with dull thuds. A half-dozen policemen emerged from the darkness of the front, upstairs hallway. They began to ransack everything; beds were pulled away from walls, clothes were torn off hooks, and boxes were pulled from shelves. One of them found an old harp that Roy won in a pool tournament.

“Looky here, Joe,” he said, strumming it with a big paw.

The cop named Joe took it and turned it over. “What is it?” he asked me.

“It’s an old harp that our guinea pig used to sleep on,” I said. It was true – that guinea pig never slept anywhere else, but I should never have said so. Joe and the other cop looked at me a long time before putting the harp back.

“No sign of nothing,” the cop who first spoke with mother explained to the others. “This guy,” he pointed at me, “was naked, and the lady seems hysterical.”

They all nodded but said nothing; they just stared at me. In the silence, we all heard a creaking from the attic. Grandfather was rolling over in bed.

“What’s that?” Joe snapped. Five or six cops sprang for the attic door before I could intervene or explain.

I realized it would be bad if they burst in on grandfather. He was going through a phase where he believed General Meade’s men were under fire by Stonewall Jackson, and they were beginning to desert. When I got to the attic, things were pretty chaotic. Evidently, grandfather assumed the police were deserters from Meade’s army – trying to hide away in his attic. He leapt out of bed wearing a long, flannel nightgown over woolen underwear, a nightcap, and a leather jacket around his chest. The cops must have immediately realized the angry, white-haired, old man belonged in the house, but they had no chance to say so.

“Back, you cowardly dogs!” Grandfather roared. “Back to the lines, you goddamn, lily-livered cattle!” With that, he gave the officer who found the harp a flat-handed slap upside his head that sent him sprawling. The others retreated, but not fast enough; grandfather grabbed the first cop’s gun and fired. The bang seemed to crack the rafters, and smoke filled the attic. A cop cursed and slapped his hand to his shoulder. Somehow, we all finally got downstairs again and locked the door against the old man. He fired once or twice more and then returned to bed.

“That was grandfather,” I explained to Joe, out of breath. “He thinks you’re deserters.”

“I’ll say he does,” Joe said.

The cops were reluctant to leave without getting their hands on somebody besides grandfather; their night had been a distinct defeat. Furthermore, they obviously didn’t like how the situation ended; I can see their point when they said something seemed fishy. They resumed their search, and a thin-faced reporter approached me.

When I could not find a shirt to wear, I put on one of mother’s blouses. The reporter looked at me with a mixture of suspicion and interest. “Just what the hell is really going on here, Bud?”

I decided to be frank with him. “We had a ghost.”

He gazed at me for a long time – as if I were a slot machine he lost a nickel to – then he walked away. The cops followed him; the one grandfather shot was holding his bandaged arm, cursing. “I’m gonna get my gun back from that old bird.”

“Yea,” Joe said. “You and who else?”

I told them I would bring it to the station house the next day. “What was the matter with that one policeman?” Mother asked after they were gone.

“Grandfather shot him,” I said.

“What for?” She demanded. I told her he was a deserter. “Of all things! He was such a nice-looking young man.” Mother said.

The next morning, grandfather was fresh as a daisy and full of jokes at breakfast. At first, we thought he had forgotten, but he hadn’t. Over his third cup of coffee, he glared at Herman and I. “What was with all them cops stomping around the house last night?” He demanded. He had us there.

Classics Translated

The Empty House

Algernon Blackwood, first published 1906; translated to Modern English, otherwise left exactly the same. 

This story has been added to our Classics in the Rain collection! Hear Danie Dreadful’s magnificent narration here for the full experience!

Certain houses – like certain people – somehow manage to instantly announce themselves as evil. No single feature is to blame; someone might be charming and attractive, but after getting to know each other, you see something is drastically wrong with them. They reveal secret and wicked thoughts that make others avoid them like a plague.

Perhaps it is the same with houses, and the evil deeds committed under a single roof are what give us chills and raise our hair. Maybe some of the evil person’s hatred and their victim’s horror are left behind; it could affect the new occupant – making them feel nervous or frightened for no apparent reason.

Nothing about this particular house hinted at the horror that happened inside. It was neither lonely nor dirty. It stood on a crowded corner of the square and looked identical to the houses on either side. They all had the same number of windows, a balcony over the garden, and white steps leading up to a heavy, black front door. Even the number of chimneys, the angle of the eaves, and the height of the railings were the same. In the back was a narrow strip of green with brick borders running up the wall to separate it from the adjoining houses.

Yet, despite seeming so similar to its fifty ugly neighbors, this house was horribly different.

It is impossible to say exactly where this invisible difference is. It cannot be entirely the imagination because too many people have stayed there without knowing its history; even they claimed that certain rooms were so awful, they would rather die than return. The house’s very atmosphere created a feeling of genuine terror, and the innocent people who tried to live there were forced to leave with hardly any notice. The town practically considered it a scandal.

When Shorty arrived to pay a visit to his Aunt Julia at her little house by the sea, he found her bursting with excitement. He received a telegram from her that morning and expected the visit to be boring, but the moment he kissed her wrinkled cheek – he felt her energy like an electrical wave. The sensation grew when he learned there would be no other visitors; he was summoned for a very special reason.

Something was in the wind, and it would certainly prove useful. This spinster aunt had a passion for psychic research, brains, and willpower; she was known to accomplish her goal by any means necessary. The secret was revealed after tea, and Julia stood close to him as they slowly paced along the beach at dusk.

“I’ve got the keys,” she announced in a delighted, yet disbelieving way. “Got them till Monday!”

“The keys to the changing room, or—?” he asked innocently, looking from the sea to town. Nothing brought her to the point quicker than feigning stupidity.

“Neither,” she whispered. “I’ve got the keys to the haunted house in the square, and I’m going there tonight.”

Shorty felt a slight chill down his back and stopped joking. Something in her voice and behavior stunned him; she was serious. “But you can’t go alone—” he began.

“That’s why I sent for you,” she said confidently.

He turned and saw that her old, ugly, mysterious face was filled with happiness. There was a glow of genuine enthusiasm around it like a halo, and her eyes were shining brightly. He felt another wave of her excitement, and a second, stronger chill came with it.

“Thanks, Aunt Julia,” he said politely; “thanks so much…”

“I wouldn’t dare to go alone,” she raised her voice; “but I’ll enjoy it very much with you – you’re not afraid of anything.”

“Thanks so much,” he repeated. “Er – is it likely that anything will happen?”

“A great deal has already happened, though it’s been covered up very well. Three occupants have come and gone in the last few months, and it’s said the house will stay empty from now on.” She whispered.

In spite of himself, Shorty became interested. His aunt was deathly serious.

“The house is very old indeed,” she continued, “and the unpleasant story dates a long way back. It involves a murder committed by a jealous stableman who had an affair with a house servant. One night, he managed to sneak into the cellar; when everyone was asleep, he crept upstairs to the servants’ quarters, chased the girl down to the next landing, and – before anyone could help – threw her over the rail, into the hall below.”

“And the stableman—?”

“He was caught and hanged for murder, but it happened a century ago; I haven’t been able to get any more details.”

Shorty’s interest was now thoroughly peaked; while he was not particularly worried for himself, he was a little concerned for his aunt. “On one condition,” he said.

“Nothing will stop me from going,” she said firmly; “but I might as well hear your condition.”

“You must guarantee that you’ll be able to control yourself if anything really happens – that you’re sure you won’t get too frightened.”

“Jim, I’m not young and neither are my nerves, but with you – there’s nothing in the world for me to fear!” She said.

This, of course, settled it. Shorty had no hope of ever being more than an ordinary young man; any praise implying otherwise was irresistible. He agreed to go.

By sub-consciously preparing himself, he remained in control of his fear for the whole evening; he imagined packing up his emotions and locking them away. The process is difficult to describe, but wonderfully effective; all men who have lived through severe hardship will understand. Later, it served his reputation well.

It was 10:30 when they left the comfortably lit hallway of his aunt’s home, and Shorty had to hold back his fear for the first time. When the door was closed, he saw the silent, empty street bathed in white moonlight and realized that the real test would be dealing with two fears. He would need to carry his aunt’s as well as his own. Glancing down at her expression – which was difficult to interpret – he realized it would not become any easier in a rush of real terror; he could only be confident of one thing – his ability to stand firm against any shock that might come.

Slowly, they walked along the town’s empty streets; a bright, autumn moon painted the roofs silver and cast deep shadows all around. There was no wind, and the trees lining the beach watched in silence as they passed. Shorty did not reply to his aunt’s occasional remarks; he understood that she was mentally preparing – distracting herself from thinking unnatural thoughts. Few windows were lit, and smoke rose from even fewer chimneys. Shorty was already noticing these small details when they stopped at the corner to read the name on the house; without speaking, they turned into the square and walked to the side that lay in shadow.

“The house number is thirteen,” a voice whispered. Neither of them said more about the obvious reference; instead, they continued walking in silence.

Halfway across the square, Shorty felt an arm slip quietly but purposefully into his own, and he knew their adventure had truly begun. His aunt was already succumbing to the house’s influence; she needed support.

A few minutes later, they stopped in front of a narrow, ugly-shaped house that rose tall into the night and was painted a dingy white. The windows – which were missing their shutters and blinds – stared down on them, shining in the moonlight. There were weather streaks in the walls, cracks in the paint, and the balcony bulged out from the first floor unnaturally, but the pitiful appearance did nothing to warn of such an evil character.

Checking over their shoulders to ensure they were not followed, they ascended the steps with confidence and stood against the huge, foreboding black door. They were hit with a wave of nervousness, and Shorty fumbled with the key for a long time before getting it into the lock. For a moment, they both hoped it would not open; they felt various unpleasant emotions as they stood on the threshold of their ghostly adventure. Shorty – struggling with the key and hindered by the weight on his arm – felt the importance of the moment. It was as if the whole world were watching through his eyes and listening to that grating noise. A stray puff of wind wandered down the empty street and rustled the trees behind them – otherwise the rattling key was the only sound. Finally, it turned in the lock, and the heavy door swung open to reveal a large gulf of darkness.


With a last glance at the moonlit square, they quickly went inside, and the door slammed with a roar that echoed through the empty halls. Another sound was heard, and Aunt Julia suddenly leaned on her nephew hard enough to knock him off balance; he had to take a step back to avoid falling down.

A man had coughed right next to them in the darkness. Thinking it could be a prank, Shorty quickly swung his heavy stick toward the sound, but nothing was there. His aunt gave a little gasp. “There’s someone here, I heard him.” She whispered.

“Be quiet! It was only the front door.” He said sternly.

“Oh! Quick, get a light!” she added as he fumbled with a box of matches and opened it upside-down; they all fell to the stone floor with a rattle.

The sound was not repeated, and there was no evidence of retreating footsteps. Soon, they had a lit candle and the end of a cigar case as a holder; he held up the makeshift lamp and studied their surroundings. Everything about it was dreary; there is nothing more desolate than a dark, forsaken, empty house, yet it was also filled with memories of violence and evil.

They were standing in a wide hallway; on their left was the open door of a spacious dining-room and straight ahead, the hall narrowed into a long, dark passage that led to the top of the kitchen stairs. The staircase rose before them, draped in shadows – except for a spot halfway up where the moon shone through the window. Its light was surrounded by a faint glow, giving the objects it touched a misty outline that created a haunted atmosphere better than total darkness. As Shorty continued staring, he thought of the countless empty rooms upstairs, and he longed for the safety of the moonlit square or his aunt’s cozy home. Then, realizing those thoughts were dangerous, he locked them away again and focused all his concentration on the present.

“Aunt Julia, we must search the whole house thoroughly.” He said forcefully.

The echoes of his voice slowly died away, and in the intense silence that followed, he turned to look at her. In the candlelight, he saw that her face was ghastly pale, but she dropped his arm, stepped in close, and whispered. “I agree. First, we must be sure there’s no one hiding in here.” It took her some effort to speak, and he looked at her with admiration.

“Are you sure? It’s not too late—”

“I think so,” she whispered, her eyes shifting nervously to the shadows behind them. “Quite sure; there’s only one thing—”

“What’s that?”

“You must never leave me alone, not for an instant.”

“As long as you understand that anything we see or hear must be investigated immediately; hesitating would be the same as admitting we’re frightened, and that could be deadly.”

“Agreed,” she said shakily. “I’ll try.”

Arm in arm, Shorty held the dripping candle while Julia carried his cloak over her shoulders; they would have made a funny sight to anyone else as they began their search.

They entered the big dining-room first – walking on tip-toes and shielding the candle to avoid being seen through the windows. There was no furniture – only bare walls, ugly mantel-pieces and empty fireplaces. They felt like everything resented their intrusion and was watching them with hidden eyes. Whispers followed them; shadows darted around silently, and it always seemed as if something were standing right behind them – waiting for an opportunity to hurt them. There was a sense that whatever normally occurred in the empty room had been paused until they were out of the way again. The entire building’s dark interior seemed to become a malignant Presence; it rose up, warning them to mind their own business, and the strain on their nerves increased every moment.

From the gloomy dining-room, they passed through large, folding doors into a sort of library or smoking-room; it was equally as silent, dark, and dusty. From there they returned to the hall near the top of the back stairs.

Here, a pitch black tunnel opened into the lower regions, and they only hesitated for a minute. With the worst of the night still to come, it was essential to search every area. Aunt Julia stumbled on the top step; their descent was poorly lit by the flickering candle, and even Shorty almost tripped.

“Come on!” He demanded, voice echoing off into the dark, empty spaces below.

“I’m coming,” she faltered, grabbing his arm rougher than necessary.

They descended the stone steps unsteadily; the air was cold, damp, and smelly. The stairs led along a narrow passage and into a large kitchen with high ceilings. It had several doors – some belonged to closets with empty jars on the shelves, and others led to horrible, creepy offices – each colder and less inviting than the last. Black beetles scurried around, and when Shorty bumped against a table in the corner, something the size of a cat jumped down – scampering across the stone floor and into the darkness. There was a gloomy sadness everywhere, and a sense that someone had just been there.

Leaving the kitchen, they went towards the scullery (where the dishes and cleaning were once done). The door was slightly open, and as they pushed it wider, Aunt Julia screamed; she instantly tried to stifle it with a hand over her mouth. For a second, Shorty stood completely still, catching his breath. His spine felt as if it were hollowed out and filled with ice.

Standing directly across from the doorway – facing them – stood the figure of a woman. She had messy hair, wild, staring eyes, and her terrified face was white as death.

She stood motionless for a single second. Then the candle flickered, and she was gone; in the door was nothing but empty darkness.

“It was only the beastly candlelight jumping,” he said quickly, in a half-controlled voice that sounded like someone else’s. “Come on; there’s nothing there.”

He dragged her forward, and they tried to seem brave as they continued, but Shorty’s skin crawled as if covered in ants. He knew by the weight on his arm that he was supplying the strength for both of them. The scullery room was cold, bare, and empty; more like a large prison cell than anything else. They walked around it – trying the windows and the door to the yard – but they were all locked. His aunt moved like someone in a dream. Her eyes were squeezed shut, and she seemed to merely follow his arm; her courage amazed him. At the same time, he noticed an odd change had come over her face – a change which he could not quite define.

“There’s nothing here, aunty,” he quickly repeated. “Let’s go upstairs and see the rest of the house. Then we’ll choose a room to wait in.”

She followed him obediently – staying close as they locked the kitchen door behind them. It was a relief to go up again. The moon had traveled further downstairs, making the hall brighter than before. Carefully, they entered the dark vault of the upper floors with the boards creaking under their weight.

They found two large living-rooms, but a search of them revealed nothing. Again, there was no furniture or signs of recent occupation – nothing but dust, neglect, and shadows. They opened the big folding doors between the two rooms and came out onto the landing before continuing upstairs.

They had not gone more than a dozen steps when they both stopped to listen, looking anxiously at each other across the flickering candle. From the room they had just left came the sound of quietly closing doors. There was absolutely no question; they heard the booming noise the heavy doors made when shutting and the sharp sound of the latch catching.

“We must go back and see,” Shorty said in a low tone, turning to go. Somehow, she managed to drag after him, her feet catching in her dress and her face livid.

When they entered the front living-room, it was obvious the folding doors had been closed. Without hesitation, Shorty re-opened them. He almost expected to see someone facing him in the back room, but he was only met with darkness and cold air. They went through both rooms and found nothing unusual. They tried everything they could think of to make the doors close by themselves, but there was not even enough wind to disturb the candle flame. The doors would not move without a strong force, and it was undeniable that the rooms were empty, and the house was completely still.

“It’s beginning,” Shorty hardly recognized his aunt’s voice as she whispered at his elbow.

He nodded in agreement, checking his watch to note the time. It was fifteen minutes before midnight; he wrote exactly what happened in his notebook, setting the candle on the floor in order to do so; it only took a moment to balance it against the wall.

Aunt Julia always said she was not actually watching him at that moment; she had turned towards the inner room where she heard something moving, but both agreed they heard running footsteps – very fast and heavy. Then, the candle went out!

Only Shorty saw more than this, and he has always been grateful for that. As he rose from his stooping position of balancing the candle – but before it was actually extinguished – a face rushed forward so close to his own that he could have kissed it. The man’s face was filled with passion, had thick, dark features, and angry, savage eyes. It belonged to a common man, but it was bursting with intense, aggressive emotions; it wore a malignant and terrible expression.

The air was completely still – there was no movement aside from the muffled sound of running feet, the apparition’s face, and the extinguishing of the candle.

Shorty let out a cry, nearly losing his balance as his aunt clung to him with her full weight in a moment of terror. Fortunately, she had not seen the face and was able to regain control almost immediately; after he was able to get free, he struck a match.

The glare chased away the shadows on all sides as his aunt knelt to retrieve the cigar case with the precious candle. Then, they discovered that the candle had not been blown out at all – it had been crushed out. The wick was pressed down into the wax – which was flattened by something smooth and heavy.

How his companion overcame her terror so quickly, Shorty never properly understood, but his admiration for her increased tenfold and inspired his own courage; for that, he was undeniably grateful. The evidence of physical force they had just witnessed was equally unexplainable. He immediately suppressed memories of hearing about “physical mediums” and their dangerous phenomena; if those were true, and either himself or his aunt was unknowingly a medium – it meant they were helping to focus the forces of a haunted house already at full-charge. It was like carrying an open flame among uncovered supplies of gun-powder.

So, with almost no thought, he simply relit the candle and proceeded to the next floor. The arm in his trembled, and his own steps were uncertain, but they continued being thorough; after the search revealed nothing, they climbed the last flight of stairs to the top floor.

Here, they found a cluster of small servants’ rooms with broken furniture, dirty chairs, cracked mirrors, and decrepit bedsteads. The rooms had low, sloped ceilings, cobwebs, small windows, and badly painted walls; it was a depressing and dismal area they were glad to leave behind.

They entered a small room on the third floor at the stroke of midnight and prepared to make themselves comfortable for the night. It was totally empty and once used as a closet. It was said to be where the infuriated groom had caught his victim. Outside, across the narrow landing, began the stairs leading to the servants’ quarters where they had just searched.

Despite the cold outside, there was something in the air that cried for an open window, but there was more. Shorty could only describe it by saying that he felt less in control of himself here than in any other part of the house. There was something that preyed directly on the nerves, wearing down one’s resolve and weakening his will. It took less than five minutes in the room to realize this, and it was during that time he lost all of his energy, which – for him – was the worst scare of the whole experience.

They put the candle on the floor, leaving the door open a few inches so there was no glare to confuse their eyes and no shadows to dart around. Then, they spread a cloak on the floor and sat down to wait with their backs against the wall.

Shorty was within two feet of the door; he had a good view of the main staircase leading down into darkness and the start of the servants’ stairs going to the floor above. His heavy stick laid nearby within easy reach.

The moon was high above the house. Through the window, they could see the comforting stars like friendly eyes watching from the sky. One by one, the clocks in town struck midnight, and when the sounds died away, the deep silence of a windless night fell over everything. Only the far away boom of the sea was heard as hollow murmurs.

Inside, the silence was awful; any minute, it could be broken by terrifying sounds; the strain of waiting was harder on the nerves. They whispered when they talked – their voices sounding odd and unnatural. The chill in the room was not completely due to the night air, and it made them cold. Whatever was influencing them slowly stole their confidence and ability to make decisions; their self-control was declining, and the possibility of real fear took on a new and terrible meaning. Shorty trembled with worry for the elderly woman by his side; her stubbornness could only protect her against so much.

He heard the blood pumping in his veins. Sometimes, it was so loud, he thought it was preventing him from hearing other sounds coming from deeper within the house. Every time he focused his attention on these noises, they stopped instantly and never came any closer. He could not shake the idea that something was moving in the lower parts of the house. The living-room floor – where the doors were strangely closed – was too close; the sounds were further away than that. He thought of the kitchen, with its scurrying black beetles – and of the dismal scullery, – but they did not seem to come from there either. Surely they were not outside of the house!

Suddenly, he understood the truth, and – for an entire minute – he felt as if his blood had turned to ice. The sounds were not downstairs at all; they were upstairs – somewhere among those horrid, gloomy servants’ rooms with their broken furniture, low ceilings, and cramped windows – where the victim was first awakened and chased to her death!

The moment he realized where the sounds were coming from, he began to hear them more clearly. It was the sound of stealthy feet, walking along the passage overhead, through the rooms and around the furniture.

He turned quickly to peek at the motionless figure beside him to see if she had realized the same thing. The faint candlelight shining through the crack in the closet door illuminated her expressive face against the white wall, but it was something else that stole his breath and caused him to stare. She wore an extraordinary expression – it spread over her features like a mask and smoothed out the wrinkles; with the exception of her old eyes, she appeared quite young again.

He stared, speechless and amazed – an amazement that was dangerously close to horror. It was indeed his aunt’s face but from forty years ago; it was the blank, innocent face of a girl. He knew stories about the strange effect terror could have on someone – it consumes them, dominating all other emotions; Shorty never realized that it could be literal, or that it could mean anything as horrible as what he saw now. The dreadful signs of total fear were written all over her face, and when she felt his intense gaze – she turned to him, but he instinctively closed his eyes to avoid the sight.

When he regained control of his emotions and turned a minute later, he was relieved to see a different expression; his aunt was smiling, and though her face was deathly white – the awful veil was gone, and her normal look was returning.

“Anything wrong?” It was the only thing he could think to say, and the answer was persuasive.

“I feel cold and a little frightened,” she whispered.

He offered to close the window, but she grabbed him and begged him not to leave her side even for an instant.

“It’s upstairs, I know,” she whispered, with an odd laugh; “but I can’t possibly go up.”

Shorty thought otherwise; he knew taking action was their best hope of maintaining self-control. He poured a glass of brandy from his flask – it was strong enough to help anybody through anything, and she swallowed it with a shiver. Now, his only plan was to get out of the house before her inevitable collapse, but they could not safely run away. Doing nothing was no longer an option; he was losing more composure every minute, and it became necessary to use desperate, aggressive measures without further delay. It was unavoidable, and they would need to show great confidence when facing the enemy. He could do it now, but in ten minutes he might not have the strength left!

Upstairs, the sounds were growing louder and closer, accompanied by the occasional creaking floorboards. Someone was sneaking around and bumping into the furniture.

Waiting for the numerous spirits to finish their work, Shorty stood quietly and said in a determined voice, “Now, Aunt Julia, we’ll go upstairs and find out what’s making all this noise. You must come too; it’s what we agreed.”

He picked up his stick and fetched the candle. A limp figure rose shakily beside him – breathing hard and very faint, she said, “ready.” The woman’s courage amazed him; it was much greater than his own. They moved forward with the dripping candle, and this trembling, white-faced, old woman was the true source of his courage. It held something that both shamed him and supported him; without it – he would have failed long before.

They crossed the dark landing, averting their eyes from the deep, black space over the handrails. Then, they ascended the narrow staircase to locate the sounds which were still growing louder and nearer. Halfway up the stairs, Aunt Julia stumbled, and Shorty caught her by the arm. At that moment, there was a loud crash in the servants’ corridor above. It was immediately followed by a shrill, agonized scream that sounded like a cry of terror and a plea for help mixed together.

Before they could move aside or go down a single step, someone came rushing towards them from above, taking the stairs three at a time. The steps were light and uncertain, but close behind them was the sound of a heavier person walking, and it shook the whole staircase.

Shorty and his companion had just enough time to flatten themselves against the wall when the jumble of flying feet reached their location, and two people dashed through the tiny gap between them at full speed. It was a midnight whirlwind of sounds crashing through the empty building.

The two runners kept going and were already racing across the creaking boards below, but Shorty and his aunt saw absolutely nothing – not a hand, arm, face, or even a shred of clothing.

There was a pause before the one being chased ran into the room which Shorty and his aunt had just left. The heavier one followed, and there was a scuffling sound with smothered screaming; then came the step of a single, heavy person on the landing.

A dead silence followed for half of a minute before they heard the sound of rushing air. It was followed by a dull, crashing thud on the lower floors of the house.

It was total silence after; nothing moved. The candle’s flame was steady, and the air was undisturbed. Filled with terror, Aunt Julia began fumbling her way downstairs without waiting for her nephew; she was crying softly to herself, and when Shorty put his arm around her – he could feel her shaking like a leaf. He retrieved the cloak from the little room’s floor, and they marched down the three flights of steps very slowly, without speaking or turning.

They saw nothing in the hall, but the whole way down, they were aware that someone was following them; when they went faster, it was left behind, and when they went slower, it caught up. Never once did they look back; at each turn on the staircase, they lowered their eyes to avoid the horror they might see above.

With trembling hands, Shorty opened the front door; they walked out into the moonlight and breathed in the cool, night air blowing in from the sea.

Horror Fiction

Voodoo Karen

Hey guys, this is just a short, fun CreepyPasta I was playing with on the side. Current Settlers and a few more commissions are underway but I’m not sure which will be next. Thanks for stopping by! 

The CreepyPasta

Hello there, my name is Katie; I found this community because I have a story to tell, and I think it’s one you will appreciate. I’m forty, and I have lived in a small town near New Orleans for my entire life. I’m very well known and respected in the community. Obviously, I can’t tell you exactly who my husband is, but we can call him James here; trust me when I say he is a very important man. I’m no mere housewife, either; I organize all of our church’s fundraisers and volunteer at the homeless shelters. Since we never had children, I’m also very generous to the orphanage every Christmas, and we have two rescue dogs.

I don’t mean to brag, but my background is relevant; without it, you can’t fully appreciate how far I have been pushed in order to reach this point! I am a good person, but I will not be a victim! This is 2022, we live in the age of “see something, say something” after far too many hard lessons were learned. If we see something, it is our responsibility, our duty, to say it loud and clear! If no one will listen, then you have to scream it! If they still won’t listen… Well, that’s why we’re here.

Yesterday began like any other day; after breakfast, James left for the office, and I got ready to run a few errands. The weather was perfect for Sonny and Cher – my pups and the singers! We were listening to I Got You Babe with the windows down when we pulled into the grocery store. We never shop at Walmart or Sam’s Club; sure, I could have the groceries delivered to my vehicle, but we believe it’s important to support our local businesses. That’s just one more reason this entire thing is so upsetting.

Oh, and don’t worry about Sonny and Cher; I would never leave my babies in the car. They rode in the top of the buggy and got plenty of attention; everyone stopped to look at their adorable sweaters when we passed.

We were in the store less than ten minutes when I stopped in produce; the buggy was never more than two feet away at most, but I turned to get one of those plastic bags from the dispenser; the apples were right there – it took less than thirty seconds – yet when I turn back, a small boy was jerking his hand away from my purse! I couldn’t believe it! I was speechless! Then, he had the nerve to ask if he could pet my dogs! He was giggling – grinning ear-to-ear, thinking he was so clever!

Well, those tricks don’t fool me, I saw what he tried to do, and I said so! “I know exactly what you were doing; where are your parents!” That scared him, alright!

He wasn’t giggling anymore; I could see the gears turning in his little brain. I was almost ready to find his mother myself when she emerged from frozen foods. I’m not an unreasonable person; I understand even the best parents can’t keep an eye on their child every second, but especially not one so young. Since no real harm was done, I only wanted a simple apology in order to teach the boy a lesson; his next target might not be so forgiving!

Do you know what the mother – the adult – did? She tried to convince me he was telling the truth! Instead of swallowing her pride for five seconds and admitting her son made a mistake – she behaved more childish than the seven-year-old; she had the audacity to call me a Karen! I see the Karen jokes online, I don’t live under a rock. She was trying to turn the whole thing around on me; in fact, it was becoming fairly obvious she put her son up to the whole thing. She’s running a scam by teaching her child to steal from strangers, and if he gets caught, they have a little routine worked out.

I called her out for it right there in front of everyone, and that’s when I noticed the way she was holding her phone. She was recording everything, and I wanted to slap the smug smile off her face when she saw that I noticed. “I don’t know what you’re so happy about; do you think you can edit the footage to make me look like the bad guy? I have every camera in the store at my disposal! Do you have any clue who my husband is?!” I was screaming by the end.

“I don’t have to change a thing.” She muttered and continued to record in hopes I would do something foolish.

That’s when I saw Ricky (the day manager) headed our way; I’ve known the man for over eight years, and never had a single bad experience. I was beyond shocked when he offered to give me store credit for the inconvenience – like he didn’t even care the boy tried to steal. It wasn’t about the money, those people should be banned from the store! Over my dead body was that woman going to get away with it! She was probably planning to pull the same stunt all over town! Someone had to do something!

I gave her one more chance to apologize, and asked her (nicely) to delete the recording before I called the police. You know what she said?! “Go ahead, racist!” Can you believe that? Did she think more lies would help? Was she trying to scare me? I still don’t know.

When the police came, they separated us to hear our stories; I could see her little phone held up for every second. Obviously, they weren’t going to arrest her, but they needed to keep an eye on that one; who knows what she’ll have the boy doing in another ten years, but that was a worry for later. The immediate priority was making her delete the video. People can do a lot with recordings now, and I did not give that bitch permission to film me; you won’t be surprised to hear the officers couldn’t even do that much!

The video went on to be edited exactly as I feared, and by time that bitch was done – the only parts left were when she goaded me into screaming; it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people – including James – before the day ended. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I demanded the security footage from the grocery store; it’s the least they can do after allowing this to happen. They didn’t want to give it to me at first, but when I reminded them who my husband was – they changed their tune real quick; now, my copies will be ready for pickup by the time I return from New Orleans; I have some special shopping to do in the city, and since I can’t talk about it at home, I came here where others can appreciate the poetic justice! I’m going to purchase a voodoo doll! I’ll give an update this evening.


I’m back! It might sound crazy to some of you, but if you lived near New Orleans, you’d believe in it, too. I’ve seen what these dolls can do. This is the first time I’ve had enough reason to use one myself, but I still need to be careful. I’ve decided not to post the store’s security tapes; it’s better to let everyone think I don’t care… just in case. Considering how easy it is to buy and use a doll, it would be wiser to let Karma have the credit.

It didn’t come with instructions, but the nice lady who sold it to me was happy to demonstrate how it works once I told her the full story. I’m glad, too, because I always thought you needed to attach something that belongs to the person you want to curse; I didn’t realize I needed to use my own hair, but it makes sense that only the owner should be able to use it. After all, accidents happen, and we’re not trying to kill or maim anyone; I only need to picture the woman’s face when I use it!

Maybe I’ll start with her mouth; she needs a hard lesson in common courtesy! Next will be those thieving hands, and Child Protective Services will be contacting her shortly. Who knows what conditions they live in to behave that way. If they get the boy away from her quickly enough, maybe he can still be saved. If not he’ll be moving on to armed robbery before his 18th birthday, you mark my words! Even the woman who sold me the doll said to be ruthless with it. I’m going to get this thing ready, be back soon!


There’s something very wrong with the doll… I followed Madam Voya’s instructions to the letter! Either she sold me bad merchandise or she’s an idiot who doesn’t know how her own products work! Either way you better believe I’m going right back first thing tomorrow morning! If she thought she could rip me off because I live outside the city, then she was sorely mistaken!

I filled my mind with that trashy, thieving woman from the grocery store and put a piece of duct tape over its mouth. Yet, suddenly my mouth was stuck closed; I couldn’t even scream! I pulled the tape off in a panic and pieces of fuzz were ripped from the doll just as skin was ripped from my lips! They’re bleeding and sore; it hurts to eat or drink!

I’m going to bed; I want to be well rested for tomorrow. I plan to be waiting outside that damn shop when it opens, and I’m not leaving until I have a full refund, new doll, and an apology! I’ll be back tomorrow evening to let you know how it went, then my vengeance will finally begin!


What began as an act of community service has turned into my worst nightmare. Rest assured, my life won’t be the only one ruined; if they think they’re going to get away with it, they’re sorely mistaken!

Last night, I put the doll on my dresser before going to bed. Falling asleep was easy, but I woke to a horrible pain around midnight – like someone smashed my head against the wall. I sat up, screaming in the dark, and James turned on a lamp; he was standing near the dresser, confused and frightened by my outburst. He can never know what I’ve done.

The doll was lying on the floor, knocked down as my husband stumbled by in the dark; he hadn’t even noticed it, so I told him it was only a nightmare. After he came to bed, and the lights were off once again, I collected the damn thing on my way to the bathroom. It was safe under the sink until James left for work this morning.

In the shower, I found a nice lump on the back of my skull. I decided to put the doll in a bag stuffed with padding and left it on the bed while digging through the closet. There were only a few small things in the way, but in the seconds it took to move them, Sonny and Cher thought they found a new toy. I knew what was happening the moment I felt their hot breath against my face; they didn’t come when called, and I was moving as fast as I could when it happened.

Teeth closed around my ankle and pulled hard; I fell as I was clearing the closest. My body was jerked side-to-side as Cher enjoyed herself, and it only stopped when Sonny’s jaw clamped onto my wrist. Then, they played tug-of-war; I thought my hand would be torn away, but they finally heard their names through my frantic screams and dropped the doll.

I’m not entirely certain what happened next; I understand Sonny and Cher aren’t to blame… everything just went black… but the dogs are fine, absolutely fine! In fact, they’re napping in their kennels now…

Anyway, I was shaking like a leaf while wrapping my wrist and ankle – not from pain or fear, just good ole rage. I still had to get back to New Orleans so I gritted my teeth and pushed through it. You northerners might not understand what G.R.I.T.S actually stands for, but it’s “Girls Raised in the South” and we mean mother-fucking-business!

I didn’t dare leave the doll behind; I packed it up as planned, and buckled the bag into my backseat. Less than an hour later, I was standing in front of Madam Voya; Her face was expressionless as I showed her each injury, “Do you remember telling me to ‘be ruthless’? Well?! I hope you have excellent insurance; you’re going to pay every doctor and therapist bill that comes from this along with compensation for all the pain and suffering you’ve caused!” I could feel the red heat in my face as I yelled.

“Had the doll worked properly, would you also be held responsible for the injuries it caused?”

The first hint of emotion to touch her face was a smirk, and I barely contained my anger. “Save your mind games for the idiots who usually traipse through here. This is a business! You sell merchandise, and I have paid you; nothing else matters! Now, are you going to fix this or do I need to call the police and Better Business Bureau?”

Her eyes grew wide and fell to the floor; in a much softer voice, she said, “I will need to see the doll in order to identify the defect and unbind you.”

I placed it on the counter between us and she seemed to study it carefully, even going as far to check it under a magnifying lamp. After several minutes she said, “this is very strange; have you seen the intended target since you began? Is it possible these things are happening to her as well?”

That took me by surprise; once it harmed me, I didn’t see a reason to check social media, but it only took a few seconds to confirm. As I clicked Ms Jackson’s Facebook profile, Madam Voya leaned over to see as well. In that moment I had completely forgotten my circumstance; my entire focus centered on the loading page until the smell of burning hair reached my nostrils, and my whole scalp burned.

The doll was left under the lamp’s heat and catching fire; I reached for it, but the Madam was faster. She feigned shock and apologized in an almost groveling way, but I didn’t believe a word of it. The only thing that mattered was undoing whatever trick she was playing. I gave her a very simple choice; she could either release me from her dark magic or I could call the police.

“I will fix the issue right away; it is a very easy process,” or so she claimed.

She retrieved a crystal from beneath the counter, closed her eyes, and chanted while tracing it over the doll’s surface. I could feel its tickle every place it touched, but I didn’t trust anything the woman did. For all I knew she was strengthening my tie to the doll, and I finally understood exactly how foolish it was to go there alone. I had no way to know what her actions were truly capable of.

When she finished the crystal routine, I planned to snatch the doll at the first opportunity and run, but she must have sensed my intention. With one hand still on the doll, she put the crystal away and retrieved a knife instead. “That should do it! Let’s try a test before you drive all the way home again, shall we, Karen?” The grin she wore was pure evil, and her eyes sparkled with sadistic delight.

With the knife raised above her head, I reached across the counter and shoved her backwards. She only stumbled a few steps, but it was all I needed. I grabbed the doll, ran to my car, and had just enough time between cranking and reversing to see Madam Voya in the window, laughing maniacally. As my wheels spun in reverse, I flipped her off screaming, “my name is Katie!”

I flew down the interstate without glancing at my speed and continued the pace after my exit. I didn’t realize what I was doing until sirens filled my rearview mirror. Of course, my streak of horrible luck continued; I understand I was speeding, but the officer was clearly a rookie on a power trip. I can’t begin to fathom why they would let someone that inexperienced work alone.

He was unnecessarily rude from the moment of contact and forced me to step out of the car before I could say a word! I was only trying to explain my situation; he needed to understand this was an emergency, but he wouldn’t listen! The more I tried to explain, the more he interrupted; then he tried to perform a sobriety field test! Never in my life have I been so insulted! “Do you have any idea who my husband is?! Do you understand you’re already fired?! I advise you to get out of my face or call your superiors!” I’ve never been so furious in all my life; I spit the words out like venom.

He did neither; he arrested me! Can you believe that! He said I threatened him! He took my phone without letting me make a call and had the car towed without letting me retrieve my doll or purse! I was in a holding cell for four goddamn hours before I spoke to anyone with a semblance of intelligence. My phone call to James was orgasmic. Within the hour I was free and the officer – who suspiciously had the same last name as Madam Voya – was on unpaid leave; even the reckless driving charge was dropped. See, I wasn’t bluffing about my husband.

The next problem is the towing company; they were already closed when we located my car so we have to wait for morning to get it back. The doll should be safe locked inside, but I’ll feel better when I have it in hand. I’m going to do what I should have done in the first place – Google how to reverse the curse. Madam Voya will rue the day she saw my face when I’m rid of that thing once and for all; I’ll be back tomorrow with another update – then you’ll see!


Ohh, that Voya is a crafty, crafty bitch alright; I probably don’t have much time left, but I plan to use what I do have very wisely. Once I publish this account of her transgressions, I will dedicate the remainder of my life to ending hers. I’ll die happy as long as she goes first; and if there’s any time left over, maybe I’ll pay Ms Jackson a visit, too.

As you can probably guess, the doll was gone; my car was actually vandalized during the night, and the doll was the only thing missing! Can you believe that? I can.

I can’t be certain what they did with it, though judging by the putrid smell trapped in my nostrils, the bugs crawling over my sticky skin, and the painful, itchy bites they leave behind, I would guess they covered the doll in something similar to honey and left it in a dump or sewer. It feels like the bugs are burrowing deeper and deeper into me; it’s only a matter of time before they begin breeding inside my body and I would like to be dead before any eggs hatch.

If I’m able to complete my goals before dying, I’ll try to post one more update. If not, thank you for being here. Remember me, friends; remember the injustices done to me and report this to anyone who will listen. If Voya and Ms Jackson are still out there, they are a danger to society and must be stopped at any cost. Please, don’t let them get away with my murder! I am Katie, not Karen!

Horror Fiction

Infinity Game Confessions (Pt. 4)

 As always, Danie Dreadful has done a phenomenal narration of this story. If you want the full experience please hop over and check it out. Don’t forget to subscribe, she also narrates our Classics in the Rain and many other amazing tales!

I owe a huge thank you to Cat Lionheart (link to his steam and twitch). He has helped me with the actual Wiccan details I lacked, and is also a fantastic writer himself. I highly recommend checking him out; you can find his books on Amazon with this link. If you notice a few discrepancies with the finer details of the supernatural, they were changed for story purposes. Cat’s information is always incredibly fascinating and reliable. That’s why the Librarian is named after him and based on his personality.

The CreepyPasta

Romulus is voiced by the beautiful and talented Emmy, Princess of Dread.

Hey Everyone,

I’m sorry for disappearing on you again, but this is my first day off from the new Library job; the place I was working fired me when I stopped going. The list of stuff I need to tell you is getting out of hand, and it feels like I’ll never catch up. I’m not complaining; I appreciate the hell out of you guys for reading these – but the real world is becoming as dangerous as Mirward so my time is stretched thinner than ever. Can we just dive in?

Let’s start with why I mentioned a stalker in the other post. The first time I noticed people staring at me was one week after playing my Infinity Game. Even then, it took a few more weeks to recognize the same handful of people; one person won’t appear two days in a row, and the same person never visits too many different places. That being said, none of them had approached me at that point, so I never did more than passively acknowledge their existence. For now, just be aware this is stewing in the background; it’s going to come up again in a big way.

I’m not allowed to talk about where the Library is located, what it looks like on the outside, or how to enter, but after catching up with Romulus and giving him all those treats, it was time for work. Cat (the Librarian, not Rom-Tom) showed me to a table where she was nice enough to have gathered the books I needed… though she claimed it was only so I wouldn’t make a mess doing it myself. She always says fun, snarky things like that, but it’s just her way of showing affection; if she genuinely hated me, I would already be dead… or in the dungeon like that guy who spilled his coffee.

Romulus joined me with a loud “Mrowr”, and we worked undisturbed until noon when my alarm reminded me to eat. Hoping Cat would entertain a few questions during lunch, I returned to the ground floor and hovered nearby as she typed at her computer. With a quick glance over the rim of her glasses, the Librarian said, “no” before returning her attention to the monitor.

“Yes ma’am, thank you.” I was walking away when the clacking of the keyboard suddenly stopped, and I turned back hopefully.

“Are you going to the observatory? Don’t. The floors were just waxed.” Cat resumed typing before she finished speaking.

“Yes ma’am…” Hopes crushed, I turned back in the direction of my table. The observatory is located at the top of a tower, and it has a wide, spiral walkway instead of stairs aren. I love lying on a table to look at the sky through its domed, glass ceiling while I eat, but disobeying the Librarian isn’t something to joke about.

Most of my lunch was shared with Romulus, but afterwards, we worked another three hours before a loud thud and sharp cry echoed through the enormous building. Worried for Cat, I followed the sound back to her desk and towards the observatory. When closer, I could hear her deep, gasping breaths and feared the worst. Sprinting the last stretch, I turned a corner to find a crumpled Librarian lying at the base of the observatory ramp, hands covering her face – laughing hysterically.

“And I warned you not to go up there!” Her leg was broken; I don’t know how the hell she wasn’t screaming, but if she used magic I need to learn that spell ASAP.

Her only options all involved accepting my help; I’m sure that was torture. Apparently, there are doctors who specifically care for not-always-fully-human clients, and I got to call one! While we waited, I found a rolling-cart and wheeled Cat to the closest lounge area.

The doctor arrived within twenty minutes, though I’m not sure if it was a man or woman… They were in their 60’s, had a neutral voice, and rounded torso. Cat made me leave for the exam, and the legitimately concerning medical questions regarding my parentage were once again placed on hold. It would be nice to know if I should avoid hospitals; if I get rushed to the ER, will I be at risk of dissection? I need to know these things!

When the doc finally came out an hour later, they said Cat was asking for me. I rushed in without asking my question – which I learned was the intention when a very stoned Librarian exploded with laughter. “That’s one way to avoid your questions! Hey, Romulus was looking for you! Drop some food and scoop his litter while you’re there, would you?” She pushed herself to a sitting position and tried to catch her breath.

“I did that hours ago; do you need anything else? Food or something?” I couldn’t very well ask any questions after that.

“Did you really?” She seemed surprised.

“Well he sure can’t do it himself!” An accidental stomp of irritation slid past my wall of composure.

Whether her decision was drug induced or some combination of guilt and pity – I’m not sure, but Cat thanked me; more importantly, she offered to answer one question. I was speechless; there were too many choices to pick just one, but if I didn’t hurry she could change her mind… or pass out. That is exactly the kind of pressure I crack under.

“Do I have any special powers?” Damnit; the word vomit left an embarrassing taste in my mouth as I waited for her to laugh and shoo me away.

“Probably. Couldn’t know for sure without a few tests… Or you could just try a bunch of stuff and see if anything works.” She shrugged – brow furrowed in concentration, her slur barely noticeable.

She seemed to be giving the answer serious thought, and I was afraid to break the magical moment by speaking; especially if there was a chance I actually did have powers! “Whatever you do, don’t try to fly; that’s the last one you wanna figure out by trial and error!” She added, bursting into another round of laughter.

When I asked what would be ok, all I got was, “Romulus likes a fresh blanket before bed; they’re in the bottom drawer. If you want to come back tomorrow, I suppose that would be fine. Goodnight.”

It was best to quit while ahead. As you know, I’ll eventually lose my job and working at the Library will become official, but that pales in comparison to the other things I need to tell you so we probably won’t go into that too much more today.


All my spare time in the Library was dedicated to Infinity Game research – including the Game Genie. Guys, I was right – there’s a way to cheat time and a few other things, but I’m still in the process of translating how! There’s also a Co-op Mode, but I’m struggling with how to utilize the information. I’m sure you remember the horrible examples that clearly warn against having multiple players in one game. Well, there’s actually two ways around this. One is a sanctioned two-player option the Boss added, and the other is a loophole he can’t really do anything about.

If you want to play a single game with two people, you will only need one additional person to guard your mirrors in the real world. The pentagram will need to be a little larger to accommodate the extra participant, otherwise the setup remains the same. When ready to begin, the two main players should stand back-to-back in the center – each facing their own reflection; it’s best if their steps are synchronized to enter simultaneously.

Once inside, the watcher must immediately step between the mirrors; one person is enough to block the way for both. From the Lobby, the players will see two mirrors side-by-side, and it’s vital they only exit through the one they entered. Aside from these points, everything else is the same. If both teammates make it to the Boss, they each get a wish.

Now for the multiplayer oversight. Technically this will let you play with an unlimited number of people – well, as many as you can convince to try, at least. It might be easier to give you an example with this one, but I want to start by saying this should never ever be combined with the official two-player method… ever

Let’s say you have twenty people in a huge, empty warehouse. They would draw ten pentagrams and split into teams of two for ten individual games. Each player who enters the Lobby will be alone with the usual setup, but once they exit into Mirward, they’ll all be in the same place; the rest of the game will proceed as normal and survivors are welcome to make their wish.

My problem with this being a possibility is the fact I don’t trust anyone else enough to play with them. Sure – there’s Jess – but I refuse to get her killed. I don’t think she would want to go, but that’s not a risk I’m willing to take. There’s no point in mentioning it to her unless we meet someone else worth considering.

While we’re on Mirward updates, I’ll add what I’ve learned from new conversations with Casey. I haven’t been able to talk to her as much as I’d like, but it’s better than nothing. Now that I’m aware of the strict time limit, I try to focus on the most important questions. The thing you guys have pointed out most is the fact Casey seemed perfectly eager to sell me out in the beginning; she still tried to manipulate Jess and only helped me when all her efforts failed. That’s obviously a very good point and probably my largest source of distrust. Below was her response, and it sounded honest to me, but please, formulate your own opinions.

Casey’s Reply:

Of course I had evil intentions! I wanted the whole life for myself just like everyone else; I’ve never pretended to be a saint. Although, when that wasn’t possible, I decided on a long con – like you suspected; if I couldn’t get you in the first game, I probably could have by the third… Then I realized how much better our real plan would work if we actually did it. What we’ve put together is genius – much better than anything one of us could do alone! Let’s not be like those idiots who double-cross each other at the very end and lose it all – let’s just fucking win!

See what I mean? She has a fair point. Did it make me trust her? No. But I think there’s a legitimate chance she could be telling the truth, and – at the very least – she’d need to behave until the end.

Oh, and I know this isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme, but for the record – it’s confirmed; the armband doesn’t need to be red. Though I recommend bright, flamboyant colors.

You’ll remember the next question from last time; when we were discussing the unfortunate living conditions in Mirward, it seemed like the reflections of poor people would live in luxury, but that turned out to be wrong. Their homes are physically nicer, and that’s about it. There’s no such thing as a safe neighborhood or happy family; they don’t have laws or governments. Their world is policed by power, and demons – or Infitialis, as they’re called over there – often have the most.

Learning these things was enough to make me stop playing; the Library can teach me all I want to know without ever being in danger. I was even trying to think of a way to tell all of you, but then I found out what happens to the souls taken by the Boss – as in what happened to my mother’s. Quitting isn’t an option, guys.

Did you know reincarnation is real? There’s no time to go over the hundred scenarios that could develop under different circumstances between life and rebirth, but that’s how the process usually ends. There’s very few exceptions to the rule, but since the one requirement for being reborn is a soul – you can see how selling one might cause a hiccup in the system.

It’s not like she ceased to exist – that dipshit owns her, like a dog taken from the streets! I’m not sure exactly what I thought happened to her, but it revolved around being eaten; it seemed like souls were a food source for demons. Well, technically, I suppose they are, but it’s different than how our own bodies take in nourishment – there’s no waste to expel. Imagine if it were possible to swallow a chicken whole, and it stayed alive inside of you… Okay, that’s admittedly not the best metaphor, but that is the actual concept. The animal would basically act as a battery for your energy or – in the demon’s case – powers.

My mother is his unwilling puppet; the list of possibilities went on for an entire chapter and were too depressing to finish in one sitting. By owning a soul that belongs to our world, he can do all sorts of things – even lead unsuspecting victims to their doom. You’ve probably heard stories where cries for help lure people into an abandoned home or a forest; though Skin Walkers are blamed for the bulk of forest incidents in America – the Demon’s Lure is much more common.

Most of you probably know the true story behind Anabelle – the possessed doll; two roommates thought they were allowing a child to enter the vessel – but surprise! That’s actually a pretty common trick. The Boss can’t just visit our world on a whim; he’s bound by the same rules we are. I wonder if he has a reflection… I’ll have to add that to my list of questions.

After my third day at the Library, Cat offered to answer one more question. This time, I was prepared. “How do I save Mom’s soul?”

She didn’t laugh at that one. “You can’t, I’m sorry.” She really was, too.

“Why? Demons can take souls, and I’m half of that, aren’t I?”

With a sad sigh she adjusted her glasses and sat up. “Yes… but what do you think a soul is? You can’t touch one; it won’t be laying around for the taking. They must be bound to an object – like a crystal – and that takes a vast amount of energy. Even full-fledged demons barely have enough power to negate death and bind the soul… Look, I know that’s not what you wanted to hear, but if there was a way to do it, I would tell you.”

“Let’s pretend I have that energy and a bag of crystals; what would be my next step?” I had tunnel vision, nothing could sway my focus.

“Any powers you might have don’t apply to this situation; they’re like muscles, and you’ve never used yours. On the extremely rare chance you possess the potential for those abilities… I don’t know where to begin… the years it would take to condition your mind and body alone are incalculable. Not to mention the fact you would be killed immediately upon trying to steal a soul from a demon. How about you ask a different question?” She was trying to be gentle, but I didn’t want to push my luck.

“What exercises can I do to help that particular muscle grow?” Of everything Cat said, it seemed like step one would be figuring out if I have any special abilities to begin with. It doesn’t matter how long it takes; if I need to spend the next twenty years meditating four hours every day, that’s what I’ll do, and – believe me – I’ve been meditating.

This time her sigh was much longer before she began. “Come here, and give me your hand.”

“Neat! Are you going to read my palm?” Her eye-roll said no, but I’m not sure what else to call it.

“I need silence,” and that’s exactly what she got; she only looked at my open palm for a few seconds before placing her own directly above it and closing her eyes.

I had to bite my tongue when a look of shock, confusion, or fear (I’m not sure which) crossed her face; it was gone almost immediately, and she pretended it didn’t happen when I asked about it. What she did say wasn’t much and created a list of new questions. “Did your mother cast any spells on you as a child? Did you ever take part in or witness any kind of ritual she may have performed? Think very carefully.”

The sudden seriousness to her tone was concerning, but the number or actual rituals I was involved with before the Infinity Game could be counted on one hand. I only went with Mom if it was something basic, and she couldn’t find a babysitter. Cat waved the idea off – she was fishing for something specific, I just don’t know what yet.

“Come back tomorrow, I want to run a few tests before saying anything for certain.” Well, my curiosity was successfully peaked. I wanted nothing more than to race home and return with the sunrise, but as always – fate had other things in mind.


It’s time to talk about the stalkers again; there are five routes I use to get between work and home. Since I can’t drive straight to the Library – each day involves parking my car at a different location and utilizing public transportation for the rest of the way. I assigned each route a number, and – to keep it random – I let the die (geez, that’s the singular for dice?!) decide which way to go. Sixes are rolled again, but five-sided dice aren’t really a thing. On this particular day, I rolled a three and turned south.

Route 3 isn’t too bad; it’s no Route 5, that’s for damn sure. From the Library to the subway is four blocks, and there aren’t many people on those particular streets at night. I usually feel safer once I lay eyes on the current stalker; it makes me feel better to keep track of them, but I didn’t see anyone on the first two blocks. By this point they were basically a permanent fixture; if I didn’t see them, it wasn’t because they weren’t there. The idea they could be getting smarter was terrifying.

When a greyhound bus passed by, I broke into a run and crossed the street behind it. If the stalker was close, they would need to hurry. I went in the opposite direction hoping their concern with my deviation would outweigh caution, and it worked a little too well. Once around the corner, I came to an abrupt halt and turned back to watch the street. It appeared within seconds, but I couldn’t see a face, and what I did see didn’t look human. It was a short, sickly thin figure shrouded in a black veil; only the shape of skeletal legs could be discerned beneath, and one bony finger was lifted, pointing in my direction. When it noticed me looking that way, it suddenly became blurry – like I was seeing a VHS recording – and when it was clear again, there was a suddenly woman standing in its place. That’s new.

A car I hadn’t noticed passed between us and I took the opportunity to run. I went down three more blocks, taking random turns through back alleyways before stopping to check my location. My train left in five minutes, but there was no way to get there in time. It was already dark, and my car was at least an hour away; I felt exposed standing in the open and resumed walking to contemplate my options. I couldn’t call Dad, or Jess; they weren’t exactly in the area, and I also didn’t want them near me if my stalkers weren’t even human.

I’ve always considered myself a cautious person because it sounds better than paranoid, but there’s no sugarcoating how it felt out there; every person could have been another one of those ghoul things, and that’s exactly how I treated them. I must have looked insane, but that’s something I’ve grown used to over the years. The alleyways all had looming shadows at their entrance, but the dark spaces between the cars parked along the curb were just as sinister; I stayed in the center of the sidewalk with my eyes darting each way and my arms tucked in like someone was waiting to drag me away.

It wasn’t too long before I ducked inside a Chinese restaurant and sat myself in the back corner. No one else came in during the time it took to eat an order of honey chicken, and I could finally think straight again. Luckily, there was still time to catch the next train – why that notion never occurred to me originally I can only blame on pure panic.

My anxiety tried to spike when I was back outside, but it was nothing like before. When the subway station was in sight, I could have cried with relief, but the feeling was short-lived. Leaning over the rail, pretending to look at his watch, was the first stalker I had ever noticed. I froze in place, not knowing if I should keep going or turn back – both options sounded horrible, but there would be more people on the subway. The moment I resumed walking, the man casually descended before me. I almost ran away then, but I felt a horrible certainty he would be right behind me either way; at least on the subway, I was guaranteed a few witnesses.

The platform was crowded; the stalker was standing against the wall with his face in a newspaper, but it was him. The train before mine came, and people poured out in a wave as the next bunch climbed in. Had I noticed how empty the platform would be, I would have hopped on and taken my chances with its destination; instead, I was stuck there with a stalker and one very old lady with shopping bags looped around her walker. It would be fifteen minutes until my ride came, and I decided waiting on the street would be safer than a nearly empty subway station.

The moment I tried to leave, a heavy thud made me jump, and I looked back to see one of the old lady’s bags had fallen. Cans were rolling across the platform, and she had a look of utter anguish on her face as she worked to position herself around the walker. When I looked towards the man, he surprised me by maintaining eye contact instead of looking away; he gave one firm shake of his head before nodding towards the stairway – as if saying “don’t help; go up to the street.”

The problem with this entire incident is that I didn’t have time to think; it was happening too fast. The old lady was bracing herself to retrieve the first can, and it was sad as hell; the only explanation I could think of for the stalker’s behavior was that he might want to eat her – how should I know what ghouls do for their jollies? She certainly seemed like an easy target… so yea, I helped her, and I chose fucking poorly.

“I’ll get it ma’am!” I jogged over, keeping one eye on the man as the lady thanked me and launched into a dialogue about her grandson not having time to do her shopping that week. I smiled and nodded politely while gathering her cans, but she herself held none of my attention. I never reacted until the man lunged forward, and by then it was almost too late. I didn’t wait to see his intentions – I dove forward on sheer instinct as if my body was being controlled by someone else.

The instant I turned to look for the stalker, a gray blur was flying at me, and I was back on the ground, struggling for breath as my vision blurred from the impact. I could see well enough to know the old lady was the one strangling me, but she was much stronger than she looked. Her fingers were ice-cold bars of steel as I tried to pry them from my neck, and her weight was crushing my chest. We couldn’t have been that way more than a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

When she was suddenly removed, I began choking for air, and my throat was on fire; frantically wiping the tears from my eyes, I crawled backwards – away from the two blurry figures who were still fighting. I was more confused than ever; the old lady was in full ghoul-form, and the man wasn’t completely human either. He definitely didn’t resemble the others; I couldn’t see clearly enough to give an accurate description, but he was much larger. They were moving so fast my eyes couldn’t keep track, but it ended with the man grabbing the ghoul’s throat in one hand, and with the other, he hooked his fingers beneath her jaw-bone – ripping off her head. The creature disintegrated into a black smoke cloud and evaporated as a new crowd of people came downstairs.

They were flooding the platform, but not one person seemed to suspect anything unusual had occurred. Suddenly, the man was standing over me with his hand outstretched; he was tall with short, black hair and resembled Robert Downey Jr a little. For some reason, I took his hand; the moment we made contact, time froze and the world faded away. We were no longer on the subway but in a small, white room with a table and two chairs.

“Don’t worry, we didn’t really go anywhere; this is so we can talk privately; when we’re finished, no time will have passed out there.” He took a seat and the second chair slid away from the table for me to do the same.

“Are you telling me we’re communicating telepathically? While frozen in the instant you were helping me to my feet?” I can’t begin to describe the thoughts racing through my mind; there was too much to process.

“Yes, very good. I’m sorry about your mother, by the way. She was a wonderful woman.” His smile seemed sincere, but I still didn’t know who or what he was.

“Right… and how did you know Sandra?” I tried to sound casual and probably didn’t.

“If you’re going to test someone, try to do so with information that isn’t available to the public. Had I done the research to know your mother is dead, I would certainly know her name was Elle; would you like to try something else?” He didn’t say it in a demeaning way – it sounded like a genuine offer.

“I’d still like to know how you knew her.”

“This may be hard for you to hear, but technically, I’m your father.”

“Shut the fuck up!” I accidentally spit the words out in a disbelieving laugh. “I mean… that’s a little hard to believe.”

He wasn’t phased by my outburst, but he looked at me the exact same way I look at puzzles, and that was slightly unnerving. “There’s a lot of her in you. Yes, I suspected it would be difficult for you if we met before you were ready, but I had little choice. I even waited to see if you could handle it alone, but I think you would have died without help.

My hand went to my face and the burning sensation was rekindled as I felt bloody, inflamed scratch-marks trailing from my cheek down to my neck. “I guess so, but why? Why are they after me? Why do you suddenly care?”

“You’re asking questions that don’t have simple answers, but simple is all we have time for. I can only hold this state for so long in your world so listen carefully. The entity you call ‘the Boss’ has known exactly what you are since your visit to… ugh, what do you call it? Mirward?” I nodded and he continued, “once he has a Halfling’s scent it’s a simple matter to identify their Sire; unfortunately for you, he and I have a rather sordid past.”

“I’m sorry, what?” I was torn on whether or not to believe a word of it.

“To be fair, you made it much worse by playing his game. I’m impressed you’ve done as well as you have, but by our standards you’re still in diapers. Those things were only keeping an eye on you at first, but now that you’ve been spending time at the Library and having those little chats with your reflection – they’re kicking things up a notch.” He was talking faster; it was everything I could do to keep up with his words.

“They know about the Library and Casey?” I’m not sure why those were the items to stick out, but they were.

“Yes, Page, the extremely powerful demons are aware of the extremely powerful witches.” He was beginning to doubt my intelligence. “We need to get moving, but don’t trust strangers for any reason; they can only assume the appearance they had in life, and demons can only appear as the souls they own. Pack some bags to take with you tomorrow, and use the shortest route; I’ll be watching. Don’t leave the Library again until I give you a signal; it’s the only place you’ll be safe while I handle things with that little troll directly.”

“Does the Library have a magical protection like Hogwarts?” I asked louder than intended.

“Uh, well… yes, but more importantly the Librarian is the only one around with enough power to keep you alive in my absence.” He stood, reaching his hand to me.

“A witch can be that powerful?! With a broken leg?!”

A look of shock crossed over his face. “She’s not just a witch… and I seriously doubt she… you know what, never mind. Yes, she’s that powerful – even with a broken leg. Let’s go.”

I didn’t have a choice; he reached across and grabbed my hand before I understood what he was doing. We were suddenly back in the subway, and I was being pulled to my feet. Everything was how we left it, and we boarded the train a few minutes later. He wouldn’t answer anymore questions – not even when I asked his name. He only said one more thing before leaving me at my car; “You’re lucky; if you were human those scratches would have already dissolved your face. Tomorrow, ask the Librarian for a tonic.” Then he vanished before my eyes.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I met my biological father.


Holy crap it’s getting late… ok, I know you guys require a certain level of flow and elegance with your stories, and you’re a top tier audience of fine people who deserve nothing less, but I really can’t stress how desperate I am to convey this last part before I have to post and run. One day – if I live through all of this – I swear I’ll make it up to you with one full length saga of all the little details I missed. Until then, I’m going for ‘get the information out before I’m murdered.’

After a very paranoid, sleepless night, I packed a few bags and had a wonderfully boring trip to the Library. It took an insanely long time to explain everything to Cat, but her only reaction was, “might as well work you full-time then.”

She wouldn’t answer any questions about her own abilities, but her leg was snapped in half, yet she was good as new in less than two weeks; there’s definitely a story in there. As for me, I spent the majority of that day being used like a lab rat while she poked and poisoned me. I drank foul liquids, had my blood drawn, and performed dozens of odd tasks. That Librarian has a brutal poker face; I could never tell if the results were good or bad, and she never gave any indication before moving on to the next.

I’m not sure what I expected… maybe a list of powers I would develop and how to use them, but that was naive even for me. What I actually learned was surprising nevertheless. Growing up, I was taught demons are entities born from vast quantities of pain, rage, and hatred; that’s it – end of story, but apparently there are higher level Daemons that have always existed. My father happens to be one of those.

They aren’t well known in our world; they normally operate on a much larger scale than possessions or “hauntings” for lack of a better word. If these guys are involved, it’s because something huge is in the works – like the Holocaust. They don’t waste their time planning or creating tragedies, (humans can manage that part just fine) but they’re drawn to it and can influence those involved – sometimes worsening and prolonging the situation.

It’s extremely rare for them to reproduce, and when they do, it’s always with a human. There are less than ten of us known throughout history, but most are killed before maturing because our blood is… let’s just say it’s valuable; not by itself, though… so don’t get any ideas. The point is – that’s the reason we’re hidden here. The parent doesn’t traditionally reveal their identity until they’re forced; my situation was particularly unique, but normally it happens because humans eventually notice when someone stops aging.

When the Age of Maturity is reached, we’re expected to “come home”. At that time, there is a complex ritual to “shed our human half”. I’m not going to lie – I was excited about everything until that point. I don’t care if Demons have a bad reputation; I’m not evil – I don’t want anyone to suffer – I just want superpowers! I’m so afraid of Karma, I was thinking about doing a weekend vigilante type thing, but there’s no way I’m going to that place. Unfortunately, there are no records of anyone finding a way around it… except for the ones that died, obviously.

The bright side is that I should have years to figure it out; I shouldn’t stop aging until my thirties. In the meantime, there are more immediate problems at hand. I still need to save Mom’s soul above all else, and I’ve put off Mirward for too long. The next trip won’t be about visiting the Boss; it’s more like a scavenger hunt. The plan is to visit their Library; Cat and I are interested to see if there are differences in the actual books. There’s a locked section I’m not allowed into where the most powerful Light Magic books are located. There’s a chance Mirward’s section might contain new information regarding the Darkest Magic… or it could be a rat’s nest of shredded paper in a condemned building – there’s no way to know without looking.

Alright guys, I’m out of time. Hopefully, I’ll be making the trip Mirward this weekend; I’ll do my best to get an update to you faster, but no promises. Since I still can’t leave the Library, Cat is going to be my guard. There’s a special room in the basement for dangerous rituals, so theoretically, I shouldn’t have to go outside after the Lobby. The hope is to go directly from the basement to the restricted area and back – before anything “wakes up”.

That should do it for this one; at least we got through the basics. Oh, and in case you weren’t aware – that Danie Dreadful chick narrated my second and third updates as well. They sound really cool; if you wanna check them out, the links have been added to their respective posts, and I suppose that means she’ll read this one, too. Huh… so… that kinda means I have the power to make her say anything, doesn’t it? Damn… I wish I would’ve realized sooner. I’ll try to remember for next time, until then, be safe out there; sometimes they really are out to get you!

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 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. 

Nightmare’s Edge did an amazing narration of this one; I highly recommend listening to it for the full experience!

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

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

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.