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Author Topic: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai  (Read 1373 times)

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Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« on: October 01, 2013, 05:26:25 AM »
Hands vermillion,
Start of five,
Bright cotillion,
Ravens dive,
Nightshade promise,
Spirits thrive,
To the living,
Let now the dead

Come alive!

Once more the season of the witch has arrived, bringing with it the cold, the damp, and the promise that things will rarely be as they seem.  I suggest to you that we seize this moment and resume our round of hyakumonogatari kaidankai.  To remind the elders and introduce the newcomers, hyakumonogatari kaidankai is a Japanese tradition where people recount spooky stories amid one hundred candles.  When someone finishes a story he or she snuffs out a candle.  The gloom grows; voices become shaky.  Finally, when that last candle is snuffed out, a spirit or spirits visit the storytellers in the darkness.

So they say, anyhow.

My goodness -- five years we've been doing this now!  "Five years"... why does that ring a bell?  Hmm.  I have a strange feeling about this year, though, don't you?  I think that this might very well be the year that we snuff out that final candle, whichever one it ends up being.  What will happen then?  Will the ghosts who visit us prove helpful or hateful?

I'm starting this new thread instead of invoking last year's thread, the thread from the year before that, the thread from the year before that, or the original thread.  In that way all of our affairs will be in order.  If you're unusually brave, though, consider venturing into those older threads.  You may wish to notify your next of kin beforehand -- just as a precaution, of course.

Do you have a spooky story to tell?  Superb.  All of us, living and not-quite-so-living, are excited to hear what you have to say.  As always, the story can be true or it can perhaps alter certain facts (to protect the innocent, naturally, even if we ourselves are no longer among them); it can have happened to you or to someone else; it can be brief or lengthy.  Although I encourage you to tell multiple stories, I do recommend including only one story per post.  Finally, if you tell someone else's story, please give due credit.

Are you ready?  Good.

We'd just snuffed out the thirty-second candle when the dawn of November 1 arrived; thirty-one candles remain.  I think that I'll begin this session by excerpting from an impeccable source: British Medical Journal.  Are you familiar with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's classic The Hound of the Baskervilles, wherein sleuth Sherlock Holmes investigates a case which includes a man who has died of fright?  Well, so too were the conductors of this fascinating study, who realized that sometimes life does imitate art.

The Hound of the Baskervilles effect: natural experiment on the influence of psychological stress on timing of death

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Charles Baskerville died from a heart attack induced by stress; this "Baskerville effect" seems to exist in fact as well as in fiction.

Unlike white people, Chinese and Japanese associate the number 4 with death.  Cardiac mortality in Chinese and Japanese Americans peaks on the fourth day of the month, even though this date is not consistently associated with changes in the physical or medical environment.

Our findings are consistent with the scientific literature and with a famous, non-scientific story.  The Baskerville effect exists both in fact and in fiction and suggests that Conan Doyle was not only a great writer but a remarkably intuitive physician as well.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Thirty candles remain...


Because my fear of you will break my heart in two...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2013, 05:28:11 AM »
Hmmm... was that too dry for you?  But death comes in all forms: dry, wet, sudden, slow, painless, painful, excruciating, neat, up, on the rocks, with a twist --

Oh -- I'm sorry!  The chill must be getting to me.  Yes: That must be it.  Let me finish up this invigorating glass of the Glenlivet... and this of Potocki...

Ah!  Much better.  Ahem.  Was that paper about the Baskerville effect too dry for you?  Well, how about something a little damper?  I offer you "The Upper Berth" by F. Marion Crawford.

The Upper Berth


Somebody asked for the cigars.  We had talked long, and the conversation was beginning to languish; the tobacco smoke had got into the heavy curtains, the wine had got into those brains which were liable to become heavy, and it was already perfectly evident that, unless somebody did something to rouse our oppressed spirits, the meeting would soon come to its natural conclusion, and we, the guests, would speedily go home to bed, and most certainly to sleep.  No one had said anything very remarkable; it may be that no one had anything very remarkable to say.  Jones had given us every particular of his last hunting adventure in Yorkshire.  Mr. Tompkins, of Boston, had explained at elaborate length those working principles, by the due and careful maintenance of which the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fé Railroad not only extended its territory, increased its departmental influence, and transported live stock without starving them to death before the day of actual delivery, but, also, had for years succeeded in deceiving those passengers who bought its tickets into the fallacious belief that the corporation aforesaid was really able to transport human life without destroying it.  Signor Tombola had endeavoured to persuade us, by arguments which we took no trouble to oppose, that the unity of his country in no way resembled the average modern torpedo, carefully planned, constructed with all the skill of the greatest European arsenals, but, when constructed, destined to be directed by feeble hands into a region where it must undoubtedly explode, unseen, unfeared, and unheard, into the illimitable wastes of political chaos.

It is unnecessary to go into further details.  The conversation had assumed proportions which would have bored Prometheus on his rock, which would have driven Tantalus to distraction, and which would have impelled Ixion to seek relaxation in the simple but instructive dialogues of Herr Ollendorff, rather than submit to the greater evil of listening to our talk.  We had sat at table for hours; we were bored, we were tired, and nobody showed signs of moving.

Somebody called for cigars.  We all instinctively looked towards the speaker.  Brisbane was a man of five-and-thirty years of age, and remarkable for those gifts which chiefly attract the attention of men.  He was a strong man.  The external proportions of his figure presented nothing extraordinary to the common eye, though his size was above the average.  He was a little over six feet in height, and moderately broad in the shoulder; he did not appear to be stout, but, on the other hand, he was certainly not thin; his small head was supported by a strong and sinewy neck; his broad muscular hands appeared to possess a peculiar skill in breaking walnuts without the assistance of the ordinary cracker, and, seeing him in profile, one could not help remarking the extraordinary breadth of his sleeves, and the unusual thickness of his chest.  He was one of those men who are commonly spoken of among men as deceptive; that is to say, that though he looked exceedingly strong he was in reality very much stronger than he looked.  Of his features I need say little.  His head is small, his hair is thin, his eyes are blue, his nose is large, he has a small moustache, and a square jaw.  Everybody knows Brisbane, and when he asked for a cigar everybody looked at him.

"It is a very singular thing," said Brisbane.

Everybody stopped talking.  Brisbane's voice was not loud, but possessed a peculiar quality of penetrating general conversation, and cutting it like a knife.  Everybody listened.  Brisbane, perceiving that he had attracted their general attention, lit his cigar with great equanimity.

"It is very singular," he continued, "that thing about ghosts.  People are always asking whether anybody has seen a ghost.  I have."

"Bosh!  What, you?  You don't mean to say so, Brisbane?  Well, for a man of his intelligence!"

A chorus of exclamations greeted Brisbane's remarkable statement.  Everybody called for cigars, and Stubbs the butler suddenly appeared from the depths of nowhere with a fresh bottle of dry champagne.  The situation was saved; Brisbane was going to tell a story.

I am an old sailor, said Brisbane, and as I have to cross the Atlantic pretty often, I have my favourites.  Most men have their favourites.  I have seen a man wait in a Broadway bar for three-quarters of an hour for a particular car which he liked.  I believe the bar-keeper made at least one-third of his living by that man's preference.  I have a habit of waiting for certain ships when I am obliged to cross that duck-pond.  It may be a prejudice, but I was never cheated out of a good passage but once in my life.  I remember it very well; it was a warm morning in June, and the Custom House officials, who were hanging about waiting for a steamer already on her way up from the Quarantine, presented a peculiarly hazy and thoughtful appearance.  I had not much luggage -- I never have.  I mingled with the crowd of passengers, porters, and officious individuals in blue coats and brass buttons, who seemed to spring up like mushrooms from the deck of a moored steamer to obtrude their unnecessary services upon the independent passenger.  I have often noticed with a certain interest the spontaneous evolution of these fellows.  They are not there when you arrive; five minutes after the pilot has called "Go ahead!" they, or at least their blue coats and brass buttons, have disappeared from deck and gangway as completely as though they had been consigned to that locker which tradition unanimously ascribes to Davy Jones.  But, at the moment of starting, they are there, clean-shaved, blue-coated, and ravenous for fees.  I hastened on board.  The Kamtschatka was one of my favourite ships.  I say was, because she emphatically no longer is.  I cannot conceive of any inducement which could entice me to make another voyage in her.  Yes, I know what you are going to say.  She is uncommonly clean in the run aft, she has enough bluffing off in the bows to keep her dry, and the lower berths are most of them double.  She has a lot of advantages, but I won't cross in her again.  Excuse the digression.  I got on board.  I hailed a steward, whose red nose and redder whiskers were equally familiar to me.

"One hundred and five, lower berth," said I, in the businesslike tone peculiar to men who think no more of crossing the Atlantic than taking a whisky cocktail at downtown Delmonico's.

The steward took my portmanteau, great coat, and rug.  I shall never forget the expression of his face.  Not that he turned pale.  It is maintained by the most eminent divines that even miracles cannot change the course of nature.  I have no hesitation in saying that he did not turn pale; but, from his expression, I judged that he was either about to shed tears, to sneeze, or to drop my portmanteau.  As the latter contained two bottles of particularly fine old sherry presented to me for my voyage by my old friend Snigginson van Pickyns, I felt extremely nervous.  But the steward did none of these things.

"Well, I'm d----d!" said he in a low voice, and led the way.

I supposed my Hermes, as he led me to the lower regions, had had a little grog, but I said nothing, and followed him.  One hundred and five was on the port side, well aft.  There was nothing remarkable about the state-room.  The lower berth, like most of those upon the Kamtschatka, was double.  There was plenty of room; there was the usual washing apparatus, calculated to convey an idea of luxury to the mind of a North-American Indian; there were the usual inefficient racks of brown wood, in which it is more easy to hang a large-sized umbrella than the common tooth-brush of commerce.  Upon the uninviting mattresses were carefully folded together those blankets which a great modern humorist has aptly compared to cold buckwheat cakes.  The question of towels was left entirely to the imagination.  The glass decanters were filled with a transparent liquid faintly tinged with brown, but from which an odor less faint, but not more pleasing, ascended to the nostrils, like a far-off sea-sick reminiscence of oily machinery.  Sad-coloured curtains half-closed the upper berth.  The hazy June daylight shed a faint illumination upon the desolate little scene.  Ugh! how I hate that state-room!

The steward deposited my traps and looked at me, as though he wanted to get away -- probably in search of more passengers and more fees.  It is always a good plan to start in favour with those functionaries, and I accordingly gave him certain coins there and then.

"I'll try and make yer comfortable all I can," he remarked, as he put the coins in his pocket.  Nevertheless, there was a doubtful intonation in his voice which surprised me.  Possibly his scale of fees had gone up, and he was not satisfied; but on the whole I was inclined to think that, as he himself would have expressed it, he was "the better for a glass."  I was wrong, however, and did the man injustice.


Nothing especially worthy of mention occurred during that day.  We left the pier punctually, and it was very pleasant to be fairly under way, for the weather was warm and sultry, and the motion of the steamer produced a refreshing breeze.  Everybody knows what the first day at sea is like.  People pace the decks and stare at each other, and occasionally meet acquaintances whom they did not know to be on board.  There is the usual uncertainty as to whether the food will be good, bad, or indifferent, until the first two meals have put the matter beyond a doubt; there is the usual uncertainty about the weather, until the ship is fairly off Fire Island.  The tables are crowded at first, and then suddenly thinned.  Pale-faced people spring from their seats and precipitate themselves towards the door, and each old sailor breathes more freely as his sea-sick neighbour rushes from his side, leaving him plenty of elbow room and an unlimited command over the mustard.

One passage across the Atlantic is very much like another, and we who cross very often do not make the voyage for the sake of novelty.  Whales and icebergs are indeed always objects of interest, but, after all, one whale is very much like another whale, and one rarely sees an iceberg at close quarters.  To the majority of us the most delightful moment of the day on board an ocean steamer is when we have taken our last turn on deck, have smoked our last cigar, and having succeeded in tiring ourselves, feel at liberty to turn in with a clear conscience.  On that first night of the voyage I felt particularly lazy, and went to bed in one hundred and five rather earlier than I usually do.  As I turned in, I was amazed to see that I was to have a companion.  A portmanteau, very like my own, lay in the opposite corner, and in the upper berth had been deposited a neatly folded rug with a stick and umbrella.  I had hoped to be alone, and I was disappointed; but I wondered who my room-mate was to be, and I determined to have a look at him.

Before I had been long in bed he entered.  He was, as far as I could see, a very tall man, very thin, very pale, with sandy hair and whiskers and colourless grey eyes.  He had about him, I thought, an air of rather dubious fashion; the sort of man you might see in Wall Street, without being able precisely to say what he was doing there -- the sort of man who frequents the Café Anglais, who always seems to be alone and who drinks champagne; you might meet him on a race-course, but he would never appear to be doing anything there either.  A little over-dressed -- a little odd.  There are three or four of his kind on every ocean steamer.  I made up my mind that I did not care to make his acquaintance, and I went to sleep saying to myself that I would study his habits in order to avoid him.  If he rose early, I would rise late; if he went to bed late, I would go to bed early.  I did not care to know him.  If you once know people of that kind they are always turning up.  Poor fellow!  I need not have taken the trouble to come to so many decisions about him, for I never saw him again after that first night in one hundred and five.

I was sleeping soundly when I was suddenly waked by a loud noise.  To judge from the sound, my room-mate must have sprung with a single leap from the upper berth to the floor.  I heard him fumbling with the latch and bolt of the door, which opened almost immediately, and then I heard his footsteps as he ran at full speed down the passage, leaving the door open behind him.  The ship was rolling a little, and I expected to hear him stumble or fall, but he ran as though he were running for his life.  The door swung on its hinges with the motion of the vessel, and the sound annoyed me.  I got up and shut it, and groped my way back to my berth in the darkness.  I went to sleep again; but I have no idea how long I slept.

When I awoke it was still quite dark, but I felt a disagreeable sensation of cold, and it seemed to me that the air was damp.  You know the peculiar smell of a cabin which has been wet with sea water.  I covered myself up as well as I could and dozed off again, framing complaints to be made the next day, and selecting the most powerful epithets in the language.  I could hear my room-mate turn over in the upper berth.  He had probably returned while I was asleep.  Once I thought I heard him groan, and I argued that he was sea-sick.  That is particularly unpleasant when one is below.  Nevertheless I dozed off and slept till early daylight.

The ship was rolling heavily, much more than on the previous evening, and the grey light which came in through the porthole changed in tint with every movement according as the angle of the vessel's side turned the glass seawards or skywards.  It was very cold -- unaccountably so for the month of June.  I turned my head and looked at the porthole, and saw to my surprise that it was wide open and hooked back.  I believe I swore audibly.  Then I got up and shut it.  As I turned back I glanced at the upper berth.  The curtains were drawn close together; my companion had probably felt cold as well as I.  It struck me that I had slept enough.  The state-room was uncomfortable, though, strange to say, I could not smell the dampness which had annoyed me in the night.  My room-mate was still asleep -- excellent opportunity for avoiding him, so I dressed at once and went on deck.  The day was warm and cloudy, with an oily smell on the water.  It was seven o'clock as I came out -- much later than I had imagined.  I came across the doctor, who was taking his first sniff of the morning air.  He was a young man from the West of Ireland -- a tremendous fellow, with black hair and blue eyes, already inclined to be stout; he had a happy-go-lucky, healthy look about him which was rather attractive.

"Fine morning," I remarked, by way of introduction.

"Well," said he, eying me with an air of ready interest, "it's a fine morning and it's not a fine morning.  I don't think it's much of a morning."

"Well, no -- it is not so very fine," said I.

"It's just what I call fuggly weather," replied the doctor.

"It was very cold last night, I thought," I remarked.  "However, when I looked about, I found that the porthole was wide open.  I had not noticed it when I went to bed.  And the state-room was damp, too."

"Damp!" said he.  "Whereabouts are you?"

"One hundred and five -- "

To my surprise the doctor started visibly, and stared at me.

"What is the matter?" I asked.

"Oh -- nothing," he answered; "only everybody has complained of that state-room for the last three trips."

"I shall complain too," I said.  "It has certainly not been properly aired.  It is a shame!"

"I don't believe it can be helped," answered the doctor.  "I believe there is something -- well, it is not my business to frighten passengers."

"You need not be afraid of frightening me," I replied.  "I can stand any amount of damp.  If I should get a bad cold I will come to you."

I offered the doctor a cigar, which he took and examined very critically.

"It is not so much the damp," he remarked.  "However, I dare say you will get on very well.  Have you a room-mate?"

"Yes; a deuce of a fellow, who bolts out in the middle of the night and leaves the door open."

Again the doctor glanced curiously at me.  Then he lit the cigar and looked grave.

"Did he come back?" he asked presently.

"Yes.  I was asleep, but I waked up and heard him moving.  Then I felt cold and went to sleep again.  This morning I found the porthole open."

"Look here," said the doctor, quietly, "I don't care much for this ship.  I don't care a rap for her reputation.  I tell you what I will do.  I have a good-sized place up here.  I will share it with you, though I don't know you from Adam."

I was very much surprised at the proposition.  I could not imagine why he should take such a sudden interest in my welfare.  However, his manner as he spoke of the ship was peculiar.

"You are very good, doctor," I said.  "But really, I believe even now the cabin could be aired, or cleaned out, or something.  Why do you not care for the ship?"

"We are not superstitious in our profession, sir," replied the doctor.  "But the sea makes people so.  I don't want to prejudice you, and I don't want to frighten you, but if you will take my advice you will move in here.  I would as soon see you overboard," he added, "as know that you or any other man was to sleep in one hundred and five."

"Good gracious! Why?" I asked.

"Just because on the last three trips the people who have slept there actually have gone overboard," he answered, gravely.

The intelligence was startling and exceedingly unpleasant, I confess.  I looked hard at the doctor to see whether he was making game of me, but he looked perfectly serious.  I thanked him warmly for his offer, but told him I intended to be the exception to the rule by which every one who slept in that particular state-room went overboard.  He did not say much, but looked as grave as ever, and hinted that before we got across I should probably reconsider his proposal.  In the course of time we went to breakfast, at which only an inconsiderable number of passengers assembled.  I noticed that one or two of the officers who breakfasted with us looked grave.  After breakfast I went into my state-room in order to get a book.  The curtains of the upper berth were still closely drawn.  Not a word was to be heard.  My room-mate was probably still asleep.

As I came out I met the steward whose business it was to look after me.  He whispered that the captain wanted to see me, and then scuttled away down the passage as if very anxious to avoid any questions.  I went toward the captain's cabin, and found him waiting for me.

"Sir," said he, "I want to ask a favour of you."

I answered that I would do anything to oblige him.

"Your room-mate has disappeared," he said.  "He is known to have turned in early last night.  Did you notice anything extraordinary in his manner?"

The question coming, as it did, in exact confirmation of the fears the doctor had expressed half an hour earlier, staggered me.

"You don't mean to say he has gone overboard?" I asked.

"I fear he has," answered the captain.

"This is the most extraordinary thing -- " I began.

"Why?" he asked.

"He is the fourth, then?" I explained.  In answer to another question from the captain, I explained, without mentioning the doctor, that I had heard the story concerning one hundred and five.  He seemed very much annoyed at hearing that I knew of it.  I told him what had occurred in the night.

"What you say," he replied, "coincides almost exactly with what was told me by the room-mates of two of the other three.  They bolt out of bed and run down the passage.  Two of them were seen to go overboard by the watch; we stopped and lowered boats, but they were not found.  Nobody, however, saw or heard the man who was lost last night -- if he is really lost.  The steward, who is a superstitious fellow, perhaps, and expected something to go wrong, went to look for him this morning, and found his berth empty, but his clothes lying about, just as he had left them.  The steward was the only man on board who knew him by sight, and he has been searching everywhere for him.  He has disappeared!  Now, sir, I want to beg you not to mention the circumstance to any of the passengers; I don't want the ship to get a bad name, and nothing hangs about an ocean-goer like stories of suicides.  You shall have your choice of any one of the officers' cabins you like, including my own, for the rest of the passage.  Is that a fair bargain?"

"Very," said I; "and I am much obliged to you.  But since I am alone, and have the state-room to myself, I would rather not move.  If the steward will take out that unfortunate man's things, I would as leave stay where I am.  I will not say anything about the matter, and I think I can promise you that I will not follow my room-mate."

The captain tried to dissuade me from my intention, but I preferred having a state-room alone to being the chum of any officer on board.  I do not know whether I acted foolishly, but if I had taken his advice I should have had nothing more to tell.  There would have remained the disagreeable coincidence of several suicides occurring among men who had slept in the same cabin, but that would have been all.

That was not the end of the matter, however, by any means.  I obstinately made up my mind that I would not be disturbed by such tales, and I even went so far as to argue the question with the captain.  There was something wrong about the state-room, I said.  It was rather damp.  The porthole had been left open last night.  My room-mate might have been ill when he came on board, and he might have become delirious after he went to bed.  He might even now be hiding somewhere on board, and might be found later.  The place ought to be aired and the fastening of the port looked to.  If the captain would give me leave, I would see that what I thought necessary were done immediately.

"Of course you have a right to stay where you are if you please," he replied, rather petulantly; "but I wish you would turn out and let me lock the place up, and be done with it."

I did not see it in the same light, and left the captain, after promising to be silent concerning the disappearance of my companion.  The latter had had no acquaintances on board, and was not missed in the course of the day.  Towards evening I met the doctor again, and he asked me whether I had changed my mind.  I told him I had not.

"Then you will before long," he said, very gravely.


We played whist in the evening, and I went to bed late.  I will confess now that I felt a disagreeable sensation when I entered my state-room.  I could not help thinking of the tall man I had seen on the previous night, who was now dead, drowned, tossing about in the long swell, two or three hundred miles astern.  His face rose very distinctly before me as I undressed, and I even went so far as to draw back the curtains of the upper berth, as though to persuade myself that he was actually gone.  I also bolted the door of the state-room.  Suddenly I became aware that the porthole was open, and fastened back.  This was more than I could stand.  I hastily threw on my dressing-gown and went in search of Robert, the steward of my passage.  I was very angry, I remember, and when I found him I dragged him roughly to the door of one hundred and five, and pushed him towards the open porthole.

"What the deuce do you mean, you scoundrel, by leaving that port open every night?  Don't you know it is against the regulations?  Don't you know that if the ship heeled and the water began to come in, ten men could not shut it?  I will report you to the captain, you blackguard, for endangering the ship!"

I was exceedingly wroth.  The man trembled and turned pale, and then began to shut the round glass plate with the heavy brass fittings.

"Why don't you answer me?" I said, roughly.

"If you please, sir," faltered Robert, "there's nobody on board as can keep this 'ere port shut at night.  You can try it yourself, sir.  I ain't a-going to stop hany longer on board o' this vessel, sir; I ain't, indeed.  But if I was you, sir, I'd just clear out and go and sleep with the surgeon, or something, I would.  Look 'ere, sir, is that fastened what you may call securely, or not, sir?  Try it, sir, see if it will move a hinch."

I tried the port, and found it perfectly tight.

"Well, sir," continued Robert, triumphantly, "I wager my reputation as a A1 steward, that in 'arf an hour it will be open again; fastened back, too, sir, that's the horful thing -- fastened back!"

I examined the great screw and the looped nut that ran on it.

"If I find it open in the night, Robert, I will give you a sovereign.  It is not possible.  You may go."

"Soverin' did you say, sir?  Very good, sir.  Thank ye, sir.  Good night, sir.  Pleasant reepose, sir, and all manner of hinchantin' dreams, sir."

Robert scuttled away, delighted at being released.  Of course, I thought he was trying to account for his negligence by a silly story, intended to frighten me, and I disbelieved him.  The consequence was that he got his sovereign, and I spent a very peculiarly unpleasant night.

I went to bed, and five minutes after I had rolled myself up in my blankets the inexorable Robert extinguished the light that burned steadily behind the ground-glass pane near the door.  I lay quite still in the dark trying to go to sleep, but I soon found that impossible.  It had been some satisfaction to be angry with the steward, and the diversion had banished that unpleasant sensation I had at first experienced when I thought of the drowned man who had been my chum; but I was no longer sleepy, and I lay awake for some time, occasionally glancing at the porthole, which I could just see from where I lay, and which, in the darkness, looked like a faintly-luminous soup-plate suspended in blackness.  I believe I must have lain there for an hour, and, as I remember, I was just dozing into sleep when I was roused by a draught of cold air and by distinctly feeling the spray of the sea blown upon my face.  I started to my feet, and not having allowed in the dark for the motion of the ship, I was instantly thrown violently across the state-room upon the couch which was placed beneath the porthole.  I recovered myself immediately, however, and climbed upon my knees.  The porthole was again wide open and fastened back!

Now these things are facts.  I was wide awake when I got up, and I should certainly have been waked by the fall had I still been dozing.  Moreover, I bruised my elbows and knees badly, and the bruises were there on the following morning to testify to the fact, if I myself had doubted it.  The porthole was wide open and fastened back -- a thing so unaccountable that I remember very well feeling astonishment rather than fear when I discovered it.  I at once closed the plate again and screwed down the loop nut with all my strength.  It was very dark in the state-room.  I reflected that the port had certainly been opened within an hour after Robert had at first shut it in my presence, and I determined to watch it and see whether it would open again.  Those brass fittings are very heavy and by no means easy to move; I could not believe that the clump had been turned by the shaking of the screw.  I stood peering out through the thick glass at the alternate white and grey streaks of the sea that foamed beneath the ship's side.  I must have remained there a quarter of an hour.

Suddenly, as I stood, I distinctly heard something moving behind me in one of the berths, and a moment afterwards, just as I turned instinctively to look -- though I could, of course, see nothing in the darkness -- I heard a very faint groan.  I sprang across the state-room, and tore the curtains of the upper berth aside, thrusting in my hands to discover if there were any one there.  There was some one.

I remember that the sensation as I put my hands forward was as though I were plunging them into the air of a damp cellar, and from behind the curtain came a gust of wind that smelled horribly of stagnant sea-water.  I laid hold of something that had the shape of a man's arm, but was smooth, and wet, and icy cold.  But suddenly, as I pulled, the creature sprang violently forward against me, a clammy, oozy mass, as it seemed to me, heavy and wet, yet endowed with a sort of supernatural strength.  I reeled across the state-room, and in an instant the door opened and the thing rushed out.  I had not had time to be frightened, and quickly recovering myself, I sprang through the door and gave chase at the top of my speed, but I was too late.  Ten yards before me I could see -- I am sure I saw it -- a dark shadow moving in the dimly lighted passage, quickly as the shadow of a fast horse thrown before a dog-cart by the lamp on a dark night.  But in a moment it had disappeared, and I found myself holding on to the polished rail that ran along the bulkhead where the passage turned towards the companion.  My hair stood on end, and the cold perspiration rolled down my face.  I am not ashamed of it in the least: I was very badly frightened.

Still I doubted my senses, and pulled myself together.  It was absurd, I thought.  The Welsh rare-bit I had eaten had disagreed with me.  I had been in a nightmare.  I made my way back to my state-room, and entered it with an effort.  The whole place smelled of stagnant sea-water, as it had when I had waked on the previous evening.  It required my utmost strength to go in and grope among my things for a box of wax lights.  As I lighted a railway reading lantern which I always carry in case I want to read after the lamps are out, I perceived that the porthole was again open, and a sort of creeping horror began to take possession of me which I never felt before, nor wish to feel again.  But I got a light and proceeded to examine the upper berth, expecting to find it drenched with sea-water.

But I was disappointed.  The bed had been slept in, and the smell of the sea was strong; but the bedding was as dry as a bone.  I fancied that Robert had not had the courage to make the bed after the accident of the previous night -- it had all been a hideous dream.  I drew the curtains back as far as I could and examined the place very carefully.  It was perfectly dry.  But the porthole was open again.  With a sort of dull bewilderment of horror, I closed it and screwed it down, and thrusting my heavy stick through the brass loop, wrenched it with all my might, till the thick metal began to bend under the pressure.  Then I hooked my reading lantern into the red velvet at the head of the couch, and sat down to recover my senses if I could.  I sat there all night, unable to think of rest -- hardly able to think at all.  But the porthole remained closed, and I did not believe it would now open again without the application of a considerable force.

The morning dawned at last, and I dressed myself slowly, thinking over all that had happened in the night.  It was a beautiful day and I went on deck, glad to get out in the early, pure sunshine, and to smell the breeze from the blue water, so different from the noisome, stagnant odour from my state-room.  Instinctively I turned aft, towards the surgeon's cabin.  There he stood, with a pipe in his mouth, taking his morning airing precisely as on the preceding day.

"Good-morning," said he, quietly, but looking at me with evident curiosity.

"Doctor, you were quite right," said I.  "There is something wrong about that place."

"I thought you would change your mind," he answered, rather triumphantly.  "You have had a bad night, eh?  Shall I make you a pick-me-up?  I have a capital recipe."

"No, thanks," I cried.  "But I would like to tell you what happened."

I then tried to explain as clearly as possible precisely what had occurred, not omitting to state that I had been scared as I had never been scared in my whole life before.  I dwelt particularly on the phenomenon of the porthole, which was a fact to which I could testify, even if the rest had been an illusion.  I had closed it twice in the night, and the second time I had actually bent the brass in wrenching it with my stick.  I believe I insisted a good deal on this point.

"You seem to think I am likely to doubt the story," said the doctor, smiling at the detailed account of the state of the porthole.  "I do not doubt it in the least.  I renew my invitation to you.  Bring your traps here, and take half my cabin."

"Come and take half of mine for one night," I said.  "Help me to get at the bottom of this thing."

"You will get to the bottom of something else if you try," answered the doctor.

"What?" I asked.

"The bottom of the sea.  I am going to leave the ship.  It is not canny."

"Then you will not help me to find out -- "

"Not I," said the doctor, quickly.  "It is my business to keep my wits about me -- not to go fiddling about with ghosts and things."

"Do you really believe it is a ghost?" I inquired, rather contemptuously.  But as I spoke I remembered very well the horrible sensation of the supernatural which had got possession of me during the night.  The doctor turned sharply on me --

"Have you any reasonable explanation of these things to offer?" he asked.  "No; you have not.  Well, you say you will find an explanation.  I say that you won't, sir, simply because there is not any."

"But, my dear sir," I retorted, "do you, a man of science, mean to tell me that such things cannot be explained?"

"I do," he answered, stoutly.  "And, if they could, I would not be concerned in the explanation."

I did not care to spend another night alone in the state-room, and yet I was obstinately determined to get at the root of the disturbances.  I do not believe there are many men who would have slept there alone, after passing two such nights.  But I made up my mind to try it, if I could not get any one to share a watch with me.  The doctor was evidently not inclined for such an experiment.  He said he was a surgeon, and that in case any accident occurred on board he must always be in readiness.  He could not afford to have his nerves unsettled.  Perhaps he was quite right, but I am inclined to think that his precaution was prompted by his inclination.  On inquiry, he informed me that there was no one on board who would be likely to join me in my investigations, and after a little more conversation I left him.  A little later I met the captain, and told him my story.  I said that if no one would spend the night with me I would ask leave to have the light burning all night, and would try it alone.

"Look here," said he, "I will tell you what I will do.  I will share your watch myself, and we will see what happens.  It is my belief that we can find out between us.  There may be some fellow skulking on board, who steals a passage by frightening the passengers.  It is just possible that there may be something queer in the carpentering of that berth."

I suggested taking the ship's carpenter below and examining the place; but I was overjoyed at the captain's offer to spend the night with me.  He accordingly sent for the workman and ordered him to do anything I required.  We went below at once.  I had all the bedding cleared out of the upper berth, and we examined the place thoroughly to see if there was a board loose anywhere, or a panel which could be opened or pushed aside.  We tried the planks everywhere, tapped the flooring, unscrewed the fittings of the lower berth and took it to pieces -- in short, there was not a square inch of the state-room which was not searched and tested.  Everything was in perfect order, and we put everything back in its place.  As we were finishing our work, Robert came to the door and looked in.

"Well, sir -- find anything, sir?" he asked with a ghastly grin.

"You were right about the porthole, Robert," I said, and I gave him the promised sovereign.  The carpenter did his work silently and skilfully, following my directions.  When he had done he spoke.

"I'm a plain man, sir," he said.  "But it's my belief you had better just turn out your things and let me run half a dozen four inch screws through the door of this cabin.  There's no good never came o' this cabin yet, sir, and that's all about it.  There's been four lives lost out o' here to my own remembrance, and that in four trips.  Better give it up, sir -- better give it up!"

"I will try it for one night more," I said.

"Better give it up, sir -- better give it up!  It's a precious bad job," repeated the workman, putting his tools in his bag and leaving the cabin.

But my spirits had risen considerably at the prospect of having the captain's company, and I made up my mind not to be prevented from going to the end of the strange business.  I abstained from Welsh rare-bits and grog that evening, and did not even join in the customary game of whist.  I wanted to be quite sure of my nerves, and my vanity made me anxious to make a good figure in the captain's eyes.


The captain was one of those splendidly tough and cheerful specimens of seafaring humanity whose combined courage, hardihood, and calmness in difficulty leads them naturally into high positions of trust.  He was not the man to be led away by an idle tale, and the mere fact that he was willing to join me in the investigation was proof that he thought there was something seriously wrong, which could not be accounted for on ordinary theories, nor laughed down as a common superstition.  To some extent, too, his reputation was at stake, as well as the reputation of the ship.  It is no light thing to lose passengers overboard, and he knew it.

About ten o'clock that evening, as I was smoking a last cigar, he came up to me and drew me aside from the beat of the other passengers who were patrolling the deck in the warm darkness.

"This is a serious matter, Mr. Brisbane," he said.  "We must make up our minds either way -- to be disappointed or to have a pretty rough time of it.  You see, I cannot afford to laugh at the affair, and I will ask you to sign your name to a statement of whatever occurs.  If nothing happens to-night we will try it again to-morrow and next day.  Are you ready?"

So we went below, and entered the state-room.  As we went in I could see Robert the steward, who stood a little further down the passage, watching us, with his usual grin, as though certain that something dreadful was about to happen.  The captain closed the door behind us and bolted it.

"Supposing we put your portmanteau before the door," he suggested.  "One of us can sit on it.  Nothing can get out then.  Is the port screwed down?"

I found it as I had left it in the morning.  Indeed, without using a lever, as I had done, no one could have opened it.  I drew back the curtains of the upper berth so that I could see well into it.  By the captain's advice I lighted my reading-lantern, and placed it so that it shone upon the white sheets above.  He insisted upon sitting on the portmanteau, declaring that he wished to be able to swear that he had sat before the door.

Then he requested me to search the state-room thoroughly, an operation very soon accomplished, as it consisted merely in looking beneath the lower berth and under the couch below the porthole.  The spaces were quite empty.

"It is impossible for any human being to get in," I said, "or for any human being to open the port."

"Very good," said the captain, calmly.  "If we see anything now, it must be either imagination or something supernatural."

I sat down on the edge of the lower berth.

"The first time it happened," said the captain, crossing his legs and leaning back against the door, "was in March.  The passenger who slept here, in the upper berth, turned out to have been a lunatic -- at all events, he was known to have been a little touched, and he had taken his passage without the knowledge of his friends.  He rushed out in the middle of the night, and threw himself overboard, before the officer who had the watch could stop him.  We stopped and lowered a boat; it was a quiet night, just before that heavy weather came on; but we could not find him.  Of course his suicide was afterwards accounted for on the ground of his insanity."

"I suppose that often happens?" I remarked, rather absently.

"Not often -- no," said the captain; "never before in my experience, though I have heard of it happening on board of other ships.  Well, as I was saying, that occurred in March.  On the very next trip --  What are you looking at?" he asked, stopping suddenly in his narration.

I believe I gave no answer.  My eyes were riveted upon the porthole.  It seemed to me that the brass loop-nut was beginning to turn very slowly upon the screw -- so slowly, however, that I was not sure it moved at all.  I watched it intently, fixing its position in my mind, and trying to ascertain whether it changed.  Seeing where I was looking, the captain looked too.

"It moves!" he exclaimed, in a tone of conviction.  "No, it does not," he added, after a minute.

"If it were the jarring of the screw," said I, "it would have opened during the day; but I found it this evening jammed tight as I left it this morning."

I rose and tried the nut.  It was certainly loosened, for by an effort I could move it with my hands.

"The queer thing," said the captain, "is that the second man who was lost is supposed to have got through that very port.  We had a terrible time over it.  It was in the middle of the night, and the weather was very heavy; there was an alarm that one of the ports was open and the sea running in. I came below and found everything flooded, the water pouring in every time she rolled, and the whole port swinging from the top bolts -- not the porthole in the middle.  Well, we managed to shut it, but the water did some damage.  Ever since that the place smells of sea-water from time to time.  We supposed the passenger had thrown himself out, though the Lord only knows how he did it.  The steward kept telling me that he could not keep anything shut here.  Upon my word -- I can smell it now, cannot you?" he inquired, sniffing the air suspiciously.

"Yes -- distinctly," I said, and I shuddered as that same odour of stagnant sea-water grew stronger in the cabin.  "Now, to smell like this, the place must be damp," I continued, "and yet when I examined it with the carpenter this morning everything was perfectly dry.  It is most extraordinary -- hallo!"

My reading-lantern, which had been placed in the upper berth, was suddenly extinguished.  There was still a good deal of light from the pane of ground glass near the door, behind which loomed the regulation lamp.  The ship rolled heavily, and the curtain of the upper berth swung far out into the state-room and back again.  I rose quickly from my seat on the edge of the bed, and the captain at the same moment started to his feet with a loud cry of surprise.  I had turned with the intention of taking down the lantern to examine it, when I heard his exclamation, and immediately afterwards his call for help.  I sprang towards him.  He was wrestling with all his might, with the brass loop of the port.  It seemed to turn against his hands in spite of all his efforts.  I caught up my cane, a heavy oak stick I always used to carry, and thrust it through the ring and bore on it with all my strength.  But the strong wood snapped suddenly, and I fell upon the couch.  When I rose again the port was wide open, and the captain was standing with his back against the door, pale to the lips.

"There is something in that berth!" he cried, in a strange voice, his eyes almost starting from his head.  "Hold the door, while I look -- it shall not escape us, whatever it is!"

But instead of taking his place, I sprang upon the lower bed, and seized something which lay in the upper berth.

It was something ghostly, horrible beyond words, and it moved in my grip.  It was like the body of a man long drowned, and yet it moved, and had the strength of ten men living; but I gripped it with all my might -- the slippery, oozy, horrible thing.  The dead white eyes seemed to stare at me out of the dusk; the putrid odour of rank sea-water was about it, and its shiny hair hung in foul wet curls over its dead face.  I wrestled with the dead thing; it thrust itself upon me and forced me back and nearly broke my arms; it wound its corpse's arms about my neck, the living death, and overpowered me, so that I, at last, cried aloud and fell, and left my hold.

As I fell the thing sprang across me, and seemed to throw itself upon the captain.  When I last saw him on his feet his face was white and his lips set.  It seemed to me that he struck a violent blow at the dead being, and then he, too, fell forward upon his face, with an inarticulate cry of horror.

The thing paused an instant, seeming to hover over his prostrate body, and I could have screamed again for very fright, but I had no voice left.  The thing vanished suddenly, and it seemed to my disturbed senses that it made its exit through the open port, though how that was possible, considering the smallness of the aperture, is more than any one can tell.  I lay a long time upon the floor, and the captain lay beside me.  At last I partially recovered my senses and moved, and I instantly knew that my arm was broken -- the small bone of the left forearm near the wrist.

I got upon my feet somehow, and with my remaining hand I tried to raise the captain.  He groaned and moved, and at last came to himself.  He was not hurt, but he seemed badly stunned.

Well, do you want to hear any more?  There is nothing more.  That is the end of my story.  The carpenter carried out his scheme of running half a dozen four-inch screws through the door of one hundred and five; and if ever you take a passage in the Kamtschatka, you may ask for a berth in that state-room.  You will be told that it is engaged -- yes -- it is engaged by that dead thing.

I finished the trip in the surgeon's cabin.  He doctored my broken arm, and advised me not to "fiddle about with ghosts and things" any more.  The captain was very silent, and never sailed again in that ship, though it is still running.  And I will not sail in her either.  It was a very disagreeable experience, and I was very badly frightened, which is a thing I do not like.  That is all.  That is how I saw a ghost -- if it was a ghost.  It was dead, anyhow.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-nine candles remain...


He breaks the night; sleep tight...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2013, 05:29:34 AM »
Out of respect to the tremendous power of the number four, as detailed earlier, I'm going to tell two more stories right now, if you'll permit me.  If your heart starts to tremble, then stops entirely, and you feel yourself slipping away, please know that you will be well-remembered -- unlike the following event.

Scream from the Graveyard

This happened to me in 1963.  At the time I was 17 years of age and lived with my parents in a village called East Rainton in County Durham in the U.K.  We lived in a house in a small row of houses opposite a small church, which had an overrun graveyard with graves from the 1800s.  As a kid, my father told me stories of sightings of apparitions over the years.

One night, some friends and I had been to a disco.  As they lived in another part of the village, we went different ways, leaving me to walk past the graveyard alone.  As I approached the only light on the road side, I stopped to look at my watch.  It was dead on 12 midnight.

There was an almighty scream -- like the scream of a woman -- coming from within the graveyard.  It was so loud, even my friends heard it and came running back to where I stood.  The scream did not stop, but became less and less in volume until it eventually disappeared.

The local bobby (policeman), who lived near my parents, heard this from inside his house and came over.  Together, we all walked through the graveyard, but found nothing.  I am now 65 years of age, but the memory of that night is still with me.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-eight candles remain...


I've started digging holes, my friend, and this one here is for you...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #3 on: October 01, 2013, 05:30:59 AM »
Even those of us who aren't inherently compassionate will likely be affected by the screaming of others, because the screaming of others makes us recognize that we might soon be screaming ourselves.  We can fear pain; we can fear death.  But what if death doesn't ensure that our screaming will cease?  Consider this curious tale...

The Shrieking Mummy of the Field Museum

One night, during roughly the 1930s, a museum guard at the Field Museum heard a bloodcurdling scream coming from the Egyptian wing.  He found no one there, but one of the mummies had fallen from its base and was lying face down inside of its case.

When the story is repeated today, it's usually said that the mummy was that of Harwa, the Doorkeeper of the Temple of Amun which has been in the museum's collection since 1904.  However, the earliest known mention of the incident (a Bulletin from the Field Museum reprinting an older piece by Henry Field from 1953) says it was naked, and Harwa is still covered, like a decent mummy.

Field, an anthropologist and grand-nephew of Marshall Field, wrote that he studied it carefully, but could find no possible explanation for why the thing fell over, and no way a person could have knocked it down -- the locked case was filled with poison fumes to keep bugs out.

Field wrote:

The base extended at least four inches on each side of the dried skin and bones.  No living person could have entered the poisoned case.  No vibration in the building could have knocked it off the base without rending the walls, for the museum floats on an island of concrete, there being no hardpan on the filled-in land along the lakefront.

There is still no explanation of the scream or of the fallen mummy.  It is just one more example of things we cannot explain.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-seven candles remain.  Do you have a spooky story to share?


Scream like a baby...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2013, 11:34:58 PM »
Are you... are you O.K.?  You're so quiet.  Are you scared?  Are you just considering which story to tell?  I --

Oh, my -- no -- no! -- Friday was the fourth, after all -- please say that you're not -- not --

Ah!  Phew.  I'm sorry about my prodding you like that (and I'm particularly sorry about my prodding you in such an inconvenient place; that was an accident).  I simply wanted to be sure that you hadn't... you know... "passed on," as they say.

I'm very glad that you're all right.  Actually, this reminds me of a story...

Are You Scared?

After what I learned to call "The Lennox Haunting," a haunted house that I lived in terror in for 38 days total, we vacated the property and moved to a different home on the outskirts of Lennox.  I thought the hell was over, but I was dead wrong.

Sometimes hell does not leave, it just lays dormant, waiting and watching for that exact slice in time when you're vulnerable.  That's the moment it comes again and lets you know that you are human -- and it is not.

Here is part of my story.  I walked upstairs to retrieve something from my bedroom when I heard a commotion in the bathroom.  It was impossible; I was home alone.  I had left the bathroom door open with the light out, but the door was now closed and I could see light filtering out from beneath it.  I slowly approached it.  I laid my hand on the doorknob, not being sure if I had the guts to actually open it.  My heart was beating so hard by then I could hear it echoing in my ears.

I paused there a moment.  I slowly took my hand back off of the doorknob and crept back to the hall closet.  My ex-husband had left his old set of golf clubs there for our son Dominick to use.  I opened the closet door slowly and as quietly as I could.  I reached in and quietly pulled out the first club I felt.  I was still watching the bathroom door, never taking my eyes off of it, fearing it would suddenly open and some stranger would come charging at me.

I retrieved the club and quietly closed the door.  I felt so much better from the feel of the cold metal of in my hand.  I headed back down the hall to the bathroom door.  I stood beside of it listening for any movement.  I could not hear anything in there, not so much as a breath.  I was actually starting to get angry.  I felt I had been through enough of this.

I took a deep breath and turned the handle, pushing hard, almost throwing the door with enough force that I knew the handle would dent the wall.  The door banged loudly as it did precisely that, leaving a round imprint.  The pressure was so great from the door that the shower curtain blew away from the tub, and its movement startled me.

"Who's in here?" I asked in a very unfriendly tone, raising the golf club into the air, ready to strike if I had to.  My voice echoed loudly throughout the bathroom.  I heard a bit of a sound, like wind escaping or maybe it seemed more like a long, deep breath.  I held mine.  I wanted to hear everything.

I was getting tired of the fear, of the seemingly endless games.  I just knew in my heart that something was there, and whatever it was, it was definitely messing with me.  I saw the shower curtain flutter again, as though there was a breeze passing through it, even though there were no windows in the bathroom.  I stood my ground, even though my heart was thumping so hard I could feel it moving my chest with each beat.

I walked over to shower curtain.  It was almost completely drawn closed.  I slowly reached for it, grabbed the edge of it, and then quickly I pulled it completely open.  The tub was empty.  I let out a long sigh of relief, and then took a few more long, deep breaths, exhaling very slowly.  It helped to slow down my heartbeat to a more comfortable level.

I stepped in front of the vanity to look into the mirror.  My eyes looked like those of a crazed maniac holding a golf club in the air.  I stared at myself just shaking my head at myself.  "What is your deal today, Jolene?" I said sternly to my reflection, as if it could actually answer me.

Then I heard a raspy, very loud whisper directly into left my ear, as though someone were standing very close, right next to me.  "Are you scared?"  The voice came from seemingly nowhere.  I could see from my reflection in the mirror there was no one standing beside me.  It startled me so much my knees buckled, and had I not grabbed the edge of the vanity to steady myself, I would certainly have fallen to the floor.

The voice I heard had such a mean tone that it had chilled me to the bone.  I felt a cold rush of air on the side of my head, as though someone was breathing icy breaths on my cheek.  I could even feel the pause between breaths.  The suddenness of it had startled me so much I had dropped my golf club.  I quickly bent down to retrieve my precious weapon.  Even though I could not see anyone to use it on, it still felt very good in my hand.

I straightened back up and saw myself in the mirror.  I knew my reflection was telling me that I was standing there by myself, but I still couldn't help glancing directly beside me and all around the room.  I was alone in the room.  I laid my hand to my cheek where I had felt the breaths.  My cheek was very cold to the touch.

I glanced back at my reflection one more time, and for a moment, just for a thousandth of a second I thought I saw another face looking back at me.  It was not a face of a normal person.  It was distorted, as if I were looking into one of those weird mirrors in the fun house at a carnival, and then it was gone again.  It was so quick, I could not be absolutely sure if it had actually been there at all.

I continued staring into the mirror; I was in too much shock to move right at that moment.  It finally dawned on me to move my feet and get myself away from the mirror.  I really did not want to see anymore if I could prevent it.  I was shook up enough.  I ran out of the bathroom pulling the door shut behind me.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-six candles remain...


Scary monsters, super creeps keep me running, running scared...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2013, 11:35:22 PM »
You won't mind if I tell another, will you?  "Hairy Toe" is a more traditional tale; I really like this version, as told by S.E. Schlosser in the excellent Spooky Maryland.

Hairy Toe

Once there was an old woman who went out in the woods to dig up some roots to cook for dinner.  She spotted something funny sticking out of the leaves and dug around until she uncovered a great big hairy toe.  There was some good meat on that toe which would make a real tasty dinner, so the old woman put it in her basket and took it home.

When she got back to her cottage, the old woman boiled up a kettle-full of hairy toe soup, which she ate for dinner that night.  It was the best meal she'd had in weeks!  The old woman went to bed that night with a full stomach and a big smile.

Along about midnight, a cold wind started blowing in the tops of the trees around the old woman's house.  A large black cloud crept over the moon and from the woods a hollow voice rumbled: "Hairy toe!  Hairy toe!  I want my hairy toe!"  Inside the house, the old woman stirred uneasily in her bed and nervously pulled the covers up over her ears.

From the woods there came a stomp-stomp-stomping noise as the wind whistled and jerked at the treetops.  In the clearing at the edge of the forest, a hollow voice said: "Hairy toe!  Hairy toe!  I want my hairy toe!"  Inside the house, the old woman shuddered and turned over in her sleep.

A stomp-stomp-stomping sound came from the garden path outside the cottage.  The night creatures shivered in their burrows as a hollow voice howled: "Hairy toe!  Hairy toe!  I want my hairy toe!"  Inside the house, the old woman snapped awake.  Her whole body shook with fright as she listened to the angry howling in her garden.  Jumping out of bed, she ran to the door and barred it.  Once the cottage was secure, she lay back down to sleep.

Suddenly, the front door of the cottage burst open with a bang, snapping the bar in two and sending it flying into the corners of the room.  There came the stomp-stomp-stomping noise of giant feet walking up the stairs.  Peeping out from under the covers, the old woman saw a massive figure filling her doorway.  It said: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!"

The old woman sat bolt upright in terror and shouted: "I ate your hairy toe!"

"Yes, you did," the giant figure said very gently as it advanced into the room.

No one living in the region ever saw the old woman again.  The only clue to her disappearance was a giant footprint a neighbor found pressed deep into the loose soil of the meadow beside the house.  The footprint was missing the left big toe.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-five candles remain...


Here I stand, toe in hand...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2013, 11:35:40 PM »
So many terrible things happen in the dark.  How can it be that we here are positively itching for the shadows -- and their denizens -- to embrace us?  Most people wouldn't do this, would they?  They'd long for the strength of the sun...

Well, to a certain point, anyhow.  I present to you "The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes" by Margaret St. Clair.

The Boy Who Predicted Earthquakes

"Naturally, you're skeptical," Wellman said.  He poured water from a carafe, put a pill on his tongue, washed the pill down.  "Naturally, understandably.  I don't blame you, wouldn't dream of blaming you.  A good many of us here at the studio had your attitude, I'm afraid, when we started programming this boy Herbert.  I don't mind telling you, just between ourselves, that I myself was pretty doubtful that a show of that sort would be good television."

Wellman scratched behind an ear while Read looked on with scientific interest.  "Well, I was wrong," Wellman said, putting the hand down again.  "I'm pleased to say that I was 1,000 percent wrong.  The kid's first, unannounced, unadvertised show brought nearly 1,400 pieces of mail.  And his rating nowadays..."  He leaned toward Read and whispered a figure.

"Oh," Read said.

"We haven't given it out yet, because those buzzards at Purple simply wouldn't believe us.  But it's the plain simple truth.  There isn't another TV personality today who has the following the kid has.  He's on short wave, too, and people tune him in all over the globe.  Every time he has a show the post office has to send two special trucks with his mail.  I can't tell you how happy I am, Read, that you scientists are thinking about making a study of him at last.  I'm terrifically sincere about this."

"What's he like personally?" Read asked.

"The kid?  Oh, very simple, very quiet, very, very sincere.  I like him tremendously.  His father -- well, he's a real character."

"How does the program work?"

"You mean, how does Herbert do it?  Frankly, Read, that's something for you researchers to find out.  We haven't the faintest idea what happens, really.

"I can tell you the program details, of course.  The kid has a show twice a week, Mondays and Fridays.  He won't use a script" -- Wellman grimaced -- "which is pretty much a headache for us.  He says a script dries him up.  He's on the air for twelve minutes.  Most of that time he just talks, telling the viewers about what he's been doing in school, the books he's been reading, and so on.  The kind of stuff you'd hear from any nice, quiet boy.  But he always makes one or two predictions, always at least one, and never more than three.  They are always things that will happen within forty-eight hours.  Herbert says he can't see any farther ahead than that."

"And they do happen?" Read said.  It was less a question than statement.

"They do," Wellman replied, somewhat heavily.  He puffed out his lips.  "Herbert predicted the stratosphere liner wreck off Guam last April, the Gulf States hurricane, the election results.  He predicted the submarine disaster in the Tortugas.  Do you realize that the FBI has an agent sitting in the studio with him during every show out of range of the scanners?  That's so he can be taken off the air immediately if he says anything that might be contrary to public policy.  They take him that seriously.

"I went over the kid's record yesterday when I heard the University was thinking of studying him.  His show has been going out now for a year and a half, twice a week.  He's made 106 predictions during that time.  And every one of them, every single one of them, has come true.  By now the general public has such confidence in him that" -- Wellman licked his lips and hunted for a comparison -- "that they'd believe him if he predicted the end of the world or the winner of the Irish Sweepstakes.

"I'm sincere about this, Read, terrifically sincere.  Herbert is the biggest thing in TV since the invention of the selenium cell.  You can't overestimate him or his importance.  And now, shall we go take in his show?  It's just about time for him to go on."

Wellman got up from his desk chair, smoothing the design of pink and purple penguins on his necktie into place.  He led Read through the corridors of the station to the observation room of studio 8G, were Herbert Pinner was.

Herbert looked, Read thought, like a nice, quiet boy.  He was about 15, tall for his age, with a pleasant, intelligent, somewhat careworn face.  He went about the preparation for his show with perfect composure which might hide a touch of distaste.

"I have been reading a very interesting book," Herbert said to the TV audience.  "Its name is The Count of Monte Cristo.  I think almost anybody might enjoy it."  He held up the book for the viewers to see.  "I have also begun a book on astronomy by a man named Duncan.  Reading that book has made me want a telescope.  My father says that if I work hard and get good grades in school, I can have a small telescope at the end of the term.  I will tell you what I can see with the telescope after we buy it.

"There will be an earthquake, not a bad one, in the north Atlantic States tonight.  There will be considerable property damage, but no one will be killed.  Tomorrow morning about ten o'clock they will find Gwendolyn Box, who has been lost in the Sierras since Thursday.  Her leg is broken but she will still be alive.

"After I get the telescope I hope to become a member of the society of variable star observers.  Variable stars are stars whose brightness varies either because of internal changes or because of external causes..."

At the end of the program Read was introduced to young Pinner.  He found the boy polite and cooperative, but a little remote.

"I don't know just how I do do it, Mr. Read," Herbert said when a number of preliminary questions had been put.  "It isn't pictures, the way you suggested, and it isn't words.  It's just -- it just comes into my mind.

"One thing I've noticed is that I can't predict anything unless I more or less know what it is.  I could predict about the earthquake because everybody knows what a quake is, pretty much.  But I couldn't have predicted about Gwendolyn Box if I hadn't known she was missing.  I'd just have had a feeling that somebody or something was going to be found."

"You mean you can't make predictions about anything unless it's in your consciousness previously?" Read asked intently.

Herbert hesitated.  "I guess so," he said.  "It makes a... a spot in my mind, but I can't identify it.  It's like looking at a light with your eyes shut.  You know a light is there, but that's all you know about it.  That's the reason why I read so many books.  The more things I know about, the more things I can predict.

"Sometimes I miss important things, too.  I don't know why that is.  There was the time the atomic pile exploded and so many people were killed.  All I had for that day was an increase in employment.

"I don't know how it works, really, Mr. Read.  I just know it does."

Herbert's father came up.  He was a small, bouncing man with the extrovert's persuasive personality.  "So you're going to investigate Herbie, hum?" he said when the introductions had been performed.  "Well, that's fine.  It's time he was investigated."

"I believe we are," Read answered with a touch of caution.  "I'll have to have the appropriation for the project approved first."

Mr. Pinner looked at him shrewdly.  "You want to see whether there's an earthquake first, isn't that it?  It's different when you hear him saying it himself.  Well, there will be.  It's a terrible thing, an earthquake."  He clicked his tongue deprecatingly.  "But nobody will be killed, that's one good thing.  And they'll find that Miss Box the way Herbie says they will."

The earthquake arrived about 9:15, when Read was sitting under the bridge lamp reading a report from the Society for Psychical Research.  There was an ominous muttering rumble and then a long, swaying, seasick roll.

Next morning Read had his secretary put through a call to Haffner, a seismologist with whom he had a casual acquaintanceship.  Haffner, over the phone, was definite and brusque.

"Certainly there's no way of foretelling a quake," he snapped.  "Not even an hour in advance.  If there were, we'd issue warnings and get people out in time.  There'd never be any loss of life.  We can tell in a general way where a quake is likely, yes.  We've known for years that this area was in for one.  But as for setting the exact time -- you might as well ask an astronomer to predict a nova for you.  He doesn't know, and neither do we.  What brought this up, anyway?  The prediction made by that Pinner kid?"

"Yes.  We're thinking of observing him."

"Thinking of it?  You mean you're only just now getting around to him?  Lord, what ivory towers you research psychologists must live in!"

"You think he's genuine?"

"The answer is an unqualified yes."

Read hung up.  When he went out to lunch he saw by the headlines that Miss Box had been found as Herbert had predicted on his TV program.

Still he hesitated.  It was not until Thursday that he realized that he was hesitating not because he was afraid of wasting the university's money on a fake, but because he was all too sure that Herbert Pinner was genuine.  He didn't at bottom want to start this study.  He was afraid.

The realization shocked him.  He got the dean on the phone at once, asked for his appropriation, and was told there would be no difficulty about it.  Friday morning he selected his two assistants for the project, and by the time Herbert's program was nearly due to go out, they were at the station.

They found Herbert sitting tensely on a chair in studio 8G with Wellman and five or six other station executives clustered around him.  His father was dancing about excitedly, wringing his hands.  Even the FBI man had abandoned his usual detachment and impassivity, and was joining warmly in the argument.  And Herbert, in the middle, was shaking his head and saying, "No, no, I can't," over and over again doggedly.

"But why not, Herbie?" his father wailed.  "Please tell me why not.  Why won't you give your show?"

"I can't," Herbert said.  "Please don't ask me.  I just can't."  Read noticed how white the boy was around the mouth.

"But, Herbie, you can have anything you want, anything, if you only will!  That telescope -- I'll buy it for you tomorrow.  I'll buy it tonight!"

"I don't want a telescope," young Pinner said wanly.  "I don't want to look through it."

"I'll get you a pony, a motorboat, a swimming pool!  Herbie, I'll get you anything!"

"No," Herbert said.

Mr. Pinner looked around him desperately.  His eyes fell on Read, standing in the corner, and he hurried over to him.  "See what you can do with him, Mr. Read," he panted.

Read chewed his lower lip.  In a sense it was his business.  He pushed his way through the crowd to Herbert, and put his hand on his shoulder.  "What's this I hear about you not wanting to give your show today, Herbert?" he asked.

Herbert looked up at him.  The harassed expression in his eyes made Read feel guilty and contrite.  "I just can't," he said.  "Don't you start asking me too, Mr. Read."

Once more Read chewed his lip.  Part of the technique of parapsychology lies in getting subjects to cooperate.  "If you don't go on the air, Herbert," he said, "a lot of people are going to be disappointed."

Herbert's face took on a tinge of sullenness.  "I can't help it," he said.

"More than that, a lot of people are going to be frightened.  They won't know why you aren't going on the air, and they'll imagine things.  All sorts of things.  If they don't view you an awful lot of people are going to be scared."

"I -- " Herbert said.  He rubbed his cheek.  "Maybe that's right," he answered slowly.  "Only..."

"You've got to go on with your show."

Herbert capitulated suddenly.  "All right," he said, "I'll try."

Everyone in the studio sighed deeply.  There was a general motion toward the door of the observation room.  Voices were raised in high-pitched, rather nervous chatter.  The crisis was over; the worst would not occur.

The first part of Herbert's show was much like the others had been.  The boy's voice was a trifle unsteady and his hands had a tendency to shake, but these abnormalities would have passed the average viewer unnoticed.  When perhaps five minutes of the show had gone, Herbert put aside the books and drawings (he had been discussing mechanical drawing) he had been showing his audience, and began to speak with great seriousness.

"I want to tell you about tomorrow," he said.  "Tomorrow" -- he stopped and swallowed -- "tomorrow is going to be different from what anything in the past has been.  Tomorrow is going to be the start of a new and better world for all of us."

Read, listening in the glass-enclosed room, felt an incredulous thrill race over him at the words.  He glanced around at the faces of the others and saw that they were listening intently, their faces strained and rapt.  Wellman's lower jaw dropped a little, and he absently fingered the unicorns on his tie.

"In the past," young Pinner said, "we've had a pretty bad time.  We've had wars -- so many wars -- and famines and pestilences.  We've had depressions and haven't known what caused them, we've had people starving when there was food and dying of diseases for which we knew the cure.  We've seen the wealth of the world wasted shamelessly, the rivers running black with the washed-off soil, while hunger for all of us got surer and nearer every day.  We've suffered, we've had a hard time.

"Beginning tomorrow" -- his voice grew louder and more deep -- "all that is going to be changed.  There won't be any more wars.  We're going to live side by side like brothers.  We're going to forget about killing and breaking and bombs.  From pole to pole the world will be one great garden, full of richness and fruit, and it will be for all of us to have and use and enjoy.  People will live a long time and live happily, and when they die it will be from old age.  Nobody will be afraid any more.  For the first time since human beings lived on earth, we're going to live the way human beings should.

"The cities will be full of the richness of culture, full of art and music and books.  And every race on earth will contribute to that culture, each in its degree.  We're going to be wiser and happier and richer than any people have ever been.  And pretty soon" -- he hesitated for a moment, as if his thought had stumbled -- "pretty soon we're going to send out rocket ships.

"We'll go to Mars and Venus and Jupiter.  We'll go to the limits of our solar system to see what Uranus and Pluto are like.  And maybe from there -- it's possible -- we'll go on and visit the stars.

"Tomorrow is going to be the beginning of all that.  That's all for now.  Goodbye.  Good night."

For a moment after he had ceased no one moved or spoke.  Then voices began to babble deliriously.  Read, glancing around, noticed how white their faces were and how dilated their eyes.

"Wonder what effect the new setup will have on TV?" Wellman said, as if to himself.  His tie was flopping wildly about.  "There'll be TV, that's certain -- it's part of the good life."  And then, to Pinner, who was blowing his nose and wiping his eyes, "Get him out of here, Pinner, right away.  He'll be mobbed if he stays here."

Herbert's father nodded.  He dashed into the studio after Herbert, who was already surrounded, and came back with him.  With Read running interference, they fought their way through the corridor and down to the street level at the station's back.

Read got into the car uninvited and sat down opposite Herbert on one of the folding seats.  The boy looked quite exhausted, but his lips wore a faint smile.  "You'd better have the chauffeur take you to some quiet hotel," Read said to the senior Pinner.  "You'd be besieged if you went to your usual place."

Pinner nodded.  "Hotel Triller," he said to the driver of the car.  "Go slow, cabby.  We want to think."

He slipped his arm around his son and hugged him.  His eyes were shining.  "I'm proud of you, Herbie," he declared solemnly, "as proud as can be.  What you said -- those were wonderful, wonderful things."

The driver had made no move to start the car.  Now he turned round and spoke.  "It's young Mr. Pinner, isn't it?  I was watching you just now.  Could I shake your hand?"

After a moment Herbert leaned forward and extended it.  The chauffeur accepted it almost reverently.  "I just want to thank you -- just want to thank you -- Oh, hell!  Excuse me, Mr. Herbert.  But what you said meant a lot to me.  I was in the last war."

The car slid away from the curb.  As it moved downtown, Read saw that Pinner's injunction to the driver to go slow had been unnecessary.  People were thronging the streets already.  The sidewalks were choked.  People began to spill over onto the pavements.  The car slowed to a walk, to a crawl, and still they poured out.  Read snapped the blinds down for fear Herbert should be recognized.

Newsboys were screaming on the corners in raucous hysteria.  As the car came to a halt Pinner opened the door and slipped out.  He came scrambling back with an armload of papers he had bought.

"NEW WORLD COMING!" one read, another "MILLENNIUM TOMORROW!" and another quite simply, "JOY TO THE WORLD!"  Read spread the papers out and began to read the story in one of them.

"A 15-year-old boy told the world that its troubles were over beginning tomorrow, and the world went wild with joy.  The boy, Herbert Pinner, whose uncannily accurate predictions have won him a world-wide following, predicted an era of peace, abundance and prosperity such as the world has never known before..."

"Isn't it wonderful, Herbert?" Pinner panted.  His eyes were blazing.  He shook Herbert's arm.  "Isn't it wonderful? Aren't you glad?"

"Yes," Herbert said.

They got to the hotel at last and registered.  They were given a suite on the sixteenth floor.  Even at this height they could faintly hear the excitement of the crowd below.

"Lie down and rest, Herbert," Mr. Pinner said.  "You look worn out.  Telling all that -- it was hard on you."  He bounced around the room for a moment and then turned to Herbert apologetically.  "You'll excuse me if I go out, son, won't you?  I'm too excited to be quiet.  I want to see what's going on outside."  His hand was on the knob of the door.

"Yes, go ahead," Herbert answered.  He had sunk down in a chair.

Read and Herbert were alone in the room.  There was silence for a moment.  Herbert laced his fingers over his forehead and sighed.

"Herbert," Read said softly, "I thought you couldn't see into the future for more than forty-eight hours ahead."

"That's right," Herbert replied without looking up.

"Then how could you foresee all the things you predicted tonight?"

The question seemed to sink into the silence of the room like a stone dropped into a pond.  Ripples spread out from it.  Herbert said, "Do you really want to know?"

For a moment Read had to hunt for the name of the emotion he felt.  It was fear.  He answered, "Yes."

Herbert got up and went over to the window.  He stood looking out, not at the crowded streets, but at the sky -- where, thanks to daylight saving time, a faint sunset glow yet lingered.

"I wouldn't have known if I hadn't read the book," he said, turning around, the words coming out in a rush.  "I'd just have known something big -- big -- was going to happen.  But now I know.  I read about it in my astronomy book.

"Look over here."  He pointed to the west, where the sun had been.  "Tomorrow it won't be like this."

"What do you mean?" Read cried.  His voice was sharp with anxiety.  "What are you trying to say?"

"That... tomorrow the sun will be different.  Maybe it's better this way.  I wanted them to be happy.  You mustn't hold it against me, Mr. Read, that I lied to them."

Read turned on him fiercely.  "What is it?  What's going to happen tomorrow?  You've got to say!"

"Why, tomorrow the sun -- I've forgotten the word.  What is it they call it when a star flares up suddenly, when it becomes a billion times hotter than it was before?"

"A nova?" Read cried.

"That's it.  Tomorrow... the sun is going to explode."

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-four candles remain...


Nearer to the heavens...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2013, 11:35:53 PM »
Is it sometimes better to lie?  Or does truth invariably reign supreme?  I don't know, but I do know that I myself prefer the truth.  For example, I believe that it's true that our round of hyakumonogatari kaidankai will turn out just fine.  Yes -- yes -- I really believe that!

Although slightly-less-than-true spooky tales can indeed send shivers up our spines, I myself always prefer the true ones.  Here's a story related by Forrest J Ackerman, perhaps the biggest sci-fi fan of all time, about an event that changed the course of his family's destiny...

21st Century Bradbury

A century ago, a man named Bradbury (no, not Ray), made a mint of money from a silver mine in Mexico.  By the 1890's Mr. Bradbury had become a very rich and influential man.  He decided that he was going to comission the first major office building in Los Angeles to be built and named in his honor.  But Bradbury was dissatisfied with all the plans shown him by the major architects of the time.  None of them were suitable to carry his name into the future.

My maternal grandfather, George Herbert Wyman, was then a 32-year-old apprentice architect.  He'd just read the sci-fi bestseller of the day -- Looking Backward, by Edward Bellamy, about a man who went to sleep in 1895 and woke up in the year 2000.  One section of the novel described the interior of an office building of the 21st century.  My grandfather was sitting at his desk, making sketches of this building from the future, when who should pass by his desk and take notice, but Mr. Bradbury himself!  Bradbury was so impressed with the imagination in the sketch that he offered young Wyman the job to design his building right there on the spot.  In today's terms, that would be like Donald Trump hiring someone to design his new skyscraper based on a cocktail napkin doodle.

George Wyman returned home to his wife, Belle, with a troubled mind.  Should he tackle such a monumental undertaking, when the risks were so high and the expectations of his client higher still?

Both George and Belle were very much into spiritualism -- medium channelers, ouija board sessions, spirit guides and seances.  So, on Saturday evening, February, 1892, the couple sat together to ask the council of the spirits.  They brought out a stack of paper and a planchette -- a heart-shaped tool, carved out of wood, which had a hole in it's center through which a writing instrument could be affixed.

Sitting opposite to each other, they both placed a hand on the planchette and addressed the astral plane for guidance.  George had a younger brother who'd died at age 8; now Mark began to communicate with him.  The planchette began to move across the paper's surface.

The fascinated young couple watched as a message formed...

"Mark Wyman take the Bradbury building and you will be (?)"

Neither husband nor wife could make out the last word of the message.  "Misguided"?  "Murdered"?  "Rewarded"?  "Destroyed"?

George asked the spirit to write the word again, more clearly.

The planchette retraced the word exactly as it had been written the first time.

Mystified, George called a friend to help decipher the inexplicable concluding word.  George handed the paper to his friend who read the message from his own vantage point -- upside down -- and at last was able to read the word clearly:


Try yourself to write the word upside-down and backwards.  Pretty tricky, even for a ghost!

My grandfather's design was so successful that he was able to buy me a copy of Ghost Stories magazine every month, which his wife Belle, my dear grandmother, read aloud to me from front page to last, twice through.  Yes, architecting the Bradbury Building brought him everlasting fame, and with the salary he earned, he was able to care for himself, his wife, their baby (my mother) and her sister (my aunt).

Many of you have seen the interior of the completed Bradbury Building, now a landmark in the history of architecture, in such fantastic films as Blade Runner, Wolf (Jack Nicholson), The Night Walker (Bloch), "Demon with a Glass Hand" (TV's Outer Limits) and countless other productions.

George Wyman's earnings for creating this landmark vision of the future?  A whopping $5 per week.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-three candles remain...


Where the flesh meets the spirit world...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2013, 11:36:08 PM »
Wait -- twenty-three candles remain?  Although we have discussed the power of four, we haven't yet discussed the power of twenty-three, have we?  Robert Anton Wilson studied the number extensively and talked about it often.  This article, authored by Wilson, offers an unnerving introduction...

The 23 Phenomenon

I first heard of the 23 enigma from William S Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, Nova Express, etc.  According to Burroughs, he had known a certain Captain Clark, around 1960 in Tangier, who once bragged that he had been sailing 23 years without an accident.  That very day, Clark's ship had an accident that killed him and everybody else aboard.  Furthermore, while Burroughs was thinking about this crude example of the irony of the gods that evening, a bulletin on the radio announced the crash of an airliner in Florida, USA.  The pilot was another captain Clark and the flight was Flight 23.

Burroughs began collecting odd 23s after this gruesome synchronicity, and after 1965 I also began collecting them.  Many of my weird 23s were incorporated into the trilogy Illuminatus! which I wrote in collaboration with Robert J Shea in 1969 -- 1971.  I will mention only a few of them here, to give a flavour to those benighted souls who haven't read Illuminatus! yet:

In conception, Mom and Dad each contribute 23 chromosomes to the fœtus.  DNA, the carrier of the genetic information, has bonding irregularities every 23rd Angstrom.  Aleister Crowley, in his Cabalistic dictionary, defines 23 as the number of "life" or "a thread", hauntingly suggestive of the DNA life-script.  On the other hand, 23 has many links with termination: in telegraphers' code, 23 means "bust" or "break the line", and Hexagram 23 in I Ching means "breaking apart".  Sidney Carton is the 23rd man guillotined in the old stage productions of A Tale of Two Cities.  (A few lexicographers believe this is the origin of the mysterious slang expression "23 Skiddoo!".)

Some people are clusters of bloody synchronicities in 23.  Burroughs discovered that the bootlegger "Dutch Schultz" (real name: Arthur Flegenheimer) had Vincent "Mad Dog" Coll assassinated on 23rd Street in New York when Coll was 23 years old.  Schultz himself was assassinated on 23 October.  Looking further into the Dutch Schultz case, I found that Charlie Workman, the man convicted of shooting Schultz, served 23 years of a life sentence and was then paroled.

Prof. Hans Seisel of the University of Chicago passed the following along to Arthur Koestler, who published it in The Challenge of Chance.  Seisel's grandparents had a 23 in their address, his mother had 23 both as a street number and apartment number, Seisel himself once had 23 as both his home address and his law office address, etc.  While visiting Monte Carlo, Seisel's mother read a novel, Die Liebe der Jeannie Ney, in which the heroine wins a great deal by betting on 23 at roulette.  Mother tried betting on 23 and it came up on the second try.

Adolf Hitler was initiated into the Vril Society (which many consider a front for the Illuminati) in 1923.  The Morgan Bank (which is regarded as the financial backer of the Illuminati by the John Birch Society) is at 23 Wall Street in Manhattan.  When Illuminatus! was turned into a play, it premiered in Liverpool on 23 November (which is also Harpo Marx's birthday).  Ken Campbell, producer of Illuminatus!, later found, on page 223 of Jung's Memories, Dreams, Reflections, a weird dream about Liverpool, which Campbell says describes the street intersection of the theatre where Illuminatus! opened (Jung, of course, was the first psychologist to study weird coincidences of this sort and to name them synchronicities).  Campbell also claims that Hitler lived briefly in Liverpool when he was 23 years old, but I haven't found the reference for that.

Recently, I was invited to join an expedition to the Bermuda Triangle.  I declined because of other commitments, but "the crew that never rests" (Sir Walter Scott's name for the Intelligence -- or idiocies -- who keep pestering us with this kind of phenomenon) refused to let me off the hook that easily.  A few days after the expedition left, I turned on the television and caught an advertisement for the new film Airport '77.  The advertisement began with an actor shouting "Flight 23 is down in the Bermuda Triangle!"

A week later, Charles Berlitz, author of The Bermuda Triangle, claimed he had found a submerged pyramid "twice the size of the pyramids of Cheops" in the waters down there.  You will find that monstrous edifice described in Illuminatus!, and it is specifically said to be "twice the size of the pyramid of Cheops" -- but Shea and I thought we were writing fiction when we composed that passage in 1971.  In 1977, Berlitz claims it is real.

I now have almost as many weird 23s in my files as Fort once had records of rains of fish, and people are always sending me new ones.

Euclid's Geometry begins with 23 axioms.

As soon as I became seriously intrigued by collecting weird 23s, one of my best friends died -- on 23 December.

My two oldest daughters were born on 23 August and 23 February respectively.

According to Omar Garrison's Tantra: The Yoga of Sex, in addition to the well-known 28-day female sex cycle, there is also a male sex cycle of 23 days.

Burroughs, who tends to look at the dark side of things, sees 23 chiefly as the death number.  In this connection, it is interesting that the 23rd Psalm is standard reading at funerals.

Heathcote Williams, editor of The Fanatic, met Burroughs when he (Williams) was 23 years old and living at an address with a 23 in it.  When Burroughs told him, gloomily, "23 is the death number", Williams was impressed; but he was more impressed when he discovered for the first time that the building across the street from his house was a morgue.

Bonnie and Clyde, the most popular bank-robbers of the 1930s, lived out most American underground myths quite consciously, and were shot to death by the Texas Rangers on 23 May, 1934.  Their initials, B and C, have the Cabalistic values of 2-3.

W, the 23rd letter of the English alphabet, pops up continually in these matters.  The physicist who collaborated with Carl Jung on the theory of synchronicity was Wolfgang Pauli.  William Burroughs first called the 23 mystery to my attention.  Dutch Schultz's assassin was Charlie Workman.  Adam Weishaupt and / or George Washington, the two (or one) chief source of 18th-century Illuminism, also come to mind.  Will Shakespeare was born and died on 23 April.

(I have found some interesting 46s -- 46 is 2 x 23 -- but mostly regard them as irrelevant.  Nonetheless, the 46th Psalm has a most peculiar structure.  The 46th word from the beginning is shake and the 46th word from the end, counting back, is spear.)

Through various leads, I have become increasingly interested in Sir Francis Bacon as a possibly ringleader of the 17th-century Illuminati.  (Some evidence for this can be found in Francis Yates's excellent The Rosicrucian Enlightenment).  Bacon, in accord with custom, was allowed to pick the day for his own elevation to knighthood by Elizabeth I.  He picked 23 July.

Dr John Lilly refers to "the crew that never rests" as Cosmic Coincidence Control Center and warns that they pay special attention to those who pay attention to them.  I conclude this account with the most mind-boggling 23s to have intersected my own life.

On 23 July 1973, I had the impression that I was being contacted by some sort of advanced intellect from the system of the double star Sirius.  I have had odd psychic experiences of that sort for many years, and I always record them carefully, but refuse to take any of them literally, until or unless supporting evidence of an objective nature turns up.  This particular experience, however, was especially staggering, both intellectually and emotionally, so I spent the rest of the day at the nearest large library researching Sirius.  I found, among other things, that 23 July is very closely associated with that star.

On 23 July, ancient Egyptian priests began a series of rituals to Sirius, continuing until 8 September.  Since Sirius is known as the "Dog Star", being in the constellation Canis Major, the period 23 July -- 8 September became known as "the dog days".

My psychic "Contact" experience continued, off and on, for nearly two years, until October 1974, after which I forcibly terminated it by sheer stubborn willpower (I was getting tired of wondering whether I was specially selected for a Great Mission of interstellar import, or was just going crazy).

After two years of philosophic mulling on the subject (late 1974 -- early 1976), I finally decided to tune in one more time to the Sirius-Earth transmissions, and try to produce something objective.  On 23 July 1976, using a battery of yogic and shamanic techniques, I opened myself to another blast of Cosmic Wisdom and told the Transmitters that I wanted something objective this time around.

The next week, Time magazine published a full-page review of Robert KG Temple's The Sirius Mystery, which claims that contact between Earth and Sirius occurred around 4500 BC in the Near East.  The 23 July festivals in Egypt were part of Temple's evidence, but I was more amused and impressed by his middle initials, K.G., since Kallisti Gold is the brand of very expensive marijuana smoked by the hero of Illuminatus!.

The same week as that issue of Time, i.e. still one week after my 23rd experiment, Rolling Stone published a full-page advertisement for a German Rock group called Ramses.  One of the group was named Winifred, which is the name of one of the four German Rock musicians in Illuminatus!, and the advertisement included a large pyramid with an eye atop it, the symbol of the Illuminati.

Coincidence?  Synchronicity?  Higher Intelligence?  Higher Idiocy?

Of course, the eye on the pyramid was a favourite symbol of Aleister Crowley, who called himself Epopt of the Illuminati, and subtitled his magazine, The Equinox, "A Review of Scientific Illuminism".  And 2/3 equals .66666666 etc. -- Crowley's magick number repeated endlessly.  Readers of this piece might find it amusing to skim through The Magical Revival and Aleister Crowley and the Hidden God, two books by Kenneth Grant, a former student of Crowley's (and note the initials K.G. again!).  You will find numerous references, cloudy and occult, linking Crowley in some unspecified way with Sirius.

The actor who played Padre Pederastia in the National Theatre production of Illuminatus! informed me that he once met Crowley on a train.  "Mere coincidence", if you prefer.  But the second night of the National Theatre run, the actors cajoled me into doing a walk-on as an extra in the Black Mass scene.  And, dear brothers and sisters, that is how I found myself, stark naked, on the stage of the National Theatre, bawling Crowley's slogan "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law", under the patronage of Her Majesty the Queen.

As a fortean, I am, of course, an ontological agnostic and I never believe anything literally.  But I will never cease to wonder how much of this was programmed by Uncle Aleister before I was ever born, and I'm sure that last bit, my one moment on the stage of the National Theatre, was entirely Crowley's work.

If you look up Crowley's Confessions, you'll find that he began the study of magick in 1898, at the age of 23.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-two candles remain.  Do you have a spooky story to share?


Motivation is symphony...

Offline Sabby

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #9 on: October 05, 2013, 11:36:40 PM »
I can't even read the title of this.

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #10 on: October 13, 2013, 07:37:56 AM »
Hello, Sabby!  Hmmm...  Maybe I should retitle the thread using the appropriate kanji -- 百物語怪談会?  Or maybe I should retitle it with the game's Dutch term, de nacht van duizend erotische paling?

Anyhow, thanks: It's comforting to hear another voice.  I'm glad that you're here.  And you others, too: Although you are a little hard to see in this ever-creeping gloom, I can hear your quivering breath.  Goodness, I wouldn't like to think that I was doing this alone!  When the ghosts come, they might very well need someone to prey on, after all.

So twenty-two candles remain.  I believe that I have a suitable story...

21 and Still Counting...

One day a young girl was waiting at a train station when she heard someone muttering behind her.  She turned around to see a woman sitting on a bench, her arms behind her back, rocking backward and forward and chanting, "21, 21, 21..."  The girl could see that the woman was clearly distressed, so she went over to ask her what the matter was; however, she received no response.

Soon the girl heard her train coming.  Leaving behind the woman on the bench, she stepped to the edge of the platform.  Suddenly, the woman launched herself at the girl, pushing her onto the tracks.  The engineer had no chance to stop the train in time and the girl was torn asunder by its wheels.

The woman then sat back down on the bench, arms behind her back, and proceeded to chant, "22, 22, 22..."

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty-one candles remain...


Train overdue -- angels have gone -- no ticket...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #11 on: October 13, 2013, 07:38:09 AM »
With that, I present to you a... well, let's call it a "cautionary tale."  Don't tell me that you've heard this one already?!

The Licked Hand

A young girl named Lisa was often left alone at home because both of her parents were sometimes forced to work the graveyard shift.  They bought her a dog, therefore, to protect her and to keep her company.  When she went to sleep, the dog would scurry under her bed, and whenever she felt frightened, she'd just reach down over the side of the bed and the dog would lick her hand reassuringly.

One night, when her parents were both working, Lisa was awakened by a steady dripping sound.  Did someone accidentally leave the kitchen tap running?  She got up and went to the kitchen to turn off the tap properly.  After climbing back into bed, she reached down over the side.  She was comforted by that familiar feeling of a warm, moist, loving tongue.

But the dripping sound continued.  Could it be the tap in the bathroom?  Lisa got up, hurried to the bathroom, and turned off the tap properly in there, too.  Returning to bed, she reached down over the side; as before, she was comforted by that familiar feeling of a warm, moist, loving tongue.

But still the dripping continued: drip, drip, drip.  Once more she got up.  This time she listened, searched, traced the source of the sound.  It wasn't coming from the kitchen or the bathroom at all; rather, it was coming from a closet.

Opening the closet door, she shrieked and recoiled.  There was her beloved dog, hanging upside-down with his throat slit; his blood dripped into a puddle on the floor.  And on the inside of the door was a message scrawled in her dog's blood: HUMANS CAN LICK TOO MY BEAUTIFUL.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twenty candles remain...


He could lick 'em by hiding...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #12 on: October 13, 2013, 07:38:20 AM »
And with that, I present to you a slightly older cautionary tale; it dates back centuries as opposed to mere decades.  Of course, the distinction between "decades" and "centuries" will be lost on many of the listening ghosts, because they are forced to experience forever, which is a very long time indeed...

But I digress.  Perhaps you're familiar with this story; almost certainly you're familiar with its bowdlerized form.

Little Red Hat

Once there was an old woman who had a granddaughter named Little Red Hat.  One day they were both in the field when the old woman said, "I am going home now.  You come along later and bring me some soup."

After a while Little Red Hat set out for her grandmother's house, and she met an ogre, who said, "Hello, my dear Little Red Hat.  Where are you going?"

"I am going to my grandmother's to take her some soup."

"Good," he replied, "I'll come along too.  Are you going across the stones or the thorns?"

"I'm going across the stones," said the girl.

"Then I'll go across the thorns," replied the ogre.

They left.  But on the way Little Red Hat came to a meadow where beautiful flowers of all colors were in bloom, and the girl picked as many as her heart desired.  Meanwhile the ogre hurried on his way, and although he had to cross the thorns, he arrived at the house before Little Red Hat.  He went inside, killed the grandmother, ate her up, and climbed into her bed.  He also tied her intestines onto the door in place of the latch string and placed her blood, teeth, and jaws in the kitchen cupboard.

He had barely climbed into bed when Little Red Hat arrived and knocked at the door.

"Come in" called the ogre with a dampened voice.

Little Red Hat tried to open the door, but when she noticed that she was pulling on something soft, she called out, "Grandmother, this thing is so soft!"

"Just pull and keep quiet.  Those are your grandmother's intestines!"

"What did you say?"

"Just pull and keep quiet!"

Little Red Hat opened the door, went inside, and said, "Grandmother, I am hungry."

The ogre replied, "Go to the kitchen cupboard.  There is still a little rice there."

Little Red Hat went to the cupboard and took the teeth out.  "Grandmother, these things are very hard!"

"Eat and keep quiet.  Those are your grandmother's teeth!"

"What did you say?"

"Eat and keep quiet!"

A little while later Little Red Hat said, "Grandmother, I'm still hungry."

"Go back to the cupboard," said the ogre.  "You will find two pieces of chopped meat there."

Little Red Hat went to the cupboard and took out the jaws.  "Grandmother, these are very red!"

"Eat and keep quiet.  Those are your grandmother's jaws!"

"What did you say?"

"Eat and keep quiet!"

A little while later Little Red Hat said, "Grandmother, I'm thirsty."

"Just look in the cupboard," said the ogre.  "There must be a little wine there."

Little Red Hat went to the cupboard and took out the blood.  "Grandmother, this wine is very red!"

"Drink and keep quiet.  That's your grandmother's blood!

"What did you say?"

"Just drink and keep quiet!"

A little while later Little Red Hat said, "Grandmother, I'm sleepy."

"Take off your clothes and get into bed with me!" replied the ogre.

Little Red Hat got into bed and noticed something hairy.  "Grandmother, you are so hairy!"

"That comes with age," said the ogre.

"Grandmother, you have such long legs!"

"That comes from walking."

"Grandmother, you have such long hands!"

"That comes from working."

"Grandmother, you have such long ears!"

"That comes from listening."

"Grandmother, you have such a big mouth!"

"That comes from eating children!" said the ogre, and bam, he swallowed Little Red Hat with one gulp.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Nineteen candles remain...


Tremble like a flower...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #13 on: October 13, 2013, 07:38:32 AM »
And compared to other tales of ghosts and ghoulies, "Little Red Hat" is virtually modern.  Consider this chapter from William of Newburgh's Historia rerum Anglicarum, composed in the 12th century, which discusses the walking dead...

Chapter 24: Of certain prodigies

It would not be easy to believe that the corpses of the dead should sally (I know not by what agency) from their graves, and should wander about to the terror or destruction of the living, and again return to the tomb, which of its own accord spontaneously opened to receive them, did not frequent examples, occurring in our own times, suffice to establish this fact, to the truth of which there is abundant testimony.  It would be strange if such things should have happened formerly, since we can find no evidence of them in the works of ancient authors, whose vast labor it was to commit to writing every occurrence worthy of memory; for if they never neglected to register even events of moderate interest, how could they have suppressed a fact at once so amazing and horrible, supposing it to have happened in their day?  Moreover, were I to write down all the instances of this kind which I have ascertained to have befallen in our times, the undertaking would be beyond measure laborious and troublesome; so I will fain add two more only (and these of recent occurrence) to those I have already narrated, and insert them in our history, as occasion offers, as a warning to posterity.

A few years ago the chaplain of a certain illustrious lady, casting off mortality, was consigned to the tomb in that noble monastery which is called Melrose.  This man, having little respect for the sacred order to which he belonged, was excessively secular in his pursuits, and -- what especially blackens his reputation as a minister of the holy sacrament -- so addicted to the vanity of the chase as to be designated by many by the infamous title of "Hundeprest," or the dog-priest; and this occupation, during his lifetime, was either laughed at by men, or considered in a worldly view; but after his death -- as the event showed -- the guiltiness of it was brought to light: for, issuing from the grave at night-time, he was prevented by the meritorious resistance of its holy inmates from injuring or terrifying any one with in the monastery itself; whereupon he wandered beyond the walls, and hovered chiefly, with loud groans and horrible murmurs, round the bedchamber of his former mistress.  She, after this had frequently occurred, becoming exceedingly terrified, revealed her fears or danger to one of the friars who visited her about the business of the monastery; demanding with tears that prayers more earnest than usual should be poured out to the Lord in her behalf as for one in agony.  With whose anxiety the friar -- for she appeared deserving of the best endeavors, on the part of the holy convent of that place, by her frequent donations to it -- piously and justly sympathized, and promised a speedy remedy through the mercy of the Most High Provider for all.

Thereupon, returning to the monastery, he obtained the companionship of another friar, of equally determined spirit, and two powerful young men, with whom he intended with constant vigilance to keep guard over the cemetery where that miserable priest lay buried.  These four, therefore, furnished with arms and animated with courage, passed the night in that place, safe in the assistance which each afforded to the other.  Midnight had now passed by, and no monster appeared; upon which it came to pass that three of the party, leaving him only who had sought their company on the spot, departed into the nearest house, for the purpose, as they averred, of warming themselves, for the night was cold.  As soon as this man was left alone in this place, the devil, imagining that he had found the right moment for breaking his courage, incontinently roused up his own chosen vessel, who appeared to have reposed longer than usual.  Having beheld this from afar, he grew stiff with terror by reason of his being alone; but soon recovering his courage, and no place of refuge being at hand, he valiantly withstood the onset of the fiend, who came rushing upon him with a terrible noise, and he struck the axe which he wielded in his hand deep into his body.  On receiving this wound, the monster groaned aloud, and turning his back, fled with a rapidity not at all interior to that with which he had advanced, while the admirable man urged his flying foe from behind, and compelled him to seek his own tomb again; which opening of its own accord, and receiving its guest from the advance of the pursuer, immediately appeared to close again with the same facility.  In the meantime, they who, impatient of the coldness of the night, had retreated to the fire ran up, though somewhat too late, and, having heard what had happened, rendered needful assistance in digging up and removing from the midst of the tomb the accursed corpse at the earliest dawn.  When they had divested it of the clay cast forth with it, they found the huge wound it had received, and a great quantity of gore which had flowed from it in the sepulchre; and so having carried it away beyond the walls of the monastery and burnt it, they scattered the ashes to the winds.  These things I have explained in a simple narration, as I myself heard them recounted by religious men.

Another event, also, not unlike this, but more pernicious in its effects, happened at the castle which is called Anantis, as I have heard from an aged monk who lived in honor and authority in those parts, and who related this event as having occurred in his own presence.  A certain man of evil conduct flying, through fear of his enemies or the law, out of the province of York, to the lord of the before-named castle, took up his abode there, and having cast upon a service befitting his humor, labored hard to increase rather than correct his own evil propensities.  He married a wife, to his own ruin indeed, as it afterwards appeared; for, hearing certain rumors respecting her, he was vexed with the spirit of Jealousy.  Anxious to ascertain the truth of these reports, he pretended to be going on a journey from which he would not return for some days; but coming back in the evening, he was privily introduced into his bedroom by a maid-servant, who was in the secret, and lay hidden on a beam overhanging, his wife's chamber, that he might prove with his own eyes if anything were done to the dishonor of his marriage-bed.  Thereupon beholding his wife in the act of fornication with a young man of the neighborhood, and in his indignation forgetful of his purpose, he fell, and was dashed heavily to the ground, near where they were lying.

The adulterer himself leaped up and escaped; but the wife, cunningly dissembling the fact, busied herself in gently raising her fallen husband from the earth.  As soon as he had partially recovered, he upbraided her with her adultery, and threatened punishment; but she answering, "Explain yourself, my lord," said she; "you are speaking unbecomingly which must be imputed not to you, but to the sickness with which you are troubled."  Being much shaken by the fall, and his whole body stupefied, he was attacked with a disease, insomuch that the man whom I have mentioned as having related these facts to me visiting him in the pious discharge of his duties, admonished him to make confession of his sins, and receive the Christian Eucharist in proper form: but as he was occupied in thinking about what had happened to him, and what his wife had said, put off the wholesome advice until the morrow -- that morrow which in this world he was fated never to behold! -- for the next night, destitute of Christian grace, and a prey to his well-earned misfortunes, he shared the deep slumber of death.  A Christian burial, indeed, he received, though unworthy of it; but it did not much benefit him: for issuing, by the handiwork of Satan, from his grave at night-time, and pursued by a pack of dogs with horrible barkings, he wandered through the courts and around the houses while all men made fast their doors, and did not dare to go abroad on any errand whatever from the beginning of the night until the sunrise, for fear of meeting and being beaten black and blue by this vagrant monster.  But those precautions were of no avail; for the atmosphere, poisoned by the vagaries of this foul carcass, filled every house with disease and death by its pestiferous breath.

Already did the town, which but a short time ago was populous, appear almost deserted; while those of its inhabitants who had escaped destruction migrated to other parts of the country, lest they too should die.  The man from whose mouth I heard these things, sorrowing over this desolation of his parish, applied himself to summon a meeting of wise and religious men on that sacred day which is called Palm Sunday, in order that they might impart healthful counsel in so great a dilemma, and refresh the spirits of the miserable remnant of the people with consolation, however imperfect. Having delivered a discourse to the inhabitants, after the solemn ceremonies of the holy day had been properly performed, he invited his clerical guests, together with the other persons of honor who were present, to his table.  While they were thus banqueting, two young men (brothers), who had lost their father by this plague, mutually encouraging one another, said, "This monster has already destroyed our father, and will speedily destroy us also, unless we take steps to prevent it.  Let us, therefore, do some bold action which will at once ensure our own safety and revenge our father's death.  There is no one to hinder us; for in the priest's house a feast is in progress, and the whole town is as silent as if deserted.  Let us dig up this baneful pest, and burn it with fire."

Thereupon snatching up a spade of but indifferent sharpness of edge, and hastening to the cemetery, they began to dig; and whilst they were thinking that they would have to dig to a greater depth, they suddenly, before much of the earth had been removed, laid bare the corpse, swollen to an enormous corpulence, with its countenance beyond measure turgid and suffused with blood; while the napkin in which it had been wrapped appeared nearly torn to pieces.  The young men, however, spurred on by wrath, feared not, and inflicted a wound upon the senseless carcass, out of which incontinently flowed such a stream of blood, that it might have been taken for a leech filled with the blood of many persons.  Then, dragging it beyond the village, they speedily constructed a funeral pile; and upon one of them saying that the pestilential body would not burn unless its heart were torn out, the other laid open its side by repeated blows of the blunted spade, and, thrusting in his hand, dragged out the accursed heart.  This being torn piecemeal, and the body now consigned to the flames, it was announced to the guests what was going on, who, running thither, enabled themselves to testify henceforth to the circumstances.  When that infernal hell-hound had thus been destroyed, the pestilence which was rife among the people ceased, as if the air, which had been corrupted by the contagious motions of the dreadful corpse, were already purified by the fire which had consumed it.  These facts having been thus expounded, let us return to the regular thread of history.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Eighteen candles remain...


Any day now...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #14 on: October 13, 2013, 07:38:44 AM »
Not old enough for you?  Never fear.  Here's a haunted house story from Ancient Greece, as told in a letter written by Pliny the Younger nearly two thousand years ago.

An Ancient Ghost Story

There was in Athens a house, spacious and open, but with an infamous reputation, as if filled with pestilence.  For in the dead of night, a noise like the clashing of iron could be heard.  And if one listened carefully, it sounded like the rattling of chains.  At first the noise seemed to be at a distance, but then it would approach, nearer, nearer, nearer.  Suddenly a phantom would appear, an old man, pale and emaciated, with a long beard, and hair that appeared driven by the wind.  The fetters on his feet and hands rattled as he moved them.

Any dwellers in the house passed sleepless nights under the most dismal terrors imaginable.  The nights without rest led them to a kind of madness, and as the horrors in their minds increased, onto a path toward death.  Even in the daytime -- when the phantom did not appear -- the memory of the nightmare was so strong that it still passed before their eyes.  The terror remained when the cause of it was gone.

Damned as uninhabitable, the house was at last deserted, left to the spectral monster.  But in hope that some tenant might be found who was unaware of the malevolence within it, the house was posted for rent or sale.

It happened that a philosopher named Athenodorus came to Athens at that time.  Reading the posted bill, he discovered the dwelling's price.  The extraordinary cheapness raised his suspicion, yet when he heard the whole story, he was not in the least put off.  Indeed, he was eager to take the place.  And did so immediately.

As evening drew near, Athenodorus had a couch prepared for him in the front section of the house.  He asked for a light and his writing materials, then dismissed his retainers.  To keep his mind from being distracted by vain terrors of imaginary noises and apparitions, he directed all his energy toward his writing.

For a time the night was silent.  Then came the rattling of fetters.  Athenodorus neither lifted up his eyes, nor laid down his pen.  Instead he closed his ears by concentrating on his work.  But the noise increased and advanced closer till it seemed to be at the door, and at last in the very chamber.  Athenodorus looked round and saw the apparition exactly as it had been described to him.  It stood before him, beckoning with one finger.

Athenodorus made a sign with his hand that the visitor should wait a little, and bent over his work.  The ghost, however, shook the chains over the philosopher's head, beckoning as before.  Athenodorus now took up his lamp and followed.  The ghost moved slowly, as if held back by his chains.  Once it reached the courtyard, it suddenly vanished.

Athenodorus, now deserted, carefully marked the spot with a handful of grass and leaves.  The next day he asked the magistrate to have the spot dug up.  There they found -- intertwined with chains -- the bones that were all that remained of a body that had long lain in the ground.  Carefully, the skeletal relics were collected and given proper burial, at public expense.  The tortured ancient was at rest.  And the house in Athens was haunted no more.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Only seventeen candles remain now.  Do you have a spooky story to share?


Now I'm hoping someone will care...

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Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2013, 06:28:51 PM »
Axe Murder Hollow

Susan and Ned were driving through a wooded empty section of highway. Lightning flashed, thunder roared, the sky went dark in the torrential downpour.
     “We’d better stop,”  said Susan.
      Ned nodded his head in agreement. He stepped on the brake, and suddenly the car started to slide on the slick pavement. They plunged off the road and slid to a halt at the bottom of an incline.
     Pale and shaking, Ned quickly turned to check if Susan was all right.  When she nodded, Ned relaxed and looked through the rain soaked windows.
     “I’m going to see how bad it is,” he told Susan, and when out into the storm. She saw his blurry figure in the headlight, walking around the front of the car. A moment later, he jumped in beside her, soaking wet.
      “The car’s not badly damaged, but we’re wheel-deep in mud,” he said. “I’m going to have to go for help.”
      Susan swallowed nervously. There would be no quick rescue here. He told her to turn off the headlights and lock the doors until he returned.
     Axe Murder Hollow. Although Ned hadn’t said the name aloud, they both knew what he had been thinking when he told her to lock the car.  This was the place where a man had once taken an axe and hacked his wife to death in a jealous rage over an alleged affair. Supposedly, the axe-wielding spirit of the husband continued to haunt this section of the road.
      Outside the car, Susan heard a shriek, a loud thump, and a strange gurgling noise. But she couldn’t see anything in the darkness.
      Frightened, she shrank down into her seat. She sat in silence for a while, and then she noticed another sound.  Bump. Bump. Bump.  It was a soft sound, like something being blown by the wind.
      Suddenly, the car was illuminated by a bright light.  An official sounding voice told her to get out of the car. Ned must have found a police officer.  Susan unlocked the door and stepped out of the car.  As her eyes adjusted to the bright light, she saw it.
      Hanging by his feet from the tree next to the car was the dead body of Ned.  His bloody throat had been cut so deeply that he was nearly decapitated. The wind swung his corpse back and forth so that it thumped against the tree. Bump. Bump. Bump.
     Susan screamed and ran toward the voice and the light. As she drew close, she realized the light was not coming from a flashlight. Standing there was the glowing figure of a man with a smile on his face and a large, solid, and definitely real axe in his hands. She backed away from the glowing figure until she bumped into the car. 
      “Playing around when my back was turned,” the ghost whispered, stroking the sharp blade of the axe with his fingers. “You’ve been very naughty.”
      The last thing she saw was the glint of the axe blade in the eerie, incandescent light.

Sixteen candles left.

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Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #16 on: October 13, 2013, 06:37:17 PM »
Raw Head and Bloody Bones

Way back in the deep woods there lived a scrawny old woman who had a reputation for being the best conjuring woman in the Ozarks. With her bedraggled black-and-gray hair, funny eyes - one yellow and one green - and her crooked nose, Old Betty was not a pretty picture, but she was the best there was at fixing what ailed a man, and that was all that counted.

Old Betty's house was full of herbs and roots and bottles filled with conjuring medicine. The walls were lined with strange books brimming with magical spells. Old Betty was the only one living in the Hollow who knew how to read; her granny, who was also a conjurer, had taught her the skill as part of her magical training.

Just about the only friend Old Betty had was a tough, mean, ugly old razorback hog that ran wild around her place. It rooted so much in her kitchen garbage that all the leftover spells started affecting it. Some folks swore up and down that the old razorback hog sometimes walked upright like man. One fellow claimed he'd seen the pig sitting in the rocker on Old Betty's porch, chattering away to her while she stewed up some potions in the kitchen, but everyone discounted that story on account of the fellow who told it was a little too fond of moonshine.

"Raw Head" was the name Old Betty gave the razorback, referring maybe to the way the ugly creature looked a bit like some of the dead pigs come butchering time down in Hog-Scald Hollow. The razorback didn't mind the funny name. Raw Head kept following Old Betty around her little cabin and rooting up the kitchen leftovers. He'd even walk to town with her when she came to the local mercantile to sell her home remedies.

Well, folks in town got so used to seeing Raw Head and Old Betty around the town that it looked mighty strange one day around hog-driving time when Old Betty came to the mercantile without him.

"Where's Raw Head?" the owner asked as he accepted her basket full of home-remedy potions. The liquid in the bottles swished in an agitate manner as Old Betty said: "I ain't seen him around today, and I'm mighty worried. You seen him here in town?"

"Nobody's seen him around today. They would've told me if they did," the mercantile owner said. "We'll keep a lookout fer you."

"That's mighty kind of you. If you see him, tell him to come home straightaway," Old Betty said. The mercantile owner nodded agreement as he handed over her weekly pay.

Old Betty fussed to herself all the way home. It wasn't like Raw Head to disappear, especially not the day they went to town. The man at the mercantile always saved the best scraps for the mean old razorback, and Raw Head never missed a visit. When the old conjuring woman got home, she mixed up a potion and poured it onto a flat plate.

"Where's that old hog got to?" she asked the liquid. It clouded over and then a series of pictures formed. First, Old Betty saw the good-for-nothing hunter that lived on the next ridge sneaking around the forest, rounding up razorback hogs that didn't belong to him. One of the hogs was Raw Head. Then she saw him taking the hogs down to Hog-Scald Hollow, where folks from the next town were slaughtering their razorbacks. Then she saw her hog, Raw Head, slaughtered with the rest of the pigs and hung up for gutting. The final picture in the liquid was the pile of bloody bones that had once been her hog, and his scraped-clean head lying with the other hogsheads in a pile.

Old Betty was infuriated by the death of her only friend. It was murder to her, plain and simple. Everyone in three counties knew that Raw Head was her friend, and that lazy, hog-stealing, good-for-nothing hunter on the ridge was going to pay for slaughtering him.

Now Old Betty tried to practice white conjuring most of the time, but she knew the dark secrets too. She pulled out an old, secret book her granny had given her and turned to the very last page. She lit several candles and put them around the plate containing the liquid picture of Raw Head and his bloody bones. Then she began to chant: "Raw Head and Bloody Bones. Raw Head and Bloody Bones."

The light from the windows disappeared as if the sun had been snuffed out like a candle. Dark clouds billowed into the clearing where Old Betty's cabin stood, and the howl of dark spirits could be heard in the wind that pummeled the treetops.

"Raw Head and Bloody Bones. Raw Head and Bloody Bones."

Betty continued the chant until a bolt of silver lightning left the plate and streaked out threw the window, heading in the direction of Hog-Scald Hollow.

When the silver light struck Raw Head's severed head, which was piled on the hunter's wagon with the other hog heads, it tumbled to the ground and rolled until it was touching the bloody bones that had once inhabited its body. As the hunter's wagon rumbled away toward the ridge where he lived, the enchanted Raw Head called out: "Bloody bones, get up and dance!"

Immediately, the bloody bones reassembled themselves into the skeleton of a razorback hog walking upright, as Raw Head had often done when he was alone with Old Betty. The head hopped on top of his skeleton and Raw Head went searching through the woods for weapons to use against the hunter. He borrowed the sharp teeth of a dying panther, the claws of a long-dead bear, and the tail from a rotting raccoon and put them over his skinned head and bloody bones.

Then Raw Head headed up the track toward the ridge, looking for the hunter who had slaughtered him. Raw Head slipped passed the thief on the road and slid into the barn where the hunter kept his horse and wagon. Raw Head climbed up into the loft and waited for the hunter to come home.

It was dusk when the hunter drove into the barn and unhitched his horse. The horse snorted in fear, sensing the presence of Raw Head in the loft. Wondering what was disturbing his usually-calm horse, the hunter looked around and saw a large pair of eyes staring down at him from the darkness in the loft.

The hunter frowned, thinking it was one of the local kids fooling around in his barn.

"Land o' Goshen, what have you got those big eyes fer?" he snapped, thinking the kids were trying to scare him with some crazy mask.

"To see your grave," Raw Head rumbled very softly. The hunter snorted irritably and put his horse into the stall.

"Very funny. Ha,ha," The hunter said. When he came out of the stall, he saw Raw Head had crept forward a bit further. Now his luminous yellow eyes and his bears claws could clearly be seen.

"Land o' Goshen, what have you got those big claws fer?" he snapped. "You look ridiculous."

"To dig your grave…" Raw Head intoned softly, his voice a deep rumble that raised the hairs on the back of the hunter's neck. He stirred uneasily, not sure how the crazy kid in his loft could have made such a scary sound. If it really was a crazy kid.

Feeling a little spooked, he hurried to the door and let himself out of the barn. Raw Head slipped out of the loft and climbed down the side of the barn behind him. With nary a rustle to reveal his presence, Raw Head raced through the trees and up the path to a large, moonlight rock. He hid in the shadow of the huge stone so that the only things showing were his gleaming yellow eyes, his bear claws, and his raccoon tail.

When the hunter came level with the rock on the side of the path, he gave a startled yelp. Staring at Raw Head, he gasped: "You nearly knocked the heart right out of me, you crazy kid! Land o' Goshen, what have you got that crazy tail fer?"

"To sweep your grave…" Raw Head boomed, his enchanted voice echoing through the woods, getting louder and louder with each echo. The hunter took to his heels and ran for his cabin. He raced passed the old well-house, passed the wood pile, over the rotting fence and into his yard. But Raw Head was faster. When the hunter reached his porch, Raw Head leapt from the shadows and loomed above him. The hunter stared in terror up at Raw Head's gleaming yellow eyes in the ugly razorback hogshead, his bloody bone skeleton with its long bear claws, sweeping raccoon's tail and his gleaming sharp panther teeth.

"Land o' Goshen, what have you got those big teeth fer?" he gasped desperately, stumbling backwards from the terrible figure before him.

"To eat you up, like you wanted to eat me!" Raw Head roared, descending upon the good-for-nothing hunter. The murdering thief gave one long scream in the moonlight. Then there was silence, and the sound of crunching.

Nothing more was ever seen or heard of the lazy hunter who lived on the ridge. His horse also disappeared that night. But sometimes folks would see Raw Head roaming through the forest in the company of his friend Old Betty. And once a month, on the night of the full moon, Raw Head would ride the hunter's horse through town, wearing the old man's blue overalls over his bloody bones with a hole cut-out for his raccoon tail. In his bloody, bear-clawed hands, he carried his raw, razorback hogshead, lifting it high against the full moon for everyone to see.

Fifteen candles left.

Offline Lilias

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Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #17 on: October 20, 2013, 03:30:41 PM »
Hallow-e’en 1915
Winifred M. Letts (1916)

Will you come back to us, men of our hearts, to-night
In the misty close of the brief October day?
Will you leave the alien graves where you sleep and steal away
To see the gables and eaves of home grow dark in the evening light?

O men of the manor and moated hall and farm,
Come back to-night, treading softly over the grass;
The dew of the autumn dusk will not betray where you pass;
The watchful dog may stir in his sleep but he’ll raise no hoarse alarm.

Then you will stand, not strangers, but wishful to look
At the kindly lamplight shed from the open door,
And the fire-lit casement where one, having wept you sore,
Sits dreaming alone with her sorrow, not heeding her open book.

Forgotten awhile the weary trenches, the dome
Of pitiless Eastern sky, in this quiet hour
When no sound breaks the hush but the chimes from the old church tower,
And the river’s song at the weir,—ah! then we will welcome you home.

You will come back to us just as the robin sings
Nunc Dimittis from the larch to a sun late set
In purple woodlands; when caught like silver fish in a net
The stars gleam out through the orchard boughs and the church owl flaps his wings.

We have no fear of you, silent shadows, who tread
The leaf-bestrewn paths, the dew-wet lawns. Draw near
To the glowing fire, the empty chair,—we shall not fear,
Being but ghosts for the lack of you, ghosts of our well-beloved dead.

Fourteen candles left.

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2013, 05:26:26 AM »
Thank you very much, Jagerin and Lilias, for those terrific -- and terrifying -- tales.  I for one am chilled.  Although I would like to tell a slightly lighter tale to ease the nerves of any chickens among us, I'm not sure that I can: The ghostly world spares no one, not even chickens.

The Ghost Chicken of Highgate, London

In early April, 1626, Sir Francis Bacon was being driven through Pond Square, Highgate in his open horse-drawn carriage with friend Dr Witherborne, physician to James I.  They were discussing the idea of using snow in the same way salt was used to preserve food, most likely because the day itself was bitterly cold with the ponds frozen over and snow and ice covered the ground.  Bacon, in particular, noted that when the carriage wheels passed over the grass under the snow, the visible greenery that appeared afterwards looked fresh and like new.

Like any 17th-Century gent, Witherborne scoffed at the concept of preservation by refrigeration and an infuriated Bacon ordered the driver to stop.  He ran from the carriage to a nearby house at the bottom of Highgate Hill and purchased a hen then and there.  Once it was prepared Bacon stuffed the dead chicken with snow, placed it in a bag and packed more snow about the carcass -- ostensibly creating the world's first frozen chicken.

It is not known whether the experiment was a success, however, as Bacon had a little more to contend with shortly afterwards.  After running about in the extreme cold, and stuffing the chicken full of snow with his bare hands, Bacon quickly became ill.  He was taken to another of his friend's, Lord Arundel's, and put to bed (a damp one from all accounts).  The 65-year-old contracted an acute case of pneumonia, and Sir Francis passed away a few days later on 9 April, 1626.

The chicken apparently lived on though.

Not long after Bacon's death, reports were filtering in of a strange occurrence at Pond Square.  Many people had either been witness to or heard the eerie screeching of a chicken, and some insisted they had seen a half-naked bird running in circles around the square, or perched on the lower branches of nearby trees.  On further investigation, the chicken would vanish into thin air.  Many felt it was the public's imagination getting the better of them after the death of the great Sir Francis Bacon, but the ghost chicken continued to haunt the area for years to come.

During the Second World War, Air Raid Precaution Wardens patrolling Highgate saw the ghostly chicken on many occasions, and one man actually attempted to bag himself a free dinner.  The chicken put a quick end to the game however, swiftly disappearing into a brick wall.

A British airman home on leave during December, 1943 was passing through Pond Square one night when he heard the sound of horses' hooves and carriage wheels -- followed by a terrible screeching.  The man could see no sign of a horse and carriage, but in the middle of the square he saw the half-bald figure of a chicken, running round in circles and apparently shivering with the cold.  The airman approached the featherless fowl, but it promptly vanished.

In January, 1969, a motorist whose car had broken down near Pond Square saw the bird.  On his approaching it, the chicken disappeared.  It was not seen or heard of again until 1970, when a couple who were embracing in a doorway of one of the houses on the square were rudely interrupted by the apparition of a plucked, squawking chicken.

The ghost chicken has a strange reputation, but for those that are not fearful of the unknown or supernatural, why not take a visit to Pond Square, Highgate during a cold April night?  You never know what you may see -- or hear...

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Thirteen candles remain...


My God, he stuffed her cold...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2013, 05:26:39 AM »
It is true that whatever lives dies.  Is it equally true that whatever dies can in turn become a ghost?  If so, the wraiths of all manner of beings must inhabit that other world.  But how do we know what's alive and what's not in the first place?  Could the antagonist of this classic tale by Ambrose Bierce, for instance, become a ghost?

Moxon's Master

"Are you serious? -- do you really believe a machine thinks?"

I got no immediate reply; Moxon was apparently intent upon the coals in the grate, touching them deftly here and there with the fire-poker till they signified a sense of his attention by a brighter glow.  For several weeks I had been observing in him a growing habit of delay in answering even the most trivial of commonplace questions.  His air, however, was that of preoccupation rather than deliberation: one might have said that he had "something on his mind."

Presently he said:

"What is a 'machine'?  The word has been variously defined.  Here is one definition from a popular dictionary: 'Any instrument or organization by which power is applied and made effective, or a desired effect produced.'  Well, then, is not a man a machine?  And you will admit that he thinks -- or thinks he thinks."

"If you do not wish to answer my question," I said, rather testily, "why not say so? -- all that you say is mere evasion.  You know well enough that when I say 'machine' I do not mean a man, but something that man has made and controls."

"When it does not control him," he said, rising abruptly and looking out of a window, whence nothing was visible in the blackness of a stormy night.  A moment later he turned about and with a smile said:

"I beg your pardon; I had no thought of evasion.  I considered the dictionary man's unconscious testimony suggestive and worth something in the discussion.  I can give your question a direct answer easily enough: I do believe that a machine thinks about the work that it is doing."

That was direct enough, certainly.  It was not altogether pleasing, for it tended to confirm a sad suspicion that Moxon's devotion to study and work in his machine-shop had not been good from him.  I knew, for one thing, that he suffered from insomnia, and that is no light affliction.  Had it affected his mind?  His reply to my question seemed to me then evidence that it had; perhaps I should think differently about it now.  I was younger then, and among the blessings that are not denied to youth is ignorance.  Incited by that great stimulant to controversy, I said:

"And what, pray, does it think with -- in the absence of a brain?"

The reply, coming with less than his customary delay, took his favorite form of counter-interrogation:

"With what does a plant think -- in the absence of a brain?"

"Ah, plants also belong to the philosopher class!  I should be pleased to know some of their conclusions; you may omit the premises."

"Perhaps," he replied, apparently unaffected by my foolish irony, "you may be able to infer their convictions from their acts.  I will spare you the familiar examples of the sensitive mimosa and those insectivorous flowers and those whose stamens bend down and shake their pollen upon the entering bee in order that he may fertilize their distant mates.  But observe this.  In an open spot in my garden I planted a climbing vine.  When it was barely above the surface I set a stake into the soil a yard away.  The vine at once made for it, but as it was about to reach it after several days I removed it a few feet.  The vine at once altered its course, making an acute angle, and again made for the stake.  This manoeuver was repeated several times, but finally, as if discouraged, the vine abandoned the pursuit and ignoring further attempts to divert it traveled to a small tree, further away, which it climbed.

"Roots of the eucalyptus will prolong themselves incredibly in search of moisture.  A well-known horticulturist relates that one entered an old drain-pipe and followed it until it came to a break, where a section of the pipe had been removed to make way for a stone wall that had been built across its course.  The root left the drain and followed the wall until it found an opening where a stone had fallen out.  It crept through and following the other side of the wall back to the drain, entered the unexplored part and resumed its journey."

"And all this?"

"Can you miss the significance of it?  It shows the consciousness of plants.  It proves they think."

"Even if it did -- what then?  We were speaking, not of plants, but of machines.  They may be composed partly of wood -- wood that has no longer vitality -- or wholly of metal.  Is thought an attribute also of the mineral kingdom?"

"How else do you explain the phenomena, for example, of crystallization?"

"I do not explain them."

"Because you cannot without affirming what you wish to deny, namely, intelligent cooperation among the constituent elements of the crystals.  When soldiers form lines, or hollow squares, you call it reason.  When wild geese in flight take the form of a letter V you say instinct.  When the homogenous atoms of a mineral, moving freely in solution, arrange themselves into shapes mathematically perfect, or particles of frozen moisture into the symmetrical and beautiful forms of snowflakes, you have nothing to say.  You have not even invented a name to conceal your heroic unreason."

Moxon was speaking with unusual animation and earnestness.  As he paused I heard in an adjoining room known to me as his "machine-shop," which no one but himself was permitted to enter, a singular thumping sound, as of some one pounding upon a table with an open hand.  Moxon heard it at the same moment and, visibly agitated, rose and hurriedly passed into the room whence it came.  I thought it odd that any one else should be in there, and my interest in my friend -- with doubtless a touch of unwarrantable curiosity -- led me to listen intently, though, I am happy to say, not at the keyhole.  There were confused sounds, as of a struggle or scuffle; the floor shook.  I distinctly heard hard breathing and a hoarse whisper which said "Damn you!"  Then all was silent, and presently Moxon reappeared and said, with a rather sorry smile:

"Pardon me for leaving you so abruptly, I have a machine in there that lost its temper and cut up rough."

Fixing my eyes steadily upon his left cheek, which was traversed by four parallel excoriations showing blood, I said:

"How would it do to trim its nails?"

I could have spared myself the jest; he gave it no attention, but seated himself in the chair that he had left and resumed the interrupted monologue as if nothing had occurred:

"Doubtless you do not hold with those (I need not name them to a man of your reading) who have taught that all matter is sentient, that every atom is a living, feeling, conscious being.  I do.  There is no such thing as dead, inert matter: it is all alive; all instinct with force, actual and potential; all sensitive to the same forces in its environment and susceptible to the contagion of higher and subtler ones residing in such superior organisms as it may be brought into relationship with, as those of man when he is fashioning it into an instrument of his will.  It absorbs something of his intelligence and purpose -- more of them in proportion to the complexity of the resulting machine and that of his work.

"Do you happen to recall Herbert Spencer's definition of 'life'?  I read it thirty years ago.  He may have altered it afterward, for anything I know, but in all that time I have been unable to think of a single word that could profitably be changed or added or removed.  It seems to me not only the best definition, but the only possible one.

"'Life,' he says, 'is a definite combination of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive, in correspondence with external coexistences and sequences.'"

"That defines the phenomenon," I said, "but gives no hint of its cause."

"That," he replied, "is all that any definition can do.  As Mill points out, we know nothing of effect except as a consequent.  Of certain phenomena, one never occurs without the other, which is dissimilar: the first in point of time we call the cause, the second, the effect.  One who had many times seen a rabbit pursued by a dog, and had never seen rabbits and dogs otherwise, would think the rabbit the cause of the dog.

"But I fear," he added, laughing naturally enough, "that my rabbit is leading me a long way from the track of my legitimate quarry: I'm indulging in the pleasure of the chase for its own sake.  What I want you to observe is that in Herbert Spenser's definition of 'life' the activity of a machine is included -- there is nothing in the definition that is not applicable to it.  According to this sharpest of observers and deepest of thinkers, if a man during his period of activity is alive, so is a machine when in operation.  As an inventor and constructor of machines I know that to be true."

Moxon was silent for a long time, gazing absently into the fire.  It was growing late and I thought it time to be going, but somehow I did not like the notion of leaving him in that isolated house, all alone except for the presence of some person whose nature my conjectures could go no further than that it was unfriendly, perhaps malign.  Leaning toward him and looking earnestly into his eyes while making a motion with my hand through the door of his workshop, I said:

"Moxon, whom do you have in there?"

Somewhat to my surprise he laughed lightly and answered without hesitation:

"Nobody; the incident that you have in mind was caused by my folly in leaving a machine in action with nothing to act upon, while I undertook the interminable task of enlightening your understanding.  Do you happen to know that Consciousness is the creature of Rhythm?"

"O bother them both!" I replied, rising and laying hold of my overcoat.  "I'm going to wish you good night; and I'll add the hope that the machine which you inadvertently left in action will have her gloves on the next time you think it needful to stop her."

Without waiting to observe the effect of my shot I left the house.

Rain was falling, and the darkness was intense.  In the sky beyond the crest of a hill toward which I groped my way along precarious plank sidewalks and across miry, unpaved streets I could see the faint glow of the city's lights, but behind me nothing was visible but a single window of Moxon's house.  It glowed with what seemed to me a mysterious and fateful meaning.  I knew it was an uncurtained aperture in my friend's "machine-shop," and I had little doubt that he had resumed the studies interrupted by his duties as my instructor in mechanical consciousness and the fatherhood of Rhythm.  Odd, and in some degree humorous, as his convictions seemed to me at that time, I could not wholly divest myself of the feeling that they had some tragic relation to his life and character -- perhaps to his destiny -- although I no longer entertained the notion that they were the vagaries of a disordered mind.  Whatever might be thought of his views, his exposition of them was too logical for that.  Over and over, his last words came back to me: "Consciousness is the creature of Rhythm."  Bald and terse as the statement was, I now found it infinitely alluring.  At each recurrence it broadened in meaning and deepened in suggestion.  Why, here (I thought) is something upon which to found a philosophy.  If consciousness is the product of rhythm all things are conscious, for all have motion, and all motion is rhythmic.  I wondered if Moxon knew the significance and breadth of his thought -- the scope of this momentous generalization; or had he arrived at his philosophic faith by the tortuous and uncertain road of observation?

That faith was then new to me, and all Moxon's expounding had failed to make me a convert; but now it seemed as if a great light shone about me, like that which fell upon Saul of Tarsus; and out there in the storm and darkness and solitude I experienced what Lewes calls "The endless variety and excitement of philosophic thought."  I exulted in a new sense of knowledge, a new pride of reason.  My feet seemed hardly to touch the earth; it was as if I were uplifted and borne through the air by invisible wings.

Yielding to an impulse to seek further light from him whom I now recognized as my master and guide, I had unconsciously turned about, and almost before I was aware of having done so found myself again at Moxon's door.  I was drenched with rain, but felt no discomfort.  Unable in my excitement to find the doorbell I instinctively tried the knob.  It turned and, entering, I mounted the stairs to the room that I had so recently left.  All was dark and silent; Moxon, as I had supposed, was in the adjoining room -- the "machine shop."  Groping along the wall until I found the communicating door I knocked loudly several times, but got no response, which I attributed to the uproar outside, for the wind was blowing a gale and dashing the rain against the thin walls in sheets.  The drumming upon the shingle roof spanning the unceiled room was loud and incessant.

I had never been invited into the machine-shop -- had, indeed, been denied admittance, as had all others, with one exception, a skilled metal worker, of whom no one knew anything except that his name was Haley and his habit silence.  But in my spiritual exaltation, discretion and civility were alike forgotten and I opened the door.  What I saw took all philosophical speculation out of me in short order.

Moxon sat facing me at the farther side of a small table upon which a single candle made all the light that was in the room.  Opposite him, his back toward me, sat another person.  On the table between the two was a chessboard; the men were playing.  I knew little about chess, but as only a few pieces were on the board it was obvious that the game was near its close.  Moxon was intensely interested -- not so much, it seemed to me, in the game as in his antagonist, upon whom he had fixed so intent a look that, standing though I did directly in the line of his vision, I was altogether unobserved.  His face was ghastly white, and his eyes glittered like diamonds.  Of his antagonist I had only a back view, but that was sufficient; I should not have cared to see his face.

He was apparently not more than five feet in height, with proportions suggesting those of a gorilla -- tremendous breadth of shoulders, thick, short neck and broad, squat head, which had a tangled growth of black hair and was topped by a crimson fez.  A tunic of the same color, belted tightly to the waist, reached the seat -- apparently a box -- upon which he sat; his legs and feet were not seen.  His left forearm appeared to rest in his lap; he moved his pieces with his right hand, which seemed disproportionately long.

I had shrunk back and now stood a little to one side of the doorway and in shadow.  If Moxon had looked farther than the face of his opponent he could have observed nothing now, excepting that the door was open.  Something forbade me either to enter or retire, a feeling -- I know not how it came -- that I was in the presence of imminent tragedy and might serve my friend by remaining.  With a scarcely conscious rebellion against the indelicacy of the act I remained.

The play was rapid.  Moxon hardly glanced at the board before making his moves, and to my unskilled eye seemed to move the piece most convenient to his hand, his motions in doing so being quick, nervous and lacking in precision.  The response of his antagonist, while equally prompt in the inception, was made with a slow, uniform, mechanical and, I thought, somewhat theatrical movement of the arm, that was a sore trial to my patience.  There was something unearthly about it all, and I caught myself shuddering.  But I was wet and cold.

Two or three times after moving a piece the stranger slightly inclined his head, and each time I observed that Moxon shifted his king.  All at once the thought came to me that the man was dumb.  And then that he was a machine -- an automaton chessplayer!  Then I remembered that Moxon had once spoken to me of having invented such a piece of mechanism, though I did not understand that it had actually been constructed.  Was all his talk about the consciousness and intelligence of machines merely a prelude to eventual exhibition of this device -- only a trick to intensify the effect of its mechanical action upon me in my ignorance of its secret?

A fine end, this, of all my intellectual transports -- my "endless variety and excitement of philosophic thought!"  I was about to retire in disgust when something occurred to hold my curiosity.  I observed a shrug of the thing's great shoulders, as if it were irritated: and so natural was this -- so entirely human -- that in my new view of the matter it startled me.  Nor was that all, for a moment later it struck the table sharply with its clenched hand.  At that gesture Moxon seemed even more startled than I: he pushed his chair a little backward, as in alarm.

Presently Moxon, whose play it was, raised his hand high above the board, pounced upon one of his pieces like a sparrowhawk and with an exclamation "Checkmate!" rose quickly to his feet and stepped behind his chair.  The automaton sat motionless.

The wind had now gone down, but I heard, at lessening intervals and progressively louder, the rumble and roll of thunder.  In the pauses between I now became conscious of a low humming or buzzing which, like the thunder, grew momentarily louder and more distinct.  It seemed to come from the body of the automaton, and was unmistakably a whirring of wheels.  It gave me the impression of a disordered mechanism which had escaped the repressive and regulating action of some controlling part -- an effect such as might be expected if a pawl should be jostled from the teeth of a ratchet-wheel.  But before I had time for much conjecture as to its nature my attention was taken by the strange motions of the automaton itself.  A slight but continuous convulsion appeared to have possession of it.  In body and head it shook like a man with palsy or an ague chill, and the motion augmented every moment until the entire figure was in violent agitation.  Suddenly it sprang to its feet and with a movement almost too quick for the eye to follow shot forward across table and chair, with both arms thrust forward to their full length -- the posture and lunge of a diver.  Moxon tried to throw himself backward out of reach, but he was too late: I saw the horrible thing's hands close upon his throat, his own clutch its wrists.  Then the table was overturned, the candle thrown to the floor and extinguished, and all was black dark.  But the noise of the struggle was dreadfully distinct, and most terrible of all were the raucous, squawking sounds made by the strangled man's efforts to breathe.  Guided by the infernal hubbub, I sprang to the rescue of my friend, but had hardly taken a stride in the darkness when the whole room blazed with a blinding white light that burned into my brain and heart and memory a vivid picture of the combatants on the floor, Moxon underneath, his throat still in the clutch of those iron hands, his head forced backward, his eyes protruding, his mouth wide open and his tongue thrust out; and -- horrible contrast! --  upon the painted face of the assassin an expression of tranquil and profound thought, as in the solution of a problem in chess!  This I observed, then all was blackness and silence.

Three days later I recovered consciousness in a hospital.  As the memory of that tragic night slowly evolved in my ailing brain I recognized in my attendant Moxon's confidential workman, Haley.  Responding to a look he approached, smiling.

"Tell me about it," I managed to say, faintly -- "all about it."

"Certainly," he said; "you were carried unconscious from a burning house -- Moxon's.  Nobody knows how you came to be there.  You may have to do a little explaining.  The origin of the fire is a bit mysterious, too.  My own notion is that the house was struck by lightning."

"And Moxon?"

"Buried yesterday -- what was left of him."

Apparently this reticent person could unfold himself on occasion.  When imparting shocking intelligence to the sick he was affable enough.  After some moments of the keenest mental suffering I ventured to ask another question:

"Who rescued me?"

"Well, if that interests you -- I did."

"Thank you, Mr. Haley, and may God bless you for it.  Did you rescue, also, that charming product of your skill, the automaton chess-player that murdered its inventor?"

The man was silent a long time, looking away from me.  Presently he turned and gravely said:

"Do you know that?"

"I do," I replied; "I saw it done."

That was many years ago.  If asked today I should answer less confidently.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Twelve candles remain...


I may kill you all...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2013, 05:26:52 AM »
The ghosts and ghoulies who reside in that other world may take many forms.  It's only appropriate, therefore, that stories about them should do so likewise.  Some stories are long, for example, while others are brief indeed.

Dead and Buried

I can't move, breathe, speak, or hear and it's so dark all of the time.  If I'd known that it would be this lonely, I would have been cremated instead.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Eleven candles remain...


I'm torn between the light and the dark...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2013, 05:27:16 AM »
One more quickie from that eerie collection -- mmm, I'm givin' you the ol' one-two punch!

The Monster on the Bed

I began tucking my son into bed and he said to me, "Daddy, check for monsters under my bed."  Looking underneath the bed to comfort him, I saw him -- another him -- there under the bed, staring back at me, quivering, and whispering, "Daddy, there's somebody on my bed!"

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Ten candles remain.  Do you have a spooky story to share?


Please, please give me the night...

Offline Lilias

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Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2013, 06:11:16 AM »
A Dream of Red Hands
Bram Stoker

The first opinion given to me regarding Jacob Settle was a simple descriptive statement. "He's a down-in-the-mouth chap": but I found that it embodied the thoughts and ideas of all his fellow- workmen. There was in the phrase a certain easy tolerance, an absence of positive feeling of any kind, rather than any complete opinion, which marked pretty accurately the man's place in public esteem. Still, there was some dissimilarity between this and his appearance which unconsciously set me thinking, and by degrees, as I saw more of the place and the workmen, I came to have a special interest in him. He was, I found, for ever doing kindnesses, not involving money expenses beyond his humble means, but in the manifold ways of forethought and forbearance and self-repression which are of the truer charities of life. Women and children trusted him implicitly, though, strangely enough, he rather shunned them, except when anyone was sick, and then he made his appearance to help if he could, timidly and awkwardly. He led a very solitary life, keeping house by himself in a tiny cottage, or rather hut, of one room, far on the edge of the moorland. His existence seemed so sad and solitary that I wished to cheer it up, and for the purpose took the occasion when we had both been sitting up with a child, injured by me through accident, to offer to lend him books. He gladly accepted, and as we parted in the grey of the dawn I felt that something of mutual confidence had been established between us.

The books were always most carefully and punctually returned, and in time Jacob Settle and I became quite friends. Once or twice as I crossed the moorland on Sundays I looked in on him; but on such occasions he was shy and ill at ease so that I felt diffident about calling to see him. He would never under any circumstances come into my own lodgings.

One Sunday afternoon, I was coming back from a long walk beyond the moor, and as I passed Settle's cottage stopped at the door to say "how do you do?" to him. As the door was shut, I thought that he was out, and merely knocked for form's sake, or through habit, not expecting to get any answer. To my surprise, I heard a feeble voice from within, though what was said I could not hear. I entered at once, and found Jacob lying half-dressed upon his bed. He was as pale as death, and the sweat was simply rolling off his face. His hands were unconsciously gripping the bed-clothes as a drowning man holds on to whatever he may grasp. As I came in he half arose, with a wild, hunted look in his eyes, which were wide open and staring, as though something of horror had come before him; but when he recognised me he sank back on the couch with a smothered sob of relief and closed his eyes. I stood by him for a while, quiet a minute or two, while he gasped. Then he opened his eyes and looked at me, but with such a despairing, woeful expression that, as I am a living man, I would have rather seen that frozen look of horror. I sat down beside him and asked after his health. For a while he would not answer me except to say that he was not ill; but then, after scrutinising me closely, he half arose on his elbow and said-

"I thank you kindly, sir, but I'm simply telling you the truth. I am not ill, as men call it, though God knows whether there be not worse sicknesses than doctors know of. I'll tell you, as you are so kind, but I trust that you won't even mention such a think to a living soul, for it might work me more and greater woe. I am suffering from a bad dream."

"A bad dream!" I said, hoping to cheer him; "but dreams pass away with the light-even with waking." There I stopped, for before he spoke I saw the answer in his desolate look round the little place.

"No! no! that's all well for people that live in comfort and with those they love around them. It is a thousand times worse for those who live alone and have to do so. What cheer is there for me, waking here in the silence of the night, with the wide moor around me full of voices and full of faces that make my waking a worse dream than my sleep? Ah, young sir, you have no past that can send its legions to people the darkness and the empty space, and I pray the good God that you may never have! As he spoke, there was such an almost irresistible gravity of conviction in his manner that I abandoned my remonstrance about his solitary life. I felt that I was in the presence of some secret influence which I could not fathom. To my relief, for I knew not what to say, he went on-

"Two nights past have I dreamed it. It was hard enough the first night, but I came through it. Last night the expectation was in itself almost worse than the dream-until the dream came, and then it swept away every remembrance of lesser pain. I stayed awake till just before the dawn, and then it came again, and ever since I have been in such an agony as I am sure the dying feel, and with it all the dread of to-night." Before he had got to the end of the sentence my mind was made up, and I felt that I could speak to him more cheerfully.

"Try and get to sleep early to-night-in fact, before the evening has passed away. The sleep will refresh you, and I promise you there will not be any bad dreams after to-night." He shook his head hopelessly, so I sat a little longer and then left him.

When I got home I made my arrangements for the night, for I had made up my mind to share Jacob Settle's lonely vigil in his cottage on the moor. I judged that if he got to sleep before sunset he would wake well before midnight, and so, just as the bells of the city were striking eleven, I stood opposite his door armed with a bag, in which were my supper, and extra large flask, a couple of candles, and a book. The moonlight was bright, and flooded the whole moor, till it was almost as light as day; but ever and anon black clouds drove across the sky, and made a darkness which by comparison seemed almost tangible. I opened the door softly, and entered without waking Jacob, who lay asleep with his white face upward. He was still, and again bathed it sweat. I tried to imagine what visions were passing before those closed eyes which could bring with them the misery and woe which were stamped on the face, but fancy failed me, and I waited for the awakening. It came suddenly, and in a fashion which touched me to the quick, for the hollow groan that broke from the man's white lips as he half arose and sank back was manifestly the realisation or completion of some train of thought which had gone before.

"If this be dreaming," said I to myself, "then it must be based on some very terrible reality. What can have been that unhappy fact that he spoke of?"

While I thus spoke, he realised that I was with him. It struck me as strange that he had no period of that doubt as to whether dream or reality surrounded him which commonly marks an expected environment of waking men. With a positive cry of joy, he seized my hand and held it in his two wet, trembling hands, as a frightened child clings on to someone whom it loves. I tried to soothe him-

"There, there! it is all right. I have come to stay with you to-night, and together we will try to fight this evil dream." He let go my hand suddenly, and sank back on his bed and covered his eyes with his hands.

"Fight it?-the evil dream! Ah! no sir no! No mortal power can fight that dream, for it comes form God-and is burned in here;" and he beat upon his forehead. Then he went on-

It is the same dream, ever the same, and yet it grows in its power to torture me every time it comes."

"What is the dream?" I asked, thinking that the speaking of it might give him some relief, but he shrank away from me, and after a long pause said-

"No, I had better not tell it. It may not come again."

There was manifestly something to conceal from me-something that lay behind the dream, so I answered-

"All right. I hope you have seen the last of it. But if it should come again, you will tell me, will you not? I ask, not out of curiosity, but because I think it may relieve you to speak." He answered with what I thought was almost an undue amount of solemnity-

"If it comes again, I shall tell you all."

Then I tried to get his mind away from the subject to more mundane things, so I produced supper, and made him share it with me, including the contents of the flask. After a little he braced up, and when I lit my cigar, having given him another, we smoked a full hour, and talked of many things. Little by little the comfort of his body stole over his mind, and I could see sleep laying her gentle hands on his eyelids. He felt it, too, and told me that now he felt all right, and I might safely leave him; but I told him that, right or wrong, I was going to see in the daylight. So I lit my other candle, and began to read as he fell asleep.

By degrees I got interested in my book, so interested that presently I was startled by its dropping out of my hands. I looked and saw that Jacob was still asleep, and I was rejoiced to see that there was on his face a look of unwonted happiness, while his lips seemed to move with unspoken words. Then I turned to my work again, and again woke, but this time to feel chilled to my very marrow by hearing the voice from the bed beside me-

"Not with those red hands! Never! never!" On looking at him, I found that he was still asleep. He woke, however, in an instant, and did not seem surprised to see me; there was again that strange apathy as to his surroundings. Then I said:

"Settle, tell me your dream. You may speak freely, for I shall hold your confidence sacred. While we both live I shall never mention what you may choose to tell me,"

"I said I would; but I had better tell you first what goes before the dream, that you may understand. I was a schoolmaster when I was a very young man; it was only a parish school in a little village in the West Country. No need to mention any names. Better not. I was engaged to be married to a young girl whom I loved and almost reverenced. It was the old story. While we were waiting for the time when we could afford to set up house together, another man came along. He was nearly as young as I was, and handsome, and a gentleman, with all a gentleman's attractive ways for a woman of our class. He would go fishing, and she would meet him while I was at my work in school. I reasoned with her and implored her to give him up. I offered to get married at once and go away and begin the world in a strange country; but she would not listen to anything I could say, and I could see that she was infatuated with him. Then I took it on myself to meet the man and ask him to deal well with the girl, for I thought he might mean honestly by her, so that there might be no talk or chance of talk on the part of others. I went where I should meet him with none by, and we met!" Here Jacob Settle had to pause, for something seemed to rise in his throat, and he almost gasped for breath. Then went on-

"Sir, as God is above us, there was no selfish thought in my heart that day, I loved my pretty Mabel too well to be content with a part of her love, and I had thought of my own unhappiness too often not to have come to realise that, whatever might come to her, my hope was gone. He was insolent to me-you, sir, who are a gentleman, cannot know, perhaps, how galling can be the insolence of one who is above you in station-but I bore with that. I implored him to deal well with the girl, for what might be only a pastime of an idle hour with him might be the breaking of her heart. For I never had a thought of her truth, or that the worst of harm could come to her-it was only the unhappiness to her heart I feared. But when I asked him when he intended to marry her his laughter galled me so that I lost my temper and told him that I would not stand by and see her life made unhappy. Then he grew angry too, and in his anger said such cruel things of her that then and there I swore he should not live to do her harm. God knows how it came about, for in such moments of passion it is hard to remember the steps from a word to a blow, but I found myself standing over his dead body, with my hands crimson with the blood that welled from his torn throat. We were alone and he was a stranger, with none of his kin to seek for him and murder does not always out-not all at once. His bones may be whitening still, for all I know, in the pool of the river where I left him. No one suspected his absence, or why it was, except my poor Mabel, and she dared not speak. But it was all in vain, for when I came back again after an absence of months-for I could not live in the place-I learned that her shame had come and that she had died in it. Hitherto I had been borne up by the thought that my ill deed had saved her future, but now, when I learned that I had been too late, and that my poor love was smirched with that man's sin, I fled away with the sense of my useless guilt upon me more heavily than I could bear. Ah! Sir, you that have not done such a sin don't know what it is to carry it with you. You may think that custom makes it easy to you, but it is not so. It grows and grows with every hour, till it becomes intolerable, and with it growing, too, the feeling that you must for ever stand outside Heaven. You don't know what that means, and I pray God that you never may. Ordinary men, to whom all things are possible, don't often, if ever, think of Heaven. It is a name, and nothing more, and they are content to wait and let things be, but to those who are doomed to be shut out for ever you cannot think what it means, you cannot guess or measure the terrible endless longing to see the gates opened, and to be able to join the white figures within.

"And this brings me to my dream. It seemed that the portal was before me, with great gates of massive steel with bars of the thickness of a mast, rising to the very clouds, and so close that between them was just a glimpse of a crystal grotto, on whose shinning walls were figured many white-clad forms with faces radiant with joy. When I stood before the gate my heart and my soul were so full of rapture and longing that I forgot. And there stood at the gate two mighty angels with sweeping wings, and, oh! so stern of countenance. They held each in one hand a flaming sword, and in the other the latchet, which moved to and fro at their lightest touch. Nearer were figures all draped in black, with heads covered so that only the eyes were seen, and they handed to each who came white garments such as the angels wear. A low murmur came that told that all should put on their own robes, and without soil, or the angels would not pass them in, but would smite them down with the flaming swords. I was eager to don my own garment, and hurriedly threw it over me and stepped swiftly to the gate; but it moved not, and the angels, loosing the latchet, pointed to my dress, I looked down, and was aghast, for the whole robe was smeared with blood. My hands were red; they glittered with the blood that dripped form them as on that day by the river bank. And then the angels raised their flaming swords to smite me down, and the horror was complete-I awoke. Again, and again, and again, that awful dream comes to me. I never learn form the experience, I never remember, but at the beginning the hope if ever there to make the end more appalling; and I know that the dream does not come out of the common darkness where the dreams abide, but that it is sent form God as a punishment! Never, never shall I be able to pass the gate, for the soil on the angel garments must ever come from these bloody hands!"

I listened as in a spell as Jacob Settle spoke. There was something so far away in the tone of his voice-something so dreamy and mystic in the eyes that looked as if through me at some spirit beyond-something so lofty in his very diction and in such marked contrast to his workworn clothes and his poor surroundings that I wondered if the whole thing were not a dream.

We were both silent for a long time. I kept looking at the man before me in growing wonderment. Now that his confession had been made, his soul, which had been crushed to the very earth, seemed to leap back again to uprightness with some resilient force. I suppose I ought to have been horrified with his story, but, strange to say, I was not. It certainly is not pleasant to be made the recipient of the confidence of a murderer, but this poor fellow seemed to have had, not only so much provocation, but so much self-denying purpose in his deed of blood that I did not feel called upon to pass judgment upon him. My purpose was to comfort, so I spoke out with what calmness I could, for my heart was beating fast and heavily-

"You need not despair, Jacob Settle. God is very good, and his mercy is great. Live on and work on in the hope that some day you may feel that you have atoned for the past." Here I paused, for I could see that sleep, natural sleep this time, was creeping upon him. "Go to sleep," I said; "I shall watch with you here, and we shall have no more evil dreams to-night."

He made an effort to pull himself together, and answered-

"I don't know how to thank you for your goodness to me this night, but I think you had best leave me now. I'll try and sleep this out; I feel a weight off my mind since I have told you all. If there's anything of the man left in me, I must try and fight out life alone."

"I'll go to-night, as you wish it," I said; "but take my advice, and do not live in such a solitary way. Go among men and women; live among them. Share their joys and sorrows, and it will help you to forget. This solitude will make you melancholy mad."

"I will!" he answered, half unconsciously, for sleep was overmastering him.

I turned to go, and he looked after me. When I had touched the latch I dropped it, and, coming back to the bed, held out my hand. He grasped it with both his as he rose to a sitting posture, and I said my good-night, trying to cheer him-

"Heart, man, heart! There is work in the world for you to do, Jacob Settle. You can wear those white robes yet and pass through that gate of steel!"

Then I left him.

A week after I found his cottage deserted, and on asking at the works was told that he had "gone north," no one exactly knew whither.

Two years afterwards, I was staying for a few days with my friend Dr. Munro in Glasgow. He was a busy man, and could not spare much time for going about with me, so I spent my days in excursions to the Trossachs and Loch Katrine and down the Clyde. On the second last evening of my stay I came back somewhat later than I had arranged, but found that my host was late too. The maid told me that he had been sent for to the hospital-a case of accident at the gas-works, and the dinner was postponed an hour; so telling her I would stroll down to find her master and walk back with him, I went out. At the hospital I found him washing his hands preparatory to starting for home. Casually, I asked him what his case was.

"Oh, the usual thing! A rotten rope and men's lives of no account. Two men were working in a gasometer, when the rope that held their scaffolding broke. It must have occurred just before the dinner hour, for no one noticed their absence till the men had returned. There was about seven feet of water in the gasometer, so they had a hard fight for it, poor fellows. However, one of them was alive, just alive, but we have had a hard job to pull him through. It seems that he owes his life to his mate, for I have never heard of greater heroism. They swam together while their strength lasted, but at the end they were so done up that even the lights above, and the men slung with ropes, coming down to help them, could not keep them up. But one of them stood on the bottom and held up his comrade over his head, and those few breaths made all the difference between life and death. They were a shocking sight when they were taken out, for that water is like a purple dye with the gas and the tar. The man upstairs looked as if he had been washed in blood. Ugh!"

"And the other?"

"Oh, he's worse still. But he must have been a very noble fellow. That struggle under the water must have been fearful; one can see that by the way the blood has been drawn from the extremities. It makes the idea of the Stigmata possible to look at him. Resolution like this could, you would think, do anything in the world. Ay! it might almost unbar the gates of Heaven. Look here, old man, it is not a very pleasant sight, especially just before dinner, but you are a writer, and this is an odd case. Here is something you would not like to miss, for in all human probability you will never see anything like it again." While he was speaking he had brought me into the mortuary of the hospital.

On the bier lay a body covered with a white sheet, which was wrapped close round it.

"Looks like a chrysalis, don't it? I say, Jack, if there be anything in the old myth that a soul is typified by a butterfly, well, then the one that this chrysalis sent forth was a very noble specimen and took all the sunlight on its wings. See here!" He uncovered the face. Horrible, indeed, it looked, as though stained with blood. But I knew him at once, Jacob Settle! My friend pulled the winding sheet further down.

The hands were crossed on the purple breast as they had been reverently placed by some tenderhearted person. As I saw them my heart throbbed with a great exultation, for the memory of his harrowing dream rushed across my mind. There was no stain now on those poor, brave hands, for they were blanched white as snow.

And somehow as I looked I felt that the evil dream was all over. That noble soul had won a way through the gate at last. The white robe had now no stain from the hands that had put it on.

Nine candles remain.

Offline Oniya

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2013, 07:00:23 AM »
With the coming of colder weather, some of the more northern of you might appreciate the sentiments of this story:

The Cremation of Sam McGee
By Robert W. Service

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
"It's the cursèd cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet 'tain't being dead—it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows— O God! how I loathed the thing.

And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared—such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm—
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
      By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
      That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
      But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
      I cremated Sam McGee.

So they say.  Eight candles remain.

Offline Lilias

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Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2013, 07:57:19 AM »
A Short Guide to the City
Peter Straub

The viaduct killer, named for the location where his victims’ bodies have been discovered, is still at large. There have been six victims to date, found by children, people exercising their dogs, lovers, or—in one instance—by policemen. The bodies lay sprawled, their throats slashed, partially sheltered by one or another of the massive concrete supports at the top of the slope beneath the great bridge. We assume that the viaduct killer is a resident of the city, a voter, a renter or property owner, a product of the city’s excellent public school system, perhaps even a parent of children who even now attend one of its seven elementary schools, three public high schools, two parochial schools, or single nonde­nominational private school. He may own a boat or belong to the Book-of-the-Month Club, he may frequent one or another of its many bars and taverns, he may have subscription tickets to the concert series put on by the city symphony orchestra. He may be a factory worker with a library ticket. He owns a car, perhaps two. He may swim in one of the city’s public pools or the vast lake, punc­tuated with sailboats, during the hot moist August of the city.

For this is a Midwestern city, northern, with violent changes of season. The extremes of climate, from ten or twenty below zero to up around one hundred in the summer, cultivate an attitude of acceptance in its citizens, of insularity—it looks inward, not out, and few of its children leave for the more temperate, uncertain, and experimental cities of the eastern or western coasts. The city is proud of its modesty—it cherishes the ordinary, or what it sees as the ordinary, which is not. (It has had the same mayor for twenty-four years, a man of limited-to-average intelligence who has aged grace­fully and has never had any other occupation of any sort.)

Ambition, the yearning for fame, position, and achievement, is discouraged here. One of its citizens became the head of a small foreign state, another a famous bandleader, yet another a Hollywood staple who for decades played the part of the star’s best friend and confidant; this, it is felt, is enough, and besides, all of these people are now dead. The city has no literary tradition. Its only mirror is provided by its two newspapers, which have thick sports sections and are comfortable enough to be read in bed.

The city’s characteristic mode is denial. For this reason, an odd fabulousness permeates every quarter of the city, a receptiveness to fable, to the unrecorded. A river runs through the center of the business district, as the Liffey runs through Dublin, the Seine through Paris, the Thames through London, and the Danube through Budapest, though our river is smaller and less consequential than any of these.

Our lives are ordinary and exemplary, the citizens would say. We take part in the life of the nation, history courses through us for all our immunity to the national illnesses: it is even possible that in our ordinary lives . . . We too have had our pulse taken by the great national seers and opinion-makers, for in us you may find . . .

Forty years ago, in winter, the body of a woman was found on the banks of the river. She had been raped and murdered, cast out of the human community—a prostitute, never identified—and the noises of struggle that must have accompanied her death went un­noticed by the patrons of the Green Woman Taproom, located directly above that point on the river where her body was discovered. It was an abnormally cold winter that year, a winter of shared misery, and within the Green Woman the music was loud, feverish, festive.

In that community, which is Irish and lives above its riverfront shops and bars, neighborhood children were supposed to have found a winged man huddling in a packing case, an aged man, half-starved, speaking a strange language none of the children knew. His wings were ragged and dirty, many of the feathers as cracked and thread­bare as those of an old pigeon’s, and his feet were dirty and swollen. Ull! Li! Gack! the children screamed at him, mocking the sounds that came from his mouth. They pelted him with rocks and snow­balls, imagining that he had crawled up from that same river which sent chill damp—a damp as cold as cancer—into their bones and bedrooms, which gave them earaches and chilblains, which in sum­mer bred rats and mosquitoes.

One of the city’s newspapers is Democratic, the other Repub­lican. Both papers ritually endorse the mayor, who though consummately political has no recognizable politics. Both of the city’s newspapers also support the Chief of Police, crediting him with keeping the city free of the kind of violence that has undermined so many other American cities. None of our citizens goes armed, and our church attendance is still far above the national average.

We are ambivalent about violence.

We have very few public statues, mostly of Civil War generals. On the lakefront, separated from the rest of the town by a six-lane expressway, stands the cubelike structure of the Arts Center, oth­erwise called the War Memorial. Its rooms are hung with mediocre paintings before which schoolchildren are led on tours by their teach­ers, most of whom were educated in our local school system.

Our teachers are satisfied, decent people, and the statistics about alcohol and drug abuse among both students and teachers are very encouraging.

There is no need to linger at the War Memorial.

Proceeding directly north, you soon find yourself among the orderly, impressive precincts of the wealthy. It was in this sector of the town, known generally as the East Side, that the brewers and tanners who made our city’s first great fortunes set up their mansions. Their houses have a northern, Germanic, even Baltic look which is entirely appropriate to our climate. Of gray stone or red brick, the size of factories or prisons, these stately buildings seem to conceal that vein of fantasy that is actually our most crucial inheritance. But it may be that the style of life—the invisible, hidden life—of these inbred merchants is itself fantastic: the multitude of servants, the maids and coachmen, the cooks and laundresses, the private zoos, the elaborate dynastic marriages and fleets of cars, the rooms lined with silk wallpaper, the twenty-course meals, the underground wine cellars and bomb shelters . . . Of course we do not know if all of these things are true, or even if some of them are true. Our society folk keep to themselves, and what we know of them we learn chiefly from the newspapers, where they are pictured at their balls, standing with their beautiful daughters before fountains of champagne. The private zoos have been broken up long ago. As citizens, we are free to walk down the avenues, past the magnificent houses, and to peer in through the gates at their coach houses and lawns. A uniformed man polishes a car, four tall young people in white play tennis on a private court.

The viaduct killer’s victims have all been adult women.

While you continue moving north you will find that as the houses diminish in size the distance between them grows greater. Through the houses, now without gates and coach houses, you can glimpse a sheet of flat grayish-blue—the lake. The air is free, you breathe it in. That is freedom, breathing this air from the lake. Free people may invent themselves in any image, and you may imagine yourself a prince of the earth, walking with an easy stride. Your table is set with linen, china, crystal, and silver, and as you dine, as the servants pass among you with the serving trays, the talk is educated, enlight­ened, without prejudice of any sort. The table talk is mainly about ideas, it is true, ideas of a conservative cast. You deplore violence, you do not recognize it.

Further north lie suburbs, which are uninteresting.

If from the War Memorial you proceed south, you cross the viaduct. Beneath you is a valley—the valley is perhaps best seen in the dead of winter. All of our city welcomes winter, for our public buildings are gray stone fortresses which, on days when the tem­perature dips below zero and the old gray snow of previous storms swirls in the avenues, seem to blend with the leaden air and become dreamlike and cloudy. This is how they were meant to be seen. The valley is called . . . it is called the Valley. Red flames tilt and waver at the tops of columns, and smoke pours from factory chim­neys. The trees seem to be black. In the winter, the smoke from the factories becomes solid, like dark gray glaciers, and hangs in the dark air in defiance of gravity, like wings that are a light feathery gray at their tips and darken imperceptibly toward black, toward pitchy black at the point where these great frozen glaciers, these dirigibles, would join the body at the shoulder. The bodies of the great birds to which these wings are attached must be imagined.

In the old days of the city, the time of the private zoos, wolves were bred in the Valley. Wolves were in great demand in those days. Now the wolf-ranches have been entirely replaced by factories, by rough taverns owned by retired shop foremen, by spurs of the local railroad line, and by narrow streets lined with rickety frame houses and shoe-repair shops. Most of the old wolf-breeders were Polish, and though their kennels, grassy yards, and barbed-wire exercise runs have disappeared, at least one memory of their existence en­dures: the Valley’s street signs are in the Polish language. Tourists are advised to skirt the Valley, and it is always recommended that photographs be confined to the interesting views obtained by looking down from the viaduct. The more courageous visitors, those in search of pungent experience, are cautiously directed to the taverns of the ex-foremen, in particular the oldest of these (the Rusty Nail and the Brace ‘n’ Bit), where the wooden floors have so softened and furred with lavings and scrubbings that the boards have come to resemble the pelts of long narrow short-haired animals. For the intrepid, these words of caution: do not dress conspicuously, and carry only small amounts of cash. Some working knowledge of Polish is also advised.

Continuing further south, we come to the Polish district proper, which also houses pockets of Estonians and Lithuanians. More than the city’s sadly declining downtown area, this district has traditionally been regarded as the city’s heart, and has remained unchanged for more than a hundred years. Here the visitor may wander freely among the markets and street fairs, delighting in the sight of well-bundled children rolling hoops, patriarchs in tall fur hats and long beards, and women gathering around the numerous communal water pumps. The sausages and stuffed cabbage sold at the food stalls may be eaten with impunity, and the local beer is said to be of an unrivaled purity. Violence in this district is invariably domestic, and the visitor may feel free to enter the frequent political discussions, which in any case partake of a nostalgic character. In late January or early February the “South Side” is at its best, with the younger people dressed in multilayered heavy woolen garments decorated with the “reindeer” or “snowflake” motif, and the older women of the community seemingly vying to see which of them can outdo the others in the thickness, blackness, and heaviness of her outergar­ments and in the severity of the traditional head scarf known as the babushka. In late winter the neatness and orderliness of these colorful folk may be seen at its best, for the wandering visitor will often see the bearded paterfamilias sweeping and shoveling not only his immaculate bit of sidewalk (for these houses are as close together as those of the wealthy along the lakefront, so near to one another that until very recently telephone service was regarded as an irrel­evance), but his tiny front lawn as well, with its Marian shrines, crèches, ornamental objects such as elves, trolls, postboys, etc. It is not unknown for residents here to proffer the stranger an invitation to inspect their houses, in order to display the immaculate condition of the kitchen with its well-blackened wood stove and polished ornamental tiles, and perhaps even extend a thimble-glass of their own peach or plum brandy to the thirsty visitor.

Alcohol, with its associations of warmth and comfort, is ubiq­uitous here, and it is the rare family that does not devote some portion of the summer to the preparation of that winter’s plenty.

For these people, violence is an internal matter, to be resolved within or exercised upon one’s own body and soul or those of one’s immediate family. The inhabitants of these neat, scrubbed little houses with their statues of Mary and cathedral tiles, the descendants of the hard-drinking wolf-breeders of another time, have long since abandoned the practice of crippling their children to ensure their continuing exposure to parental values, but self-mutilation has proved more difficult to eradicate. Few blind themselves now, but many a grandfather conceals a three-fingered hand within his em­broidered mitten. Toes are another frequent target of self-punish­ment, and the prevalence of cheerful, even boisterous shops, always crowded with old men telling stories, which sell the hand-carved wooden legs known as “pegs” or “dollies,” speaks of yet another.

No one has ever suggested that the viaduct killer is a South Side resident.

The South Siders live in a profound relationship to violence, and its effects are invariably implosive rather than explosive. Once a decade, perhaps twice a decade, one member of a family will realize, out of what depths of cultural necessity the outsider can only hope to imagine, that the whole family must die—be sacrificed, to speak with greater accuracy. Axes, knives, bludgeons, bottles, babushkas, ancient derringers, virtually every imaginable implement has been used to carry out this aim. The houses in which this act of sacrifice has taken place are immediately if not instantly cleaned by the entire neighborhood, acting in concert. The bodies receive a Catholic burial in consecrated ground, and a mass is said in honor of both the victims and their murderer. A picture of the departed family is installed in the church which abuts Market Square, and for a year the house is kept clean and dust-free by the grandmothers of the neighborhood. Men young and old will quietly enter the house, sip the brandy of the “removed,” as they are called, meditate, now and then switch on the wireless or the television set, and reflect on the darkness of earthly life. The departed are frequently said to appear to friends and neighbors, and often accurately predict the coming of storms and assist in the location of lost household objects, a treasured button or Mother’s sewing needle. After the year has elapsed, the house is sold, most often to a young couple, a young blacksmith or market vendor and his bride, who find the furniture and even the clothing of the “removed” welcome additions to their small household.

Further south are suburbs and impoverished hamlets, which do not compel a visit.

Immediately west of the War Memorial is the city’s downtown. Before its decline, this was the city’s business district and admin­istrative center, and the monuments of its affluence remain. March­ing directly west on the wide avenue which begins at the expressway are the Federal Building, the Post Office, and the great edifice of City Hall. Each is an entire block long and constructed of granite blocks quarried far north in the state. Flights of marble stairs lead up to the massive doors of these structures, and crystal chandeliers can be seen through many of the windows. The facades are classical and severe, uniting in an architectural landscape of granite revet­ments and colonnades of pillars. (Within, these grand and inhuman buildings have long ago been carved and partitioned into warrens illuminated by bare light bulbs or flickering fluorescent tubing, each tiny office with its worn counter for petitioners and a stamped sign proclaiming its function: Tax & Excise, Dog Licenses, Passports, Graphs & Charts, Registry of Notary Publics, and the like. The larger rooms with chandeliers which face the avenue, reserved for civic receptions and banquets, are seldom used.)

In the next sequence of buildings are the Hall of Records, the Police Headquarters, and the Criminal Courts Building. Again, wide empty marble steps lead up to massive bronze doors, rows of col­umns, glittering windows which on wintry days reflect back the gray empty sky. Local craftsmen, many of them descendants of the city’s original French settlers, forged and installed the decorative iron bars and grilles on the facade of the Criminal Courts Building.

After we pass the massive, nearly windowless brick facades of the Gas and Electric buildings, we reach the arching metal draw­bridge over the river. Looking downriver, we can see its muddy banks and the lights of the terrace of the Green Woman Taproom, now a popular gathering place for the city’s civil servants. (A few feet further east is the spot from which a disgruntled lunatic at­tempted and failed to assassinate President Dwight D. Eisenhower.) Further on stand the high cement walls of several breweries. The drawbridge has not been raised since 1956, when a corporate yacht passed through.

Beyond the drawbridge lies the old mercantile center of the city, with its adult bookstores, pornographic theaters, coffee shops, and its rank of old department stores. These now house discount outlets selling roofing tiles, mufflers and other auto parts, plumbing equipment, and cut-rate clothing, and most of their display windows have been boarded or bricked in since the civic disturbances of 1968. Various civic plans have failed to revive this area, though the cob­blestones and gas street lamps installed in the optimistic mid-sev­enties can for the most part still be seen. Connoisseurs of the poignant will wish to take a moment to appreciate them, though they should seek to avoid the bands of ragged children that frequent this area at nightfall, for though these children are harmless they can become pressing in their pleas for small change.

Many of these children inhabit dwellings they have constructed themselves in the vacant lots between the adult bookstores and fast-food outlets of the old mercantile district, and the “tree houses” atop mounds of tires, most of them several stories high and utilizing fire escapes and flights of stairs scavenged from the old department stores, are of some architectural interest. The stranger should not attempt to penetrate these “children’s cities,” and on no account should offer them any more than the pocket change they request or display a camera, jewelry, or an expensive wristwatch. The truly intrepid tourist seeking excitement may hire one of these children to guide him to the diversions of his choice. Two dollars is the usual gratuity for this service.

It is not advisable to purchase any of the goods the children themselves may offer for sale, although they have been affected by the same self-consciousness evident in the impressive buildings on the other side of the river and do sell picture postcards of their largest and most eccentric constructions. It may be that the naive architec­ture of these tree houses represents the city’s most authentic artistic expression, and the postcards, amateurish as most of them are, pro­vide interesting, perhaps even valuable, documentation of this expression of what may be called folk art.

These industrious children of the mercantile area have ritualized their violence into highly formalized tattooing and “spontaneous” forays and raids into the tree houses of opposing tribes during which only superficial injuries are sustained, and it is not suspected that the viaduct killer comes from their number.

Further west are the remains of the city’s museum and library, devastated during the civic disturbances, and beyond these pictur­esque, still-smoking hulls lies the ghetto. It is not advised to enter the ghetto on foot, though the tourist who has arranged to rent an automobile may safely drive through it after he has negotiated his toll at the gate house. The ghetto’s residents are completely self-sustaining, and the attentive tourist who visits this district will observe the multitude of tents housing hospitals, wholesale food and drug warehouses, and the like. Within the ghetto are believed to be many fine poets, painters, and musicians, as well as the historians known as “memorists,” who are the district’s living encyclopedias and archivists. The “memorist’s” tasks include the memorization of the works of the area’s poets, painters, etc., for the district contains no printing presses or art-supply shops, and these inventive and self-reliant people have devised this method of preserving their works.

It is not believed that a people capable of inventing the genre of “oral painting” could have spawned the viaduct killer, and in any case no ghetto resident is permitted access to any other area of the city.

The ghetto’s relationship to violence is unknown.

Further west the annual snowfall increases greatly, for seven months of the year dropping an average of two point three feet of snow each month upon the shopping malls and paper mills which have concentrated here. Dust storms are common during the sum­mers, and certain infectious viruses, to which the inhabitants have become immune, are carried in the water.

Still further west lies the Sports Complex.

The tourist who has ventured thus far is well advised to turn back at this point and return to our beginning, the War Memorial.

Your car may be left in the ample and clearly posted parking lot on the Memorial’s eastern side. From the Memorial’s wide empty ter­races, you are invited to look southeast, where a great unfinished bridge crosses half the span to the hamlets of Wyatt and Arnoldville. Construction was abandoned on this noble civic project, subse­quently imitated by many cities in our western states and in Australia and Finland, immediately after the disturbances of 1968, when its lack of utility became apparent. When it was noticed that many families chose to eat their bag lunches on the Memorial’s lakeside terraces in order to gaze silently at its great interrupted arc, the bridge was adopted as the symbol of the city, and its image decorates the city’s many flags and medals.

The “Broken Span,” as it is called, which hangs in the air like the great frozen wings above the Valley, serves no function but the symbolic. In itself and entirely by accident, this great non-span memorializes violence, not only by serving as a reference to the workmen who lost their lives during its construction (its non-construction). It is not rounded or finished in any way, for labor on the bridge ended abruptly, even brutally, and from its truncated floating end dangle lengths of rusting iron webbing, thick wire cables weighted by chunks of cement, and bits of old planking material. In the days before access to the un-bridge was walled off by an electrified fence, two or three citizens each year elected to commit their suicides by leaping from the end of the span; and one must resort to a certain lexical violence when referring to it. Ghetto res­idents are said to have named it “Whitey,” and the tree-house chil­dren call it “Ursula,” after one of their own killed in the disturbances. South Siders refer to it as “The Ghost,” civil servants, “The Beast,” and East Siders simply as “that thing.” The “Broken Span” has the violence of all unfinished things, of everything interrupted or left undone. In violence there is often the quality of yearning—the yearn­ing for completion. For closure. For that which is absent and would if present bring to fulfillment. For the body without which the wing is a useless frozen ornament. It ought not to go unmentioned that most of the city’s residents have never seen the “bridge” except in its representations, and for this majority the “bridge” is little more or less than a myth, being without any actual referent. It is pure idea.

Violence, it is felt though unspoken, is the physical form of sensitivity. The city believes this. Incompletion, the lack of referent which strands you in the realm of pure idea, demands release from itself. We are above all an American city, and what we believe most deeply we . . .

The victims of the viaduct killer, that citizen who excites our attention, who makes us breathless with outrage and causes our police force to ransack the humble dwellings along the riverbank, have all been adult women. These women in their middle years are taken from their lives and set like statues beside the pillar. Each morning there is more pedestrian traffic on the viaduct, in the frozen mornings men (mainly men) come with their lunches in paper bags, walking slowly along the cement walkway, not looking at one an­other, barely knowing what they are doing, looking down over the edge of the viaduct, looking away, dawdling, finally leaning like fishermen against the railing, waiting until they can no longer delay going to their jobs.

The visitor who has done so much and gone so far in this city may turn his back on the “Broken Span,” the focus of civic pride, and look in a southwesterly direction past the six lanes of the ex­pressway, perhaps on tiptoe (children may have to mount one of the convenient retaining walls). The dull flanks of the viaduct should just now be visible, with the heads and shoulders of the waiting men picked out in the gray air like brush strokes. The quality of their yearning, its expectancy, is visible even from here.

Seven candles remain.