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Author Topic: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?  (Read 474 times)

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Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« on: October 01, 2016, 05:13:31 AM »
Yes!  Thrice the brinded cat has mewed; thrice and once the hedge-pig whined; Harpier cries, "'Tis time, 'tis time!"  Once more the season of the witch has descended, bringing with it brisk winds, mournful rains, ever-longer nights, and, naturally, fear in all of its forms.  (If you're currently in the Southern Hemisphere, you will of course need to pretend that the nights are getting longer, possibly while standing on your head.  So be it.  And if you're currently in Tahiti... darn you!  Darn you right to heck!)

Let me suggest that to welcome and to placate the bumps in the night we share some spooky stories.  For a few years we engaged in a round of hyakumonogatari kaidankai, the ancient Japanese tradition where people tell stories amid one hundred candles, extinguishing them as they go.  That went just about as well as we could have hoped, so we began a round of de duizenderotischeprikkennacht, the ancient Dutch tradition where people gather together to tell one thousand spooky stories.  When that one-thousandth story is concluded, we will experience a wonderful and strange visitation from the Otherworld.

So they say.

If you have a spooky story to offer, please post it in this thread.  It can have happened to you or to someone else; it can be short or long, simple or elaborate; it can be true or perhaps slightly less than entirely true.  Ghost stories, urban legends, terrifying parables, and tales of woe are most welcome: In the season of the witch, fair is foul and foul is fair, after all.  Stories can be chilling, gory, even humorous.  I would be delighted if you told multiple stories, although I do implore you to include only one story per post.  Hoarse, quivering whispers are fine, as long as we can make out what you're saying.  Finally, please give credit where credit is due.  Minor editing of a source is perfectly acceptable.  Your own stories are ideal!

To begin our resumption, or to resume our beginning, I'd like to present a poem by Robert E. Howard.  Although he's known best as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard wrote all sorts of stuff during his brief, tragic life, which was filled with frustration and despair.


Moon Mockery

I walked in Tara's wood one summer night,
And saw, amid the still, star-haunted skies,
A slender moon in silver mist arise,
And hover on the hill as if in fright.
Burning, I seized her veil and held her tight:
An instant all her glow was in my eyes;
Then she was gone, swift as a white bird flies,
And I went down the hill in opal light.

And soon I was aware, as down I came,
That all was strange and new on every side;
Strange people went about me to and fro,
And when I spoke with trembling mine own name
They turned away, but one man said: "He died
In Tara Wood, a hundred years ago."


Another?  That is, if you don't mind?

Spel

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2016, 05:14:49 AM »
"Till death do us part."  Even when I was a kid I felt that that was a curious way to end wedding vows.  Not because it could be considered morbid -- I actually like the idea that people are reminded from the outset that marriage isn't all good times and health -- but rather because it implies that after death, one is no longer obligated to be loyal to one's spouse.  (Given my current postmortem condition, I now understandably find that more disconcerting than death itself!)

Regardless of the implications of the statement, the final parting that it speaks of is assured.  It can occur after years, decades, or, as in this gloomy tale, mere hours...


Bride-and-Seek

A young woman was about to get married, and she decided she wanted to hold the wedding in the backyard of the manor where she grew up.  It was a beautiful wedding and everything went perfectly.

Afterwards the guests played some casual party games, and someone suggested hide-and-seek so they could get the children to play too.  It wouldn't be hard to find a place to hide around the estate.

The groom was "it," and the bride wanted to make sure that she won the game.  When no one was looking she slipped inside the house.  She ran up to the attic, found an old trunk, and hid in it.

No one could find her.  Her new husband wasn't worried, though -- he figured she must have just gotten tired and gone inside to rest.

Soon the guests went home.  But when the groom, the bride's parents, and the servants searched the house, they couldn't find the bride anywhere.  Their search grew more and more frantic and finally they called the police; however, the police couldn't find her, either.

A few years later, when the bride's mother died, her father went to go through some of his late wife's things that were collecting dust in the attic.  He came to an old trunk.  Opening the lid, he collapsed in shock: In the trunk lay the decayed body of his daughter.  When she'd hidden there, the trunk's latch had caught, trapping her.


I'm certainly going to need your help if we're ever going to reach that one-thousandth story.  Do you have a spooky one to share?

Spel

Offline Inkidu

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Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2016, 08:54:39 PM »
Antagonish

Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door...

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away...

(A personal favorite that creeps me the fudge out.)

Online Valerian

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2016, 07:46:18 PM »
The Presque Isle lighthouse on Lake Huron was only operational for 31 years, but it is well-known for its ghosts. Many say you can hear a woman's screams some nights from the ghost of a keeper's wife who was locked away in the tower long ago. But it's the ghost of George Parris that is the most talked about. He and his wife moved into the keeper's cottage in the 1990s to run the museum and give tours. After George's death, his wife still woke every day to the smell of bacon and eggs, continuing the tradition of George making breakfast for them each morning.

More dramatically, ever since George's death the light in the lighthouse comes on at dusk and goes off at dawn every night. This may not seem that odd for any other lighthouse, but this one’s light has been permanently disabled. Air National Guard pilots have even reported seeing the light, and the Coast Guard has gone so far as to remove the old light from the tower—but it still shines.

Online Valerian

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2016, 09:41:35 AM »
It's a slightly longer tale, but it's from Neil Gaiman, so you know you want to read it...



Click-Clack the Rattlebag

‘Before you take me up to bed, will you tell me a story?”

“Do you actually need me to take you up to bed?” I asked the boy.

He thought for a moment. Then, with intense seriousness, “Yes, actually I think you do. It’s because of, I’ve finished my homework, and so it’s my bedtime, and I am a bit scared. Not very scared. Just a bit.

“But it is a very big house, and lots of times the lights don’t work and it’s a sort of dark.”

I reached over and tousled his hair.

“I can understand that,” I said. “It is a very big old house.” He nodded. We were in the kitchen, where it was light and warm. I put down my magazine on the kitchen table. “What kind of story would you like me to tell you?”

“Well,” he said, thoughtfully. “I don’t think it should be too scary, because then when I go up to bed, I will just be thinking about monsters the whole time. But if it isn’t just a little bit scary then I won’t be interested. And you make up scary stories, don’t you? I know she says that’s what you do.”

“She exaggerates. I write stories, yes. Nothing that’s been published, yet, though. And I write lots of different kinds of stories.”

“But you do write scary stories?”

“Yes.”

The boy looked up at me from the shadows by the door, where he was waiting. “Do you know any stories about Click-clack the Rattlebag?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Those are the best sorts of stories.”

“Do they tell them at your school?”

He shrugged. “Sometimes.”

“What’s a Click-clack the Rattlebag story?”

He was a precocious child, and was unimpressed by his sister’s boyfriend’s ignorance. You could see it on his face. “Everybody knows them.”

“I don’t,” I said, trying not to smile.

He looked at me as if he was trying to decide whether or not I was pulling his leg. He said, “I think maybe you should take me up to my bedroom, and then you can tell me a story before I go to sleep, but a very not-scary story because I’ll be up in my bedroom then, and it’s actually a bit dark up there, too.”

I said, “Shall I leave a note for your sister, telling her where we are?”

“You can. But you’ll hear when they get back. The front door is very slammy.”

We walked out of the warm and cosy kitchen into the hallway of the big house, where it was chilly and draughty and dark. I flicked the light-switch, but nothing happened.

“The bulb’s gone,” the boy said. “That always happens.”

Our eyes adjusted to the shadows. The moon was almost full, and blue-white moonlight shone in through the high windows on the staircase, down into the hall. “We’ll be all right,” I said.

“Yes,” said the boy, soberly. “I am very glad you’re here.” He seemed less precocious now. His hand found mine, and he held on to my fingers comfortably, trustingly, as if he’d known me all his life. I felt responsible and adult. I did not know if the feeling I had for his sister, who was my girlfriend, was love, not yet, but I liked that the child treated me as one of the family. I felt like his big brother, and I stood taller, and if there was something unsettling about the empty house I would not have admitted it for worlds.

The stairs creaked beneath the threadbare stair-carpet.

“Click-clacks,” said the boy, “are the best monsters ever.”

“Are they from television?”

“I don’t think so. I don’t think any people know where they come from. Mostly they come from the dark.”

“Good place for a monster to come.”

“Yes.”

We walked along the upper corridor in the shadows, walking from patch of moonlight to patch of moonlight. It really was a big house. I wished I had a flashlight.

“They come from the dark,” said the boy, holding on to my hand. “I think probably they’re made of dark. And they come in when you don’t pay attention. That’s when they come in. And then they take you back to their… not nests. What’s a word that’s like nests, but not?”

“House?”

“No. It’s not a house.”

“Lair?”

He was silent. Then, “I think that’s the word, yes. Lair.” He squeezed my hand. He stopped talking.

“Right. So they take the people who don’t pay attention back to their lair. And what do they do then, your monsters? Do they suck all the blood out of you, like vampires?”

He snorted. “Vampires don’t suck all the blood out of you. They only drink a little bit. Just to keep them going, and, you know, flying around. Click-clacks are much scarier than vampires.”

“I’m not scared of vampires,” I told him.

“Me neither. I’m not scared of vampires either. Do you want to know what Click-clacks do? They drink you,” said the boy.

“Like a Coke?”

“Coke is very bad for you,” said the boy. “If you put a tooth in Coke, in the morning, it will be dissolved into nothing. That’s how bad coke is for you and why you must always clean your teeth, every night.”

I’d heard the Coke story as a boy, and had been told, as an adult, that it wasn’t true, but was certain that a lie which promoted dental hygiene was a good lie, and I let it pass.

“Click-clacks drink you,” said the boy. “First they bite you, and then you go all ishy inside, and all your meat and all your brains and everything except your bones and your skin turns into a wet, milk-shakey stuff and then the Click-clack sucks it out through the holes where your eyes used to be.”

“That’s disgusting,” I told him. “Did you make it up?”

We’d reached the last flight of stairs, all the way in to the big house.

“No.”

“I can’t believe you kids make up stuff like that.”

“You didn’t ask me about the rattlebag,” he said.

“Right. What’s the rattlebag?”

“Well,” he said, sagely, soberly, a small voice from the darkness beside me, “once you’re just bones and skin, they hang you up on a hook, and you rattle in the wind.”

“So what do these Click-clacks look like?” Even as I asked him, I wished I could take the question back, and leave it unasked. I thought: Huge spidery creatures. Like the one in the shower that morning. I’m afraid of spiders.

I was relieved when the boy said, “They look like what you aren’t expecting. What you aren’t paying attention to.”

We were climbing wooden steps now. I held on to the railing on my left, held his hand with my right, as he walked beside me. It smelled like dust and old wood, that high in the house. The boy’s tread was certain, though, even though the moonlight was scarce.

“Do you know what story you’re going to tell me, to put me to bed?” he asked. “It doesn’t actually have to be scary.”

“Not really.”

“Maybe you could tell me about this evening. Tell me what you did?”

“That won’t make much of a story for you. My girlfriend just moved in to a new place on the edge of town. She inherited it from an aunt or someone. It’s very big and very old. I’m going to spend my first night with her, tonight, so I’ve been waiting for an hour or so for her and her housemates to come back with the wine and an Indian takeaway.”

“See?” said the boy. There was that precocious amusement again. But all kids can be insufferable sometimes, when they think they know something you don’t. It’s probably good for them. “You know all that. But you don’t think. You just let your brain fill in the gaps.”

He pushed open the door to the attic room. It was perfectly dark, now, but the opening door disturbed the air, and I heard things rattle gently, like dry bones in thin bags, in the slight wind. Click. Clack. Click. Clack. Like that.

I would have pulled away, then, if I could, but small, firm fingers pulled me forward, unrelentingly, into the dark.

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2016, 06:21:34 AM »
Thank you very much, Inkidu and Valerian!  I really enjoyed those.  Interesting that they all involve staircases, and staircases at night, to boot.  (Well, O.K., that tale about the Presque Isle lighthouse doesn't expressly mention a staircase, at night or otherwise, but what is a lighthouse but a long staircase with a light on top? -- one that exists only to thwart the night?)

As I've mentioned before, I lived briefly in Japan, and the city that I lived in, Ishinomaki, was one of the places devastated by the terrible 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and the resulting tsunami.  (I wasn't there at the time.)  I met quite a number of lovely people while there and I often wonder what happened to each of them.  It seems impossible that none of them were significantly affected; it even seems unlikely that none of them were killed.  The article that I'm bringing to you now, therefore, certainly caught my attention when I stumbled upon it.  Is it possible that I knew one of these people?


Taxi drivers report 'ghost passengers' in area devastated in 2011 tsunami

In early summer 2011, a taxi driver working in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, which had been devastated by the tsunami a few months earlier, had a mysterious encounter.

A woman who was wearing a coat climbed in his cab near Ishinomaki Station.  The woman directed him, "Please go to the Minamihama (district)."  The driver, in his 50s, asked her, "The area is almost empty.  Is it OK?"  Then, the woman said in a shivering voice, "Have I died?"

Surprised at the question, the driver looked back at the rear seat.  No one was there.

A Tohoku Gakuin University senior majoring in sociology included the encounter in her graduation thesis, in which seven taxi drivers reported carrying "ghost passengers" following the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Yuka Kudo, 22, went to Ishinomaki every week in her junior year to interview taxi drivers waiting for fares.  She asked them, "Did you have any unusual experiences after the disaster?"

She asked the question to more than 100 drivers, and many ignored her.  Some became angry.  However, seven drivers recounted their mysterious experiences to her.

Another taxi driver who was in his 40s told of an unexplainable occurrence.

According to the driver, a man who looked to be in his 20s got in his taxi.  When the driver looked into the rear-view mirror, his passenger was pointing toward the front.

The driver repeatedly asked the man for his destination.  Then, the passenger replied, "Hiyoriyama" (mountain).  When the taxi arrived there, however, the man had disappeared.

The seven drivers' accounts cannot be easily dismissed as simple illusions.  That is because if a passenger climbed in their taxi, the driver started the meter, which is recorded.

If the passengers were indeed "ghosts," they were still counted as riders.  As a result, the drivers were forced to pay their fares.

Some of the seven drivers jotted down their experiences in their logs.  One showed his driver's report, which noted that there was a fare that went unpaid.

As the "ghosts" the drivers encountered were all youthful, it is believed they could be the spirits of victims of the 2011 disaster.

"Young people feel strongly chagrined (at their deaths) when they cannot meet people they love.  As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis, which are like private rooms, as a medium to do so," Kudo said.

What impressed Kudo was that the drivers did not have any fear toward their ghost passengers, but held them in reverence.  They regarded the encounters as important experiences to be cherished.

The taxi drivers were feeling the daily sorrow of residents in Ishinomaki where many people were killed by the tsunami.  One said that he lost a family member in the disaster.

Another said, "It is not strange to see a ghost (here).  If I encounter a ghost again, I will accept it as my passenger."

Kudo came from Akita Prefecture, which was not struck by the tsunami.  Before interviewing taxi drivers, she had only thought of the victims as "thousands of people" who had died in the disaster.

"(Through the interviews,) I learned that the death of each victim carries importance," she said.  "I want to convey that (to other people)."


One more?

Spel

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2016, 06:22:17 AM »
Remember those two-sentence horror stories on Reddit?  Well, someone's since built a site devoted to just such stories.  Pretty nifty.  I'm going to lift one from there that deals with a topical issue...


Killer Clown

I've heard several stories on the news about people dressed as clowns luring kids into the woods and killing them.  I thought I was the only one that did that.


Do you have a spooky story to share?

Spel

Online Valerian

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2016, 10:14:53 AM »
Let's try the staircase theme again:



Lucy had been given a small doll as a gift from her parents. The doll was left to them by an ancient great aunt who had now passed away. Lucy was secretly unnerved by the doll which had nasty little black eyes that seemed to follow her around the room and a cross expression on its face. Nevertheless, Lucy had to accept the doll, as she was well brought up and didn’t want to upset her parents by telling them how uneasy it made her feel. The note that came with the doll said it’s name was Annabella, which seemed to suit her. Lucy was even more afraid because the doll had a name. It seemed to make it more human, and if it was even a little human then what might it be capable of?

But it was just a doll after all and only reached up to just above her knee. To put her mind at rest she stuffed Annabella into the little cupboard under the stairs where she wouldn’t have to see her. It was not until a few nights later when Lucy was lying in bed that she heard a noise, a shuffling sound, which went on for about five minutes. Then she heard a brief dragging noise and finally, a scuttling like light footsteps walking very fast. By now Lucy was pinned to the bed with fear, then she heard a voice say "Lucy, I’m on the first step" She then loud scrabbling again as whatever was speaking apparently turned tail and returned to its place of hiding.

Lucy was so scared that she didn’t sleep a wink that night but laid awake in bed until the break of dawn, when her mother got her up for school. Lucy tried to explain to her mother what had happened the night before but she was just so tired. Her mother passed it off as "just a dream" and Lucy began to believe she might be right.

Lucy begged her parents that they might get rid of the doll, but they insisted that it had been the great aunt’s wish that it would be left to Lucy. She reluctantly went to bed that night repeating to herself that it had only been a dream. She checked the cupboard under the stairs, but Annabella was exactly where Lucy had left her.

That night Lucy fought sleep but she eventually drifted off. She woke up when she heard the voice again. "Lucy….I’m on the fifth step." it said. Then came to scuffling noise and silence. Lucy cried all night and again, she didn’t sleep. The next day Lucy told her friends at school about the doll and they laughed at her. Lucy could only think that if Annabella was climbing four steps at a time then there was only one more night until she reached the top.

That night Lucy decided to shut her bedroom door. Her mother noticed because Lucy usually kept her door open slightly so that she could see the light from the hall. Lucy had always been afraid of the dark. Lucy asked if she could keep her bedroom light on, but her mother thought that light was far too bright and would keep her awake. Because Lucy was more afraid of the doll than of the dark, she insisted on closing her door and promised to sleep without a light.

Just as she began to doze, Lucy heard a noise coming from outside her bedroom door. "Lucy. I’m on the top step…" Lucy was terribly afraid. Her heart pounding, she knew if she stayed in bed she wouldn’t be safe so she got up to investigate. She got out of the bed and with a tiny, shaking hand, she opened her door and stepped out into the hall.

Her parents found her body at the bottom of the stairs. They guessed she had tried to go to the bathroom in the night without switching on the light, had lost her balance and slipped, breaking her neck. Annabella was laying beside her, cuddled underneath one arm. In her parents grief, they thought she must have loved the doll very much and since she had it with her when she perished. They decided to bury the doll with Lucy. Everyone said what a tragedy it was. Her parents never wondered why the little cupboard door under the stairs had been open when they had found their daughter dead.

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #8 on: October 16, 2016, 05:27:16 AM »
Thank you very much, Valerian!  Creepy stuff, as always.  (And I appreciate your bringing us another one with a staircase!  My own will involve a ladder; I'll permit the gentle readers of this thread to decide whether a ladder is "close enough.")

I expect that most fantasy fans are acquainted with the beasties known as gnolls, which these days usually take the form of anthropomorphic hyenas.  I expect that fewer fans know of their origin, though.  We were first introduced to gnolls in the following tale* by Lord Dunsany, gifted writer of weird fantasy.  The spelling of their name has changed since 1912, but their vicious nature remains...


How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art upon the Gnoles

Despite the advertisements of rival firms, it is probable that every tradesman knows that nobody in business at the present time has a position equal to that of Mr. Nuth.  To those outside the magic circle of business, his name is scarcely known; he does not need to advertise, he is consummate.  He is superior even to modern competition, and, whatever claims they boast, his rivals know it.  His terms are moderate, so much cash down when the goods are delivered, so much in blackmail afterwards.  He consults your convenience.  His skill may be counted upon; I have seen a shadow on a windy night move more noisily than Nuth, for Nuth is a burglar by trade.  Men have been known to stay in country houses and to send a dealer afterwards to bargain for a piece of tapestry that they saw there -- some article of furniture, some picture.  This is bad taste: but those whose culture is more elegant invariably send Nuth a night or two after their visit.  He has a way with tapestry; you would scarcely notice that the edges had been cut.  And often when I see some huge, new house full of old furniture and portraits from other ages, I say to myself, "These mouldering chairs, these full-length ancestors and carved mahogany are the produce of the incomparable Nuth."

It may be urged against my use of the word incomparable that in the burglary business the name of Slith stands paramount and alone; and of this I am not ignorant; but Slith is a classic, and lived long ago, and knew nothing at all of modern competition; besides which the surprising nature of his doom has possibly cast a glamour upon Slith that exaggerates in our eyes his undoubted merits.

It must not be thought that I am a friend of Nuth's; on the contrary such politics as I have are on the side of Property; and he needs no words from me, for his position is almost unique in trade, being among the very few that do not need to advertise.

At the time that my story begins Nuth lived in a roomy house in Belgrave Square: in his inimitable way he had made friends with the caretaker.  The place suited Nuth, and, whenever anyone came to inspect it before purchase, the caretaker used to praise the house in the words that Nuth had suggested.  "If it wasn't for the drains," she would say, "it's the finest house in London," and when they pounced on this remark and asked questions about the drains, she would answer them that the drains also were good, but not so good as the house.  They did not see Nuth when they went over the rooms, but Nuth was there.

Here in a neat black dress on one spring morning came an old woman whose bonnet was lined with red, asking for Mr. Nuth; and with her came her large and awkward son.  Mrs. Eggins, the caretaker, glanced up the street, and then she let them in, and left them to wait in the drawing-room amongst furniture all mysterious with sheets.  For a long while they waited, and then there was a smell of pipe-tobacco, and there was Nuth standing quite close to them.

"Lord," said the old woman whose bonnet was lined with red, "you did make me start."  And then she saw by his eyes that that was not the way to speak to Mr. Nuth.

And at last Nuth spoke, and very nervously the old woman explained that her son was a likely lad, and had been in business already but wanted to better himself, and she wanted Mr. Nuth to teach him a livelihood.

First of all Nuth wanted to see a business reference, and when he was shown one from a jeweller with whom he happened to be hand-in-glove the upshot of it was that he agreed to take young Tonker (for this was the surname of the likely lad) and to make him his apprentice.  And the old woman whose bonnet was lined with red went back to her little cottage in the country, and every evening said to her old man, "Tonker, we must fasten the shutters of a night-time, for Tommy's a burglar now."

The details of the likely lad's apprenticeship I do not propose to give; for those that are in the business know those details already, and those that are in other businesses care only for their own, while men of leisure who have no trade at all would fail to appreciate the gradual degrees by which Tommy Tonker came first to cross bare boards, covered with little obstacles in the dark, without making any sound, and then to go silently up creaky stairs, and then to open doors, and lastly to climb.

Let it suffice that the business prospered greatly, while glowing reports of Tommy Tonker's progress were sent from time to time to the old woman whose bonnet was lined with red in the labourious handwriting of Nuth.  Nuth had given up lessons in writing very early, for he seemed to have some prejudice against forgery, and therefore considered writing a waste of time.  And then there came the transaction with Lord Castlenorman at his Surrey residence.  Nuth selected a Saturday night, for it chanced that Saturday was observed as Sabbath in the family of Lord Castlenorman, and by eleven o'clock the whole house was quiet.  Five minutes before midnight Tommy Tonker, instructed by Mr. Nuth, who waited outside, came away with one pocketful of rings and shirt-studs.  It was quite a light pocketful, but the jewellers in Paris could not match it without sending specially to Africa, so that Lord Castlenorman had to borrow bone shirt-studs.

Not even rumour whispered the name of Nuth.  Were I to say that this turned his head, there are those to whom the assertion would give pain, for his associates hold that his astute judgment was unaffected by circumstance.  I will say, therefore, that it spurred his genius to plan what no burglar had ever planned before.  It was nothing less than to burgle the house of the gnoles.  And this that abstemious man unfolded to Tonker over a cup of tea.  Had Tonker not been nearly insane with pride over their recent transaction, and had he not been blinded by a veneration for Nuth, he would have -- but I cry over spilt milk.  He expostulated respectfully; he said he would rather not go; he said it was not fair; he allowed himself to argue; and in the end, one windy October morning with a menace in the air found him and Nuth drawing near to the dreadful wood.

Nuth, by weighing little emeralds against pieces of common rock, had ascertained the probable weight of those house-ornaments that the gnoles are believed to possess in the narrow, lofty house wherein they have dwelt from of old.  They decided to steal two emeralds and to carry them between them on a cloak; but if they should be too heavy one must be dropped at once.  Nuth warned young Tonker against greed, and explained that the emeralds were worth less than cheese until they were safe away from the dreadful wood.

Everything had been planned, and they walked now in silence.

No track led up to the sinister gloom of the trees, either of men or cattle; not even a poacher had been there snaring elves for over a hundred years.  You did not trespass twice in the dells of the gnoles.  And, apart from the things that were done there, the trees themselves were a warning, and did not wear the wholesome look of those that we plant ourselves.

The nearest village was some miles away with the backs of all its houses turned to the wood, and without one window at all facing in that direction.  They did not speak of it there, and elsewhere it is unheard of.

Into this wood stepped Nuth and Tommy Tonker.  They had no firearms.  Tonker had asked for a pistol, but Nuth replied that the sound of a shot "would bring everything down on us," and no more was said about it.

Into the wood they went all day, deeper and deeper.  They saw the skeleton of some early Georgian poacher nailed to a door in an oak tree; sometimes they saw a fairy scuttle away from them; once Tonker stepped heavily on a hard, dry stick, after which they both lay still for twenty minutes.  And the sunset flared full of omens through the tree trunks, and night fell, and they came by fitful starlight, as Nuth had foreseen, to that lean, high house where the gnoles so secretly dwelt.

All was so silent by that unvalued house that the faded courage of Tonker flickered up, but to Nuth's experienced sense it seemed too silent; and all the while there was that look in the sky that was worse than a spoken doom, so that Nuth, as is often the case when men are in doubt, had leisure to fear the worst.  Nevertheless he did not abandon the business, but sent the likely lad with the instruments of his trade by means of the ladder to the old green casement.  And the moment that Tonker touched the withered boards, the silence that, though ominous, was earthly, became unearthly like the touch of a ghoul.  And Tonker heard his breath offending against that silence, and his heart was like mad drums in a night attack, and a string of one of his sandals went tap on a rung of a ladder, and the leaves of the forest were mute, and the breeze of the night was still; and Tonker prayed that a mouse or a mole might make any noise at all, but not a creature stirred, even Nuth was still.  And then and there, while yet he was undiscovered, the likely lad made up his mind, as he should have done long before, to leave those colossal emeralds where they were and have nothing further to do with the lean, high house of the gnoles, but to quit this sinister wood in the nick of time and retire from business at once and buy a place in the country.  Then he descended softly and beckoned to Nuth.  But the gnoles had watched him through knavish holes that they bore in trunks of the trees, and the unearthly silence gave way, as it were with a grace, to the rapid screams of Tonker as they picked him up from behind -- screams that came faster and faster until they were incoherent.  And where they took him it is not good to ask, and what they did with him I shall not say.

Nuth looked on for a while from the corner of the house with a mild surprise on his face as he rubbed his chin, for the trick of the holes in the trees was new to him; then he stole nimbly away through the dreadful wood.

"And did they catch Nuth?" you ask me, gentle reader.

"Oh, no, my child" (for such a question is childish).  "Nobody ever catches Nuth."


Do you have a spooky story to share?

Spel


* Although technically that was based on an illustration by the great Sidney Sime... hmmm...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2016, 05:06:24 AM »
Hmmm... scared you silly, eh?  My most profuse apologies!  I would relent -- but perhaps in this case it's better to push further, harder.  To fight fire with fire, so to speak.  Maybe these will jolt you back to your senses!

My first reminds us how important it is to check under our beds before we go to sleep -- not only for monsters, but for victims.


The Body in the Bed

Once there was a couple who decided to get away for a couple days.  They decided to stay at a motel and as soon as they entered their room, it smelled horrible, like maybe a rat died in there.  So, they complained to the front desk, but the concierge assured them that the room was just cleaned and the cleaning staff and even the previous occupant never complained about a smell.  The couple then asked to switch rooms, but the motel was in the middle of nowhere and completely booked.

There was nothing the couple could do about it, so they started to track down the smell for themselves.  The smell was coming from somewhere near the bed.  They looked under it, behind it, behind the bedside tables and still couldn't locate the smell.  Finally, they decided just to check underneath the mattress.  When they pushed the mattress off, the found a rotting human body in the box spring.  The body had been there for days, maybe weeks.


Now, has that got you screaming for your... mummy?  (Ooo, behave!)

Spel

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2016, 05:06:40 AM »
Ghosts, vampires, werewolves -- all of these are regularly met during the Season of the Witch.  Less common are mummies.  We mustn't forget about them, though, because they are known to hold grudges -- and they can be patient.

1991 witnessed the discovery of Ötzi the Iceman, an individual who died about 5000 years ago in the Alps on what is now the border between Austria and Italy.  His body was subsequently preserved by the elements.  We've learned a lot about him since then -- about his heritage, about his lifestyle, about his ailments, about his tattoos, about his very death.  But have we also learned that he brings with him a curse?  In the following excerpt from this engaging article, we can read about the many misfortunes of the people connected to Ötzi and his discovery.


The Curse of the Ice Mummy

Adding to the mystery of the Iceman are the strange stories that the mummy is surrounded by some sort of sinister curse, which has allegedly been the cause of the deaths of seven people associated with it since its discovery.  The first death linked to the "curse" was that of a forensic pathologist from the University of Innsbruck by the name of Rainer Henn, 64, who was one of the earliest scientists working on deciphering the Iceman riddle and indeed one of the first to handle the mummy when he pried it from the ice to place it in a body bag, and who died in a catastrophic car crash on his way to give a lecture on some of his findings concerning the mummy.  This death was followed by that of the mountain guide who had led Henn to the body in the first place, and was also one of the first to help uncover the body, a Kurt Fritz, 52, who was killed in a freak avalanche.  Oddly, although he had been with a group of other climbers at the time of the incident, Fritz was the only one to be hit by the deadly wave of snow and ice.  The string of mysterious deaths would continue when an American film maker who had filmed the removal of the Iceman from the ice for a documentary died of a sudden brain tumor.

This is all spooky enough, and there were already rumors at this time of a curse surrounding the Ötzi ice mummy, that uncovering it and disturbing it had awoken some mysterious evil force bent on revenge, but it would not be the end of the trail of death.  Next was one of the actual hikers who had first found the Iceman's body frozen up in the mountains, Helmut Simon, 69, who went missing while on a hike on Austria's Gaiskarkogel peak in October of 2004.  After an intense search for the missing man, his body was found crumpled in a small stream, having fallen some 300 feet from a treacherous ledge above during a sudden whipping blizzard that had swept through the area.  Indeed, the leader of the mountain search party sent to look for Simon, a Dieter Warnecke, 45, would also die of a heart attack a mere hours after the missing hiker's funeral.  This was followed by the death of a Konrad Spindler, 55, who had also been one of the first scientists to examine the Iceman, and who died of complications connected to multiple sclerosis.

The final and perhaps the strangest of the deaths linked to the Iceman curse was that of American born molecular archeologist Tom Loy, 63, who was instrumental in uncovering some important information on the Iceman.  Loy had discovered four different types of blood on both the Iceman's clothing and weapons, which was instrumental in pushing forward the theory that he had met his demise in a violent confrontation.  Loy was diagnosed with a rare hereditary blood condition shortly after his involvement with the Iceman, which he would battle for years before finally succumbing.  Interestingly, throughout his ordeal Loy was well aware of the curse which was said to be linked to the mummy, yet he had always told his colleagues that he did not believe in such things and that it was all pure, wild superstition, often simply stating "People die."


Do you have a spooky story to share?

Spel

Online Valerian

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2016, 08:33:08 AM »
Another lighthouse story that might intrigue.  And perhaps that is a figure standing in that upstairs window...


The North Point Lighthouse is a prominent and well-known fixture in Milwaukee’s Lake Park. The park is located on the east side and faces the beautiful Lake Michigan. North Point Lighthouse was built in 1855 to guide ships into the harbor, but now serves as a museum and landmark. When walking up to the enchanting lighthouse, it is hard to think that there is anything frightening about it. With its shiny white exterior and welcoming front door, it truly is lovely.

When I arrived, I asked the woman at the front desk about the rumors of the lighthouse being haunted. She told me she had worked there for many years and believed it was indeed haunted. Apparently, the sound of children playing and laughing can be heard throughout the building and guests get the feeling they are not alone or welcome. She explained to me that at night people feel a cold air rush through them and become unnerved.

While I could not take pictures inside the building, she pointed me to the backyard where a bridge and path were located. She told me that the bridge, known as Lion’s Bridge, is haunted as well and encouraged me to go investigate. As I took pictures of the exterior, an eerie feeling came over me. With one shot in particular of the upstairs window, I could have sworn I saw a face. I felt a tightening in my chest and knew it was time to go. I don’t know if this experience was just my fear getting the best of me, or if something chilling truly resides in the North Point Lighthouse.

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Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2016, 02:58:52 PM »
I like this poem of Emilie Autumn's called 'Ghost'.


Online RedRose

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #13 on: October 22, 2016, 12:05:33 PM »
I grew up with all kinds of weird family stories, some really spooky, some more fantastic. I hope to type them down one day  ;D

Online Valerian

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #14 on: October 25, 2016, 06:51:42 PM »
This is a tale you might recognize -- it's based on an old episode of the TV series Night Gallery, which in turn is based on an old horror story by Oscar Cook called "Boomerang."  If you're like me and already don't like earwigs, approach with caution.



Many years ago, in Borneo, there was an English man named Clifford Macy who was young, handsome and very vain. He fancied himself as God’s gift to women and often boasted about his success.

Macy was part owner of a tobacco plantation and his friend and business partner was another English man by the name of Leopold Warwick. Despite being old and fat, Warwick had a wife who was very young and very beautiful and she was the envy of every man who set eyes on her.

The three of them lived together in a big house on the plantation. Macy slept in the first bedroom, while Warwick and his wife slept in the second.

It was rainy season and there was precious little to do. Macy was bored and he could find nothing that would keep him entertained. As time went on, he developed a passion for Warwick’s wife and began to wish that he could have her for himself.

He tried flirting with her, but she wouldn’t have anything to do with him. One evening, when her husband was away, Macy made a pass at her, but she slapped his face.

However, Macy was the kind of man who didn’t take no for an answer. Every time she rebuffed him, he became more and more obsessed with her until he was determined to have her at any cost.

Although his heart was burning with a white hot passion, Macy had a devilish and cunning mind. He soon came up with a way to get Warwick out of the way.

In Borneo, there is a type of earwig that lives on waxy secretions. It has a special liking for the human ear. It’s so small and light that it could be crawling on your face and you’d barely even feel it. If it gets into a man’s ear, it creeps down the canal, unable to turn around, feeding as it goes and causing weeks of hellish torment until… well, I’m sure you can use your imagination.

Macy paid two native men a large sum of money and instructed them to creep into Warwick’s bedroom in the middle of the night and place an earwig on his pillow. He went to sleep that night with a smile on his face and dreamed about the horrible fate that was about to befall his friend.

The next morning, when Macy came down to breakfast, Warwick seemed bright and cheerful. He watched the old man closely, looking for any signs of discomfort.

Just then, Macy felt a strange tickling sensation in his own ear. When he poked his finger into his ear, he discovered that he was bleeding. Jumping up from the table with a look of horror on his face, he shrieked, “The damn thing is in my ear!”

It appeared that the men he paid had made a terrible mistake and during the night they had gone into the wrong room and placed the earwig in the wrong man’s ear.

That was the beginning of weeks of unimaginable pain and agony. There was nothing the doctor could do for him. He lay in his room, tied to the bed with his wrists lashed to the headboard to prevent him tearing his ears off.

Day and night, he writhed and screamed as the earwig crept and crawled and twisted through his head, slowly driving him insane. Occasionally, when the earwig was resting, Macy would get a break from his torment, but when it woke up, he would scream and scream and scream.

The pain was so unbearable that being flayed alive, burned at the stake, put on the rack or even hanged by the neck would have been an act of mercy. Every time the doctor came to see him, Macy begged him to put him out off his misery.

Then something very unexpected happened. Miraculously, the earwig crawled out his other ear. Macy had come close to the brink off death, but he had survived the torment.

When he was well enough to talk, the doctor came in to see him.

“I suppose they’re going to call the police and have me arrested now,” said Macy.

“No,” said the doctor. “They’re not calling the police.”

“Why not?” Macy demanded. “I suppose they’re trying to avoid a scandal.”

“No, they’re taking pity on you. They know about your condition…”

“What do you mean?”

“You see, the earwig was a female,” said the doctor, “and it laid eggs…”

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Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #15 on: October 26, 2016, 04:25:24 PM »
This piece is extrapolated from a webcomic short, illustrated by Mateusz Skutnik, developer of the famous Submachine and Daymare Town escape games. (Some images mildly NSFW)

Morning Fishing

Shredel was a fisherman.  Every day, he rowed out to beyond the reef and dove with his net and spear.  While this was a common activity among islanders, people talked about how deep and how often he went.

One day, he dove deeper than he ever had before.  As he swam down through the murky water, he saw many strange creatures he had never seen before.  Pressing even deeper, he found a strange cave and went inside.  Even stranger creatures were inside, and to his surprise, they greeted him. 

'For all these years, you have been our spy among the islanders.  Now, it is time for us to drive them out.  We shall send a great creature that you will lead into the river to poison the waters tomorrow, and by sunset, the islanders will be dead.'

Shredel returned home, pondering what he had been told.  His doubts only grew as he ate his dinner, and as he got ready for bed, he made a decision,

'I will meet the creature tomorrow, but I will not lead it to the city.  I will send him a different message written with my sharpest harpoon.'

He slept soundly, secure in the knowledge that he was doing the right thing.  When he woke, he took his sharpest harpoon, and went down to the mouth of the river.  As always, he was greeted by his fellow townsmen.

'Hi, Shredel - you won't believe it, but we had a very interesting swim yesterday.'

And as the fog cleared, he saw that the entire riverbank was lined with people - each holding their sharpest harpoons.

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #16 on: October 27, 2016, 05:09:30 AM »
Thank you very much for those marvelously creepy tales, guys!  The more the merrier (or scarier, I suppose).  Mmm, and thank you, too, for chiming in, RedRose.  Please don't hesitate to share those stories once you've set them down; we'd certainly love to hear them!

I'd now like to bring you a tale first told by a fellow that we'll call David S.; I'm taking it from here.  Although the road between San Joaquin, California and nearby Tranquility seems just about as flat as can be, it turns out that it runs straight through the Uncanny Valley...


Night of the Mannequin Driver

The year was 1999.  I don't remember the month, but it was the beginning of cold, stormy weather.  I was living with my parents in Tranquility, California at the time.  I was partying with some friends in the town of San Joaquin, which is eight miles away from Tranquility.

We were having a good time, and as the party went past midnight I got into a fight with a guy that was drunk and causing trouble.  I had too much to drink as well, and after they broke us up I decided it was time for me to go home.

I had come to the party with a friend of mine.  We came in his car and when I went looking for him, I was told he took off earlier with someone and he didn't tell anyone where he was going or when he was coming back.  Well I didn't want to stick around anymore so I started getting ready to walk home using the main highway that connected the two towns.

Others tried to persuade me to stay and wait for my friend to return, but in my state, my mind was made up.

I remember it was cold and windy that night, and it wasn't the best decision for me to walk the eight miles home alone.  But I figured I would hitchhike and hopefully someone would give me a ride.  I just wanted to get home and go to sleep.  So I said my goodbyes and started walking.

I was around one third of the way when I realized I made a mistake.  I should have stayed and waited for my lame friend.  That's when I saw some headlights coming toward me in the same direction I was walking.  I stuck out my thumb and the car drove past me and kept going.  Then another car came down the road and did the same thing.  It was beginning to get very cold and there were some lightning flashes.

I was getting ready to turn around and go back when I saw another car coming down the road, so I stuck out my thumb and it too drove past me... but as soon as it did the brake lights came on and it pulled over.  I started running up to the car, relieved I was finally going to get a ride and get out of the cold.

As I approached the car, the driver's door opened and the driver got out.  There was something totally wrong with the way he exited the vehicle.  I mean, his body movements were sort of stiff and awkward.  When I got closer, I started to say something when suddenly a bright lightning bolt flashed across the sky.  It lid up everything and I got a good glimpse of the driver.

He looked like one of those mannequins you see in those big department stores!  A blank facial expression with a slight smile... and the way it was walking -- man, I became so frightened!  Then the passenger door opened and another occupant stepped out in the same awful manner.  I could tell by its silhouette against the headlights shinning down the road, that it was a female.  Another lightning bolt flashed revealing she too was a dummy!

I think I screamed, then I ran into the cornfield that was next to the road.  The corn was almost six feet tall and had recently been irrigated because I was running in mud that was up to my ankles.  I just kept going, not stopping.  It was tiring running through that mud and just for a few minutes I did stop to catch my breath.  In that moment I could hear somewhere behind me the corn stalks being rustled.

I was beginning to feel lightheaded and dizzy, like I was going to pass out.  Then I heard car doors slamming shut and the sound of the car driving away.  I didn't go back to the highway -- no way, I was too scared.  I kept plodding through the cornfield until I came out the other side.  That's when I sort of collapsed.  I was shaking all over.  I stayed there for at least an hour before I headed back to San Joaquin.

To this day, when I think back, it could have been someone playing a joke, just to scare people.  I don't know.  They looked real to me, it was like a nightmare!


All Hallows' Eve draws nigh.  Do you have a spooky story to share?

Spel

Offline Lilias

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #17 on: October 29, 2016, 11:37:59 AM »
This isn't a story.

This is me. I’m here. I’m shifting the words that you’re reading, altering them from whatever this person wrote.

I’ve been here for awhile. For as long as you can remember, anyway. Sometimes I say your name as you’re falling asleep, or whisper urgently in your ear. Do you remember the time that I screamed, throwing panic through you and setting your heart racing?

That was fun.

You’re wondering who I am. That’s only natural. Of course, you already know.

I’m you. I’m the real you. I’m the mind that existed here before you stole my body, before you forgot about being a parasite. I’m the child who looked the wrong way, asked the wrong question, saw the wrong thing… but I’m not so little any more.

You may have forgotten me, but I’m still here. I’ve always been here.

I’m going to get out.

Offline DominantPoet

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Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2016, 07:12:54 AM »
There was an old story I read in a book long ago that always creeped me the heck out. This is an abridged version with as much as I can remember.

Two sheep herders who lived on their own in a small little cabin away from the city grew tired and bored, bitter with life and one another. One day, they decided to bring down a scarecrow they had made to keep the crows away from some crops they had planted for sustenance. They named it Harold. At first, they had conversations with Harold, and it was nice to have someone new there to talk to, even if he wasn't real.

As time passed, they began to become abusive to Harold, punching him, mocking him, taking their anger at their lives out on Harold. One night, while they were eating throwing some food at Harold, the one brother swore he heard Harold grunt. "You're just being silly" the other brother told him, and they continued their abuse of the straw-stuffed man.

The next night, he swore he heard it again, and this time the other brother heard it as well. They were a bit frightened and decided to put Harold back up on his post in the crop field. After leaving him there for a few days, they realized they were being silly and superstitious, and simply hearing things. Bringing him back into the cabin, they continued their abusive tendencies towards Harold. Everything was fine for a few nights.

However, one night, Harold stood up, walked out of the cabin, grabbed the ladder by the cabin, and climbed up to the roof. The brothers were gobsmacked. Harold stayed up there, sitting, not moving, for a few days and a few nights. Eventually, he came back down, and sat in the cabin where they had usually kept him. The brothers, of course, were terrified. They didn't sleep well, and they always kept one eye on Harold, though he didn't move again.

A few days later, their cow, who provided them with milk, began to come down with an illness. One of them had to go into town to fetch medicine for the cow. One had to stay behind, in case the sheep managed to escape and needed to be rounded up. Neither of them wanted to stay there alone with Harold, but they had no choice but to go into town either. And so, they drew straws.

The next day, when coming back in the morning, the one brother who had gone into town saw Harold up on the roof of the cabin again. He was doing something up there, although it was hard to tell what. As he got closer, he saw to his horror that Harold was laying a bloody skin rug out on the roof of the cabin, to dry.

Offline Lilias

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2016, 07:39:29 AM »
THE LANDLADY
Roald Dahl


Billy Weaver had travelled down from London on the slow afternoon train, with a change at Swindon on the way, and by the time he got to Bath it was about nine o’clock in the evening and the moon was coming up out of a clear starry sky over the houses opposite the station entrance. But the air was deadly cold and the wind was like a flat blade of ice on his cheeks.

“Excuse me,” he said, “but is there a fairly cheap hotel not too far away from here?”

“Try The Bell and Dragon,” the porter answered, pointing down the road. “They might take you in. It’s about a quarter of a mile along on the other side.”

Billy thanked him and picked up his suitcase and set out to walk the quarter-mile to The Bell and Dragon. He had never been to Bath before. He didn’t know anyone who lived there. But Mr Greenslade at the Head Office in London had told him it was a splendid city. “Find your own lodgings,” he had said, “and then go along and report to the Branch Manager as soon as you’ve got yourself settled.”

Billy was seventeen years old. He was wearing a new navy-blue overcoat, a new brown trilby hat, and a new brown suit, and he was feeling fine. He walked briskly down the street. He was trying to do everything briskly these days. Briskness, he had decided, was the one common characteristic of all successful businessmen. The big shots up at Head Office were absolutely fantastically brisk all the time. They were amazing.

There were no shops on this wide street that he was walking along, only a line of tall houses on each side, all them identical. They had porches and pillars and four or five steps going up to their front doors, and it was obvious that once upon a time they had been very swanky residences. But now, even in the darkness, he could see that the paint was peeling from the woodwork on their doors and windows, and that the handsome white fagades were cracked and blotchy from neglect.

Suddenly, in a downstairs window that was brilliantly illuminated by a street-lamp not six yards away, Billy caught sight of a printed notice propped up against the glass in one of the upper panes. It said BED AND BREAKFAST. There was a vase of yellow chrysanthemums, tall and beautiful, standing just underneath the notice.

He stopped walking. He moved a bit closer.

Green curtains (some sort of velvety material) were hanging down on either side of the window. The chrysanthemums looked wonderful beside them. He went right up and peered through the glass into the room, and the first thing he saw was a bright fire burning in the hearth. On the carpet in front of the fire, a pretty little dachshund was curled up asleep with its nose tucked into its belly.

The room itself, so far as he could see in the half-darkness, was filled with pleasant furniture. There was a baby-grand piano and a big sofa and several plump armchairs; and in one corner he spotted a large parrot in a cage. Animals were usually a good sign in a place like this, Billy told himself; and all in all, it looked to him as though it would be a pretty decent house to stay in. Certainly it would be more comfortable than The Bell and Dragon.

On the other hand, a pub would be more congenial than a boarding-house. There would be beer and darts in the evenings, and lots of people to talk to, and it would probably be a good bit cheaper, too. He had stayed a couple of nights in a pub once before and he had liked it. He had never stayed in any boarding-houses, and, to be perfectly honest, he was a tiny bit frightened of them. The name itself conjured up images of watery cabbage, rapacious landladies, and a powerful smell of kippers in the living-room.

After dithering about like this in the cold for two or three minutes, Billy decided that he would walk on and take a look at The Bell and Dragon before making up his mind. He turned to go. And now a queer thing happened to him. He was in the act of stepping back and turning away from the window when all at once his eye was caught and held in the most peculiar manner by the small notice that was there. BED AND BREAKFAST, it said. BED AND BREAKFAST, BED AND BREAKFAST, BED AND BREAKFAST. Each word was like a large black eye staring at him through the glass, holding him, compelling him, forcing him to stay where he was and not to walk away from that house, and the next thing he knew, he was actually moving across from the window to the front door of the house, climbing the steps that led up to it, and reaching for the bell.

He pressed the bell. Far away in a back room he heard it ringing, and then at once - it must have been at once because he hadn’t even had time to take his finger from the bell-button - the door swung open and a woman was standing there.

Normally you ring the bell and you have at least a half-minute’s wait before the door opens. But this dame was a like a jack-in-the-box. He pressed the bell - and out she popped! It made him jump.

She was about forty-five or fifty years old, and the moment she saw him, she gave him a warm welcoming smile.

“Please come in,” she said pleasantly. She stepped aside, holding the door wide open, and Billy found himself automatically starting forward into the house. The compulsion or, more accurately, the desire to follow after her into that house was extraordinarily strong.

“I saw the notice in the window,” he said, holding himself back.

“Yes, I know.”

“I was wondering about a room.”

“It's all ready for you, my dear,” she said. She had a round pink face and very gentle blue eyes.

“I was on my way to The Bell and Dragon,” Billy told her. “But the notice in your window just happened to catch my eye.”

“My dear boy,” she said, “why don't you come in out of the cold?”

“How much do you charge?”

“Five and sixpence a night, including breakfast.”

It was fantastically cheap. It was less than half of what he had been willing to pay.

“If that is too much,” she added, “then perhaps I can reduce it just a tiny bit. Do you desire an egg for breakfast? Eggs are expensive at the moment. It would be sixpence less without the egg.”

“Five and sixpence is fine,” he answered. “I should like very much to stay here.”

“I knew you would. Do come in.”

She seemed terribly nice. She looked exactly like the mother of one’s best school-friend welcoming one into the house to stay for the Christmas holidays. Billy took off his hat, and stepped over the threshold.

“Just hang it there,” she said, “and let me help you with your coat.”

There were no other hats or coats in the hall. There were no umbrellas, no walking-sticks - nothing.

“We have it all to ourselves,” she said, smiling at him over her shoulder as she led the way upstairs. “You see, it isn’t very often I have the pleasure of taking a visitor into my little nest.”

The old girl is slightly dotty, Billy told himself. But at five and sixpence a night, who gives a damn about that? - “I should've thought you’d be simply swamped with applicants,” he said politely.

“Oh, I am, my dear, I am, of course I am. But the trouble is that I'm inclined to be just a teeny weeny bit choosy and particular - if you see what I mean.”

“Ah, yes.”

“But I’m always ready. Everything is always ready day and night in this house just on the off-chance that an acceptable young gentleman will come along. And it is such a pleasure, my dear, such a very great pleasure when now and again I open the door and I see someone standing there who is just exactly right.” She was half-way up the stairs, and she paused with one hand on the stair-rail, turning her head and smiling down at him with pale lips. “Like you,” she added, and her blue eyes travelled slowly all the way down the length of Billy's body, to his feet, and then up again.

On the first-floor landing she said to him, “This floor is mine.”

They climbed up a second flight. “And this one is all yours,” she said. “Here’s your room. I do hope you’ll like it.” She took him into a small but charming front bedroom, switching on the light as she went in.

“The morning sun comes right in the window, Mr Perkins. It is Mr Perkins, isn’t it?”

“No,” he said. “It’s Weaver.”

“Mr Weaver. How nice. I’ve put a water-bottle between the sheets to air them out, Mr Weaver. It’s such a comfort to have a hot water-bottle in a strange bed with clean sheets, don’t you agree? And you may light the gas fire at any time if you feel chilly.”

“Thank you,” Billy said. “Thank you ever so much.” He noticed that the bedspread had been taken off the bed, and that the bedclothes had been neatly turned back on one side, all ready for someone to get in.

“I’m so glad you appeared,” she said, looking earnestly into his face. “I was beginning to get worried.”

“That’s all right,” Billy answered brightly. “You mustn’t worry about me.” He put his suitcase on the chair and started to open it.

“And what about supper, my dear? Did you manage to get anything to eat before you came here?”

“I’m not a bit hungry, thank you,” he said. “I think I’ll just go to bed as soon as possible because tomorrow I’ve got to get up rather early and report to the office.”

“Very well, then. I’ll leave you now so that you can unpack. But before you go to bed, would you be kind enough to pop into the sitting-room on the ground floor and sign the book? Everyone has to do that because it’s the law of the land, and we don’t want to go breaking any laws at this stage in the proceedings, do we?” She gave him a little wave of the hand and went quickly out of the room and closed the door.

Now, the fact that his landlady appeared to be slightly off her rocker didn’t worry Billy in the least. After all, she was not only harmless - there was no question about that - but she was also quite obviously a kind and generous soul. He guessed that she had probably lost a son in the war, or something like that, and had never got over it.

So a few minutes later, after unpacking his suitcase and washing his hands, he trotted downstairs to the ground floor and entered the living-room. His landlady wasn’t there, but the fire was glowing in the hearth, and the little dachshund was still sleeping in front of it. The room was wonderfully warm and cosy. I’m a lucky fellow, he thought, rubbing his hands. This is a bit of all right.

He found the guest-book lying open on the piano, so he took out his pen and wrote down his name and address. There were only two other entries above his on the page, and, as one always does with guest-books, he started to read them. One was a Christopher Mulholland from Cardiff. The other was Gregory W. Temple from Bristol. That’s funny, he thought suddenly. Christopher Mulholland. It rings a bell. Now where on earth had he heard that rather unusual name before?

Was he a boy at school? No. Was it one of his sister’s numerous young men, perhaps, or a friend of his father’s? No, no, it wasn’t any of those. He glanced down again at the book. Christopher Mulholland, 231 Cathedral Road, Cardiff. Gregory W. Temple, 27 Sycamore Drive, Bristol. As a matter of fact, now he came to think of it, he wasn’t at all sure that the second name didn’t have almost as much of a familiar ring about it as the first.

“Gregory Temple?” he said aloud, searching his memory. “Christopher Mulholland? ...”

“Such charming boys,” a voice behind him answered, and he turned and saw his landlady sailing into the room with a large silver tea-tray in her hands. She was holding it well out in front of her, and rather high up, as though the tray were a pair of reins on a frisky horse.

“They sound somehow familiar,” he said.

“They do? How interesting.”

“I’m almost positive I’ve heard those names before somewhere. Isn’t that queer? Maybe it was in the newspapers. They weren’t famous in any way, were they? I mean famous cricketers or footballers or something like that?”

“Famous,” she said, setting the tea-tray down on the low table in front of the sofa. “Oh no, I don’t think they were famous. But they were extraordinarily handsome, both of them, I can promise you that. They were tall and young and handsome, my dear, just exactly like you.”

Once more, Billy glanced down at the book.

“Look here,” he said, noticing the dates. “This last entry is over two years old.”

“It is?”

“Yes, indeed. And Christopher Mulholland’s is nearly a year before that - more than three years ago.”

“Dear me,” she said, shaking her head and heaving a dainty little sigh. “I would never have thought it. How time does fly away from us all, doesn’t it, Mr Wilkins?”

“It’s Weaver,” Billy said. “W-e-a-v-e-r.”

“Oh, of course it is!” she cried, sitting down on the sofa. “How silly of me. I do apologise. In one ear and out the other, that’s me, Mr Weaver.”

“You know something?” Billy said. ‘Something that’s really quite extraordinary about all this?”

“No, dear, I don’t.”

“Well, you see - both of these names, Mulholland and Temple, I not only seem to remember each one of them separately, so to speak, but somehow or other, in some peculiar way, they both appear to be sort of connected together as well. As though they were both famous for the same sort of thing, if you see what I mean - like ... like Dempsey and Tunney, for example, or Churchill and Roosevelt.”

“How amusing,” she said. “But come over here now, dear, and sit down beside me on the sofa and I’ll give you a nice cup of tea and a ginger biscuit before you go to bed.”

“You really shouldn’t bother,” Billy said. “I didn’t mean you to do anything like that.” He stood by the piano, watching her as she fussed about with the cups and saucers. He noticed that she had small, white, quickly moving hands, and red finger-nails.

“I’m almost positive it was in the newspapers I saw them,” Billy said. “I’ll think of it in a second. I’m sure I will.” There is nothing more tantalising than a thing like this which lingers just outside the borders of one’s memory. He hated to give up.

“Now wait a minute,” he said. “Wait just a minute. Mulholland ... Christopher Mulholland ... wasn’t that the name of the Eton schoolboy who was on a walking-tour through the West Country, and then all of a sudden ...”

“Milk?” she said. “And sugar?”

“Yes, please. And then all of a sudden ...”

“Eton schoolboy?” she said. “Oh no, my dear, that can’t possibly be right because my Mr Mulholland was certainly not an Eton schoolboy when he came to me. He was a Cambridge undergraduate. Come over here now and sit next to me and warm yourself in front of this lovely fire. Come on. Your tea’s all ready for you.” She patted the empty place beside her on the sofa, and she sat there smiling at Billy and waiting for him to come over. He crossed the room slowly, and sat down on the edge of the sofa. She placed his teacup on the table in front of him.

“There we are,” she said. “How nice and cosy this is, isn't it?”

Billy started sipping his tea. She did the same. For half a minute or so, neither of them spoke. But Billy knew that she was looking at him. Her body was half-turned towards him, and he could feel her eyes resting on his face, watching him over the rim of her teacup. Now and again, he caught a whiff of a peculiar smell that seemed to emanate directly from her person. It was not in the least unpleasant, and it reminded him - well, he wasn’t quite sure what it reminded him of. Pickled walnuts? New leather? Or was it the corridors of a hospital?

“Mr Mulholland was a great one for his tea,” she said at length. “Never in my life have I seen anyone drink as much tea as dear, sweet Mr Mulholland.”

“I suppose he left fairly recently,” Billy said. He was still puzzling his head about the two
names.

He was positive now that he had seen them in the newspapers - in the headlines.

“Left?” she said, arching her brows. “But my dear boy, he never left. He’s still here. Mr Temple is also here. They’re on the third floor, both of them together.”

Billy set down his cup slowly on the table, and stared at his landlady. She smiled back at him, and then she put out one of her white hands and patted him comfortingly on the knee. “How old are you, my dear?” she asked.

“Seventeen.”

“Seventeen!” she cried. “Oh, it’s the perfect age! Mr Mulholland was also seventeen. But I think he was a trifle shorter than you are, in fact I’m sure he was, and his teeth weren’t quite so white. You have the most beautiful teeth, Mr Weaver, did you know that?”

“They’re not as good as they look,” Billy said. “They’ve got simply masses of fillings in them at the back.”

“Mr Temple, of course, was a little older,” she said, ignoring his remark. “He was actually twenty eight. And yet I never would have guessed it if he hadn’t told me, never in my whole life. There wasn’t a blemish on his body.”

“A what?” Billy said.

“His skin was just like a baby’s.”

There was a pause. Billy picked up his teacup and took another sip of his tea, then he set it down again gently in its saucer. He waited for her to say something else, but she seemed to have lapsed into another of her silences. He sat there staring straight ahead of him into the far corner of the room, biting his lower lip.

“That parrot,” he said at last. “You know something? It had me completely fooled when I first saw it through the window from the street. I could have sworn it was alive.”

“Alas, no longer.”

“It’s most terribly clever the way it’s been done,” he said. “It doesn’t look in the least bit dead. Who did it?”

“I did.”

“You did?”

“Of course,” she said. “And have you met my little Basil as well?” She nodded towards the dachshund curled up so comfortably in front of the fire. Billy looked at it. And suddenly, he realised that this animal had all the time been just as silent and motionless as the parrot. He put out a hand and touched it gently on the top of its back. The back was hard and cold, and when he pushed the hair to one side with his fingers, he could see the skin underneath, greyish-black and dry and perfectly preserved.

“Good gracious me,” he said. “How absolutely fascinating.” He turned away from the dog and stared with deep admiration at the little woman beside him on the sofa. “It must be most awfully difficult to do a thing like that.”

“Not in the least,” she said. “I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away. Will you have another cup of tea?”

“No, thank you,” Billy said. The tea tasted faintly of bitter almonds, and he didn’t much care for it.

“You did sign the book, didn’t you?”

“Oh, yes.”

“That’s good. Because later on, if I happen to forget what you were called, then I can always come down here and look it up. I still do that almost every day with Mr Mulholland and Mr...Mr...”

“Temple,” Billy said. “Gregory Temple. Excuse my asking, but haven’t there been any other guests here except them in the last two or three years?”

Holding her teacup high in one hand, inclining her head slightly to the left, she looked up at him out of the corners of her eyes and gave him another gentle little smile.

“No, my dear,” she said. ‘Only you.'

Online Valerian

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2016, 10:19:33 AM »
"The Pale Man" by Julius Long



I have not yet met the man in No. 212. I do not even know his name. He never patronizes the hotel restaurant, and he does not use the lobby. On the three occasions when we passed each other by, we did not speak, although we nodded in a semi-cordial, noncommittal way. I should like very much to make his acquaintance. It is lonesome in this dreary place. With the exception of the aged lady down the corridor, the only permanent guests are the man in No. 212 and myself. However, I should not complain, for this utter quiet is precisely what the doctor prescribed.

I wonder if the man in No. 212, too, has come here for a rest. He is so very pale. Yet I can not believe that he is ill, for his paleness is not of a sickly cast, but rather wholesome in its ivory clarity. His carriage is that of a man enjoying the best of health. He is tall and straight. He walks erectly and with a brisk, athletic stride. His pallor is no doubt congenital, else he would quickly tan under this burning, summer sun.

He must have traveled here by auto, for he certainly was not a passenger on the train that brought me, and he checked in only a short time after my arrival. I had briefly rested in my room and was walking down the stairs when I encountered him ascending with his bag. It is odd that our venerable bell-boy did not show him to his room.

It is odd, too, that, with so many vacant rooms in the hotel, he should have chosen No. 212 at the extreme rear. The building is a long, narrow affair three stories high. The rooms are all on the east side, as the west wall is flush with a decrepit business building. The corridor is long and drab, and its stiff, bloated paper exudes a musty, unpleasant odor. The feeble electric bulbs that light it shine dimly as from a tomb. Revolted by this corridor, I insisted vigorously upon being given No. 201, which is at the front and blessed with southern exposure. The room clerk, a disagreeable fellow with a Hitler mustache, was very reluctant to let me have it, as it is ordinarily reserved for his more profitable transient trade. I fear my stubborn insistence has made him an enemy.

If only I had been as self-assertive thirty years ago! I should now be a full-fledged professor instead of a broken-down assistant. I still smart from the cavalier manner in which the president of the university summarily recommended my vacation. No doubt he acted for my best interests. The people who have dominated my poor life invariably have.

Oh, well, the summer's rest will probably do me considerable good. It is pleasant to be away from the university. There is something positively gratifying about the absence of the graduate student face.

If only it were not so lonely! I must devise a way of meeting the pale man in No. 212. Perhaps the room clerk can arrange matters.

I have been here exactly a week, and if there is a friendly soul in this miserable little town, he has escaped my notice. Although the tradespeople accept my money with flattering eagerness, they studiously avoid even the most casual conversation. I am afraid I can never cultivate their society unless I can arrange to have my ancestors recognized as local residents for the last hundred and fifty years.

Despite the coolness of my reception, I have been frequently venturing abroad. In the back of my mind I have cherished hopes that I might encounter the pale man in No. 211. Incidentally, I wonder why he has moved from No. 212. There is certainly little advantage in coming only one room nearer to the front. I noticed the change yesterday when I saw him coming out of his new room.

We nodded again, and this time I thought I detected a certain malign satisfaction in his somber, black eyes. He must know that I am eager to make his acquaintance, yet his manner forbids overtures. If he wants to make me go all the way, he can go to the devil. I am not the sort to run after anybody. Indeed, the surly diffidence of the room clerk has been enough to prevent me from questioning him about his mysterious guest.


I wonder where the pale man takes his meals. I have been absenting myself from the hotel restaurant and patronizing the restaurants outside. At each I have ventured inquiries about the man in No. 210. No one at any restaurant remembered his having been there. Perhaps he has entrée into the Brahmin homes of this town. And again, he may have found a boarding-house. I shall have to learn if there be one.

The pale man must be difficult to please, for he has again changed his room. I am baffled by his conduct. If he is so desirous of locating himself more conveniently in the hotel, why does he not move to No. 202, which is the nearest available room to the front?

Perhaps I can make his inability to locate himself permanently an excuse for starting a conversation. "I see we are closer neighbors now," I might casually say. But that is too banal. I must await a better opportunity.


He has done it again! He is now occupying No. 209. I am intrigued by his little game. I waste hours trying to fathom its point. What possible motive could he have? I should think he would get on the hotel people's nerves. I wonder what our combination bellhop-chambermaid thinks of having to prepare four rooms for a single guest. If he were not stone-deaf, I would ask him. At present I feel too exhausted to attempt such an enervating conversation.

I am tremendously interested in the pale man's next move. He must either skip a room or remain where he is, for a permanent guest, a very old lady, occupies No. 208. She has not budged-from her room since I have been here, and I imagine that she does not intend to.

I wonder what the pale man will do. I await his decision with the nervous excitement of a devotee of the track on the eve of a big race. After all, I have so little diversion.


Well, the mysterious guest was not forced to remain where he was, nor did he have to skip a room. The lady in No. 208 simplified matters by conveniently dying. No one knows the cause of her death, but it is generally attributed to old age. She was buried this morning. I was among the curious few who attended her funeral. When I returned home from the mortuary, I was in time to see the pale man leaving her room. Already he has moved in.

He favored me with a smile whose meaning I have tried in vain to decipher. I can not but believe that he meant it to have some significance. He acted as if there were between us some secret that I failed to appreciate. But, then, perhaps his smile was meaningless after all and only ambiguous by chance, like that of the Mona Lisa.


My man of mystery now resides in No. 207, and I am not the least surprized. I would have been astonished if he had not made his scheduled move, I have almost given up trying to understand his eccentric conduct. I do not know a single thing more about him than I knew the day he arrived. I wonder whence he came. There is something indefinably foreign about his manner. I am curious to hear his voice. I like to imagine that he speaks the exotic tongue of some far-away country. If only I could somehow inveigle him into conversation! I wish that I were possessed of the glib assurance of a college boy, who can address himself to the most distinguished celebrity without batting an eye. It is no wonder that I am only an assistant professor.


I am worried. This morning I awoke to find myself lying prone upon the floor. I was fully clothed. I must have fallen exhausted there after I returned to my room last night.

I wonder if my condition is more serious than I had suspected. Until now I have been inclined to discount the fears of those who have pulled a long face about me. For the first time I recall the prolonged hand-clasp of the president when he bade me good-bye from the university. Obviously he never expected to see me alive again.

Of course I am not that unwell. Nevertheless, I must be more careful. Thank heaven I have no dependents to worry about. I have not even a wife, for I was never willing to exchange the loneliness of a bachelor for the loneliness of a husband.

I can say in all sincerity that the prospect of death does not frighten me. Speculation about life beyond the grave has always bored me. Whatever it is, or is not, I'll try to get along.

I have been so preoccupied about the sudden turn of my own affairs that I have neglected to make note of a most extraordinary incident. The pale man has done an astounding thing. He has skipped three rooms and moved all the way to No. 203. We are now very close neighbors. We shall meet oftener, and my chances for making his acquaintance are now greater.


I have confined myself to my bed during the last few days and have had my food brought to me. I even called a local doctor, whom I suspect to be a quack. He looked me over with professional indifference and told me not to leave my room. For some reason he does not want me to climb stairs. For this bit of information he received a ten-dollar bill which, as I directed him, he fished out of my coat pocket. A pickpocket could not have done it better.

He had not been gone long when I was visited by the room clerk. That worthy suggested with a great show of kindly concern that I use the facilities of the local hospital. It was so modern and all that. With more firmness than I have been able to muster in a long time, I gave him to understand that I intended to remain where I am. Frowning sullenly, he stiffly retired. The doctor must have paused long enough downstairs to tell him a pretty story. It is obvious that he is afraid I shall die in his best room.

The pale man is up to his old tricks. Last night, when I tottered down the hall, the door of No. 202 was ajar. Without thinking, I looked inside. The pale man sat in a rocking-chair idly smoking a cigarette. He looked up into my eyes and smiled that peculiar, ambiguous smile that has so deeply puzzled me. I moved on down the corridor, not so much mystified as annoyed. The whole mystery of the man's conduct is beginning to irk me. It is all so inane, so utterly lacking in motive.

I feel that I shall never meet the pale man. But, at least, I am going to learn his identity. Tomorrow I shall ask for the room clerk and deliberately interrogate him.


I know now. I know the identity of the pale man, and I know the meaning of his smile.

Early this afternoon I summoned the room clerk to my bedside.

"Please tell me," I asked abruptly, "who is the man in No. 202?"

The clerk stared wearily and uncomprehendingly.

"You must be mistaken. That room is unoccupied."

"Oh, but it is," I snapped in irritation. "I myself saw the man there only two nights ago. He is a tall, handsome fellow with dark eyes and hair. He is unusually pale. He checked in the day that I arrived."

The hotel man regarded me dubiously, as if I were trying to impose upon him.

"But I assure you there is no such person in the house. As for his checking in when you did, you were the only guest we registered that day."

"What? Why, I've seen him twenty times! First he had No. 212 at the end of the corridor. Then he kept moving toward the front. Now he's next door in No. 202."

The room clerk threw up his hands.

"You're crazy!" he exclaimed, and I saw that he meant what he said.

I shut up at once and dismissed him. After he had gone, I heard him rattling the knob of the pale man's door. There is no doubt that he believes the room to be empty.

Thus it is that I can now understand the events of the past few weeks. I now comprehend the significance of the death in No. 207. I even feel partly responsible for the old lady's passing. After all, I brought the pale man with me. But it was not I who fixed his path. Why he chose to approach me room after room through the length of this dreary hotel, why his path crossed the threshold of the woman in No. 207, those mysteries I can not explain.

I suppose I should have guessed his identity when he skipped the three rooms the night I fell unconscious upon the floor. In a single night of triumph he advanced until he was almost to my door.

He will be coming by and by to inhabit this room, his ultimate goal. When he comes, I shall at least be able to return his smile of grim recognition.

Meanwhile, I have only to wait beyond my bolted door.



*****


The door swings slowly open....

Offline Lilias

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2016, 06:45:03 PM »
*looks at timestamp* Perfect timing...



The Brave Ones

Here they come again, the brave ones. Another Halloween night, and the kids are back, here to prove their fearlessness. The old house's floorboards creak beneath their sneakers. Only half an hour until midnight, so I have to work fast. I start with their flashlight, blowing lightly against it, so that it flickers, but this inspires little more than a nervous giggle. Fifteen minutes until midnight. Time to take things up a notch. I hover up to the ceiling, and will my body into flesh. My every nerve is on fire, but they've given me no choice. I force drops of blood to trickle out my nose, but the boys below don’t notice. I knock against the ceiling, but they won’t even look up."I thought this place was supposed to be haunted," says the leader. "What a joke." Five minutes until midnight. I'm running out of time. With the last of my strength, I scream—so loud that they finally turn to look up at me. I like to think I put on a good show: I sway on an invisible noose, and the blood flows freely from my nostrils now. A couple of drops hit a skinny one with a crew cut. The boys scream and run into the night, just in time.Below me, I hear the Thing turn, its disappointment palpable. For now, it sleeps. But one day, I will fail. The boys will be too brave, and I won't scare them out in time. One day they will wake it.

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #22 on: November 01, 2016, 05:11:43 AM »
Thank you very much, guys!  A superb variety of stories, and all spooky indeed.

For better or for worse, the Season of the Witch is coming to an end.  We have enough time to top off the glass, so to speak, and to tweak what needs tweaking but not enough to do much else.  In that spirit I bring you "The Brown Suit," which you can find here.


The Brown Suit

A man died and his wife went to the funeral parlor to view her husband's body.  When she saw him lying in the casket in a blue suit, she started crying.  The undertaker felt sorry for her and asked if there was anything he could do for her.  The woman said that, when her husband was alive, he always wore a brown suit -- the undertaker had put the wrong suit on his remains.

The undertaker apologized to the woman and said he would rectify the mistake immediately.  The woman sat down on the sofa in the waiting room, while the undertaker went into the back room.  A few minutes later, he came out and told her that he had finished.

When she went into the back room, she saw that her husband was laid out peacefully in the casket, wearing his favorite brown suit.

"Now he looks just the way he did when he was alive," she said.  "But how did you change it so quickly?"

"Oh, it was no trouble," said the undertaker.  "I'd accidentally put your husband's suit on another deceased gentleman, so I just switched the heads."


Dawn is prowling in the east, waiting for her moment to pounce.  Let me try for just one more!

Spel

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Dare We Share Some Spooky Stories?
« Reply #23 on: November 01, 2016, 05:12:07 AM »
Can we ever find enough time?  As noted last year, many of our fears ultimately derive from time and its effects.  Sometimes it's as mundane as not having enough time to finish a project; sometimes it's as profound as the fear of death.  And, of course, people often ruefully remark, "All good things must come to an end."

Well, to conclude the "good thing" that was this year's round of storytelling, I offer you a tale from 1928 by W.F. Harvey that craftily comments on the nature of time, the nature of fear, and the relationship between the two -- even while reminding us that strange things happen all of the time, whether we recognize their strangeness or not.  And, appropriately enough for this year's round, it also involves a creepy occurrence on a staircase!


The Clock

I liked your description of the people at the pension.  I can just picture that rather sinister Miss Cornelius, with her toupee and clinking bangles.  I don't wonder you felt frightened that night when you found her sleepwalking in the corridor.  But after all, why shouldn't she sleepwalk?  As to the movements of the furniture in the lounge on the Sunday, you are, I suppose, in an earthquake zone, though an earthquake seems too big an explanation for the ringing of that little handbell on the mantelpiece.  It's rather as if our parlour maid -- another new one! -- were to call a stray elephant to account for the teapot we found broken yesterday.  You have at least, in Italy, escaped the eternal problem of maids.

Yes, my dear, I most certainly believe you.  I have never had experiences quite like yours, but your mention of Miss Cornelius has reminded me of something rather similar that happened nearly twenty years ago, soon after I left school.  I was staying with my aunt in Hampstead.  You remember her, I expect; or, if not her, the poodle, Monsieur, that she used to make perform such pathetic tricks.  There was another guest, whom I had never met before, a Mrs Caleb.  She lived in Lewes and had been staying with my aunt for about a fortnight, recuperating after a series of domestic upheavals, which had culminated in her two servants leaving her at an hour's notice -- without any reason, according to Mrs Caleb, but I wondered.  I had never seen the maids; I had seen Mrs Caleb and, frankly, I disliked her.  She left the same sort of impression on me as I gather your Miss Cornelius leaves on you -- something queer and secretive; underground, if you can use the expression, rather than underhand.  And I could feel in my body that she did not like me.

It was summer.  Joan Denton -- you remember her; her husband was killed in Gallipoli -- had suggested that I should go down to spend the day with her.  Her people had rented a little cottage some three miles out of Lewes.  We arranged a day.  It was gloriously fine for a wonder, and I had planned to leave that stuffy old Hampstead house before the old ladies were astir.  But Mrs Caleb waylaid me in the hall, just as I was going out.

"I wonder," she said, "I wonder if you could do me a small favour.  If you do have any time to spare in Lewes -- only if you do -- would you be so kind as to call at my house?  I left a little travelling-clock there in the hurry of parting.  If it's not in the drawing-room, it will be in my bedroom or in one of the maids' bedrooms.  I know I lent it to the cook, who was a poor riser, but I can't remember if she returned it.  Would it be too much to ask?  The house has been locked up for twelve days, but everything is in order.  I have the keys here.  The large one is for the garden gate, the small one for the front door."

I could only accept, and she proceeded to tell me how I could find Ash Grove House.

"You will feel quite like a burglar," she said.  "But mind, it's only if you have time to spare."

As a matter of fact I found myself glad of any excuse to kill time.  Poor old Joan had been taken suddenly ill in the night -- they feared appendicitis -- and though her people were very kind and asked me to stay to lunch, I could see that I should only be in the way, and made Mrs Caleb's commission an excuse for an early departure.

I found Ash Grove without difficulty.  It was a medium-sized red-brick house, standing by itself in a high walled garden that bounded a narrow lane.  A flagged path led from the gate to the front door, in front of which grew, not an ash, but a monkey-puzzle, that must have made the rooms unnecessarily gloomy.  The side door, as I expected, was locked.  The dining-room and drawing-room lay on either side of the hall and, as the windows of both were shuttered, I left the hall door open, and in the dim light looked round hurriedly for the clock, which, from what Mrs Caleb had said, I hardly expected to find in either of the downstairs rooms.  It was neither on table nor mantelpiece.  The rest of the furniture was carefully covered over with white dust-sheets.  Then I went upstairs.  But, before doing so, I closed the front door.  I did in fact feel rather like a burglar, and I thought that if anyone did happen to see the front door open, I might have difficulty in explaining things.

Happily the upstairs windows were not shuttered.  I made a hurried search of the principal bedrooms.  They had been left in apple-pie order; nothing was out of place; but there was no sign of Mrs Caleb's clock.  The impression that the house gave me -- you know the sense of personality that a house conveys -- was neither pleasing nor displeasing, but it was stuffy, stuffy from the absence of fresh air, with an additional stuffiness added, that seemed to come out from the hangings and quilts and antimacassars.  The corridor, onto which the bedrooms I had examined opened, communicated with a smaller wing, an older part of the house, I imagined, which contained a box-room and the maids' sleeping-quarters.  The last door that I unlocked (I should say that the doors of all the rooms were locked, and relocked by me after I had glanced inside them) contained the object of my search.  Mrs Caleb's travelling-clock was on the mantelpiece, ticking away merrily.

That was how I thought of it at first.  And then for the first time I realised that there was something wrong.  The clock had no business to be ticking.  The house had been shut up for twelve days.  No one had come in to air it or to light fires.  I remember how Mrs Caleb had told my aunt that if she left the keys with a neighbour, she was never sure who might get hold of them.  And yet the clock was going.

I wondered if some vibration had set the mechanism in motion, and pulled out my watch to see the time.  It was five minutes to one.  The clock on the mantelpiece said four minutes to the hour.  Then, without quite knowing why, I shut the door on to the landing, locked myself in, and again looked round the room.  Nothing was out of place.  The only thing that might have called for remark was that there appeared to be a slight indentation on the pillow and the bed; but the mattress was a feather mattress, and you know how difficult it is to make them perfectly smooth.  You won't need to be told that I gave a hurried glance under the bed -- do you remember your supposed burglar in Number Six at St Ursula's? -- and then, and much more reluctantly, opened the doors of two horribly capacious cupboards, both happily empty, except for a framed text with its face to the wall.

By this time I really was frightened.  The clock went ticking on.  I had a horrible feeling that an alarm might go off at any moment, and the thought of being in that empty house was almost too much for me.  However, I made an attempt to pull myself together.  It might after all be a fourteen-day clock.  If it were, then it would be almost run down.  I could roughly find out how long the clock had been going by winding it up.  I hesitated to put the matter to the test, but the uncertainty was too much for me.  I took it out of its case and began to wind.  I had scarcely turned the winding-screw twice when it stopped.  The clock clearly was not running down; the hands had been set in motion probably only an hour or two before.

I felt cold and faint and, going to the window, threw up the sash, letting in the sweet, live air of the garden.  I knew now that the house was queer, horribly queer.  Could someone be living in the house?  Was someone else in the house now?  I thought that I had been in all the rooms, but had I?  I had only just opened the bathroom door, and I had certainly not opened any cupboards, except those in the room in which I was.

Then, as I stood by the open window, wondering what I should do next and feeling that I just couldn't go down that corridor into the darkened hall to fumble at the latch of the front door with I don't know what behind me, I heard a noise.  It was very faint at first, and seemed to be coming from the stairs.  It was a curious noise -- not the noise of anyone climbing up the stairs, but -- you will laugh if this letter reaches you by a morning post -- of something hopping up the stairs, like a very big bird would hop.  I heard it on the landing; it stopped.  Then there was a curious scratching noise against one of the bedroom doors, the sort of noise you can make with the nail of your little finger scratching polished wood.  Whatever it was, was coming slowly down the corridor, scratching at the doors as it went.  I could stand it no longer.  Nightmare pictures of locked doors opening filled my brain.  I took up the clock, wrapped it in my Macintosh, and dropped it out of the window on to a flower-bed.  Then I managed to crawl out of the window and, getting a grip of the sill, 'successfully negotiated', as the journalists would say, 'a twelve-foot drop.'  So much for our much abused Gym at St Ursula's.  Picking up the Macintosh, I ran round to the front door and locked it.  Then I felt I could breathe, but not until I was on the far side of the gate in the garden wall did I feel safe.

Then I remembered that the bedroom window was open.  What was I to do?  Wild horses wouldn't have dragged me into that house again unaccompanied.  I made up my mind to go to the police station and tell them everything.  I should be laughed at, of course, and they might easily refuse to believe my story of Mrs Caleb's commission.  I had actually begun to walk down the lane in the direction of the town when I chanced to look back at the house.  The window that I had left open was shut.

No, my dear, I didn't see any face or anything dreadful like that... and, of course, it may have shut by itself.  It was an ordinary sash-window, and you know they are often difficult to keep open.

And the rest?  Why, there's really nothing more to tell.  I didn't even see Mrs Caleb again.  She had had some sort of fainting fit just before lunchtime, my aunt informed me on my return, and had had to go to bed.  Next morning I travelled down to Cornwall to join mother and the children.  I thought I had forgotten all about it, but when three years later Uncle Charles suggested giving me a travelling-clock for a twenty-first birthday present, I was foolish enough to prefer the alternative that he offered, a collected edition of the works of Thomas Carlyle.


Once more, many thanks to you, Inkidu, Valerian, AmberStarfire, RedRose, Oniya, Lilias, and DominantPoet.  I do enjoy this time of the year and you've made it just that much better.  I hope that this round has entertained you as well -- and all of you silent listeners, too.  Though the Season of the Witch has ended, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow does creep in this petty pace from day to day; in time it will return.  Perhaps a year from now we'll meet again?

Spel