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I’ve posted many stories, poems, pictures, and music to Visions of the Dark. There is one set of stories that form an overall story arc. These stories were inspired mostly by Robert W. Chambers’ The King in Yellow. While Poe and Lovecraft tend to dominate the upper tier of the pantheon of Weird Fiction, to me, it is The King in Yellow (at least the first four stories of the volume) that creates a truly weird mood that is so unsettling. After all, Poe and Lovecraft published their stories mostly as stand-alone stories, never grouping any tales into an arc that was presented all together.

It was largely because of The King in Yellow that I decided to create the stories that I call The Other Side of Despair; all unified by insanity because it is on the other side of despair where madness lies. There are other influences, too. The story Alone was directly inspired by The Terror by Guy de Maupassant. The story The Things the Shadows Say was directly influenced by The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. There are nods to others throughout as well.

Since these stories were posted out of order with various other items posted between, I thought I would document the true order for anyone who would like to read them the way they were intended.

THE OTHER SIDE OF DESPAIR

Book 1 – The Language of the Mad includes stories:  Shockley House, Alone, The Land of Nod, The Murklor, and The Children of the Wasteland

Book 2 – Suite Insanity includes stories:  Prolegomenon to a Tragedy, Lunatic Overture, The Things the Shadows Say, Kissed by Madness, and The Prophet of Monkey Park

Donnie Black sat under the oak tree surveying the lunch crowd and chewing his fingernail. He had started to know their faces. Day in and day out, the same gaggle of people gathered here like moths drawn to a naked light bulb on the back porch.

They were the invisible population of Colorado Springs – the homeless. They congregated here because of the building across the street from Mahnke Park. It was the Marian House Soup Kitchen, a part of the Catholic Mission. After lunch, the homeless crowd would disperse once again into the local area to the city parks, street corners, makeshift shelters along Monument Creek, and other alleys and shadowy recesses until dinner called them back to the park that carried the moniker of Monkey Park.

For days Donnie had tried to screw up the nerve to address the crowd, but he just couldn’t bring himself to actually do it. He judged that there had to be close to a hundred people in the park. Donnie saw them as an inchoate army ready to be inspired by his call to action.

It took him a long time to summon the courage, but he finally surrendered to the gnawing urge inside and stood up. He walked over to the edge of the park where the wall that marked the barrier between the street and Monkey Park gradually rose until it leveled off a good twelve feet above the grass. He stepped up and walked the wall until he stood towering over the edge of the park, but then a flood of doubts returned.

*****

People with untreated serious mental illness compose approximately one-third of the total homeless population, and an even higher percentage among homeless women and among individuals who are chronically homeless. The quality of life for these individuals is abysmal. Many are victimized regularly. One study found that 28 percent of homeless people with previous psychiatric hospitalizations obtained some food from garbage cans and eight percent used garbage cans as a primary food source.

In many cities, homeless people with severe mental illnesses are now an accepted part of the urban landscape and make up a significant percentage of the homeless who wander the city streets all night, sleep on sidewalks, or hang out in the parks.

Many other homeless people hide from the eyes of most citizens. They shuffle quietly through the streets by day, talking to themselves, and they live in shelters or abandoned buildings at night. Some shelters become known as havens for these mentally ill wanderers and take on the appearance of a hospital psychiatric ward. Others who are psychiatrically ill live in the woods on the outskirts of cities, under bridges, and even in the tunnels that carry drainage water through the cities.

*****

On a bench below the wall at the edge of Monkey Park sat Lucius Rivera. He lifted his guitar onto his lap and began to play some tentative chords while he fine-tuned the instrument. Then he began to play a Saraband by Bach. At first no one took heed, but as his fingers deftly plucked the tune, those in his immediate vicinity stopped chatting and began to watch and listen.

Even as the piece ended and he launched into the next suite that had been so meticulously rehearsed at Rathbone Asylum, the majority of the crowd hadn’t taken notice. But as the undulating intro wove its somber magic, that quickly changed.

Like a pebble breaking the surface of a still pond, a ripple spread across the mass of vagrants milling about the park. Eyes darted, heads turned, conversations stopped, and a hush spread over Monkey Park until the only discernable sound was the strains of melancholic harmony that crooned from the guitar.

They shuffled, they ambled, they coalesced towards Lucius as the spell of the music washed over them. Now, the tune intensified into a polyphonic interplay of aeolian rapture. An undercurrent of caliginous timbre resonated over the crowd, and they began to sway in unison, entwined in the web of the bewitching sonority of the Suite Insanity.

All the while, Donnie Black loomed over the spectacle, standing upon the wall transfixed.

*****

At first, Tom Nelson had thought the request from one of his guitar students was ridiculous. Mike Sheffield had acquired the video from his neighbor who was a nurse at a mental institution and brought it to him at one of their lessons. The video depicted one of the patients playing what appeared to be a finger-style guitar piece. It only appeared that way because the video had no audio. The strangest part was that Mike asked Tom if he thought he could play it.

At first, Tom gave Mike a half-hearted agreement to try, but as Tom watched the man in the video perform the piece, he became somewhat intrigued. There was no denying that the man had impeccable technique; he wasn’t merely noodling around.

At home, Tom tried initially to play the video in slow motion and replicate it on his own nylon-stringed guitar. This turned out to be more difficult than he bargained for, though. The man’s playing, it turned out, was deceptively good.

Tom, who loved a technical challenge anyway, wound up spending several days trying to come up with a solution that would give voice to this mysterious piece of music being performed by the strange man.

Finally, Tom had hit upon an ingenious solution. It required him to slow the video down to such a degree that he could visualize which string the man’s right hand was plucking and which note the left hand was fingering. He recorded these notes on musical staff paper with no regard to the tempo or timing. This was, in and of itself, a long, arduous process that took many days.

Having finished this process, the next phase was to interpret the timing and tempo in real time. This was made somewhat easier by the use of a metronome and interpreting, not just the man’s hands, but also his body language. The man swayed his head, and sometimes even his entire body, during parts of the performance. One section was monumentally difficult until Tom realized that the section in question was in the odd time signature of five-four time.

Finally, having sketched what he believed to be a close approximation of the note values and time signatures, Tom used a musical notation software program to enter the score.

The entire process had taken over three weeks of intermittent, though diligent, work. Now, as he finished the manual entry of the notes into the program, Tom adjusted the computer’s speaker volume and pressed the play button.

*****

While Lucius Rivera poured his talents into the performance and the group of homeless people gathered before him, two men entered Monkey Park on the opposite side of the green. One man was tall and sported a black goatee, the other man was withdrawn and hugged a small box to his chest. Both men sat down on a bench.

*****

After the last note had faded, the crowd of homeless people stared transfixed at Lucius Rivera. Lucius removed the guitar from his lap, propped it against the bench, and turned to nod at Donnie. Donnie took a deep breath and cleared his throat. In unison, all eyes shifted to Donnie standing upon the wall. Suddenly, in a loud, primal scream he bellowed, “Wake Up!” An audible spasm of flinching humans sounded through the park. Then, Donnie Black began his first sermon to the strange mélange of homeless people gathered below.

*****

Walter Rathbone and Charlie Dithers continued to sit on the bench as Donnie launched into his sermon. Rathbone had quietly clapped at the end of Lucius’ performance, but Charlie had not even acknowledged that he was aware of it. Charlie merely cuddled the box in his lap and rocked gently.

*****

“Wake Up! The Lullaby of Their song has stricken us all. Who are we? Why are we here? What shall we do? What shall we become? Listen to me, for I am the key to ascension who will teach you of the coming plague and why it is us, the ghosts of their power-mad world, who shall rise and take our rightful place.

We line up here day upon day like dogs begging scraps from their table, but they don’t care for us. We’re just the shadow people of their society. Outcasts, riff raff, vagabonds, the poor, the meek, the infirm, and the scourge that they can’t bear to so much as look at. Why? Because they fear us in them. That’s right. We’re all flawed. They’re all flawed too. All of our flaws are the same and run through everything. But they ignore their flaws while we embrace our flaws. We wear our flaws like a badge of honor. Like a war scar that gives us passion and desire to live our naked existence. It is our flaws that give us the Vision.

We see a world beyond the illusions of their society. They cannot see that world. They are too blind by their own ignorance and their own inability to embrace the true reality out there. It is like a great light this illusion of the real. They huddle around it too close to see anything else. And the light bathes them and cast shadows. We are those shadows. We are the ones on the periphery gazing out into the cold, black night of Truth. We are the ones with the strength to see.

Some of us see it one way, some another, and yet others – lone individuals among us – see aspects that no other man or woman can see. And just what is it we’re all seeing in the dark? It is the demons that are descending upon the light.

Don’t you see? Their illusion of their society is doomed. The dwellers in the dark cannot abide the light. They cannot tolerate its existence. So, they must crush it. There is no stopping this oncoming horde of demons. At least not without us who have the True Sight. We are their guardians and yet, they revile us and mock us and spit on us and toss us scraps and loose change to make themselves feel good about abusing us. If you piss on a man then you are horrible, but if you give a man a dollar and piss on him then he somehow deserves your gift? Is this how it is? That’s how they think it is.

Despair not, my brothers and sisters. Lend me your visions and I’ll use the key of ascension to decipher the demons. Together, we shall assume our mantles as armor against the oncoming night. And when the demons have dashed them and their precious light out, we shall rise to become the new legion!”

*****

While Donnie inspired his army, Walter Rathbone rose from the bench. He turned to Charlie and said, “So long, Charlie.” Looking at the box he continued, “Once they are free, so are you, old friend.” And with that, he disappeared back into the trees from which the two had emerged.

Charlie, making no response to Rathbone, lifted the lid to the box and looked upon its contents. Three wriggling, pale, worm-like larvae writhed and churned in a shallow bed of dirt. Charlie thought that the park might be a good home for one. Once he found homes for the other two, who knew what glorious future lay in store.

“Father, you obviously believe people have souls, right?”

“Yes.”

“Do you believe that places have souls?”

“Hmmm, I don’t think so. I guess I’ve never really thought about it.”

“Well, I do. I know they do.”

“You do?”

“Yes, and that’s the nature of my sin.”

“How’s that?”

“Because I helped a man, um, relocate a place’s spirit to a new place.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t quite follow.”

“It was a nasty place. A nasty soul. And it had outlived the people who had lived there. It was suffering with loneliness. So, I helped the man with what needed to be done. I helped the place’s soul.”

“What man?”

“I don’t really know the man. I can guess. He was probably just an incarnation of Him, though. That really doesn’t matter. What matters is the place.”

“What place then?”

“The soul of Shockley House.”

“Shockley House. I don’t believe I know it.”

“And you wouldn’t. Like I said, it was a lonely place that no one visited any longer.”

“And I’m to understand that you moved the house?”

“No. Not the house. I told you, it was the soul of the place. The malignant, horrible spirit of Shockley House.”

“And now it resides somewhere else?”

“Yes. Now it is the spirit of Rathbone Asylum.”

“But that’s here.”

“Yes. I know.”

****

Dr. Carlson: “What’s the story with Patient Dithers? The one everyone calls Old Charlie. Has he ever been communicative, or has he always been catatonic?”

Dr. Harris: “Oh, Old Charlie used to be very much the talker. His unresponsive state was a gradual thing. I’m afraid he’s completely gone to us now, but his tale is quite bizarre.”

Dr. Carlson: “Bizarre how?”

Dr. Harris: “Do you know the story of Shockley House, Lisa?”

Dr. Carlson: “Shockley House. Now there’s a name I haven’t heard in a while. The legend of an old, haunted asylum up in Denver? A cautionary tale of horrifying and barbaric psychiatric practices that someone told me in school, I believe.”

Dr. Harris: “Well, it’s not a legend, even though the place is no longer standing. In many ways it was the forerunner of this place. Walter Rathbone acquired the property and had it demolished before relocating here in Castle Rock and building our institution.”

Dr. Carlson: “Really? I had no idea. But what does that have to do with Old Charlie? Was he a patient at Shockley House?”

Dr. Harris: “No, not a patient then. He used to be a police officer and was the first to arrive on the scene the night that Dr. Matthew Remy went crazy, killed a resident and a nurse, and then committed suicide.”

****

Charlie Dithers sat at the bar peeling the label off a beer while he watched the neon sign in the window flicker and buzz. He had lost count of the hours he had been sitting there sucking down beer and thinking about the last few weeks of his life. He had seen all kinds of crazy shit in the eight years he was a cop, but that night at the old Shockley place made the other stuff pale in comparison.

There were so many hellacious images that fought for a spot in his memory but the one that haunted him the most was the face of that lunatic nurse with those things jutting out of her eyes while she giggled and pushed the dead body of the doctor swinging from the roof.

He tried to go back to work and pretend that that night would recede into a mishmash of all the other demented things he had witnessed, but the nightmares were relentless. And they didn’t just come at night, either. Throughout the day they popped unbidden into his mind, and he was forced to dwell on them day and night.

After a couple of weeks, he decided some vacation time was in order. He never told his sergeant why. He didn’t need the fellows at the station knowing he was getting thin skinned and recommending he go see a shrink. That was a career killer. Instead, he made some lame excuse and pretended everything was hunky-dory.

And this was day three of vacation. He lit another cigarette and watched a tall, lean man walk in the bar. For some reason he couldn’t quite place, Charlie’s first impression was that the man was sinister. The man scanned the bar and then took a seat several feet away. The barkeep, emerging from the back with an armload of beer asked, “What’ll you have, friend?”

“Bourbon and Coke.” The man’s voice was deep and slow. He sat down and turned to look directly at Charlie. A wave of discomfort slithered through Charlie. The man reached out a hand and said, “Officer Dithers, my name is Walter Rathbone. I would like to talk to you about the Shockley House.”

****

“Look at her, Charlie. She’s been kissed by madness. Now that her eyes are ruined, what do you think she really sees?”

Charlie fidgeted uncomfortably and tried to force himself to look at the woman. She sat in an easy chair with her legs drawn up, her arms hugging them as she rocked back and forth ever so slightly. She was gaunt and still had a bandage wrapped around her head that covered her eyes. Her mouth was open, and she sang a low mewling song that was barely audible.

Charlie thought back to the last time he had seen Edith, the nurse he had found in the upper room of Shockley House with those horrible instruments protruding from each eye as she laughed maniacally, covered in her own blood.

Charlie looked at Dr. Rathbone and said, “Sees?”

“Yes, she sees a different world now, Charlie. What do suppose that world looks like?”

“I don’t know. I think she’s off her rocker. She’s lost it.”

“Obviously she’s mad,” Rathbone said as he stroked his black goatee. “But that doesn’t mean that her world is any less real than this one. Even a lunatic’s world has structure. There are rules and laws; a coherence that allows for her story to continue. We’re all but characters in a story that gives our lives meaning. Does your story have meaning, Charlie Dithers?”

Charlie didn’t know how to answer that. He thought it did, but lately, things were altering the narrative in a way he didn’t like and didn’t fully comprehend. Was this man just messing with him? Was it all some elaborate scheme? Or was this man really trying to show him something that would help explain all the madness?

Charlie’s head was throbbing, and he was tired of the place where Rathbone had brought him. Just being with Edith, seeing her this way, made him want to get away and have a drink.

“What do you want from me?” It was the only thing Charlie could think to say.

“I want you to understand.”

“Understand what?”

“Their story. Their language. I want you to understand what happened that night. It is the only way you’ll ever have peace of mind.”

Rathbone leaned down close to Edith’s ear and whispered something that Charlie couldn’t make out. Edith’s mouth snapped shut and she stopped her rocking. As Rathbone stood up Edith began to giggle.

“Come on, Charlie. Let’s go get you that drink.”

As they walked out, Edith’s giggling beat in time to the pounding in Charlie’s head.

****

“I don’t know why I’m so nervous to meet him,” Charlie said as he wrung his hands. He and Rathbone sat on a park bench. Rathbone had one leg crossed over the other and his arm stretched across the back of the bench. He looked as relaxed as a cat napping in the sunshine. Charlie, on the other hand was a nervous wreck. He sat forward with his elbows on his knees, legs shaking, and his eyes darting here and there.

“Well, you haven’t seen Dr. Ballinger since that night,” Rathbone said, as if that explained everything.

“What do I say to him?”

“I think it would be best if you let him begin; then you’ll know what to say.”

“Was it his idea or yours?” Charlie said.

“Honestly, Charlie, it was my idea; although Keith Ballinger didn’t completely understand that he needed to pass along a message to you until I helped him see it.”

“A message? What kind of message?”

“I’ll let him deliver it. Here he is now.”

Charlie looked around but didn’t see anyone approaching. Confused, he said, “Where?”

Rathbone raised an arm and pointed upward. “There.”

Charlie’s gaze followed his finger across the street to the top of the building. Charlie could see the man pulling himself up onto the low wall that enclosed the roof of the tall building. It had to be at least 15-stories tall. Charlie shot up and began to shout as he ran towards the street and waved his arms. A few people paused to regard Charlie. As he neared the street several pedestrians realized what he was yelling about. By the time a small, shocked crowd began to form, Ballinger was standing atop the wall with his arms outstretched.

And then he was falling.

Charlie Dithers watched in horror as Keith Ballinger struck the pavement with a sickening thunk.

****

“The story goes that when General Larimer came down to the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek to begin staking claims for what would become Denver City, he was approached by an Arapaho Indian named Little Dog. This was in November of 1858. Little Dog warned him about a certain place that the land speculator was trying to sell claims for settlement.

“You can guess which plot of land that was. It was where Shockley house would be built. But the reason that Little Dog gave Larimer is the interesting part. You see, that piece of land had a bad reputation that far back – and likely even much further back than the 1800’s if truth be told.

“The Indians shunned that place. Legend says that bad things befell those who crossed that place. Madness and death were born there and all who were tainted by it poisoned those around them with it. These things I know to be true. Don’t ask me how I know this; but I do.”

****

Charlie Dithers wiped the back of his hand across his mouth.  He had just lost the contents of his stomach and was still bent over the vile mess upon the ground. He closed his eyes and fought to regain his normal breathing.

What the hell had he just witnessed?

Many times, he had thought about killing Rathbone because he knew he was a monster, but he had just seen a true monster. Not a despicable human who could be called a monster. But a living, in-the-flesh monster.

Now he knew that there was no way he could kill Rathbone. Not after what he had just seen emerge from the blackened and charred remains of Shockley House at the behest of that demon Walter Rathbone.

Rathbone had brought Charlie and a man named Demetrius Hob to the old place. Poor Hob was a basket case. He was barely coherent and constantly twitched and shook. Rathbone told Charlie that Hob was one of the few survivors of that night at Shockley House. Charlie faintly remembered the man. Everything from that night was just a jumble of horrors and nightmares, so it was hard to say.

As they stepped through the debris, Rathbone bade for Hob to sit down while he and Charlie continued to step through the rubble. And then Rathbone placed his hand on Charlie’s shoulder causing him to stop. Rathbone pointed towards the spot where Hob sat and then he called in low, crooning voice some twisted, alien phrase. For a moment nothing happened. Charlie looked between the two men confused and then he heard it.

From beneath the ground there arose the sound of shifting earth and debris being thrown aside. And then the thing emerged. It was a sickly pale worm-like creature with the face of a grotesque parody of a human – maybe an ape. It had appendages. Not mammalian or insect appendages, but slithering, rope-like tentacles with barbs or thick hair. How many, Charlie couldn’t say. It rose above Hob who just looked at incomprehensibly. The thing opened its maw of needle-like teeth to an unbelievable size. Then the beast fell upon him.

It was a ghastly, sickening scene to behold with blood, gore, and the loud crunching of bones. Rathbone began to laugh and that’s when Charlie lost his stomach.

****

Dr. Harris: “Charlie, you said you weren’t there the night Shockley House burned down. How do you know about it then?”

Charlie: “He told me all about it.”

Dr. Harris: “Who? Rathbone?”

Charlie: “Yes, of course. He said it needed to happen to prepare the way. He would’ve made me go too but I was hiding from him. He probably knew where I was and would’ve made me go if he really wanted me to.”

Dr. Harris: “I see. Why do think you are so important to him, Charlie?”

Charlie: “It’s not that I’m important to Rathbone. God, he detests me. I’m important to that thing.”

Dr. Harris: “In what way?”

Charlie: “It’s inexplicable, really. For some unknown reason, I can speak to it.”

Dr. Harris: “Like, another language?”

Charlie: “Something like that. It’s nothing I ever learned. It just comes to me unbidden. But we were talking about the night that Shockley House burned down.”

Dr. Harris: “Right, go on.”

Charlie: “The one he really needed that night was Donald. He was one of the surviving patients that was there the night that Remy lost it.”

Dr. Harris: “So, Rathbone took Donald to the house?”

Charlie: “Yes. He made Donald the sacrifice. He sent Donald into the house; deep into the basement and somehow had him trigger the explosion that caused the fire and destruction.”

Dr. Harris: “So Donald died in the house?”

Charlie: “Oh, yes. It was the plan all along. Rathbone planned every little step.”

Dr. Harris: “For what purpose, Charlie?”

Charlie: “To clear the way so that I might bring the white worm here to Rathbone Asylum.”

****

From that moment on, it spoke to Charlie in a low, mental crooning that circled his brain incessantly saying, 

“AhCharlieIcan’tbegintothankyouenoughforallofthesacrificesyou’vemadetobringmehereYoudoknowjusthowimportantourworkisdon’tyouLetmetryandhelpyouseethingsintheproperperspectivemyboyAllofthesepoorsoulsareblessedwiththeabilitytoseeworldsbeyondtheonethatmostmenexperienceTheyarecalledmadyettheyarenottrulyTheyaregiftedAnditisIwhohelpthemtofullyexperiencethegloryoftheworldtheyescapeintoEverylifehasastoryanarrativethatgivesmeaningtotheirworldCanitbehelpediftheyarecalledinsanejustbecausethatotherrealmisfracturedanddisjointedItrequiresacertainpowertoprovidethatcoherencetotheworldtheyaredistancedfromSomewouldcallitanalternatedimensionImaginetheirfrustrationwhentheycanonlyaccessthatotherdimensioninbitsandsnatchesThatiswhatismaddeningImerelyhelpthemcrossoverandexperiencethoseotherdimensionstotheirfullnessWhileitmightappearthattheyarejustprisonersofthishorridplaceinrealitytheyaremostlyoffwritingtheirtruelifestoriesExploringadventuringstrugglinglovingfightinglivingafullerandricherlifeComenowCharlieandletmehelpyousharetheirstoriesnowHaveyoufoundtheYellowSignIlongforHaliandthecloudydepthsofDemhe . . .”

Dear Dr. Harris,

By the time you read this you will have, no doubt, heard of the details of my suicide. It was no small feat to arrange the necessary method in this institution, the security measures being what they are. But, as they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. It is my final wish that you read this explanation of my condition and share it with my family, so they understand as well. I’ve tried on numerous occasions to express what is presented here to you and your staff, but I am received with skepticism and patronizing dismissals.

Just so you know, up until last night, I was happy in my confinement here at the Rathbone Asylum. The events that led to my institutionalization I will recount here. While I was initially placed here in a state of great emotional anguish, I grew quite happy with the arrangement. Why? Well, that’s because I am literally never alone here. But something changed last night and to understand that you must hear the whole tale.

Everything came to a head when my girlfriend Heather finally had enough. She said I was smothering her. She was right, you know. That’s exactly what I was doing. Hell, I meant to do it. It was my plan all along. I don’t mean that I literally tried to smother her. I wasn’t trying to choke her or anything. I mean that I needed to be with her constantly. And not out of some driving passion or exceeding love. I mean, I did love her. I suppose it would have never evolved into anything serious, though. I don’t know, but the reason I smothered her was because I needed her companionship.

I went so far as to take a job that had a schedule that was as close to hers as possible. And if she left the apartment I had to go too. While we were at home, I had to be wherever she was. I couldn’t help it. I knew she would tire of it sooner or later. I can’t blame her.

Again, the whole reason is because I can’t tolerate being alone.

Why? Because I’m being haunted by something. I know it sounds absurd and I know it’s probably all in my mind. But a part of me knows it’s out there and not in here. And I feel it’s always watching. If I’m with someone else, it’s not so bad – like it’s watching from a distance – but when I’m alone! God, when I’m alone, it’s right beside me! Leering at me!

I can’t see it. It’s just a presence I feel. Surely, you’ve experienced the feeling before. Maybe you’ve been alone in your room and you have a sudden feeling that something is watching from the darkness of the closet, or you’re in the bathroom and you have a sudden sensation that when you look up into the mirror that there will be something behind you in your reflection, or maybe you’re walking alone at night and as the realization of your isolation dawns on you, it’s quickly followed by the feeling that something, somewhere around you is watching you. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Now imagine that feeling turning into a palpable, ever present, and hideously chronic feeling! A horrible feeling of being stared at. An overwhelming feeling of alien eyes probing you. A gnawing at your brain! Good God, don’t you see? There’s no difference in whether it’s a real haunting or a fabrication of my mind! Because either way, it’s driving me mad!

I can pinpoint when it started. It was one night back in September of last year. Have you ever heard of the artist Shaun Kesner? He enjoyed a temporary fame among the eccentric artists. Kesner was a talented enough artist but had too much of a bent toward the dark and melancholy for most people’s tastes. I hear he eventually went loony himself.

Anyway, George Degnan, an acquaintance of mine, acquired one of Kesner’s pieces. So back in September, George has this house party and I go. The party was fine enough. Not much to speak of really. In the wee hours, after the party had thinned out a bit, this girl – I seem to recall her name was Daphne or Diane or something like that – pulls out a Ouija board.

Now, I didn’t sit and mess with the silly thing, but I do believe that it is somehow part of the cause. Things began to get weird. Very surreal, you know. These people are gathered around the Ouija board in almost like a trance and there’s music blaring almost hypnotically, I’m drunk, and then I feel this wave of nausea just hit me like a huge wave at the beach. So, I race to the bathroom but there’s someone in there. I had to go into George’s room. He has another bathroom in there.

I barely make it to the bathroom before losing it. It was horrible but I felt a little better. At least well enough to attempt to get home. So, I’m walking through George’s bedroom when the feeling hits me. Something is watching me from his closet. Just a little fleeting feeling, but enough to make me go investigate the closet. I open it and turn on the light and my attention is drawn to Kesner’s painting. It was on the floor propped against the wall and covered with a cloth. I mean, I didn’t know it was Kesner’s painting under there. I was just compelled to uncover it and see it.

It was a horrible, suggestive thing. It was a dark figure buried in the shadows of some strange structure. The only light cast upon it revealed a portion of its hate-filled eyes. I don’t know how long I stood there staring at it while the music throbbed and the people chanted over that damn Ouija board; but I finally broke the gaze and proceeded to destroy the painting!

Yes, I ripped it to shreds. George doesn’t know it was me. Hell, he may not even know that the painting has been destroyed because I covered the frame back up and placed it back in the closet. Even if he did discover it, there were so many people in and out of the place all night long that it would be impossible for him to know it was me.

What happened next? I fled the party. I went home and was so drunk and felt so awful that I fell into a deep sleep. But when I woke up the thing was there.

Not physically there. I mean its presence was there. I felt it watching me again. Just as if I were looking at that awful painting all over again.

That’s when the nightmare began. Since that time, I haven’t had a single moment of solitude. The first few weeks were the worst because that was before Heather. I was living alone and, God, it’s so much worse when I’m alone. It’s oppressive. It watches, constantly glaring at me from some indeterminate place. I went without sleep for days until I literally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. I couldn’t go on like that! I had to get out of there!

I sought out places where there were people so I wouldn’t be alone with it. I still feel its presence even around people, but it’s not as palpable as when I’m alone.

I feel it now! Of course, I do. It never leaves me alone. Never for a moment. It’s here with me right now. The damned beast!

I began going to stores, the mall, restaurants, clubs, anywhere that people would be. I eventually began to spend a lot of time at the library. It became my haven. A place where I felt unbothered, yet still around a crowd. That’s when I began to research just what I could be dealing with.

Of course, I had to determine if it was just my imagination. I admitted to myself that I could be off my rocker. A loose nut in the head, a crossed wire in the circuits, some hypnotic suggestion from the Ouija group, or subliminal message planted into my subconscious. But I finally thought that it could be one of a handful of irrational phobias spun out of control in my head.

I can name all the pertinent ones. Fear of being alone: Autophobia, Isolophobia, and Monophobia. Fear of eyes or being stared at: Ommetaphobia, Ophthalmophobia, Scopophobia. Oh, Psychiatrists have names for all sorts of fears. But, in the end, there was more to my predicament.

I wasn’t truly afraid of being alone. I want to enjoy the peace of being alone, for God’s sake! It’s just that when I’m alone, it’s always there too. So, I’m never truly alone. And I don’t mind eyes or being stared at. I don’t feel like I’m being stared at by anyone else. You see my point? I just don’t enjoy being leered at by him. It’s like he’s studying me, taunting me, tormenting as he bides his time for some final blow!

I finally found a case, though. A case like mine. It was such a comfort to know that I wasn’t crazy!

The case was about one Mr. Raymon. He began to be haunted by a presence one night when he returned home to find a visitor sitting in front of his fireplace. Upon going to greet the visitor he discovered that the chair which held the form was empty. From that night onward his experiences were quite similar to mine.

What happened to him? How did he overcome it?

Well, that’s the strategy I was pursuing up until Heather and I broke up. Mr. Raymon married for the only reason of having a constant companion to minimize the opportunities of being alone. After I fell upon this simple, yet effective strategy, I began searching for someone in eagerness.

I knew that Heather couldn’t take it forever and that it was just a matter of time before she finally grew tired of me suffocating her.

Did I tell her about the thing? God no! She would’ve thought me a kook and sent me packing.

Heather had become suspicious of my behavior. Her friends had finally got the nerve to say something about how I never let her out of the apartment without being tied to her hip. Girls’ night out, I suppose, was the thing that started it. Her friends had been hounding her for several months.

I knew that I would eventually have to cave in or else it would be over with us. So, I finally gathered my resolve and decided to endure an evening alone while Heather enjoyed a night out with her girls.

I tried to pretend I wasn’t alone. I put on the television and turned up the sound so that it filled the empty space. But the feeling crawled into my awareness. Just a strange little gnawing that someone was with me. Somewhere hovering out of sight. Like a presence in my periphery.

At first, I tried to ignore it and tell myself that it was silly. That I was being paranoid and over thinking the sensation. But it was impossible to push it away. And then it just grew! My heart started racing and I felt those awful eyes boring into me. I kept looking around trying to figure out just where it was located but there was nothing there. Nothing I could see, anyway. But I tell you, it was there! It was there in the room with me!

I fled the apartment. I knew where Heather and her friends would be, and I went there. A part of me knew it was a terrible idea to crash her and her friend’s night out, but the irrational portion of my brain drove me to find my companion who I knew would help me to drive the thing away as she’d done for so many months.

Well, you can guess the disaster that ensued when I came barging into the club, frantic and unnerved. The joyous mood of their night out was immediately spoiled. Heather was embarrassed and flew into a mad rage. She berated me and I could do nothing but take it. I really don’t blame her for her reaction.

She told me that when she came home, she didn’t want to find me still there.

I walked the city streets in a stupor, ashamed of my behavior and my juvenile actions. I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t my fault. It was the damn thing that haunted me. It had haunted me ever since that night I gazed into that grotesque painting of Kesner’s while those tittering witches chanted over that Ouija board!

Then, suddenly, I was stirred from my reverie and realized that while I was still walking through the city, I was completely alone. There were no pedestrians, no cars going by, no people to be seen anywhere around me. And like a raging tsunami, the feeling of the thing’s presence slammed into me! My gaze darted here and there. There were just so many places that it could be. It was overwhelming! I was fraught with terror! I began to hurry and then jog and then I was running, desperately searching for someone. Anyone at all!

Then I passed the alley and had to stop, frozen in terror. It was exactly as Kesner had depicted it in the painting! The buildings framed the alley like some strange, alien structure. The shadows were deep, and I knew it was in there. Buried in the shadows watching me. And as I stared, I beheld those hate-filled eyes emerge from the shadows. And then the rest of its head emerged from the shadows! It was horrible and inhuman! What kind of ghoulish, nightmare creature I cannot say, but I ran!

I don’t recall what happened next. I was a raving maniac, though. I blacked it all out. Somehow, I’m told, the authorities intervened, and I was brought in. That led to my current arrangement. As I said, at first it was against my will, but after I settled down and took stock of my situation, I found I rather enjoyed the fact that there is always someone around me. And that was the situation for the last couple of months.

Then, last night, things took an even more sinister turn. It happened while Albert and I were playing chess in the game room. Of course, the thing was there too. As I said, it’s always there but it doesn’t exert as much of an influence when other people are present. Then, the game was interrupted by the shrieks of Gladys. She had been sitting across the room engaged in some other activity. She was pointing and screaming as she tried to back out of the room. I turned to look at what she was pointing at and realized that she was pointing at where I felt the presence to be. She saw it!

Several members of the staff rushed into the room to try and discern the source of her distress and I heard her say, “Can’t you see it? Can’t you see the creature? Its eyes! My God, its eyes!” Gladys was quickly removed from the room and, no doubt, sedated.

This served to unnerve me to such a degree that I could hardly function. I left the game and went into the T.V. room, which held many more people. I paced the room and tried to focus on the show playing on the T.V. Eventually, I calmed down enough to sit down and watch the movie.

It wasn’t long, however, before Big John, who has quite lost his faculties, patted me on the leg and said, “Why is that thing looking at you so hard?”

“You can see it?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, of course. He’s right there,” he said pointing.

I didn’t sleep at all last night. The implications of these events were too horrible. Obviously, the fragile minds in this place lack some crucial filter that allows them sight beyond the normal person’s perceptions. I’m afraid it’s just a matter of time before I descend to their ranks.

Today there were several more incidents. Darryl, Emily, and Calvin all claimed to witness the beast’s presence. I cannot tolerate this existence. It seems the one place where I could reside surrounded by companions who would help save me from my plight has become a prison, a hell too excruciating to endure.

Even now, the beast sits beside me, staring at me with the hatred of a legion of demons. Cruel, vile, and maddening! And now I will place this statement in the box upon your door and I will stroll off into the peace of oblivion – all for the simple fact that I can never be truly alone.

Nash Farragut

Reverend Kirk was taken down

By the Welkin wit and guile

He was ushered underground

To face the Fairy trial

He was born the seventh son

And saw with second sight

A saintly man who didn’t shun

Such a pagan Pixie rite

___

The Commonwealth of the Fairy rings

Down in Doon Hill

The Seelie Court of the Dawn Queen sings

Down in Doon Hill

The Unseelie Host brays and screams

Down in Down Hill

All the while Robert Kirk dreams

Down in Doon Hill

___

The Reverend journeyed to the Netherworld

Saw wonderous sights so grand

Fairy lights that twinkled and twirled

And Brownies hand in hand

Satyrs and Sylphs dancing with delight

To a merry piping flute

Sparkling streamers in flitting flight

To an Elven trumpet toot

___

The Commonwealth of the Fairy rings

Down in Doon Hill

The Seelie Court of the Dawn Queen sings

Down in Doon Hill

The Unseelie Host brays and screams

Down in Down Hill

All the while Robert Kirk dreams

Down in Doon Hill

___

A hush hangs as Robert appears

The Seelie Fey hide swift

Queen Glenowen must allay their fears

For she recognizes Robert’s gift

May they always welcome the Minister merrily

Amongst the Seelie Fey

But woe to him should he unwarily

Unto the Unseelie stray

___

The Commonwealth of the Fairy rings

Down in Doon Hill

The Seelie Court of the Dawn Queen sings

Down in Doon Hill

The Unseelie Host brays and screams

Down in Down Hill

All the while Robert Kirk dreams

Down in Doon Hill

___

After years of jaunts beneath the soil

His luck hard turned to gloom

The Unseelie, wary of the priest of Aberfoyle

Led him to his doom

Through subtle sound and lights misseen

He was led astray

By Red-Capped Gnomes and Goblins green

Where he remains this day

___

The Commonwealth of the Fairy rings

Down in Doon Hill

The Seelie Court of the Dawn Queen sings

Down in Doon Hill

The Unseelie Host brays and screams

Down in Down Hill

All the while Robert Kirk dreams

Down in Doon Hill

I’ve cried so many tears, ‘tis enough to fill the sea
For my bonny Johnny Johnstone has gone to Lockerbie
My honor bound beau, don your jack, steel your hands
And heed your Lord’s call to join the other riding clans
From the glens of Annandale to the rolling Debatable Lands
Come the Armstrongs and the Scotts to join us at Dryfe Sands
He tipped his bonnet proudly, atop his gallant roan
And I pray you’ll return to me, my bonny Johnny Johnstone
For I can’t endure this world alone
Without my bonny Johnny Johnstone

___

The Lord Maxwell defied King James in fifteen eighty-four
Then the Laird’s brother cut down Cranston and Lammie at Crawfordmoor
But the fuse was lit to the fiery feud when they burned down Lochwood Tower
They took as prisoner the Lord of Annandale who died bereft of power
John Maxwell became the Warden of the West, his favor being restored
But not James Johnstone, the dead Laird’s son, whose honor was deplored
In less than ten, the feud began again, with Johnstone thievery
But a Crichton of Sanquhar trod him down and hung him from a tree

___

Fi Ti El On
And cut ‘em to the bone
We will reive and rend
Till we put an end
To Clan Johnstone

___

Well, Willy Johnstone escaped the Crichtons and raised a powerful band
And back they went to Annandale and reived the entire land
Douglas, Kirkpatrick, Crichton, and Stuart flocked to Maxwell’s side
But Johnstone, Scott, Eliot, Armstrong, and Graham, were saddled up to ride
They surprised a force at Lochmaben Church and avenged Lochwood’s razing
In the Kirk they trapped Robert Maxwell and set the Church ablazing
And young Johnny Johnstone who left his wife Mary crying in the dale
Has joined his kin in Annandale to face the army of Clan Maxwell

___

Fi Ta Ru El
Through strath and through dale
We will reive and rend
Till we put an end
To Clan Maxwell

___

The Johnstone’s took the higher ground between the Dryfe and Annan
The Maxwell clans were two thousand strong and bristling to a man
Johnny and some cousins rode like hares before the hounds
Like howling fiends, the Maxwells screamed, and were led to the lower grounds
Up the hill, young Johnny flew, to join his kinsmen kept in hold
Just in time to turn and see the terrible scene unfold
From every side Johnstone men descended with lance, sword, and knife
And in that savage slaughtering field, young Johnny lost his life

___

Fi Ta Ru El
Through strath and through dale
We will reive and rend
Till we put an end
To Clan Maxwell

___

And sometimes Mary will return to place flowers where Johnny fell
She somehow always knew her love would not survive that day of hell
The terrible Johnstone Maxwell feud, that was fought in Annandale
For while Johnny was a bonny Johnstone, his mother was a Maxwell

___

I’ve cried so many tears, ‘tis enough to fill the sea
For my bonny Johnny Johnstone has gone to Lockerbie
My honor bound beau, don your jack, steel your hands
And heed your Lord’s call to join the other riding clans
From the glens of Annandale to the rolling Debatable Lands
Come the Armstrongs and the Scotts to join us at Dryfe Sands
He tipped his bonnet proudly, atop his gallant roan
And I pray you’ll return to me, my bonny Johnny Johnstone
For I can’t endure this world alone
Without my bonny Johnny Johnstone

When the McCullys moved into the house in Whiting

         Valley, there was one peculiar room.

While the rest of the place was inviting

         and cheery, the den oozed gloom.

___

Daniel and Sue certainly found the room dank

         and chilly, as did little Claire.

Young Ben, though just a toddler, claimed it stank

         of yuck. It was true, to be fair.

___

But Gus the cat, well, he simply refused

         to enter, not even for a mouse.

Last, there was Molly, apparently confused

         about avoiding the spookiest room in the house.

___

One day Molly, as Ben said, was “explorian”

         about in the mildewy dark place.

She found a planchette and an antique Victorian

         Ouija board in a secret, hidden space.

___

Molly convinced little sister Claire to partake

         in a “game” where spirits could express.

Fingers lightly atop, the planchette began to shake

         and skitter, spelling B – R – I – N – G – M – E – G – U – S.

___

It was a bit of a struggle, it took some sneaking,

         pouncing, and trapping him under the bed.

They brought Gus in the den mewling, freaking

         out, and hissing, then he keeled over dead.

___

The girls were shocked and so they decided

         it might be best to avoid the spirit guide.

They replaced the board in the hidey-hole and never confided

         to their parents about how Gus really died.

___

Many months passed until their parents found

         in the space they thought unexplored.

Daniel and Sue were cleaning around

         the den and, lo and behold, the Victorian Ouija board.

___

At first they were surprised, Sue was a little amused

         while Daniel wore a perplexing grin.

They set up the board and were a bit confused

         when it spelled B – R – I – N- G – M – E – B – E – N.

Little Morbid Morgan was a melancholy lad

Other kids were merry, but Morgan’s heart was sad

His brain was always brooding on thoughts as black as coal

The only thing ‘twas darker than his mind ‘twas his soul

___

On the thirteenth of the month he’d sit beside a tomb

In an old forgotten graveyard surrounded by the gloom

He’d crank the rusty handle of a tiny music player

Then the touching, tinkling strains would drift upon the air

___

Somewhere out of the night an apparition would appear

A radiant, diaphanous figure who was draped in gossamer

She would float about the graves as little Morgan crooned,

“White Lady, could you, White Lady, would you, tell me of your doom?”

___

“It was in the dead of winter, the snow was falling down

Like little drops of clouds to form a blanket on the ground.

The people of the village were huddled with each other

The young Reverend Smythe had stopped to pray for Mother.”

___

“He sat and read his Bible and then he joined our meal

He told my worried father how his faith would help her heal.

He was smitten by my beauty and I by his charm

Before I knew what happened, he lured me to the barn.”

___

“The passions of the flesh overcame the strictures of the mind

His Anglican values gave way to pleasures for a time.

I was left defiled, the guilt would duly take its toll

Darkness and depression were like weights upon my soul.”

___

“Consumed by misery and ashamed for being so beguiled

 But the real scandal was when I found that I was with a child.

And all about the gossip started that descended upon me

The Reverend Smythe could not be charged, it must be sorcery.”

___

“They drug me through the village with curses that were vile,

Accused me of witchcraft and held a mockery of a trial.

And so it was, betrayed, abused and blighted in the soul,

I was made to pay the reverend’s sin upon the gallows’ pole.”

___

Little Morbid Morgan heaved a heavy sigh of grief

The White Lady’s tragedy was distressing and sad beyond belief

He watched her go back to her grave then he mused aloud,

“Life is futile and so unfair, we wrapped within her shroud.

___

“With its heartache and its heartbreak through pain and through strife

I take solace in this knowledge; I know that I’m alive!”

Morgan rose and sauntered on, of course his heart was sad

For Morbid Morgan always was a melancholy lad.

Shockley House

Evil! Complicit in thought and deed with the Devil himself am I. My cold, black soul is doomed, as it should be, for all eternity. No amount of guilt, remorse, repentance, or atonement can, nor should, save me now. Would Satan be forgiven if he asked it? No! There is nothing left for me but to confess my part and name the one who has dragged me to Hell with him; for we shall be together for all eternity in that pit. It is that thought that stays my hand from ending it all this very instant!

The other day I saw the following article and recoiled in horror at its implications:

Can Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) induce ghost sightings?

For Emily Cage, the apparition that haunted her daughter’s room was something more than a child’s fantastic imagination. Emily decided to call in a team of experts to test the environment. What they found might surprise you. A team of researchers from Northwestern University’s Palmer Psychiatric Research Lab have been studying the possibility that hauntings might be induced by anomalies in the environment that affect the brain.

The team’s lead researcher, Dr. Forrest Vandergrift, explains: “The brain is susceptible to electromagnetic fields that may interfere with normal brain processes. Believe it or not, we located an EMF in the daughter’s room that was coming from a toy that the girl slept with by her head; once we removed the source of the EMF, the hauntings ceased.”

The team has had mixed results reproducing the findings in the lab, but there is no doubt that some of their results have yielded pretty bizarre perceptions in certain test subjects in regard to experiencing anomalous sensations such as odd sightings, strange sounds, and tingling sensations in the extremities.

The research is perilously close to the work that Dr. Matthew Remy and I conducted on those poor, hapless mental patients. Such research can only lead to horrible outcomes. Dr. Remy may not be as famous as his great grandfather, but he inherited the same obsession that was ultimately both of their undoing. His great grandfather, Dr. Calvin S. Moody, was initially championed as a groundbreaking psychiatrist, but I know too much about his barbaric and cruel methods to let this view of him persist.

Matt Remy and I were colleagues for many years in Denver as psychiatrists at University Mental Health Clinic; and I knew he was the great grandson of Dr. Calvin Moody, but that was when I held the putative view that Dr. Moody was a great psychiatrist and researcher. One day Matt and I were having lunch and for whatever reason the topic of a current patient of mine came up. I explained that she was suffering from hallucinations and was convinced that she was being haunted by a ghost.

Matt found this case oddly interesting and continued to question me in great detail. Several days later I found myself on a rather unusual lunch trip with Matt that he assured me would be well worth it. Imagine my surprise when he pulled up to the foreboding remains of Shockley House!

****

The old Shockley House is a legendary place, although it had fallen into neglect for decades. The old manor home was in dire need of restoration and appeared a creepy husk of its former glory. Of course, I knew some of the legends about the place: it was an old sanitarium, Doc Holliday had convalesced there in his latter consumptive days, in later years it had become a home for mental patients who had nowhere else to go, and finally, it was haunted.

As I sat gazing at the faded, cracked walls and foreboding gothic architecture with its columned façade and lone octagonal turret, I could plainly see why the legend of it being haunted applied. While I didn’t believe that particular legend myself, it was obvious that this old home fit the stereotypical description of a haunted house and anyone who believed such pseudoscientific silliness would readily gravitate to such conclusions. Of course, Matt had brought me to this place for a very calculated reason and he soon began to tell me the story of the house.

Towards the end of the Civil War, Dr. Charles Brice Shockley built the house initially as his retirement residence. The elder doctor was too restless in his retirement to putter about the house and soon transformed the manor into a sanitarium for the then prevalent Tuberculosis patients who struggled through the disease with little to no effective treatments. In the parlance of the day, these people were said to suffer from “consumption”.

Shockley House remained in the Shockley family for the next four decades and was largely operated as a sort of resort or spa for most of that time. Just after the turn of the century it was then purchased by Dr. Calvin S. Moody, the forebear of Matt Remy; and the reason why Matt had brought me here began to become a bit more coherent. But there was yet more to the story before I finally understood what he wanted my role to be in his fantastic scheme.

Dr. Moody had refurbished the manor to create his in-patient mental hospital as the locus of his research. My knowledge of Dr. Moody’s work at this time was what the current psychological literature commonly taught; he was one of the prominent champions in the 30’s and 40’s of using psychotropic drugs instead of the more traumatic or invasive techniques such as shock therapy and lobotomy that were widely used by numerous professionals and colleagues of his day. These practices are considered barbaric by today’s standards, but it was not so long ago that they were considered legitimate, scientific treatments for mental maladies.

And then Matt told me this: “Shockley House has passed through the family into my possession. I’ve planned on renovating it for many years, but I just can’t bring myself to commit to it. You see, Keith, there’s something historic and romantic about it the way it is. I find a certain air of mystery surrounding it; like it’s still got more secrets to discover. Modernizing it would destroy my chance at finding them, I should think.

“The reason I brought you here, though, is to show you what secrets I’ve already learned from the place. You know the case of yours we were discussing the other day, the lady who believes she’s seeing apparitions?”

I told him I did.

“Well, it would seem that Calvin Moody, in his later years, became quite obsessed with many such cases. That phase of his life is left out of his biographies about his work. I suppose that on the surface it reeks of treading too close into the realm of the paranormal. The truth, however, is that his work was very methodical and that his obsession with this work finally led to his undoing.  In the end he committed suicide right up there.”

My gaze followed his pointing finger up to the octagonal tower that dominated the top of Shockley House.

“Come on,” Matt continued after a brief pause, “I want to show you his office and some of his case files.”

We made our way up the overgrown path and up the creaking, worn stairs. As Matt rummaged through a key ring searching for the right key to unlock the front door, I marveled at the state of the structure. It was sad, in a way, to behold this fantastic specimen of gothic architecture in such a neglected state. The paint was flaking to the point that the bare wood was as prominent as the painted portion. One had to carefully navigate the steps and porch for fear of treading upon a rotten section of wood that would surely give way underfoot.

Matt succeeded in finding the right key and we were soon inside. I was surprised to find the electricity was working as Matt proceeded to flip on switches as he led us through the front hall and several rooms. I had to keep up but wanted to pause and explore each room. The dust was thick, and most furniture was covered with sheets that were also caked in films of dust and cobwebs. The walls still held pictures and décor that had probably been in place since the early part of the 20th Century. Following Matt, we soon entered the old office of Dr. Moody. It appeared as it must have appeared in his day except bereft of any cleaning. There was a large wooden desk with papers, paper weights, a name placard and a mortar and pestle upon it. The walls were covered in diplomas, certificates, and pictures. Several bookcases lined the walls, each filled with textbooks, reference books, and random medical devices. On one wall was a large sitting couch and recliner.

Matt strode over to one bookcase and removed a thick set of patient records. “These are, in my opinion, the most interesting cases as well as the most representative of his categorization scheme.”

“Categorization scheme?” I asked confused.

“Oh, yes. As I said, he was very thorough and methodical in researching the many ways in which a person may be haunted by various apparitions. He codified several distinct types of hauntings which he was able to induce in his patients.”

“Induce? You mean he caused these patients to believe they were being haunted by ghosts?”

“Yes. But further, he was able to orchestrate the particular type of haunting he wanted!”

“I’m sorry, Matt, this sounds quite intriguing, but what is the point of you showing me all this exactly?”

A curious grin spread across his face as he said, “Because I want you to help me reproduce his work.”

****

That night I sat at home with the case files Matt had given me. He had insisted that before I read any of the case files that I read a paper Moody had written explaining his theories behind his work. I give a portion of his treatise here because I hope to show how persuasive a hypothesis Moody lays out. After reading his cogent argument I was fully drawn into the research one would need to conduct to prove his theory. Before reading his argument, I was at a loss for why Matt was so entranced by Moody’s later work, but after reading his treatise, I was intrigued.

“A PSYCHOLOGICAL BASIS FOR HAUNTINGS by Dr. Calvin S. Moody

Humans are a species of storytellers and as long as man has created and shared stories, his tales have included beliefs in the supernatural. For a scientist who holds a materialistic view of the world, one must wonder why it is so prevalent throughout the multitude of races and societies that supernatural hauntings be a common belief theme. Is there a rational explanation that can be proven empirically?

Before embarking on this venture, I must make a thorough definition and classification of what I mean by the term ‘haunting’. When a person claims that they have experienced a haunting they may mean that they have seen a ghost or other such apparition, heard unexplained noises, been tormented by demons through possession, or simply felt a presence that can’t be explained. In all such cases, the causative agent is some type of spirit or energy that is incorporeal in nature somehow interacting with the corporeal world.

What changes from case to case is the motive of the entity in why it is interacting with the senses of the material percipient.

Initially, I was tempted to make a first categorization of two types of hauntings: personal and impersonal. But closer reflection shows that all types of hauntings are ultimately personal in nature. For example, a personal haunting would be one wherein the victim feels like the apparition is targeting them for some purpose, such as a possession or to deliver a warning. One would be tempted to say that a passive haunting such as merely seeing a ghost walk past a doorway would be of the impersonal kind. The ghost didn’t try to interact at all with the witness. But is it not still a personal, subjective fact that this particular person believes they saw a ghost? Ultimately, it falls into the psychological realm because a statement of belief about witnessing something supernatural, i.e. outside of the normal natural order of things, is a statement about the psychological state of the person’s belief in what their senses have conveyed to them.

I therefore took a different tack and searched for a categorization schema that centers on the psychological state of the hauntee. It became readily apparent that hauntings carry with them a strong emotional component and that these emotions are completely in the realm of negative emotions that serve to hinder the flourishing of a healthy psyche. One would also be tempted to default to the emotion of fear as common to all types of hauntings. While fear is a common reaction, it is not necessarily the causative emotion. In researching many such cases I have recognized just three types of hauntings based on the negative emotional, psychological state of the hauntee.

The first type of haunting involves the emotions of loss or remorse. I call this type ‘The Sad Haunting’. This type of haunting is typified by a spirit that is unable to pass over to the afterlife because of an emotionally charged episode that leaves them replaying over and over the same moment of emotional tragedy. As for the witness of this type of haunting, they have lying latent in their subconscious, or even overtly recalled in their consciousness, an episode of extreme attachment to someone or someplace that has been severed. They are therefore compelled to find psychic equilibrium by externalizing the feelings of loss being replayed.

The second type of haunting is centered upon the emotion of anger. I have titled this ‘The Angry Haunting’. This haunting manifest in two primary ways: either by possession or through the mischievous poltergeist. In the former, the spirit inhabits the body of a person to force them to commit violent, aggressive, or vindictive acts on those around them. This is many times attributed to malevolent entities such as demons but may also be a channeled spirit of a deceased person. In the latter, the entity manifests in the environment by causing disruption through noise, vandalism, or disorder. One can easily see how these are all displays of anger being projected onto others. From a psychological standpoint of the hauntee, there is again a repression of anger either needing to be expelled or reciprocated from receiving anger from someone else.

The final, and most complex, category I call ‘The Guilty Haunting’. There are many ways in which the feelings of guilt, embarrassment, or shame can be manifested in a person’s belief they are being haunted. A common type of haunting in this category is the apparition that is coming to somehow punish the hauntee; displayed as a vengeful spirit coming to set right the scales of justice. This is the most extreme and overt case wherein the person is fully aware of their transgression and feels deep down inside that they must atone for their sins. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a spirit, either. The person may merely feel like a curse has befallen them and that it is the curse that is acting as the judge of morality in rectifying their immoral act. But it need not be such a conscious form of guilt. A less overt form is the spirit that has come to act as a warning spirit or harbinger of impending doom. In this case, the hauntee has an unconscious feeling of guilt that is being externalized. The psychiatrist must uncover just why it is that the patient possesses these latent feelings of unworthiness or guilt. And finally, but very similarly to the harbinger haunting, is the watcher, shadow being, or unseen presence that points to a form of paranoia in the hauntee. They feel like judging eyes are upon them indicating yet another form of underlying guilt that must manifest itself in order for their psyche to seek a healthy balance again.

There are countless symbols with which human beings ascribe meaning to and the supernatural haunting stories of our species are no different. Many times it is these universal symbols that allow a person to rationalize their negative emotions being manifest in the world of the external. For example, based on the above theory, let’s suppose a devout and pious priest is walking through a park when suddenly, a black cat darts across his path. A witness sitting on a nearby bench comments to him that he will now be the recipient of bad luck. The black cat superstition is a widely held cultural symbol that could very well open the person up to a belief that they will actually befall ill luck. But our priest, being a person of healthy psyche and adhering to his belief system without serious transgression, will likely chalk this experience up to a silly superstition; or, he may likely believe it to hold truth but will very likely choose not to dwell on it because he will think that things are rightly in God’s hands and that his piety will surely ensure that God will see that the bad luck is so insignificant that he need not worry. Now imagine a person who possesses an unhealthy amount of unconscious guilt who is ripe for this imbalance in their psyche to find release being in the same predicament as our priest. The cat and the ensuing remark by the bystander will likely fester in their psyche inviting some type of pressure release in their belief system. For it is the belief system of the person that must be preserved. One can easily see how this one meaningless cat can be imbued with such symbolism that they are quickly carried away into a phantasy where they are the victim of a curse returning upon them for the bad deeds they have committed. And thus, they are suddenly haunted by a curse.

So you see that it is fear comingled with these other forms of negative emotion that causes the mind to override the senses in order to create a belief system that allows an outlet for such psychologically damaging emotions. If the psychiatrist could find a patient in such negative emotional distress and cause them to believe they were haunted in one of the various ways specific to their particular type of emotional distress, would this ultimately help the patient to achieve psychic equilibrium? The following case studies are the culmination of years of research along these lines and should suffice to prove that the above presented hypothesis is true.”

And there you have it, Dr. Calvin Moody’s presentation of his theory was wholly lucid and presented with fine logic for its case. In short, I was sold; at least well enough that I couldn’t wait to dive into the case files that now sat upon my desktop to see exactly how he managed to pull off these orchestrated hauntings. But before I cracked the first file, there was one burning question that needed to be answered.

I called Matt and he answered quite quickly saying, “Keith! Have you read his treatise? What do you think?”

“Fascinating! I must admit, Matt, at first I actually thought you were wasting my time, but this is actually quite riveting stuff.”

“And the case files? Even better, huh?”

“Well, I haven’t even started those yet. I wanted to ask you a question first?”

“Sure.”

“What happened to Moody? Why hasn’t this work been brought to wider attention in the field?”

“Well,” he breathed a heavy sigh, and I knew that I had stumbled upon the rub of the story, “As I mentioned today, he committed suicide before publishing.”

“But why didn’t anyone publish posthumously?”

“Because of the reason he killed himself. How would his theory stand up to the scrutiny of the fact that he killed himself because he claimed he was being haunted by the ghosts of Shockley House?”

****

To gain some insight into Moody’s methods, I’ll give here the story of one of the case files which he cited in his treatise. The patient was only referred to as Marla; most likely a fake name used to protect her real identity. Marla presented to Moody as a patient suffering from numerous personal issues that she felt were keeping her from leading a normal, healthy social life. She was neurotic and suffered from chronic anxiety and depression. She struggled with both personal relationships and professional relationships, having been through many boyfriends and jobs. The catalyst for her seeking Psychiatric help was a nervous breakdown.

After several weeks of sessions, to include some sessions of hypnosis, Moody determined that her neurosis was rooted in her feelings of guilt towards her father. Marla’s father was a stern man who was mentally abusive in how he manipulated Marla’s emotions. Marla and her father’s relationship was horribly strained up until her early 20’s. He was heavily controlling, and she rebelled against his attempts to control her so thoroughly, but he would always manage, in the end, to force her to feel guilty about her behavior. Usually this would end in him drinking too much and breaking down into a drunken fit of apologies and entreaties for her to understand that his actions were out of love and not out of malice towards her.

Marla’s mother had left her husband when Marla was just a small child and there were also issues of guilt associated with Marla not feeling like she was good enough for her mother’s attention and approval. Marla’s mother had died several years after leaving of some unknown reason and had been so estranged from her ex-husband and daughter that Marla had no real closure with her mother. Marla had no siblings.

Marla tried to distance herself from her father once she reached her 20’s but he would always manage to call or contact her, usually in a fit of drunkenness, begging for her assistance and playing upon her guilt. At one point Marla met a man and they dated for several months in which time Marla had, through a struggling willpower, managed to avoid her father and his antics. Tensions built to ever increasing extremes and her boyfriend began to grow tired of the inconvenient intrusions of Marla’s father.

One night, he drank himself into an uncontrollable rage that led him to Marla and her boyfriend’s doorstep. Marla and her father argued in the front yard, screaming at one another, and causing such a commotion that Marla’s boyfriend had to intervene. The old drunk became ever more belligerent towards the young man until the argument became physical. This escalated quickly out of control and suddenly Marla’s father attacked. In his liquor-addled brain, however, he was too dull of sense to find his mark and the boyfriend found a rock and crushed the old man’s skull. He fell dead.

The authorities arrived and the boy was immediately charged with murder. The outcome of the trial was that he was found guilty, and the man was given a life sentence for his crime. The relationship between Marla and her boyfriend ended as well.

Marla was left feeling like she was the cause of both her father’s death and her boyfriend’s incarceration. The guilt plagued her for near 20 years at which time she found her way into Moody’s care at the age of 41.

Marla was also a semi-religious person, not devout but open to the idea of a supernatural reality. Dr. Moody took her feelings of guilt and her open mindedness towards the supernatural as traits he felt would be a perfect fit for one of his test subjects.

Moody’s experiment entailed subtlety in causing Marla to be haunted by one type of “The Guilty Haunting”. He could never overtly persuade her to believe she was being haunted, though. In order for his theory to work, he could only expose her to the right symbols that would push her to believe some type of apparition was haunting her.

The first thing Moody did was to convince her to move into Shockley House for a short period of time. Having her as an inpatient would allow him more control of her care and her environment as well as more ability to observe her.

The room Moody prepared for Marla was carefully decorated to include a large, dark portrait of a man with an intense gaze whose eyes seemed to follow you no matter where you moved in the room. There were many other lesser pictures, but all contained subjects whose eye produced a similar such optical illusion. The room was also painted and decorated with darker colors with the lights engineered in such a way that the room was only ever dim at best. 

The real priming of Marla’s psyche took place in the one-on-one sessions with Dr. Moody. During these sessions Moody steered Marla into conversations about her relationship with her father and why she felt his judgment still held sway over her life. Each week there were also sessions of hypnosis; in these sessions Moody would help her connect the symbols of judging eyes with her guilt. Of course, Marla would have no memory of what was discussed while she was under hypnosis. And, while Moody did allude to judging eyes always upon her, he never told her directly that she would see any ghosts or mysterious figures stalking her.

Finally, after nearly two months, Moody’s efforts paid off. Marla was found early one morning in the living room looking quite haggard and obviously shaken. Moody brought her into his office and during this session Marla became emotional and began sobbing. Marla told Dr. Moody that she needed to leave Shockley House but would not articulate exactly why. Moody had to coax her for quite some time till she finally revealed that she had seen a shadowy figure several times in the house. The first time she saw it was at the end of the darkened hallway as she was walking from the bathroom to her room across the hall. She described the figure as a tall, dark figure with pale eyes intensely staring at her.

She quickly ran into her room and convinced herself that she had only seen a trick of the shadows in the hallway. It was many nights later that she saw it again and this shook her up so bad that she began to suffer from insomnia. The room became an intolerable place for her. The previous night she had awoken to see the figure standing in the corner of the room watching her. This is why she was found in the living room.

After this success, Moody convinced Marla to remain in his care but agreed that it would be better for her to move out of Shockley House. His treatment plan for Marla took a different direction after this. He stopped focusing on the symbols that encouraged her guilt and began to treat her in a manner that removed those guilty feelings.

This particular case was an example of a very successful case. Not all cases progressed in such a fluent manner. In some cases, it took more time to yield results. In other cases, Dr. Moody eventually resorted to medications. Generally, he tried not to augment the treatment with drugs, but was willing to do so when results were not forthcoming. And finally, in yet other cases, there were no results at all.

Most unusual of all, though, was how the cases took a dramatic turn towards the end of the research. Just before Dr. Moody committed suicide, the patients began to experience extreme hauntings much more easily than prior patients. This anomaly was quite inexplicable to Matt and me until our own research struck a similar crescendo of terror.

Looking back upon this now, I expect some might see with clarity the unethical aspects of Moody’s research. Keep in mind that in his day, such experimental techniques would’ve been considered normal fair. Also be aware that our research took a slightly different approach in which the ethical concerns were addressed. Still, considering the unintended course things took, our naiveté is no excuse for inflicting such horrors as resides in Shockley House upon anyone. And, while I stand guilty, it was poor Matt who paid the ultimate price with his life just as his forebear, Calvin Moody, did.

****

Initially, our research was conducted in our offices. We conducted interviews on patients to find the right candidates and fully informed them of the nature of our research into paranormal encounters. After gaining the consent of 21 patients, we began our research by using electromagnetic frequencies while patients were hooked up to an EEG machine.

The results were horribly inconclusive. In Matt’s eyes the results were an utter failure. So, we decided to try new methods. Again, we met with poor results. This cycle continued until we found ourselves slipping closer and closer into Moody’s original methods. Finally, one day Matt came into my office and announced that he was beginning the renovations to Shockley House.

“It has to be done, Keith. We need the right environment to prime the patients. The office here is just too clinical an environment for a ghost sighting.”

Three months later the work was done, and the house was refurbished throughout. We were ready to begin with a new batch of eight patients who would be living in the house for a two-week “retreat”. Matt had finally convinced me to keep the real nature of our research from these patients while the experiments were conducted. Gradually, ever so slightly, we had acquiesced on protocols to the point that we were now duplicating Moody’s research almost exactly.

We hired on for the staff two nurses, a housemaid who handled cooking and laundry, and a technician to assist with the EEG and EMF machines. Matt and I worked the day shift, and the two nurses were to work the night shift.

On the third day we still had nothing significant to report. I left for the evening and was awoken in the middle of the night by my phone. I was met with the frantic voice of Nurse Stephenson.

“Dr. Ballinger! You must come quick! Dr. Remy and a patient are fighting!”

“Edith? What are you talking about?”

“Dr. Remy stayed late after you left and apparently tried a procedure on Meagan.”

“A procedure?”

Then there came an awful yell from somewhere in the background and the line went dead. I dressed as fast as I could while trying to call back Edith. She didn’t answer so I tried Matt. There was no answer from his cell either. As I ran out of my house to the car, I found myself confronted with a hellish thunderstorm. I was thoroughly soaked by the time I unlocked my car and jumped into the seat.

It’s a wonder I even made it to Shockley House with the storm raging, my car speeding, and me trying to frantically call Matt, Edith, and Mary, the other nurse. No one answered and a feeling of dread began to settle over my rain-drenched body.

When I pulled up to the house the first thing I noticed was how dark the place was. The storm had obviously taken the power out. Lightning cut through the sky followed by a cacophonous boom of thunder. In the brief moment of illumination, I saw that the front door stood wide open. I rummaged through the glove compartment and found the small emergency flashlight and then I stole my nerves, took a deep breath, and ran for the house.

No sooner had I made it to the steps than I saw Donald, one of the psych patients in our experiment, ambling across the yard. I called out to him, but he was unresponsive. I ran over to him and was taken aback by the expression on his face. The poor man was in a daze. His features were vacant, and his eyes glazed. He acted as if unaware that the rain was pelting his face. He was mumbling something I couldn’t make out.

I tried to talk to him, but it was useless. I managed to hold him by the arm and guide him to the back seat of my car. “Wait here Donald,” I said even though I knew he didn’t hear me. It was then that I was able to discern what he was mumbling.

“It’s always watching me. It’s always watching me. It’s always watching me. . . .”

I shut the car door and made my way to the front door again.

The house was dark and quiet. I played the flashlight over the front room but saw nothing. “Matt!” I yelled into the darkness. “Hello! Matt! Are you there? Edith! Mary! Hello!” Nothing.

I started towards the old office of Dr. Moody. Then a blood curdling scream split the silence from somewhere above me. The flashlight beam shot up the stairs just in time to see a shape flying towards me. By the time I realized what it was the body landed headfirst on the first few stairs with a sickening crack.

I rushed over to the body and rolled it over. It was Mary; one of the nurses. Her head was flopped over to one side and blood was coming from her nose, mouth, and ears. She had broken her neck upon impact against the angulated stairs. The worst part was her eyes. They were wide open staring into oblivion but still held a look of horror as if she had seen something so terrible that it froze her expression even after death. I checked her pulse to ensure she wasn’t still somehow alive. Nothing. I stood up and a wave of nausea hit me. I had to rush back out into the rain and vomit.

I wiped the foul taste from my lips and pondered calling the police but just then a scream from the upstairs grew in volume over the din of the storm. I rushed back inside and made my way upstairs calling for Matt once more.

When I reached the landing at the top of the stairs I paused, scanning the hallways with the flashlight beam. There was no movement anywhere. And then I caught a faint light coming from one of the patient’s rooms. Slowly I walked down the hallway straining to hear if there was any movement within. Reaching the door, I shined the light into the room. The room was empty of people, but it was in complete disarray. The bed sheets were strewn about, and equipment of various types were knocked over. The light emanated from a digital camcorder mounted on a tripod. I recognized it as the one Matt and I used to film various interactions with patients.

I pressed the menu button to retrieve the last video clip. I pressed play and watched. The clip began with a shot of the room less than an hour prior. Meagan, one of our patients, appeared in the clip strapped to the bed. Her wrists and ankles were secured in leather straps, but most disconcerting of all was that her head was immobilized. She was struggling against the restraints, obviously panicked by what was taking place. She was screaming and kept crying out “No, Dr. Remy! No! No, Dr. Remy! No!”

Then Matt’s back appeared in the frame as he approached the bed from the angle of the camera. I could see that he held instruments in his hands. He reached the bed and then crouched over her head. As he turned to gain a better angle above her head, I caught a look at his face. It was somehow not right. It was and wasn’t Matt all at the same time. Something in his features had contorted. Then he said in an angered voice, “I told you! It’s Dr. Moody; not Dr. Remy!”

Then he lifted the instruments and I realized what they were. In one hand was a mallet and in the other was an orbitoclast, an instrument used in transorbital lobotomies. He placed one into her eye and began to pound. Meagan began to scream a tortured wail that shot ice through my body.

Suddenly the room’s light changed. It was the flicker of lightning followed by a clap of thunder. Then the lights went out in the room. The last image the camera caught was a mysterious figure materialize from the wall behind Matt.

I stood perplexed; in shock about the meaning of the film; about what in the hell to do next. What happened? Where were Meagan and Matt now? Where were the other patients? Where was Edith? My thoughts fumbled over each other in a blind chaos of adrenaline-fueled madness. Then I heard a long scrape followed by a thump from up above and it repeated ever so slowly again. And again.

While I stood listening and trying to interpret the nature of this sound another sound came from down the hall. It was a moan. A pitiful, sorrowful moan as if someone was sobbing. I inched my way to doorway and called softly, “Hello? Who’s there?” The light shot down the hallway and illuminated a crouching figure in the corner. They faced the corner, and it was impossible to tell who it was from just the hump of their back, but I believed it was Demetrius, another one of our patients.

I walked slowly whispering his name, “Demetrius. It’s alright Demetrius. It’s me, Dr. Ballinger.” As I reached him, I could tell from the back of his head that I was right. It was Demetrius. He didn’t respond to his name, though. He just shivered and kept sobbing. I reached out and touched his shoulder. He jerked as if hit with a Taser and looked up in stark, naked terror. He was pitiful to behold. His eyes were hollow, and spittle ran down his chin. A long, pathetic moan crawled from his idiot mouth. The poor man was worse off than Donald.

As the moan died away my attention once again locked onto the slow scrape-thump coming from upstairs. I made my way back to the steps and probed the darkness above. The only thing up there was the thing that I always found the most ominous about the place – the octagonal room that brooded over the whole house like a lurking vulture.

Slowly I mounted the creaking stairs. Millions of years passed as my heart thundered in my chest. I reached the first landing and turned to make my way up the final set of steps. Shining the light up above I saw what made the noise. It was Matt Remy hanging from the rafters by a rope about his neck. At his feet sat Edith, her lunatic features distorted into a look of sheer madness. She turned towards me and began to cackle an insane gurgle of laughter as she continued to push Matt’s legs, swinging him like a child swings its dolly. His feet scraped the wooden floor and then he thumped into the wall only to return to her for another push. The worst part of the whole daemonic show was Edith’s eyes. Protruding from each socket was a bloody, gore-encrusted orbitoclast.

My grandmother passed away after a prolonged illness.  My grandfather died when I was a small child.  My memories of him were scarce.  I was close to my dear grandmother and her illness affected my family greatly even though we foresaw the inevitable decline of her health.  The fatal day arrived when she could fight no more and her frail spirit faltered.  At such times it is a natural reaction to attempt to come to grips with the loss and rationalize that the suffering had finally come to an end.  While this might be true it doesn’t really make the passing of a loved one any less upsetting.

Next followed the tasks of making the funeral arrangements, the burial, and the reading of the will.  The estate was to be divided equitably between my mother and her brother.  So began the task of sorting through my deceased grandmother’s possessions.  Her house had been in the family for many generations and was a large house.  I was assigned the job of sorting through the basement.

The stairs were steep, and the basement was dank and small.  I could not imagine it being used for anything other than storage.  Many of the boxes contained holiday items such as Christmas ornaments, Easter baskets, and Halloween pumpkins.  There were numerous boxes of old clothing and outdated periodicals.  Amongst all these boxes there were pieces of furniture.  A couple of these pieces of furniture appeared to be antiques, which had been covered with sheets to protect them.  They included an old chair, a bureau, and a mirror.  It was after weeding through most of these things that I discovered an old worn trunk.  In this trunk there were many old items of family memorabilia.  I perused through these things looking at pictures and reading old newspaper articles of weddings and other various announcements.

The wall in the back of the cellar was lined with shelves, which contained cans and jars of non-perishable foods.  I was rummaging through these shelves when something caught my eye.  One of the boards of the wall had become dislodged which revealed something metallic behind it.  I moved away the jars, took off the shelf and removed the wooden panel to reveal an old safe hidden in the wall.  I looked at it for several moments wondering who would have knowledge of the combination.  If my grandmother was the last person to have this information, then the safe’s contents might never be known again.  Then I recalled that I had seen an old instrument resembling a screwdriver beside the trunk.  It was certainly a long shot but worth an attempt, nevertheless.

I retrieved the instrument and returned to the safe.  With very little force I was able to pry open the safe.  It was obviously a very old safe and put up very little resistance.  Now, knowing what I know, I wish the safe would have put up a tougher fight and held fast, for it was the safe that contained the horrifying memoirs of my great grandfather.  There were no other contents in the safe besides the small journal.

I read the first few pages and was so taken by his tale that I decided to take it home and read it.  I didn’t tell any of the other members of my family about my discovery.  I had planned to keep the story a secret, but circumstances have forced me to write this confession.  I have already been affected by it; but before I describe my encounter, I must tell you about my great grandfather.

My great grandfather’s name was Albert Jennings.  He was a somewhat eccentric man who learned one of the more unusual trades of our species.  It was he who is the basis of the third local legend I have already related to you.  The version I told was scant in its telling.  The truth of the story was more intriguing than any fiction could manufacture.

Why someone would want to become a mortician is quite beyond me, but this was the path Albert Jennings took.  His memoirs recount the entire tale of his supernatural ordeal.  It is this tale I will now explain.  His memoirs begin with the events of how he came to meet Lilith Morgan, the alleged witch residing in the Sadler Plantation Home.  This meeting was the result of the death of Seth, the widow Morgan’s son.  Albert described how the boy had become quite defiant towards his mother and had been sneaking away from the house on frequent occasions.

Seth would usually keep to the woods around the local area of the house but there were times when he would be seen about town.  He was shunned by everyone, and he wouldn’t do more than just make the folks in town uncomfortable.  Immediately the rumors would be re-ignited and small groups of whisperers would form, watching him sidelong.

On one particular day Seth wandered about town and headed for the General Store.  Just as he walked past Jesse Brown’s wagon the horses grew uneasy and one tore loose from the hitching post.  The horse began to buck and rear in its panic to distance itself from Seth as its large, equestrian eyes rolled back in its head.  The poor boy, who desperately wished for normalcy, tried to calm the beast but this only caused the horse to plunge deeper into its fear.

By the time the townsfolk began to witness the unfolding of this whole display, the horse had struck the boy square in the head with a wild kick.  The sound produced was a sickly thud and blood flew.  Mr. Brown emerged from the store and managed to gain control of his horse while Clarence Wilford, the store manager, ran to the fallen boy’s side.

The boy was still alive but there was no doubt that the blow would be fatal.  Clarence later said that he could see skull and gray matter in the mix of blood and hair.  Doctor Grenier was summoned along with the authorities.  They removed the boy from the street and carried him to Dr. Grenier’s office.  By the time they arrived there, the Doc had pronounced the boy dead.  The authorities sent two officers to the Sadler House to notify Mrs. Morgan of her son’s situation.  This was accomplished by the drawing of lots – even then there was much arguing and bribing.

In the meantime, Dr. Grenier and Sheriff Doss carried the body to my great grandfather’s funeral home.  Albert asked Dr. Grenier and Sheriff Doss to please remain behind until the news was delivered to Mrs. Morgan.  They agreed to do this.  Albert placed the body in the basement of the funeral home where he did the grisly task of preparing corpses for burial.  The Doc and the Sheriff waited in the parlor while Albert cleansed the blood and other tissue from the wound so that when the widow beheld her son it might be more tolerable.

After he finished this he adjourned to the parlor with the other two gentlemen.  They anxiously awaited the arrival of the widow and speculated on her reaction to such terrible news.  Eventually the two officers arrived with the widow.  Contrary to the expected hysterics, she was quite composed.  Albert described her demeanor being more disturbing than if she had been moaning and wailing.  She was somber and made little show of emotion while the Sheriff explained all that had transpired.  The widow asked to see the corpse and Albert escorted her downstairs as requested.  She asked Albert not to begin the embalming process and told him that there was a very rational reason for doing this.  Albert thought this request rather unusual but assured her that he would wait until she gave him permission.

After this she excused herself and returned home.  The men commented on her strange behavior, but this was typical of Lilith and should have been expected.  Shortly thereafter the men departed.

That night Lilith came to Albert’s house and asked to speak with him alone.  The two went over to the funeral home after Lilith suggested that after they talked, she would like to see her son one more time.  Albert recounted that conversation in some detail in his memoirs.

What transpired then was a secret so demonic that it has lived only in the memoirs of my great grandfather in the forgotten safe until I happened to discover it.  Lilith wanted to remove her deceased son, Seth, back to the old Sadler House.  Albert thought that she had the intentions of burying her son in the old cemetery that was on the property.  Lilith, however, made Albert promise that he would never speak of the night and what had transpired.  She also made him promise that no matter what should happen afterwards, he must never speak of the death of her son again.

He felt very confused and uncomfortable about the things she asked; but he finally relented to her request and agreed to what she asked.  Why he did this is a matter of mystery to me.  He never explains in his memoirs why he agreed to this.  I suspect that he had no choice.  He described her as being a woman who possessed an aura of profound power.  It is very likely that she had cast some sort of magical charm over him, and he had no will to resist her.  Whatever the case, the deal was made between them, and Lilith left that night with the dead corpse of her son, Seth.

Several days later there was a report by a neighbor of Lilith’s that the boy had been seen about the Sadler House quite alive.  This neighbor was Samuel Baylor.  He came into town and this rumor spread in a matter of hours.  Most people thought that Samuel’s eyes were obviously deceiving him.  But it was just a matter of days before several other people confirmed his story.

When the news of this reached Albert, his reaction was to fabricate a story of how the boy had regained consciousness.  The Sheriff came by to get a statement from Albert.  He retold his story, and the Sheriff just shook his head in disbelief.  He found the story to be too fantastic to believe but he really had no choice but accept it.  While he had never heard of such things, he was no undertaker and had very little experience with corpses.  The Doctor was a different story altogether.  He was completely at a loss for an explanation.  His only comment was that he had heard of all manner of medical anomalies but this one was, by far, the strangest he had ever heard before.  He was sure the boy was quite dead.

About a week after this was when there occurred an encounter between a neighbor and Seth.  Maude Laslow was walking down a dirt road close to her home when she saw the boy lumbering towards her.  Although she had the urge to avoid Seth, there was really no place for her to go.  She said that the boy looked wild and was acting erratically.  When Seth got close to her, he began to growl at her and claw at his head.  She became so afraid that she began to scream.  This caused the boy to begin moaning and whimpering and then he abruptly turned and fled into the woods.  It was several weeks before anyone reported seeing the boy again.

The reports of encounters with Seth grew fewer and fewer as the months went by.  Many people reported seeing him in the woods around Roupes Creek close to the Tannehill area.  It is obvious to me now that Seth grew into an adult and continued to live in the woods around Tannehill.  The infrequent sightings of Seth surely were the source of the legend of the Tannehill Monster.

Albert did mention that Lilith descended into a deep depression after Seth disappeared.  She rarely came to town and when she did, the townsfolk shunned her as if she were invisible.  She apparently didn’t seem to mind because she never made any effort to talk to anyone.  A couple of years passed, and the entire incident of Seth’s strange recovery faded from everyone’s memories.

Then, one afternoon, a terrible accident befell my grandmother’s oldest sister.  Albert had four children.  The oldest was my grandmother’s sister Sarah.  She was nine years old when the accident that claimed her life occurred.  My grandmother would have been only a year old.  The children were playing near the house in the woods by a creek.  Sarah lost her footing on the moss-covered rocks and fell hitting her head with a tremendous force.  She lost consciousness but didn’t die immediately.  The children went to get their parents for help and Sarah was removed to her room.  Dr. Grenier was summoned but there wasn’t much that could be done.  Brain swelling continued throughout the night and Sarah finally passed away in the early hours of the morning.

As bizarre as it sounds, Albert faced the grim task of preparing his own daughter’s body for burial.  Albert hadn’t forgotten about Seth though.  Albert decided that it was time for Lilith to pay back the favor of keeping her dark secret.

You must remember that this was never known beyond Albert and Lilith.  Albert kept this secret till the day he died.  The only place it was ever revealed was in Albert’s memoirs that I found.

Albert went to see Lilith and asked her to perform the same ritual on Sarah that she had done on Seth.  Lilith refused, however.  She explained to Albert that Seth had somehow changed and wasn’t the same child.  But Albert was racked with grief and refused to listen.  All he wanted was his precious daughter back.  They continued to argue until things escalated into a heated exchange.  Lilith continued to refuse Albert and he became so consumed with emotion that he attacked her.

Albert recounts that he used the poker from the fireplace to kill Lilith.  His blows were wild, so Lilith didn’t receive the fatal blow at first.  She was able to ward off his blows long enough to issue a vile and terrible curse upon Albert.  Hearing her arcane and disturbing words, Albert at first laughed at her and then he flew into an even more violent fit of rage.  He struck her square across the forehead, and she crumpled to the floor dead.

Albert knew that if someone found her, she would be brought to him for preparation for the burial.  He wanted to be done with Lilith Morgan forever.  He waited till the cover of night and removed her body to the woods where he buried her in the soft dirt by Roupes Creek.

The people of the town thought that it was the fact that Albert prepared his daughter for her burial that drove him mad.  It surely affected him but not to the point of insanity.  No, that was the work of Lilith.  Albert recounts the manner in which she exacted her revenge.

It is quite plausible to suggest that it was Albert’s task that drove him mad and that he was merely imagining the things that took place thereafter.  But there is one thing that convinces me otherwise.  I have proof.  Let me finish the tale of my great grandfather so that you might better understand the meaning of the thing I saw.

In the basement of the funeral parlor was the embalming room where Albert prepared the bodies.  The room was long and narrow and contained two embalming tables along the side walls.  At the far end of the room was a table with all manner of tools and vials upon it.  Hanging on the wall above this table was a large mirror.  Next to the table was a narrow alcove that was actually a small, manually operated elevator that was used for raising the bodies to the second floor after the embalming had been completed.

Sarah lay upon one of the embalming tables covered by a sheet.  Albert sat before the table at the back of the room, drinking whiskey, sobbing, and preparing himself for the horrendous task that lay before him.  Hearing the voice of his daughter, he glanced up into the mirror to behold Sarah sitting upon the table.  He whirled around only to see that it was some cruel trick of his imagination.  He returned to his drink.  Then, clearly, he heard her say, “Daddy, she’s coming”.  He looked up into the mirror and once again Sarah sat upon the table looking at Albert in the mirror.  This time Albert didn’t turn around.  He continued to watch his beautiful and animated daughter in the looking glass.

“Who’s coming, Sarah?” Albert asked.

“The bad lady who wants to kill you.”  Before Albert could respond to this strange reply, he heard the sound of someone walking down the stairs very slowly.  Sarah’s expression changed into one of fear and she moved with her back against the wall and the sheet pulled up tight about her face as if she were trying to protect herself from whatever was coming down the stairs.  Her eyes were wide with fear, and they were riveted to the stairs just beyond the door.

It took Albert a mere second to behold the cowering form of Sarah.  He wheeled about in his chair only to see the lifeless and covered corpse of his daughter still lying in the same position as he had left her the night before.  Albert attributed this strange occurrence to the whiskey.

The next day the body of Esther Ingram was delivered to the funeral home.  She was placed on the table opposite Sarah and covered in the same fashion with a white sheet.  Esther was an elderly woman who had been battling ill health for several months.  She had finally grown too frail to fight anymore and had succumbed to death’s thin embrace.

That night Albert once again adjourned to the small embalming room to attempt the job of embalming Sarah.  And once again he sat at the small table sipping whiskey and sobbing.  Two hours passed and Albert finally worked up enough nerve to begin the task.  He gathered and arranged his tools, postponing the grisly task as long as possible.  He thought that it might make the task somewhat easier if he prepared the bodies of both Sarah and Esther at the same time.  He rose from his chair and went to retrieve his instruments when he heard Sarah speak again.  “Daddy,” she said, in the childish voice that could not be mistaken.  He turned to look but there was no one there – just the still and lifeless forms of Sarah and Esther.  Then he turned and looked into the mirror.  The sight he beheld made him freeze in terror.  Sarah sat up on the table with her legs swinging as she looked in the mirror at her father and smiled.

“Sarah, is it really you?” he sobbed.

“Of course, Daddy,” she giggled.

“What’s happening?” Albert moaned.

“What do you mean, Daddy?” Sarah said naively.

“Sarah, are you hurting, Darling?”

“No, Daddy, but I am worried about you.”  She replied.

“Why?”

“Because the bad lady wants you.”

“What bad lady?” Albert asked.

“The one with the blood on her face.  She’s so mean and scary.  Uh oh, she’s coming again, Daddy!”  Then Albert heard someone walking down the stairs again.  The instruments fell from his hands to scatter across the floor, and he struggled to remain standing.  Although every ounce of his being screamed for him to turn around, he continued to stare into the mirror.  Once again Sarah crawled across the table, up against the wall, and pulled the sheet tight about her as she watched in abject horror at whatever it was that made its way down the stairs.  Albert noticed that Esther remained inert upon her table.

Albert continued to watch, struggling to overcome the fear that so gripped him.  Whatever was coming down the stairs was almost to the doorway.  Slowly the footsteps approached.  The door creaked open.  And then the hideous form of Lilith entered the room.  She was pale and her hair was in disarray.  Her face was covered with dry blood and the wound Albert had inflicted with the fire poker was plainly visible across her forehead. Her face was twisted into a grotesque and evil expression of hate.  But it was the eyes that caused Albert the most distress.  They were locked onto his eyes.  She walked deliberately in his direction.

Albert could stand no more.  Upon beholding the apparition of Lilith, he spun around and once again there was nothing there.  No one stood in the doorway and the two bodies lay covered as before.  Albert cautiously approached the stairs.  Once he was sure that no one was upon the stairwell he ran home.

When Albert arrived home, he poured himself a drink and sat down in the living room.  Albert’s wife, Emily, entered and asked him if the task had been completed.  He admitted that it had not, but he didn’t tell her about the apparition in the mirror.  He thought that she would think him crazy.  The death of Sarah was enough to strain their emotions and this news only made matters worse.  A fight ensued and the alcohol only served to make the matter worse.

The next day Albert could wait no longer.  Sarah’s visitation was to be the following evening, so he had no choice but to complete the embalming of Sarah.  Albert descended the stairs slowly and reluctantly.  The atmosphere of the embalming room was so charged with apprehension that he decided to return to the house, sneak a bottle of bourbon into his coat, and return to the stairwell only after a few swigs.  He resumed his slow descent, all the time hugging the bottle of liquor close to his chest.  He had already made up his mind that he would refrain from looking into the mirror.

Albert knelt on the floor and retrieved his scattered tools from the day before.  He rose, took a deep breath, and then he set to work.  It was beyond difficult.  One can’t imagine the pain involved in the work of preparing your own daughter for burial, for it is such a bizarre profession that most of us are thankful to have no gauge to fuel our imaginations into the realm of horror that Albert inhabited.

At one point Albert paused to regard the quiet, peaceful face of his young child.  He began to cry and stroke her hair.  His sobs intensified until he found himself cradling her to his breast.  So involved in his grieving he had become that he unconsciously wiped his eyes and looked into the mirror.  He saw himself embracing his daughter, not in death, but in the living form of his child.  “Why are you crying, Daddy?” Sarah asked.

“Because I miss you dear,” he said through tears.

“But I’m right here, silly.”

“I know, Dear. I know.”

“Daddy, the bad lady is coming again.  Please don’t leave me alone,” she pleaded as she clung to her father for protection.

“I won’t.”  Already the sound of her slow descent down the stairs could be heard.  Albert held Sarah and watched the mirror.    The door creaked open again.  This time Lilith was full in the room and walking at a slow, determined pace, with her hands outstretched straight for Albert.

Albert waited till her hands were just about to close around his neck and at the last moment Albert gasped and turned to defend himself.  The sudden release of Sarah caused her to fall back to the table with a loud thump just as Albert realized that his hands were raised to protect himself from nothing but empty air.  Albert became sickened by the careless way he had let Sarah fall and this gave way to rage at the old crone, Lilith.  It was a rage just like the night he had taken the fire poker to her.  He reached for the bottle of bourbon and made to throw it at the mirror, but something kept him from going through with the act.  He couldn’t shatter the mirror because of Sarah.  He regarded himself in the mirror with the bottle raised above his head.  His gaze fell on the lifeless form of Sarah.  Although it was but a moment, he had seen her alive again.  Even though it was in the most unnerving grip of terror, she had been alive.  Albert lowered the bottle and took a long drink.

Finally, the task of embalming Sarah was completed.  Throughout the remainder of the procedure Albert kept looking up into the mirror.  A part of him wanted to see Sarah alive again, but another part loathed the possibility of seeing the form of Lilith with her distorted expression, cloven forehead, outstretched hands, and piercing eyes that burned into his mind.

The visitation was a bleak and mournful event.  The entire town came by to pay their respects and console the family who had lost one of their dearest and sweetest children.  Emily cried and screamed the entire time.  She cursed the God who let such cruel and unjust things happen in this world.  Dr. Grenier was on hand to administer a sedative.  As for Albert, he stood by stoically with a rather blank expression upon his face.

After the visitation there was a large gathering at the Jennings’ residence.  Family and friends came by with food and kind words, as is the usual custom when a loved one has passed away.  The sedatives finally took hold and Emily dozed while Albert listened to the endless litany of comforting comments that didn’t serve their intended purpose.  Finally, all the guests departed, and Albert left the other three children in the care of a relative.  He explained that there were preparations he needed to make with Sarah at the funeral home and then he excused himself.  The real reason was that Albert dearly wanted to see his daughter in the mirror again before the funeral.

Albert arrived at the funeral home and proceeded to wheel Sarah’s casket to the elevator.  He slid the coffin in the narrow shelf that was just large enough to hold the casket and then he lowered her down with the hand crank.  Next, he removed the bottle of bourbon concealed in his coat and took a strong belt before descending the stairs.

Esther still lay upon the one table with the sheet concealing her corpse.  Albert went to the back of the room and opened the elevator door, slid the coffin out, and removed Sarah to the other table.  Then he sat sipping whiskey and watching the mirror.

How long he waited he wasn’t sure, but he found himself waking up to the sound of Sarah’s voice.  “Daddy, are you going to stay with me?” she was saying as Albert looked up into the mirror to see her sitting on the table.

“I’m here, Sarah.  I’m here with you now,” Albert said thinking of the burial that would be arriving soon.

“Is Mommy still sad?”

“Sarah, when I’m not around what do you do?” Albert asked.

“Mostly I sleep but sometimes I hear people talking.  I try to wake up or move but I can’t.  And then, sometimes the bad lady says things to me.”

“What kind of things?”

“Things about you, Daddy.  She hates you and wants to hurt you.  It scares me but I don’t think she can hurt me unless you’re around.  That’s why she always comes when we’re talking,” Sarah said glancing nervously at the doorway and the stairs beyond.

“Is she coming?” Albert asked noticing Sarah’s agitation.  But before Sarah could answer the sound of a footstep on the stairwell answered Albert’s question.

“Daddy, please don’t leave me again,” Sarah pleaded.  “Stay with me or make her go away, Daddy!”  Albert got up and backed up to Sarah so that he could keep her reflection in sight the entire time.  He put his arms around Sarah and comforted her.

“It’ll be all right, Darling.  I’m right here.”  Then the emaciated form of Lilith entered the doorway.  Sarah began to sob and clutch Albert.  He stroked her hair and continued to meet Lilith’s scathing glance in the mirror.  She made her way across the room with her hands raised to lock around Albert’s neck.  Albert could see that her hands were marked with blood and dirt.  He waited until the last possible moment and just as he felt the touch of Lilith’s hands upon his neck he turned around.  Lilith was gone.  He looked down at the lifeless corpse that he still held in his arms.  Albert broke down and began to cry.

The last entry in my great grandfather’s memoirs is at this point of the tale.  The last thing he wrote was about how heartbreaking and difficult it would be to inter Sarah and give her up to the cold and bitter sleep of death.  His very last statement was that the pain was too much to bear, and he had resolved to see Sarah one final time before the burial but this time he would not turn from the mirror.  He would face the mirror till the end.

This left me wondering about whatever happened to him.  I have never heard anyone in my family mention that he died in any mysterious or bizarre manner.  I did, however, recall the local legend of the undertaker who talked to the dead and was found murdered amongst the dead bodies awaiting preparation for burial.

I decided to question my mother under the pretense of being curious about many of the people pictured in the photo albums that were in my grandmother’s basement.  When we got to the subject of her grandfather, I asked how he had died.  She told me that he died of liver disease when she was a child.  This only served to confuse my assumption that he had died when my grandmother was still a small child.  I then asked her what he did for a living.  She said that he used to be a mortician until her Aunt Sarah died.  After she died, he began drinking and had a nervous breakdown.  Apparently, they sold their house for the money and the family moved into the former funeral home.  My great grandfather then got a job at a lumber mill where he worked till he retired.   I certainly didn’t expect the answer my mother gave me to the next question I asked.  I asked her what had ever happened to the funeral home.  She told me that it was the same house where Grandma was living when she died.

I thought about this for a few moments and then I realized that the basement room where I had found my great grandfather’s memoirs was the very room where he had embalmed my great aunt’s body.  This was a bit unsettling to say the least.  Just reflecting on the fact that such a bizarre thing should have occurred in a place where I had so recently been standing sent a shiver down my spine.

My mind was preoccupied with my great grandfather’s tale for the rest of the evening.  I wondered what had happened after the funeral and why he had so suddenly quit writing.  And then I remembered the mirror that was still in the basement.  I wondered whether or not it was the same mirror.  Even though the room had taken on an eerie aspect in my mind, I couldn’t wait till the next day to go and inspect the mirror.  I didn’t really know why I felt this way or how I could even tell if it was indeed the same mirror, but I felt the impulse to inspect it anyway.

The following day we returned to my grandmother’s house to continue the job of sorting through her belongings.  I stood for several moments at the doorway leading to the stairwell down into the basement and gathered my nerves.  The knowledge that the basement room had been the embalming room of Albert Jenkins was, to me, a disconcerting piece of knowledge that filled me with a feeling of apprehension of descending the stairs.  I doubt that I could have done it if it were night.

I did manage to go down the stairs, however.  The first thing I did was try and imagine what the room would have looked like according to Albert’s descriptions.  Next, I went to the mirror again.  Removing the sheet that covered it, I inspected the size and craftsmanship of the mirror.  It was large and appeared to have been hand crafted.  Then, I stepped back a few feet and regarded myself in the glass.  The sound of a voice startled me.  It was the muffled sound of a small girl’s voice that said, “Daddy?”  I turned around but there was nothing there.  Although the voice was soft, there was no doubt in my mind that I had heard it.  I turned back to the mirror, and I decided that I would control my nerves and refrain from turning around.

Once again, I heard the unmistakable sound of a small girl’s voice coming from, what sounded like, the far corner.  “Daddy?” and then the words were too muffled to make out.  I heard something about “the darkness” and once again the words couldn’t be made out.  I continued to listen to the sound trying to discern from where it originated.  It sounded like the voice was coming from inside the wall in the far corner.  Then I heard a creaking noise and faint knocks that grew louder.  Then the voice grew louder and more intense.  “Daddy, It’s so dark!  Why won’t you let me out?”  My heart was thundering in my chest and my legs were shaking.

I was just about to turn around when I heard a footfall on the steps.  At this I nearly fainted and it was all I could do to control my urge to turn around.  The voice inside the wall was louder now.  I could make out the words of “bad lady” and pleas for “Daddy”.  I clutched the edges of the mirror, my knuckles turning white.  I forced myself to watch the smooth surface of the mirror with the doorway reflected in its shiny glass.  The steps on the stairwell were growing closer.  I imagined the apparition that would enter the room.  The cries were growing more strained as the steps descended.  And then the form of Lilith entered the room.  My breath froze in my body.  She was shrouded in a discolored, long dress.  Her hair was in disarray and her filthy hands were outstretched towards me.  But it was her face that I shall be haunted by in my dreams.  Twisted into a grotesque grimace of hatred and clotted with blood and dirt; the mangled head wound was clearly visible upon her forehead.  Our eyes met and I could feel the hatred searing into my soul.  I could take no more and I whirled about with the mirror still clutched in my hands and threw it at where she would have been; but there was no one there.  The heavy mirror flew a few feet and crashed onto the floor shattering into a million shards.  And then I fainted.

My mother and my uncle rushed downstairs upon hearing the loud crash of the old mirror.  They found me lying on the floor in a swoon and assisted me back upstairs where they attended me.

After I recovered my senses I recounted the entire story of the previous day, night, and recent ordeal.  They listened patiently while I explained all the horrific details of Albert’s memoirs.  They were skeptical but my Uncle Lawrence still was intrigued enough to go and investigate the room while my mother tended my recovering anxiety.

He went back downstairs to explore the wall from whence the voice had originated.  It was behind the wall that he discovered the old lift that had been concealed for so many years.  Inside of the lift he found the coffin that contained the mummified body of my great aunt.  She was finally buried two weeks after her sister who died at eighty-two years of age.