Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - Slimebeast

Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5 ... 7
Assorted Classics / The Second Coming by Butler Yeats
« on: 03/07/19, 11:31 PM »
Turning and turning in the widening gyre   
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.   
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out   
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert   
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,   
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,   
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it   
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.   
The darkness drops again; but now I know   
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,   
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Assorted Classics / The Night Wire by H.F. Arnold
« on: 03/07/19, 11:29 PM »
"New York, September 30 CP FLASH

"Ambassador Holliwell died here today. The end came suddenly as the ambassador was alone in his study...."

There is something ungodly about these night wire jobs. You sit up here on the top floor of a skyscraper and listen in to the whispers of a civilization. New York, London, Calcutta, Bombay, Singapore -- they're your next-door neighbors after the streetlights go dim and the world has gone to sleep.

Alone in the quiet hours between two and four, the receiving operators doze over their sounders and the news comes in. Fires and disasters and suicides. Murders, crowds, catastrophes. Sometimes an earthquake with a casualty list as long as your arm. The night wire man takes it down almost in his sleep, picking it off on his typewriter with one finger.

Once in a long time you prick up your ears and listen. You've heard of some one you knew in Singapore, Halifax or Paris, long ago. Maybe they've been promoted, but more probably they've been murdered or drowned. Perhaps they just decided to quit and took some bizarre way out. Made it interesting enough to get in the news.

But that doesn't happen often. Most of the time you sit and doze and tap, tap on your typewriter and wish you were home in bed.

Sometimes, though, queer things happen. One did the other night, and I haven't got over it yet. I wish I could.

You see, I handle the night manager's desk in a western seaport town; what the name is, doesn't matter.

There is, or rather was, only one night operator on my staff, a fellow named John Morgan, about forty years of age, I should say, and a sober, hard-working sort.

He was one of the best operators I ever knew, what is known as a "double" man. That means he could handle two instruments at once and type the stories on different typewriters at the same time. He was one of the three men I ever knew who could do it consistently, hour after hour, and never make a mistake.

Generally, we used only one wire at night, but sometimes, when it was late and the news was coming fast, the Chicago and Denver stations would open a second wire, and then Morgan would do his stuff. He was a wizard, a mechanical automatic wizard which functioned marvelously but was without imagination.

On the night of the sixteenth he complained of feeling tired. It was the first and last time I had ever heard him say a word about himself, and I had known him for three years.

It was just three o'clock and we were running only one wire. I was nodding over the reports at my desk and not paying much attention to him, when he spoke.

"Jim," he said, "does it feel close in here to you?"

"Why, no, John," I answered, "but I'll open a window if you like."

"Never mind," he said. "I reckon I'm just a little tired."

That was all that was said, and I went on working. Every ten minutes or so I would walk over and take a pile of copy that had stacked up neatly beside the typewriter as the messages were printed out in triplicate.

It must have been twenty minutes after he spoke that I noticed he had opened up the other wire and was using both typewriters. I thought it was a little unusual, as there was nothing very "hot" coming in. On my next trip I picked up the copy from both machines and took it back to my desk to sort out the duplicates.

The first wire was running out the usual sort of stuff and I just looked over it hurridly. Then I turned to the second pile of copy. I remembered it particularly because the story was from a town I had never heard of: "Xebico." Here is the dispatch. I saved a duplicate of it from our files:

"Xebico, Sept 16 CP BULLETIN

"The heaviest mist in the history of the city settled over the town at 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon. All traffic has stopped and the mist hangs like a pall over everything. Lights of ordinary intensity fail to pierce the fog, which is constantly growing heavier.

"Scientists here are unable to agree as to the cause, and the local weather bureau states that the like has never occurred before in the history of the city.

"At 7 P.M. last night the municipal authorities...


That was all there was. Nothing out of the ordinary at a bureau headquarters, but, as I say, I noticed the story because of the name of the town.

It must have been fifteen minutes later that I went over for another batch of copy. Morgan was slumped down in his chair and had switched his green electric light shade so that the gleam missed his eyes and hit only the top of the two typewriters.

Only the usual stuff was in the righthand pile, but the lefthand batch carried another story from Xebico. All press dispatches come in "takes," meaning that parts of many different stories are strung along together, perhaps with but a few paragraphs of each coming through at a time. This second story was marked "add fog." Here is the copy:

"At 7 P.M. the fog had increased noticeably. All lights were now invisible and the town was shrouded in pitch darkness.

"As a peculiarity of the phenomenon, the fog is accompanied by a sickly odor, comparable to nothing yet experienced here."

Below that in customary press fashion was the hour, 3:27, and the initials of the operator, JM.

There was only one other story in the pile from the second wire. Here it is:

"2nd add Xebico Fog.

"Accounts as to the origin of the mist differ greatly. Among the most unusual is that of the sexton of the local church, who groped his way to headquarters in a hysterical condition and declared that the fog originated in the village churchyard.

"'It was first visible as a soft gray blanket clinging to the earth above the graves,' he stated. 'Then it began to rise, higher and higher. A subterranean breeze seemed to blow it in billows, which split up and then joined together again.

"'Fog phantoms, writhing in anguish, twisted the mist into queer forms and figures. And then, in the very thick midst of the mass, something moved.

"'I turned and ran from the accursed spot. Behind me I heard screams coming from the houses bordering on the graveyard.'

"Although the sexton's story is generally discredited, a party has left to investigate. Immediately after telling his story, the sexton collapsed and is now in a local hospital, unconscious."

Queer story, wasn't it. Not that we aren't used to it, for a lot of unusual stories come in over the wire. But for some reason or other, perhaps because it was so quiet that night, the report of the fog made a great impression on me.

It was almost with dread that I went over to the waiting piles of copy. Morgan did not move, and the only sound in the room was the tap-tap of the sounders. It was ominous, nerve- racking.

There was another story from Xebico in the pile of copy. I seized on it anxiously.

"New Lead Xebico Fog CP

"The rescue party which went out at 11 P.M. to investigate a weird story of the origin of a fog which, since late yesterday, has shrouded the city in darkness has failed to return. Another and larger party has been dispatched.

"Meanwhile, the fog has, if possible, grown heavier. It seeps through the cracks in the doors and fills the atmosphere with a depressing odor of decay. It is oppressive, terrifying, bearing with it a subtle impression of things long dead.

"Residents of the city have left their homes and gathered in the local church, where the priests are holding services of prayer. The scene is beyond description. Grown folk and children are alike terrified and many are almost beside themselves with fear.

"Amid the whisps of vapor which partly veil the church auditorium, an old priest is praying for the welfare of his flock. They alternately wail and cross themselves.

"From the outskirts of the city may be heard cries of unknown voices. They echo through the fog in queer uncadenced minor keys. The sounds resemble nothing so much as wind whistling through a gigantic tunnel. But the night is calm and there is no wind. The second rescue party... (more)"

I am a calm man and never in a dozen years spent with the wires, have I been known to become excited, but despite myself I rose from my chair and walked to the window.

Could I be mistaken, or far down in the canyons of the city beneath me did I see a faint trace of fog? Pshaw! It was all imagination.

In the pressroom the click of the sounders seemed to have raised the tempo of their tune. Morgan alone had not stirred from his chair. His head sunk between his shoulders, he tapped the dispatches out on the typewriters with one finger of each hand.

He looked asleep, but no; endlessly, efficiently, the two machines rattled off line after line, as relentlessly and effortlessly as death itself. There was something about the monotonous movement of the typewriter keys that fascinated me. I walked over and stood behind his chair, reading over his shoulder the type as it came into being, word by word.

Ah, here was another:

"Flash Xebico CP

"There will be no more bulletins from this office. The impossible has happened. No messages have come into this room for twenty minutes. We are cut off from the outside and even the streets below us.

"I will stay with the wire until the end.

"It is the end, indeed. Since 4 P.M. yesterday the fog has hung over the city. Following reports from the sexton of the local church, two rescue parties were sent out to investigate conditions on the outskirts of the city. Neither party has ever returned nor was any word received from them. It is quite certain now that they will never return.

"From my instrument I can gaze down on the city beneath me. From the position of this room on the thirteenth floor, nearly the entire city can be seen. Now I can see only a thick blanket of blackness where customarily are lights and life.

"I fear greatly that the wailing cries heard constantly from the outskirts of the city are the death cries of the inhabitants. They are constantly increasing in volume and are approaching the center of the city.

"The fog yet hangs over everything. If possible, it is even heavier than before, but the conditions have changed. Instead of an opaque, impenetrable wall of odorous vapor, there now swirls and writhes a shapeless mass in contortions of almost human agony. Now and again the mass parts and I catch a brief glimpse of the streets below.

"People are running to and fro, screaming in despair. A vast bedlam of sound flies up to my window, and above all is the immense whistling of unseen and unfelt winds.

"The fog has again swept over the city and the whistling is coming closer and closer.

"It is now directly beneath me.

"God! An instant ago the mist opened and I caught a glimpse of the streets below.

"The fog is not simply vapor -- it lives! By the side of each moaning and weeping human is a companion figure, an aura of strange and vari-colored hues. How the shapes cling! Each to a living thing!

"The men and women are down. Flat on their faces. The fog figures caress them lovingly. They are kneeling beside them. They are -- but I dare not tell it.

"The prone and writhing bodies have been stripped of their clothing. They are being consumed -- piecemeal.

"A merciful wall of hot, steaming vapor has swept over the whole scene. I can see no more.

"Beneath me the wall of vapor is changing colors. It seems to be lighted by internal fires. No, it isn't. I have made a mistake. The colors are from above, reflections from the sky.

"Look up! Look up! The whole sky is in flames. Colors as yet unseen by man or demon. The flames are moving; they have started to intermix; the colors are rearranging themselves. They are so brilliant that my eyes burn, they they are a long way off.

"Now they have begun to swirl, to circle in and out, twisting in intricate designs and patterns. The lights are racing each with each, a kaleidoscope of unearthly brilliance.

"I have made a discovery. There is nothing harmful in the lights. They radiate force and friendliness, almost cheeriness. But by their very strength, they hurt.

"As I look, they are swinging closer and closer, a million miles at each jump. Millions of miles with the speed of light. Aye, it is light of quintessence of all light. Beneath it the fog melts into a jeweled mist radiant, rainbow-colored of a thousand varied spectra.

"I can see the streets. Why, they are filled with people! The lights are coming closer. They are all around me. I am enveloped. I..."

The message stopped abruptly. The wire to Xebico was dead. Beneath my eyes in the narrow circle of light from under the green lamp-shade, the black printing no longer spun itself, letter by letter, across the page.

The room seemed filled with a solemn quiet, a silence vaguely impressive, powerful.

I looked down at Morgan. His hands had dropped nervelessly at his sides, while his body had hunched over peculiarly. I turned the lamp-shade back, throwing light squarely in his face. His eyes were staring, fixed.

Filled with a sudden foreboding, I stepped beside him and called Chicago on the wire. After a second the sounder clicked its answer.

Why? But there was something wrong. Chicago was reporting that Wire Two had not been used throughout the evening.

"Morgan!" I shouted. "Morgan! Wake up, it isn't true. Some one has been hoaxing us. Why..." In my eagerness I grasped him by the shoulder.

His body was quite cold. Morgan had been dead for hours. Could it be that his sensitized brain and automatic fingers had continued to record impressions even after the end?

I shall never know, for I shall never again handle the night shift. Search in a world atlas discloses no town of Xebico. Whatever it was that killed John Morgan will forever remain a mystery.

A pleasing land of drowsy head it was,
 Of dreams that wave before the half-shut eye;
 And of gay castles in the clouds that pass,
 Forever flushing round a summer sky.

 In the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town. This name was given, we are told, in former days, by the good housewives of the adjacent country, from the inveterate propensity of their husbands to linger about the village tavern on market days. Be that as it may, I do not vouch for the fact, but merely advert to it, for the sake of being precise and authentic. Not far from this village, perhaps about two miles, there is a little valley or rather lap of land among high hills, which is one of the quietest places in the whole world. A small brook glides through it, with just murmur enough to lull one to repose; and the occasional whistle of a quail or tapping of a woodpecker is almost the only sound that ever breaks in upon the uniform tranquillity.

I recollect that, when a stripling, my first exploit in squirrel-shooting was in a grove of tall walnut-trees that shades one side of the valley. I had wandered into it at noontime, when all nature is peculiarly quiet, and was startled by the roar of my own gun, as it broke the Sabbath stillness around and was prolonged and reverberated by the angry echoes. If ever I should wish for a retreat whither I might steal from the world and its distractions, and dream quietly away the remnant of a troubled life, I know of none more promising than this little valley.

From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of SLEEPY HOLLOW, and its rustic lads are called the Sleepy Hollow Boys throughout all the neighboring country. A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere. Some say that the place was bewitched by a High German doctor, during the early days of the settlement; others, that an old Indian chief, the prophet or wizard of his tribe, held his powwows there before the country was discovered by Master Hendrick Hudson. Certain it is, the place still continues under the sway of some witching power, that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighborhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions; stars shoot and meteors glare oftener across the valley than in any other part of the country, and the nightmare, with her whole ninefold, seems to make it the favorite scene of her gambols.

The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head. It is said by some to be the ghost of a Hessian trooper, whose head had been carried away by a cannon-ball, in some nameless battle during the Revolutionary War, and who is ever and anon seen by the country folk hurrying along in the gloom of night, as if on the wings of the wind. His haunts are not confined to the valley, but extend at times to the adjacent roads, and especially to the vicinity of a church at no great distance. Indeed, certain of the most authentic historians of those parts, who have been careful in collecting and collating the floating facts concerning this spectre, allege that the body of the trooper having been buried in the churchyard, the ghost rides forth to the scene of battle in nightly quest of his head, and that the rushing speed with which he sometimes passes along the Hollow, like a midnight blast, is owing to his being belated, and in a hurry to get back to the churchyard before daybreak.

Such is the general purport of this legendary superstition, which has furnished materials for many a wild story in that region of shadows; and the spectre is known at all the country firesides, by the name of the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.

It is remarkable that the visionary propensity I have mentioned is not confined to the native inhabitants of the valley, but is unconsciously imbibed by every one who resides there for a time. However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative, to dream dreams, and see apparitions.

I mention this peaceful spot with all possible laud, for it is in such little retired Dutch valleys, found here and there embosomed in the great State of New York, that population, manners, and customs remain fixed, while the great torrent of migration and improvement, which is making such incessant changes in other parts of this restless country, sweeps by them unobserved. They are like those little nooks of still water, which border a rapid stream, where we may see the straw and bubble riding quietly at anchor, or slowly revolving in their mimic harbor, undisturbed by the rush of the passing current. Though many years have elapsed since I trod the drowsy shades of Sleepy Hollow, yet I question whether I should not still find the same trees and the same families vegetating in its sheltered bosom.

In this by-place of nature there abode, in a remote period of American history, that is to say, some thirty years since, a worthy wight of the name of Ichabod Crane, who sojourned, or, as he expressed it, “tarried,” in Sleepy Hollow, for the purpose of instructing the children of the vicinity. He was a native of Connecticut, a State which supplies the Union with pioneers for the mind as well as for the forest, and sends forth yearly its legions of frontier woodmen and country schoolmasters. The cognomen of Crane was not inapplicable to his person. He was tall, but exceedingly lank, with narrow shoulders, long arms and legs, hands that dangled a mile out of his sleeves, feet that might have served for shovels, and his whole frame most loosely hung together. His head was small, and flat at top, with huge ears, large green glassy eyes, and a long snipe nose, so that it looked like a weather-cock perched upon his spindle neck to tell which way the wind blew. To see him striding along the profile of a hill on a windy day, with his clothes bagging and fluttering about him, one might have mistaken him for the genius of famine descending upon the earth, or some scarecrow eloped from a cornfield.

His schoolhouse was a low building of one large room, rudely constructed of logs; the windows partly glazed, and partly patched with leaves of old copybooks. It was most ingeniously secured at vacant hours, by a withe twisted in the handle of the door, and stakes set against the window shutters; so that though a thief might get in with perfect ease, he would find some embarrassment in getting out,—an idea most probably borrowed by the architect, Yost Van Houten, from the mystery of an eelpot. The schoolhouse stood in a rather lonely but pleasant situation, just at the foot of a woody hill, with a brook running close by, and a formidable birch-tree growing at one end of it. From hence the low murmur of his pupils’ voices, conning over their lessons, might be heard in a drowsy summer’s day, like the hum of a beehive; interrupted now and then by the authoritative voice of the master, in the tone of menace or command, or, peradventure, by the appalling sound of the birch, as he urged some tardy loiterer along the flowery path of knowledge. Truth to say, he was a conscientious man, and ever bore in mind the golden maxim, “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Ichabod Crane’s scholars certainly were not spoiled.

I would not have it imagined, however, that he was one of those cruel potentates of the school who joy in the smart of their subjects; on the contrary, he administered justice with discrimination rather than severity; taking the burden off the backs of the weak, and laying it on those of the strong. Your mere puny stripling, that winced at the least flourish of the rod, was passed by with indulgence; but the claims of justice were satisfied by inflicting a double portion on some little tough wrong-headed, broad-skirted Dutch urchin, who sulked and swelled and grew dogged and sullen beneath the birch. All this he called “doing his duty by their parents;” and he never inflicted a chastisement without following it by the assurance, so consolatory to the smarting urchin, that “he would remember it and thank him for it the longest day he had to live.”

When school hours were over, he was even the companion and playmate of the larger boys; and on holiday afternoons would convoy some of the smaller ones home, who happened to have pretty sisters, or good housewives for mothers, noted for the comforts of the cupboard. Indeed, it behooved him to keep on good terms with his pupils. The revenue arising from his school was small, and would have been scarcely sufficient to furnish him with daily bread, for he was a huge feeder, and, though lank, had the dilating powers of an anaconda; but to help out his maintenance, he was, according to country custom in those parts, boarded and lodged at the houses of the farmers whose children he instructed. With these he lived successively a week at a time, thus going the rounds of the neighborhood, with all his worldly effects tied up in a cotton handkerchief.

That all this might not be too onerous on the purses of his rustic patrons, who are apt to consider the costs of schooling a grievous burden, and schoolmasters as mere drones, he had various ways of rendering himself both useful and agreeable. He assisted the farmers occasionally in the lighter labors of their farms, helped to make hay, mended the fences, took the horses to water, drove the cows from pasture, and cut wood for the winter fire. He laid aside, too, all the dominant dignity and absolute sway with which he lorded it in his little empire, the school, and became wonderfully gentle and ingratiating. He found favor in the eyes of the mothers by petting the children, particularly the youngest; and like the lion bold, which whilom so magnanimously the lamb did hold, he would sit with a child on one knee, and rock a cradle with his foot for whole hours together.

In addition to his other vocations, he was the singing-master of the neighborhood, and picked up many bright shillings by instructing the young folks in psalmody. It was a matter of no little vanity to him on Sundays, to take his station in front of the church gallery, with a band of chosen singers; where, in his own mind, he completely carried away the palm from the parson. Certain it is, his voice resounded far above all the rest of the congregation; and there are peculiar quavers still to be heard in that church, and which may even be heard half a mile off, quite to the opposite side of the millpond, on a still Sunday morning, which are said to be legitimately descended from the nose of Ichabod Crane. Thus, by divers little makeshifts, in that ingenious way which is commonly denominated “by hook and by crook,” the worthy pedagogue got on tolerably enough, and was thought, by all who understood nothing of the labor of headwork, to have a wonderfully easy life of it.

The schoolmaster is generally a man of some importance in the female circle of a rural neighborhood; being considered a kind of idle, gentlemanlike personage, of vastly superior taste and accomplishments to the rough country swains, and, indeed, inferior in learning only to the parson. His appearance, therefore, is apt to occasion some little stir at the tea-table of a farmhouse, and the addition of a supernumerary dish of cakes or sweetmeats, or, peradventure, the parade of a silver teapot. Our man of letters, therefore, was peculiarly happy in the smiles of all the country damsels. How he would figure among them in the churchyard, between services on Sundays; gathering grapes for them from the wild vines that overran the surrounding trees; reciting for their amusement all the epitaphs on the tombstones; or sauntering, with a whole bevy of them, along the banks of the adjacent millpond; while the more bashful country bumpkins hung sheepishly back, envying his superior elegance and address.

From his half-itinerant life, also, he was a kind of travelling gazette, carrying the whole budget of local gossip from house to house, so that his appearance was always greeted with satisfaction. He was, moreover, esteemed by the women as a man of great erudition, for he had read several books quite through, and was a perfect master of Cotton Mather’s “History of New England Witchcraft,” in which, by the way, he most firmly and potently believed.

He was, in fact, an odd mixture of small shrewdness and simple credulity. His appetite for the marvellous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary; and both had been increased by his residence in this spell-bound region. No tale was too gross or monstrous for his capacious swallow. It was often his delight, after his school was dismissed in the afternoon, to stretch himself on the rich bed of clover bordering the little brook that whimpered by his schoolhouse, and there con over old Mather’s direful tales, until the gathering dusk of evening made the printed page a mere mist before his eyes. Then, as he wended his way by swamp and stream and awful woodland, to the farmhouse where he happened to be quartered, every sound of nature, at that witching hour, fluttered his excited imagination,—the moan of the whip-poor-will from the hillside, the boding cry of the tree toad, that harbinger of storm, the dreary hooting of the screech owl, or the sudden rustling in the thicket of birds frightened from their roost. The fireflies, too, which sparkled most vividly in the darkest places, now and then startled him, as one of uncommon brightness would stream across his path; and if, by chance, a huge blockhead of a beetle came winging his blundering flight against him, the poor varlet was ready to give up the ghost, with the idea that he was struck with a witch’s token. His only resource on such occasions, either to drown thought or drive away evil spirits, was to sing psalm tunes and the good people of Sleepy Hollow, as they sat by their doors of an evening, were often filled with awe at hearing his nasal melody, “in linked sweetness long drawn out,” floating from the distant hill, or along the dusky road.

Another of his sources of fearful pleasure was to pass long winter evenings with the old Dutch wives, as they sat spinning by the fire, with a row of apples roasting and spluttering along the hearth, and listen to their marvellous tales of ghosts and goblins, and haunted fields, and haunted brooks, and haunted bridges, and haunted houses, and particularly of the headless horseman, or Galloping Hessian of the Hollow, as they sometimes called him. He would delight them equally by his anecdotes of witchcraft, and of the direful omens and portentous sights and sounds in the air, which prevailed in the earlier times of Connecticut; and would frighten them woefully with speculations upon comets and shooting stars; and with the alarming fact that the world did absolutely turn round, and that they were half the time topsy-turvy!

But if there was a pleasure in all this, while snugly cuddling in the chimney corner of a chamber that was all of a ruddy glow from the crackling wood fire, and where, of course, no spectre dared to show its face, it was dearly purchased by the terrors of his subsequent walk homewards. What fearful shapes and shadows beset his path, amidst the dim and ghastly glare of a snowy night! With what wistful look did he eye every trembling ray of light streaming across the waste fields from some distant window! How often was he appalled by some shrub covered with snow, which, like a sheeted spectre, beset his very path! How often did he shrink with curdling awe at the sound of his own steps on the frosty crust beneath his feet; and dread to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him! And how often was he thrown into complete dismay by some rushing blast, howling among the trees, in the idea that it was the Galloping Hessian on one of his nightly scourings!

All these, however, were mere terrors of the night, phantoms of the mind that walk in darkness; and though he had seen many spectres in his time, and been more than once beset by Satan in divers shapes, in his lonely perambulations, yet daylight put an end to all these evils; and he would have passed a pleasant life of it, in despite of the Devil and all his works, if his path had not been crossed by a being that causes more perplexity to mortal man than ghosts, goblins, and the whole race of witches put together, and that was—a woman.

Among the musical disciples who assembled, one evening in each week, to receive his instructions in psalmody, was Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter and only child of a substantial Dutch farmer. She was a blooming lass of fresh eighteen; plump as a partridge; ripe and melting and rosy-cheeked as one of her father’s peaches, and universally famed, not merely for her beauty, but her vast expectations. She was withal a little of a coquette, as might be perceived even in her dress, which was a mixture of ancient and modern fashions, as most suited to set off her charms. She wore the ornaments of pure yellow gold, which her great-great-grandmother had brought over from Saardam; the tempting stomacher of the olden time, and withal a provokingly short petticoat, to display the prettiest foot and ankle in the country round.

Ichabod Crane had a soft and foolish heart towards the sex; and it is not to be wondered at that so tempting a morsel soon found favor in his eyes, more especially after he had visited her in her paternal mansion. Old Baltus Van Tassel was a perfect picture of a thriving, contented, liberal-hearted farmer. He seldom, it is true, sent either his eyes or his thoughts beyond the boundaries of his own farm; but within those everything was snug, happy and well-conditioned. He was satisfied with his wealth, but not proud of it; and piqued himself upon the hearty abundance, rather than the style in which he lived. His stronghold was situated on the banks of the Hudson, in one of those green, sheltered, fertile nooks in which the Dutch farmers are so fond of nestling. A great elm tree spread its broad branches over it, at the foot of which bubbled up a spring of the softest and sweetest water, in a little well formed of a barrel; and then stole sparkling away through the grass, to a neighboring brook, that babbled along among alders and dwarf willows. Hard by the farmhouse was a vast barn, that might have served for a church; every window and crevice of which seemed bursting forth with the treasures of the farm; the flail was busily resounding within it from morning to night; swallows and martins skimmed twittering about the eaves; and rows of pigeons, some with one eye turned up, as if watching the weather, some with their heads under their wings or buried in their bosoms, and others swelling, and cooing, and bowing about their dames, were enjoying the sunshine on the roof. Sleek unwieldy porkers were grunting in the repose and abundance of their pens, from whence sallied forth, now and then, troops of sucking pigs, as if to snuff the air. A stately squadron of snowy geese were riding in an adjoining pond, convoying whole fleets of ducks; regiments of turkeys were gobbling through the farmyard, and Guinea fowls fretting about it, like ill-tempered housewives, with their peevish, discontented cry. Before the barn door strutted the gallant cock, that pattern of a husband, a warrior and a fine gentleman, clapping his burnished wings and crowing in the pride and gladness of his heart,—sometimes tearing up the earth with his feet, and then generously calling his ever-hungry family of wives and children to enjoy the rich morsel which he had discovered.

The pedagogue’s mouth watered as he looked upon this sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare. In his devouring mind’s eye, he pictured to himself every roasting-pig running about with a pudding in his belly, and an apple in his mouth; the pigeons were snugly put to bed in a comfortable pie, and tucked in with a coverlet of crust; the geese were swimming in their own gravy; and the ducks pairing cosily in dishes, like snug married couples, with a decent competency of onion sauce. In the porkers he saw carved out the future sleek side of bacon, and juicy relishing ham; not a turkey but he beheld daintily trussed up, with its gizzard under its wing, and, peradventure, a necklace of savory sausages; and even bright chanticleer himself lay sprawling on his back, in a side dish, with uplifted claws, as if craving that quarter which his chivalrous spirit disdained to ask while living.

As the enraptured Ichabod fancied all this, and as he rolled his great green eyes over the fat meadow lands, the rich fields of wheat, of rye, of buckwheat, and Indian corn, and the orchards burdened with ruddy fruit, which surrounded the warm tenement of Van Tassel, his heart yearned after the damsel who was to inherit these domains, and his imagination expanded with the idea, how they might be readily turned into cash, and the money invested in immense tracts of wild land, and shingle palaces in the wilderness. Nay, his busy fancy already realized his hopes, and presented to him the blooming Katrina, with a whole family of children, mounted on the top of a wagon loaded with household trumpery, with pots and kettles dangling beneath; and he beheld himself bestriding a pacing mare, with a colt at her heels, setting out for Kentucky, Tennessee,—or the Lord knows where!

When he entered the house, the conquest of his heart was complete. It was one of those spacious farmhouses, with high-ridged but lowly sloping roofs, built in the style handed down from the first Dutch settlers; the low projecting eaves forming a piazza along the front, capable of being closed up in bad weather. Under this were hung flails, harness, various utensils of husbandry, and nets for fishing in the neighboring river. Benches were built along the sides for summer use; and a great spinning-wheel at one end, and a churn at the other, showed the various uses to which this important porch might be devoted. From this piazza the wondering Ichabod entered the hall, which formed the centre of the mansion, and the place of usual residence. Here rows of resplendent pewter, ranged on a long dresser, dazzled his eyes. In one corner stood a huge bag of wool, ready to be spun; in another, a quantity of linsey-woolsey just from the loom; ears of Indian corn, and strings of dried apples and peaches, hung in gay festoons along the walls, mingled with the gaud of red peppers; and a door left ajar gave him a peep into the best parlor, where the claw-footed chairs and dark mahogany tables shone like mirrors; andirons, with their accompanying shovel and tongs, glistened from their covert of asparagus tops; mock-oranges and conch-shells decorated the mantelpiece; strings of various-colored birds eggs were suspended above it; a great ostrich egg was hung from the centre of the room, and a corner cupboard, knowingly left open, displayed immense treasures of old silver and well-mended china.

From the moment Ichabod laid his eyes upon these regions of delight, the peace of his mind was at an end, and his only study was how to gain the affections of the peerless daughter of Van Tassel. In this enterprise, however, he had more real difficulties than generally fell to the lot of a knight-errant of yore, who seldom had anything but giants, enchanters, fiery dragons, and such like easily conquered adversaries, to contend with and had to make his way merely through gates of iron and brass, and walls of adamant to the castle keep, where the lady of his heart was confined; all which he achieved as easily as a man would carve his way to the centre of a Christmas pie; and then the lady gave him her hand as a matter of course. Ichabod, on the contrary, had to win his way to the heart of a country coquette, beset with a labyrinth of whims and caprices, which were forever presenting new difficulties and impediments; and he had to encounter a host of fearful adversaries of real flesh and blood, the numerous rustic admirers, who beset every portal to her heart, keeping a watchful and angry eye upon each other, but ready to fly out in the common cause against any new competitor.

Among these, the most formidable was a burly, roaring, roystering blade, of the name of Abraham, or, according to the Dutch abbreviation, Brom Van Brunt, the hero of the country round, which rang with his feats of strength and hardihood. He was broad-shouldered and double-jointed, with short curly black hair, and a bluff but not unpleasant countenance, having a mingled air of fun and arrogance. From his Herculean frame and great powers of limb he had received the nickname of BROM BONES, by which he was universally known. He was famed for great knowledge and skill in horsemanship, being as dexterous on horseback as a Tartar. He was foremost at all races and cock fights; and, with the ascendancy which bodily strength always acquires in rustic life, was the umpire in all disputes, setting his hat on one side, and giving his decisions with an air and tone that admitted of no gainsay or appeal. He was always ready for either a fight or a frolic; but had more mischief than ill-will in his composition; and with all his overbearing roughness, there was a strong dash of waggish good humor at bottom. He had three or four boon companions, who regarded him as their model, and at the head of whom he scoured the country, attending every scene of feud or merriment for miles round. In cold weather he was distinguished by a fur cap, surmounted with a flaunting fox’s tail; and when the folks at a country gathering descried this well-known crest at a distance, whisking about among a squad of hard riders, they always stood by for a squall. Sometimes his crew would be heard dashing along past the farmhouses at midnight, with whoop and halloo, like a troop of Don Cossacks; and the old dames, startled out of their sleep, would listen for a moment till the hurry-scurry had clattered by, and then exclaim, “Ay, there goes Brom Bones and his gang!” The neighbors looked upon him with a mixture of awe, admiration, and good-will; and, when any madcap prank or rustic brawl occurred in the vicinity, always shook their heads, and warranted Brom Bones was at the bottom of it.

This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and though his amorous toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a bear, yet it was whispered that she did not altogether discourage his hopes. Certain it is, his advances were signals for rival candidates to retire, who felt no inclination to cross a lion in his amours; insomuch, that when his horse was seen tied to Van Tassel’s paling, on a Sunday night, a sure sign that his master was courting, or, as it is termed, “sparking,” within, all other suitors passed by in despair, and carried the war into other quarters.

Such was the formidable rival with whom Ichabod Crane had to contend, and, considering all things, a stouter man than he would have shrunk from the competition, and a wiser man would have despaired. He had, however, a happy mixture of pliability and perseverance in his nature; he was in form and spirit like a supple-jack—yielding, but tough; though he bent, he never broke; and though he bowed beneath the slightest pressure, yet, the moment it was away—jerk!—he was as erect, and carried his head as high as ever.

To have taken the field openly against his rival would have been madness; for he was not a man to be thwarted in his amours, any more than that stormy lover, Achilles. Ichabod, therefore, made his advances in a quiet and gently insinuating manner. Under cover of his character of singing-master, he made frequent visits at the farmhouse; not that he had anything to apprehend from the meddlesome interference of parents, which is so often a stumbling-block in the path of lovers. Balt Van Tassel was an easy indulgent soul; he loved his daughter better even than his pipe, and, like a reasonable man and an excellent father, let her have her way in everything. His notable little wife, too, had enough to do to attend to her housekeeping and manage her poultry; for, as she sagely observed, ducks and geese are foolish things, and must be looked after, but girls can take care of themselves. Thus, while the busy dame bustled about the house, or plied her spinning-wheel at one end of the piazza, honest Balt would sit smoking his evening pipe at the other, watching the achievements of a little wooden warrior, who, armed with a sword in each hand, was most valiantly fighting the wind on the pinnacle of the barn. In the mean time, Ichabod would carry on his suit with the daughter by the side of the spring under the great elm, or sauntering along in the twilight, that hour so favorable to the lover’s eloquence.

I profess not to know how women’s hearts are wooed and won. To me they have always been matters of riddle and admiration. Some seem to have but one vulnerable point, or door of access; while others have a thousand avenues, and may be captured in a thousand different ways. It is a great triumph of skill to gain the former, but a still greater proof of generalship to maintain possession of the latter, for man must battle for his fortress at every door and window. He who wins a thousand common hearts is therefore entitled to some renown; but he who keeps undisputed sway over the heart of a coquette is indeed a hero. Certain it is, this was not the case with the redoubtable Brom Bones; and from the moment Ichabod Crane made his advances, the interests of the former evidently declined: his horse was no longer seen tied to the palings on Sunday nights, and a deadly feud gradually arose between him and the preceptor of Sleepy Hollow.

Brom, who had a degree of rough chivalry in his nature, would fain have carried matters to open warfare and have settled their pretensions to the lady, according to the mode of those most concise and simple reasoners, the knights-errant of yore,—by single combat; but Ichabod was too conscious of the superior might of his adversary to enter the lists against him; he had overheard a boast of Bones, that he would “double the schoolmaster up, and lay him on a shelf of his own schoolhouse;” and he was too wary to give him an opportunity. There was something extremely provoking in this obstinately pacific system; it left Brom no alternative but to draw upon the funds of rustic waggery in his disposition, and to play off boorish practical jokes upon his rival. Ichabod became the object of whimsical persecution to Bones and his gang of rough riders. They harried his hitherto peaceful domains; smoked out his singing school by stopping up the chimney; broke into the schoolhouse at night, in spite of its formidable fastenings of withe and window stakes, and turned everything topsy-turvy, so that the poor schoolmaster began to think all the witches in the country held their meetings there. But what was still more annoying, Brom took all opportunities of turning him into ridicule in presence of his mistress, and had a scoundrel dog whom he taught to whine in the most ludicrous manner, and introduced as a rival of Ichabod’s, to instruct her in psalmody.

In this way matters went on for some time, without producing any material effect on the relative situations of the contending powers. On a fine autumnal afternoon, Ichabod, in pensive mood, sat enthroned on the lofty stool from whence he usually watched all the concerns of his little literary realm. In his hand he swayed a ferule, that sceptre of despotic power; the birch of justice reposed on three nails behind the throne, a constant terror to evil doers, while on the desk before him might be seen sundry contraband articles and prohibited weapons, detected upon the persons of idle urchins, such as half-munched apples, popguns, whirligigs, fly-cages, and whole legions of rampant little paper gamecocks. Apparently there had been some appalling act of justice recently inflicted, for his scholars were all busily intent upon their books, or slyly whispering behind them with one eye kept upon the master; and a kind of buzzing stillness reigned throughout the schoolroom. It was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a negro in tow-cloth jacket and trowsers, a round-crowned fragment of a hat, like the cap of Mercury, and mounted on the back of a ragged, wild, half-broken colt, which he managed with a rope by way of halter. He came clattering up to the school door with an invitation to Ichabod to attend a merry-making or “quilting frolic,” to be held that evening at Mynheer Van Tassel’s; and having delivered his message with that air of importance, and effort at fine language, which a negro is apt to display on petty embassies of the kind, he dashed over the brook, and was seen scampering away up the hollow, full of the importance and hurry of his mission.

All was now bustle and hubbub in the late quiet schoolroom. The scholars were hurried through their lessons without stopping at trifles; those who were nimble skipped over half with impunity, and those who were tardy had a smart application now and then in the rear, to quicken their speed or help them over a tall word. Books were flung aside without being put away on the shelves, inkstands were overturned, benches thrown down, and the whole school was turned loose an hour before the usual time, bursting forth like a legion of young imps, yelping and racketing about the green in joy at their early emancipation.

The gallant Ichabod now spent at least an extra half hour at his toilet, brushing and furbishing up his best, and indeed only suit of rusty black, and arranging his locks by a bit of broken looking-glass that hung up in the schoolhouse. That he might make his appearance before his mistress in the true style of a cavalier, he borrowed a horse from the farmer with whom he was domiciliated, a choleric old Dutchman of the name of Hans Van Ripper, and, thus gallantly mounted, issued forth like a knight-errant in quest of adventures. But it is meet I should, in the true spirit of romantic story, give some account of the looks and equipments of my hero and his steed. The animal he bestrode was a broken-down plow-horse, that had outlived almost everything but its viciousness. He was gaunt and shagged, with a ewe neck, and a head like a hammer; his rusty mane and tail were tangled and knotted with burs; one eye had lost its pupil, and was glaring and spectral, but the other had the gleam of a genuine devil in it. Still he must have had fire and mettle in his day, if we may judge from the name he bore of Gunpowder. He had, in fact, been a favorite steed of his master’s, the choleric Van Ripper, who was a furious rider, and had infused, very probably, some of his own spirit into the animal; for, old and broken-down as he looked, there was more of the lurking devil in him than in any young filly in the country.

Ichabod was a suitable figure for such a steed. He rode with short stirrups, which brought his knees nearly up to the pommel of the saddle; his sharp elbows stuck out like grasshoppers’; he carried his whip perpendicularly in his hand, like a sceptre, and as his horse jogged on, the motion of his arms was not unlike the flapping of a pair of wings. A small wool hat rested on the top of his nose, for so his scanty strip of forehead might be called, and the skirts of his black coat fluttered out almost to the horses tail. Such was the appearance of Ichabod and his steed as they shambled out of the gate of Hans Van Ripper, and it was altogether such an apparition as is seldom to be met with in broad daylight.

It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet. Streaming files of wild ducks began to make their appearance high in the air; the bark of the squirrel might be heard from the groves of beech and hickory-nuts, and the pensive whistle of the quail at intervals from the neighboring stubble field.

The small birds were taking their farewell banquets. In the fullness of their revelry, they fluttered, chirping and frolicking from bush to bush, and tree to tree, capricious from the very profusion and variety around them. There was the honest cock robin, the favorite game of stripling sportsmen, with its loud querulous note; and the twittering blackbirds flying in sable clouds; and the golden-winged woodpecker with his crimson crest, his broad black gorget, and splendid plumage; and the cedar bird, with its red-tipt wings and yellow-tipt tail and its little monteiro cap of feathers; and the blue jay, that noisy coxcomb, in his gay light blue coat and white underclothes, screaming and chattering, nodding and bobbing and bowing, and pretending to be on good terms with every songster of the grove.

As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty-pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.

Thus feeding his mind with many sweet thoughts and “sugared suppositions,” he journeyed along the sides of a range of hills which look out upon some of the goodliest scenes of the mighty Hudson. The sun gradually wheeled his broad disk down in the west. The wide bosom of the Tappan Zee lay motionless and glassy, excepting that here and there a gentle undulation waved and prolonged the blue shadow of the distant mountain. A few amber clouds floated in the sky, without a breath of air to move them. The horizon was of a fine golden tint, changing gradually into a pure apple green, and from that into the deep blue of the mid-heaven. A slanting ray lingered on the woody crests of the precipices that overhung some parts of the river, giving greater depth to the dark gray and purple of their rocky sides. A sloop was loitering in the distance, dropping slowly down with the tide, her sail hanging uselessly against the mast; and as the reflection of the sky gleamed along the still water, it seemed as if the vessel was suspended in the air.

It was toward evening that Ichabod arrived at the castle of the Heer Van Tassel, which he found thronged with the pride and flower of the adjacent country. Old farmers, a spare leathern-faced race, in homespun coats and breeches, blue stockings, huge shoes, and magnificent pewter buckles. Their brisk, withered little dames, in close-crimped caps, long-waisted short gowns, homespun petticoats, with scissors and pincushions, and gay calico pockets hanging on the outside. Buxom lasses, almost as antiquated as their mothers, excepting where a straw hat, a fine ribbon, or perhaps a white frock, gave symptoms of city innovation. The sons, in short square-skirted coats, with rows of stupendous brass buttons, and their hair generally queued in the fashion of the times, especially if they could procure an eel-skin for the purpose, it being esteemed throughout the country as a potent nourisher and strengthener of the hair.

Brom Bones, however, was the hero of the scene, having come to the gathering on his favorite steed Daredevil, a creature, like himself, full of mettle and mischief, and which no one but himself could manage. He was, in fact, noted for preferring vicious animals, given to all kinds of tricks which kept the rider in constant risk of his neck, for he held a tractable, well-broken horse as unworthy of a lad of spirit.

Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies, and peach pies, and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst—Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.

He was a kind and thankful creature, whose heart dilated in proportion as his skin was filled with good cheer, and whose spirits rose with eating, as some men’s do with drink. He could not help, too, rolling his large eyes round him as he ate, and chuckling with the possibility that he might one day be lord of all this scene of almost unimaginable luxury and splendor. Then, he thought, how soon he’d turn his back upon the old schoolhouse; snap his fingers in the face of Hans Van Ripper, and every other niggardly patron, and kick any itinerant pedagogue out of doors that should dare to call him comrade!

Old Baltus Van Tassel moved about among his guests with a face dilated with content and good humor, round and jolly as the harvest moon. His hospitable attentions were brief, but expressive, being confined to a shake of the hand, a slap on the shoulder, a loud laugh, and a pressing invitation to “fall to, and help themselves.”

And now the sound of the music from the common room, or hall, summoned to the dance. The musician was an old gray-headed negro, who had been the itinerant orchestra of the neighborhood for more than half a century. His instrument was as old and battered as himself. The greater part of the time he scraped on two or three strings, accompanying every movement of the bow with a motion of the head; bowing almost to the ground, and stamping with his foot whenever a fresh couple were to start.

Ichabod prided himself upon his dancing as much as upon his vocal powers. Not a limb, not a fibre about him was idle; and to have seen his loosely hung frame in full motion, and clattering about the room, you would have thought St. Vitus himself, that blessed patron of the dance, was figuring before you in person. He was the admiration of all the negroes; who, having gathered, of all ages and sizes, from the farm and the neighborhood, stood forming a pyramid of shining black faces at every door and window, gazing with delight at the scene, rolling their white eyeballs, and showing grinning rows of ivory from ear to ear. How could the flogger of urchins be otherwise than animated and joyous? The lady of his heart was his partner in the dance, and smiling graciously in reply to all his amorous oglings; while Brom Bones, sorely smitten with love and jealousy, sat brooding by himself in one corner.

When the dance was at an end, Ichabod was attracted to a knot of the sager folks, who, with Old Van Tassel, sat smoking at one end of the piazza, gossiping over former times, and drawing out long stories about the war.

This neighborhood, at the time of which I am speaking, was one of those highly favored places which abound with chronicle and great men. The British and American line had run near it during the war; it had, therefore, been the scene of marauding and infested with refugees, cowboys, and all kinds of border chivalry. Just sufficient time had elapsed to enable each storyteller to dress up his tale with a little becoming fiction, and, in the indistinctness of his recollection, to make himself the hero of every exploit.

There was the story of Doffue Martling, a large blue-bearded Dutchman, who had nearly taken a British frigate with an old iron nine-pounder from a mud breastwork, only that his gun burst at the sixth discharge. And there was an old gentleman who shall be nameless, being too rich a mynheer to be lightly mentioned, who, in the battle of White Plains, being an excellent master of defence, parried a musket-ball with a small sword, insomuch that he absolutely felt it whiz round the blade, and glance off at the hilt; in proof of which he was ready at any time to show the sword, with the hilt a little bent. There were several more that had been equally great in the field, not one of whom but was persuaded that he had a considerable hand in bringing the war to a happy termination.

But all these were nothing to the tales of ghosts and apparitions that succeeded. The neighborhood is rich in legendary treasures of the kind. Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long-settled retreats; but are trampled under foot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country places. Besides, there is no encouragement for ghosts in most of our villages, for they have scarcely had time to finish their first nap and turn themselves in their graves, before their surviving friends have travelled away from the neighborhood; so that when they turn out at night to walk their rounds, they have no acquaintance left to call upon. This is perhaps the reason why we so seldom hear of ghosts except in our long-established Dutch communities.

The immediate cause, however, of the prevalence of supernatural stories in these parts, was doubtless owing to the vicinity of Sleepy Hollow. There was a contagion in the very air that blew from that haunted region; it breathed forth an atmosphere of dreams and fancies infecting all the land. Several of the Sleepy Hollow people were present at Van Tassel’s, and, as usual, were doling out their wild and wonderful legends. Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate Major André was taken, and which stood in the neighborhood. Some mention was made also of the woman in white, that haunted the dark glen at Raven Rock, and was often heard to shriek on winter nights before a storm, having perished there in the snow. The chief part of the stories, however, turned upon the favorite spectre of Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman, who had been heard several times of late, patrolling the country; and, it was said, tethered his horse nightly among the graves in the churchyard.

The sequestered situation of this church seems always to have made it a favorite haunt of troubled spirits. It stands on a knoll, surrounded by locust-trees and lofty elms, from among which its decent, whitewashed walls shine modestly forth, like Christian purity beaming through the shades of retirement. A gentle slope descends from it to a silver sheet of water, bordered by high trees, between which, peeps may be caught at the blue hills of the Hudson. To look upon its grass-grown yard, where the sunbeams seem to sleep so quietly, one would think that there at least the dead might rest in peace. On one side of the church extends a wide woody dell, along which raves a large brook among broken rocks and trunks of fallen trees. Over a deep black part of the stream, not far from the church, was formerly thrown a wooden bridge; the road that led to it, and the bridge itself, were thickly shaded by overhanging trees, which cast a gloom about it, even in the daytime; but occasioned a fearful darkness at night. Such was one of the favorite haunts of the Headless Horseman, and the place where he was most frequently encountered. The tale was told of old Brouwer, a most heretical disbeliever in ghosts, how he met the Horseman returning from his foray into Sleepy Hollow, and was obliged to get up behind him; how they galloped over bush and brake, over hill and swamp, until they reached the bridge; when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder.

This story was immediately matched by a thrice marvellous adventure of Brom Bones, who made light of the Galloping Hessian as an arrant jockey. He affirmed that on returning one night from the neighboring village of Sing Sing, he had been overtaken by this midnight trooper; that he had offered to race with him for a bowl of punch, and should have won it too, for Daredevil beat the goblin horse all hollow, but just as they came to the church bridge, the Hessian bolted, and vanished in a flash of fire.

All these tales, told in that drowsy undertone with which men talk in the dark, the countenances of the listeners only now and then receiving a casual gleam from the glare of a pipe, sank deep in the mind of Ichabod. He repaid them in kind with large extracts from his invaluable author, Cotton Mather, and added many marvellous events that had taken place in his native State of Connecticut, and fearful sights which he had seen in his nightly walks about Sleepy Hollow.

The revel now gradually broke up. The old farmers gathered together their families in their wagons, and were heard for some time rattling along the hollow roads, and over the distant hills. Some of the damsels mounted on pillions behind their favorite swains, and their light-hearted laughter, mingling with the clatter of hoofs, echoed along the silent woodlands, sounding fainter and fainter, until they gradually died away,—and the late scene of noise and frolic was all silent and deserted. Ichabod only lingered behind, according to the custom of country lovers, to have a tête-à -tête with the heiress; fully convinced that he was now on the high road to success. What passed at this interview I will not pretend to say, for in fact I do not know. Something, however, I fear me, must have gone wrong, for he certainly sallied forth, after no very great interval, with an air quite desolate and chapfallen. Oh, these women! these women! Could that girl have been playing off any of her coquettish tricks? Was her encouragement of the poor pedagogue all a mere sham to secure her conquest of his rival? Heaven only knows, not I! Let it suffice to say, Ichabod stole forth with the air of one who had been sacking a henroost, rather than a fair lady’s heart. Without looking to the right or left to notice the scene of rural wealth, on which he had so often gloated, he went straight to the stable, and with several hearty cuffs and kicks roused his steed most uncourteously from the comfortable quarters in which he was soundly sleeping, dreaming of mountains of corn and oats, and whole valleys of timothy and clover.

It was the very witching time of night that Ichabod, heavy-hearted and crestfallen, pursued his travels homewards, along the sides of the lofty hills which rise above Tarry Town, and which he had traversed so cheerily in the afternoon. The hour was as dismal as himself. Far below him the Tappan Zee spread its dusky and indistinct waste of waters, with here and there the tall mast of a sloop, riding quietly at anchor under the land. In the dead hush of midnight, he could even hear the barking of the watchdog from the opposite shore of the Hudson; but it was so vague and faint as only to give an idea of his distance from this faithful companion of man. Now and then, too, the long-drawn crowing of a cock, accidentally awakened, would sound far, far off, from some farmhouse away among the hills—but it was like a dreaming sound in his ear. No signs of life occurred near him, but occasionally the melancholy chirp of a cricket, or perhaps the guttural twang of a bullfrog from a neighboring marsh, as if sleeping uncomfortably and turning suddenly in his bed.

All the stories of ghosts and goblins that he had heard in the afternoon now came crowding upon his recollection. The night grew darker and darker; the stars seemed to sink deeper in the sky, and driving clouds occasionally hid them from his sight. He had never felt so lonely and dismal. He was, moreover, approaching the very place where many of the scenes of the ghost stories had been laid. In the centre of the road stood an enormous tulip-tree, which towered like a giant above all the other trees of the neighborhood, and formed a kind of landmark. Its limbs were gnarled and fantastic, large enough to form trunks for ordinary trees, twisting down almost to the earth, and rising again into the air. It was connected with the tragical story of the unfortunate André, who had been taken prisoner hard by; and was universally known by the name of Major André’s tree. The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights, and doleful lamentations, told concerning it.

As Ichabod approached this fearful tree, he began to whistle; he thought his whistle was answered; it was but a blast sweeping sharply through the dry branches. As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree: he paused and ceased whistling but, on looking more narrowly, perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare. Suddenly he heard a groan—his teeth chattered, and his knees smote against the saddle: it was but the rubbing of one huge bough upon another, as they were swayed about by the breeze. He passed the tree in safety, but new perils lay before him.

About two hundred yards from the tree, a small brook crossed the road, and ran into a marshy and thickly-wooded glen, known by the name of Wiley’s Swamp. A few rough logs, laid side by side, served for a bridge over this stream. On that side of the road where the brook entered the wood, a group of oaks and chestnuts, matted thick with wild grape-vines, threw a cavernous gloom over it. To pass this bridge was the severest trial. It was at this identical spot that the unfortunate André was captured, and under the covert of those chestnuts and vines were the sturdy yeomen concealed who surprised him. This has ever since been considered a haunted stream, and fearful are the feelings of the schoolboy who has to pass it alone after dark.

As he approached the stream, his heart began to thump; he summoned up, however, all his resolution, gave his horse half a score of kicks in the ribs, and attempted to dash briskly across the bridge; but instead of starting forward, the perverse old animal made a lateral movement, and ran broadside against the fence. Ichabod, whose fears increased with the delay, jerked the reins on the other side, and kicked lustily with the contrary foot: it was all in vain; his steed started, it is true, but it was only to plunge to the opposite side of the road into a thicket of brambles and alder bushes. The schoolmaster now bestowed both whip and heel upon the starveling ribs of old Gunpowder, who dashed forward, snuffling and snorting, but came to a stand just by the bridge, with a suddenness that had nearly sent his rider sprawling over his head. Just at this moment a plashy tramp by the side of the bridge caught the sensitive ear of Ichabod. In the dark shadow of the grove, on the margin of the brook, he beheld something huge, misshapen and towering. It stirred not, but seemed gathered up in the gloom, like some gigantic monster ready to spring upon the traveller.

The hair of the affrighted pedagogue rose upon his head with terror. What was to be done? To turn and fly was now too late; and besides, what chance was there of escaping ghost or goblin, if such it was, which could ride upon the wings of the wind? Summoning up, therefore, a show of courage, he demanded in stammering accents, “Who are you?” He received no reply. He repeated his demand in a still more agitated voice. Still there was no answer. Once more he cudgelled the sides of the inflexible Gunpowder, and, shutting his eyes, broke forth with involuntary fervor into a psalm tune. Just then the shadowy object of alarm put itself in motion, and with a scramble and a bound stood at once in the middle of the road. Though the night was dark and dismal, yet the form of the unknown might now in some degree be ascertained. He appeared to be a horseman of large dimensions, and mounted on a black horse of powerful frame. He made no offer of molestation or sociability, but kept aloof on one side of the road, jogging along on the blind side of old Gunpowder, who had now got over his fright and waywardness.

Ichabod, who had no relish for this strange midnight companion, and bethought himself of the adventure of Brom Bones with the Galloping Hessian, now quickened his steed in hopes of leaving him behind. The stranger, however, quickened his horse to an equal pace. Ichabod pulled up, and fell into a walk, thinking to lag behind,—the other did the same. His heart began to sink within him; he endeavored to resume his psalm tune, but his parched tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and he could not utter a stave. There was something in the moody and dogged silence of this pertinacious companion that was mysterious and appalling. It was soon fearfully accounted for. On mounting a rising ground, which brought the figure of his fellow-traveller in relief against the sky, gigantic in height, and muffled in a cloak, Ichabod was horror-struck on perceiving that he was headless!—but his horror was still more increased on observing that the head, which should have rested on his shoulders, was carried before him on the pommel of his saddle! His terror rose to desperation; he rained a shower of kicks and blows upon Gunpowder, hoping by a sudden movement to give his companion the slip; but the spectre started full jump with him. Away, then, they dashed through thick and thin; stones flying and sparks flashing at every bound. Ichabod’s flimsy garments fluttered in the air, as he stretched his long lank body away over his horse’s head, in the eagerness of his flight.

They had now reached the road which turns off to Sleepy Hollow; but Gunpowder, who seemed possessed with a demon, instead of keeping up it, made an opposite turn, and plunged headlong downhill to the left. This road leads through a sandy hollow shaded by trees for about a quarter of a mile, where it crosses the bridge famous in goblin story; and just beyond swells the green knoll on which stands the whitewashed church.

As yet the panic of the steed had given his unskilful rider an apparent advantage in the chase, but just as he had got half way through the hollow, the girths of the saddle gave way, and he felt it slipping from under him. He seized it by the pommel, and endeavored to hold it firm, but in vain; and had just time to save himself by clasping old Gunpowder round the neck, when the saddle fell to the earth, and he heard it trampled under foot by his pursuer. For a moment the terror of Hans Van Ripper’s wrath passed across his mind,—for it was his Sunday saddle; but this was no time for petty fears; the goblin was hard on his haunches; and (unskilful rider that he was!) he had much ado to maintain his seat; sometimes slipping on one side, sometimes on another, and sometimes jolted on the high ridge of his horse’s backbone, with a violence that he verily feared would cleave him asunder.

An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken. He saw the walls of the church dimly glaring under the trees beyond. He recollected the place where Brom Bones’s ghostly competitor had disappeared. “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.” Just then he heard the black steed panting and blowing close behind him; he even fancied that he felt his hot breath. Another convulsive kick in the ribs, and old Gunpowder sprang upon the bridge; he thundered over the resounding planks; he gained the opposite side; and now Ichabod cast a look behind to see if his pursuer should vanish, according to rule, in a flash of fire and brimstone. Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late. It encountered his cranium with a tremendous crash,—he was tumbled headlong into the dust, and Gunpowder, the black steed, and the goblin rider, passed by like a whirlwind.

The next morning the old horse was found without his saddle, and with the bridle under his feet, soberly cropping the grass at his master’s gate. Ichabod did not make his appearance at breakfast; dinner-hour came, but no Ichabod. The boys assembled at the schoolhouse, and strolled idly about the banks of the brook; but no schoolmaster. Hans Van Ripper now began to feel some uneasiness about the fate of poor Ichabod, and his saddle. An inquiry was set on foot, and after diligent investigation they came upon his traces. In one part of the road leading to the church was found the saddle trampled in the dirt; the tracks of horses’ hoofs deeply dented in the road, and evidently at furious speed, were traced to the bridge, beyond which, on the bank of a broad part of the brook, where the water ran deep and black, was found the hat of the unfortunate Ichabod, and close beside it a shattered pumpkin.

The brook was searched, but the body of the schoolmaster was not to be discovered. Hans Van Ripper as executor of his estate, examined the bundle which contained all his worldly effects. They consisted of two shirts and a half; two stocks for the neck; a pair or two of worsted stockings; an old pair of corduroy small-clothes; a rusty razor; a book of psalm tunes full of dog’s-ears; and a broken pitch-pipe. As to the books and furniture of the schoolhouse, they belonged to the community, excepting Cotton Mather’s “History of Witchcraft,” a “New England Almanac,” and a book of dreams and fortune-telling; in which last was a sheet of foolscap much scribbled and blotted in several fruitless attempts to make a copy of verses in honor of the heiress of Van Tassel. These magic books and the poetic scrawl were forthwith consigned to the flames by Hans Van Ripper; who, from that time forward, determined to send his children no more to school, observing that he never knew any good come of this same reading and writing. Whatever money the schoolmaster possessed, and he had received his quarter’s pay but a day or two before, he must have had about his person at the time of his disappearance.

The mysterious event caused much speculation at the church on the following Sunday. Knots of gazers and gossips were collected in the churchyard, at the bridge, and at the spot where the hat and pumpkin had been found. The stories of Brouwer, of Bones, and a whole budget of others were called to mind; and when they had diligently considered them all, and compared them with the symptoms of the present case, they shook their heads, and came to the conclusion that Ichabod had been carried off by the Galloping Hessian. As he was a bachelor, and in nobody’s debt, nobody troubled his head any more about him; the school was removed to a different quarter of the hollow, and another pedagogue reigned in his stead.

It is true, an old farmer, who had been down to New York on a visit several years after, and from whom this account of the ghostly adventure was received, brought home the intelligence that Ichabod Crane was still alive; that he had left the neighborhood partly through fear of the goblin and Hans Van Ripper, and partly in mortification at having been suddenly dismissed by the heiress; that he had changed his quarters to a distant part of the country; had kept school and studied law at the same time; had been admitted to the bar; turned politician; electioneered; written for the newspapers; and finally had been made a justice of the Ten Pound Court. Brom Bones, too, who, shortly after his rival’s disappearance conducted the blooming Katrina in triumph to the altar, was observed to look exceedingly knowing whenever the story of Ichabod was related, and always burst into a hearty laugh at the mention of the pumpkin; which led some to suspect that he knew more about the matter than he chose to tell.

The old country wives, however, who are the best judges of these matters, maintain to this day that Ichabod was spirited away by supernatural means; and it is a favorite story often told about the neighborhood round the winter evening fire. The bridge became more than ever an object of superstitious awe; and that may be the reason why the road has been altered of late years, so as to approach the church by the border of the millpond. The schoolhouse being deserted soon fell to decay, and was reported to be haunted by the ghost of the unfortunate pedagogue and the plowboy, loitering homeward of a still summer evening, has often fancied his voice at a distance, chanting a melancholy psalm tune among the tranquil solitudes of Sleepy Hollow.



The preceding tale is given almost in the precise words in which I heard it related at a Corporation meeting at the ancient city of Manhattoes, at which were present many of its sagest and most illustrious burghers. The narrator was a pleasant, shabby, gentlemanly old fellow, in pepper-and-salt clothes, with a sadly humourous face, and one whom I strongly suspected of being poor--he made such efforts to be entertaining. When his story was concluded, there was much laughter and approbation, particularly from two or three deputy aldermen, who had been asleep the greater part of the time. There was, however, one tall, dry-looking old gentleman, with beetling eyebrows, who maintained a grave and rather severe face throughout, now and then folding his arms, inclining his head, and looking down upon the floor, as if turning a doubt over in his mind. He was one of your wary men, who never laugh but upon good grounds--when they have reason and law on their side. When the mirth of the rest of the company had subsided, and silence was restored, he leaned one arm on the elbow of his chair, and sticking the other akimbo, demanded, with a slight, but exceedingly sage motion of the head, and contraction of the brow, what was the moral of the story, and what it went to prove?

The story-teller, who was just putting a glass of wine to his lips, as a refreshment after his toils, paused for a moment, looked at his inquirer with an air of infinite deference, and, lowering the glass slowly to the table, observed that the story was intended most logically to prove--

“That there is no situation in life but has its advantages and pleasures--provided we will but take a joke as we find it:

“That, therefore, he that runs races with goblin troopers is likely to have rough riding of it.

“Ergo, for a country schoolmaster to be refused the hand of a Dutch heiress is a certain step to high preferment in the state.”

The cautious old gentleman knit his brows tenfold closer after this explanation, being sorely puzzled by the ratiocination of the syllogism, while, methought, the one in pepper-and-salt eyed him with something of a triumphant leer. At length he observed that all this was very well, but still he thought the story a little on the extravagant--there were one or two points on which he had his doubts.

“Faith, sir,” replied the story-teller, “as to that matter, I don’t believe one-half of it myself.” D. K.


Assorted Classics / The Ghost Club by J.K. Bangs
« on: 03/07/19, 11:24 PM »
Number 5010 was at the time when I received the details of this story from
his lips a stalwart man of thirty-eight, swart of hue, of pleasing
address, and altogether the last person one would take for a convict
serving a term for sneak-thieving. The only outer symptoms of his actual
condition were the striped suit he wore, the style and cut of which are
still in vogue at Sing Sing prison, and the closely cropped hair, which
showed off the distinctly intellectual lines of his head to great
advantage. He was engaged in making shoes when I first saw him, and so
impressed was I with the contrast between his really refined features and
grace of manner and those of his brutish-looking companions, that I asked
my guide who he was, and what were the circumstances which had brought him
to Sing Sing.

"He pegs shoes like a gentleman," I said.

"Yes," returned the keeper. "He's werry troublesome that way. He thinks
he's too good for his position. We can't never do nothing with the boots
he makes."

"Why do you keep him at work in the shoe department?" I queried.

"We haven't got no work to be done in his special line, so we have to put
him at whatever we can. He pegs shoes less badly than he does anything

"What was his special line?"

"He was a gentleman of leisure travellin' for his health afore he got into
the toils o' the law. His real name is Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe,
of Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire. He landed in this country of a
Tuesday, took to collectin' souvenir spoons of a Friday, was jugged the
same day, tried, convicted, and there he sets. In for two years more."

"How interesting!" I said. "Was the evidence against him conclusive?"

"Extremely. A half-dozen spoons was found on his person."

"He pleaded guilty, I suppose?"

"Not him. He claimed to be as innocent as a new-born babe. Told a
cock-and-bull story about havin' been deluded by spirits, but the judge
and jury wasn't to be fooled. They gave him every chance, too. He even
cabled himself, the judge did, to Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea, Warwickshire, at
his own expense, to see if the man was an impostor, but he never got no
reply. There was them as said there wasn't no such place as
Pelhamhurst-by-the-Sea in Warwickshire, but they never proved it."

"I should like very much to interview him," said I.

"It can't be done, sir," said my guide. "The rules is very strict."

"You couldn't--er--arrange an interview for me," I asked, jingling a bunch
of keys in my pocket.

He must have recognized the sound, for he colored and gruffly replied, "I
has me orders, and I obeys 'em."

"Just--er--add this to the pension fund," I put in, handing him a
five-dollar bill. "An interview is impossible, eh?"

"I didn't say impossible," he answered, with a grateful smile. "I said
against the rules, but we has been known to make exceptions. I think I can
fix you up."

Suffice it to say that he did "fix me up," and that two hours later 5010
and I sat down together in the cell of the former, a not too commodious
stall, and had a pleasant chat, in the course of which he told me the
story of his life, which, as I had surmised, was to me, at least,
exceedingly interesting, and easily worth twice the amount of my
contribution to the pension fund under the management of my guide of the

"My real name," said the unfortunate convict, "as you may already have
guessed, is not 5010. That is an alias forced upon me by the State
authorities. My name is really Austin Merton Surrennes."

"Ahem!" I said. "Then my guide erred this morning when he told me that in
reality you were Marmaduke Fitztappington De Wolfe, of Pelhamhurst-by-the-
Sea, Warwickshire?"

Number 5010 laughed long and loud. "Of course he erred. You don't suppose
that I would give the authorities my real name, do you? Why, man, I am a
nephew! I have an aged uncle--a rich millionaire uncle--whose heart and
will it would break were he to hear of my present plight. Both the heart
and will are in my favor, hence my tender solicitude for him. I am
innocent, of course--convicts always are, you know--but that wouldn't make
any difference. He'd die of mortification just the same. It's one of our
family traits, that. So I gave a false name to the authorities, and
secretly informed my uncle that I was about to set out for a walking trip
across the great American desert, requesting him not to worry if he did
not hear from me for a number of years, America being in a state of
semi-civilization, to which mails outside of certain districts are
entirely unknown. My uncle being an Englishman and a conservative
gentleman, addicted more to reading than to travel, accepts the
information as veracious and suspects nothing, and when I am liberated I
shall return to him, and at his death shall become a conservative man of
wealth myself. See?"

"But if you are innocent and he rich and influential, why did you not
appeal to him to save you?" I asked.

"Because I was afraid that he, like the rest of the world, would decline
to believe my defence," sighed 5010. "It was a good defence, if the judge
had only known it, and I'm proud of it."

"But ineffectual," I put in. "And so, not good."

"Alas, yes! This is an incredulous age. People, particularly judges, are
hard-headed practical men of affairs. My defence was suited more for an
age of mystical tendencies. Why, will you believe it, sir, my own lawyer,
the man to whom I paid eighteen dollars and seventy-five cents for
championing my cause, told me the defence was rubbish, devoid even of
literary merit. What chance could a man have if his lawyer even didn't
believe in him?"

"None," I answered, sadly. "And you had no chance at all, though

"Yes, I had one, and I chose not to take it. I might have proved myself
non compos mentis; but that involved my making a fool of myself in
public before a jury, and I have too much dignity for that, I can tell
you. I told my lawyer that I should prefer a felon's cell to the richly
furnished flat of a wealthy lunatic, to which he replied, 'Then all is
lost!' And so it was. I read my defence in court. The judge laughed, the
jury whispered, and I was convicted instanter of stealing spoons, when
murder itself was no further from my thoughts than theft."

"But they tell me you were caught red-handed," said I. "Were not a
half-dozen spoons found upon your person?"

"In my hand," returned the prisoner. "The spoons were in my hand when I
was arrested, and they were seen there by the owner, by the police, and by
the usual crowd of small boys that congregate at such embarrassing
moments, springing up out of sidewalks, dropping down from the heavens,
swarming in from everywhere. I had no idea there were so many small boys
in the world until I was arrested, and found myself the cynosure of a
million or more innocent blue eyes."

"Were they all blue-eyed?" I queried, thinking the point interesting from
a scientific point of view, hoping to discover that curiosity of a morbid
character was always found in connection with eyes of a specified hue.

"Oh no; I fancy not," returned my host. "But to a man with a load of
another fellow's spoons in his possession, and a pair of handcuffs on his
wrists, everything looks blue."

"I don't doubt it," I replied. "But--er--just how, now, could you defend
yourself when every bit of evidence, and--you will excuse me for saying
so--conclusive evidence at that, pointed to your guilt?"

"The spoons were a gift," he answered.

"But the owner denied that."

"I know it; that's where the beastly part of it all came in. They were not
given to me by the owner, but by a lot of mean, low-down,
practical-joke-loving ghosts."

Number 5010's anger as he spoke these words was terrible to witness, and
as he strode up and down the floor of his cell and dashed his arms right
and left, I wished for a moment that I was elsewhere. I should not have
flown, however, even had the cell door been open and my way clear, for his
suggestion of a supernatural agency in connection with his crime whetted
my curiosity until it was more keen than ever, and I made up my mind to
hear the story to the end, if I had to commit a crime and get myself
sentenced to confinement in that prison for life to do so.

Fortunately, extreme measures of this nature were unnecessary, for after a
few moments Surrennes calmed down, and seating himself beside me on the
cot, drained his water-pitcher to the dregs, and began.

"Excuse me for not offering you a drink," he said, "but the wine they
serve here while moist is hardly what a connoisseur would choose except
for bathing purposes, and I compliment you by assuming that you do not
wish to taste it."

"Thank you," I said. "I do not like to take water straight, exactly. I
always dilute it, in fact, with a little of this."

Here I extracted a small flask from my pocket and handed it to him.

"Ah!" he said, smacking his lips as he took a long pull at its contents,
"that puts spirit into a man."

"Yes, it does," I replied, ruefully, as I noted that he had left me very
little but the flask; "but I don't think it was necessary for you to
deprive me of all mine."

"No; that is, you can't appreciate the necessity unless you--er--you have
suffered in your life as I am suffering. You were never sent up yourself?"

I gave him a glance which was all indignation. "I guess not," I said. "I
have led a life that is above reproach."

"Good!" he replied. "And what a satisfaction that is, eh? I don't believe
I'd be able to stand this jail life if it wasn't for my conscience, which
is as clear and clean as it would be if I'd never used it."

"Would you mind telling me what your defence was?" I asked.

"Certainly not," said he, cheerfully. "I'd be very glad to give it to you.
But you must remember one thing--it is copyrighted."

"Fire ahead!" I said, with a smile. "I'll respect your copyright. I'll
give you a royalty on what I get for the story."

"Very good," he answered. "It was like this. To begin, I must tell you
that when I was a boy preparing for college I had for a chum a brilliant
fun-loving fellow named Hawley Hicks, concerning whose future various
prophecies had been made. His mother often asserted that he would be a
great poet; his father thought he was born to be a great general; our
head-master at the Scarberry Institute for Young Gentlemen prophesied the
gallows. They were all wrong; though, for myself, I think that if he had
lived long enough almost any one of the prophecies might have come true.
The trouble was that Hawley died at the age of twenty-three. Fifteen years
elapsed. I was graduated with high honors at Brazenose, lived a life of
elegant leisure, and at the age of thirty-seven broke down in health. That
was about a year ago. My uncle, whose heir and constant companion I was,
gave me a liberal allowance, and sent me off to travel. I came to America,
landed in New York early in September, and set about winning back the
color which had departed from my cheeks by an assiduous devotion to such
pleasures as New York affords. Two days after my arrival, I set out for an
airing at Coney Island, leaving my hotel at four in the afternoon. On my
way down Broadway I was suddenly startled at hearing my name spoken from
behind me, and appalled, on turning, to see standing with outstretched
hands no less a person than my defunct chum, Hawley Hicks."

"Impossible," said I.

"Exactly my remark," returned Number 5010. "To which I added, 'Hawley
Hicks, it can't be you!'

"'But it is me,' he replied.

"And then I was convinced, for Hawley never was good on his grammar. I
looked at him a minute, and then I said, 'But, Hawley, I thought you were

"'I am,' he answered. 'But why should a little thing like that stand
between friends?'

"'It shouldn't, Hawley,' I answered, meekly; 'but it's condemnedly
unusual, you know, for a man to associate even with his best friends
fifteen years after they've died and been buried.'

"'Do you mean to say, Austin, that just because I was weak enough once to
succumb to a bad cold, you, the dearest friend of my youth, the closest
companion of my school-days, the partner of my childish joys, intend to go
back on me here in a strange city?'

"'Hawley,' I answered, huskily, 'not a bit of it. My letter of credit, my
room at the hotel, my dress suit, even my ticket to Coney Island, are at
your disposal; but I think the partner of your childish joys ought first
to be let in on the ground-floor of this enterprise, and informed how the
deuce you manage to turn up in New York fifteen years subsequent to your
obsequies. Is New York the hereafter for boys of your kind, or is this
some freak of my imagination?'"

"That was an eminently proper question," I put in, just to show that while
the story I was hearing terrified me, I was not altogether speechless.

"It was, indeed," said 5010; "and Hawley recognized it as such, for he
replied at once.

"'Neither,' said he. 'Your imagination is all right, and New York is
neither heaven nor the other place. The fact is, I'm spooking, and I can
tell you, Austin, it's just about the finest kind of work there is. If you
could manage to shuffle off your mortal coil and get in with a lot of
ghosts, the way I have, you'd be playing in great luck.'

"'Thanks for the hint, Hawley,' I said, with a grateful smile; 'but, to
tell you the truth, I do not find that life is entirely bad. I get my
three meals a day, keep my pocket full of coin, and sleep eight hours
every night on a couch that couldn't be more desirable if it were studded
with jewels and had mineral springs.'

"'That's your mortal ignorance, Austin,' he retorted. 'I lived long enough
to appreciate the necessity of being ignorant, but your style of existence
is really not to be mentioned in the same cycle with mine. You talk about
three meals a day, as if that were an ideal; you forget that with the
eating your labor is just begun; those meals have to be digested, every
one of 'em, and if you could only understand it, it would appall you to
see what a fearful wear and tear that act of digestion is. In my life you
are feasting all the time, but with no need for digestion. You speak of
money in your pockets; well, I have none, yet am I the richer of the two.
I don't need money. The world is mine. If I chose to I could pour the
contents of that jeweller's window into your lap in five seconds, but cui

bono? The gems delight my eye quite as well where they are; and as for
travel, Austin, of which you have always been fond, the spectral method
beats all. Just watch me!'

"I watched him as well as I could for a minute," said 5010; "and then he
disappeared. In another minute he was before me again.

"'Well,' I said, 'I suppose you've been around the block in that time,

"He roared with laughter. 'Around the block?' he ejaculated. 'I have done
the Continent of Europe, taken a run through China, haunted the Emperor of
Japan, and sailed around the Horn since I left you a minute ago.'

"He was a truthful boy in spite of his peculiarities, Hawley was," said
Surrennes, quietly, "so I had to believe what he said. He abhorred lies."

"That was pretty fast travelling, though," said I. "He'd make a fine

"That's so. I wish I'd suggested it to him," smiled my host. "But I can
tell you, sir, I was astonished. 'Hawley,' I said, 'you always were a fast
youth, but I never thought you would develop into this. I wonder you're
not out of breath after such a journey.'

"'Another point, my dear Austin, in favor of my mode of existence. We
spooks have no breath to begin with. Consequently, to get out of it is no
deprivation. But, I say,' he added, 'whither are you bound?'

"'To Coney Island to see the sights,' I replied. 'Won't you join me?'

"'Not I,' he replied. 'Coney Island is tame. When I first joined the
spectre band, it seemed to me that nothing could delight me more than an
eternal round of gayety like that; but, Austin, I have changed. I have
developed a good deal since you and I were parted at the grave.'

"'I should say you had,' I answered. 'I doubt if many of your old friends
would know you.'

"'You seem to have had difficulty in so doing yourself, Austin,' he
replied, regretfully; 'but see here, old chap, give up Coney Island, and
spend the evening with me at the club. You'll have a good time, I can
assure you.'

"'The club?' I said. 'You don't mean to say you visions have a club?'

"'I do indeed; the Ghost Club is the most flourishing association of
choice spirits in the world. We have rooms in every city in creation; and
the finest part of it is there are no dues to be paid. The membership list
holds some of the finest names in history--Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer,
Napoleon Bonaparte, Caesar, George Washington, Mozart, Frederick the
Great, Marc Antony--Cassius was black-balled on Caesar's account--Galileo,

"'You admit the Chinese, eh?' I queried.

"'Not always,' he replied. 'But Con was such a good fellow they hadn't the
heart to keep him out; but you see, Austin, what a lot of fine fellows
there are in it.'

"'Yes, it's a magnificent list, and I should say they made a pretty
interesting set of fellows to hear talk,' I put in.

"'Well, rather,' Hawley replied. 'I wish you could have heard a debate
between Shakespeare and Caesar on the resolution, "The Pen is mightier than
the Sword;" it was immense.'

"'I should think it might have been,' I said. 'Which won?'

"'The sword party. They were the best fighters; though on the merits of
the argument Shakespeare was 'way ahead.'

"'If I thought I'd stand a chance of seeing spooks like that, I think I'd
give up Coney Island and go with you,' I said.

"'Well,' replied Hawley, 'that's just the kind of a chance you do stand.
They'll all be there to-night, and as this is ladies' day, you might meet
Lucretia Borgia, Cleopatra, and a few other feminine apparitions of
considerable note.'

"'That settles it. I am yours for the rest of the day,' I said, and so we
adjourned to the rooms of the Ghost Club.

"These rooms were in a beautiful house on Fifth Avenue; the number of the
house you will find on consulting the court records. I have forgotten it.
It was a large, broad, brown-stone structure, and must have been over one
hundred and fifty feet in depth. Such fittings I never saw before;
everything was in the height of luxury, and I am quite certain that among
beings to whom money is a measure of possibility no such magnificence is
attainable. The paintings on the walls were by the most famous artists of
our own and other days. The rugs on the superbly polished floors were
worth fortunes, not only for their exquisite beauty, but also for their
extreme rarity. In keeping with these were the furniture and bric-a-brac.
In short, my dear sir, I had never dreamed of anything so dazzlingly, so
superbly magnificent as that apartment into which I was ushered by the
ghost of my quondam friend Hawley Hicks.

"At first I was speechless with wonder, which seemed to amuse Hicks very

"'Pretty fine, eh?' he said, with a short laugh.

"'Well,' I replied, in a moment, 'considering that you can get along
without money, and that all the resources of the world are at your
disposal, it is not more than half bad. Have you a library?'

"I was always fond of books," explained 5010 in parenthesis to me, "and so
was quite anxious to see what the club of ghosts could show in the way of
literary treasures. Imagine my surprise when Hawley informed me that the
club had no collection of the sort to appeal to the bibliophile.

"'No,' he answered, 'we have no library.'

"'Rather strange,' I said, 'that a club to which men like Shakespeare,
Milton, Edgar Allan Poe, and other deceased literati belong should be
deficient in that respect.'

"'Not at all,' said he. 'Why should we want books when we have the men
themselves to tell their tales to us? Would you give a rap to possess a
set of Shakespeare if William himself would sit down and rattle off the
whole business to you any time you chose to ask him to do it? Would you
follow Scott's printed narratives through their devious and tedious
periods if Sir Walter in spirit would come to you on demand, and tell you
all the old stories over again in a tenth part of the time it would take
you to read the introduction to one of them?'

"'I fancy not,' I said. 'Are you in such luck?'

"'I am,' said Hawley; 'only personally I never send for Scott or
Shakespeare. I prefer something lighter than either--Douglas Jerrold or
Marryat. But best of all, I like to sit down and hear Noah swap animal
stories with Davy Crockett. Noah's the brightest man of his age in the
club. Adam's kind of slow.'

"'How about Solomon?' I asked, more to be flippant than with any desire
for information. I was much amused to hear Hawley speak of these great
spirits as if he and they were chums of long standing.

"'Solomon has resigned from the club,' he said, with a sad sigh. 'He was a
good fellow, Solomon was, but he thought he knew it all until old Doctor
Johnson got hold of him, and then he knuckled under. It's rather rough for
a man to get firmly established in his belief that he is the wisest
creature going, and then, after a couple of thousand years, have an
Englishman come along and tell him things he never knew before, especially
the way Sam Johnson delivers himself of his opinions. Johnson never cared
whom he hurt, you know, and when he got after Solomon, he did it with all
his might.'"

"I wonder if Boswell was there?" I ventured, interrupting 5010 in his
extraordinary narrative for an instant.

"Yes, he was there," returned the prisoner. "I met him later in the
evening; but he isn't the spook he might be. He never had much spirit
anyhow, and when he died he had to leave his nose behind him, and that
settled him."

"Of course," I answered. "Boswell with no nose to stick into other
people's affairs would have been like Othello with Desdemona left out.
But go on. What did you do next?"

"Well," 5010 resumed, "after I'd looked about me, and drunk my fill of
the magnificence on every hand, Hawley took me into the music-room, and
introduced me to Mozart and Wagner and a few other great composers. In
response to my request, Wagner played an impromptu version of 'Daisy
Bell' on the organ. It was great; not much like 'Daisy Bell,' of course;
more like a collision between a cyclone and a simoom in a tin-plate
mining camp, in fact, but, nevertheless, marvellous. I tried to remember
it afterwards, and jotted down a few notes, but I found the first bar
took up seven sheets of fool's-cap, and so gave it up. Then Mozart tried
his hand on a banjo for my amusement, Mendelssohn sang a half-dozen of
his songs without words, and then Gottschalk played one of Poe's weird
stories on the piano.

"Then Carlyle came in, and Hawley introduced me to him. He was a gruff
old gentleman, and seemingly anxious to have Froude become an eligible,
and I judged from the rather fierce manner in which he handled a club he
had in his hand, that there were one or two other men of prominence still
living he was anxious to meet. Dickens, too, was desirous of a two-minute
interview with certain of his at present purely mortal critics; and,
between you and me, if the wink that Bacon gave Shakespeare when I spoke
of Ignatius Donnelly meant anything, the famous cryptogrammarian will do
well to drink a bottle of the elixir of life every morning before
breakfast, and stave off dissolution as long as he can. There's no
getting around the fact, sir," Surrennes added, with a significant shake
of the head, "that the present leaders of literary thought with critical
tendencies are going to have the hardest kind of a time when they cross
the river and apply for admission to the Ghost Club. _I_ don't ask for
any better fun than that of watching from a safe distance the initiation
ceremonies of the next dozen who go over. And as an Englishman, sir, who
thoroughly believes in and admires Lord Wolseley, if I were out of jail
and able to do it, I'd write him a letter, and warn him that he would
better revise his estimates of certain famous soldiers no longer living
if he desires to find rest in that mysterious other world whither he must
eventually betake himself. They've got their swords sharpened for him,
and he'll discover an instance when he gets over there in which the sword
is mightier than the pen.

"After that, Hawley took me up-stairs and introduced me to the spirit of
Napoleon Bonaparte, with whom I passed about twenty-five minutes talking
over his victories and defeats. He told me he never could understand how a
man like Wellington came to defeat him at Waterloo, and added that he had
sounded the Iron Duke on the subject, and found him equally ignorant.
"So the afternoon and evening passed. I met quite a number of famous
ladies--Catherine, Marie Louise, Josephine, Queen Elizabeth, and others.
Talked architecture with Queen Anne, and was surprised to learn that she
never saw a Queen Anne cottage. I took Peg Woffington down to supper, and
altogether had a fine time of it."

"But, my dear Surrennes," I put in at this point, "I fail to see what this
has to do with your defence in your trial for stealing spoons."

"I am coming to that," said 5010, sadly. "I dwell on the moments passed at
the club because they were the happiest of my life, and am loath to speak
of what followed, but I suppose I must. It was all due to Queen Isabella
that I got into trouble. Peg Woffington presented me to Queen Isabella in
the supper-room, and while her majesty and I were talking, I spoke of how
beautiful everything in the club was, and admired especially a half-dozen
old Spanish spoons upon the side-board. When I had done this, the Queen
called to Ferdinand, who was chatting with Columbus on the other side of
the room, to come to her, which he did with alacrity. I was presented to
the King, and then my troubles began.

"'Mr. Surrennes admires our spoons, Ferdinand,' said the Queen.

"The King smiled, and turning to me observed, 'Sir, they are yours.
Er--waiter, just do these spoons up and give them to Mr. Surrennes.'

"Of course," said 5010, "I protested against this; whereupon the King
looked displeased.

"'It is a rule of our club, sir, as well as an old Spanish custom, for us
to present to our guests anything that they may happen openly to admire.
You are surely sufficiently well acquainted with the etiquette of club
life to know that guests may not with propriety decline to be governed by
the regulations of the club whose hospitality they are enjoying.'

"'I certainly am aware of that, my dear King,' I replied, 'and of course I
accept the spoons with exceeding deep gratitude. My remonstrance was
prompted solely by my desire to explain to you that I was unaware of any
such regulation, and to assure you that when I ventured to inform your
good wife that the spoons had excited my sincerest admiration, I was not
hinting that it would please me greatly to be accounted their possessor.'

"'Your courtly speech, sir,' returned the King, with a low bow, 'is ample
assurance of your sincerity, and I beg that you will put the spoons in
your pocket and say no more. They are yours. Verb. sap.'

"I thanked the great Spaniard and said no more, pocketing the spoons with
no little exultation, because, having always been a lover of the quaint
and beautiful, I was glad to possess such treasures, though I must confess
to some misgivings as to the possibility of their being unreal. Shortly
after this episode I looked at my watch and discovered that it was getting
well on towards eleven o'clock, and I sought out Hawley for the purpose of
thanking him for a delightful evening and of taking my leave. I met him in
the hall talking to Euripides on the subject of the amateur stage in the
United States. What they said I did not stop to hear, but offering my hand
to Hawley informed him of my intention to depart.

"'Well, old chap,' he said, affectionately, 'I'm glad you came. It's
always a pleasure to see you, and I hope we may meet again some time
soon.' And then, catching sight of my bundle, he asked, 'What have you

"I informed him of the episode in the supper-room, and fancied I perceived
a look of annoyance on his countenance.

"'I didn't want to take them, Hawley,' I said; 'but Ferdinand insisted.'

"'Oh, it's all right!' returned Hawley. 'Only I'm sorry! You'd better get
along home with them as quickly as you can and say nothing; and, above
all, don't try to sell them.'

"'But why?' I asked. 'I'd much prefer to leave them here if there is any
question of the propriety of my--'

"Here," continued 5010, "Hawley seemed to grow impatient, for he stamped
his foot angrily, and bade me go at once or there might be trouble. I
proceeded to obey him, and left the house instanter, slamming the door
somewhat angrily behind me. Hawley's unceremonious way of speeding his
parting guest did not seem to me to be exactly what I had a right to
expect at the time. I see now what his object was, and acquit him of any
intention to be rude, though I must say if I ever catch him again, I'll
wring an explanation from him for having introduced me into such bad

"As I walked down the steps," said 5010, "the chimes of the neighboring
church were clanging out the hour of eleven. I stopped on the last step to
look for a possible hansom-cab, when a portly gentleman accompanied by a
lady started to mount the stoop. The man eyed me narrowly for a moment,
and then, sending the lady up the steps, he turned to me and said,
"'What are you doing here?'

"'I've just left the club,' I answered. 'It's all right. I was Hawley
Hicks's guest. Whose ghost are you?'

"'What the deuce are you talking about?' he asked, rather gruffly, much to
my surprise and discomfort.

"'I tried to give you a civil answer to your question,' I returned,

"'I guess you're crazy--or a thief,' he rejoined.

"'See here, friend,' I put in, rather impressively, 'just remember one
thing. You are talking to a gentleman, and I don't take remarks of that
sort from anybody, spook or otherwise. I don't care if you are the ghost
of the Emperor Nero, if you give me any more of your impudence I'll
dissipate you to the four quarters of the universe--see?'

"Then he grabbed me and shouted for the police, and I was painfully
surprised to find that instead of coping with a mysterious being from
another world, I had two hundred and ten pounds of flesh and blood to
handle. The populace began to gather. The million and a half of small
boys of whom I have already spoken--mostly street gamins, owing to the
lateness of the hour--sprang up from all about us. Hansom-cab drivers,
attracted by the noise of our altercation, drew up to the sidewalk to
watch developments, and then, after the usual fifteen or twenty minutes,
the blue-coat emissary of justice appeared.

"'Phat's dthis?' he asked.

"'I have detected this man leaving my house in a suspicious manner,' said
my adversary. 'I have reason to suspect him of thieving.'

"'Your house!' I ejaculated, with fine scorn. 'I've got you there; this
is the house of the New York Branch of the Ghost Club. If you want it
proved,' I added, turning to the policeman, 'ring the bell, and ask.'

"'Oi t'ink dthat's a fair prophosition,' observed the policeman. 'Is the
motion siconded?'

"'Oh, come now!' cried my captor. 'Stop this nonsense, or I'll report you
to the department. This is my house, and has been for twenty years. I want
this man searched.'

"'Oi hov no warrant permithin' me to invistigate the contints ov dthe
gintlemon's clothes,' returned the intelligent member of the force. 'But
av yez 'll take yer solemn alibi dthat yez hov rayson t' belave the
gintlemon has worked ony habeas corpush business on yure propherty, oi'll
jug dthe blag-yard.'

"'I'll be responsible,' said the alleged owner of the house. 'Take him to
the station.'

"'I refuse to move,' I said.

"'Oi'll not carry yez,' said the policeman, 'and oi'd advoise ye to
furnish yure own locomotion. Av ye don't, oi'll use me club. Dthot's th'
ounly waa yez 'll git dthe ambulanch.'

"'Oh, well, if you insist,' I replied, 'of course I'll go. I have nothing
to fear.'

"You see," added 5010 to me, in parenthesis, "the thought suddenly flashed
across my mind that if all was as my captor said, if the house was really
his and not the Ghost Club's, and if the whole thing was only my fancy,
the spoons themselves would turn out to be entirely fanciful; so I was all
right--or at least I thought I was. So we trotted along to the police
station. On the way I told the policeman the whole story, which impressed
him so that he crossed himself a half-dozen times, and uttered numerous
ejaculatory prayers--'Maa dthe shaints presharve us,' and 'Hivin hov
mershy,' and others of a like import.

"'Waz dthe ghosht ov Dan O'Connell dthere?' he asked.

"Yes,' I replied. 'I shook hands with it.'

"'Let me shaak dthot hand,' he said, his voice trembling with emotion, and
then he whispered in my ear: 'Oi belave yez to be innoshunt; but av yez
ain't, for the love of Dan, oi'll let yez eshcape.'

"'Thanks, old fellow,' I replied. 'But I am innocent of wrong-doing, as I
can prove.'

"Alas!" sighed the convict, "it was not to be so. When I arrived at the
station-house, I was dumfounded to learn that the spoons were all too
real. I told my story to the sergeant, and pointed to the monogram,
'G.C.,' on the spoons as evidence that my story was correct; but even
that told against me, for the alleged owner's initials were G.C.--his
name I withhold--and the monogram only served to substantiate his claim
to the spoons. Worst of all, he claimed that he had been robbed on several
occasions before this, and by midnight I found myself locked up in a dirty
cell to await trial.

"I got a lawyer, and, as I said before, even he declined to believe my
story, and suggested the insanity dodge. Of course I wouldn't agree to
that. I tried to get him to subpoena Ferdinand and Isabella and Euripides
and Hawley Hicks in my behalf, and all he'd do was to sit there and shake
his head at me. Then I suggested going up to the Metropolitan Opera-house
some fearful night as the clock struck twelve, and try to serve papers on
Wagner's spook--all of which he treated as unworthy of a moment's
consideration. Then I was tried, convicted, and sentenced to live in this
beastly hole; but I have one strong hope to buoy me up, and if that is
realized, I'll be free to-morrow morning."

"What is that?" I asked.

"Why," he answered, with a sigh, as the bell rang summoning him to his
supper--"why, the whole horrid business has been so weird and uncanny that
I'm beginning to believe it's all a dream. If it is, why, I'll wake up,
and find myself at home in bed; that's all. I've clung to that hope for
nearly a year now, but it's getting weaker every minute."

"Yes, 5010," I answered, rising and shaking him by the hand in parting;
"that's a mighty forlorn hope, because I'm pretty wide awake myself at
this moment, and can't be a part of your dream. The great pity is you
didn't try the insanity dodge."

"Tut!" he answered. "That is the last resource of a weak mind."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where did we get this story? would you like to know?

We got it from the basket that the wastepaper is thrown into.

Many a good and rare book has been taken to the delicatessen store and the grocer's, not to be read, but to be used as wrapping paper for starch and coffee, beans, for salted herring, butter, and cheese. Used writing paper has also been found suitable.

Frequently one throws into the wastepaper basket what ought not to go there.

I know a grocer's assistant, the son of a delicatessen store owner. He has worked his way up from serving in the cellar to serving in the front shop; he is a well-read person, his reading consisting of the printed and written matter to be found on the paper used for wrapping. He has an interesting collection, consisting of several important official documents from the wastepaper baskets of busy and absent-minded officials, a few confidential letters from one lady friend to another - reports of scandal which were not to go further, not to be mentioned by a soul. He is a living salvage institution for more than a little of our literature, and his collection covers a wide field, he has the run of his parents' shop and that of his present master and has there saved many a book, or leaves of a book, well worth reading twice.

He has shown me his collection of printed and written matter from the wastepaper basket, the most valued items of which have come from the delicatessen store. A couple of leaves from a large composition book lay among the collection; the unusually clear and neat handwriting attracted my attention at once.

"This was written by the student," he said, "the student who lived opposite here and died about a month ago. He suffered terribly from toothache, as one can see. It is quite amusing to read. This is only a small part of what he wrote; there was a whole book and more besides. My parents gave the student's landlady half a pound of green soap for it. This is what I have been able to save of it."

I borrowed it, I read it, and now I tell it.

The title was:



Aunty gave me sweets when I was little. My teeth could stand it then; it didn't hurt them. Now I am older, am a student, and still she goes on spoiling me with sweets. She says I am a poet.

I have something of the poet in me, but not enough. Often when I go walking along the city streets, it seems to me as if I am walking in a big library; the houses are the bookshelves; and every floor is a shelf with books. There stands a story of everyday life; next to it is a good old comedy, and there are works of all scientific branches, bad literature and good reading. I can dream and philosophize among all this literature.

There is something of the poet in me, but not enough. No doubt many people have just as much of it in them as I, though they do not carry a sign or a necktie with the word "Poet" on it. They and I have been given a divine gift, a blessing great enough to satisfy oneself, but altogether too little to be portioned out again to others. It comes like a ray of sunlight and fills one's soul and thoughts; it comes like the fragrance of a flower, like a melody that one knows and yet cannot remember from where.

The other evening I sat in my room and felt an urge to read, but I had no book, no paper. Just then a leaf, fresh and green, fell from the lime tree, and the breeze carried it in through the window to me. I examined the many veins in it; a little insect was crawling across them, as if it were making a thorough study of the leaf. This made me think of man's wisdom: we also crawl about on a leaf; our knowledge is limited to that only, and yet we unhesitatingly deliver a lecture on the whole big tree - the root, the trunk, and the crown - the great tree comprised of God, the world, and immortality - and of all this we know only a little leaf!

As I was sitting there, I received a visit from Aunty Mille. I showed her the leaf with the insect and told her of my thoughts in connection with these. And her eyes lit up.

"You are a poet!" she said. "Perhaps the greatest we have. If I should live to see this, I would go to my grave gladly. Ever since the brewer Rasmussen's funeral you have amazed me with your powerful imagination."

So said Aunty Mille, and she then kissed me.

Who was Aunty Mille, and who was Rasmussen the brewer?


We children always called our mother's aunt "Aunty"; we had no other name for her.

She gave us jam and sweets, although they were very injurious to our teeth; but the dear children were her weakness, she said. It was cruel to deny them a few sweets, when they were so fond of them. And that's why we loved Aunty so much.

She was an old maid; as far back as I can remember, she was always old. Her age never seemed to change.

In earlier years she had suffered a great deal from toothache, and she always spoke about it; and so it happened that her friend, the brewer Rasmussen, who was a great wit, called her Aunty Toothache.

He had retired from the brewing business some years before and was then living on the interest of his money. He frequently visited Aunty; he was older than she. He had no teeth at all - only a few black stumps. When a child, he had eaten too much sugar, he told us children, and that's how he came to look as he did.

Aunty could surely never have eaten sugar in her childhood, for she had the most beautiful white teeth. She took great care of them, and she did not sleep with them at night! - said Rasmussen the brewer. We children knew that this was said in malice, but Aunty said he did not mean anything by it.

One morning, at the breakfast table, she told us of a terrible dream she had had during the night, in which one of her teeth had fallen out.

"That means," she said, "that I shall lose a true friend!"

"Was it a false tooth?" asked the brewer with a chuckle. "If so, it can only mean that you will lose a false friend!"

"You are an insolent old man!" said Aunty, angrier than I had seen her before or ever have since.

She later told us that her old friend had only been teasing her; he was the finest man on earth, and when he died he would become one of God's little angels in heaven.

I thought a good deal of this transformation, and wondered if I would be able to recognize him in this new character.

When Aunty and he had been young, he had proposed to her. She had settled down to think it over, had thought too long, and had become an old maid, but always remained his true friend.

And then Brewer Rasmussen died. He was taken to his grave in the most expensive hearse and was followed by a great number of folks, including people with orders and in uniform.

Aunty stood dressed in mourning by the window, together with all of us children, except our little brother, whom the stork had brought a week before. When the hearse and the procession had passed and the street was empty, Aunty wanted to go away from the window, but I did not want to; I was waiting for the angel, Rasmussen the brewer; surely he had by now become one of God's bewinged little children and would appear.

"Aunty," I said, "don't you think that he will come now? Or that when the stork again brings us a little brother, he'll then bring us the angel Rasmussen?"

Aunty was quite overwhelmed by my imagination, and said, "That child will become a great poet!" And this she kept repeating all the time I went to school, and even after my confirmation and, yes, still does now that I am a student.

She was, and is, to me the most sympathetic of friends, both in my poetical troubles and dental troubles, for I have attacks of both.

"Just write down all your thoughts," she said, "and put them in the table drawer! That's what Jean Paul did; he became a great poet, though I don't admire him; he does not excite one. You must be exciting! Yes, you will be exciting!"

The night after she said this, I lay awake, full of longings and anguish, with anxiety and fond hopes to become the great poet that Aunty saw and perceived in me; I went through all the pains of a poet! But there is an even greater pain - toothache - and it was grinding and crushing me; I became a writhing worm, with a bag of herbs and a mustard plaster.

"I know all about it, " said Aunty. There was a sorrowful smile on her lips, and her white teeth glistened.

But I must begin a new chapter in my own and my aunt's story.


I had moved to a new flat and had been living there a month. I was telling Aunty about it.

" I live with a quiet family; they pay no attention to me, even if I ring three times. Besides, it is a noisy house, full of sounds and disturbances caused by the weather, the wind, and the people. I live just above the street gate; every carriage that drives out or in makes the pictures on the walls move about. The gate bangs and shakes the house as if there were an earthquake. If I am in bed, the shocks go right through all my limbs, but that is said to be strengthening to the nerves. If the wind blows, and it is always blowing in this country, the long window hooks outside swing to and fro, and strike against the wall. The bell on the gate to the neighbor's yard rings with every gust of wind.

"The people who live in the house come home at all hours, from late in the evening until far into the night; the lodger just above me, who in the daytime gives lessons on the trombone, comes home the latest and does not go to bed before he has taken a little midnight promenade with heavy steps and in iron heeled shoes.

"There are no double windows. There is a broken pane in my room, over which the landlady has pasted some paper, but the wind blows through the crack despite that and produces a sound similar to that of a buzzing wasp. It is like the sort of music that makes one go to sleep. If at last I fall asleep, I am soon awakened by the crowing of the cocks. From the cellarman's hencoop the cocks and hens announce that it will soon be morning. The small ponies, which have no stable, but are tied up in the storeroom under the staircase, kick against the door and the paneling as they move about.

"The day dawns. The porter, who lives with his family in the attic, comes thundering down the stairs; his wooden shoes clatter; the gate bangs and the house shakes. And when all this is over, the lodger above begins to occupy himself with gymnastic exercises; he lifts a heavy iron ball in each hand, but he is not able to hold onto them, and they are continually falling on the floor, while at the same time the young folks in the house, who are going to school, come screaming with all their might. I go to the window and open it to get some fresh air, and it is most refreshing - when I can get it, and when the young woman in the back building is not washing gloves in soapsuds, by which she earns her livelihood. Otherwise it is a pleasant house, and I live with a quiet family!"

This was the report I gave Aunty about my flat, though it was livelier at the time, for the spoken word has a fresher sound than the written.

"You are a poet!" cried Aunty. "Just write down all you have said, and you will be as good as Dickens! Indeed, to me, you are much more interesting. You paint when you speak. You describe your house so that one can see it. It makes one shudder. Go on with your poetry. Put some living beings into it - people, charming people, especially unhappy ones."

I wrote down my description of the house as it stands, with all its sounds, its noises, but included only myself. There was no plot in it. That came later.


It was during wintertime, late at night, after theater hours; it was terrible weather; a snowstorm raged so that one could hardly move along.

Aunty had gone to the theater, and I went there to take her home; it was difficult for one to get anywhere, to say nothing of helping another. All the hiring carriages were engaged. Aunty lived in a distant section of the town, while my dwelling was close to the theater. Had this not been the case, we would have had to take refuge in a sentry box for a while.

We trudged along in the deep snow while the snowflakes whirled around us. I had to lift her, hold onto her, and push her along. Only twice did we fall, but we fell on the soft snow.

We reached my gate, where we shook some of the snow from ourselves. On the stairs, too, we shook some off, and yet there was still enough almost to cover the floor of the anteroom.

We took off our overcoats and boots and what other clothes might be removed. The landlady lent Aunty dry stockings and a nightcap; this she would need, said the landlady, and added that it would be impossible for my aunt to get home that night, which was true. Then she asked Aunty to make use of her parlor, where she would prepare a bed for her on the sofa, in front of the door that led into my room and that was always kept locked. And so she stayed.

The fire burned in my stove, the tea urn was placed on the table, and the little room became cozy, if not as cozy as Aunty's own room, where in the wintertime there are heavy curtains before the door, heavy curtains before the windows, and double carpets on the floor, with three layers of thick paper underneath. One sits there as if in a well-corked bottle, full of warm air; still, as I have said, it was also cozy at my place, while outside the wind was whistling.

Aunty talked and reminisced; she recalled the days of her youth; the brewer came back; many old memories were revived.

She could remember the time I got my first tooth, and the family's delight over it. My first tooth! The tooth of innocence, shining like a little drop of milk - the milk tooth!

When one had come, several more came, a whole rank of them, side by side, appearing both above and below - the finest of children's teeth, though these were only the "vanguard," not the real teeth, which have to last one's whole lifetime.

Then those also appeared, and the wisdom teeth as well, the flank men of each rank, born in pain and great tribulation.

They disappear, too, sometimes every one of them; they disappear before their time of service is up, and when the very last one goes, that is far from a happy day; it is a day for mourning. And so then one considers himself old, even if he feels young.

Such thoughts and talk are not pleasant. Yet we came to talk about all this; we went back to the days of my childhood and talked and talked. It was twelve o'clock before Aunty went to rest in the room near by.

"Good night, my sweet child," she called. "I shall now sleep as if I were in my own bed."

And she slept peacefully; but otherwise there was no peace either in the house or outside. The storm rattled the windows, struck the long, dangling iron hooks against the house, and rang the neighbor's back-yard bell. The lodger upstairs had come home. He was still taking his little nightly tour up and down the room; he then kicked off his boots and went to bed and to sleep; but he snores so that anyone with good ears can hear him through the ceiling.

I found no rest, no peace. The weather did not rest, either; it was lively. The wind howled and sang in its own way; my teeth also began to be lively, and they hummed and sang in their way. An awful toothache was coming on.

There was a draft from the window. The moon shone in upon the floor; the light came and went as the clouds came and went in the stormy weather. There was a restless change of light and shadow, but at last the shadow on the floor began to take shape. I stared at the moving form and felt an icy-cold wind against my face.

On the floor sat a figure, thin and long, like something a child would draw with a pencil on a slate, something supposed to look like a person, a single thin line forming the body, another two lines the arms, each leg being but a single line, and the head having a polygonal shape.

The figure soon became more distinct; it had a very thin, very fine sort of cloth draped around it, clearly showing that the figure was that of a female.

I heard a buzzing sound. Was it she or the wind which was buzzing like a hornet through the crack in the pane?

No, it was she, Madam Toothache herself! Her terrible highness, Satania Infernalis! God deliver and preserve us from her!

"It is good to be here!" she buzzed. "These are nice quarters - mossy ground, fenny ground! Gnats have been buzzing around here, with poison in their stings; and now I am here with such a sting. It must be sharpened on human teeth. Those belonging to the fellow in bed here shine so brightly. They have defied sweet and sour things, heat and cold, nutshells and plum stones; but I shall shake them, make them quake, feed their roots with drafty winds, and give them cold feet!"

That was a frightening speech! She was a terrible visitor!

"So you are a poet!" she said. "Well, I'll make you well versed in all the poetry of toothache! I'll thrust iron and steel into your body! I'll seize all the fibers of your nerves!"

I then felt as if a red-hot awl were being driven into my jawbone; I writhed and twisted.

"A splendid set of teeth," she said, "just like an organ to play upon! We shall have a grand concert, with jew's-harps, kettledrums, and trumpets, piccolo-flute, and a trombone in the wisdom tooth! Grand poet, grand music!"

And then she started to play; she looked terrible, even if one did not see more of her than her hand, the shadowy, gray, icecold hand, with the long, thin, pointed fingers; each of them was an instrument of torture; the thumb and the forefinger were the pincers and wrench; the middle finger ended in a pointed awl; the ring finger was a drill, and the little finger squirted gnat's poison.

"I am going to teach you meter!" she said. "A great poet must have a great toothache, a little poet a little toothache!"

"Oh, let me be a little poet!" I begged. "Let me be nothing at all! And I am not a poet; I have only fits of poetry, like fits of toothache. Go away, go away!"

"Will you acknowledge, then, that I am mightier than poetry, philosophy, mathematics, and all the music?" she said. "Mightier than all those notions that are painted on canvas or carved in marble? I am older than every one of them. I was born close to the garden of paradise, just outside, where the wind blew and the wet toadstools grew. It was I who made Eve wear clothes in the cold weather, and Adam also. Believe me, there was power in the first toothache!"

"I believe it all," I said. "But go away, go away!"

"Yes, if you will give up being a poet, never put verse on paper, slate, or any sort of writing material, then I will let you off; but I'll come again if you write poetry!"

"I swear!" I said; "only let me never see or feel you any more!"

"See me you shall, but in a more substantial shape, in a shape more dear to you than I am now. You shall see me as Aunty Mille, and I shall say, 'Write poetry, my sweet boy! You are a great poet, perhaps the greatest we have!' But if you believe me, and begin to write poetry, then I will set music to your verses, and play them on your mouth harp. You sweet child! Remember me when you see Aunty Mille!"

Then she disappeared.

At our parting I received a thrust through my jawbone like that of a red-hot awl; but it soon subsided, and then I felt as if I were gliding along the smooth water; I saw the white water lilies, with their large green leaves, bending and sinking down under me; they withered and dissolved, and I sank, too, and dissolved into peace and rest.

"To die, and melt away like snow!" resounded in the water; "to evaporate into air, to drift away like the clouds!"

Great, glowing names and inscriptions on waving banners of victory, the letters patent of immortality, written on the wing of an ephemera, shone down to me through the water.

The sleep was deep, a sleep now without dreams. I did not hear the whistling wind, the banging gate, the ringing of the neighbor's gate bell, or the lodger's strenuous gymnastics.

What happiness!

Then came a gust of wind so strong that the locked door to Aunty's room burst open. Aunty jumped up, put on her shoes, got dressed, and came into my room. I was sleeping like one of God's angels, she said, and she had not the heart to awaken me.

I later awoke by myself and opened my eyes. I had completely forgotten that Aunty was in the house, but I soon remembered it and then remembered my toothache vision. Dream and reality were blended.

"I suppose you did not write anything last night after we said good night?" she said. "I wish you had; you are my poet and shall always be!"

It seemed to me that she smiled rather slyly. I did not know if it was the kindly Aunty Mille, who loved me, or the terrible one to whom I had made the promise the night before.

"Have you written any poetry, sweet child?"

"No, no!" I shouted. "You are Aunty Mille, aren't you?"

"Who else?" she said. And it was Aunty Mille.

She kissed me, got into a carriage, and drove home.

I wrote down what is written here. It is not in verse, and it will never be printed.

Yes, here ended the manuscript.

My young friend, the grocer's assistant, could not find the missing sheets; they had gone out into the world like the papers around the salted herring, the butter, and the green soap; they had fulfilled their destiny!

The brewer is dead; Aunty is dead; the student is dead, he whose sparks of genius went into the basket. This is the end of the story - the story of Aunty Toothache.

It is very seldom that mere ordinary people like John and myself secure ancestral halls for the summer.

A colonial mansion, a hereditary estate, I would say a haunted house, and reach the height of romantic felicity—but that would be asking too much of fate!

Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it.

Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have stood so long untenanted?

John laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage.

John is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.

John is a physician, and PERHAPS—(I would not say it to a living soul, of course, but this is dead paper and a great relief to my mind)—PERHAPS that is one reason I do not get well faster.

You see he does not believe I am sick!

And what can one do?

If a physician of high standing, and one's own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression—a slight hysterical tendency—what is one to do?

My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.

So I take phosphates or phosphites—whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to "work" until I am well again.

Personally, I disagree with their ideas.

Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.

But what is one to do?

I did write for a while in spite of them; but it DOES exhaust me a good deal—having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.

I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus—but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.

So I will let it alone and talk about the house.

The most beautiful place! It is quite alone, standing well back from the road, quite three miles from the village. It makes me think of English places that you read about, for there are hedges and walls and gates that lock, and lots of separate little houses for the gardeners and people.

There is a DELICIOUS garden! I never saw such a garden—large and shady, full of box-bordered paths, and lined with long grape-covered arbors with seats under them.

There were greenhouses, too, but they are all broken now.

There was some legal trouble, I believe, something about the heirs and coheirs; anyhow, the place has been empty for years.

That spoils my ghostliness, I am afraid, but I don't care—there is something strange about the house—I can feel it.

I even said so to John one moonlight evening, but he said what I felt was a DRAUGHT, and shut the window.

I get unreasonably angry with John sometimes. I'm sure I never used to be so sensitive. I think it is due to this nervous condition.

But John says if I feel so, I shall neglect proper self-control; so I take pains to control myself—before him, at least, and that makes me very tired.

I don't like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window, and such pretty old-fashioned chintz hangings! but John would not hear of it.

He said there was only one window and not room for two beds, and no near room for him if he took another.

He is very careful and loving, and hardly lets me stir without special direction.

I have a schedule prescription for each hour in the day; he takes all care from me, and so I feel basely ungrateful not to value it more.

He said we came here solely on my account, that I was to have perfect rest and all the air I could get. "Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear," said he, "and your food somewhat on your appetite; but air you can absorb all the time." So we took the nursery at the top of the house.

It is a big, airy room, the whole floor nearly, with windows that look all ways, and air and sunshine galore. It was nursery first and then playroom and gymnasium, I should judge; for the windows are barred for little children, and there are rings and things in the walls.

The paint and paper look as if a boys' school had used it. It is stripped off—the paper—in great patches all around the head of my bed, about as far as I can reach, and in a great place on the other side of the room low down. I never saw a worse paper in my life.

One of those sprawling flamboyant patterns committing every artistic sin.

It is dull enough to confuse the eye in following, pronounced enough to constantly irritate and provoke study, and when you follow the lame uncertain curves for a little distance they suddenly commit suicide—plunge off at outrageous angles, destroy themselves in unheard of contradictions.

The color is repellent, almost revolting; a smouldering unclean yellow, strangely faded by the slow-turning sunlight.

It is a dull yet lurid orange in some places, a sickly sulphur tint in others.

No wonder the children hated it! I should hate it myself if I had to live in this room long.

There comes John, and I must put this away,—he hates to have me write a word.

We have been here two weeks, and I haven't felt like writing before, since that first day.

I am sitting by the window now, up in this atrocious nursery, and there is nothing to hinder my writing as much as I please, save lack of strength.

John is away all day, and even some nights when his cases are serious.

I am glad my case is not serious!

But these nervous troubles are dreadfully depressing.

John does not know how much I really suffer. He knows there is no REASON to suffer, and that satisfies him.

Of course it is only nervousness. It does weigh on me so not to do my duty in any way!

I meant to be such a help to John, such a real rest and comfort, and here I am a comparative burden already!

Nobody would believe what an effort it is to do what little I am able,—to dress and entertain, and order things.

It is fortunate Mary is so good with the baby. Such a dear baby!

And yet I CANNOT be with him, it makes me so nervous.

I suppose John never was nervous in his life. He laughs at me so about this wall-paper!

At first he meant to repaper the room, but afterwards he said that I was letting it get the better of me, and that nothing was worse for a nervous patient than to give way to such fancies.

He said that after the wall-paper was changed it would be the heavy bedstead, and then the barred windows, and then that gate at the head of the stairs, and so on.

"You know the place is doing you good," he said, "and really, dear, I don't care to renovate the house just for a three months' rental."

"Then do let us go downstairs," I said, "there are such pretty rooms there."

Then he took me in his arms and called me a blessed little goose, and said he would go down to the cellar, if I wished, and have it whitewashed into the bargain.

But he is right enough about the beds and windows and things.

It is an airy and comfortable room as any one need wish, and, of course, I would not be so silly as to make him uncomfortable just for a whim.

I'm really getting quite fond of the big room, all but that horrid paper.

Out of one window I can see the garden, those mysterious deepshaded arbors, the riotous old-fashioned flowers, and bushes and gnarly trees.

Out of another I get a lovely view of the bay and a little private wharf belonging to the estate. There is a beautiful shaded lane that runs down there from the house. I always fancy I see people walking in these numerous paths and arbors, but John has cautioned me not to give way to fancy in the least. He says that with my imaginative power and habit of story-making, a nervous weakness like mine is sure to lead to all manner of excited fancies, and that I ought to use my will and good sense to check the tendency. So I try.

I think sometimes that if I were only well enough to write a little it would relieve the press of ideas and rest me.

But I find I get pretty tired when I try.

It is so discouraging not to have any advice and companionship about my work. When I get really well, John says we will ask Cousin Henry and Julia down for a long visit; but he says he would as soon put fireworks in my pillow-case as to let me have those stimulating people about now.

I wish I could get well faster.

But I must not think about that. This paper looks to me as if it KNEW what a vicious influence it had!

There is a recurrent spot where the pattern lolls like a broken neck and two bulbous eyes stare at you upside down.

I get positively angry with the impertinence of it and the everlastingness. Up and down and sideways they crawl, and those absurd, unblinking eyes are everywhere. There is one place where two breadths didn't match, and the eyes go all up and down the line, one a little higher than the other.

I never saw so much expression in an inanimate thing before, and we all know how much expression they have! I used to lie awake as a child and get more entertainment and terror out of blank walls and plain furniture than most children could find in a toy store.

I remember what a kindly wink the knobs of our big, old bureau used to have, and there was one chair that always seemed like a strong friend.

I used to feel that if any of the other things looked too fierce I could always hop into that chair and be safe.

The furniture in this room is no worse than inharmonious, however, for we had to bring it all from downstairs. I suppose when this was used as a playroom they had to take the nursery things out, and no wonder! I never saw such ravages as the children have made here.

The wall-paper, as I said before, is torn off in spots, and it sticketh closer than a brother—they must have had perseverance as well as hatred.

Then the floor is scratched and gouged and splintered, the plaster itself is dug out here and there, and this great heavy bed which is all we found in the room, looks as if it had been through the wars.

But I don't mind it a bit—only the paper.

There comes John's sister. Such a dear girl as she is, and so careful of me! I must not let her find me writing.

She is a perfect and enthusiastic housekeeper, and hopes for no better profession. I verily believe she thinks it is the writing which made me sick!

But I can write when she is out, and see her a long way off from these windows.

There is one that commands the road, a lovely shaded winding road, and one that just looks off over the country. A lovely country, too, full of great elms and velvet meadows.

This wall-paper has a kind of sub-pattern in a different shade, a particularly irritating one, for you can only see it in certain lights, and not clearly then.

But in the places where it isn't faded and where the sun is just so—I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about behind that silly and conspicuous front design.

There's sister on the stairs!

Well, the Fourth of July is over! The people are gone and I am tired out. John thought it might do me good to see a little company, so we just had mother and Nellie and the children down for a week.

Of course I didn't do a thing. Jennie sees to everything now.

But it tired me all the same.

John says if I don't pick up faster he shall send me to Weir Mitchell in the fall.

But I don't want to go there at all. I had a friend who was in his hands once, and she says he is just like John and my brother, only more so!

Besides, it is such an undertaking to go so far.

I don't feel as if it was worth while to turn my hand over for anything, and I'm getting dreadfully fretful and querulous.

I cry at nothing, and cry most of the time.

Of course I don't when John is here, or anybody else, but when I am alone.

And I am alone a good deal just now. John is kept in town very often by serious cases, and Jennie is good and lets me alone when I want her to.

So I walk a little in the garden or down that lovely lane, sit on the porch under the roses, and lie down up here a good deal.

I'm getting really fond of the room in spite of the wall-paper. Perhaps BECAUSE of the wall-paper.

It dwells in my mind so!

I lie here on this great immovable bed—it is nailed down, I believe—and follow that pattern about by the hour. It is as good as gymnastics, I assure you. I start, we'll say, at the bottom, down in the corner over there where it has not been touched, and I determine for the thousandth time that I WILL follow that pointless pattern to some sort of a conclusion.

I know a little of the principle of design, and I know this thing was not arranged on any laws of radiation, or alternation, or repetition, or symmetry, or anything else that I ever heard of.

It is repeated, of course, by the breadths, but not otherwise.

Looked at in one way each breadth stands alone, the bloated curves and flourishes—a kind of "debased Romanesque" with delirium tremens—go waddling up and down in isolated columns of fatuity.

But, on the other hand, they connect diagonally, and the sprawling outlines run off in great slanting waves of optic horror, like a lot of wallowing seaweeds in full chase.

The whole thing goes horizontally, too, at least it seems so, and I exhaust myself in trying to distinguish the order of its going in that direction.

They have used a horizontal breadth for a frieze, and that adds wonderfully to the confusion.

There is one end of the room where it is almost intact, and there, when the crosslights fade and the low sun shines directly upon it, I can almost fancy radiation after all,—the interminable grotesques seem to form around a common centre and rush off in headlong plunges of equal distraction.

It makes me tired to follow it. I will take a nap I guess.

I don't know why I should write this.

I don't want to.

I don't feel able.

And I know John would think it absurd. But I MUST say what I feel and think in some way—it is such a relief!

But the effort is getting to be greater than the relief.

Half the time now I am awfully lazy, and lie down ever so much.

John says I musn't lose my strength, and has me take cod liver oil and lots of tonics and things, to say nothing of ale and wine and rare meat.

Dear John! He loves me very dearly, and hates to have me sick. I tried to have a real earnest reasonable talk with him the other day, and tell him how I wish he would let me go and make a visit to Cousin Henry and Julia.

But he said I wasn't able to go, nor able to stand it after I got there; and I did not make out a very good case for myself, for I was crying before I had finished.

It is getting to be a great effort for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose.

And dear John gathered me up in his arms, and just carried me upstairs and laid me on the bed, and sat by me and read to me till it tired my head.

He said I was his darling and his comfort and all he had, and that I must take care of myself for his sake, and keep well.

He says no one but myself can help me out of it, that I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me.

There's one comfort, the baby is well and happy, and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wall-paper.

If we had not used it, that blessed child would have! What a fortunate escape! Why, I wouldn't have a child of mine, an impressionable little thing, live in such a room for worlds.

I never thought of it before, but it is lucky that John kept me here after all, I can stand it so much easier than a baby, you see.

Of course I never mention it to them any more—I am too wise,—but I keep watch of it all the same.

There are things in that paper that nobody knows but me, or ever will.

Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day.

It is always the same shape, only very numerous.

And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don't like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish John would take me away from here!

It is so hard to talk with John about my case, because he is so wise, and because he loves me so.

But I tried it last night.

It was moonlight. The moon shines in all around just as the sun does.

I hate to see it sometimes, it creeps so slowly, and always comes in by one window or another.

John was asleep and I hated to waken him, so I kept still and watched the moonlight on that undulating wall-paper till I felt creepy.

The faint figure behind seemed to shake the pattern, just as if she wanted to get out.

I got up softly and went to feel and see if the paper DID move, and when I came back John was awake.

"What is it, little girl?" he said. "Don't go walking about like that—you'll get cold."

I though it was a good time to talk, so I told him that I really was not gaining here, and that I wished he would take me away.

"Why darling!" said he, "our lease will be up in three weeks, and I can't see how to leave before.

"The repairs are not done at home, and I cannot possibly leave town just now. Of course if you were in any danger, I could and would, but you really are better, dear, whether you can see it or not. I am a doctor, dear, and I know. You are gaining flesh and color, your appetite is better, I feel really much easier about you."

"I don't weigh a bit more," said I, "nor as much; and my appetite may be better in the evening when you are here, but it is worse in the morning when you are away!"

"Bless her little heart!" said he with a big hug, "she shall be as sick as she pleases! But now let's improve the shining hours by going to sleep, and talk about it in the morning!"

"And you won't go away?" I asked gloomily.

"Why, how can I, dear? It is only three weeks more and then we will take a nice little trip of a few days while Jennie is getting the house ready. Really dear you are better!"

"Better in body perhaps—" I began, and stopped short, for he sat up straight and looked at me with such a stern, reproachful look that I could not say another word.

"My darling," said he, "I beg of you, for my sake and for our child's sake, as well as for your own, that you will never for one instant let that idea enter your mind! There is nothing so dangerous, so fascinating, to a temperament like yours. It is a false and foolish fancy. Can you not trust me as a physician when I tell you so?"

So of course I said no more on that score, and we went to sleep before long. He thought I was asleep first, but I wasn't, and lay there for hours trying to decide whether that front pattern and the back pattern really did move together or separately.

On a pattern like this, by daylight, there is a lack of sequence, a defiance of law, that is a constant irritant to a normal mind.

The color is hideous enough, and unreliable enough, and infuriating enough, but the pattern is torturing.

You think you have mastered it, but just as you get well underway in following, it turns a back-somersault and there you are. It slaps you in the face, knocks you down, and tramples upon you. It is like a bad dream.

The outside pattern is a florid arabesque, reminding one of a fungus. If you can imagine a toadstool in joints, an interminable string of toadstools, budding and sprouting in endless convolutions—why, that is something like it.

That is, sometimes!

There is one marked peculiarity about this paper, a thing nobody seems to notice but myself, and that is that it changes as the light changes.

When the sun shoots in through the east window—I always watch for that first long, straight ray—it changes so quickly that I never can quite believe it.

That is why I watch it always.

By moonlight—the moon shines in all night when there is a moon—I wouldn't know it was the same paper.

At night in any kind of light, in twilight, candle light, lamplight, and worst of all by moonlight, it becomes bars! The outside pattern I mean, and the woman behind it is as plain as can be.

I didn't realize for a long time what the thing was that showed behind, that dim sub-pattern, but now I am quite sure it is a woman.

By daylight she is subdued, quiet. I fancy it is the pattern that keeps her so still. It is so puzzling. It keeps me quiet by the hour.

I lie down ever so much now. John says it is good for me, and to sleep all I can.

Indeed he started the habit by making me lie down for an hour after each meal.

It is a very bad habit I am convinced, for you see I don't sleep.

And that cultivates deceit, for I don't tell them I'm awake—O no!

The fact is I am getting a little afraid of John.

He seems very queer sometimes, and even Jennie has an inexplicable look.

It strikes me occasionally, just as a scientific hypothesis,—that perhaps it is the paper!

I have watched John when he did not know I was looking, and come into the room suddenly on the most innocent excuses, and I've caught him several times LOOKING AT THE PAPER! And Jennie too. I caught Jennie with her hand on it once.

She didn't know I was in the room, and when I asked her in a quiet, a very quiet voice, with the most restrained manner possible, what she was doing with the paper—she turned around as if she had been caught stealing, and looked quite angry—asked me why I should frighten her so!

Then she said that the paper stained everything it touched, that she had found yellow smooches on all my clothes and John's, and she wished we would be more careful!

Did not that sound innocent? But I know she was studying that pattern, and I am determined that nobody shall find it out but myself!

Life is very much more exciting now than it used to be. You see I have something more to expect, to look forward to, to watch. I really do eat better, and am more quiet than I was.

John is so pleased to see me improve! He laughed a little the other day, and said I seemed to be flourishing in spite of my wall-paper.

I turned it off with a laugh. I had no intention of telling him it was BECAUSE of the wall-paper—he would make fun of me. He might even want to take me away.

I don't want to leave now until I have found it out. There is a week more, and I think that will be enough.

I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime.

In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing.

There are always new shoots on the fungus, and new shades of yellow all over it. I cannot keep count of them, though I have tried conscientiously.

It is the strangest yellow, that wall-paper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things.

But there is something else about that paper—the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the room, but with so much air and sun it was not bad. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here.

It creeps all over the house.

I find it hovering in the dining-room, skulking in the parlor, hiding in the hall, lying in wait for me on the stairs.

It gets into my hair.

Even when I go to ride, if I turn my head suddenly and surprise it—there is that smell!

Such a peculiar odor, too! I have spent hours in trying to analyze it, to find what it smelled like.

It is not bad—at first, and very gentle, but quite the subtlest, most enduring odor I ever met.

In this damp weather it is awful, I wake up in the night and find it hanging over me.

It used to disturb me at first. I thought seriously of burning the house—to reach the smell.

But now I am used to it. The only thing I can think of that it is like is the COLOR of the paper! A yellow smell.

There is a very funny mark on this wall, low down, near the mopboard. A streak that runs round the room. It goes behind every piece of furniture, except the bed, a long, straight, even SMOOCH, as if it had been rubbed over and over.

I wonder how it was done and who did it, and what they did it for. Round and round and round—round and round and round—it makes me dizzy!

I really have discovered something at last.

Through watching so much at night, when it changes so, I have finally found out.

The front pattern DOES move—and no wonder! The woman behind shakes it!

Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.

Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.

And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads.

They get through, and then the pattern strangles them off and turns them upside down, and makes their eyes white!

If those heads were covered or taken off it would not be half so bad.

I think that woman gets out in the daytime!

And I'll tell you why—privately—I've seen her!

I can see her out of every one of my windows!

It is the same woman, I know, for she is always creeping, and most women do not creep by daylight.

I see her on that long road under the trees, creeping along, and when a carriage comes she hides under the blackberry vines.

I don't blame her a bit. It must be very humiliating to be caught creeping by daylight!

I always lock the door when I creep by daylight. I can't do it at night, for I know John would suspect something at once.

And John is so queer now, that I don't want to irritate him. I wish he would take another room! Besides, I don't want anybody to get that woman out at night but myself.

I often wonder if I could see her out of all the windows at once.

But, turn as fast as I can, I can only see out of one at one time.

And though I always see her, she MAY be able to creep faster than I can turn!

I have watched her sometimes away off in the open country, creeping as fast as a cloud shadow in a high wind.

If only that top pattern could be gotten off from the under one! I mean to try it, little by little.

I have found out another funny thing, but I shan't tell it this time! It does not do to trust people too much.

There are only two more days to get this paper off, and I believe John is beginning to notice. I don't like the look in his eyes.

And I heard him ask Jennie a lot of professional questions about me. She had a very good report to give.

She said I slept a good deal in the daytime.

John knows I don't sleep very well at night, for all I'm so quiet!

He asked me all sorts of questions, too, and pretended to be very loving and kind.

As if I couldn't see through him!

Still, I don't wonder he acts so, sleeping under this paper for three months.

It only interests me, but I feel sure John and Jennie are secretly affected by it.

Hurrah! This is the last day, but it is enough. John is to stay in town over night, and won't be out until this evening.

Jennie wanted to sleep with me—the sly thing! but I told her I should undoubtedly rest better for a night all alone.

That was clever, for really I wasn't alone a bit! As soon as it was moonlight and that poor thing began to crawl and shake the pattern, I got up and ran to help her.

I pulled and she shook, I shook and she pulled, and before morning we had peeled off yards of that paper.

A strip about as high as my head and half around the room.

And then when the sun came and that awful pattern began to laugh at me, I declared I would finish it to-day!

We go away to-morrow, and they are moving all my furniture down again to leave things as they were before.

Jennie looked at the wall in amazement, but I told her merrily that I did it out of pure spite at the vicious thing.

She laughed and said she wouldn't mind doing it herself, but I must not get tired.

How she betrayed herself that time!

But I am here, and no person touches this paper but me—not ALIVE!

She tried to get me out of the room—it was too patent! But I said it was so quiet and empty and clean now that I believed I would lie down again and sleep all I could; and not to wake me even for dinner—I would call when I woke.

So now she is gone, and the servants are gone, and the things are gone, and there is nothing left but that great bedstead nailed down, with the canvas mattress we found on it.

We shall sleep downstairs to-night, and take the boat home to-morrow.

I quite enjoy the room, now it is bare again.

How those children did tear about here!

This bedstead is fairly gnawed!

But I must get to work.

I have locked the door and thrown the key down into the front path.

I don't want to go out, and I don't want to have anybody come in, till John comes.

I want to astonish him.

I've got a rope up here that even Jennie did not find. If that woman does get out, and tries to get away, I can tie her!

But I forgot I could not reach far without anything to stand on!

This bed will NOT move!

I tried to lift and push it until I was lame, and then I got so angry I bit off a little piece at one corner—but it hurt my teeth.

Then I peeled off all the paper I could reach standing on the floor. It sticks horribly and the pattern just enjoys it! All those strangled heads and bulbous eyes and waddling fungus growths just shriek with derision!

I am getting angry enough to do something desperate. To jump out of the window would be admirable exercise, but the bars are too strong even to try.

Besides I wouldn't do it. Of course not. I know well enough that a step like that is improper and might be misconstrued.

I don't like to LOOK out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast.

I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?

But I am securely fastened now by my well-hidden rope—you don't get ME out in the road there!

I suppose I shall have to get back behind the pattern when it comes night, and that is hard!

It is so pleasant to be out in this great room and creep around as I please!

I don't want to go outside. I won't, even if Jennie asks me to.

For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow.

But here I can creep smoothly on the floor, and my shoulder just fits in that long smooch around the wall, so I cannot lose my way.

Why there's John at the door!

It is no use, young man, you can't open it!

How he does call and pound!

Now he's crying for an axe.

It would be a shame to break down that beautiful door!

"John dear!" said I in the gentlest voice, "the key is down by the front steps, under a plantain leaf!"

That silenced him for a few moments.

Then he said—very quietly indeed, "Open the door, my darling!"

"I can't," said I. "The key is down by the front door under a plantain leaf!"

And then I said it again, several times, very gently and slowly, and said it so often that he had to go and see, and he got it of course, and came in. He stopped short by the door.

"What is the matter?" he cried. "For God's sake, what are you doing!"

I kept on creeping just the same, but I looked at him over my shoulder.

"I've got out at last," said I, "in spite of you and Jane. And I've pulled off most of the paper, so you can't put me back!"

Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!

I'm... not really sure where to start. I've been thinking about it for days, but... nothing. No matter how long I sit and contemplate, I just can't find a point where it all began. I suppose I can start when I first noticed it. That makes sense, I guess.

I sit at home most of the time, when I don't work. My social life is kinda restricted, thanks to the long hours, but I'm kept entertained most of the time. The Internet is a magical thing, I swear. Videos eat up the majority of my free time, and movies take the rest. I live with family. My great-grandmother and great-aunt, in fact. Sweet ladies, don't get me wrong. My grandma Audrey is a great cook, and aunt Mary does a lot of the work around the house. I do too, when asked, of course, but they don't always ask, so...

I'm getting off subject. I guess I first noticed while I was playing games on the back porch of my house. I was rockin' out some classics, and I got up to get some pop. I saw something out of the corner of my eye, just outside the sliding glass door, in the back yard. I looked, but it was dark. It was, like, 11:00 at night, so, unsurprising. I didn't know what it was. Just a kind of glint on the glass or something.

In retrospect, I should have been more skeptical. The lights were off, and my grandma has a rule that the Venetian blinds on the windows need to be 'closed' after dark. There weren't any lights in the back yard either. It was the middle of July, so no Christmas decorations or anything like that. Seriously, I'm an idiot for not thinking about it more. I guess I was tired, running low on caffeine.

The next time I saw something, it was maybe three months later. I was walking out to my truck after work. It had been a long shift, and I was angry. I work around people at my job, but I'm usually pretty removed from them. Standing in a room by yourself for a few hours a day, you start to become aggravated by little things, like running out of printer paper, or one of your coworkers doing something stupid that adds an extra step to your work. It's hard to explain, but the day was over, and I was going home, so whatever. I had to cross an alley to get to my truck. Looking left, I could see the big one-way road that goes uphill to my workplace. Off to the right is the smaller two-way road that gets me home. Ahead of me was the makeshift parking lot that was in use while construction was being done on the new building.

It was kind of late, around 9:00 at night, so I was surprised to see anyone, besides me, in the lot. But there, standing idly between the parked cars, was a man about my height and build. He was wearing some ratty old hoodie and black cargo pants. His shoes were black tennis shoes, but I couldn't tell what brand. He was just standing there. He wasn't trying to get in a car, or even going anywhere. Just standing, looking creepy. I kept an eye on him as I walked to my vehicle, but he didn't move. I was weirded out, obviously, but I got to my truck and drove off, leaving the man behind.

I thought as I went, listening to the rock music blaring out of my radio. The guy must have been on something, right? Drunk, or high? Maybe crazy? I don't know, but he wasn't right. Maybe he was on the phone? I didn't see one, but Bluetooth? No, he wasn't talking. Just... standing.

I got home with no problem. I really am amazed that I haven't crashed that truck yet. Alignment's off, and my eyesight sucks, especially at night.

Off topic again, sorry. Gotta focus. The month after that, a few days before Thanksgiving, I saw the man again. He was wearing the same clothes. I honestly almost didn't recognize him. My memory isn't great, but it's hard to forget something weird like that, you know. He was in the middle of the yard between apartment buildings across the street from my house. Just standing.

No, wait. He was... different this time, or doing something. Fiddling with something in his hands. I couldn't tell from that far away. It was night again. 9:30. I was really late getting home from work. My feet hurt from standing all day. I saw the guy, and assumed it was my drunk uncle. He lives over there, but I'm certain it wasn't him. He looks pretty... distinctive. Like, prone-to-walking-outside-without-a-shirt-on distinctive. No, this was definitely the same guy as before. I'm not ashamed to say I started to freak a little bit when I realized. You have to understand, I work about 20 minutes from my home. I have to cross a freakin' bridge to get there and back. It's in another state for God's sake. Why the guy was here was beyond me.

I had half a mind to go tell him to leave me alone. I actually thought of getting a knife in case it got violent, but the only dangerous ones we have are steak knives. Not much good. Instead, though, I just ignored him again, went inside, and locked the door. I made sure the other doors were locked too, just in case. I curled up in my bed, freaking out. I don't think I got to sleep until like 2:00 in the morning.

When I woke up, I was late for work already. They had called me, but my phone was on silent from work the day before. I called them back, and told them I was feeling crappy. I lied because I really didn't feel like going in after the previous night. I was still scared, but I was feeling defensive, and didn't want to admit it to myself. I just thought, Get through today. Go back to work tomorrow. It'll be fine. Maybe it was wishful thinking, but it helped me get out of bed. My room is on the second floor of the house. So is Mary's, just to the left of mine as I walk out the door. The stairs are kind of across from both rooms, and there is a bathroom to my right.

I stumbled, drained, to the stairs. I hadn't changed out of my clothes, so I was still wearing them. I started taking each step, groggily, and was about to turn the corner at the landing, but I noticed something strange at the bottom. The inner front door was cracked open. Like I said, I made certain to lock all of the doors before going to bed. There was no reason for that door to be open. My aunt works, but she knows to close it, because my grandmother has a thing about bugs getting in the house.

I went back upstairs as quietly as I could and retrieved the baseball bat that I kept next to my bed. I crept down the stairs, back to the landing. The door was still open. My heart raced. Then I realized something. My aunt would make sure the door was closed, but so would my grandma. She'd get up to close it, if she saw it like that. I started getting really worried. I started silently praying that she was alright.

I got to the bottom of the stairs, bat at the ready, and peeked into the living room around the corner. Everything looked fine. No overturned furniture, or broken pictures. Nothing obviously alarming. I didn't relax, though. I made my way toward my grandmother's computer room, which was converted to a makeshift bedroom for her. She wasn't in her bed, nor was she sitting at her computer. The bathroom adjacent to her room didn't seem occupied, as the door was wide open. My next guess was the back porch, where I played games. The one with the sliding glass door, that connected to the back yard.

The door to the porch was closed. I could see in through a small window in the door, but she wasn't in the chair that I usually sit in. That meant she was probably on the couch. I opened the door, and turned the corner. There was no one there. I started panicking. The basement was the only other place she could be, but the lights weren't on. I stood there, bat in hand, completely losing my mind. I didn't know what to do.

Then, I heard something outside, in the front yard. I moved next to the window, and slowly peeked out. A car had pulled into the driveway. My grandmother's car. And I could see her in the driver's seat. I let out a sigh of relief. I was still shaking when she walked through the door, carrying our two smaller dogs in her arms. I hadn't even realized that they were gone. I should have, since they bark every morning when I come downstairs. Apparently, she had taken them to get groomed, but the regular place was closed that day, so she came home early. She hadn't even told me about it beforehand. It took me over an hour to fully calm down after that. I asked her about the open door, but she said she closed it. That only made me more paranoid. I didn't tell her about the man I saw. I didn't want to worry her. I would just make sure all the doors and windows were locked each night, like before.

That night, I slept soundly. I don't remember dreaming, but I was surprisingly out. Considering the day I'd had, I should have been completely distraught. I don't know how I got any sleep at all.

Then, I was woken up by my door creaking open. I was a little out of it at first, but I realized what was happening, and sat bolt upright. I reached for the bat, just in case. Just as my fingers hit the pommel of the bat, a figure swept up from the other side of the bed and pinned me down. The feel of the pants against my legs, and the gray ratty hood pulled over his face were unmistakable. It was the man from before. I could feel all the pockets on his pants scratching at me. His shoes hurt my feet as he held me down.

He reached behind his back with his right arm. I took the opportunity to roll him over, putting myself on top of him. I rolled him onto his stomach so he couldn't fight me, and I saw what he was reaching for. In the waist of his pants, I could make out the handle of a knife. I freaked. I pinned his arms as best I could with my knees and grabbed the bat. I pulled back his hood with my left hand and swung the bat with my right. I felt the cushion of hair through the bat, but I kept swinging. I hit him again and again. I must have swung at least twenty times before he finally stopped squirming. But I didn't stop until I was certain he wouldn't get up again.

I was exhausted. My arms felt like jelly. I was covered in blood. Once the adrenaline faded, I had to rush to the bathroom before throwing up. I couldn't really move for a few hours after that. I was broken down and dehydrated, and I was horrified at what I'd done. Even in self defense, I never thought I could actually kill someone. I did my best to wash the blood off me in the bathtub upstairs. Once I was sufficiently cleaned up, I went back to my room where the man lay. I tried not to look at him, but didn't have a choice as I moved him off of my bed. I rolled him over. I caught a look at his face.

That was two days ago. I still haven't called the cops, because I'm afraid of what will happen. I mean, I killed someone. I doubt I'll get any leniency in a trial, given that I'm over 18. I left my house and haven't been back. I'm scared. I tried using the Internet here to find information about the culprit, but I haven't found anything that fits the bill. I've been looking since I got here, this morning. The people here were very kind. I wonder how long they'll let me stay once they find out what I did.

Until I figure out what to do next, I'm going to have to deal with what came out of that horror. I doubt I'll sleep well from now on. I got a paper cut, and I'm definitely scared of blood now. I don't think I can face my family again,...

And I can't look at mirrors anymore.

After seeing my own face on that man, I broke completely. I started thinking back, but nothing made sense. I have absolutely no memory of anything I did before the 'attack'. Once I saw that face, I went to check on my aunt and grandmother. Both lay in their beds, soaked with blood already starting to dry out. I had hunting grade hand crossbows in the basement, and they both had bolts protruding from their eyes. I'm not very strong, I know, but those crossbows belonged to me. I doubt anyone else in the house even knew how to load them. It had to be me.

I haven't found anything online about what I have. The closest I could find is hallucinatory behavior and sleepwalking, but I know that's not the whole story. My guess is schizophrenia, but I can't know for sure. The doctors haven't run any tests yet. I am trying so hard not to call the cops on myself. I don't want to go to jail. But my mind can't rest after what I did. So, here I am, writing this. At least this way, everyone can know.

And if anyone I know reads this, I just need to say; I'm sorry.

Creepypasta / Mr. Odd by Gorrister
« on: 03/01/19, 06:59 PM »
I am a researcher of the paranormal, a claim you've no doubt heard innumerable times. In truth I don't care if you believe me or not on that matter as we all have our own beliefs, I know what is real and I think you are all intelligent enough to decide for yourselves whether or not I am genuine.

What I am about to share with you is the story of an entity known as "Mr. Odd," who I have been tracking for several years now, receiving many e-mails and letters as well the occasional phone call or visit from people who have claimed to have encountered the creature in some form or other.

The earliest account of "Mr. Odd" appears to have been in 1969, where a group of friends camping out claimed to have been woken one night to a horrific sight: a bald man's head attached to an impossibly long neck, literally slithering its way into their tent like a blasphemous snake.

The campers panicked but almost as soon as the creature appeared it retreated into the night. The following day the shocked campers packed their things and headed back to the city.

After this several other campers in the area claimed to have similar encounters, one even claimed the creature took a large chunk from his left leg, which showed signs of being mauled, though doctors dismissed it as a bear or other wild animal.

Eventually reports died away and now the phenomena is reported only very rarely, though many campers still claim to experience strange feelings of dread in the area: as if being watched by an unknown force.

Starting in 1986 the "Mr. Odd" phenomena took a decidedly darker path as people in the city began to tell stories of being attacked at night by a bald man's head attached to an impossibly long neck, victims never seeing any other part of the creature's body (many also claim the creature is gigantic in size, though some claim it is only slightly bigger than a human).

These city-based attacks were decidedly more violent than those of the late 60s and early 70s, with people often blaming "Mr. Odd" for the disappearance of family pets or children (in one particularly disturbing case a man convicted of killing his entire family claimed they were devoured by a "monster" that was described as being very similar to the creature known as "Mr. Odd.")

At the height of these city attacks a small group of vigilante-style hunters scoured the streets and after several nights claimed to have fatally wounded the creature, though they were unable to track down its body.

"Mr. Odd" remained inactive until the late 1990s when new reports came, this time taking another impossible twist — people claiming that they were being attacked by a supernatural being capable of emerging from television sets, computer screens or even (in one case) from under a victim's bed.

Again reports were of a bald man's head attached to an impossibly long neck, the rest of the creature's body unable to be seen (if it was even there at all.)

Now I don't know if these recent reports are the result of overactive imagination, mass hysteria or a clever hoax but I do know for certain that the "Mr. Odd" phenomena is by no means over. If you happen to be a researcher in the paranormal or simply seeking out the unknown perhaps it would be worth your while to check this out further. I for one remain fascinated (if slightly unsettled) by this modern-day legend.

I used all natural, authentic materials. I got in touch with a hunter and taxidermist to make sure everything was pure. The fur was real brown bear fur. The stuffing was woven from even more fur from the same bear. The more delicate parts had to be preserved, but it was necessary for conserving the authenticity of the piece. To make it feel more real, I used the skin from the bear as the body of the doll, and used a makeshift skeleton fashioned from its bones to hold the arms and legs in place from inside. To make it look authentic, I used the eyes of the bear, and added teeny tiny claws, clipped from the bear's paws. The nose was difficult, but doable, once I reduced its size. That was... kind of a bloody mess.

But it was worth it. Mariella is happy. Overjoyed, in fact, with the toy I made for her. Of course, she will never understand the lengths I go to to make her happy like this, but I don't think there's any better feeling in the world than the appreciation of your only kid.

I just hope she shows the same admiration for the baby doll I'm making for her.

/r/NoSleep / By The Edge of the Water by Spider_J
« on: 03/01/19, 06:54 PM »
I never loved my step-brother. Truthfully, I couldn’t even say I liked him. But by no means did he deserve his fate, whatever it may have been. I'm putting my memories to paper now, as best as I can recall them, before the pills and therapy snatch them away forever.
We became family when I was only 6 years of age. My mother died when I was barely out of infancy, and my father, in loneliness and grief, turned towards the first woman who showed an inkling of interest, or at least, tolerance. After a long and tumultuous romance, they tied their vows and almost immediately began to make each other miserable, a theme which resonated between my new brother and me.
Daniel wasn't a literal monster, but in the eyes of a younger sibling, he may well could have been. 2 years my senior, I grew up dreading the inevitability of a daily teasing or beating, knowing the hopelessness that he would try to make my every day miserable.
One instance sticks out in particular now, perhaps resurfaced by the irony of the recent events that have caused my incarceration. We grew up in a small country town, and our backyard consisted of a massive forest which stretched as far as a child could wander. I spent many hours in the wood, and where most children might feel lost or scared in the wilds, I felt safe from the conflicts that ravaged my home, away from Daniel and the evil woman he called mother. Not too far into the woods, just up a hill and through a thick bramble, was a pond of decent size, old and stagnant and covered in a green film of algae. While most of the forest was a comfort, the pond always bothered me. I hated everything about it, from its sickly green appearance to the faintly putrid stench that the still water produced. But, as it was wide enough to cover a large stretch of the forest, it was necessary to pass by it during my hikes.
One day, while I was unaware, my step-brother decided to follow me. He stalked me through the forest as I explored, just out of sight, like a predator on the hunt. As I paused by the pond to gather stones, Daniel silently closed the gap between us, creeping between the trees as he approached.
I never heard him coming. The next thing I knew, I was pushed through the air, and tumbled down into the water, crashing through the layer of algae and into the dark cold of the pond.
I panicked, struggling for air; desperate to escape the murky water that I was sure would swallow me up and leave nothing to be found. As I fought to breech the surface, I found I was being held down, forced to hold the last bit of air that burned to escape my lungs. Every terrible fear I knew felt like a reality, waiting for me at the bottom of the pond.
Finally, when I was all but sure that I would die, I found myself released. I broke the surface with a gasp, every muscle in my body screaming for air and the comfort of the shore. When I reached safety and had come to my senses, I became aware of an uproarious laughter behind me. I turned and saw what I should have expected: my step-brother, cackling like a madman at his brilliant ambush.
Of course, when I arrived home, his mother would hear nothing of my side of the story. Daniel told her that I fell in, and his best clothes were ruined trying to save me from drowning. The thrashing she gave me for my 'lies' was one of the worst I had ever received, and I was forbidden from ever venturing into the forest again.
As I said – I never loved my step-brother. But, there was one time, and perhaps only one time, that I felt close to him. It only took the death of his mother.
It happened when we were 17 and 19, respectively. While she was walking home from the liquor store late one night, a drunk driver swerved just a few inches off the road and struck her in the side. As she fell, her head landed on a guardrail, killing her instantly.
Our family is just full of little ironies.
In his grief, Daniel turned to God. I myself was a devout agnostic, finding no fault in faith, but many in religion. At the time, I supported his newfound devotion, believing it would be a positive influence in his life. After all, I couldn't think of any religion that would condone his prior behavior. At the very least, perhaps I would earn some well-deserved apologies for a childhood of mistreatment.
He found a church near home, one that I had never heard of – The Church of The Shepherd and Prior Day Saints – and spent most of his spare time engaged in study. As he had recently moved away into a nearby apartment complex, I rarely saw him anymore, and I was happy to no longer suffer his presence. I focused on my schoolwork and looking after my father, who had once again fallen into depression and drink after losing his second wife. My step-brother came by every few weeks to see how we were doing, and I quickly noticed a great improvement in his character. As I had hoped, he expressed deep remorse for his childish behavior, and often sought to make amends. On occasion, he would bring us small gifts or take us out to dinner, little tokens of gratitude for putting up with him for so long.
However, Daniel treated any information about his church like a closely-guarded secret. When pressed for details, he would casually deflect my questions, often changing the topic as quickly and politely possible. I learned almost nothing about his congregation, and could barely ascertain the specific branch of faith they followed. In passing, he would sometimes make references to Stars or Shepherds, which I assumed must have been a reference to the story of the Nativity. Another time, I overheard him on his phone talking to who I assumed must be his pastor, referring to the “King of Kings”, another metaphor I attributed to Christianity. Still, my brother was a private man, and I assumed, at first, that his reluctance to talk about his church stemmed from a desire to not impose his faith upon us, a position that I, at the time, was happy for.
Then, almost 6 months to the day of his mother's death, he told us that he planned to be Re-Baptized.
Of course, my father and I approved. He wanted us present at the ceremony, which would be held the following Sunday at a lake not far from home. I found myself feeling anxious as the date approached, as I was not accustomed to the ritual and pageantry of religion. The idea that dunking a man underwater could absolve him of his sins seemed like a quaint and ridiculous notion to me, but I wanted to appear supportive. After all, anything that would help my step-brother become a better man had to be something worthwhile.
The day came, and my father and I arrived dressed in our best clothes, which given our finances, weren't much to speak of. My father was so proud – he managed to stay sober for the ceremony, which was a small miracle unto itself. There were fewer parishioners present than I thought there would be, only about a dozen in all, not including the pastor and my step-brother.
The pastor was an older man, I estimated somewhere in his late 40s from his balding head. He was sporting a robe that was all black, save for a small crimson emblem emblazoned near his right breast that, from a distance, appeared to be a cross, wreathed in flames. He was pale, almost sickly, and wore spectacles that looked like they were designed in some earlier century. Yet, what stands out in my mind now, above all else, was his smile, a grin that stretched from ear to ear, like you'd imagine a shark would wear before feeding.
Daniel approached us out of the crowd, looking as pleased as I'd ever seen him. He moved in for a hug, which I modestly returned.
“I'm so happy you both could make it!” he exclaimed, making no attempt to hide his joy. “This is a big day for me, a huge day. Today everything turns around, I swear it,” he paused, and then: “Brother”.
The words took me back a bit, and for a moment, I was left speechless. In all the years I had known him, we had never been willing to consider each as other true siblings, and this was the first time I had heard him call me as such. “I... I'm happy to be here, Dan.” I stumbled over my words, still not ready to extend the same courtesy. Though in time, I thought... Maybe one day, soon, I could.
“I'm terribly sorry to interrupt,” the pastor exclaimed from the lake's edge, “But we do have appointments to keep, Daniel.”
“Excuse me, Father,” my dad said, a little shocked, as was I, by the pastor's rudeness. “We just got here, and we'd like a few words with-”
“No, dad, it's alright,” Daniel said, cutting him off mid-sentence. “There are... rules we have to follow. It's okay; we'll be done in just a minute.”
He turned from us and returned to the group. Noticing them now for the first time, I saw that none of them were wearing clothes that one would consider appropriate for such a special occasion. In fact, all of them were wearing the same outfit, a bland black-and-white wool garment that would have looked more at home in an Amish community. I began to wonder if my brother had joined some kind of a cult, but followed them anyway, down to the water's edge.
As my step-brother began to wade into the lake, hand-in-hand with his pastor, he paused and looked back towards my father and I with a look that I can only describe as concern, or perhaps even remorse, and said three words that will haunt me till my grave:
“Don't be afraid.”
And, before I could ask him what he meant, he turned back and walked out into the water. As he moved deeper, the crowd around us, without cue, began to sing a strange hymn that I had never heard before, ominous, but at the same time, uplifting. The inflection in their tone was closer to a chant than a melody.
It was around the time that I realized they were singing in perfect Latin that I knew something was terribly wrong. I dare not even attempt to transcribe it here.
Disregarding my step-brother's warning, I felt an intense desire to flee, to run into the water and rescue Daniel from what I was sure would be a horrible mistake, to escape into the woods and leave this surreal scene as many miles behind us as possible. But, even as this instinct grew, my feet felt rooted to the spot, my eyes transfixed on the ritual, unable to look away.
While the pastor was now in the lake past his waist, Daniel was slightly taller, and crouched down into the water to stand with his head just below the man's shoulders. He looked up to the pastor, his face awash in awe, as the man raised his hand above my step-brother's head and began to speak.
“We are here today to cleanse our brother Daniel of his sins,” he started. “To wash his spirit clean in this holy lake, and present him to our Lord as a man of Faith renewed, his soul reborn, his devotion absolute.”
He closed his eyes then, and with a look of utmost concentration, uttered a chant in another tongue, one that I still haven't been able to place to a region or time in known history. Even without knowing their meaning, I could sense a power in those words, one that no other religion could claim authority over. It lasted all of thirty seconds, but when he finished speaking, I felt like I had been trapped in them for days.
And then, with a swiftness I wouldn't have expected from a man of his advanced age, he lowered his hand to the scruff of my step-brother's neck and, with his other arm, submerged my brother into the lake.
In preparation for this day, I had watched other baptisms on the internet, so I would know what to expect. I knew that my brother shouldn't have been under the surface for more than a half-second, a whole if the pastor wasn't quite as quick as the younger minsters. When, at six seconds, Daniel was still being held under, my Father began to yell.
I honestly couldn't tell you what he screamed at the pastor; the next minute of my memory is still terribly muddled by what transpired. When I try to remember, there are small gaps, little details that I've forgotten, as if my mind is still trying to come to terms with what surely must have been impossible. What I do remember is terrible enough, and I hope that these abstractions are merely my psyche trying to cope with the reality. But, this is what I recall.
As my father stormed off into the lake, the choir of strangers around us ceased their singing and, aside from the sound of my father's ranting and splashing, it became unnaturally quiet, and the air became as still as a crypt. I remember, then, my father ceasing his advance, stopping mid-sentence as he became aware, as I was, that there was something utterly dark and unholy transpiring before us.
It was then that the pastor looked up from where he held my brother (who had now been underwater for a full 20 seconds), and slowly shifted his gaze onto me. He smiled, still, but that vaguely off-putting grin had transformed, twisted itself into an expression of simple, unmistakable malice. His eyes were black as pitch.
Daniel, who by now was surely drowning, began to thrash in the water, his death throes kicking up waves that disrupted the perfect silence that had descended on the lake. My brother was a strong man, young and healthy, and yet this old priest held him under the surface like he was a child, his grip unrelenting. He was dying before me, and yet, my horror still held me in place, unable to move.
The struggle did not end, as far as I could tell, so much as it was interrupted. Originating from the spot where my brother was fighting for his life, I noticed a dark stain spreading slowly across the surface, a jet-black substance that seemed to have the consistency of ink or oil, branching into a tendril-like form that seemingly moved with purpose, defiling the water as it crept ever closer to the shore.
Here is an empty spot in my memory, a moment I'm sure I don't truly wish to remember. Where it resumes, my father is gone.
The next moment I can recall, I'm standing alone on the shore. The parish has disappeared, presumably taken wherever my father has vanished to, or perhaps dispersed into the forest, having found the ritual satisfactory. In the water, still, the pastor stands, still holding down my brother, whose last desperate struggles are dying down to a few futile thrashes, barely causing a ripple over the surface. Then, with a last few bubbles of escaping air, I knew that he was gone.
The pastor was still staring at me, his eyes the same shade as the stain that consumed the lake, his gaze never leaving mine, his smile never faltering. He wore a look of grim satisfaction, a knowing that his godless act had come to completion. And, his eyes never leaving mine, he began to slowly descend into the depths, as if the ground beneath had opened up beneath and swallowed him, accepting him into the dark. It was only then, alone by the lakeside, that I found I could move again. I promptly fell to my knees, and I wept.
The police never found my brother, my father, or any proof of the churches existence. They even had the audacity to accuse me of their murder, but I was released on lack of evidence. After all, there wouldn’t be much of a case if they couldn’t find any bodies to pin me to. Begrudgingly, they sent to the care of a local psychiatric hospital. While the staff here has treated me well, I hold a bitter resentment towards them. No one here believes my story; they call it 'the fevered delusions of a disconcerted mind'. They try to drown my memory in pills and hunt for hidden meanings, but they'll find none. I am certain, as terrible and impossible as it may be, that what I saw, what I witnessed, is beyond the grasp of a sane mind. I know it to be true.
And, when I lie in my bed at night, unable to sleep, I comfort myself by thinking that my brother knew what he was volunteering for. I tell myself, his faith had revealed to him that there exist gods older than man, than religion, perhaps older than time itself. Gods that lie just beyond our understanding, waiting for their chance to reign again. He knew that they were coming, and choose to willingly give himself up to them, to usher their return to our world. And I hear, as if he were standing beside me, his final message:
“Don't be afraid.”

/r/NoSleep / Attack Of The Flesh Mirror by uncle_vatred
« on: 03/01/19, 06:53 PM »
With my mom and her boyfriend away for the weekend, the tasks of housesitting and keeping an eye on the family dog fell squarely on me, the 26 year old tenant and son who probably should've been out of mom's basement at this age. It was comforting to know that despite my abject failure in the "adult world" - after dropping out of film school to follow an ill-fated dream of opening my own food truck -  and now being stuck with a minimum wage video game sales job, that my mother still trusted me to not burn the house down nor allow our beloved mutt to starve to death.

I had somehow managed to snag an entire weekend off, unheard of in the cruel world of retail, and was looking forward to a few days of nothing but watching movies and loafing around on the internet. Not that I didn't normally do these things on the weekend - But now I had an entire, uninterrupted 72 hour stretch to gleefully piss away.

Mom had sighed and rolled her eyes when I had told of her of my plans earlier in the day. "Why don't you spend a bit of time looking for job openings? Or maybe checking out some online courses? Regardless of the glory it's brought you so far, the video game store isn't going to be around forever Ethan." I snorted. At least we both knew where I got my biting wit. "Mom, I've told you a million times - This is just a little grace period, and once I've saved up a bit, I'm going to do all of that stuff! I just need some time to clear my head." She shook her head, a somewhat pained smile crossing her lips.

She was looking more worn out these days. The first bits of gray had developed in her thin hair. Deep laugh lines formed around her mouth, her cheeks looked sunken. Crow's feet sat at the corners of her blue eyes. Mom was only 53, but she looked older. In my weaker moments, I often guiltily wondered how much of her seemingly rapid descent into old age was caused by the stress of worrying about me. "You've been 'clearing your head' since the food truck got reposessed last year - Why did we ever think a 'round the clock fish and chips dispensary would be a good idea in a place like Forest City?" "It takes time for true visionaries to be appreciated - Fin City was just too ahead of its time."

Mom laughed, but I couldn't help noticing the disappointment beneath her veneer of lightheartedness. "Just remember to let Braxton out, and feed him every night. Love ya kid." She kissed me on the cheek, a ritual I had yet to escape even at 26, and trotted out the door as Steve honked the horn. I waved a last goodbye to my mom as she hopped in the van, and they were off to Maine. Though I suspected their trip would be nowhere near as enthralling as video games, Yakuza films, and the occassional thumbing through PornHub.

I plopped down on the couch in the living room besides Braxton, the canine I was dutybound to for the next three days. Though I could never be described as a particularly amibitious or detail oriented person, there was no arguing that I loved this old pup. Taking care of him was about the one thing I COULD be counted on to do. Braxton was a small dog, tinier than even a typical housecat. He was mixed breed - A mix of chihuahua and dachsund to be precise. He had sharp, perky ears, and large brown eyes that overtook most of his diminutive face. He was an old man of 10 now, and just like my mom, the signs of age were creeping up on him.

Braxton's sandy coat was speckled with grey, and his eyes had begun to cloud with cataracts. He was still bouncy and full of life, however. Any time he heard the rattling of a bag of treats, or the click of a can of soft food being opened, he bounded into the room at full force. However, he was also a big fan of laying around doing nothing. We got along fine, in short. With Braxton's head resting on my thigh, I flipped the TV on, and searched Netflix to see which crappy horror film I'd be surrendering the next 90 minutes of my life to. I settled on some no name junk, starring no name actors, with an aggregate rating so low I knew it would be entertaining riffing material.

When Mom and Steve had left, the clock read 10:30 am. 12:00 pm rolled around, and the credits for the b-movie schlock I'd chosen crawled across the screen. Braxton looked up at me with his milky eyes. It was about time for him to be let out. I scratched behind one of his perky ears before getting up to make my way to the kitchen. Any dog would be lucky to have our yard - an expanse of green grass, fenced and backed up directly into a thick but small collection of trees that couldn't quite be called a forest. Shrubbery lined the fence which led into the small forest, and Braxton LOVED exploring in between the shrubs and the fence itself.

Forest City was a town that people who use those types of words would probably describe as "quaint." A small village in Pennsylvania surrounded by woodland. The kind of place with a cutesy little main street, where everybody knows everybody's name. Nothing interesting to a basement dwelling dweeb like me, but I could see the appeal to certain people. And especially to Braxton. There were always squirrels and chipmunks darting around, and something interesting always seemed to be lurking just beyond the tree line.

A large sliding glass door in the kitchen emptied directly into the back yard. I slid it open and ushered Braxton out. He immediately gave chase to a particularly threatening looking house sparrow. I opened the fridge, looking to fix myself a snack, when I heard a knock at the front door. I groaned. Interacting with people other than takeout drivers had NOT been part of this weekend's intinerary.

I glanced out the window near the front door, to give myself an idea of what I was dealing with, before rolling my eyes. It was our next door neighbor, Mr. Hutchins. Well by next door neighbor, I mean "only neighbor." There weren't any other houses around for a mile or two. Hutchins was a notoriously crotchety old geezer, and I assumed he was bothering me with some complaint about Braxton. Like most old people, the joy had gone out of Mr. Hutchins' life, and the only way he could entertain himself at this point was to complain. Dealing with his whining was as much a part of our lives as brushing our teeth.

I opened the door prepared for a pointless argument. "What's up, Mr. Hutchins?" I hadn't even looked at him when swinging the door open, and was caught off guard when he didn't immediately launch into an angry tirade. Gradually, my gaze met his. He wasn't wearing his trademark thick rimmed glasses, and he was staring at me. Something wasn't right.

Whispy gray hair still covered his liver spotted head. He still wore a bristly mustache under his lumpy nose. It was in his eyes. The way he was staring at me. He seemed focused. Like he was studying me. There was an awkward silence. "Is there something I can help you with?" The silent treatment wasn't really doing it for me. "Hey, Mr. Hutchins, wake up!" I had raised my voice a bit. He didn't have dementia as far as I knew, so I didn't get what was going on with this act. "Braxton hasn't even been making any noise. I just put him out." A smile began to cross his lips.
"How are you, may I come in?" This caught me off guard. Unless he had somehow heard about my plans to jerk off and eat pizza all weekend, which I'm sure were the talk of the town, there was no reason for the old bag to want to come inside. And then his face. His eyes. Something was off about them. I just couldn't place it. His grin seemed to grow a bit bigger as he awaited my reply.

"Is everything okay...?" I trailed off, confused by his odd request. "The phone is not working. Someone is looking at it. I need a phone." I glanced over and noticed a phone company van in his driveway. He definitely had someone there looking at it. But something in the back of my head was just screaming at me not to let Mr. Hutchins in the house, beside the fact that I couldn't stand the old fucker. His rationale for coming in seeemed like a weak excuse. I lied. "Our phone's down too. Must be a neighborhood problem." His grin seemed to fade. "Can I try? Anyway?" The additional request came out stilted, like he didn't expect to have to say it.

"It's definitely down man, sorry." I began to close the door in his face. His gaze never left me, and the smile returned to his face. "Have a good day." Once I had closed it, I slightly drew the curtains of the window nearest the door, and peered out at Mr. Hutchins. He was still standing there. Staring at the door. After a few seconds, he glanced towards the window, as if he was looking for something, and sauntered back to his own house. I drew the curtain tight, not wanting him to be able to look in. The whole exchange gave me the heebie jeebies. Mr. Hutchins had been uncharacteristically calm. Pleasantly wishing me a nice day was so beyond his usual repertoire of screamed demands about Braxton. And I was still stuck on the weirdness of his eyes. Before I had time to ruminate too much, Braxton was scratching at the back door.

I let Braxton in, and began a game on my PS4 with him by my side. Hours later in the midst of having ethnic slurs lobbed at me by 11 year old Call of Duty players, it hit me - Mr. Hutchins' eyes. They were the wrong color. During our brief exchange earlier, his eyes had been a deep emerald green. Mr. Hutchins had blue eyes. I had been face to face hearing the guy complain for almost my whole life. I wouldn't miss something like that.

Or would I? Had I really ever cared that much to remember the old man's eye color? Could somebody's eyes even change color? He normally wore thick glasses - Perhaps the lenses had obscured the actual color all this time? Was "changing eye color" some weird side effect of being an old miserable prick? Whatever the issue, he had clearly wanted to get into the house.  I could convincve myself that maybe I'd misremembered his eye color, but the whole exchange weighed heavy in my mind. Thinking about Mr. Hutchins to this degree was definitely NOT something I had planned to devote any significant chunk of my time to this weekend. I figured it could just be chalked up to a senile old man being old and senile, and resolved to give him a pass on the weirdness for now as long as he left me alone.

It was about time to feed Braxton, and once he had gulped down his food, he was yet again unleashed upon the back yard. Dusk had begun to fall over the trees, causing them to cast crooked, eerie shadows over the house. Once Braxton had been released, I glanced over to the fence and noticed something. Mr Hutchins, standing in his backyard, leaning slightly over the fence into ours. His eyes were locked on Braxton, who was traipsing around the yard. He looked up and caught a glimpse of Mr. Hutchins, and bounded over to him. I was about to call Braxton back, realizing how much Hutchins absolutely loathed dogs. Instead, Mr. Hutchins reached his hand out and began to scratch Braxton's head.

I was absolutely shocked by this. We couldn't go 48 hours without Mr. Hutchins threatening to call the pound on Braxton. What was up with this change of heart? Even from afar, I noticed something on Mr. Hutchins' face as he pet my furry friend - That expression of STUDYING I had seen him using on me earlier. He was staring at Braxton with deep intensity, and even from this distance I could see his toothy grin growing wider.

Not sure what to make of this, I called Braxton back. He lost interest in Mr. Hutchins and walked back into the house. Mr. Hutchins simply stared at me blankly from afar, clearly upset I had interrupted his love session. I slowly slid the door shut and turned to venture back into the living room, but I could feel his eyes on me through the glass.

The rest of that day was just as uneventful as I'd planned, consisting mainly of junk food, more movies and more video games. As I settled down for bed, the weirdness of that old geezer had almost slipped my mind. At about midnight, I awoke to Braxton whining. He needed to pee. I wiped the sleep from my eyes, and stood up with a groan. As I was about to open the sliding glass door, I froze. Outside,  on the other side of the fence in his backyard, was Mr. Hutchins.

Though he was bathed in darkness, the moonlight illuminated him just enough to see him standing there motionless, and staring over his fence into our yard. A thought crossed my mind - Was he waiting for me to let Braxton out again? To stare at him, or pet him, or jerk off to him or whatever?

I made the decision to snap on Braxton's leash, and walk him through the front door to piss on the lawn. When we returned, I peered through the back door again. Mr. Hutchins was gone. I noticed a light on in his house through our dining room window, and pulled back the curtains to give myself a better view. Our houses were designed similarly, and I could just see over the windowsill into his living room through our dining room. Despite having just been standing outside, Hutchins was fast asleep in his recliner. What the fuck. I was too tired to even process it, and passed out myself shortly thereafter.

When I awoke the next morning, the strange events of yesterday felt like an odd dream. And I never thought I'd consider anything involving Mr. Hutchins to be "like a dream." I cracked open an energy drink to pick myself up, and gazed out the front window. I froze. Sitting in Mr. Hutchins' driveway was a huge white van, with a colorful phone company logo plastered on the side. The repair van had never left. Unless he'd had a slumber party with the phone repair guy, this was NOT right. I contemplated whether it was worth calling the cops or my mom or anybody. The mental hoops I'd have to jump through to justify this weirdness were becoming increasingly difficult to deal with.

My phone rang before I could make a decision. It was my mom. "Just checking in honey, making sure the house is still in one piece." "Well I'm having a hard time making breakfast in the remnants of our kitchen - the fire lasted the whole night." She laughed, and I could almost hear her shaking her head. "Braxton has been good? No issues with Mr. Hutchins?" I was unsure what to say. I felt like SOMEBODY should hear whats going on. This situation kept getting stranger. On the other hand, I was tired of feeling like I still relied on my mom to take care of me.

I was the one she was trusting this weekend to dump a can of gelatinous beef into a dog's food bowl once a day, so I could handle this mystery with Mr. Hutchins too. "Nah, he's been pretty quiet for once. Uneventful couple days so far. I hope Maine is as thrilling as you guys predicted." She laughed again. "To a couple of old fogeys like us, it certainly is. Well, I'll let you get back to those weird old movies you like. Call me if you need anything. Love you." We hung up as I resolved to go check on Mr. Hutchins. I let Braxton into the backyard, and made my way over to Mr. Hutchins' front door.

I pounded on the door. Nothing. The old crab was usually up by this hour - And there was no chance he hadn't heard me either. As previous rows over Braxton's barking indicated, his hearing was quite impeccable. I knocked again, and was still greeted with silence from the house. I shrugged. I could already feel my interest in these goings on beginning to wane. I'm the kind of person who likes instant gratification - There was something fishy going on here it seemed, but if the answer wasn't going to hit me in the face, I wasn't really willing to probe all that deeply. Maybe something had happened to the cable guy's van and he had to leave it at Mr. Hutchins' before it got towed.

Not entirely satisfied with this rationalization, but also unwilling to spend my entire day on Mr. Hutchins' front porch, I slowly walked back to my house. As I made my way into the kitchen to let Braxton in, I caught a glimpse of a figure slipping away from Mr. Hutchins' fence. So the old bastard was awake after all. Probably ignoring my knocking. Asshole. I assumed he'd been petting Braxton again. What was his sudden obsession with the dog he'd hated for the last 10 years? I ushered Braxton inside, hoping our interactions with Mr. Hutchins could be kept to a minimum for the rest of the weekend.

A couple of hours later while immersed in yet another shitty Japanese gangster flick, I glanced out the dining room window into Hutchins' living room, and was a bit confused to see him sitting, eyes closed, in the same spot in his living room as the night before. He sure loved that moldy old recliner. I still hadn't heard the phone repair van pull away.

I couldn't shake the lingering weirdness of the last 48 hours, but ended up falling asleep mid-movie anyway.

I awoke with a start. Groggily, I checked my phone. 1:00 am. Fuck. Braxton hadn't been out for hours. He probably needed to piss big time. I had fallen asleep in the late afternoon as the sun was still barely setting, and thus I had awoken in pitch darkness. I guided myself to the living room light with my phone and flicked it on, freeing myself from the oppresive dark. Through the slightly drawn curtains covering the living room window, the night seemed exceptionally black. Even the moon seemed to be hiding.

I noticed Braxton was no longer laying with me, as he had been earlier. Instead, he was parked right in front of the back door, and i wondered how long he'd been impatiently awaiting me to rise from my impromptu slumber. "Sorry buddy." I scratched his ear and let him outside into the shrouded back yard. At least I had managed to feed him before I passed out. I was still 2-0 on remembering to do that. My stomach grumbled, and I decided to grab some food. I rifled through the fridge, and parked myself on the couch with a plate of cold pizza. No sooner had I sat down than I heard a scratching behind me.

I turned, puzzled, and saw Braxton already pawing at the door to be let back inside. In 10 years, I'd never seen this dog finish a trip to the backyard that fast. Everytime Braxton was let outside, it was an excursion. Nonetheless I slid the door open, and Braxton meandered inside. I reached down and scratched his back, but he didn't seem to acknowledge me. No wagging tail. No enthusiastic licking. He just stared at me, with those enormous eyes. He seemed spooked. Had he seen something in the yard? Was that why he was demanding to be let in so fast?

 I suddenly noticed his lips - There was a small trickle of blood out of the corner of Braxton's mouth. Had he been hurt? An altercation with another animal? I hadn't heard anything, though our walls and windows were relatively thick - The sounds of a forest at night will drive you insane if you don't stifle them somehow.

I picked Braxton's tiny frame up and examined him. He seemed unhurt. But the intense look never left his eyes. He continued to stare at me as I plopped him down on the couch. I walked back to the kitchen and stared out the back door. The massive yard looked to be empty, though I could only see a few feet in front of me in the dark. Maybe Braxton had gotten his hands on a squirrel or something. I slid the door shut and turned back to the living room. Braxton was still staring at me from the couch.

I flicked the lights off, turned on the TV and sat down beside him. "It's gonna be okay old man. Whatever spooked you out there is all gone now." I said, as I stroked his head. His gaze never left me, and 25 minutes into our movie he was giving me the creeps. Something felt wrong, and that phrase should've been the slogan for this entire odd weekend. I stared back at his face, and a strange realization crept over me as I heard a faint whimpering and weak pawing at the back door. Braxton cocked his head and looked past me, and I leapt off the couch, guided by the light from my phone's flashlight, and headed into the kitchen.

Outside, limply pawing at the sliding glass door, was Braxton. Inside, sitting on the couch, eyes burning a hole in the back of my head, was Braxton.

My mind went numb, attempting to process what I was seeing. The Braxton outside looked weak, and hurt. I noticed his back right leg was bent at a funny angle, and he appeared to be bleeding from his side.

Too concerned for the dog I loved to worry about the fact that he was already inside the house, I quickly opened the door and gingerly picked Braxton up. He whimpered as I held him in my arms. I grabbed a hand towel that was hanging near the sink, and wrapped it around his side. What the fuck happened to my dog out there?

Braxton's cloudy eyes were getting hazy, and before I could really understand the magnitude of potentially losing my beloved pet, I remembered - There were currently two Braxtons in my house. I slowly turned and shined the light of my phone towards the Braxton on the couch. A sickening feeling formed in the pit of my stomach as I remembered the odd realization I'd had about this dog that looked exactly like my dog, before the wounded Braxton had distracted me. The Braxton sitting on the couch had deep, emerald green eyes.

For a moment, we stared at each other. The silence was maddening, and all that surrounded the dog in the living room was an inky darkness that existed right outside the circle of light that my phone formed. What the fuck was sitting on my couch? It smiled.

"Braxton" never broke his gaze from mine, but a massive grin slowly began to form across his mouth. Dogs' mouths were not meant to smile. I realized that in this moment. It looked so alien, so incomprehensibly WRONG. A rictus of pearly, human teeth shone brightly in the light, and the skin on "Braxton's" face began to tear as the smile grew wider. A thick black substance leaked from the torn corners of his mouth, and his bulging green eyes.

The creature opened its mouth, and spoke. "Whatever spooked you out there is all gone now." It was my voice. The exact words I'd said a little while ago when I let this thing inside. After it had hurt the real Braxton. "It's okay old man. It's okay old man it's okay old manit'sokayoldmanit'sokayoldman." An incessant chattering erupted from its mouth. Like it was practicing repeating the phrase. Grin growing ever larger, the diminutive monster on my couch lurched forward. I had a bad feeling about what was going to happen next.

With a sickening pop, very large, veiny HUMAN arm popped out of the dog's paw as flesh sloughed off. More thick black discharge sprayed out of the creature as the new appendage emerged. Out of its back, another arm with a burst of pus sprayed forth. I was now staring at a bizarre amalgamation of my dog and a person. I was too petrified to even react. The flesh of its stomach distended, and what I quickly realized were long, twisted legs began to form. The stretched out features of Braxton looked as if they were about to burst, now pulled over this too large body. Its neck snapped next, and Braxton's toothy grin was now on the side of a lump growing out of the top of its torso. With a wet tear, a dark green eyeball popped through the flesh on the monster's neck, and locked squarely on me. The creature made a clawing motion, pulling itself forward on the couch. It was coming towards me.

That snapped me out of it. I grabbed the wounded Braxton, the REAL Braxton, and took the first kitchen knife I could find out of the sink. I rushed out of the kitchen and up the stairs backwards, afraid to turn my back on the thing. It cackled maniacally as it skittered off the couch, an odd mixture of Braxton's barking and my own human words spewing out of its mouth. Holy fuck it was fast. I didn't want to think how fast it would be once those legs fully developed. I darted into my bedroom, and locked the door behind me as the shapeshifter pulled its way up the stairs. I flicked my light on, and tried to think of a plan.

I had been waiting my whole life for a moment like this. To take on a monster. But even years of watching low budget horror and cheap sci-fi hadn't prepared me for the sickening reality of my situation. I set Braxton, swaddled in a dishrag, down on my bed. He was still breathing, though his breath had grown sharp and stilted. "I'm sorry buddy. I just... Fuck." Suddenly, a loud bang against the bedroom door. It was here.

I had no choice but to fight. "Too. Fast" Came a crooked voice from the other side of the door. I looked down and saw four spindly, clawed fingers feeling around under the crack of the door, reaching out to caress me. "Just.. Let me. Seeee." The words sounded strange and labored. Less like my own voice. Like somebody trying to learn English for the first time. I realized what it reminded me of: Mr. Hutchins, yesterday. After I had told him he couldn't come inside. He had sounded like he had a hard time forming the words to express his displeasure.

Any words this thing couldn't directly copy from somebody came out with a struggle. It wasn't used to having to talk for itself. Why did it want to see me? Before i had time to think, a veiny and clawed hand shot through my door. A lone green eye appeared in the freshly made hole. Without even thinking, I dashed forward and plunged the knife into it.

The creature let out a horrific screech, throaty and phlegmy. I drew the knife back, now covered in that same thick black bile from before. The monster began beating on the door with all its might, and splintered chunks of wood flew in every direction.

I was a fucking failure to the very end. In my attempt to fight the thing, I'd just pissed it off. I looked for something, anything else to defend myself with as the last remnants of the door shattered. My only barrier against the creature, gone. Even in the dark of the hallway, I could see it's legs had almost completely formed. It stood taller than me, even in its twisting, hunched state.

As it slithered through my decimated doorway, my head began to spin when I saw its face. Braxton's grinning, mutilated visage still hung on the side of it's neck, and the creature was still covered in patchy, matted dog hair. But it's face. Other than one pus spewing, eviscerated eye, it looked like me.

Veiny and fleshy, maybe not a definite lookalike yet, but getting there. I saw the outline of my jaw, the shape of my nose.  I was now looking at myself in some kind of deformed flesh mirror. Flesh Mirror. That would actually be kind of a bitchin' name for a horror movie about this thing. "Attack of the Flesh Mirror." As the flesh mirror shambled towards me with its two grinning faces, I wished I WAS watching a movie.

The creature immediately swung at me with its sharpened claw, knicking my arm and opening up three long cuts from which crimson blood flowed freely. I clutched at my wound, as it took another swing. This time, I ducked out of the way, and the flesh mirror knocked over a shelf of mint condition He-Man figures I'd just purchased. "You motherfucker!" I yelled. "I JUST completed the Evil Warriors!" I never claimed to be a man with my priorities straight. The flesh mirror responded by wrapping its spindly fingers around my throat, effortlessly lifting me off the ground.

I swung futiley with the knife, unable to muster the energy to make anything more than minor nicks and cuts on the creature as the life was squeezed out of me. "Over. Over soooooon." It cooed to me, like it was trying to calm down a cranky child. As it held me there, staring into my eyes, it began to shift further. The bulbous head that had only beared a vague resemblance to me a moment ago was now beginning to look like an exact copy. With a sickening squirt, another green eye popped out next to the one I'd stabbed. Pearly white teeth slid in place with a squelch in the gaping hole that was morphing into my mouth. A more sharply defined nose began growing from the center of the head, and I could even see my scraggly facial hair forming around the cheeks and chin.

It had to study you in order to take your form.

This was what it wanted all along. To stare at me. Examine me. Memorize me. Well, at least I had an answer for "Mr. Hutchins'" sudden fascination with Braxton. The pressure the flesh mirror had on my throat never loosened. Everything started to go black when I heard a weak bark from the bed. It was Braxton. He had risen from his makeshift bandages, and now yipped angrily, with what little strength he could muster, at the flesh mirror.

It would not take its eyes off me, but it addressed Braxton. "Dog. Lucky dog. Quiet." Braxton responded by using the last ounce of energy in his tiny body to leap forward, and clamp down hard on the creature's side with vice-like bite.

Though Braxton was a lapdog, his sharp little teeth still hurt like hell. When that dog wanted to eat something, his bite was extremely hard to pry open. The monster squealed in pain, and loosened its grip just enough. I fell to the ground, slowly regaining my wits, and slipped through its slimy legs. I turned back and the flesh mirror had Braxton by the throat. I had never seen the creature express an emotion other than eerie giddiness, but it looked at Braxton with pure hatred as it strangled him with viscous black fluid flowing down its veiny side. I couldn't let my old buddy go like this. Still gripping the knife, I raised from the ground and plunged it into the back of the creature's head. It let out another sickening yelp, and dropped my canine pal. I scooped Braxton up, and stabbed the creature several more times in the back of the head, until it fell to the ground. It made a disgusting gurgling, wheezing noise as it struggled to get up, and I knew killing it would be a lot more difficult.

I made a mad dash for the kitchen, flicking on as many lights as possible as I went. I felt Braxton's sharp and labored breathing against my chest. He had lost so much more blood when the creature had choked him, and his windpipe was likely crushed. Once in the kitchen, I slowed my pace to a walk as I realized it was curtains for my oldest friend. Even with the threat of the flesh mirror looming, I couldn't toss Braxton aside like trash. Tears welling in my eyes, I opened the sliding glass back door and softly placed Braxton on the grass of the yard. His favorite place. His sandy fur was matted with blood, and his back leg had been twisted even worse in the scuffle. His throat looked bent and crumpled as a result of the creature's tight grip. I cradled his head, and scratched behind his pointy ear just the way he liked. "You saved me buddy. You're a good boy." He softly licked my hand, and the light was gone from his milky eyes.

I could've run. I could've hopped in my car and gotten the fuck out of there. But the flesh mirror had killed my fucking dog. After doing a piss poor imitation of him, I might add. I wasn't letting this one go. I made my way back into the kitchen, adrenaline pumping through my veins. I wiped the tears from my eye as my heart throbbed in my ears.

I began rummaging through the junk drawer -The next logical step to use against something you can't stab to death, is fire. Casting aside pairs of scissors and rolls of tape, I pulled an old zippo out of the drawer. It flickered. Once. Twice. The flame held on the third try. Now I was cooking. Before I could really formulate a method of which to effectively use it without burning the house down, I heard a cacophany of voices from upstairs, along with the wet dragging sounds of the flesh mirror slowly making its way into the living room.

The sight of the fleshy abomination that rounded the stairwell and entered the living room will never leave my mind.

The creature was much larger than before, a tangled mass of half formed faces and spindly limbs. A fleshy lump on its chest called out in the voice of Mr. Hutchins "I need a phone."Whyare youdoing that. don'tdontdontdontdont." I guess he hadn't been asleep in that recliner after all. From above one of its arms, a double chinned man rambled. "Here to fix your phone. Fix your phone. Fixfixfixfixfixfixfix." Braxton's grotesque neck-face yipped and barked endlessly. The face that was halfway to perfectly imitating mine spit out its slurred words under the thick waterfall of black liquid gushing from its eye. "Its okayitsokayitsokayitsokay."

It seemed the fight that Braxton and I had put up, interrupting its imitation of my appearance, had confused the flesh mirror. It now appeared to be mimicking multiple people AT ONCE.

Other faces I didn't recognize spoke as well. Children whined for their toys. Nervous women asked what was wrong with their husbands. A drunk man demanded another drink from an unseen bartender.

Each voice was perfectly imitated, repeating phrases like a skipping vinyl record. Individually they'd all sound perfect, if somewhat awkward. Overlayed, spit out all at once by this monstrosity of skin and ooze, the voices created a hellish chatter that was completely maddening.

It was almost as if the flesh mirror was rifling through its closet, and couldn't decide which costume to wear. So it put them all on at once.

Nonetheless it shambled towards me, and though the dozens of faces were different, they all wore a similar expression: One of absolute malice. This thing wasn't fucking around anymore.
I had been so enraptured by the grotesque menagerie that I had forgotten all about the zippo. A lifetime of watching and reading horror fiction failed me again, as waving the zippo's tiny flame back and forth did nothing to impress the flesh mirror. Weren't monsters supposed to be scared of fire?

It swung clumsily with one of its many limbs, and knocked me backwards into one of the cabinets, slashing my chest in the process. Though the sheer mass of flesh it was now carrying had considerably slowed the flesh mirror's speed, it still hit like a fucking freight train.

The searing pain I felt in that moment will never leave my memory. This was a whole dimension of hurt that I never knew existed. Blood gushed out of the slash marks across my torso, which luckily were not deep enough to expose any vital organs. They still hurt like all hell, and I knew the bloodloss could get to me fast. The flesh mirror continued to make its way towards me, moving at a snail's pace. It seemed to have distracted even itself with the massive conglomerate of voices and personalities. Had I somehow fucked up its mind when I stabbed it in the back of the head? Did this thing even have a brain?

I was starting to get woozy. I needed to think of something. I glanced to my side. The cabinet I had been flung into had crashed open, its contents now littered the floor. Beside me was an aerosol can of cooking spray. This was my last chance, or I'd be joining Braxton in the afterlife.

I held the lighter in front of the cooking spray, preparing to unleash the spray and flick the lighter in one smooth motion. The flesh mirror had reached me at this point, inching the mushy head that was once morphing into my own close to my face.

I tried to think of something cool to say. After all, these had the potential to be my last words. "This one's for Braxton!" "Eat flame, bitch!" "Hasta la vista, baby!"

All I could muster was an enraged "FUCK YOU!"

As I released the stream of cooking spray and flicked the lighter, the flesh mirror responded, in a garbled, monstrous imitation of my voice. "FUCK YOU!"

The makeshift flamethrower had worked. A burst of fire blasted the flesh mirror. A horrendous scream of pain escaped its mouth, as it tumbled backward away from me. I slowly rose to my feet, my head spinning as blood seeped out of my chest and my back throbbed in pain. I held the makeshift flamethrower in front of me. The flesh mirror's crude imitation of my face was bubbling and crackling under the glowing flame. I continued spraying as much of the flesh mirror's veiny form as I could until the aerosol can ran dry. The burning, fleshy lump released countless, inhuman cries of agony as it cooked in my kitchen. I slumped to my knees, crawled past it, sitting back first against the front door as the flesh mirror wailed.

A disgusting stench filled the air, burnt flesh and that black liquid. It seemed oddly familiar somehow.

The flames were still going strong, but the flesh mirror seemed to be fading. It had ceased thrashing around, and its shrieks had dulled to a murmur as its skin crackled.

Suddenly, it rolled over. Two of it's melting, gangly limbs landed palms down on the ground. The burning flesh mirror was attempting to lift itself up. If the flamethrower hadn't worked, I was well and truly fucked. At this point, all I could do was stare as the creature attempted to stand.

It raised its "main" head, the one that had begun to look like me, and met my eyes with that hate filled stare. With one final, rage-fueled scream, the smoldering heap of skin threw itself forward, and swung a dripping, clawed hand at me.

It collapsed to the ground just short making contact. It was too weakened to finish the job.

The room had finally become quiet. I looked down and saw that the blood leaking from my chest had no signs of slowing. I slumped forward once again, my vision getting hazy. I slowly pulled my phone from my pocket. Would paramedics get here in time?

The flesh mirror's reeking corpse was still burning behind me, and I figured it wouldn't be long before the entire house went up in flames.

I dialed my mom's number, hoping she would pick up. I just wanted to tell her I loved her, and that I was sorry she ended up with a disappointing son that somehow managed to get murdered by a shapeshifting monster while housesitting for a weekend.

I pulled the front door open and crawled through it as mom's phone rang. Miraculously, she picked up. She sounded groggy. "Ethan..? Wh..What time is it? Are you alright?" I could barely even form the words. "... mom. I... I love you. I'm sorry. Braxton. The .... the house. Everythiinggg..." My words were slurring. I involuntarily dropped the phone as my other hand rested on the doorknob

Maybe I could make it into the street. I heard my mom yelling through the receiver, though I couldn't quite make out what she was saying. I was tired. As I pushed the door open, I remembered why that hideous smell seemed so familiar - The burning flesh mirror smelled EXACTLY like our fish n' chips house special at Fin City. No wonder we went out of business. I chuckled to myself as everything went dark.

I came to in a hospital bed. Evidently my mom HAD called the cops from Maine after our phone conversation, and they found me passed out in my living room in a pool of blood. Thing is, I was alone. I immediately asked the doctor what the authorities had done about the "thing." A puzzled look crossed her face as she told me that the animal that had attacked me in the house had gone before the authorites arrived, and that I probably wouldn't be here if it hadn't. They were under the assumption that it had been a bear attack, though they were baffled at how a large bear could've gotten into the house with seeming ease, and why the animal seemed to have lost interest in me after mauling me. They would probe me for more details once I'd been awake for a bit.

 I had a million questions. What about the burned carpet? The black ooze the flesh mirror had bled everywhere? How the flesh mirror managed to escape without burning the house down, and why it spared my life are beyond me. Maybe it thought I was already dead. I wondered where it could have gone.

But I put those thoughts on hold when the doctor said my mother was worried sick about me, and asked if I'd like to see her now that I was finally awake. I excitedly agreed, and the doctor ushered my mom into the room. She was ecstatic to see me - Her emerald green eyes lit up with joy, as her toothy mouth turned into a too-wide grin. I screamed and screamed.

I work at a gas station in rural Pennsylvania. It's a boring job, but it's pretty easy and it pays all right. A few weeks ago, this new guy started; I'll call him Jeremy.
Jeremy is weird. He's about 25 or 26, and he hardly speaks, but he's got the creepiest laugh I've ever heard. My boss and I have both noticed this, but it's never been a problem, so there's not much we can do about it. Customers have never complained about him, and he's always done his job fairly well. Up until a few weeks ago, anyway--that's when things started going missing. Employee theft can be a problem at any business that sells consumer goods, and there's only one person working at a time at this gas station (it's a pretty small place). About two weeks ago, my boss started noticing that we were short on motor oil. At first, it was a few containers at a time, then entire shelves and boxes from the back room. Pretty soon entire shipments would be gone the day after we got them, and it would always be right after Jeremy's shifts. My boss has checked the security camera tapes from every single night he worked, but he could never catch him in the act. Jeremy would lock up at closing, then the motor oil would be gone the next day.

My boss usually takes the tapes home with him to try and catch Jeremy stealing, but his daughter had a softball game last night, so he asked me to watch the tape for him. He offered to pay me overtime, under-the-table, so obviously I took that offer. There are three cameras, so he gave me three different tapes to check. I figured it would be a long night, but I'm trying to save up for vacation, so I really needed the money. I took the tapes home, popped them in an old VCR and sat back.

Two days ago (the last time he worked), Jeremy started at 4 PM. Everything seemed pretty normal at first. He counted up his drawer, switched off with the girl who was working before him, and waited for a customer. The first person who came in was Mrs. Templeton (the timestamp on the video read 4:03), a regular. She picked up her cigarettes and a newspaper, and paid with a twenty. Nothing unusual there. The next customer was some local guy named Ron. He drives a motorcycle, usually comes in every few days. He filled up his tank, got a bag of beef jerky, paid with his credit card, and then left. Next was some guy with a cowboy hat. I'd never seen him before, but we get plenty of strangers passing through, just like at any gas station. He got forty dollars worth of diesel fuel, paid with a hundred dollar bill, and went on his way. I sat back and sighed. The only thing more boring than doing this job is watching someone else do it.

My boss's offer was enough to keep me watching though, so I left the tape on. Everything seemed pretty normal. I had a feeling that if Jeremy was stealing motor oil, he knew we were suspicious of him by now. I didn't expect him to be dumb enough to let us catch him on camera. Things stayed boring and routine until about five o'clock.

At 5:03, Mrs. Templeton came back in; she must have forgotten something. But she didn't. She bought the same pack of cigarettes as before, and the same newspaper. She paid with another twenty. That's odd, I thought, but then again, she's a little absent minded. I thought Jeremy should have told her she already got her smokes, but it's not against the rules to sell somebody the same thing twice. That's when Ron came in again. He bought another tank of gas (for his motorcycle again--I later checked the outdoor camera because I thought maybe he had another car he wanted to fill up) and the same pack of beef jerky. He paid with his credit card again.

No big deal, I figured this was just a weird coincidence. Mrs. Templeton is forgetful and Ron probably owns more than one Harley. That's when the guy in the cowboy hat came back in. I felt a chill run down my spine. "Don't get diesel, don't get diesel," I found myself whispering to my empty living room...but he did. He got forty dollars worth of diesel fuel and paid with another hundred dollar bill. Every move he made was identical to his first visit, right down to the way he scratched his nose before he walked out. Either this guy is rich, owns a lot of trucks, and just moved into town, or something really bizarre was happening. I kept watching.

Every customer for the next hour was the same as before. Every single one. I was seriously freaked out, and then at 6:03, Mrs. Templeton walked back in. She bought her cigarettes and newspaper again, and paid with a twenty again. I thought I was going to lose it. I only watched another half hour before I started fast forwarding through the rest. It was all the same. Every customer would come in at the exact same times, exactly one hour apart.

Now I know what you're thinking. That sneaky motherfucker Jeremy had messed with the tapes. He had run a loop of his first hour of business over and over. That wasn't the case. There are windows around the cash register area that the camera covers, and I watched the sunlight fade as time ran on. Jeremy's routine didn't loop over--he swept, mopped, restocked, and did all his duties exactly how you would expect. But the same customers kept coming in.

I was panicking at this point. Something was seriously wrong with what I was seeing, and I had no explanation for it. I skipped ahead to when he locked up and walked out to his car. He hadn't stolen anything, but I kept watching, just to make sure. I fast forwarded one last time, to about midnight.

At exactly 12:03, out of nowhere, Jeremy's face pops up on camera. I don't mean he moved his head into view, I mean that one second the store was empty, the next second his face was all I could see. He wasn't looking at the camera, he was looking at me, I was sure of it. I screamed and fumbled for the remote. By the time I grabbed it, he was gone, just as soon as he had left. One frame he was there, the next he wasn't. My hands were shaking like crazy, but I popped in another tape. The other indoor camera shows the back area, by the cash register, and I would be able to see how he got up to put his face in the camera like that. I skipped ahead to 12:03, but there was nothing. I would have been able to see him standing on a chair or something on this tape, but he wasn't there. I didn't see him enter the store at all after he left. It's like he wasn't really there. He doesn't know the security code, and no alarms were triggered that night after he locked up.
What I did see, however, was that at 12:03, the motor oil vanished off the shelf. All of it. Same as Jeremy's face, one second it was there and the next it wasn't. I turned that tape off and went to bed, but I didn't get a wink of sleep. My body is exhausted right now, but my mind is racing. That tape was undoubtedly the creepiest, most disturbing thing I've ever seen in my life.

I work in a few hours. My boss asked me to bring the tapes back in and let him know what I found, but really, what the hell am I going to say? Jeremy works the night shift tonight, directly after me, and the plan is for my boss to come in just before I leave and confront him with me (as I'm supposed to be the one who caught him stealing). I have no idea what I'm going to do. I suppose I'll have to show my boss the tapes, but I don't want to watch them with him. I never want to see something like that again. I can't get the image of Jeremy just smiling directly into the camera out of my mind; it was the creepiest look I've ever seen on another human being's face.

Anyway, I'm gonna try again to get some last minute sleep before I have to go in and deal with this. I'll let you guys know what happens...

UPDATE (2:49 PM): Updating from my phone, apologies in advance for errors. My boss just finished watching the last of the tapes. I told him what to expect, but you really can't prepare someone for something like that. He's scared shitless (I still am too) and Jeremy is due to come in at 4. We've got a little over an hour to get our shit together, but neither one of us knows what to say to him. Is he just a fucked up guy who likes to steal motor oil and scare the shit out of people? Or is he something else? I don't know if this is crazy, but does anyone think he could have anything to do with the time loop? My boss said he never noticed anything like that in the other tapes, but the way he popped up in this one made me think he knew I would be watching. It's like he wanted me to see what he could do. Like he was showing off or something. The way he smiled into the camera was like a little kid showing you a sandcastle they just built or something. I don't know, I probably sound crazy. I sure feel the part. I'm going to talk to my boss some more. We have to calm ourselves down and figure out how to handle this. I'll update again tonight, but I have a really bad feeling about how this is going to play out.

UPDATE (4:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We're calling the police.

UPDATE (5:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We're calling the police.

UPDATE (6:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We're calling the police.

UPDATE (7:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We're calling the police.

UPDATE (8:33 PM): No sign of Jeremy. Tried calling him, but his phone has been disconnected. We're calling the police.

UPDATE (10:58 PM): Holy shit. Holy shit holy shit holy shit. I just got home and saw my previous updates. Things make less sense now than ever. Here's what I can tell you. I went to work, Jeremy never showed up, my boss and I decided to call the police, as you're well aware. When I picked up the phone to call, though, the sun went out. I shit you not, that's what I thought happened. Apparently I blacked out for exactly five hours, because when I looked at the clock, it was 9:33. I think I got stuck in Jeremy's time loop, and then I snapped out of it at the exact point I blacked out, if that makes sense. But that's when things got really weird.
My boss was right next to me when I blacked out, ready to corroborate my story to the cops. When I came to, the phone was in my hand, but it was dead. Not even a dial tone. My boss was still right there, but he wasn't moving. He was standing up, but frozen. I looked at the clock again, and it wasn't moving. The second hand was stuck on the 12. It was 9:33 exactly. The clock on the register (computer screen) wasn't moving either. My phone was frozen. There was even a customer at the register, waiting for my boss to get him cigarettes. I'm betting that would have been his fifth pack of the day.

I got the fuck out of there. Didn't lock up, didn't turn the lights out, and sorry guys, I didn't grab the security tapes to upload on the internet. Believe me, that was the last thing on my mind. The gas station is on a major highway, and cars were parked all along it, except they weren't parked, they were frozen. The people inside were sitting still as wax statues. I got in my car and prayed that it would start. Thankfully it did.

About halfway home, time started up again. The static from the radio turned into music, like it's supposed to be, and from what I could tell by listening to the host talk in between songs, no one noticed the time freeze, or whatever it was. I was the only one. Well, I'm sure Jeremy noticed as well. I still have no clue where he is or what he's doing. I'm hiding in my room and calling the police again in the morning. I don't know if I ever got through to them before, or if I did, whether they took me seriously. I'm scared for my life at this point. I'll update tomorrow, if I can.

FINAL UPDATE (10:33 AM): I finally fell asleep last night around 4. I have no idea how I did it, I guess exhaustion finally got the best of me. This morning, I woke up to my phone ringing; it was my boss. He'd been calling me since about 6. He woke up when time turned back on last night and immediately called the cops. They came by to see what was wrong and he told them everything. The police around here are all small time guys; they were more concerned with the missing motor oil than anything, but my boss figured he would take it, as long as he had their attention. They decided to go looking for Jeremy.
We keep all our employees' applications on file, and since Jeremy just started working here, his was easy to find. They checked the address on it and headed over to his house. You're not gonna believe what they found.

The address Jeremy listed on his application was an empty lot. Or at least now it is. There used to be a house there, but it burned down in 1993. Being a small town, almost everyone remembers that fire. A family of four used to live there way back when. Rumor has it that they had an estranged son who they never really talked about, but I can't say for sure if that's true. What I can say is true is that after an insurance investigation, the fire was ruled an arson. The entire house was soaked in oil and torched with a Molotov cocktail. The entire family was sleeping when it happened; none of them survived.
They never caught the guy who did it. Rumor has it that when they tried to contact the estranged son, no one could find him.

Anyway, my boss called and told me this, and I freaked out. Then he asked me to come to the gas station. "What are you, crazy?" I said, but he assured me that the cops were there with him. Then he dropped a bomb: the FBI were also in town and they were going to talk to me one way or another, so I might as well come in. It was about 7:15, and I wanted to go back to bed, but I figured I wouldn't be able to sleep much more anyway, so I went down.
Four men in suits greeted me and told me to have a seat. We went over everything two or three times until they got all the details down. I told them about Jeremy, the security tape, last night at work. Everything. Finally, after I finished, one of the agents said, "Oh Christ, we've got another one on our hands." Then they made me sign a bunch of papers saying I wouldn't tell anyone about what happened, so I can't say much more. I might be breaking the law just by posting this.

So now I'm home. I'm not sure what to do with myself. That agent's words when I told him the story are going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

Anyway, I've got to go. I have some errands to run today, and then I have to go in to work to pick up some tapes. My boss and I think this new guy Jeremy (he's a complete creep) is stealing motor oil and I have to watch the security footage to see if I can catch him doing it. I have better things to do, but my boss is paying me overtime, under-the-table, and I'm trying to save up for vacation so I could really use the money. It should be pretty simple; the oil always goes missing right after his shifts. I figure I'll just watch the tapes, catch him in the act, and that will be that.

Lost Episode / SuicideMouse.avi by Unknown Author
« on: 03/01/19, 06:49 PM »
Suicidemouse.avi is a lost episode creepypasta and is widely seen as the forefather of the entire lost episode genre. This story is based off of an old, unseen Mickey Mouse episode. There is also a video that is based off of the creepypasta.
The Pasta

So do any of you remember those Mickey Mouse cartoons from the 1930s? The ones that were just put out on DVD a few years ago? Well, I hear there is one that was unreleased to even the most avid classic Disney fans.
According to sources, it's nothing special. It's just a continuous loop (like Flintstones) of Mickey walking past six buildings that goes on for two or three minutes before fading out. Unlike the cutesy tunes put in though, the song on this cartoon was not a song at all, just a constant banging on a piano for a minute and a half before going to white noise for the remainder of the film.
It wasn't the jolly old Mickey we've come to love either, Mickey wasn't dancing, not even smiling, just kind of walking as if you or I were walking, with a normal facial expression, but for some reason his head tilted side to side as he kept this dismal look.
Up until a year or two ago, everyone believed that after it cut to black and that was it. When Leonard Maltin was reviewing the cartoon to be put in the complete series, he decided it was too junk to be on the DVD, but wanted to have a digital copy due to the fact that it was a creation of Walt. When he had a digitized version up on his computer to look at the file, he noticed something.
The cartoon was actually 9 minutes and 4 seconds long. This is what my source emailed to me, in full (he is a personal assistant of one of the higher executives at Disney, and acquaintance of Mr. Maltin himself):
"After it cut to black, it stayed like that until the 6th minute, before going back into Mickey walking. The sound was different this time. It was a murmur. It wasn't a language, but more like a gurgled cry. As the noise got more indistinguishable and loud over the next minute, the picture began to get weird. The sidewalk started to go in directions that seemed impossible based on the physics of Mickeys walking. And the dismal face of the mouse was slowly curling into a smirk.
On the 7th minute, the murmur turned into a bloodcurdling scream (the kind of scream painful to hear) and the picture was getting more obscure. Colors were happening that shouldn't have been possible at the time. Mickey's face began to fall apart. his eyes rolled on the bottom of his chin like two marbles in a fishbowl, and his curled smile was pointing upward on the left side of his face.
The buildings became rubble floating in midair and the sidewalk was still impossibly navigating in warped directions, a few seeming inconceivable with what we, as humans, know about direction. Mr. Maltin got disturbed and left the room, sending an employee to finish the video and take notes of everything happening up until the last second, and afterward immediately store the disc of the cartoon into the vault. This distorted screaming lasted until 8 minutes and a few seconds in, and then it abruptly cuts to the Mickey Mouse face at the credits of the end of every video with what sounded like a broken music box playing in the background.
This happened for about 30 seconds, and whatever was in that remaining 30 seconds I haven't been able to get a sliver of information about. From a security guard working under me who was making rounds outside of that room, I was told that after the last frame, the employee stumbled out of the room with pale skin saying "Real suffering is not known" seven times before speedily taking the guard's pistol and offing himself on the spot.
The thing I could get out of Leonard Maltin was that the last frame was a piece of Russian text that roughly said "the sights of hell bring its viewers back in". As far as I know, no one else has seen it, but there have been dozens of attempts at getting the file on rapidshare by employees inside the studios, all of whom have been promptly terminated of their jobs.
Whether it got online or not is up for debate, but if rumors serve me right, it's online somewhere under "suicidemouse.avi". If you ever find a copy of the film, I want you to never view it, and to contact me by phone immediately, regardless of the time. When a Disney Death is covered up as well as this, it means this has to be something huge.
Get back at me,
I've yet to find a copy of this, but it is out there. I know it.

Creepypasta / Tourist Trap by Arachne
« on: 03/01/19, 06:47 PM »
In rural Wisconsin, there is an old abandoned park. Built in the 1920s, it served as the town’s gathering place for everyone.
That is, until a newly developed Train and Tunnel for Tots™ ride was installed in 1932. It was an innocent looking childish train, with one main (mechanized) head car, with three small trolleys pulled behind it. It went around some loops before going into a small tunnel.
But this is where the story gets weird. There were numerous cases of child deaths that year, all of them happening after the child rode on that train system. Some kids went missing in that short tunnel (about ten feet), and others went comatose after leaving. One, upon exiting, was found to be dead. Her dress was covered in what looked like small bloody handprints. Some killed themselves by scratching at their throats until they bled out, and one of them even killed another child before hanging herself with razor wire at the family’s farm.
The park was closed, and the town’s popularity as a tourist town plummeted.
Recently, a team of scientists were sent out to the park. They taped a video camera to the train, and put a new intern in with it, before sending it on its way onto the tracks.
When the train left the tunnel, it was empty, except for the camera.
The last ten seconds were nothing but static, save for the sound of children laughing.

Pages: 1 2 [3] 4 5 ... 7