Extracted from the personal notebook of Detective Charles E. Willows, 1891-1940
Of what has become of Frank Elwood or where he has vanished to; none can rightfully say. When the townsfolk of Portland were questioned extensively by authorities; only a handful of the more rustic country folk could say they had spied him traveling the old dirt roads to Hopps Hill in the eve of Good Friday. Their initial investigating to the shunned old hill hidden by thick forest growth was only met with the morbid discovery of small pools of blood; foul odour in green, brown, black, yellow, and purple spatters of tar like liquid, with trace scraps of clothing found among those monolith slabs of dark antiquity. Further investigation of nearby locals provided the discovery of a medium sized pad-locked cylinder jammed against a rock in Dragon’s River before it meets with Salamander Bog; to which it must have ventured down from the hill whence the river’s mouth flows. Upon prying it open with a spade, they found the most material ‘evidence’ to the fate of the young New Englander.
Among its chief bulk of contents were a charred hand woven skin-bound book whose characters had been damaged by age but clearly those of the Irish language; a pair of spy glasses, the leather bound portfolio of notes and report’s badge branding the name Robert B. Loch who disappeared in 1891, and the commonplace journal of Frank Elwood. Yet the most curious find came when all of these contents had been removed, for in the bottom of that cylinder lay a strange jack-shaped black stone the size of a large rat; in which strange characters were carved and dyed a luminous red by some unknown means. It was agreed upon by the investigators to send it to the famed Massachusetts University of the occult in that witch haunted old city where men of science and scholars alike could study it; had not a young officer of Welsh blood seen the stone, which had stirred him to anarchist action in deposing it into the bottomless depths of Back Cove. Upon being detained and questioned thoroughly for the reason for his insane action of disposing of crucial evidence; the young officer could only vow on his own soul that he had forever rid the world of a horror that would be set loose had it remained in the realms of mankind.
One must bear in mind that all recorded in Frank Elwood’s commonplace journal may be an imaginative spectacular hoax. For he may have known of the local hidden legends of the old grotesque and unorthodox Coven of the Black Goat; despite his claims in the journal as only knowing of trickled whispers of the supposed witch cults survival while in Vermont the year prior. Nor was he ever truly mentally sound after his experience in the witch-house near his university when he was still a student; as the dwellings speculation of having unnatural beings had been confirmed. His disappearance may merely be the catalyst boon for the tourism and industrial growth of Maine’s forgotten countryside.
There are still those who believe the journal should be taken at its face value and even though highly irrational; take Elwood’s account as truth. Correlating the found evidence with all the journal has to offer allowed for such a solid grounding of beliefs. It may have been by such gossip among the early investigators of Elwood’s disappearance that the young officer moved to his radical extremes upon seeing the stone. Then, what is the true fate of Frank Elwood? The facts and the fantastic become blurred the longer Elwood remains lost.
It is between the schools of reality and fiction one must discern in pondering. The tangible evidence has been made clear and with a calculating mind may the mystery be merely an answer. To which, the journal can be brought into question. Now, studying the journals contents closely, listlessly, and at our leisure; the macabre chain of events can be surmised by their chief actor.
Young Elwood had come to Maine in the late autumn of 1931, taking a cozy dwelling of a small Georgina cottage off Baxter Woods. With a gentle smile did he greet the majority of townspeople he saw while passing from train to motor car; waving ever so often. His coming was made wide-spread by the local papers; for he was to be chief land surveyor for Bangor’s pulp and paper branch in the town. Some of the faces of the people seemed to quiver in an odd way when his eyes glanced at them; as if trying to convey some horror through expression. It was behind his own dark emerald irises that he had concealed the truth of why had had come to the town.
Merely was the proposal of the job his excuse to come to the region from his settlement in Vermont. His despair had reached the deserted countryside where he had lived in the spring month of April; when he had gotten the letter from his one-time Landlord Dombrowski. Dombrowski was a man who spared no detail and it was here that Elwood learned of the horrific discovery of the human and inhuman bones discovered in the demolished witch-house he had stayed just years ago; sending him into utter dread. The waxing and waning months of summer did little to clear it from his mind; as the domed hills that pictured his landscapes of the region only filled him with loathing half-real fears when he had tried to grasp truth from the native Pennacook Indian tales. Frantic desperation to leave the state had found him the opportunity in Maine and with Dombrowski’s relative whom owned a cottage there; he had found his escape. Of why he did not flee the regions of New England in itself; he attests in writing that its aesthetic natural beauty and not its morbid legends is the only reason he can ever truly consider it his home.
This relative, one Felix Dombrowski, had given him the cottage for a cheap rent; as he admitted it lack most proper furnishing and there was an odd pungent odour about the room which he could not explain. As Elwood navigated the room; he found the odors source to be on the large Oriental rug that lay on the floor. Removing the rug, under it was nothing more the utter putrid green slim-like water that had sprung from a hole in a floorboard. Burning the rug and plastered the floor with Felix’s help; the room soon lost its odour as Elwood had bought a few chairs and other sundry objects to fill the blank canvas the room had been; acquiring his books and bookshelf sent to him from his parent’s home in Road Island.
Once truly settled in his now livable domain by November’s end; Elwood began his work in surveying the land around the town. As chief and most skilled land surveyor; his business was done alone with no assistance as his employers figured it the cheapest way for the remote woods of the Province to be surveyed. It was in the winter months that he had become accustomed to the diverse townsfolk; for there were many of difference ethnicity and creed than he. There was the self-styled ‘True Americans’ whom were merely English descendants that had roots there since the 17th century; the superstitious yet self-denying of such superstitions French-Americans that reminded him of the people of Salem, the hardy Germans, the lively Italians, and the wholesome Irish to which his ancestry placed him among. It had been, too, during this month that he first gazed upon the standing stones that sat lurched atop Hopps Hill in Presumpscot Woods.
Elwood had only glanced about the stones by chance when he was spying the town’s lush pines and barren scattered maples; as he was viewing the from the town’s opposite hill Truffle Mound in the center of Baxter Woods. They had absorbed his interest to the upmost; as he had known of standing stones throughout New England but had never heard of any accounts of them this far north. As his gazing instruments spied the regions around the summit; his eyes were caught by the black torn away spire that protruded into the sky from the base of the hill. It was a church that had been abandoned yet why had it not been razed to the ground by the locals? He would have to seek Felix out for information when he returned to the cottage the following week; as he was out visiting friends in New Hampshire.
He kept studying the spire when he went surveying; noticing that shadowy crows seemed to shun its edifice whenever they were flying by and the land around it seemed desolate even for winter. Tuesday brought Felix’s return to the domicile in which Elwood showed him through his instruments the deserted church. Yes, he had known of the building before but could not provide any tales or urban gossip spoken of it; as it lay off in the old French quarters where they kept to themselves. He warned Elwood that such area was hard to navigate as the roads intertwined, streets disappeared into forest, the French-Americans rarely left their houses or talked to strangers, and the whole air around it gave one the feeling of grim warning on the unseen monoliths hidden by the dense forest growth and the gothic deserted church. Despite his efforts to discourage Elwood, Felix’s warning seemed to spark a burning flame of adventure in his young soul. That Friday, the week before Christmas, he set on his quest for the church and whatever mysteries its age old walls kept hidden from the superstitious self-denying folk that settled around it.
The trip was a cold and lonesome one; for the northern winds blew harshly against Elwood as he made his way through the town. Looking around him as he journeyed onward past the humble small shops and antique houses; he saw a few Italians hailing their patron saints and chanting in their native tongue as he passed by. They were not alone in their chanting and prayers, as it seemed even the Irish and Germans were doing likewise; giving him an odd feeling about the entire town. Were they merely canting for celebration and respect or was it all some attempt to ward off a lurking evil that lay in wait; hidden among the forest? He crossed himself as his customs had taught him, taking from under his vestments the golden cross he had since boyhood; kissing it as he hurried his pace.
It was not long before he reached the French quarters that the brooding feeling of forbidden things became a phantasmagoria of the otherworldly. From end to end of the forgotten courtyards were the litter remains of collapsing roofs from the decaying houses in disrepair they called homes; fences snapped at ends and the rotting wood amalgamating into sickening discoloration. The houses seemed huddled together, casting their shadows down on Elwood; as if trying to communicate the dark history their paintless walls had seen centuries before. Where the house did not loom were the natural spires of pines encroaching the area; this pattern he could one day foresee devouring this forgotten section and sending its hidden mysterious past into oblivion; if industrial progress did not do so at a later date. Interweaving through the various roads that were gnarled with vegetation and loose bricks; he could scarcely hear low moaning of words barely recognizable; despite his study of languages the world over, both in and out of his college days. Always was the black spire of the deserted church in sight but even with his best efforts; Elwood became lost among the nightmare landscape that he could not traverse.
He had deemed his quest a daydreaming fancy; the church he sought a stupendous dream world no human feet should ever tread. His resolve was that of failure; had not the faint glimmer on the neighboring street caught the corner of his eye. It was the badge of a hardy blue coat, thick bearded German patrolman he had seen often in the town square. Making his presence clear to the officer, Elwood was met with the officer’s surprise that someone was actually out in the harsh weather besides himself; more so for this region of the town known for such lonesomeness. When question about the deserted church, he made a curious sign with his right hand, speaking very coarsely that the French had made damnable warnings to everyone against it; that some unspeakable thing had once dwelled in its shadowed depths and left its hideous mark. Even recalling how in his boyhood lay the whispered weird stories; made all too real by his father’s account , being a patrolman like himself in those olden days.
There had once been a strange sect there in the town’s youth—a lawless sect that had called monstrous shadows from the forest’s blackest depths of night; where those monoliths stood primal. It had taken strong and courageous priests to banish such things back into the gulfs of forest from whence they came; though there were those who said an ordinary cross could ward them off. If Father Brown were still alive; there would be many the tales he could tell. Now, it was best left for nature to obliterate. Those who owned it had vanished while the rest fled like vermin after the threating talk of 1887; when people began to take notice when children and younger kin disappeared now and then throughout the town. The forest would topple and send it away soon enough; best to leave it untouched least those unknown things from the shadows be called forth once more.
After bidding him farewell; Elwood saw the cobble road that led him to his destination he sought long before but now shrived at its sight. The large black iron gates rounded the building were parts terminated into the forest. From the oddly unbroken decorative windows; it spoke to his remembrance of arcultetcutral history the Gothic Revival period that proceeded the stately Upjohn period. Of true ancientness the church had, he was certain. His slender frame being able to fit through the bars; he slid through the gate as he left the French square behind him.
He stalked the path slowly taking in the oddities he saw as he passed them. The snow on the ground did not seem to be placed as naturally as it should be; for the layers looked thinned as he could see what appeared to be charred ground under it. The trees around the church were barren as they should be but their branches looked off at angles; very loose and bent. The area itself reminded him of a true view of a blasted heath; liken to those painted in the imaginings of Poe and Shakespeare. When he approached the door, it did little to change this unease; for even it looked less worn than an unused door ought to be. Mustering what courage he could his resolve let him thought the door and headlong into the forgotten ruins.
Closing the door silently behind him the endless clouds of dust fluttered about the room; irritating him enough to utter a faint cough. Scatted half-destroyed pews; torn curtains and their broken rods, peeling plaster walls, and fallen candle holders littered the dusty and molded over carpeted covered floors as he inspected the area. The faint light that seeped in from the stained glass windows was blacked over by dirt and soot gave saints highly open to criticism; by mere expressions alone. There was something vaguely perplexing in the postures their hands made; one window alone being nothing more than a single tall man wrapped in cloth who stood among a fire with a strange object prostate in his right hand. Shuttering visibly at all he had so far seen; Elwood’s eyes were drawn to the cobwebbed pulpit whose cross drew his attention.
Upon closer investigation, the cross was that of Celtic nature; known by his religious studies to be an incorporation of the sun cross of Pagan times with that familiar cross of Christianity. Behind it lay the small bookshelf with crumbling volumes and few legible titles he could scarcely make out. As he was only a novice of the occult, none of the titles gave him a true shock of horror; though he was sure to the more discerned mind than he that they were of some antiquarian importance. Two of the titles that he recorded in the journal for latter study were Chronike von Nath by Rudolf Yergler and Dhol Chants. He would have to send a letter if he wanted to know more to either the more avid English professor in folklore or the wise aged chief librarian of his old college’s Orne Library, known for its special collection; books his ill-fated university student neighbor Gilman was fond of reading.
There were few places left to explore after the main room; as the Gothic columns merely provided for large spacing of area on the ground floor to which most rooms lay in abysmal damage. Left to his probing voyage would be the cellar whose entrance was guarded by a vaulted door or the room just under the church’s spire. Trying the vaulted door as it was closest to him; he found it impassable and tightly secure. Even so, a foul odour crept from its hinges; making him all the more reluctant of wanting it open at all. Grasping sturdily on the rafters of the onyx stairs; he ascended to the unknown heights of the upper room.
The room was half what he expected it to be; for parts of the withering spire sank into the floor. Disappointment came from the lack of chimes he had known churches like this to have; the room devoted to vastly different purposes with its high flat table were pens and paper lay scrawled in abandonment. Illumination was scarcely light by the small broken window near the table so that he drew from his coat pocket a small electric lantern to improve the visibility. It was then that the faint red glimmer of the large black jack-like stone caught Elwood’s attention.
In his mind there was no doubt, as he viewed it, that it wasn’t a relic of some kind; though if it be some bas relief of a Pagan symbol or merely some eidolon image of an unorthodox god used in esoteric worship, he could not say. He believed the thing to be half completed as its lower half; despite its smooth flat quality underneath, gave one the feeling that there was more to it. Picking the stone up had revealed it was being used as a paper-weight for a few worn pieces of parchment; only adding to this eccentricity by being in a strange self-styled cryptic text. As it would provide musing for a later time; Elwood bore off these papers by folding them into his vest pocket before his attention was drawn back to the stone.
Absorbing his interest more than he had realized; Elwood could scarcely try to divert his eyes from it. A phantasmal glow seemed be radiating from the stone; conjugating surreal imagining in his mind. Vague, threating menaces stood robed around hell spawned fires as rites were hollowed against those cyclopean blocks. Signs were made, words were spoken but not of the know languages and symbolisms he had known. These figures differed in their sizes and shapes under those robes; for only few were liken to his size while others only gave the smallest outline of being human. Yet it was not this rite that his mind conjured up that made Elwood feel a clinging apprehension about the church but the feeling of a presence watching him from above in the dim spire’s shadow.
Bearing his eyes away from the stone; a distance shining in the opposite side of the room next to the stairs caught his glance. Motioning towards it after he had placed the black stone in the elm wooden box from whence it must have been stored; he wiped away the surface of dust with his glove only to choke back a scream he felt rising in his throat, for he was doubly afraid by the first visible horror he had seen since entering the church. For what his glove had so easily wiped dust from was a severed human hand that had turned to rotting bones in its entombment here for untold years; as their lay scatted bits of a gentlemen’s tweed sleeve and sliver buttons from whence the hand had been cut off. The second shock of fright had come from what had been clutched in that hand to the last; for beneath its grizzled remain was the slight charred volume bound in snakeskin, whose shuttering title lay in the dark lavender of devilish abomination the world over. For even Elwood knew it with his lack of occult knowledge as he shuttered its title in the native Irish his mother had taught him; An Rí I Buí, roughly translated to English, The King in Yellow.