On Floating Bodies

November 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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Whenever Gideon said something like “This is going to be fucking awesome” the end result was, inevitably, disaster. But that was ok. Aidan loved disaster.

So when Gideon showed up on that gleaming summer Thursday morning and asked if he wanted to do something, Aidan immediately said yes. The repetitive buzzing hum of the Arizona suburbs bothered him less when the boring reenactments of days prior were brokered with the faint illicitness of Gideon’s minor transgressions.

” Where are we headed?” Aidan asked, forgetfully adding “bitch” at the end of his question. Their skateboards rattled past the identical houses. The mailboxes tried out as extras for “The Persistence of Memory” in the morning sun.

“Swimming pools” Gideon didn’t look around at all . Just stared straight ahead at the indistinct scenery.

“Dude, fuck you didn’t say something? I don’t just wear bathing suits under my shorts.”

“We aren’t swimming.”

“Then what about pools?”

Gideon did a kick stop and then skated off, faster than Aidan could, without looking to see if he was following, without saying anything.

“God. Hate you, dude.” He sped up, chasing his friend’s rapidly disappearing frame.

They rode to the bus stop. When the bus came, late and already crowded, they shuffled in, slipping in between the crowd to maneuver to the back.

“Fucking hate riding the bus, man.” mumbled Aidan. “Ugh.”

“It was better before the routes got slashed to save money. They blame it on unions and pensions but that’s not it.”

“It’s this economy man.”

“It’s not the economy. Everybody says that. Like these bus driver pensions are going to bankrupt the whole world. Because retired bus drivers live a life of unimaginable luxury.”

“Right?” laughed Aidan.

“Dudes drove busses for like thirty years. Busses. For thirty years. And then they retire and then the company starts complaining about their pensions? Dude, they knew how much the pension was going to cost. And so did the bus drivers. That’s why they were bus drivers.”

“This economy though.”

“Hate it when people say that. Because the economy got messed up we should be fine with no pensions? No savings? No security? No jobs? Because why? Were those gifts, and
we should have been grateful? But the fucking rich white dudes on top — no offense –”

“None taken.” Aidan’s dad owned a construction business which had done quite well in the the housing boom. Now it was slowly going bankrupt and bleeding out. Most nights he fell asleep to the sounds of his dad’s beer cans opening. They sounded like gunshots or maybe distant storms.

“-they stay just as rich? Fuck that.”

The bus lurched out of a red light. Gideon looked around.

“Our stop.”

“Corner of Marx and Lenin ?”

“Intersection of icepick and Trotsky” he reached across the aisle and pulled the signal. “Ding.”

They had drifted into another section of suburbs. It looked exactly the same. The comfort of stranger’s subdivisions. Streetcars named Paxil.

“Now where?” he asked.

“Left for like, five minutes.”

They rode in silence, cars roaring past them. The sun continued rising.

They had turned down Elmore Avenue with its no outlet sign and neighborhood sign (“Shepperton Estates”) and Gideon pulled up on his skateboard. Before the two of them was a long, blank street of identical houses.

“This, motherfucker, this is what we are doing today. Every single house on this block was foreclosed. And every single one has a completely empty swimming pool.”

The houses stood, open and abandoned. Some had for sale signs still, crooked in the glaring light. Others had just given up, with dead front yards and empty driveways.

“They all have pools? When the fuck did everyone think they were rich enough to buy pools?”

“Middle class people got all fucked up on some crazy bullshit and thought they were noveu riche and shit. I saw this on some skate site. Dudes are going around the country, mapping abandoned areas. There are places in California where you can skate through like twenty miles of pools.”

“Fuck yeah, Great Recession.”

“Right? One other thing:”

They were skulking up the one driveway of the first house on the right. Aidan kept looking around, as if some crazy was going to come out screaming to get off his lawn but no. This was an ultra modern boom town after the boom. This was where the ghosts lived.

“In one of these houses, the whole family killed themselves, rather than leave the house. They were all found in the pool.”


“So, there’s that.”

They had waked into the first backyard. Everything was desolate yet almost seemed like it was paused, like if someone hit a button, life would start again.

But things weren’t paused. Things were stopped.

“There’s that.”

They skated through the swimming pools, gloriously empty. They jumped fences and ducked into unlocked back doors. They ran laughing through wrecked McMansions, walls ripped up from copper wiring being ripped out. They threw rocks into windows and heard the glass sing back symphonies of subprime hymns.

At the fifth house, the terminal point of the cul-de-sac, the rain came without warning. Raindrops like tiny wet bullets hit their still breathing bodies. They rushed from the edge of the drained swimming pool to the shelter of the overhang.

“Dude. I didn’t think it was supposed to rain?” Aidan asked.

Gideon had already pulled out his phone, staring intently into its screen. “No. It’s says no rain for the rest of the week.”

“It might be wrong.”

“I know but look,” he held out his phone, “it doesn’t even say it’s raining now.”

They watched the rain pelt the patio. Storms in the desert come on suddenly and seem to threaten to annihilate the entire world with their veracity. And then they vanish, never to be seem again. Aidan heard a sound over the rain and saw Gideon opening the sliding glass patio doors.

He stood outside and listened to the splashing and then heard Gideon call for him to come the fuck in. Immediately.

He came in. And stopped.

“. ..fuuuuck.”

The interior of the home was untouched. Completely furnished. The kitchen fruit bowls teemed with apples and bananas and avocados and oranges. The refrigerator was open. All the shelves were filled with perishable food items. Cruelty free eggs and grass feed beef and almond milk. Pictures on the wall. A happy family. Smiling dad. Smiling kids. Smiling mom.

“I thought these were empty?”

“They are!” The panic twisted Gideon’s voice until his sentence rose almost an octave. “That site said this shit is empty!”

“I think the site might not be completely right here, man?” He was trying to keep his voice down but he still half shouted. He and Gideon were arrested last year when the cops found them smoking pot in the mall parking lot. They were both on probation. Things had been so awkward.

The real world of judges, lawyers, and probation officers pressed down with an unbelievable precision against his chest. “We have to get out, man. Somebody is obviously living here. We’re breaking and entering.”

“No, look, look man.” Was Gideon pulling out his phone? Was he launching Safari at a time like this? “Let me show you…”


“Oh my god.” Aidan whispered.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

“Someone is upstairs. Let’s get the fuck out.”

He turned and ran to the sliding glass door. Which was now closed. And locked. He could see the pool from where he was. It wasn’t empty anymore. The rain drops pounded into the shimmering water of the somehow full pool. Adirondack chairs with beach towels over the back encircled the pool. The towels had flamingoes on them.

“Can you fucking not be fucking intellectually disabled ” Gideon’s little sister had Down’s and he was hypersensitive about the r-word, “about this shit? Open it!”

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

The noise was coming to the staircase.

“Not opening!” he hissed, “Not opening!”

Gideon pushed him aside and grabbed the door. Nothing happened. The door stayed closed.

The first stair croaked and groaned and creaked.



Gideon ran into the kitchen and grabbed a stool and hurled it at the door. Aidan covered his face and the stool bounced back and clattered on the tile floor.

“Fuck.” Gideon said. “Oh.”

And a body bounced down the staircase.

“Oh my god.”

The body barely resembled a body. An essential part of its identifiable humanity was missing, in the same way deer on the side of road go from obviously being a dead deer on the side of the road to becoming increasingly swollen, distorted and then, finally, an unrecognizable burst red thing beside the median strip. A violent trace of history.

The body was wearing a blue dress with red flowers on it. It had been dead for a long time.

Water poured out its mouth and ears and the holes that used to be eyes. The water spread out and touched the stool which still rattled.


“Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” Aidan couldn’t tell if that was him or Gideon. Maybe it was both. Maybe it was something else speaking.

Another body clattered down the stairs. And then another. Then, finally, another. All were swollen and discolored, as if they had been underwater too long. He stared at a hand of one of the smaller bodies, the way the fingers were so wrinkled that it looked like a twisted up and dead grey flower petal.

And then the flower bloomed.

The hand moved.

The body stood up, hesitantly, awkwardly, like a tourist in the subway. Unsure of where to walk or perhaps even how, the thing moved side to side. Fetid waters gurgled out from its feet. It pushed limp and wet blonde hair, matted and foul smelling, away from its face. Whatever it used to be, it had long stopped being.

The other three bodies had risen. They leaked and squelched and moved with a hideous slowness. Aidan lost all sense of himself. He couldn’t turn and look at Gideon. Was he even alive anymore? Had he hit his head and bled out in an empty pool? Was this hell? Was this a desperate hallucination in his dying brain?

The drowned things surged, all at once, as if they had latched onto a secret undertow, and were being pulled by an invisible ocean. The bodies smelled of drowned cities and flooded worlds. They smelled of forgotten wet horrors.

The father thing brushed against him. He could smell it. He was touching it. The father thing’s body was full of water and collapsed with contact, like blackened and rotten fruit. It groaned. Water ran from his toothless mouth, down his ruined and twisted neck and onto Aidan’s Vans.

Somehow, the door had opened, and they left the house and walked out, past Gideon and Aidan and onto the patio. Watery trails followed them.

The two watched from the kitchen, in the shadow of the stainless steel refrigerator, in the valley of the Viking range, in the bosom of the god of the material world, as the parade of the dead reached the pool.

At the edge of the pool, the malformed pressed mutilated arms against deformed stumps. They stepped down, slowly, into the shallow end.

And they began to make the terrible noise.

The noise penetrated into the house and reverberated in Aidan’s ears. It was the sound of guilt. Of hunger, horror, fear, revulsion and nausea at the world. At their imitation of existence. The screaming sounded like something Aidan had heard before but he couldn’t remember. He couldn’t remember anything.

They walked into the water. The screams grew louder. The raindrops pounded into their faces, their cheeks. Chunks ripped off and splashed into the shallows. And then Aidan saw the change.

The deeper they went into the water, the more the decay faded from them. The boy had eyes again, instead of holes. The mother’s lips turned red from grey. The father’s torn and flooded clothes resembled khakis, an Oxford shirt. The girl was suddenly awkward and tall and possessor of an immense and awful sadness that there was never to be anything else.

The family moved into the pool and the waters rose into them. The waters poured into their open mouths. The screaming stopped as their mouths filled and they sank. Their arms and legs kicked, even after minutes underwater. The parents held the children down, when they tried to swim away and then – nothing. Bubbles stopped escaping from their mouths.

The screaming. Aidan finally recognized the screaming. It was the same noise he would make in his dreams. The dreams he always forgot about upon waking. The dreams where he died.

The rain had stopped, like it had never been. The patio was dry and glimmered in the desert heat. The pool was empty, as drained as it had been before. The family was gone.

Aidan finally looked at Gideon. Gideon was crying and he realized, surprised, that he was too.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here. Fuck this forever.”

Gideon’s words echoed over the broken tiles, through the empty house with its broken windows and cracked doors and giant aching holes on the walls where pictures should be of happy families, smiling for the camera.

Credit To – O.H. Manchester

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The Beast in the Woods

November 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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I want to set down recent events in my life, because I’m afraid that this may be my last chance. To begin with, my name is Leon Cowles. I was born in Provo, Utah, although I have lived most of my life here, in Portland, Oregon. I’ve always been a rather intellectual person, preferring books and video games to basketball and football. In grade school I was a loner, and had few, if any friends. In middle and high school I began to read fantasy novels and mild occult books. At first just that wiccan fluff that, if anything, keeps people from learning anything of real importance or historical accuracy. Eventually I got into more intelligent and orthodox literature, such as carefully documented paranormal experiments and well research kabalic lore. In college (at the Institute of Jewelry Technology, in Paris, Texas) my reading turned to Poe, Borges, and Lovecraft. I learned a bit of Hebrew and Latin, to be able to read some occult books, who’s english translations I didn’t trust. I also learned the Futhark and Arabic alphabets to better understand various magical symbols.

After returning home and finding a job (as a jeweler for a local reseller) I started taking long walks in my spare time. I’ve always felt out of place in society and hiked through the local forests and mountains to be alone. The more isolated and untouched the better. The Pacific Northwest is fortunately rich in forests and wild areas to wander to my hearts content. Over time I became adept at finding excellent locations, sometimes shockingly close to civilization, yet somehow unnoticed everyone who passes by. I’ve even run across some ruins here and there, some amazingly close to town, but abandoned long ago, none the less. In a place that can be found on no city map, only ten blocks from my house, I found an abandoned water reservoir, along with several buildings, left to slowly decay many decades ago. Beneath Rocky Butte I found long maze of natural caves, totally untouched by anyone so far, not half a mile from two of the biggest freeways in the state. On an island in the Columbia river, that I swam to, I found an ancient farmhouse and barn, quietly decomposing for who knows how long. The places with ruins are my favorite, bringing a much more solid feeling to the sense of loss and past wonder that I feel about the world.

Not my favorite (due to high foot traffic some days), but certainly very close by for me is the famous Forest Park. The largest city park in the world, its more than eleven miles long, and several miles wide in some areas. It covers more than 5,100 acres. And as the name implies, its almost entirely covered in dense, old growth forest. It’s easy to lose your way along the many miles of winding trails, and more than once I’ve gotten turned around myself, despite my experience outdoors.

Forest Park is a wild and beautiful place in the light of day, but at night and in certain especially overgrown groves, were the dense canopy blots out most of the daylight, it has a sinister and feral reputation. Perhaps its dangers lie in its many fissures, canyons, and steep (and often wet) trails. Or just maybe it has something to do with certain ruins in its depths. There are also occasional reports of great cats (we have Mt. Lions in the area) who carry off small dogs and a local animals.

What is fact is that danger is present in Forest Park after darkness falls. Once every few years a body or two is found by hikers (or their dogs), often old, partially eaten, and badly decomposed. I remember in 1999 they found a number of bodies, arranged in some kind of strange diagram, over several hundred feet. Even this year, in 2008, they have found two corpses there.

My own incident at Forest Park began one early afternoon a week ago. I was going to go hiking in the southern/central region, on a few trails that I’d never been on before. I’d planned on being out until evening, so I brought along a lunch, iced tea, my mini-flashlight (one never knows when they’ll find a new cave or ruin), and notebook. I parked my car at the Lower McLeay trailhead and set off along the edge of the creek, heading into the park. Along my left the creek ended under a huge wooden lattice, that led into a huge sewer pipe and downhill, under the city, and into the Willamette river. There is a rumor that the Portland catacombs connect to that sewer pipe at some point.

Further along the creek is some kind of wooden walkways, raised twenty feet or so above the water, and connected to some old, crumbling masonry in and beside the stream. I’ve read that this used to be part of the original watershed that served Portland, and I guess that it was part of that. In the bed of the creek several ancient stone walls and pieces of brickwork can be seen to those with a keen eye. Beyond a bridge and a little waterfall, off the trail, up a hill and behind a huge pine tree a headstone with the name “Oliver” can be seen. No one has ever dug up the little grave, so no one knows who or what Oliver used to be.

Further still along the steep, rocky, and often slippery/wet trail (about one mile in) is the Witches House. This was once a public restroom, but in 1962 it was critically damaged by a storm and abandoned, rather than repaired. It’s now, by far, the best know (and most recent) ruin in Forest Park. It’s the stone walls and foundation of a small house, built into the side of a steep hill. The two “basement” rooms loomed cold, empty, and reeking of urine and pot, through the long open wall facing the trail and creek. At either side of the house is a stone staircase, leading to the large single room above. I climbed the stairs and looked through the open doorway to see what I would find today.

The Witches House has a very bad reputation after dark, and has it’s nickname for a reason. It’s said that witches and strange cults perform bizarre rituals here. It’s strange that although everyone knows about it, nothing is done to prevent it. But I guess no cop wants to hike at night, along a long dangerous trail without a damn good reason, especially when it would be difficult, if not impossible for backup to be called in, in under twenty minutes. The tall hills on either side of the valley also seem to have a confounded way of disrupting radio signals and cell phones in the area, so there isn’t even a guarantee that you’d even be able to get a call out.

When I looked in I saw that the cultists had been busy the night before; a red chalk diagram of Kabalistic origin still lay one the floor, a dozen burnt candles lined its parameters, and a now dry, garnet colored, fluid was splattered on the floors and walls. Amazingly, anyone who frequents this part of the park will know that this isn’t a rare occurrence. Outside the circle, near the corner of the room was written some hebrew symbols, arranged in what appeared to be some kind of appeal or prayer. I carefully set down what was written. After words I took a bit of time to translate, as best I could with my limited knowledge of hebrew, the symbols written on the walls.

It said roughly “We present an offering/sacrifice of blood in respect/awe/fear to you, mighty Qlippoth. May your hunger/anger be appeased/satisfied.”

The Qlippoth, in Kabalic lore, are demons utterly alien to this universe. They are neither truly alive or dead by our standards and seem to be ruled by different laws and physics than our own. According to lore, they existed before this world/universe, their own being destroyed during the creation of ours. To things of this world they are utter malignant evil, insane hated, and blasphemy given form (although they are said to be so mutable in nature that even attributing them forms may be inaccurate). Most Kabalists say they are only a myth, representing sin, and the few that believe in them (even Alister Crowley) would never try to bargain or make pacts with them, for they comprehend no alliances and seek only to destroy and consume truly living things. I wish now that I had taken the legends of the Qlippoth more seriously. But I thought of them only as legendary monsters like dragons and djinn.

After writing down that strange appeal I continued on, up the hill and away from the strange and evil little stone house. I walked for miles, winding this way and that through the hills and forest, enjoying the quiet and solitude of the day. Eventually I became hungry, and left the trail, slipping between the bushes and undergrowth. I moved about fifty feet off the trail and into a little clearing to sit down and eat.

While eating my lunch of sandwiches and iced tea a strange thing happened; something large moved in the vegetation, maybe forty feet away, off to my left. Thinking that it was a dog or deer, I stood up to look, but saw nothing. A moment later the commotion began again. I could now actually see the plant life being shoved aside and hear leaves and twigs being crushed. Whatever was making the noise had to be at least as large as a human, but I couldn’t see the thing at all. It seemed to be moving in an elliptical pattern, circling behind me and getting closer. After maybe two minutes the noise had moved in about a 90 degree arc, and was now behind me and thirty feet or less away. It still sounded quite large and was still totally unseen despite the plant life being no more than three feet tall. At this point I was quite alarmed and decided that I might not want to see whatever it was that was out there. I picked up my daypack and quickly moved back to the trail off into distance.

An hour later I had all but forgotten my brush with the unseen. It was starting to become dusk, although I didn’t have a watch on, so I don’t know the exact time. I had begun to circle around on the trails and head back toward my car, although I was taking a small, seldom used trail I had never been on before. As I was circling a little hill I saw some kind of small stone pillar, standing weathered and overgrown, off the trail to my right. Always fascinated by the possibility of examining forgotten artifice I went to see what it was.

The pillar was a basalt column, about four feet high, with some extremely weathered inscriptions on it. The style looked like art of the Pacific Northwest indian tribes. It seemed to be a picture of a hairy biped that was eating or rending small humans. It made me think of their legends of the Old Woman of the Forest (who some whisper was the same as the sasquatch), a huge, hairy ape-witch who would spirit off young children, never to be seen again. About forty feet away I saw another little obelisk, that looked identical to the one I just looked at. In between I saw a large, low circular block of concrete, and a couple of large, basalt blocks with channels cut into the tops and sides. I couldn’t decide their original purpose of the blocks. The concrete cylinder looked like an old cistern. I was maybe fifteen or sixteen feet across, but had recently been altered. The cement plate that served as a cap, and was almost a foot thick, had been partially removed. It had been lifted and slid to one side, leaving about a three foot gap to look into.

Peering down into it, with the aid of my flashlight, I could see that it was about thirty feet deep and badly damaged by the hands of time and/or vandals. Hand holds had be gouged into the inside wall, leading down to the cistern floor. A bed of moldering leaves and sticks covered the floor, which struck me as odd, since to cap appeared to have only been moved extremely recently, and it wasn’t late enough in the season for leaves to start falling anyway. I could also see two large holes in the cement tube, at the bottom, one on either side. One of the holes looked quite large, six or seven feet, while the other side looked quite a bit smaller, maybe four feet in diameter.

Having no fear of the dark, enclosed spaces, or heights, I began climbing down to further explore this new find. The odor of decaying plant (and possibly animal) matter hung thick in the air, along with the deep scent of wet earth. Both holes led into crudely cut rock and earth passages. I went into the larger one first and followed it back into the hill.

I’m not quite sure how long the passage was before it opened into a small chamber. Visually it looked like it must have been forty feet, or possibly more, but I completely passed through it in only seven steps, which should only take me twenty or twenty one feet. The little chamber was almost spherical, and looked to be about twelve feet across. It looked like the nest of some large animal, with a bed of dirty rags and pale sticks in one corner. I saw a couple of shiny glimmers poking out of the pile and bent down to examine them. The first was an impressive amethyst crystal, about six inches long, with many tiny black and red inclusions suspended inside it. The six sides, although they looked natural, had been polished and the base had been ground flat and polished as well. Some strange glyphs had been engraved into the six triangular facets that formed the point. Even with my fairly broad knowledge of runes and symbols, I was at a loss as to the origins of the symbols. They did look somewhat like the pictographs I’ve seen on Central and South American coins and calendars. The crystal had another quality that made it odd, unique, and sinister in aspect; whenever I’d look away, and could see the crystal with only my peripheral vision, the little red and black inclusions would seem to come to life and start moving, like miniscule fish swimming about in an aquarium. But as soon as I would look at it, they would stop and be just as I had seen them before.

As a jeweler I’ve seen a number of exotic techniques for creating illusions in gem stones. Some make it appear to be larger or brighter than they actually are. Some are cut in specific ways to conceal defects, reflect a double image, or even appear to move within the setting, but I’ve never seen anything like this.

Pocketing the crystal for later examination, I turned my attention to the other shiny bit, poking out from under a grimy rag. It was a watch from the 1980s, its spring band torn apart and its crystal cracked. A shiver went down my spine as my gaze returned to the pile and the pale sticks…

As I gingerly pulled one out to look at it I was horrified to see what I already feared, what I was holding was clearly a human arm or leg bone, snapped in half and many years old. Dropping the once human thing, I turned to retreat from this den of evil.

When I got back to the cistern I looked up expecting to climb back out to safety, but was momentarily paralyzed by fear when I saw something coming into the hole from outside. I shut off my flashlight and darted into the smaller tunnel to hide from whatever it was. It appeared to be a human figure, floating in mid-air, and descending past the concrete lid. It then abruptly fell into an unmoving heap before me with a sickening crunch/splat, quite obviously dead. It was a man, wearing torn and filthy jeans, an equally filthy flannel shirt, and worn and dirty sneakers. His eyes were open with a look of absolute fear that I’ll never be able to forget. His wild and unkept beard was a sea of red from what must have been a terminal throat wound.

Above I saw nothing. Then the lid slowly began to grate shut. I could see a ghost like shadow clinging to the gouged handholds in the wall with its feet and to the lid with its hands. It looked like a large black ape, with huge bat-like ears, a fanged canine like snout, and immense cruel claws on long ropy arms. As the lid slid shut it seemed to become more and more corporeal until just before all light failed it looked completely opaque. I sat still for a moment, hoping to escape it’s notice, when a huge weight fell invisibly before me, crushing leaves and sticks. I heard a sliding sound, like a giant rag doll being dragged around, then a nauseous crunching and slurping noise that I thankfully couldn’t see.

Hoping that the nightmare fiend before me was adequately distracted, I began to slowly and blindly move back into the smaller tunnel. Unfortunately, with all the rubble of the shattered cistern wall about me, I nearly slipped and had to catch myself with my hand, making a small but audible slapping sound. The crunching and slurping instantly stopped and the giant ragdoll fell to the floor. A sniffing sound and the crunch of leaves a step closer than it had been moments ago. I knew it had found me and my mind momentarily snapped. I would attack the unseen thing and at least not go down without a fight. I silently picked up a large rock, I think about the size of a brick, and switched on my flashlight, hoping to catch the living nightmare by surprise. The surprise was mine though; all I saw was the discarded corpse, now even more reddened than it was before. Where was the black horror? Was it hiding in the cistern beyond my field of vision? Then another step was heard, crunching leaves and twigs, even closer to me. I saw the leaves stir but couldn’t see the monster. Unable to understand where it was or how to fight it I threw my stone missile, with all the strength and fury of my adrenaline flushed body. All at one, the rock struck the air and deflected off to the side, a small spray of foul black fluid fell to the ground, and an unearthly scream of pain and rage began not ten feet in front of me.

I turned and ran. As I turned to retreat I saw, from the edge of the flashlight’s illumination, a huge ghostly ape clutching its face with a giant feral paw. I fled as fast as I could to wherever the tunnel led. My attack momentarily stunned the thing, I think, and it was unable to maneuver its huge bulk through the small tunnel as quickly as I could. The tunnel wound about and descended over a huge distance, miles I think. It eventually broke through another concrete wall, and into a wide drainage sewer, one side definitely ascending and the other descending. I could no longer hear the black fiend behind me, but I wasn’t going to take chances. I pulled off my day pack, taking only my notebook, and tossed it down the sewer in the descending direction, just at the edge of the water. I hoped this might mislead the phantom ape and buy me a bit more time, should it reach the wider sewer before I was able to find a way out. I ran off in the opposite direction, taking care to step only in the water, to help conceal my scent.

The sewer tunnel was about seven feet in diameter, with water flowing in a channel along the bottom. The water looked fairly clear and clean, accept for the occasional leaf of two. Little salamanders and crayfish scuttled out of my path as I went, making me pretty sure I was in the sewer below the McLeay trailhead. After maybe a quarter of a mile I began to see a lighter patch in the darkness. Another minute and I was at the sewer mouth, under the giant wooden lattice I had seen earlier that day. Night had come to the overgrown valley while I was trapped underground. Accept for the gurgling of the little creek, all the world seemed as still and quiet as a grave. Fortunately escape was possible for me through the wooden wall; near the middle of the lattice, just above the level of the water, a large rock was wedged between two of the beams. I was easily able to squeeze through this slightly enlarged gap, being both thin and flexible.

Now I was only a thousand feet from my car. I climbed the lattice back up to the trail, now exhausted, and kept moving as quickly as I could toward my goal. My pants were ripped in several places and my hands were covered in scratches from the speed of my desperate flight, but I was at least alive. I climbed back into my car, drove home, and collapsed into a deep, dreamless sleep. Somehow I sleep better when under stress (I don’t know why, but I do). I thought I was safe. I thought that the nightmare was behind me.

A week later and I was starting to feel better. In the mean time I had done some reading and research. I have decided that the thing I saw was a qlippoth. Ruled be the laws of an extinct universe, it seems that it reacts to light differently, being visible in darkness, rather than light. If those indian columns are any indication of how long its been around, then I would guess that it’s probably unaging and may not even be able to be killed at all. However I’m sure that something as vile and violent as that isn’t around and active all the time or the body count would be in the hundreds each year. Perhaps it can only be alive at certain times or under certain astrological conditions. I don’t know. The amethyst baffles me. I can’t be sure what connection it has to that qlippoth horror. It may be the thing that binds it to this world, like a golem’s phylactery.

But its not over. Earlier today,when I was looking into my backyard I saw the bushes being moved through, and something stirring the fallen leaves on the grass. I watched carefully and know that it was no mere wind or neighborhood cat. I know It has come for me, or the crystal, or both. I smashed the crystal moments before I started writing this. Now all I can do is wait and see what happens.

Credit To – Leein Cowles

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Grad Night in the Haunted Mansion

November 8, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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On June 4th, 1983, my high school was one of many that took us to Disneyland for Grad Night. If you’ve ever been to Disneyland on Grad Night, you know how much fun – and how crazy – it can be. The park stays open extra late, the skippers who drive the Jungle Cruise boats let loose and tell dirty jokes, and there’s plenty of opportunities for people to sneak booze and weed in. Getting a bunch of amped high schoolers in Disneyland is one thing, but with a nightlife and party atmosphere behind it, things can get pretty nuts.

My two friends and I, Anaheim locals, were particularly excited. We all loved Disneyland, and while we didn’t get to visit often, living practically in the park’s backyard gave us more opportunities than most. In addition, we hadn’t been since the new Fantasyland opened earlier that year, going from a sort of Medieval fairground into a storybook village, so I was kind of looking forward to that. Unlike a lot of people who were there, we intended to keep things clean and have a grand old time of it, hit as many rides as possible, and just revel.

But the big plan for the night was kind of ambitious and maybe a little reckless – to this day, I can’t remember who suggested it first, only that we all thought it was a great idea. We had already gotten into the park and gone on a number of rides when it was brought up, while we were sitting on a bench in Frontierland eating churros. From where we sat, we could look across the Rivers of America to Tom Sawyer Island, and past that where the river curved to New Orleans Square. Poking above the trees was the cupola of the Haunted Mansion, with its clipper ship weather-vane. The sun had just gone down, and the sky was awash with dull orange and purple clouds, most of which seemed to loom behind the cupola. I pointed out how perfect and spooky the whole thing looked, and that got us talking about it. The mansion was a collective favorite, and being dumb kids, we agreed to do a little exploring: to effectively “spend the night” in the Haunted Mansion.

We laughed about as we got in line for it, moving past the brick columns and up the walk toward the mansion, but inside I was a bit nervous. You have to understand security was a bit more lax back then, so it was plausible that we would be able to pull this off if we were careful. Plus, Grad Night always had kids getting into trouble, and the likelihood of us getting banned for good was not as high as it could have been. But I still felt tense, that feeling you get when you’re scared about going on a thrill ride for the first time, excited but hesitant.

The three of us – Mike, Karen and myself – had it all worked out: when you first enter the mansion, you’re escorted into a room that seems to stretch and warp before your eyes, which is actually an elevator that takes guests below ground, where a hallway connects to the ride building beyond the park’s berm. As everyone else crowded out of the room and into the Hall of Morphing Portraits, we lagged behind (which the disembodied voice of the Ghost Host jokingly warns you not to do) and fell in at the very back of the line. By the time we piled into our “Doombuggy,” there was no one else behind us, and the black, endless procession of clamshell-like cars were empty.

We went through the ride as normal, cracking jokes and making banter at all the old familiar scenes, until we reached the exit crypt. We stepped out onto the moving platform and walked toward the escalator ramp that leads from the crypt back to the park outside. If you don’t know, the escalator hugs the wall on the right, but on the left is a small crypt scene where a tiny, ghostly bride stands on a stone shelf and tells you to “Hurry back…Hurry back…” Mike took charge here, deliberately turning backwards as we went up to watch the cast member near the buggies below us. Mike’s a big, broad-shouldered guy, a football player through-and-through, and his bulk hid me and Karen from view as we slowly ascended. At his signal, when the cast member monitoring the exit had his back turned, Karen and I climbed over the rail and dropped down into the crypt scene, where we quickly scurried under the dusty space beneath the escalator. Mike was over a moment later, and we laughed and congratulated each other on a job well done.

We must have spent a good hour or so down there, giggling into our hands whenever we heard footsteps and voices overhead of unsuspecting people exiting the ride. Karen even had some snacks she’d brought with her, and we sat there in the dark and ate and whispered to each other. It was like being in a weird clubhouse, and it felt good that we three shared this delinquency together, even as the narration of the ghost bride looped over and over again in the background: “Hurry back…Hurry back…Be sure to bring your death certificate. If you decide to join us, make final arrangements now. We’ve been…dying to have you.”

Eventually the novelty wore off, and we got quiet, and then listless. Sure, we’d managed this much, but then what? Karen pointed out that it had been eerily silent for awhile – other than the monotonous speech of the bride and other spooky ambient sounds, there were no more people coming up the ramp. Mike said he thought maybe the park had closed, but that made no sense because it was open all night on Grad Night. Not wanting to get in trouble, but also wondering what was up, I volunteered to clamber back up and take a look. When I did, using some of the crypt scenery for hand and footholds, I saw that there was no one around, not even a cast member down at the unloading platform at the end.

When I reported this, Mike and Karen climbed back up as well, and we went back down the unloading station to look around. All the Doombuggies coming along the corridor were empty, and there was not a person in sight. It was odd, to say the least, and I felt like something was definitely off to have the place so empty. I was about to suggest turning around and heading back outside when Mike said he’d always wondered where the Doombuggies went after they dropped you off. They rounded a dark corner in the crypt area and vanished from sight, and Mike was curious what was down there.

Now really, I should have said no, that there was no point and that we could get into some serious trouble if we snooped around back there. It was probably just a utility corridor anyway, since the buggies just looped back around to the loading room anyway. But I was young, and I was stupid, and when presented with a golden opportunity like that, it was hard to pass it up.

So we went ahead and jumped into a Doombuggy going by, and it slowly rounded the corner into the darkness. This was uncharted territory for us, and even if it turned out to be boring back there, at the very least we’d get a chance to see it, and maybe get another ride out of it.

Hardly a day goes by where I regret not having said something.

The main thing I remember was how spartan it was. It wasn’t quite pitch black, but it was even gloomier in there than the rest of the ride. There were small lights set into the walls on either side of the track, but they were low to the ground and far between. The walls were painted black, and the corridor seemed so narrow that I felt boxed in. It was quiet too, other than the hum of the track moving the buggies. I felt tense, and Mike and Karen weren’t helping that, because they looked tense too; I think it was dawning on all of us how much trouble we might get in.

I think a minute or so had passed like this, us going down that dark, featureless backstage corridor, when the ride suddenly stopped and I nearly jumped out of my skin as a voice came from somewhere overhead – and laughed when I realized I’d been startled by the normal breakdown spiel. “Playful spooks have interrupted our tour,” the recording went. “Please remain seated in your Doombuggy. We will proceed in just a moment.”

The teasing was immediate, as we all pointed out to each other how we’d jumped. We waited for the ride to start again, and every thirty seconds or so, the spiel would play: “We have been unappointedly detained by prankish spirits. Kindly remain seated in your Doombuggy. We will continue our tour momentarily.” This went on for good long while – ten, maybe fifteen minutes – and still the buggies hadn’t moved, no one had come looking for us. We were getting antsy, and the silence between the announcements was becoming unsettling.

Then Karen leaned out a bit and looked around, and she noticed the door first. Just ahead, past the buggy in front of us, worklights revealed a little alcove and a utility door on the right-hand side of the corridor. We were so sick of being in the buggy by that point we were willing to try anything, so after a short discussion, we all squeezed out of the buggy, pressed against the wall to go past the next one – Mike had trouble here – and stood before the door. I pushed it open, finding it unlocked, and it led to a metal staircase leading down into the darkness, footlights like the ones in the corridor revealing where to go. I was thinking up excuses in my head as we went down the stairs, to explain why were likely stepping into Disney’s underground utility corridors – the infamous “Utilidors” said to run like a spiderweb beneath Disneyland – if someone found us. And by this point, I hoped someone did.

At the bottom of the stairs, another closed door with a sign on it, reading “Cast Members Only.” We pushed through that as well, and were legitimately surprised to see that it opened into what looked like a themed hallway. Disney, even backstage, seemed to be paying attention to style, as this hall sported the purple “demon wallpaper” and wainscoting of the rooms above. It was even lit by candle sconces on the walls, the fake flickering bulbs coated with cobwebs and dust. Several detailed wooden doors lined the hall, with out-of-place white placards mounted to them. Each was marked as a Prop Room, with a corresponding number.

As we made our way up the hall, we tried each door we came to and found them all locked. The first door, Prop Room 1, shook a bit but wouldn’t budge. Same with 2 and 3. Mike chuckled and said he wondered if we would find Walt Disney’s frozen head down here, but I could hear a nervous waver in his laugh. Even I was feeling some sense of dread with each door we tried, something hard to place but nagging. At Door 4, I put my ear to the edge of it and thought I heard what sounded like rushing water or faint TV static from the other side, and at 5 I noticed that the faux candles flanking it were flickering more sporadically than the rest, like they were faulty. Door 6, to left and near another plain utility door that marked the hall’s end, was the only one that yielded to us, and I was the one who turned the cold handle and opened it for the first time.

It’s difficult for me to describe what I saw in there without shuddering, because even now my telling makes it sound fairly normal… That is, as normal as a room hidden under a theme park attraction can possibly be. It wasn’t very big, almost like a large storage shed. Unlike the hall, this one was the bland utility black, and lit by a single fluorescent light in the ceiling, albeit a dim one. The walls were lined with metal cabinets, and there was some sort of large, archaic gadget shoved into one corner, not unlike the old computer banks from the 60s. But what caught my attention right away was the grinning figure near the far wall, across from the door – a dummy or animatronic of some sort, lifeless and unmoving but standing on its base.

The discovery was fascinating to all of us, and without thinking we all edged into the room and immediately approached the figure. It was clearly meant to be one of the ghosts in the ride, a specter in a top hat with a skull-like face, cartoony bulging eyes and a leering smile; one of the teeth was even painted gold. He stood in a bow-legged stance, one gnarled hand holding a cane and the other a hatbox. None of us had ever seen this particular character on the ride before, though Karen said its face looked a lot like the tall, skinny hitchhiking ghost from the end of the ride.

I was just turning away from the figure to look at the cabinets when there was a combustion roar from the hall outside, like the sound of a passing motorcycle, followed by a loud, bassy boom that made the floor shake. The door to the room swung shut, and the fluorescent light sputtered and went out, leaving us in total darkness. Mike gasped and Karen screamed, and I was just reaching out for them in the dark when I heard a peculiar whirring sound. Another light came on, this one a concentrated green light above the hatbox ghost, showing its skeleton smile for a moment before that light faded and another faded on, illuminating the hatbox. I could see through the material of the hatbox now, and saw the ghost’s head grinning at me from inside. The pattern repeated itself rhythmically, making it seem like the ghost’s head was disappearing from his shoulders and appearing in the hatbox. It wasn’t a terribly convincing effect, but in the dark and with the strange things going on around me, it genuinely scared me.

I turned and stumbled through the room, ready to get out of there, feeling around for the door. Now even the light on the ghost shut off, and I heard Karen and Mike’s feet behind me, a crash, and the sound of something solid tapping the concrete floor. I tried pushing the door open, but it wouldn’t budge, and somebody slammed into my back in the dark and caused me to hit it hard. I was dazed but unhurt, and another scream from Karen fueled my adrenaline even more. I instead gave the door a tug and it opened.

I was out in the hall without a second thought, without even looking back. I started running, sprinting back the way I had come, gasping for air. I was never a very athletic kid, but panic kept me going. I heard sounds behind me – footsteps, Mike and Karen yelling in terror as they followed, and what seemed like rapid knocking and banging on the doors around me – but I refused to look over my shoulder. Up the stairs and back into the Doombuggy corridor in what felt like a matter of seconds. The Doombuggies were moving now, endlessly traveling through the shadows. I knew it was risky to jump into one in this narrow corridor, and for a moment I stopped, trying to figure out what to do.

I finally looked back, back down the stairway I had come from. I thought Mike and Karen had been right behind me, but they were gone. I called out their names, my voice echoing down the stairs, but there was no reply. Not until I heard something tapping the metal stairs, coming up toward the door, and saw an unfamiliar vague shadow on the wall that I flung the door closed and dove into the nearest buggy, which carried me down the corridor a little ways before finally emerging into the limbo-like loading room.

All of the effects were still running here, including the eerie music and sounds, but there was still no one else around. I yelled for help, but no one appeared. As soon as I could I jumped out of the Doombuggy and ran back up the line, into the Hall of Morphing Portraits. Ahead was the door to the elevator, the Stretching Gallery, but I remembered that this area had a more immediate chicken exit, meant for those too scared to ride the ride and wanted to head back up to the park. The door was marked with an obvious exit sign, sitting between two shuttered windows that made it look like it led outside to a stormy night, and without hesitating I pushed through that as well.

Beyond was another corridor, on either side of me flashing lights pointed at the windows to simulate lightning, flickering with each thunderclap that boomed through the hall, disorienting me even further. Turning left, I followed the hall as the floor inclined gently up, my throat tight and a stitch in my side.

And then my throat closed altogether as I turned a corner almost ran into the hatbox ghost.

It was standing smack-dab in the middle of the hall, between me and the door that led outside. I scrambled backward instinctively, but the figure didn’t move. It was a static prop, grinning its cadaver grin, back-lit by a ceiling light further down the hall. The light also broke the illusion of the hatbox, and I could see vaguely the shape of the disembodied head through the scrim.

I was convinced – thoroughly convinced at that moment – that thing was going to suddenly jerk to life and come after me, but it didn’t. I had no idea how it had gotten there from down in the sub-level, or how it had so quickly. Maybe the one I’d seen below wasn’t the only figure; maybe Mike and Karen were pulling a fast one on me, and had dragged the figure up with them. I was frozen, trying to figure out where to go next, not wanting to go anywhere near the ghost but not wanting to backtrack either, because I still felt like there was something sinister behind me. Nervously, I croaked out the names of my lost friends, but there was no reply. Noises from the ride seemed to come floating down the hall, muted but ever-present.

Then I heard the groan.

It could have been a human groan, or something mechanical, but I definitely heard it. It didn’t sound like any of the standard audio, and it came from a point somewhere near or past the hatbox ghost, maybe even from further down the corridor past the exit. As if this were a trigger, I realized that either my eyes had adjusted to the dark or the lighting had somehow changed, because I looked again at the hatbox and saw the thing inside through the scrim.

There was still a head in there, but I know it wasn’t the ghost’s head. It wasn’t even a cartoon caricature of a head. It wasn’t Mike, or Karen.

It’s at this point the details allude me. I know that what I saw shook me to my very core, and that’s part of the reason its taken me so long to recount this. I remember seeing the thing in the box, seeing that it was indeed a human head – a man’s face, a face I didn’t recognize, seemingly looking back out at me with shocked, pleading eyes – but after that there’s a blur of sheer terror and snatches of frightening images: gnarled hands; tombstones; pneumatic hissing; the stretching room going in reverse, shrinking, shrinking too fast, the ceiling rushing toward me, the corpse hanging in the rafters descending on me…

I try not to dwell on them too much, because now I’m no longer sure which really happened and which were the results of the nightmares I’d have for years after.

The next thing I can remember clearly after that is being on my hands and knees just outside the fence of the Haunted Mansion, vomiting onto the pavement, while around me crowds of people stood. Most of them weren’t paying me any mind, there was lots of whispered talk and a few were crying. There were red-and-blue lights, police cars parked nearby, but I couldn’t tell why. I just sat there gulping and sobbing until a cast member finally noticed me and led me to a first aid station.

Karen was there when I arrived, and she jumped up and hugged me tight when she saw me. I don’t think either of us made much sense, we were both at our wit’s end, but it was such a relief to see her after all that that any questions I had fell by the wayside. I’ll never forget how haunted she looked, wide-eyed and pale, barely able to form a sentence without tearing up.

Mike never turned up.

That fateful night has never left me, and in the years since then I’ve slowly begun to piece together the details, trying to (vainly) make sense of what happened. It became sort of a private obsession, something to do in the background as I moved on with my life.

First, it didn’t take long for Karen and I to learn why the police cars were there, and they weren’t for us. According to the reports we heard later, an 18-year-old guy from New Mexico had died while we were in the Haunted Mansion. He and a friend had snuck into a backstage area on Tom Sawyer’s Island and stole a rubber emergency boat to go for a joyride around the Rivers of America. Apparently this guy was pretty drunk and it wasn’t long before he hit a rock, throwing he and his friend from the boat. His friend went for help, but he drowned before they could find him. His body was discovered an hour later.

I wonder now if that’s why there was no one around when we crept backstage. I managed to track down a few cast members who were working that night, and though most of them claim that they were told by management to not cause alarm and keep to their posts, several admitted they had gone to check out the grim spectacle… especially those CMs that were on attractions near the river, like the Haunted Mansion. Was the timing such that everyone turned a blind eye while we stumbled into something hideous?

Mike’s disappearance was something me and Karen both felt deeply, and we tried for years to get something from anyone about it. His parents told us later that he’d shown up again a day or so later, behaving erratically, barely registering them, deeply disturbed by something. Mike had planned on moving out beforehand, but that night after lashing out at his folks, he grabbed very few personally belongings, took the family car and drove off to points unknown. After that, he dropped off the face of the earth.

Karen and I eventually drifted, probably because we blamed each other for what happened. She never expressed to me what she experienced after we got separated, either because she wanted me to feel guilty for leaving them behind (oh Karen, you have no idea) or that she, like me, can only recall so much. We were both too shaken to recount to each other. But time and distance make things easier, and with the advent of the internet there was suddenly a wealth of new information. I’ve since begun to piece together clues.

Almost immediately I found our Hatbox Ghost. Plugging that into any search engine will turn up multitudes of pictures of that bow-legged, grinning figure that has often floated through my mind’s eye in the dark. It was apparently part of the attraction when it first opened in 1969, and much of the promotional material of the ride at the time featured this character and his ubiquitous hatbox. He originally stood in the attic scene, right across from the ghostly bride with the beating heart, but was quietly removed from the ride after only a week; apparently, the effect of his disappearing head never worked properly, or so the official account goes.

In recent years the Hatbox Ghost has gained a fanbase, groups of Haunted Mansion fans that want to see him restored to the ride. It’s wishful thinking, I’m sure, because that figure had to have been stored downstairs for a reason.

It took longer to find out about the backstage area where the Doombuggies go, that empty corridor not originally meant to be seen by guests; disabled guests, however, travel that route all the time. Wheelchair access to the ride is done through the Limbo-like loading room, and guests travel back around to this room to reclaim their wheelchairs and head back out. I’ve posted about it and posed queries for details about that area, but no one has given me a description that sounds anything like what I went through. It’s been described as short, bland, and with some sort of catwalk going over the track, but no mysterious alcove or obvious doorway. It takes less than 30 seconds for the Doombuggies to go through, and then you’re back in the loading room. I suspect Disney might have changed that area since ht 80s, but why?

Most recently though, I’ve come across an odd factoid that seems more like a morbid curiosity than anything else, unless one’s been through what I have. It’s not about the Haunted Mansion, however, but its nearby E-ticket neighbor, Pirates of the Caribbean. According to the story – and this has been published in various Disney-owned books, so its no vague rumor – the Imagineers who built the ride felt that the faux skeletons of the time weren’t convincing enough for the underground grotto scenes. So they borrowed real human remains from the UCLA Medical Center, dressed them up as pirates, and put them in the caves. Let that sink in for a moment: millions of people went by on boats and had no idea they were looking at real skeletons, all propped up in pirate garb. Eventually, a later team of Imagineers would replace these with more convincing facsimiles, and supposedly the bones were returned to their countries of origin and given proper burial.

But whose to say they were? What if something was left behind in that basement when the bones were taken? And what if Pirates wasn’t the only ride that did this? The show building of the Haunted Mansion was built along with the rest of New Orleans Square in 1963, but it took another six years for the actual attraction to open. Why the delay? It couldn’t have just been the gridlock from the 1964 World’s Fair and Walt Disney’s death in ’66, could it?

All of this is speculation, a string of understanding that raises more questions for me than it does answers. I want to get to the truth of what happened that night, but everything I’ve found doesn’t add up to a concrete explanation; perhaps there isn’t one, though I desperately want there to be. And I can’t go back – I won’t – not after the things I saw and felt. I haven’t set foot in Disneyland since that night.

Maybe, though… Maybe its time I tried again.

Karen, if you’re out there and you’re reading this, I’m sorry about everything. I’m trying to make it right, trying to put some meaning to this. Contact me if you can. I need to know what happened to you and Mike – maybe you have the key to the mystery in your memories. I can’t do it alone, but together we might get to the bottom of this.

For everyone else, let this stand as a testament: some things are backstage for a reason, and a company like Disney must have a multitude of skeletons in its closets. Think twice before you pull some stupid stunt like I did, because it might not be security that finds you.

Grad Night in the Haunted Mansion

Credit To – CrackedMack

The author also produces a podcast called “Midnight Marinara” – if you’re curious, please visit any of the following links:
Midnight Marinara Homepage
Midnight Marinara @ YouTube
Midnight Marinara @ SoundCloud

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Frosted Mini Fears 3

November 3, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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This is a small collection of video pastas. If the embedded videos do not display for you, please click the links – they go to the individual video pages on YouTube.

Sticks and Stones

The Bookmobile

The Cecil Hotel

In The City

1 New Voicemail

For more Frosted Mini Fears, see the original post here, the follow-up here, or visit the FrostedMiniFears YouTube channel.

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Frosted Mini Fears 2

November 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM
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This is a small collection of video pastas. If the embedded videos do not display for you, please click the links – they go to the individual video pages on YouTube.


Pure Evil

Creepy Pasta


The Reunion

For more Frosted Mini Fears, see the original post here or visit the FrostedMiniFears YouTube channel.

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Empty Spaces

November 1, 2013 at 12:00 PM
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Anne was new to the city, and she knew without a doubt that it wasn’t the place for her. She was used to winding country roads, gentle breezes on the porch, and the rustle of the wind through the trees. Here she was simply surrounded by angry drivers, angry cyclists, angry pedestrians, smog, car horns, bus horns, train horns, and the unshakeable shadow of looming skyscrapers. In this giant city, she was beginning to feel terribly claustrophobic, and the ink on her lease was barely two weeks old.

She trudged home through the crowded streets with an armload of groceries weighing her down. It was the middle of summer and suffocatingly hot, and the heavy bag clutched to her chest didn’t make matters better. Neither did the fact that she lived on a fourth story walkup. She made it safely—the bag did not burst—and she sighed into the artificial cool of her air conditioned apartment. While she begrudgingly filled her empty cupboards, her mind wandered to her porch back with her family in the tiny little town she called home. Cold lemonade and a gentle breeze always made up for almost any day, and while she didn’t have fresh lemons, she did have a jar of powdered drink mix that could possibly do the trick. Her groceries stored away for later, she pulled down a glass and mixed up some lemonade, topped with two ice cubes that began to melt as soon as they left the freezer.

Anne settled into her chair by the window, gazing out at row upon row of windows from so many other apartment dwellers. Her view wasn’t great, but at least she had more than just a single alley. Her window looked out across the street and, if she turned just right, she could see down the road a few blocks before the building faded into indecipherable blobs of brick and glass. She gazed out the window, daydreaming about lives playing out behind all those curtains and blinds. She considered the dull monotony of family life, the thrill of single adulthood, the terror of paying bills each month, other potential tragedies, dramas, and comedies all around her, all to the quiet soundtrack of ice clinking in her glass.

As she sat perched in her chair, her eyes eventually drifted down towards the street, meandering along the road until they met a park. She had seen the park on her way to and from work for the past few weeks, but did not think much of it. It was tiny, crammed between two buildings to meet some city ordinance for green spaces. She sat on the fourth floor looking down, she saw how overgrown it looked, the tree branches knotting into a thick weave above the ground. It was so dark in there, but subtly tempting. From here, it looked cool and quiet; it was an oasis in a sea of humanity. As Anne reflected on the park, a tiny voice whispered that it was always empty. She had never seen a soul resting on the wrought iron bench beneath the leafy shade, no matter how hot it had been. The flowers and bushes remained undisturbed around it. Though Anne had not been in the city long, she had learned that anywhere that was always empty, be it a restaurant, convenience store, or even street, usually meant there was a reason for it. But, this was just a park, right? And she hadn’t heard any nefarious stories about the dealing in this park. Maybe people around here were just too focused on their cell phones, cable TV, internet, and hustle and bustle to take the time for such a moment of quiet and solitude. She would go to the park and rest, simply listen to wind in the branches and relax under that shade. It would be nice and cool and peaceful. No one would—

Anne was halfway to the door with her keys in her hand before the sharp chimes of her phone brought her out of this daydream haze. She didn’t even remember getting up and putting on shoes, but here she was. She made a mental note to get some more sleep and turn the AC up a little more as she answered her phone.


“Hey, sweetie. Just calling to check in on my big city girl!” Her mom chimed in through the line, her voice taking a sweet singsongy lilt as she talked.

She plastered a smile on before speaking.”Oh, hi mom. I’m doing fine.”

“And how’s the job? Your apartment?”

“Everything’s great, mom. Still getting to know my coworkers and got most of my stuff unpacked. Just settling in.”

“You aren’t getting homesick, are you?”

“No,” she lied, “Not yet. But I’m sure I will once things calm down.”

“Oh, I’m sure things are just so exciting now. I wish I had such an opportunity when I was your age. You know your dad and I are so proud of you, moving to the city all on your own. I always knew you would make something of yourself.”

“I know, mom.” Her lips smiled as her eyes grimaced. “Say hi to dad for me.”

“Oh, I will. Talk to you later this week, honey! Love you!”

“Love you, too, mom.”

Anne punched the button off and tossed her phone onto the table. “Yeah, mom, everything is fine. Except that I’m miserable,” she muttered to herself, dropping her keys back into the bowl as she sunk into her chair again. Not that she could tell them that. She didn’t want to disappoint them again. They needed her to be the one to escape the claws of small town life, and she couldn’t let them down. Eventually she would get used to this life, right?

Anne sighed and picked up her book from the table, settling in for another evening alone in the sea of millions.

A few more weeks passed and Anne realized that, no, she probably wasn’t getting used to this. Time had passed and she had only grown more and more tired of the daily trudge, the impersonal nature, and the constant noise and motion of city life. She wasn’t made for this environment, and the sinking strands of depression were slowly dragging her down.

The park came to her mind more and more. She had watched it, asked about, and even dreamed about it. No one did anything besides shrug and look at her like a loon for asking such a question, and so finally, one weekend when she had simply reached her breaking point, Anne grabbed her book and made the trek down to the little oasis.

It was bigger than it looked from her apartment. The trees were tall and heavy with leaves, creating enticing patterns of dappled sun beneath their shade. There was a small bench near the entrance, mostly overgrown at this point by the vines and bushes behind it. Bees hummed among the flowers as birds chirped shrilly in the branches. Anne sighed and smiled for the first time in a week.

Her first spot was on the bench, but she was disappointed to note that the sounds of traffic still intruded into this quiet space. A path behind the bench caught her eyes, and while she was certain it couldn’t go far before running into the building behind them, she gave it a shot. It wrapped around behind a couple of the towering trees to a small clearing in the bushes. The sun was warm, the shade was cool, and a gentle breeze created moving patterns of light and shadow. Anne sat down, content with the dull whisper of traffic now, and began to read.

She didn’t notice herself growing tired, nor did she remember setting aside her book, but before too long Anne awoke in the dark to silence. The trees still swayed overhead, but she could hear nothing else. Anne shot to her feet, clicking the light on her watch to see that it was well past ten. She must have slept for hours. Gathering her stuff, Anne quickly marched towards the entrance, mentally berating herself for being so stupid. She walked along the path, past the trees, towards the bench up front, through some bushes, beyond the trees, and froze. In front of her only lay more trees, stretching impossibly far back. She began to wonder if she had gone the wrong way, but even then this block couldn’t be that wide. Anne began to make her way to the side, stepping through the bushes and underbrush that were now thicker than she remembered. Sooner or later she would have to this the side of the adjacent buildings.

Fifteen minutes of walking later found her only more stuck. When she looked up, she couldn’t see the buildings standing on either side. She couldn’t see any buildings, only the trees and the pale moon in the sky above. She could feel panic creeping into her body, slowly taking hold. Eventually, she felt her legs begins to run, hoping to slam headlong into a brick wall soon enough. She stopped when she ran out of breath, still without any idea where to go or what had happened.

In the quiet, she could hear only her panting. Only her panting and a steady whisper of feet through the underbrush.

Anne froze, her eyes darting from side to side hoping to find some branch swaying in the wind or some small animal scuttling through the bushes, but she could see nothing. The thought of looking behind her nearly propelled her to sprint again into the murky dark of the forest, but she maintained some composure. It was probably the wind, she calmed herself. Just an overactive imagination after being away from the country for so long. You forget what the woods sound like at night. She turned slowly. Maybe an alley cat wandered in and was looking to beg some food. Maybe—

She froze, her eyes locked on the person crouching no more than ten yards away, watching her. In the dark, it was hard to tell anything about him (or her, she mentally corrected), but she got the unsettling sense she did not want to know more. Then again, this person was the only contact she had right now, and she was tired of being lost in this park somehow.

“I’m lost,” she called out. The shadow smiled, and stood up, moving into the dim moonlight. It was certainly a man standing before her, but there was still something unsettling.

“I just came for a read, and I guess time got away from me. Could you point me to the street?” Even as she asked, she realized how ridiculous such a request was. After an hour of wandering around, she hadn’t found an exit. This park was not that big, but there was no rational explanation she could hold on to in this storm of confusion.

He smiled wider and stepped forward. Now Anne could see him more clearly, and she immediately took a step back. The first shock was that he was naked from head to toe. The next was the state of him. His flesh was red and raw, traced with the pearly patterns of a severe burn. The burns looked fresh, as she could see the blisters clinging to his skin, ready to burst. Where there weren’t burns, he was covered with scratches and deep cuts, all mottled together in a pattern of dried blood, pus, and mud. He grinned. Anne ran.

She ran faster than she thought she could, ran until her feet were weary and her lungs were bursting. And then she kept running. She glanced over her shoulder, only to see this hideous man charging after her, loping along the ground like some kind of animal as he chased her. She screamed, hoping someone might hear her and find some way to save her from this strange madness, but her cries merely echoed among the looming trees. They were silent in response, providing no aid, and seeming to grow closer together as the branches whipped at her face and roots leapt towards her fleeing feet. Finally, she stumbled. It was bound to happen as she grew so tired, but even as she splayed across the ground, Anne tried to tell herself such a thing had not happened. Even as she felt his fingers grip her arms and turn her over, she imagined she was still running and fleeing towards the safety of city lights.

He looked down at her, his eyes clouded over. The scent of rot and decay clung to him, overwhelming Anne in a wave of purification that snapped her back to the scene at hand. She fought against him, kicking his leg and watching as a large portion of the muscle tore away like tissue paper. He did not flinch or move, but studied her. She tried to wriggle away, to free her arms, but nothing helped. He simply looked at her and opened his mouth.

What came out was not a voice, not a sound like has ever been heard in this plane of existence. It was some terrible screech and clamor of voices, all combined into one unintelligible cry. He threw his head back with the force of the vocalization, and Anne watched as blood flew from his lips, landing with soft drops on the ground.

Anne screamed as well, redoubling her attempts to fight. His skin peeled away beneath her hands, blisters burst on his skin as she kicked and fought, but he never moved. It was only after a few moments of struggling that Anne saw other shapes looming between the trees, loping closer and closer with softer screeches of their own. They surrounded her, drawing in tighter and tighter like a noose around her neck.

Anne screamed. The trees were silent. They feasted.

Next time you make your way to a city and look for some peace and quiet, just remember, if a place in the city is frequently empty, be it a restaurant, convenience store, street, or yes even a park, there is often a reason for that. A very good reason.

Credit To – Katherine C.

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