The Leather Cape

July 1, 2014 at 12:00 AM

Early in the summer a few years ago, I started dating this girl whose mother worked at the local flea market. The girl – let’s call her Tiffany – and I had been dating for a few months when she asked me if I would like to come help her work with her mom. I certainly didn’t want to sacrifice one of my precious Saturday mornings to go work all day at a dusty flea market, but I really liked this girl and, to be perfectly honest, wanted to get into her pants, so I decided to go.

That’s how I found myself on my way to the craphole flea market at seven thirty in the morning on a Saturday morning that I really wish I had slept in on. We opened her mom’s store at eight, waited around for customers for a while, but when it got close to ten and only one woman had shown a passing interest in the handmade ashtrays her mom was trying to sell, she told Tiffany and I we could go take a look around the rest of the place.

Tiffany and I walked around for a while, but we didn’t find anything of interest. There was a movie store that had pretty much every movie you could think of, but so did I at home, so no help there. Both of the book stores were a bust, finding nothing interesting but some old Stephen King novels that I already owned and a crotchety old man who watched us like a hawk – probably because we were some “damn teenagers” who, of course, would go out of our way to steal an old dusty book barely held together with spit and glue. We had meandered our way through most of the building when we happened upon a small shop that was selling EXCLUSIVE! RARE! HARD-TO-FIND TV PROPS! according to the very loud banner stretched across the top. “Want to go in?” I asked Tiffany.

“Nah, I have to go use the bathroom. You can go in though.”

“Oh, fine, make me go into the shady store by myself!” I joked.

“You’ll be fine. Go!”

“Do I have to?”

“Yes. You have to go inside. I’ll be right back.” She gave me a playful slap and walked away.

As I walked into the dingy booth, the owner gave me a grim nod without a smile. I didn’t really see anything of interest at first. They really did have some obscure stuff, such as old plush dolls from Rocko’s Modern Life and Ren & Stimpy. There were also some old Pokémon playing cards – not sure if that counted as “rare TV props” but it was still cool – and even some of the old Nickelodeon themed board games. I had several nice hits of nostalgia, but nothing really stuck out at me enough to make me want to buy it. I was about to walk out when the owner said “got some more stuff here behind the counter.”

He pulled out a box of assorted dolls and junk and dropped it carelessly on the counter. “Ain’t had a chance to put them away yet, but you can look.”
I half heartedly picked through the box out of politeness, but I really just wanted to get out of there. I pulled out a couple of old Rugrats dolls and a Squidward doll that had an odd red stain on its head, and was about to just say “no thanks” and put them back and get out of there when I saw something that hit me with such an intense blast of nostalgia that I almost fell over.
A dirty white skull stared at me from the bottom of the box, his huge, black glass eyes that were entirely too large for his head – just as I remembered. I reached down and picked him up, almost forgetting the entire world around me as I looked over the thing I had completely forgotten about until this moment. The tan top hat and cape, made of some of the roughest leather I’ve ever felt, was sewn up in the same crazy patterns I remembered so vividly from my childhood. As I rubbed some of the dirt off of his body, noting the feeling of a rough little bump on his hat and the leathery stitches holding together his clothing, I noticed that his jaw didn’t open all the way. Instead, it barely opened just a bit and slid sideways, from left to right, making an almost unpleasant grinding noise. Every detail was exactly as I remembered.


I jerked out of my stupor with a start. Looking stupidly at the owner, I used every ounce of intelligence I possess to come up with a brilliant reply. “Uh. What?”

“I said, are you gonna buy it or just stand there all day molesting it? Come on kid, I wanna go on lunch.”

“Uh… yeah. I’ll take it.” There was no way I was letting this go. “Would you happen to know if this is… like, actually from the show?”

“Kid,” (I really wished he would stop calling me kid. Just because he was probably in his late fifties doesn’t mean he can address me, at 26 years of age, as a kid) “I don’t even know what show that’s from. All this crap is my brother’s. He would tell you that it’s all the real deal. But I just wanna get rid of it.”

“Well, I hate to be a bother, but is there anyway I could get in contact with him? This show doesn’t even… well, I just need to know if this is actually from the show.”

“Can’t. Dead. Three months now. And the doll is ten bucks. Take it or leave it.”

I handed the rude owner the cash and left the shop with the doll, deep in thought. There was no way this doll should even exist. That show didn’t exist. There was no way it did. I had dreamt it all, hadn’t I? All that screaming…

I was so lost in my thoughts that I didn’t even see Tiffany until she was almost right in my face. “Oh, hi.”

“Hi! Did you actually find something in the shady store?”

“Uh… yeah.” I told her about the doll. She didn’t recognize it, but I didn’t really expect her to. Our conversation quickly turned to other things, such as the creepy old lady she had encountered in the bathroom who had taken up fifteen minutes of her time asking too many personal questions.

We finished out the day, her mom thanked us for our help, and we spent the day together. For those who are curious, I did not succeed in getting in her pants, but that’s inconsequential to the story.

Anyway, that night when I got back to my apartment, I pulled out the doll, something I’d been dying to do all day but had avoided so I didn’t seem like a freak, and gave it a closer look. I couldn’t get over how genuine the cape felt. I loved the feeling of running my fingers over it, enjoying the smooth, yet rough, texture of the stitches. The top hat was removable, and the glass eyes were indeed made of really thick glass. It was all as I had remembered. I was in utter shock, even still. How did this exist?

I sat on my couch and began thinking about the show. Candle Cove. God, I hadn’t thought about that show in easily fifteen, maybe even twenty years. I couldn’t have been older than six or seven when it ran. I only remember it being on for a couple of months before it got cancelled. I remember greatly enjoying it at the time. I would come home from school, always so excited and always making my mom turn the TV channel 58 to watch it. I remembered sitting on the floor, way too close to the TV, watching her turn the dial with the finger that had a mole on it, always the same way every time. Yeah, I’m old enough that the TVs of my childhood still had manual dials instead of a remote, so sue me. I chuckled to myself. I hadn’t thought about any of that for so long. I missed my mom, thinking back on it now. She had passed away about five years ago from skin cancer, and it had hit me hard. She had always been such a big influence in my life. She would always tell me about what an imagination I had, and how she just knew it would take me far. I wish she had lived long enough to see me graduate college and land a job at a small, independent film company where I edited movies. It certainly didn’t make me famous or anything, but it paid very well and I was responsible for some of the better editing in many different films. Some of which I knew she would have loved to watch. I missed her terribly. I missed how when I was sad she would pretend to draw on my face, and I would always watch the mole on her finger as it traced my face because I thought her “freckle mountain,” as I called it, was pretty cool. I missed the way she would chuckle and shake her head at me as I watched the show, remarking on what a big imagination I had “with my little pirate show.” I had always wondered exactly what she meant, but the older I got, the more I realized it must have all been my imagination. The whole thing. The entire show must have been me just thinking too much or something because there was no way that they could have aired that episode. The one with all the screaming… All the characters, screaming bloody murder and jumping and flailing. I remembered vividly the horrible feelings I got from that episode, and even as a child I thought it was strange. Things like that don’t even get aired today, much less all the way back in ‘71.

I must have been rubbing my finger over the doll’s face again, and hadn’t noticed what I was doing until I felt a strong pinch. I gasped and looked down, and quickly pulled my finger out of the doll’s mouth. What the fuck? Why did that hurt so bad? The teeth weren’t sharp or anything. I hadn’t even realized I had put my finger in there. I must have bumped his jaw or something and pinched myself. I sighed and shook my head at my own foolishness, and went back to looking at the doll that was responsible for so many of my childhood nightmares.

As I examined the doll’s mouth, I found myself wondering why it only moved side to side. In fact, the more I thought about it, the more the memories came flooding back. The Laughingstock… Jesus. That old piece of shit pirate ship that was always so close to falling apart. The Ed Wynn voice it had, telling the pirates they had to go inside some place and face the danger – usually the Skin-Taker, whose image I held in my very hand. I remember Janice, the little girl from the show, asking the Skin-Taker why his mouth moved like that. God… What was it he had said? I strained the muscles of my memory until I suddenly got goosebumps when the phrase drifted through my mind, leaving icy trails of fear running down my back.

“To grind your skin…”

It was such a cheesy thing to say, but there was nothing cheesy about the way he had glared so silently into the camera with his evil, black eyes, almost challenging someone to defy him.

Shaking off my childish fears, I tossed the doll on my coffee table and went to go take a shower. I needed to clear my head, but the entire time in the shower my thoughts only wandered more and more. I started remembering more about the final episode that had aired, and the way all the puppets and Janice had screamed and thrashed and shook so violently… there hadn’t even been a plot or anything. The entire episode had consisted of nothing but all the characters screaming and crying and it was all so chaotic and traumatic. I remembered how I had started to cry and my mom had run in from the other room, asking me what was wrong, and I had told her through my tears how Janice was crying and no one was helping her and my mom had turned off the TV and picked me up and made me feel better. Then she went and put me to bed, tracing my face with the finger until I fell asleep and had terrible nightmares all night long about the Skin-Taker chasing me and screaming incessantly… all these thoughts ran through my mind and even though my shower water was pretty hot, I still had chills all over my body.

It didn’t help that when I turned off the water, I could hear my TV was on.

I froze. I knew I hadn’t left my TV on. I hadn’t even turned it on since I got home. I had simply walked through the door and sat on my couch and looked at the doll, and I knew I had never even touched the remote to the TV. I slowly got out of the shower and dried off, listening carefully to the sounds coming from my living room. I couldn’t believe my ears.

Calliope music.

The last set of memories came with a refreshing course of nostalgia. My mother’s finger, the one with the mole that had always comforted me so, turning the dial to the station with all the static. The station always had static, I remembered that. Until 4:00, when Candle Cove came on, there was never anything but static, but when Candle Cove came on the calliope music, ridiculously happy, would start to bleed through the static, slow and distorted at first but speeding up and being more bouncy as the picture cleared and Pirate Percy and his friends greeted Janice to a new day full of adventures. Now I suspected that it had always been static even when the show was on… maybe that was why my mother had shaken her head and laughed at me. But, if it had always been static, where did the doll come from? How did it even exist if the show did not? I was so confused, and the stupid, catchy music coming from my living room was not only making me more confused but was creeping me out a bit too. Shaking off my thoughts, I opened the door and heard the tail end of a sentence spoken in a voice that sounded remarkably like Ed Wynn…

“…GO INSIDE!” it was saying.

I stepped out and slowly walked into the living room. My hallway was ridiculously long and it only served to increase my tension, but just as I rounded the corner, the TV turned to static.

As the only light in the room was the whiteness from the static on the TV, I got really creeped out. I rushed to the lamp and flicked it on, and saw that the doll was exactly where I had left it – right on top of the remote.

I sighed in relief and shook my head in embarrassment. It all made sense now. I had simply thrown the doll on the remote and the force of his impact had turned on the TV. I simply hadn’t noticed because my TV takes forever to turn on and by the time it had, I was in the bathroom. It had been static-y the entire time, and it was simply my confused, slightly disturbed thoughts and emotions that had projected the noises I heard into my brain. I really needed to get some sleep. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to wake up at the crack of dawn to go to the flea market. I could have slept in all day and avoided this whole mess. There would be no questions about where the doll came from or if the stupid fucking show even existed or what all my disjointed, confused memories were trying to tell me… everything would have been alright if I had just slept in. Sound advice for life. Always sleep in.
This is all stuff I tried to tell myself to relieve the creepy feelings I had. And it almost worked. It had almost worked, and my heartbeat had finally slowed, and my blood pressure was normal, and the goosebumpbs had finally gone away, and all the things I told myself had made me feel better. My justifications and explanations had almost… ALMOST made me feel better. Until I picked up the doll and started absentmindedly started running my fingers over it again. I started playing with the funny little bump that was on the top hat again and I remember being extremely comforted. All the bad feelings suddenly went away and I felt so much better. All was well. The show probably had simply existed in another format, and since I was so young my confused mind had simply combined my memories with something else and projected them over the show, giving me all theses confused feelings. I would simply get dressed, get on my computer, look up the show, and put all this crap to rest. Maybe I would even throw away the doll. It would be for the best. I shouldn’t have even bought it, but now that I had, $10 was not too much of a price to pay for some peace of mind. I got up to put the doll in the trash, but the towel wrapped around my waist started to unravel so I reached to grab it and dropped the doll. Tonight was just not my night.

I bent down to pick up the doll and his top hat, which had fallen off. It was then that I got a good look at the hat, when it was separate from the menacing black eyes that demanded all my attention before. I had been playing with the funny little bump on the hat, and I had felt an intense sense of comfort as I did so. When I looked at the top hat, I realized, with a sudden blast of recognition and fear, what my memories had been trying to tell me. I realized what it was about the funny little bump that had given me comfort. It was the same bump that I had stared at for endless hours as a child, in times of happiness, sadness, pain and fear.

The funny little bump… was my mother’s mole.

Credit To – saqua23

The Grimes Home

October 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM

(The following was found in an envelope on a bus bound for Chicago)

My name is Jason Grimes and I am writing this so that when the room is eventually opened people will perhaps understand the things they find within it. And so that I will not be thought of as the madman that part of me already fears I am.

It all began with the reading of the will. My mother (My only living parent left) had passed away due to a heart attack in her New England home. Her body had been found by one of the women who came to clean every few days and the news had not come as a shock to any of the family. She’d had two previous heart attacks and with her smoking and drinking she wasn’t exactly in the best of health.

It had been a surprise that she wanted me to have the old family home though. I’d never exactly had much love for the place and had moved out the first chance I got. Honestly I hadn’t been expecting to get anything in the will, given how long it had been since we’d even spoken, I was surprised that she hadn’t written me out, the way she’d tried to write me out of the family’s history by removing any pictures of me from the house.

I certainly didn’t plan to keep that creepy, rundown old place. But at the same time I knew that there was a chance it could fetch a bit of cash on the market if someone put a little work into fixing it up and as I was currently between jobs it might be a worthwhile use of my time. I got my brother and our cousin to come over and help with fixing it up, which they happily agreed to do.

There actually wasn’t as much work to do as I had first thought as the house seemed to be in better repair than I remembered it being. I guessed that my mother, cheap as she was, had still finally been forced to actually get someone in to fix up some of the bigger problems the house had. There was still stuff that needed repair and a new coat of paint but it only ended up taking about a week or so in the end.

It was during this time that I first found it.

Now I didn’t have the best memories of the old place, given how long it had been since I had stayed there. But one of the first things I noticed while I was walking along the ground floor hallway was that there was a door that hadn’t been there before. I stared at it for a few moments, more out of confusion than anything else before trying to push it open. It wouldn’t budge an inch.

I asked my brother if he knew what might be down there and he shook his head, saying that he’d not even noticed it before now. My cousin said that she’d noticed a big, old fashioned looking key in the keyhole of the door the last time she’d come round to visit but she had no clue where it might be right now. I shrugged, not really thinking much of it at the time, just figuring that I’d had to get someone to bust the door down at some point before I got the house sold.

The room none of us WANTED to go in was Emerson’s. It was weird, seeing all his old toys and colouring books still there, as if our mother had been trying to bring her son back by clinging on to the past. Emerson had always been our mothers favourite, the one who she’d lavished all of her attention on and I saw that she had stuck his drawings up all over the place. Drawings of pirate ships and odd, comical looking figures with strange designs.

My brother told me that when he’d stayed for dinner, our mother would still set a place for Emerson as if she expected him to just show up out of the blue. Missing for all these years and she was still expecting him to come wandering through the door…

That first night I spent alone in the house I didn’t sleep very well. Crazy as it sounds I kept thinking that I heard noises in the house, people talking to each other. I must have checked each and every one of the rooms a good dozen times only to find each and every one of them empty. I even checked to see if I’d left the TV on but it was still unplugged.

I would go back to bed and then after a little while the noises would start up again. Sometimes I was sure that I could hear music as well. It was around four in the morning that a thought occurred to me and I went to the locked door in the hallway, pressing my ear against it and listening closely. I was sure I heard what sounded like a muffled tune coming from within.

The next day I went into town to buy some food and after the events of last night I also bought a hammer to knock that old door down. It was while chatting with the cashier that I learned something unsettling about the neighbourhood that I had temporarily moved into.

I had casually brought up where I was staying after he commented on me being new around here and told him that I was planning to try and sell up. He’d let out a short burst of laughter before looking embarrassed about it and when I’d asked him to explain had said the following:

“No one with sense is gonna buy that dump. No one with half a brain would buy ANY house within ten miles of that place” he said, not looking up from the groceries he was packing away.

“Why not? It seems like a nice enough neighbourhood” I had replied.

“Because of all them kids going missing, of course”

He’d gone on to explain that for the past few years there had been a sudden and disturbing rise in the number of children vanishing from their homes in the area. There had been search parties formed, the police and the FBI had gotten involved but nothing had turned up. The kids had vanished from their homes with no signs of forced entry or struggle and no evidence left behind as to who might have been responsible.

People were trying to move away as fast as possible but there were few who would buy a house in the area once they heard about what was going on. No one wanted to move to a place where a child kidnapper/killer was active.

I have to admit the story kind of creeped me out. Knowing that something so strange was going on near where I was staying made the odd goings on of the previous night seem even more unsettling to me and so as soon as I got home I decided to bust that door down. My neighbour, a fairly nice young woman named
Charley who I’d gotten to know, was working on her homes front lawn when I got back and noticed the hammer in my hand as I headed towards the front door of my home. Not really wanting to be alone when I broke the door down I gave her an abridged version of events (Leaving out the odd noises of last night) and asked if she’d like to join me in finding out what was in the room.

“Mysterious locked door? Very Scooby Doo” she said as I grinned.

“Sure. I’ll be Fred, you be Daphne” I replied, happy to have someone with me, her presence making the nervousness I had felt while listening to the cashiers story start to fade a little.

“Trust me; I’m more Velma than Daphne”

Once inside the house I packed away the various groceries, pouring drinks for myself and Charley before we went to the white door. It only took a few swings from the hammer to smash it open, the lock breaking beneath the assault and the door swinging open. Behind it was a staircase, leading down into a darkened basement below. I stared in confusion at the stairs, not believing what I was seeing. Our house didn’t have a basement, I was sure of that.

And yet suddenly I seemed to recall seeing this before. I could remember playing with Emerson one day, daring each other. Emerson had always been afraid of pretty much everything and I, in the way of older brothers everywhere, had taken far too much pleasure in tormenting him. I seemed to remember the two of us stood at the top of this staircase, me daring him to go down into the dark while calling him a chicken.

‘C’mon Emerson’ I had been saying to him. ‘You have to go inside…’

Charley and I began to descend the old, creaking steps towards the basement, the hammer still clutched tight in my hands. I didn’t know what we would find but I knew that I felt better being armed with something that could do some damage. As we reached the bottom of the stairs Charley began feeling around for a light switch, finding one after a few moments and flicking it on. The room was instantly illuminated, revealing what was within.

“Oh my god! LOOK at all this cool stuff!” Charley cried out.

The basement was full of puppets.

There was dozens of them, all lined up on various shelves all in very good repair as if they were brand new. There were puppets of all shapes and sizes, some of them being very human looking while others were Muppet-like animal creatures and others were more monstrous. There were props from what looked like the set of a kids show I guess. None of it had any dust on it, as if someone had been down to tidy up just moments before.

I could guess what all of this was from but what it was doing down here I had no idea.

“What IS all of this?” Charley asked as she picked up one of the puppets, a guy with a massive moustache and a monocle over one eye. She grinned, playing around with him, moving his limbs up and down.

“My brother used to work on a kids show, years ago. ‘Pirate Place’ I think it was called. Only ran for a couple of years before it got cancelled. I guess this stuff is all the old puppets and sets from the show” I said as we looked around at the room. My eyes fell on a creepy looking skeleton puppet with a really weird mouth and a top hat upon its head. Ugly looking thing, I thought to myself at that moment.

“No way! Do you have any idea how much some of this stuff might be worth? Collectors pay a FORTUNE for things like this on eBay” Charley said, setting the puppet down gently on one of the shelves.

I glanced around at the rest of the contents of the room. Apart from the puppets and the set pieces there was an old sewing machine set on a desk that was otherwise completely bare. There was no sign of anything that could have been the source of the tune that I’d heard before. Deciding that I must have imagined it, probably due to lack of sleep and being back in the old place, I did my best to forget about my fears and concentrate on the opportunity before me now.

There was just one thing that troubled me as I looked around. On the desk the sewing machine was set on there were several odd red stains spattered over it. As I stared at them I was sure, out of the corner of my eye that the odd looking skeleton puppets head had twitched in my direction.

The next few days went by without anything odd happening really. I put the puppets up on eBay and had a few people come to view the house. The only thing that was strange was when one couple viewed the basement. All of the colour drained out of the husbands face when his eyes fell on the skeleton puppet and he just turned, left the basement and then the house. He went to the car, started it up and sat there until his wife joined him (After apologising for his rudeness) and the two drove away.

Later that night I was sure I heard the old sewing machine in the basement. I wanted to go down and check and yet at the same time looking at that darkened doorway I suddenly felt very frightened. And when there was a knock at the door the sudden noise almost made me jump out of my skin, my head jerking to the side towards the source of the noise. Taking a moment to steady my nerves I walked to the door, opening it cautiously to see Charley standing there.

“We need to talk” she said.

She explained that she’d mentioned to a friend of hers about the find in the basement a few days ago. When she’d brought up the name ‘Pirate Place’ he’d gone quiet and asked for her to describe the puppets. He looked afraid, she said, as if he’d just seen a ghost. He had told her to move house, to get away from me and from those ‘Damn things’ as he referred to the puppets, growing increasingly hysterical as the conversation had gone on. He’d repeated over and over that it wasn’t safe to be around them that ‘They could see you through them’. He’d rambled at length about ‘Physical avatars’ and ‘The signal’ none of which had made any sense to her.

Apparently he’d used to work in television and had known my brother. He said that he’d sat down with Emerson in what he called ‘The Script Room’ and then started raving about ‘Knowing where the stories came from’. Charley said that she had never seen him like this before, that he seemed to be almost psychotic. His eyes bugging out of his head, his face glistening with sweat. She had been worried that he was about to have some kind of attack.

“Was your brother involved in anything…weird?” she asked me and I honestly didn’t know how to respond to that. Emerson had always been an odd kid, no doubt about that, but I couldn’t imagine him ever provoking such a frightened reaction in anyone let alone a grown man. I asked her if he’d said why the puppets were so awful and she shrugged.

“All the stuff he was saying wasn’t making much sense. He just said ‘It’s not the puppets. It’s what made them’ and then he just got up and said he couldn’t be in my house anymore. Just ran out to his car and drove off”

I decided that as she’d shared her weirdness with me, maybe I could open up about some of the weirdness in my life right now. I explained about the odd noises, the music and the sewing machine seeming to turn itself on. And against my better judgement we decided to descend into that pitch black basement once again.

I’m not sure what I expected to find but I was sure that something would be wrong. So when we saw that nothing seemed to have changed or been moved I felt an odd sense of almost disappointment. I kind of WANTED for there to be something strange down there, just to prove that I wasn’t imagining all of this, to prove to myself that I wasn’t going crazy.

And that’s when Charley spotted the door.

It was when she flicked off the light as we began to go up, casting one last look back into the darkness and noticed that there was light coming from somewhere. Not very bright but nonetheless a light source. Moving swiftly we shoved aside one of the shelves of puppets and felt along the ‘wall’ behind it, to confirm what Charley had believed to be the case: there was a door behind it.

“Told you this was all kinds of Scooby Doo” Charley said with a grin on her face, clearly enjoying herself. I smiled, which was something I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do if she wasn’t here. It was nice to have someone to share this insanity with.

We felt along the wall trying to find some way to open the door, some handle or switch to make it open. From behind it I was sure that I could hear SOMETHING. It sounded almost like music. Circus music, a cheerful, upbeat tune but also off somehow, as if there was something not quite right about it.

Out of the corner of my eye I was sure that the puppet with the ridiculous moustache and monocle had moved. And I realise how ridiculous that sounds but I was certain of it. It was just the tiniest movement, a twitch of its head toward the skeleton puppet. ‘As if waiting for orders’ I thought to myself, and then wondered why that had popped into my head.

With a bit of work we managed to strip away the wall paper that was covering most of the door, revealing that it was a bright red in colour, the paint chipped and flaking in places, with a small keyhole and no handle. I assumed that it just pushed inwards once unlocked or perhaps slid to the side as there was no place for a handle to have once been either.

It was then that I noticed that Charley had stopped smiling. In fact she was staring at the door with what looked like a mix of confusion and fear, taking a few steps back from it. When I asked her what was wrong she just shook her head and made excuses to leave. I asked her if she was alright and she just told me she was tired and promised to help me try and find the key to the door in the morning. It was getting late so it was plausible enough but I knew that something was wrong here.

For the rest of the evening I looked through Emerson’s old things in his room, looking for some clue perhaps as to what it was that had inspired such fear in Charley’s friend. For the most part it was old toys and childhood drawings, nothing of much use. There were a few things that were odd though.

It was a picture that I guess Emerson had done when he was little. There was a crude drawing of a boy sat in his bed that I think was meant to be Emerson himself. Around him were stood several figures. One was just a stick figure with a hat upon its head. Another was a portly man with a cartoonish moustache and teeth. And there was a third that was…very odd.

It was just a scribble in the outline of a person, a black, shadowy scribble. There was a circle drawn above the three figures and the boy and lines were shown coming down from it leading to the boys head. For some reason, looking at those lines, the word ‘Tendrils’ came into my head.

There was a picture of a red door. The words ‘WHERE THEY TAKE THEM’ were scrawled in large letters beneath it.

And the final picture was of the stick man and the man with the moustache leading several smaller figures towards a third. This one was a woman, a rather well drawn one in comparison to the crude, basic nature of the others except for the face. The face was just two dots for eyes and a line for a mouth.

The words ‘WHERE THEY TAKE THEM’ were written here as well.

There was a message on my answering machine from Charley the next day. She said that she’d gone to stay with her girlfriend for a few days ‘Just to clear her head’ and apologised for leaving so suddenly the previous night. Her voice sounded odd, kind of shaky really, and she said not to bother with the door. She tried to sound calm and casual when she said it but there was fear in her voice. She said it was probably best to forget all about the whole thing and just cover up the basement, not even mention it to potential buyers for the house. She said it would be a good idea to take the puppets off of eBay as well.

I should have just done as she asked.

Instead I spent the rest of the day ransacking the house, searching for the key to that door. I looked everywhere with little success until, almost on a whim, I decided to search Emerson’s room more thoroughly. And there, hidden in one of his old pillow cases, was a key.

I poured myself a drink to steady my nerves, sitting down to watch the TV. I remembered the old thing never picking up much when we were little, the channels always being full of static. It seemed to be working better now at least and the news came on, talking about another disappearance in the area. A girl of twelve this time, vanished from her home in the middle of the night. I flipped through the channels looking for something a little less grim while I finished my drink

Getting up, I headed down the steps into the basement, striding toward the door, ready to open it.

The skeleton puppet was sat at the sewing machine now. I knew I hadn’t moved it and neither had Charley. And the other puppets…their heads seemed to be turned towards it, as if they were waiting for it to do something, to say something. God it was a hideous thing, that awful misshapen mouth looking so awful. God knows why the prop designer had made it look that way.

At that moment, the words ‘To grind your skin’ popped into my head.

I put the key into the door and sure enough it unlocked it, the door pushing inward with ease, revealing the room that lay beyond it. It was illuminated by a single dirty bulb, making the contents of the room easy to see. Dear lord the smell…the only thing worse was the sight of what was littered around the room.

Children’s shoes and clothes, some spattered with old, dried blood were piled in a heap in one corner of the room. The floor was stained with large patches of red, one of which, as I stepped into it, I realised was still somewhat fresh, fresh and sticky like soda spilled on a movie theatre floor. The room smelt of spoiling meat and burnt hair and it took all I had not to throw up as I entered it, wondering how the smell hadn’t travelled from this room to the basement.

There was a pile of old video cassettes in one corner of the room, all labelled with things like ‘Emerson’s first bike ride’ and ‘Emerson’s first spelling bee’ all old home movies I guess. But mixed in with them were tapes labelled ‘Candle Cove episode four’ and ‘Season three pilot episode’. I picked up a few and noticed that there were bloody fingerprints on several.
There was a series of steps leading down further into the blackness at the rear of the room and I felt oddly compelled to go down there. How far down did this go? How was this even here, beneath my family home, without me ever knowing of it? And yet…and yet I felt like I DID know about it. Looking at those steps I felt like I remembered being in this room before. I was a child and it had been empty then and there I stood with Emerson, at the foot of these stairs.

“Emerson…you have…to go…inside” I had whispered to him, taking delight in how terrified he looked. He had gone down into the dark and…

My head throbbed with pain. It actually physically hurt to try and remember, as if something was willing me not to. Had there been someone down there with us? I was sure I remembered there being someone in the room besides the two of us, the more I thought about it. Our mother? No not our mother but another woman. Why couldn’t I remember her face?

I began to take unsteady steps down the stairs; the more I walked the closer I got to another door, another red door. The key fit the lock of this one as well and it opened with ease. There was music coming from within now and the sound of waves crashing against the shore. I felt it pulling me towards it, calling to me like a siren song.

I had to go inside, I thought to myself. I HAD to go inside.

I wasn’t alone in this room.

I burned all the puppets later that night. Not that I imagine it matters.
They’ve been destroyed before and it hasn’t stopped them from coming back. They’re just wood and paint and cloth, nothing but a conduit. They allow them to come through, allow them to walk through the door and come here. Oh god the door…I know where they go now…I know where they go, oh Christ, oh Jesus please help me I know where they go…

I saw it. They took me there, the way they took my brother when he was a child. They need us. I don’t know why they need us but they need us, that’s what he said. Through that horrible, misshapen mouth, those eyes rolling in his sockets wildly. They needed my brother and they need me. My family is not safe. The signal needs us. The story needs us.

The ship came to that cave. Emerson was laughing and crying at the same time as he spoke the words I knew were coming. As he told me what I had to do.

It was waiting for me.

I saw the

(The following portion of the letter has been heavily crossed out, making it almost impossible to read. A word that may or may not be ‘Mannequin’ appears at one point in the letter and the words ‘skin’ is visible at several points in the following two paragraphs. What could be ‘Faker’ or ‘Taker’ can also be made out in the second paragraph and ‘ship’ in the final sentence. The letter resumes…)

I ran. You may think me a coward for not helping them, not even trying to save them. But I know where the ship is taking them now. I know where the voyage leads and I know who is waiting at the end. I would pray to god but know that will do no good. I know now. I know things that no one should ever know.

I know what Emerson learned, that day the signal found him. I know the things he learned in the dark places, where the music comes from. Music played on instruments crafted of bone and organs, wrapped in flesh. It’s always there now in my head, playing on an endless loop. The signal has found me like it found Emerson that day I made him go down those stairs. Like it found our mother. I know why she did what she did. I know what she knew and I know where Emerson is. I saw him on the ship.

My god the ship…

The laughing was the worst. I wish it would stop laughing.

I have sealed up the basement but know that one day someone will go down there again. I write this so that when they discover the things I know they will find down there they will know neither I nor my mother were responsible. And perhaps so they will have the courage to do what I do not and destroy this terrible place, burn it to the ground. The only thing that holds me back is the fear that perhaps this place is not merely the door to their cage but the cage itself. If the house were to be destroyed perhaps they would be able to spread.

I wish to apologise to my family. I hope they will forgive me for what I am about to do. I hope they will understand. My brother, if this reaches you please do not go into that house. And don’t sell it. Board it up and let it stand forgotten, a creepy old building for people to stare and wonder at. Maybe that will hold them back at least.

The sewing machine is going at all hours of the day now. I know that it’s him, sewing himself new additions to that terrible cape. She lets him keep the skin, you see. He gets to keep the skin.

I am so sorry Emerson. I don’t hate you for the things you did. I wish I could help you or at least put you out of your misery. I know they won’t let you rest. I know you cannot be free of them now.

I see them out of the corner of my eye sometimes. They’re going to take me to the ship. I won’t let them. I will die the way I choose. The sea will carry my body away, hopefully far from where they can ever find it.

(This letter was found lying beside a cassette tape. The tape proved to be nothing but static although those who watched it reportedly felt a sense of ‘unease’ and ‘nausea’ when they tried to view it.

The Grimes home was searched and the belongings of over twenty three children who had gone missing in the local area were discovered within. No trace of the children themselves was found within the house or near it however.
The basement and the secret room were both as the letter described them. However no stairs leading down to a further sub-basement were found anywhere on the property. The puppets all also appeared to be completely undamaged, despite the claim that they had been burnt. The tapes mentioned in the letter were missing however.

Two families have since lived in the Grimes home. Neither has stayed for more than a few months, reporting strange smells, odd noises around the house and things going missing. One reported sensing something ‘Terrible’ in the basement and her children spoke of horrible dreams about ‘The ship taking them away’ and ‘The bony man from the TV’ watching them at night.

The house is now abandoned, having been purchased and then left empty by one Adrian Grimes in early 2011.

The puppets and set pieces from ‘Candle Cove’ (Mistakenly named ‘Pirate Place’ by Grimes in the letter, an early working title for the show that Emerson Grimes later abandoned) supposedly vanished shortly before Adrian Grimes made the purchase.

The whereabouts of Jason Grimes remain unknown)

Credit To – Alice Thompson

Candle Cove: Day of the Dead

June 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM

“Most of the laugh tracks on television were recorded in the early 1950s. These days, the people you hear laughing are dead.”
-Chuck Palahniuk, “Lullaby”


“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to, of course.”

“I thought that’s what your job was about: talking?”

“Actually Mrs. Chelsea, I would say that my job is about trust. I can’t expect people who don’t trust me to talk about sensitive things with me. So this session is entirely in your hands.”

“I’ll talk about it. Therapy was my idea, after all. They said that since there was just the one incident it wasn’t really necessary but…I thought it was a good idea.”

“All right then. Tell me what happened.”

“It was just a drawing on the sidewalk. A stencil, you know? Artists leave them around the city, sometimes, and I was out shopping with my family when my son pointed it out. It was a skeleton wearing a top hat, and it had the word ‘Saturday’ underneath it. What do you think that means?”

“It sounds like Baron Samedi.”


“He’s a loa; a voodoo spirit. He watches over the dead and he’s usually represented by a top hat and a skull. ‘Samedi’ means ‘Saturday.’ So this drawing frightened you?”

“I had a kind of fit when I saw it. They called it an anxiety attack. They even took me to the hospital.”

“And what did they find out?”

“They said there’s nothing wrong with me physically. They talked about stress and lack of sleep. And they said I should take it easy but not to worry unless it happened again. But I’m worried anyway.”

“Has anything like this ever happened before?”

“Once. The same day…that my son died.”

“You said your son was the one who noticed the stencil?”

“That’s my youngest son, Dylan. I had an older son, Jonah. But he’s not with us anymore. He was murdered five years ago.”

“I’m very sorry, Mrs. Chelsea. Can I ask if you received any psychological counseling afterwards?”

“No. I was busy with Dylan, you see. Isn’t it strange? The day Jonah died was the same day I found out I was pregnant again. And I guess I just….poured everything into managing the pregnancy. So that I wouldn’t think about anything else. And for years, I didn’t. Not until this week. Should I talk about the murder?”

“As I said, you don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want to.”

“I…I’ll talk about it.

“Jonah was fifteen; I had him when I was still in high school. He was very gifted. He played the cello, and the piano, and they made him the organist at our church. That was what got him into trouble.

“The minister was friends with my husband, Jonah’s stepfather, and he loved to hear Jonah play, so he put him at the organ. Everyone loved him. It wasn’t just that Jonah was talented, he was…I guess you could say he had a performer’s charisma. I…I’m sorry, it’s hard to talk about…”

“It’s all right, Mrs. Chelsea. Should we change the subject?”

“No, I’ve already said this much. Something people liked about Jonah, he would always play the hymns but he’d play some of his own music too, before and after the service. He composed his own material; it was very strange sounding, but everyone liked it. Well, almost everyone: One day a man came to us after church and told him to stop.”

“Told him to stop playing?”

“Told him to stop playing his own music. He was very upset. He looked like he hadn’t had much sleep; he might have been drunk. He told us that the song Jonah played that day was…wrong, somehow. That it was driving him crazy. He was screaming at us in the parking lot, telling us that we didn’t realize what we were doing, that he’d spent his whole life trying to get away from that music. It didn’t make any sense.”

“Tell me about the song?”

“It was very odd, now that you mention it. It was…bouncy. It made me think of the circus, for some reason. It made sense if you knew Jonah, though; he was always playing for laughs. I heard him practicing it in his room. It made me feel…unsettled, the first time I heard it.”

“Hmm. And what about this man?”

“Well, that day in the parking lot he just ran off, after scaring the daylights out of us. But the next week, he came back. …with a gun.”

“Mrs. Chelsea—”

“It was the Day of the Dead. November 1st. I remember that. Someone had left something on the organ for Jonah, as a joke. You know those Day of the Dead decorations, the little statuettes of skeletons doing everyday things? Skeleton housewives cooking or a skeleton barber with scissors and a razor or—”

“A therapist.”


“I have one that’s a skeleton therapist, with a skeleton patient on his couch. A client gave it to me. It’s actually quite funny.”

“Oh. Well, this one was a skeleton playing the piano. Jonah thought it was hilarious. He showed it to everyone. Nobody would admit to leaving it. Then he started playing. Everyone was enjoying it. He was coming to the end of the song, and then that man from the week before stood up. And then…”

“…where is that man now, Mrs. Chelsea?”

“In a mental hospital. I’ve visited him a few times. He cries a lot and tells me he’s sorry, but he says, ‘You must understand why. You of all people must understand why I did it.’ I don’t know why he says that. …but the thing I remember about that day now that I never remembered before is that little Day of the Dead statue. The skeleton was wearing a top hat, you see.”

“Ah. So the stencil drawing reminded you of it.”

“No, that wasn’t it. I mean, I suppose it did, but…doctor, I’ve never told anyone this before, but the day that Jonah was murdered, everyone assumed I was hysterical because of what happened, and I was, but it started before that. It started when I saw that little statuette on the church organ.

“Something about that figure, the skeleton and the hat, it terrified me. It scared me so bad that I wanted to stand up and shout to Jonah to run away from it, but I was too frightened to even move. And by the time I could, the man with the gun had already…he’d…”

“It’s all right, Mrs. Chelsea. …but you’re sure that your fear response started before the shooting? Not after?”

“Yes. Yes, I’m sure.”

“Hmm. So the skeleton and the hat: That image upsets you. Do you know why?”

“I can’t imagine.”

“Can you think of the first time you ever saw it?”

“Well… when I was a child I used to have a nightmare. There was a little girl in a room—”

“Was it you?”

“It might have been, but it was hard to tell. Whoever she was, she was in a dark room, and she was crying, and all around her there were these…I guess puppets, or dolls? And they were screaming.”

“The puppets were screaming?”

“Yes, all of them, screaming and screaming, and the little girl was crying.”

“Did you have this nightmare a lot?”

“All the time, when I was five.”

“What does this have to do with the skeleton in the top hat?”

“That was one of the puppets. That’s the first time I can remember seeing that image. Well, not seeing exactly, but that’s my earliest memory.”

“I see. What did your parents do when you told them about this dream?”

“They took the TV away.”


“They said that I had the dream because of something I saw on TV.”

“Do you remember that?”

“No. And I didn’t at the time either. But they insisted. It was…actually very strange, now that I think about it. It seemed to scare them, somehow. Of course, it’s hard to remember. I was so young, you know?”

“Of course. Do you still have this dream?”

“No. That is…not until very recently.”

“But you’ve had it again?”

“Yes, just after the stencil drawing, and the anxiety attack. That same night, actually. But only that once. And that was the first time in, oh, forty years, I guess. It’s normal, right, to have that dream again, after seeing something that reminded me of it?”

“We don’t really deal in words like normal or abnormal here, Mrs. Chelsea. I would say that it is noteworthy that you had the same dream after so long. But I don’t think it’s something you have to worry about. Can I ask, was anything different about the dream this time?”


“And what was that?”

“One of the puppets. It looked like…it looked like Jonah…”

“It’s all right to cry, Mrs. Chelsea. Here, dry your eyes. I can imagine it was very upsetting, but it’s important to remember that dreams are your mind’s way of trying to tell us something. Can you remember any other strange dreams about your oldest son?”

“For a while right after he died I would have one where I was standing on the shore, watching him sail away on a big ship.”

“That’s a very common image.”

“No, not like this; there was something wrong with that ship. Something terrible. And the people on it with him…they weren’t people. Not normal people. I had the feeling they were, you know, kidnapping him. Carrying him away, like they were—”


“Yes, that’s it. And I heard music too: strange, jumbled circus music. It sounded a little like the song that Jonah played in church. And you know, come to think of it, he told me that the song came to him in a dream first. It might even have been a dream about a ship. I didn’t pay much attention. I remember I even faked having to make a phone call so I could leave the room and stop listening to him talk about it. Isn’t that terrible? But at the time, hearing about his dreams upset me very much.”

“Let’s move on: Have there been any other incidents lately that have upset you? Anything unusual that’s disrupted your regular routine?”

“I’m not sure what’s important.”

“Anything might be important. We won’t know for sure unless we talk about it.”

“Well, a few weeks ago—this was before the panic attack—I was at a toy store, trying to find something for Dylan. He was turning five that week. And I found this…thing. It was a doll, you know, but not a normal one. It was like a little pirate, but its head was one from a porcelain baby doll, the old kind? It looked like something a serial killer would make in their basement.”

“And that bothered you?”

“Well it was horribly ugly. I asked the owner and she said she’d found it when she was cleaning out the storeroom. She had no idea where it came from. She wasn’t sure whether she should sell it or not. I told her to throw it away. It scared me. I guess it sounds silly now. Why would something like that get to me so much?”

“To grind your skin.”


“I said, things get under your skin.”

“I thought you said…never mind.

“There was something else too: As I was cleaning my son’s room the next day I thought I saw that same doll in there.”

“Thought you did?”

“As I was cleaning under his bed something caught my eye: It was that red bandana. And I saw that doll’s little face staring at me, with those cracked, painted eyes, and I swear I just about screamed. But when I looked under the bed again it wasn’t there. And I told myself I just imagined it, but…are all these things really important?”

“Oh yes, Mrs. Chelsea. I’d say we’re making great progress. With these sorts of things, you have. To go. Inside.”

“…what did you say?”

“You have to go inside. Of your mindset, you know, inside of your issues.”

“But why did you say it that way the first time?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Doctor, I—”

“Let’s move on. It seems that your anxiety is being triggered by some very specific imagery. Tell me when else it’s come up.”


“Tell me, Mrs. Chelsea. Please.”

“…my neighbor, she had Halloween decorations up on her house for weeks. And there was one that was a kind of skeleton that hung in her window, the sort of thing you’d buy at a drugstore this time of year. It startled me when I looked out my window and saw it. It was like it was looking right into my house. It had big glass eyes that were too large for its skull…that bothered me.

“I had such a strange feeling when I saw it. The first time I thought to myself, ‘He’s found me.’ It just popped into my head, and a second later I couldn’t have told you what it means. But that’s not what scared me.”

“What did?”

“My neighbor took all the other decorations off her house after Halloween, but she kept that one. Every morning I’d see that thing staring into my window. And finally one day I mentioned to her, very casually, you know, that it was almost Thanksgiving and she really ought to take that last Halloween decoration down. And she said, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about? It’s been gone for weeks.'”

“Was it there when you looked out the window again?’


“Do you think it was ever really there to begin with?”

“I…I don’t know.”

“What else has been on your mind?”

“Dylan. He’s a very bright child, like his brother. And they look a like. But he’s not a musician; instead he draws.”

“Has he been making strange pictures?”

“How did you know?”

“A lucky guess. Do go on, Mrs. Chelsea.”

“I feel sick. I feel like…the room is moving?”

“It’s your imagination. Tell me about Dylan’s pictures.”

“They’re of…a sailing ship. But not a normal one. It has a, you know, a figurehead at the front of it that’s too big. And it talks.”

“The figurehead talks?”


“How do you know that, if it’s just a picture?”

“I just know. And he’s been drawing it for weeks and weeks, over and over. And sometimes he draws other things too…strange things…terrible things…”

“But things you recognize.”


“Where have you seen these things before, Mrs. Chelsea?”

“In my dreams. And…on the television. When I was five years old. The show came on everyday. And I was scared of it, but I watched it anyway. And when I tried to get my parents to watch it with me they said…they said…”

“What did they say?”

“…that there was no show. And I didn’t understand what they meant. And that’s when the nightmare began. And I remember now, that’s where I first heard that song, the strange one that Jonah played. That’s why I was upset when I heard it, because it reminded me of that show. And I though maybe that’s why the man at the church was upset by it, too. I guess as I grew up I kind of forgot about the whole thing, but…”

“But you didn’t forget, did you? You never forget the things that are really important in childhood.”

“I guess you don’t.”

“And we didn’t forget about you either.”


“I said, they didn’t forget—”

“No you didn’t. You said ‘we.’ ‘We didn’t forget about you?'”

“…well, it’s true. We didn’t forget. We’ve been waiting for you, Janice. All this time.”

“Dr. Horace, why are you laughing like that? Dr. Horace?”

“I’m not a doctor. And you see this isn’t a doctor’s office at all, is it? It’s the cabin of a ship, that’s why it’s moving, that’s why you started to feel seasick.”

“What’s going on?!”

“You’re off on an adventure on the high seas, Janice, just like the ones on television when you were a little girl. The ones we made just for you.”

“Stop talking like that. And stop calling me that too, my name isn’t Janice.”

“But it could be! You’d make as good of a Janice as anyone. And think how much better life would be if you were? Janice never had a murdered son. Janice never had to worry that she was losing her mind. Janice only had adventures all the time.”

“But they were so awful, so frightening…”

“Well, being a child is always a little frightening, isn’t it? But you won’t be alone here; all of your old friends are onboard. And we have some news ones too. Even Jonah is here…”


“Oh yes. He’s been just the best little crewmember for us. And he’s been waiting for you. Just think about how wonderful it will be to see him again, and to see everyone else too. All one big happy crew together.”

“But what about Dylan?”

“Your other boy? Oh, don’t worry about him. We’ll get around to him, in due time. But do you hear that, Janice?”

“I…I hear a voice…”

“And what is it telling you?”

“I don’t want to listen to it! I don’t want to be here, I want to go home!”

“This is home, Janice. This is the home we made for you, the home that’s been waiting for you, the home that you’ll be in forever and ever. The voice that you hear, why, that’s the voice of your new home. And what is it saying?”


“What’s it saying, Janice?”

“It’s saying that…

“I have. To go. Inside.”

Credit To – Tam Lin

Candle Cove: Down in the Dark

June 18, 2013 at 12:00 AM

“Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not, and in the end there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness. Sometimes we lose them there again.”
-Stephen King, “The Green Mile”


I’m a grown woman and I’m well past needing my father to come save me, but even so I wish he were here now. I guess I never realized before just how much he’s always been there for me. Sometimes I wonder—

Wait, let me start from the beginning.

When I was six years old, I became obsessed with seeing the pirate show.

I overheard a kid at school talking about it. He said it was a puppet show about a little girl who’s friends with pirates, and that it was on in the afternoon. Once I heard that, I had to see it. You know how little kids get obsessed with one particular thing for no reason? For me that thing was pirates. I’m still not sure why but, hey, I was six.

The boy did not want to tell me what channel it was on, but after I pestered him enough he gave in. After school I ran to the TV to wait for four o’clock, but when the time came nothing was there; the channel was just static. I flipped through all the stations looking for the show. The next day I accused the boy of making the whole thing up, but another girl in the class said no, the show was real, she’d seen it too. I asked her why I couldn’t find it and she didn’t have an answer. The boy said that really I shouldn’t watch it anyway, but he would not say why, and after that he stopped talking to me at all.

Every day at four I sat in front of the TV, hoping that the pirate show would magically appear. I even asked Dad to call the local affiliate and ask about it (Dad would do almost anything for me…), but they said they’d never heard of it. I was crushed.

Months went by, the school year ended, and I became less zealous in my four o’clock vigil, but I would still check from time to time. One day I went down to the basement where Dad kept the old black and white TV in his workroom. Back then I had the idea that different TV sets showed different shows, so I would always check both if I couldn’t find what I wanted on. It was four o’clock and I turned to channel 58, just like always, but this time something was different: I heard static, but underneath it, just barely there, I heard music. Strange, bouncy calliope music. And although the channel was still scrambled, I could just barely make out a picture.

There, after all this time, was the pirate show. There was the little girl, and there were the pirate marionettes, and there was the ship with the talking figurehead. It was just like the kids at school described. Of course, the picture was a mess and I could only hear half the dialogue, but I didn’t care. I was ecstatic.

I don’t remember much about the program. It was half over by the time I turned it on. The only thing I really do remember was the part where the little girl and the pirate are standing outside of a cave and the ship tells them: “YOU HAVE. TO GO. INSIDE.” Just like that. I guess it doesn’t sound like much, but at that moment I became very scared, and I turned the TV off and almost ran out of the basement. Suddenly, I wasn’t interested in the pirate show anymore.

That should have been the end of it, and in fact I’d like to think that it was. I’d like to think that what happened next was all a dream or the product of a six-year-old’s imagination. For most of the last forty years that’s exactly what I have thought, but now I’ve started to wonder.

That night, probably around two o’clock in the morning, I went to use the bathroom (I was never scared of the dark when I was a kid, and in fact I was a little proud of how I felt brave enough to wander around our old, creaky house with no lights on). On the way back, I noticed that the basement door was open, just a crack. And I heard something down in the basement: It was that strange, jumbled circus music from the show. It was still playing.

I stood there for a long time, not sure what to do. I heard the music and the voices of the characters drifting up the basement steps, plain as day. They were very loud, and there was no more noisy static. I told myself that I had simply left the television on (even though I knew I hadn’t), and that Dad had somehow missed it before going to bed (even though I knew he never would). Yes, that would almost make sense. Except that it didn’t explain why a kid’s show (which up until that afternoon seemed never to be on at all) would be on at two in the morning.

I was, as I’ve said, never a child afraid of the dark, or of much of anything else. So despite the strange circumstances, I resolved to go down and turn the old TV off and go back to bed. It didn’t seem like a completely good idea, I’ll admit, but I certainly wasn’t going to run away from a television. I opened the basement door all the way and would probably have gone down if not for the fact that at the very moment I prepared to put my little bare foot on the first basement step I heard that voice again:


But it did not sound as if it were coming from the television.

There are limits to what even the bravest six-year-old will do, and I had reached them. So I ran all the way to Dad’s room and woke him up. He listened, very calmly, to my story, and when I was done he picked me up and carried me with him to the basement door. There was no music now, and no voices, just darkness and silence. He set me down and as he prepared to go downstairs I wanted to stop him. I was sure, all of a sudden, that whatever was down there, I didn’t want my daddy to be down there with it. But I couldn’t think of anything to say. So I just watched him as he marched down those dark steps, one at a time.

I have never been as frightened as I was for those minutes that my father was down in that basement. A part of me was certain he was never coming back. I even imagined that, maybe, something else would come back instead. But I wasn’t sure what…

But of course, he came back. He said that I’d left the TV on, just like I thought. I asked him what was on it and he said, “Nothing.” Just that: nothing. And then he tucked me back into bed, and sang to me and stroked my hair until I fell asleep.

I loved my father very much.

After that I more or less forgot about the whole thing. If it ever crossed my mind in the years to come, I chalked it up as a nightmare. Dad never mentioned it either. There is one thing I noticed, though, that I never really thought about until tonight: Dad got rid of that old TV shortly after. In fact, he stopped watching television altogether, and he stopped working in the basement too. After I went to college he cancelled the service and got rid of the other TV, and as far as I know never got another one. I wonder about that now.

Just like I wonder about those times, as a little girl, when I would catch my father staring off at nothing with his head tilted a little to one side, like he was listening to something, a song or a voice that only he could hear. And I wonder whether it’s just my imagination or time tampering with my memories or if my father didn’t have a strange look on his face when he came out of the basement that night. And had his voice quavered a little? And hadn’t he been down there just a little longer than it should have taken simply to turn off a television set?

I guess those are questions only my father could have answered, and now he never will. Today was his funeral, and that’s why, tonight, for the first time in twenty five years, I’m sleeping in the old house alone. As they lowered his casket into the ground, the unwelcome image of him marching down those basement steps came back to me, and I shivered. This time, when my father went down into the dark, alone, I was sure he would not be back. That was the first time in a long time I’d thought about the pirate show or the night in the basement. I’d prefer not to keep thinking about it, especially since I have so much else on my mind, but I’m afraid I don’t have much choice.

You see, when I came in tonight, the basement door was open. I can hear music down there, and voices, ones I haven’t heard since I was six. And I’m sure that if I open the basement door all the way and stand at the top of the stairs I’ll hear another voice telling me that I have to go inside.

But I’m sure there is no television down there.

I don’t want to go. I want to run to my daddy’s room, and wake him up, and have him sing me to sleep again, but of course, I can’t. I do not think it’s a coincidence that this is happening the same day we buried him. I think, somehow, that this is something my father has been protecting me from for a long time.

Or maybe not. Maybe there was nothing sinister in the basement forty years ago, and maybe there’s nothing down there now, and maybe this is just the stress of the funeral making me crack. They tell me that grief can induce hallucinations, sometimes. It could be there’s nothing to be afraid of down in the dark after all. I would very much like to think that that’s true.

I guess once I go down and see I’ll know for sure. I guess, if I don’t come back, you’ll all know too.

Good night, Daddy. Sweet dreams. I love you.

Credit To – Tam Lin

Lullaby Rock: A Candle Cove Memoir

September 7, 2012 at 4:00 PM

Just a little, in the right kind of way, kids enjoy being scared. They don’t find loud and horrific things fun, but if something gives off a vibe of the perfect proportion of creepiness, it will turn a child’s head and instead of triggering his uneasiness and cause him to back away, it instills in him a sense of adventure so that he may find out for certain if there really is anything from which to back away.

Candle Cove did that for me. Maybe it was the weird puppets. Maybe it was the themes of haunted caves, murderous pirates and skin-grinding skeletons. Maybe it was the weird camera and sound quality. Whatever it was, I was five years old in 1971 and caught the pilot one day while mom was out running errands, and thus the dial was mine to turn. I came upon the show and was instantly hooked.

I’ve been reading up recently, my curiosity re-ignited and my caution diminished, about this theory that the show was just weak signal static, and these rumors about this “screaming episode” that apparently earned the Laughingstock and her crew an abrupt pull from the seas and the Channel 58 airwaves. I can tell you right now, it wasn’t just dead air or snow. However, I can’t confirm the existence of episode 2-12, because I didn’t get a chance to see it, or for that matter, any of the episodes in the second season. After all, they only aired once. This is the story of why I missed them.

On Tuesday, September 21, 1971, I came home from school in my mom’s clunky Volkswagon. Since there was nothing particularly interesting on in mom’s eyes, she would forfeit the television to me for an hour whilst she rode on her exercise bike in the basement. And, of course, that day, just like several weeks leading up to it, the dial turned right to 58.

Episode six of season one, I would later find out, was called “Ship Crash.” Appropriately enough, the premise involves Percy musing about the lovely song of the “singing dolphins” (a woman is heard rhythmically cooing in the background) and winds up falling asleep at the helm of Laughingstock, and apparently sleep-steering, crashing her into a large, jagged rock jutting out of the waters in a corner of the Cove. The rest of the episode involves Janice and Poppy frantically trying to repair their ship before it sinks, all the while fighting sleep.

Eventually, they spot a strange tree growing near the peak of the mountainous rock and decide it would make great torch wood for distress beacons, so Janice goes to fetch it. On her journey, she begins to sleepwalk, which is how she comes across Susan Siren.

Susan, like most of the other characters on the show, had a cheap but almost-intentionally strange design: She was not a puppet, but an actress, with her body and face painted a sea-greenish pallor, her lips a vibrant orange to compliment it. She was dressed rather, well, inappropriately for a children’s show, her breasts only obscured by a metallic brassiere, small chains (possibly intended originally for necklaces) serving as the straps. Her bottom piece was also fashioned in this way, with a large (obviously paper mache) chain attached to her “iron” panties and the rock behind her, meant to shackle her there. The top half of her head, including her eyes and nose, was concealed by a headpiece fashioned to make her look more “cartoonish”, but it also had a pale-green skin, as well as orange hair and large, spherical orange eyes to match the lipstick.

Susan Siren explains to Janice that she was condemned to “Lullaby Rock” centuries ago, when a fleet of ships almost crashed due to her hypnotic, sleep-inducing singing. Janice laments that she cannot free Susan, but promises to return to visit if Susan promises to lure another ship (without crashing it) to the rock to rescue them. Susan agrees, and sings a peaceful song about “your hard work at sea” and how “it’s earned you a nap”.

That day, I came home from school especially drained. I remember that much. What had happened in kindergarten that would leave a five-year-old so exhausted is lost to time, but I remember being tired. So, taking Susan’s advice, I switched from a sitting position on the couch to a laying one and let my heavy eyes sink. Only seconds after my eyelids made everything dark, I heard the song end, and Susan boast to Janice:

“Now, watch this.”

My eyes fluttered open, eager to see what had happened. But I was somewhere else: The room was white, as where the sheets on the bed I had apparently been tucked into. There were silver, boxy machines surrounding me, beeping monotonously. A little tube poked into my arm and connected it to a hanging pouch of clear liquid. I wanted to touch it, but was afraid of the pain. I wanted to scream, but a large tube had been shoved in my mouth. I wanted to cry and struggle and kick down the walls, but I was too weak, so I settled for sobbing. After a few minutes of that, a woman in a white dress rushed and and called for a doctor, who simply studied me. but he did call my mother, and after I was unhooked from all those machines and latched onto her, exchanging with her happier sobs, she sat me down to explain that I had been in a coma for nearly two years.

So why is my curiosity only rekindled now? I suppose I never related it to the show. The doctors never a gave a straight answer as to why this happened to me, so who else could know of one? I only started looking into it again about a week ago, around a month after mom’s funeral. I was going through some of her tax receipts when I found an empty envelope from NASA, dated December 29, 1971. The kind of envelope a check might arrive in.

Credit: Simon Corvax


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