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What Happened To Elisa Lam? A Documentary Kickstarter PSA

March 20, 2017 at 6:20 AM

Note from Derpbutt: What Happened To Elisa Lam? is a project being worked on by a community member – I thought that the community at large might find it extremely relevant to our interests. As of this writing, it looks like the Kickstarter is only a little over half-funded with an “all or nothing” setting (meaning that should they not reach their goal, they receive no funds at all) – I’d really love to see this project come to fruition for selfish reasons (I love creepy documentaries!), so I wanted to do my part to signal boost. I’m going to embed the most concise text excerpts from their Kickstarter and their pitch video in this post, but you guys should visit the actual Kickstarter page to see their vision in full detail as well as more detail about the people behind the project, pledge rewards, etc.

What Happened to Elisa Lam?

This feature-length documentary will explore the mysterious case of a young woman who was found dead on the roof of an infamous hotel in 2013. The film will trace three competing narratives that seek to explain what happened: the police and those who believe Elisa died from a tragic accident resulting from bipolar disorder; web sleuths, friends, and conspiracists who believe Elisa was murdered; and paranormal experts who suggest Elisa was possessed by a dark force from the Cecil Hotel’s past. At the heart of the film remains the pulse of a creative but deeply troubled young woman whose online writings and struggle against depression continue to resonate with thousands of people across the world.

The case defies conventional categorization. Is it a true crime mystery? A profile of mental illness? A paranormal investigation? Or all three… The Elisa Lam case transcends all labels and becomes a Rorschach test for the 21st-century mind – everyone who looks at it sees something different.

What Happened to Elisa Lam? will showcase characters from all spectrums of the case — detectives, psychologists, friends of Elisa’s, journalists and filmmakers who became obsessed with the case, Reddit moderators and website owners who saw the case grow into a viral phenomenon, even short-stay and long-term Cecil residents who were accused of killing her.

Over the last year, we have cultivated relationships with several people intimately connected with Elisa Lam and the case. The narrative will focus on these subjects while detouring to explore other aspects.

The biggest challenge in making this film is telling the story in a way that does not further stigmatize the case and Elisa. There are many (thousands) sensationalized accounts on YouTube and other films on the subject are sure to come — ours will go beyond just murder conspiracies and paranormal speculation and assess the sociological and psychological impact of the case. The film will honor Elisa while exposing the full story of how the case has resonated with so many people around the world.

We’ve already invested 3 years of our lives researching every nook and cranny of the case and we’ve invested considerable personal funds — with your help, we can take it to the next level.

**Out of respect for Elisa’s life and those still grieving her loss, WE ARE GOING TO DONATE A PERCENTAGE OF OUR FUNDS TO HER FAMILY.

The “Hooray, Ratings Work Again!” Giveaway – Winner Contacted

March 5, 2017 at 3:31 PM

Hey, everyone!

It’s been a few days since I implemented the fix – special thanks to CloudFlare tech support for figuring it out after everyone else I’d approached had been baffled – and it appears that we are fully in the clear with regards to the ratings plugin. I haven’t received any reports of malfunctions, and I’m seeing people voting like crazy in the logs, so I think it’s safe to say that we dodged a bullet and everything is finally back in working order!

To celebrate, I’m going to hold a giveaway! I’d been thinking about raffling off this particular item for awhile now as I thought it might be a fun way for some of you to render your creepypasta into a new form – so, no time like the present, right?

One winner will receive a Steam copy of TyranoBuilder Visual Novel Studio. This is a program that allows users to build their own visual novels, even without knowing any game programming or scripting (though the description states that more in-depth options exist for advanced users).

I’ve really enjoyed the few times that we’ve received submissions in interesting formats/platforms like Twine – and I’ve seen some authors express interest in turning their work into games or visual novels, so it’s my hope that some of you find this an interesting opportunity to tell your stories in a non-traditional fashion. While I’m only giving away one copy, I think it would absolutely be interesting to see future submissions or adaptations of already accepted stories (with permission and/or by the original author, of course) in this format!

Here are the details:

  • You need a Steam account that can receive gifts from a US Steam account.
  • You need to be 18 years of age or older to enter, please.
  • Due to the digital nature of the items, this contest is open worldwide, as long as it is legal for you to have a Steam account and receive gifts.
  • Please use the same name and/or email to comment that you use to enter the raffle. This will make validating comment entries much easier for me!
  • The raffle will start on March 06, 12:00AM EST and will accept entries until March 20, 12:00AM EST. You can see the helpful countdown on the widgets to know how much time is remaining!
  • I will draw names and contact the winner within 24 hours. If the winner does not reply to claim their prize within 72 hours of my contacting them, they will be disqualified and a new winner will be selected – rinse, repeat.
  • If the Rafflecopter widget below does not display for you, please click the text link in their place and enter on the raffle’s website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck to everyone who enters!

The Truth about London

March 25, 2017 at 12:00 AM

If you’re reading this, then congratulations! You’ll soon be one of the few that know the truth, and by then I’ll likely be gone. Not dead. Just, gone. Vanished. Erased. Snubbed out. Mark my words, it will happen. But before that day comes, I’m determined to share the information I have, information that many would prefer to remain out of reach. But information the public deserves to know.

I’ll start with how I managed to get myself into this mess, right in the centre of the spider’s web. Apologies in advance for the hazy details, but I’m going to have to be vague to keep them off my trail for much longer. Anyway, to put it simply, I had hit rock bottom when they found me. Homeless on the streets of Her Majesty’s London, without a single helping hand in sight. At the time, their offer seemed too good to be true. “One-Hundred Thousand Pounds Sterling”, I was told, with private healthcare, house and car thrown in too. In hindsight, I should’ve realised it was.

If you’re not from the UK, but have ever visited London, you’ll understand what I’m about to say perfectly. Doesn’t it all seem a bit… magical? The gold of the crown sprinkled on every street corner, post-box and lamppost? The palaces and towers that everyone visits eventually, with their guards, gates and the presence of royalty only metres away? The Houses of Parliament and the London Underground, mundane and boring to those familiar with them, yet quirky and alluring to those from outside? One of my co-workers once described London as the “Disney of Capital Cities”, and I’ll be damned if that isn’t exactly what they want.

Simply put, it is all a front for something much greater.

When you visit London, they want you to make fools of yourselves trying to make the Queen’s Guard smile. They want you to buy into the excitement of Royal Weddings, and to shake your heads at the Parliamentary debates. They want you to read conspiracy theories about what happened to Princess Diana, and they want you to believe them. What is the truth? I don’t know, and neither will any of you. The point is that you’ll sit there and ponder. Ponder and ponder and never, for one moment, look deeper than that thin layer of magic.

Because if you do, you may just find another London entirely.

Whatever I had expected when I first signed the contract, it was nothing compared to the truth. My job was nothing special: I was a glorified cleaner, responsible for cleaning up after the All-Stars, picking up the trash and keeping my head down and mouth shut. If I recall correctly, the official term used was “disposable employee”, but I digress. When you work in UnLondon, things are never that easy.

UnLondon is an enigma, something that hides in plain sight and yet remains concealed to a near-perfect degree. It is also worth mentioning that UnLondon is only a nickname, used by those with no official business or importance there, and only spoken publicly by those with nothing to lose. Unfortunately, I am a member of both groups. Official names include “SC Templar”, “SC One” and “SC Crowne”, with the “SC” standing for Sub-City and the rest standing for god-knows what. I have reason to believe similar facilities exist in many cities worldwide, with rumoured locations including the Paris Catacombs, The Vatican and the City of Moscow to name a few, but I have no solid evidence to support these claims. Then again, procuring evidence against a secret of this magnitude is a near-impossible task, so you’ll just have to trust my word.

Over roughly nine-months of my employment in UnLondon, I stumbled across my fair share of sensitive information, not entirely by accident, but not outright deliberately either. Of course, it wasn’t easy. What other cleaning jobs do you know that force you through two months of psychological examination, interrogation and conditioning before they let you near the place? And that isn’t even including the security measures underground.

Practically every door is magnetically sealed, openable only with the correct key-card and fingerprints that change daily. When on the job, there is never a moment when you aren’t in the immediate vicinity of an armed guard, security camera or narrow-eyed supervisor. When you aren’t working, you’re confined to your accommodation, with every blind spot covered, every mirror two-way and absolutely no phone service to speak of. Some call the UK the “most watched country on Earth”, and they’d be right. Because the secrets of UnLondon are that valuable.

Moving on to the facility itself, UnLondon isn’t a single, fortified location but a labyrinth of disused chambers, passages and bunkers stretching beneath the City of London, particularly under and around the River Thames. You won’t find them on any map, and they aren’t accessible through any of the known areas available to the public, only through a handful of very specific entry points within the river itself and several mining-standard elevator shafts in choice locations around the city. Don’t bother asking where any of these entrances are, because I was unconscious and blindfolded during the journey for obvious security reasons.

Believe it or not, the history of the facility is one of the few scraps of information they willingly give up to new employees, likely to create a false sense of lawfulness and security in a profession that is neither secure nor lawful. UnLondon was first founded immediately following World War Two in an effort to capitalise on the existing infrastructure of subterranean London. While everyone else was hopeful and looking to the light, they took it upon themselves to sink to new lows. Since then, the tunnels have expanded exponentially, as have the range of their functions, with the depravity and secrecy only growing with each passing decade.

Let’s just say that during my stint as a disposable, I saw the remnants of some mind boggling, revolting and disturbing things. I won’t go into all the details to spare your stomach, but I’ll give you enough for your mind to fill in the rest. A few other disposables and I were once sent in to clean up after a round of “afternoon tea”: tea, cakes and substances too rare and secret to populate the Government’s banned substances register, not to mention the meat of animals on the endangered species list. Another cleaning session consisted of emptying an office following its occupant’s “suicide”. “Marked for incineration”, the order had said.

I suppose by now you’re wondering how I know all I do, and for that, I don’t blame you. The life of a disposable is mostly just following orders from a faceless superior, trudging from one day to the next in silence and staying in the dark. For me, it was much of the same. Until they chose to promote me. To understand my second job, you first need to understand the single biggest source of paranoia for the bigwigs behind UnLondon: the internet. A single cyber-attack or incursion could expose the truth behind their actions, so within UnLondon no communication over the internet, via phones or any equipment, modern or otherwise, is permitted. Good ol’ fashioned letters make up the vast majority of communication within the city, which are favoured exactly for their primitive, unhackable nature. Coupled with the near-zero chance of any physical material escaping the city, and you can see the appeal. This brings me on to my second job within UnLondon: a “courier”.

Hundreds of couriers are employed within the tunnels, scurrying back and forth and providing a never ending stream of orders, data and documents, the vast majority of which are marked classified, read once and then promptly sent to one of several huge furnaces somewhere in the complex. But in secret, as time trickled by and hundreds upon hundreds of letters came under my supervision, I gradually built up my knowledge of the city. And it terrified me. I learnt that the “level” I had been employed on was only the highest of five, each more mysterious and secure than the last. I learnt that many of the unseen figures we had heard whispers of were well known celebrities, politicians and intellectuals. And worst of all, I learnt about The Fleming Protocol. What began as three words mentioned inconspicuously on an itinerary soon spiralled into a predicament that has me trapped to this day.

Remember the term: “disposable employee”? I first assumed it was intended to demean and frighten us, but in hindsight I suppose it was naïve to ever assume anything in my situation. Like I said, security is their single greatest concern, and it turns out someone like me: a nobody, salvaged from the bottom and trapped between the lines, is too great a threat for them to tolerate. Whether it’s simply the cold nature of UnLondon or the fear that “my kind” has nothing left to lose, the fact is that I don’t have long left. When I first began my conditioning, I was given a “medical examination” that included several different injections disguised as vaccinations. More naivety on my part, I suppose. Whatever they gave me, I can feel it growing stronger by the day, seething, throbbing and sapping what little strength I have left.

I know now that they’ll be no happy endings for me, no meal-tickets to easy street and no way out. They want their secrets to stay buried, trapped in legend and myth, never to see the light of day. I won’t give them that luxury. So whatever the cost, I’m making my knowledge known by using my short debriefing period to do the right thing. To serve the public after so long serving the men in their high towers. Like I said, by the time you’re reading this, I’ll likely be gone, so I’ll leave you with one last piece of advice. Next time you hear of a sensational conspiracy, or a scandal too shocking to be true, or something you may immediately dismiss as improbable in the modern world, think of my story. Think of how much you really know about the backstreets and dark cellars of the world around you. And most of all think about what you can do to bring those places into the light. After all, all rumours start somewhere.

Credit: Jack Roland

The White Doors

March 24, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Horror in real life doesn’t come suddenly, it’s not a shock, or a reactionary scream. Horror in real life is a slow realization that occurs over the course of years. It needs time to mold, decay, and spread. True horror is painful, often sad, and tragic. It’s a slow deterioration, separating you from all forms of comfort and happiness. It is this kind of horror that I have felt ever since I learned of my mothers passing.

The circumstances of her death did not make things any easier. It wasn’t a slow death with time to make amends, adjust or say goodbye. She hadn’t been fighting a disease or infection for years. She wasn’t old and nearing the end of her life. Her death came for her quickly and unexpectedly.

My mother who after divorce, and my brothers moving away, had been living alone. She kept herself busy by working for the church and caring for her parents. My last couple visits home I had noticed she seemed more fragile than she should for a woman her age. She had lost weight and seemed starved for visitors. There was also a look in her eyes that bothered me; they were sleepless, panicked and broken. It seemed as if she wanted to tell me something but couldn’t. Instead she would just smile sadly and change the subject. I was told that my brother found her late one night in October, locked in the downstairs bathroom naked lying in her own blood with her wrists sliced open. She was sixty three years old.

Knowing that suicide is a mortal sin in the catholic church, and my mother being a devote catholic, I couldn’t help but wonder if something else was involved in her passing. Not anything scandalous, or plotted but something queer and uncomfortable that had been with me and my thoughts since I was a child. It dealt with our family home and more particularly the old wooden doors.

It all began with trouble sleeping. For as long as I can remember I always had trouble falling asleep in my parents house. My grandmother told me that as a small child I was prone to sleep terrors. She would watch me during the day while my parents were at work, and in the evenings, when they went out to dinner. She told me that she was watching me the night a bad storm hit our neighborhood. A tornado had been spotted that night but never touched down. However the lightning did claim the house’s electricity. My grandmother raced to my bedroom worried the window facing my crib would break under the violent wind. There was something else she was afraid of as well. When my grandmother picked me up from my crib she said she felt something in the room, something new, different and dark. My grandmother who came to America from Italy as a child told my parents that she had felt a strange presence that night and begged them to allow her to do a prayer to remove the maloik, an old world superstition. But my parents who were religious, believed in angels and demons, not folklore. They didn’t want to dabble in curses and superstition.

As I got older the sleep terrors continued as nightmares. It wasn’t uncommon for me to wake up hours after going to bed only to be too afraid to fall back asleep. Later in high school I dealt with my insomnia by not sleeping for days until I could fall asleep quickly. It wasn’t until I went away for college that I was able to rest peacefully.

I attribute my difficulty sleeping all of those years to the doors in my parents house. They were big plain wood doors, simple with no additional furnishing or decoration. They seemed ominous never the less. I would spend hours looking at the patterns in the grain, finding shapes and images in them like one would do with clouds. The more I looked the more I saw, until the images seemed so clear to me. Strange famished figures, naked with one leg or half of a torso, rabid dogs, an old bearded man. I saw faces too, wide eyed, mouths open, sometimes made of knots in the wood. All suffering as if the spirits of these things had somehow become trapped in the wood.

The bathroom door on the first floor was the worst. It was positioned next to the door leading to the basement and the lock in the door knob was finicky. It would sometimes get stuck, or give way, locking or unlocking by itself. The bathroom door also had one of the strangest designs. In the center of the door there was what looked like a woman in intense pain as if she was in labor. Her face was contorted and blurred with vertical lines of grain. Taring its way out from what I could only imagine as her stomach, in my childlike imagination, was a wide eyed creature.

I would see the bathroom door in my dreams as well. I had terrible nightmares where I was floating and desperately trying to get away from the bathroom, but I was being pulled backwards by an invisible force unable to escape. It would suck me into the darkness of the room, the door would slam shut and lock before I would have a chance to wake up panicked and out of breath.

The nightmares and the lack of sleep only made my already active imagination worse. The strange images in the door weighed on me. There was a door for every room in the house. I could not escape them. They were a constant presence, staring out at me from the wooden veneers. As a child I began to see other things. Things that found a way out of the trappings of wooden frames. Not things I could look at directly but rather things that appeared in my peripheral vision. The kinds of things that always begged to be questioned. Was someone there or was my imagination getting the best of me? Overtime I got better at being watchful, and looking without shifting my gaze.

One night when I was six years old I went into my parents bedroom feeling guilty that I wasn’t yet asleep. I needed to be reassured and comforted because I had scared myself badly. My mother gave me a hug and asked me what was wrong. I told her that I see things out of the corners of my eyes. She asked me about their appearance. But I couldn’t get a good look at them, as soon as I turned my head they were gone. She asked me when the last time was that I had seen one. I told her that there is one with us now in the corner of the room. My mother looked over at what to her was an empty corner in her bedroom. She told me that maybe they were angels sent by God to watch and protect me. But they weren’t. Something in the pit of my stomach would turn and I would feel sick around them.

They were motionless beings, staring blankly at me, only moving when I wasn’t looking. Slowly getting closer to me every time I looked away. I’d first discovered them in my peripheral vision outside my bedroom on the stairs late at night when I couldn’t sleep. I would notice a dark shape peaking over the top stair, eyes glistening, where nothing should be. I would try to quickly shift my gaze, to refocus on them, but they were always gone. I’d eventually look away and then find them again at my bedroom door, and then even closer at my desk. Ever present, just outside of sight.

I decided that they must be demons, not the red horned demons from cartoons but something else. They seemed old as if they were somehow misplaced, out of time. At night when I would see them I would be too afraid to move, or do anything but stare blankly, not giving them a chance to move in closer.

Sometimes I would hear them talk to me in my head. They would tell me to do things like to wait in the corner of the room, or flood my mind with images of strange exotic places. I would sometimes do what they said, though nothing ever came of it. My mother panicked one afternoon when she couldn’t find me. She searched the entire house eventually finding me in the bedroom closet, facing the wall, where the voices had told me to wait. She was in tears when I told her about the voices. She bought me a rosary and asked if the demons were the reason I was having trouble sleeping.

Eventually my father blessed the house with holy water, room by room as part of the celebration of the Epiphany, recommended every year by the church. It was after this, when I was still seeing them, that my mother became bothered by my demons and their doors. It began to weigh on her as well.

I grew up in a suburb just outside of Cleveland in a working class neighborhood predominately made up of Irish, Italians and Slovenians where religion was very much a part of life. My parents were passionately involved in the church as well and it was through them that I learned to take the sightings I was having very seriously. Instead of denouncing my demons as part of my imagination, my fears were reinforced and their existence confirmed through the power of faith and community.

One night we had a priest who was new to the parish over to our house to meet the family. After dinner he asked me if there was anything I wanted to ask God for. I told him that there are demons in this house that hide in the doors and I wanted them to go away. My parents shared a look of concern as my mother tried to explain. The priest looked at the doors before he left and assured me everything was okay. Later that evening he spoke with my parents and something was settled between adults.

A couple of months later my father did a small home renovation which included replacing all of the doors with white ones. It was relieving for the doors to finally be gone, and I thought I would now be rid of the strange creatures and be able to sleep. But it was too late. My mother told me that she was having the nightmares now as well. Something about the doors she would say.

As I got older I read about the possession of objects like the Annabelle doll, and how the native americans believed in evil wood spirits called Wakąčųna; but I mostly ignored the demons and I eventually stopped seeing them. Despite my mothers wishes I no longer went to church and I refused to talk about religious matters or anything involving the strange things I had seen and felt in the house. I told myself that the horrors I faced as a child were due to my overactive imagination and strict religious upbringing. By the time I left for college there had been no talk of doors, demons, or nightmares for a long time, although I would still occasionally get that sick feeling in my stomach late at night when I was near the downstairs bathroom door.

My parents would later divorce, my mom keeping the house and working at the church. I moved away for work to Twin Falls. It wasn’t until my Dad called to tell me about the circumstances of my mother’s passing that I began to wonder if something more had happened to my mother.

I made the trip home to find that my childhood neighborhood had been hit hard by the recession. It was now only a faded memory of the town I grew up in. The corner ice cream parlor was now a get-cash-fast lender, and the streets were relatively empty and bleak. Houses were boarded up and my old high school had closed. Parked at a red light I watched the traffic lights signal to empty streets. My parents house even looked different, old and not as well kept as it was when my father had lived there. The grass had been overrun with weeds and the siding was dirty.

We stood in font of the house that afternoon after the funeral, my brothers, father and I. My brothers explained to me how my mom had been stressed. Her mood swings had been violent and her sleeping pattern was erratic. She would go for long periods of time without sleeping and then fall into a deep sleep for days. My brother told me how late one evening after work he had gone over our mother’s house to check on her. It had been two or three in the morning by the time he had arrived and let himself in, finding our mother in the kitchen making breakfast. He told me she had become confused about the time and had thought that it was morning. He explained that she was trying different medications to help with the insomnia, and the doctors had thought the mood swings and suicide could have been a side effect. I told them about how I used to have trouble sleeping in her house and about the demons and the doors. They laughed, they were too young to remember. I told them that I thought I was going to sleep better after Dad had replaced the doors but it wasn’t until college that I slept well. My Dad stopped me and told me that he never replaced the doors, he just had them painted white.

Credit: Matt Mascia

The Merton Account

March 23, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Dear Mr. Valentine,
As per your request, I’ve collected reliable morsels of information from the many and often incoherent accounts that detail the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996. It is only with great reluctance that I reveal this information to you, for I fear for my life that I am pursued with the intent of execution. Yet, I am a professional, and as such I will hold up my end of this terrible bargain, but I warn you that you may be better off unaware of the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996.

August 31st, 1996
According to the more reliable sources, even with which corroboration was a cruel goal, the event began on August 31st when the librarian, Ms. Laurie Lasalle, came across a leather bound book called Apocriphex which she believed to be worth quite a great deal of money, for it’s binding and contents suggested great age. The book, though I now dread to speak of it, was written in a language which Ms. Lasalle could neither understand nor distinguish. Determined to discover it’s value, she brought to the nearest university, LSU at Shreveport, where she presented it to some of the faculty for appraisal. Among them (the varying sources cannot seem to agree between the presence of three faculty or four) was Dr. Vance Ridley who told me in my interview with him in 2004, “I felt a deep uneasiness about Apocriphex and could tell Dr. Smith [alias] felt the same way. I’m not a religious man, but the closest I’ve come to belief in the spiritual was when I beheld that ancient book, and now I am glad to believe not, though Dr. Smith believes I do so foolishly.” According to Dr. Ridley, an authority in cryptanalysis and linguists, the book was written in some perversion of Latin and Occitan. The bastard language was very pleasant to hear, nearly musical. Though Dr. Ridley assured me that the translation, though he could only produce a rough one, was not so easy on the ears. The document which contained the translation has since been lost before it could be shipped to me, though Dr. Ridley has told me that the tome was a collection of old alchemical recipes, perhaps written by an Aquitainian monk in the 9h century, though it’s condition would seem to place it a much more recent date. He assured me that the translation bordered on nonsense, though from out conversations, Mr. Valentine, I am lead to believe that you would disagree. I am still searching for the translation.

September 1st 1996
On September 1st, early in the morning, Ms. Lasalle retrieved Apocriphex from the University who warned her to take caution with the book, for it was a priceless artifact; considering it’s bizarre contents and pristine condition. This information was relayed to many friends of Ms. Lasalle on their September 1st book club meeting. I have spoken with many of those women, and it is from them that I have gathered much of this information regarding Apocriphex, though the current location of the original copy alludes us all. After her book club, which ended around noon, Ms. Lasalle went home and showed the book to her boyfriend, Mr. Gary Rogers, who owns that quaint diner on the bluff near Caddo Lake. Mr. Rogers, excited by the nature of Ms. Lasalle’s find, urged her to bring Apocriphex to the city-wide picnic to be held near the lake. She agreed to do so. This information regarding Apocriphex cannot be tied directly to the event which would transpire the next day, though the arrival of the old book only two days before the event seemed too ominous to ignore and with this suspicion I present this report. Ms. Lasalle died on September 2nd, 1996, and so I could not question her. Mr. Rogers spoke with me briefly before suggesting I leave the town, which name has since changed (as you know) and which I am obligated not to report here.

September 2nd, 1996
At 9:00am, then Mayor, Frederic Murphy went out to the site of the picnic near Caddo lake with two wildlife experts and four members of the city council, one of whom still serves to this day. It was a clear day and the lake was calm. The wildlife experts confirmed that there were no alligators in the area and set up a monitoring station in the thicket of some nearby trees to watch for any unwanted wildlife that may intrude about the picnic. The city councilman whom I could reach for questioning reported nothing unusual during this precaution.
At around 10:00am, volunteers began setting up tents, tables, and chairs. A local extermination company was hired by the city to treat the area for mosquitoes and did so. Some of the volunteers think that the chemical used to repel and kill the mosquitoes may have somehow been connected with the event. Scattered reports claim there was an altercation between one of the exterminators and volunteers, both of whom were in the process of divorce. None of the exterminators who were present that day still worked there when I reached them for questioning, but the manager, who was only present for the treating and not for the picnic itself, suggested that the volunteers had set up the grill too close to the water’s edge. Comments from the former mayor suggests that neither of these reports are reliable since he recalls a distinct division between the exterminators and volunteers regarding the nature of the divorce.
At 10:30 am, Merton Police arrived and began setting up cones. Most of the police officers who were present are now deceased, but one survivor, Officer Daniel Patton, says that nothing seemed out of the ordinary besides having to escort a hysterical woman off of the lot.
At 11:00 am, residents of Merton who were taking place in the annual chili competition were allowed to set up a their tents. According to Mr. Rogers and a few volunteers, Ms. Lasalle was quite a contender for this event and showed up early to set up her station. Officer Patton reports that there still seemed to be nothing of note occurring at this point. According to Mr. Rogers, she had brought Apocriphex with her. At some point between 11:00 and noon, the wildlife experts had to chase away an alligator who had come to close to the lot. According to the wildlife experts, it was rare for alligators to travel so far away from the deeper channels of Caddo Lake, though it certainly wasn’t unheard of. Otherwise, they reported nothing of note.
At noon, the picnic was officially open to the public. Before 1:00, a good portion of the residents (the population of Merton was 426 as of 1990) had arrived and begun setting up their areas. Many witnesses report a general uneasiness, though this likely only a sentiment believed to be felt in hindsight. Officer Patton recalls seeing Apocriphex when sampling Ms. Lasalle and Mr. Rodger’s chili, but didn’t think much of it. This is the last reported sighting of the book before the incident, though Mr. Rodger insists that Ms. Lasalle had shown the book to several people who had stopped by for chili. When pressed for names of people who may have remembered having contact with the book, he could only provide names of individuals who have since passed away. This is where reports begin to vary. According to the wildlife experts, there were two alligators swimming quite a distance from the shore who were being closely monitored. According to Officer Patton, reports to the police ranging from one to seven alligators required for most of the Merton Police force to be stationed at the shore to watch for alligators. Most of the residents I interviewed were unaware of the alligators or stated there were none at all.
At 1:00 pm, on September 2nd, 1996; disaster struck in Merton, Louisiana. What happened exactly is nearly impossible to say but I have tried with the utmost meticulousness to string together what seem to be incoherent and unrelated reports for the sake of clarity, though I believe this to be a laudably hopeless pursuit. Most witnesses recall the picnic being interrupted by what sounded like a large nearly muted horn above the clouds. This phenomenon has been reported all over the world at various times, and has even been documented on video if you are interested in researching it further. These sounds, according to witnesses were comparable to two enormous pieces of machinery grinding together. Next, a few reports claim that a swift wave swept over the lake, but the wildlife experts watching the lake disagree that this ever happened. The horn sounds ended abruptly, and many witnesses recall- often with a shiver or a reflective sigh- the brief and stunned silence that settled over them. Then, the waterfront erupted in noise. The police officers began firing into the water, panicked. Officer Patton claims that one of the officers screamed and began firing into the water, leading to a sort of hysteria amongst them. Once the firing began, he quickly left his post to make sure the residents didn’t get hurt in the panic. Most witnesses attempted to flee once the gunfire began, but some faced the water to determine what the threat was. Scattered reports say that an alligator emerged from the water to grab one of the officers. Whatever the case, it was only moments after the firing began that an impossibly large wave burst from Caddo and swept the officers into the lake. The water rose so rapidly that it flooded around half of the picnic site and swept many residence, including Ms. Lasalle, off of their feet. Many were dragged into the lake when the wave receded. Witnesses report that dozens rushed in to try and help those being washed towards the water when a second impossibly large and rapidly forming wave crashed over the picnic, this time covering a wider area. One witness who was swept into the water recalled, with bitter tears, screaming as those trying to swim back to the shore were dragged under the surface of the lake by powerful jaws. In the horror of the frenzy, many witnesses, guided by Officer Patton, fled to the parking lot. Officer Patton returned to the scene to find a horrific mass of writhing bodies, hoping against hope itself to reach dry land. The water was red from blood and swimming calmly between the wildly thrashing figures were the scaly spines of reptilian predators. A third (though some insist it was the fourth) wave washed over the scene and dragged many more of the citizens and officers into the depths of the lake where massive jaws were bursting forth from beneath the water and crushing flesh and bone before dragging the helpless victims below the surface. Finally, six survivors clambered to the shore where they were treated by Officer Patton and a medical team who had now arrived. Witnesses report that after the survivors had escaped, there was an eerie silence which seemed to last for several minutes. Though the water was dark red from the blood of the slain, no bodies, or even articles of clothing, were ever recovered from the lake. The incident was so crushing that most of the witnesses left Merton, which would later be renamed. Of the six survivors, one committed suicide, two were admitted into mental institutes, one joined a cult, and once died of cancer two years later. The event was never published in any paper and those who died in the incident were said to have died of natural causes. You and I both know, of course, how detestably unnatural this entire ordeal was. Perhaps the most disturbing detail of all came from the wildlife experts, who were safe in their perch. Across the lake, in a mass of swampy foliage, alligators were watching the carnage intently, though the experts claim that no alligators ever neared the shore. Worst of all, the experts tell me, is that no alligators were present during the attack at all.
Mr. Valentine, I beseech you not to look any further into the matter. One of the eyewitnesses I interviewed has since sent me several death threats and has made claims so wild that I dare not publish them in this report. Please, sir, if you value your life and your sanity, be satisfied with the account I have provided you and above all, please do not seek after Apocriphex. I am a professional and as such have fulfilled my contract with you. I will not further investigate the events which transpired in Merton on September 2nd, 1996, less I suffer a fate worse than the now constant terror that grips me even as I write this letter. God bless you, sir, and God help us all.

-Mr. L

Credit: Alex Lowe


March 22, 2017 at 12:00 AM

You know that horror movie trope about mirrors? The one where the protagonist is near a mirror and they look or shift away from the mirror for just a moment, and when they look back, a ghost, killer, or some other entity appears, and then usually rapidly disappears when they turn around? I’ve always disliked looking into mirrors, and for a while, I convinced myself that it was caused by an overactive imagination combined with seeing this situation one too many times in a movie.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it’s much more than that. I don’t dislike looking into mirrors, I’m afraid of it. Something has always just felt…off about it. I recognize the image in my reflection as me, but it has never felt familiar. I brought it up to a friend once, and she goggled at me for a moment, and then laughed, though I could hear a tinge of fear behind it.

“What do you mean, you don’t recognize your reflection? How is that even possible? It’s the same reflection that you’ve been staring at your whole life!”

And she was right, of course. But that was part of the problem. My reflection has never felt normal to me. Not in the way that it should. Not in the way that it does to other people. I’ve observed the reflections of friends and family members when they’re standing near mirrors. It doesn’t feel the same. It feels connected to them. A simple mirror image. Even when their eyes meet mine in the mirror, I don’t feel the oppressive feeling of “other” that I get when I meet my own eyes in my reflection.

With no explanation that seemed to fit my experiences, I chalked it up to it just being a weird quirk and decided to just get on with my life. When I moved into my first apartment by myself, I removed all of the mirrors, except for one that I kept in my guest room. It stayed covered with a sheet unless I absolutely needed to use it. You’d be surprised how well you can get by without mirrors when you’ve been doing it your whole life. I even got pretty good at applying makeup without seeing what I was doing.

Every once in awhile, I’d catch my reflection in a mirror in a public bathroom or if I looked wrong into my rearview mirror, and it would set my heart racing. I always felt menaced when it happened and it would take me a few moments to calm down again. But all in all, I was doing fairly well with my mirror avoidance strategies. However, that all changed one day at work.

I work in the artifact restoration department at my city’s history museum. It’s typically fascinating, delicate, and detailed work and I love it. I mostly work with pottery or statues and carvings, but I always knew that one day someone would bring me an antique mirror to restore and I would have no choice but to do it. I had been at the museum for five years and it still hadn’t happened. I had almost convinced myself that I was in the clear. Alas, that was not the case.

It was late on a Friday when it was first brought to me. The museum director had it wheeled in under a sheet but I immediately knew what it was. I could tell from the dread that practically exploded inside me. He beamed at me as he whipped the sheet off.

“Isn’t it magnificent?” he crowed. “Early 1700s. French.” He smiled at me, waiting for my exclamations over its beauty, I’m sure.

My breath felt like it was caught in my throat as I stared down my full reflection for the first time in what had been years. It looked back at me, also with a petrified expression, but it felt different. Like my reflection’s face was an act. A mimicking of my face, not an exact copy. I stood transfixed for a minute, trapped under my own gaze. Suddenly the director stepped into my line of view, blocking the mirror from my sight.

“Well? What do you think? Gorgeous, isn’t it? Doesn’t look like it needs too much work. A little spit shine, maybe,” he said with a grin, winking at me.

“Yes, gorgeous,” I mumbled.

He must have noticed how white I had gone, because he re-covered the mirror and put his hand on my shoulder.

“Don’t stress about it. I know you’ll do a great job! And don’t worry about starting today. You can get cracking on Monday.” With that, he turned and left the room, leaving me alone with the mirror.

I put my head in my hands and rubbed my temples with my thumbs.

“Ok, you can do this,” I whispered to myself. “You have the whole weekend to prepare.”

I looked up at the clock. 5:15. I grabbed my things and headed for the door. I’d deal with the mirror on Monday.

I had almost made it all the way out of the building when I realized I had left my keys on my work table.

“Shit,” I moaned. But there was nothing to be done for it. I needed the keys to lock up the building.

Before I opened the door back to my workspace, I took a deep breath.

“It’s just a stupid mirror,” I said to myself.

I stepped into the room. Everything looked normal. I stepped quickly past the mirror to my desk. I bent to open the drawer where I kept my keys, and when I turned around, the sheet that had been covering the mirror moments before was in a pile on the floor in front of it. My knees went weak and I had to grab onto my desk to keep them from buckling.

“It just fell, that’s all,” I whispered out loud. “When I walked by it quickly, it made a breeze that knocked it off.”

I felt deep down that that was not what had happened at all, but saying it out loud gave me enough courage to approach the mirror to replace the sheet.

Once I was in front of it, I knelt down to grab the sheet, never once taking my eyes off of my reflection. As I straightened back up, I turned to face the mirror head on.

With one hand, I reached out and lightly pressed my fingertips against my reflection’s. My fingers stopped at the cold, hard glass. It was cold enough that the warmth from my fingers fogged up a little area around each tip. My reflection had the tiniest of smiles playing around her lips. I didn’t feel myself smiling, but it was such a small one perhaps I didn’t notice myself doing it. I rearranged my face into grotesque poses just to make sure my reflection did it, too. She did, but it brought me little comfort. I took a step forward until my face was practically touching the mirror. I could see every pore, every freckle. It looked familiar but it felt alien. I breathed onto it, fogging the surface in front of my face. I slowly traced a heart into the fog. I saw my reflection do the same, but then I noticed something odd. I couldn’t see the heart I drew in the reflection. My heart began to thump wildly in my chest. I hastily used my sleeve to wipe away the remnants of my breath. The fog in the reflection, however, remained.

I sucked in a sharp breath of air and took a staggering step back. I pressed my palms into my eyelids until I saw stars. I slowly counted to ten and opened my eyes. All I could see was my reflection staring worriedly back at me. She looked pale and faint, exactly how I felt. But it still didn’t look or feel quite right.

I threw the sheet back over the mirror and ran out of the building. By the time I arrived home, I had calmed down significantly. Enough that I was suddenly able to remember that I had a date that night. I groaned out loud. I didn’t really want to go, but I actually did like this guy. We had already been on a few dates and had hit it off well. So I pulled myself together the best I could. By the time Nick arrived to pick me up, I had shaken off the vestiges of my earlier terror.

While at dinner, he asked me how my day had been. I hesitated, not wanting to tell him about what had happened, or about my irrational and odd reactions to mirrors. But I suddenly realized that I had a desperate desire to tell someone about what had happened, even if it made me sound crazy. I relayed the story to him, never once looking into his eyes. I didn’t want to see what I knew would be reflected there. Fear, anxiety, disgust. But when I finished and did look up, he was simply studying me. After a moment, he reached out and took my hand.

“You know what I read, once?” he asked. I shook my head silently.

“It was on one of those micro-blog, social media sites. It said, ‘What if the only reason we can’t walk through mirrors is because our reflection blocks us? What if they know that the other side is horrifying and painful and they are trying to keep us from ever crossing over?’” He shrugged. “Just a weird thing I read. But it sounds like yours isn’t trying to protect you, it’s trying to get out of there,” he said with a laugh. “Wouldn’t that be something? That would explain why you feel like you do!”

I sat in stunned silence. My throat was as dry as the desert. I had to forcefully swallow several times before I could speak again. “Yeah, that would be something.”

My mind was racing with what he had said as we left the restaurant. His little “theory” perfectly described how I felt, but I didn’t know what to do with that information. It was nonsense, after all.

I wanted only to go home at that point, but Nick grabbed my hand. “I actually have something in mind for us to do tonight. But it’s a surprise!”

I sighed internally, but smiled at him. “Sure. Lead the way.”

We caught a cab and got out in front of what looked like an old abandoned warehouse. I might have thought that’s what it was, too, if it wasn’t for the line of people out the door.

“What’s this?” I asked.

“It’s an adventure space!” he said with a huge smile. “Kind of like a playhouse for grownups! I’ve seen it advertised all over the place. There’s supposed to be things to explore and climb on. Stuff like that!”

I couldn’t help but smile at his infectious excitement. “Ok. Let’s check it out,” I said with a giggle.

The first few rooms were indeed a lot of climbing and twisting and bending and crawling. We kept losing each other and then finding each other by the sound of our laughter. I was surprised at how much fun I was having.

He grabbed my hand as we moved towards the last room. “I think you’ll like this one the best!” he said, pulling me forward.

I was about to ask “why,”, but the word died on my lips as we walked through the doorway. It was a room full of mirrors. A much larger and more terrifying version of a funhouse made for children. He shoved me further into the room so that the door behind us slammed shut.

“To help you get over your fear,” he said with another shove.

Never before had I felt the level of fear that rose in my chest than at that moment. It was all-consuming. It wiped nearly every other thought from my mind. I was facing down hundreds of my own reflection, and they looked horrifying. I turned to Nick to beg him to help me out of there, but he had disappeared.

“Nick?” I croaked, my voice cracking with terror. “Nick!” I screamed. I heard him laughing as he shouted, “This way!”

I stumbled forward, hands outstretched, unable to tell which way was correct. Tears began pouring out of my eyes as I struggled to breathe under the weight of my panic. Every direction I looked was a reflection of myself, each one looking more ominous than the last.

I turned a corner and saw hundreds of reflections of the back of my head, all lined up in a row. I was paralyzed with fear.

I closed my eyes and took a few shuttering, deep breaths. “Nick?” I called out again. This time, I got no answer. I knew to get out I was going to have to open my eyes. There was no way I was making it out of there blind. I opened my eyes and was greeted with the same sight I had seen when I had closed them. I exhaled loudly, a tiny wave of relief hit me. I heard a noise to my right and turned my head that way. “Nick?” I asked again. When I looked forward again, all of my reflections were facing away from me…all except the one in front. She was facing me with a horrible grin plastered onto her face.

She beckoned for me. As if in a trance, I could only shake my head. When I didn’t move forward, her grin turned into a snarl and she began slamming her fists against the glass. I let out a bloodcurdling scream as I saw my vision go spotty. I stepped back in such a panic that I smashed into the mirror behind me. I felt a sharp pain in the back of my head as a shower of glass rained down around me.

I’m certain I passed out for a moment, both from pain and fear. When I came to, I could feel something warm and sticky dripping down my back. I reached up my hand and it came away bloody.

“Fuck,” I moaned. I could faintly hear Nick yelling for me. I dragged myself up into a sitting position, wincing as my hands and legs got further cut up from the glass.

Across the room, I could see Nick, and hundreds of Nick’s reflections, kneeling down in front of me. I closed and rubbed my eyes, shaking my head in the process. How could Nick be with my reflection when he wasn’t here with me?

“I must have hit my head harder than I thought,” I thought to myself.

I could hear him talking, but it sounded muted and far away. I heard the word “help” but not much more. He stood up and sprinted for the door.

I couldn’t tell if he was coming back or not, and as it seemed like I could get up and walk, I decided to try. I was still anxious to get out of this hall of horrors. I finally made it to the exit door. It had become extremely foggy and unseasonably cold while we were inside. The air had a terrible metallic tang to it that filled my nose and mouth. I shivered in the wind that whipped brutally around me. As I glanced around, I realized that I didn’t see anyone else nearby. No people, no cars, nothing. Grimacing, I whipped out my phone to call for an ambulance myself, but the battery was dead.

“Come on!” I yelled in frustration. I slowly started hobbling towards the road. I figured I could at least catch a cab. But there was no one on the road, either. I began to cry again. What a nightmare this night turned out to be. I staggered home, alone and freezing.

When I got back inside, I plugged my phone in. I needed to let someone know that I was hurt and where I ended up. When the phone powered on, a barrage of texts came in, mostly from Nick. But they were all jumbled up. A random mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. I couldn’t make heads or tails of any of it. I tried to send a text back, but it refused to send. I couldn’t even get a signal to make a call. Panic, bitter like bile, threatened to rise up again, but I fought it off. I would deal with the shoddy cell service later. For now I needed to take care of myself.

Once I started to clean myself up, I quickly realized that most of my cuts were shallow or superficial. I was able to get the glass out and get everything cleaned up on my own. Well, every piece except one. I could feel one near the top of my head that I just couldn’t get a good grip on. I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath. I was going to need to use the mirror.

I hobbled into the guest room and slowly pulled away the sheet. Before, there had been nothing more frightening than seeing my reflection in the mirror. But that night, I realized there was one thing more terrifying than seeing my reflection in the mirror. Not seeing it at all.

Credit: N. Christ

Return to Sender

March 21, 2017 at 12:00 AM

Another bouquet of flowers showed up today. That’s the third this week.

They’re beautiful flowers, they really are. Roses, and lilies, bursts of color and baby’s breath. Lovely arrangements that would make anyone happy to receive.

Yet every time they arrive, I can’t help but feel a stab of fear.

I guess I should explain.

This all started back in college, when I started dating this guy – we’ll call him Mike. He was a nice enough guy, we just…weren’t really compatible. I don’t know. It didn’t work out, for the same reason a lot of things in college don’t work out, and I never would have given it a second thought or even really remember him at all if it weren’t for the flowers.

The first bouquet showed up the week after our last date, after I’d texted him to say “this isn’t working out.” They were vibrant blue chrysanthemums and white roses and they came with no note or explanation – they merely appeared on the welcome mat in front of my apartment door.

I waited for him to try and follow up, to get back together with me, but he never did. I even texted him to thank him for the flowers and he insisted he didn’t send them, but of course he’d say that.

But then, in a few weeks, another bouquet arrived.

And then another. And the week after that, a third.

And pretty soon, the flowers were coming every week. When I moved out of my apartment, they were waiting for me at my new address. When I got a job in a different state, they arrived at my workplace, placed cheerfully on my desk.

I called and texted Mike, trying to get him to stop, but I kept getting a “message failed” or “this number has been disconnected.” I guess he changed his number. Maybe he didn’t want me calling to harass him.

The flowers kept coming, and I started to get creeped out. How did he know where I lived? How did he keep finding me?

I changed my phone number. I moved. I became meticulous about hiding my identity online. I called the florists and begged them to put me on a “no-deliver” list. I even called the police and tried to file a report that I was being stalked. Let me tell you – trying to get the police to do something about a guy delivering you flowers? Not an easy task.

But nothing I did could keep the flowers from coming. They just kept showing up, every week, and then twice a week – for nearly three years now. No matter where I live or where I work, somehow, the flowers just keep coming.

Which brings us to today, and the newest bouquet. Usually, when I get them, I’m exasperated or a little uneasy or just plain mad. But lately, I’ve been getting more and more scared.

Because I was on Facebook the other day, prowling through friends-of-friends and old classmates, snooping around the way you do when you’ve had a couple drinks and a free evening.

And I found Mike’s Facebook page.

It was covered in messages of mourning and memorial. Because Mike’s been dead for nearly three years.

Credit: T.L. Bodine


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