My grandfather on my dad’s side passed away from cancer back in 2018 at the age of 75. Unlike my mom’s parents and my dad’s mom, my two brothers, my sister and I knew very little about “Grandpa Henry”. All that we knew about him was that he was born April 7th, 1943 in Scottstown, Pennsylvania, the same suburban town that my dad, my siblings and I grew up in. He graduated high school a year early, played football at Michigan State, spent three years in the Navy where he met my grandma, worked as a CPA at an accounting firm in Pittsburgh for 38 years, and that he had two older siblings, a brother Rupert, and a sister Olivia who died within months of each other while still in their teens. Rupert died just a week shy of his 18th birthday in a car accident. Great Uncle Rupert had lost control of his 1941 Ford Coupe going down Shotgun Hill and went off the road at a curve at the bottom. The car rolled over several times before coming to rest upright. Rupert died instantly.
Several months later my great aunt Olivia who was 15 at the time was murdered in her sleep, presumably by an ex-boyfriend named Joey Wilson. The fact that Joey had been stalking her since the breakup and that he once showed up at my great grandparents’ house refusing to leave until he talked to Olivia, only leaving when my great grandfather threatened to eject him by the seat of his pants, and left shaking his fist making veiled threats, was enough for Joey to not only be tried as an adult, but when found guilty he was given the death penalty. Joey died in the electric chair five years to the day of the murder, still claiming that he was innocent and that he had no idea how Olivia’s blood got on his switchblade knife. Anyway, back to the story.
The day my grandfather died, we were all in his room at Scottstown General Hospital. At that time I had graduated from seminary school and had just become a pastor at a Christian church a town over. As we gathered around the hospital bed, we all knew it was the end for Grandpa Henry. As we were talking my grandfather stopped mid-sentence and asked that my family leave the room but I stay. When my parents, grandmother and siblings left, my grandfather turned to me and said “Nicolas, I have something to tell you. I have…” he stopped then looked over to a corner. I looked and saw no one, but my apparently my grandfather could.
“Please not yet, let me talk to my grandson first,” he began. He then turned to me and continued. “I have committed a great sin in my life that I must confess to.”
A whole lot of thoughts went through my mind when he said these words. Did he have an affair at some point in his marriage? Did he kill someone while in college or the Navy?
“What is this great sin?” I asked.
My grandfather coughed and said, “I invoked the forces of darkness for a favor when I was a just a boy of 10.”
“The forces of darkness?” I asked.
“More specifically, an entity known as the Dark Man. Right now he’s over in that corner waiting to collect my soul as payment for his services.”
I stood stunned. My grandfather was not the most religious man in the world. Not by a longshot. But to hear him say he once summoned a demon as a boy, that was hard to take in. My grandfather continued.
“You know that my brother and sister both died unnatural deaths? How my brother Rupert died in a car crash and my sister Olivia was murdered? Right?”
“Yes, Grandpa Henry,” I said.
“Well, those were the doing of the Dark Man,” he said. He coughed again a few times before continuing, and this is the story he told:
“My parents never planned on having me and were emotionally neglectful to me as a result. To them, I was the unwanted child. Although my parents never said it, it became clear to me at a young age. Rupert and Olivia got all the attention, all the newest toys and games for birthdays and Christmas, the newest clothes, everything. As for me, my parents did only the bare minimum. All my toys and clothes were hand-me-downs that my brother had grown out of and lost interest in. My parents seemed to never take notice of me or interest in what I did. On top of that, Rupert and Olivia never even tried to speak up for me or share their spoils with me. They were too absorbed in themselves and basking in the attention that my mother and father gave them, while I subsisted off the scraps. One day, back in 1953, I finally broke.
“Back then, I had a friend named Sam Ludlow. Sam was that weird kid in school that everybody, including the teachers at Andrew Carnegie Elementary School did their best to ignore. Sam wasn’t a bad kid, just different. I don’t know how else to put it. The reason Sam and I got along so well is because he was in the same boat as me. His mother wasn’t in the picture, though I never knew why, didn’t ask and his father was too busy either getting drunk or playing poker with his buddies from work, to pay attention to him.
“As we were walking home from school I turned to Sam and said, ‘I can’t stand it anymore! The way my folks treat me like some pest, how my brother and sister get everything they want and more and don’t even care that their little brother is being cast aside like an old sweater.’
“Sam then asked, ‘Well, want do you plan to do about it?’
“I shrugged. ‘Run away and join the circus, perhaps, maybe go to sea as a cabin boy,’ I told him.
“Sam seemed to think for a moment and then said, ‘You know, there’s an alternative to running away.’
“‘Oh, and what’s that?’ I asked. Sam smiled and said, ‘The Dark Man ritual.’
“‘The what?’ I asked.
‘The Dark Man ritual,’ Sam said.
“Sam went on to say how the Dark Man was this being that could be summoned and used to make anyone the person whished who summoned him to, well… not be around anymore.
“‘And where did you find out about this Dark Man?’ I asked. Sam smiled again.
“‘From a book called Spells, Summoning and Rituals, I got it several months ago at Hanson’s Oddities over on Third Street.’
“Hanson’s Oddities had moved into town back in ‘51. The building that Hanson’s moved into had previously been a shoe store, but the elderly husband and wife, Mr. and Mrs. Beecher who owned the store mysteriously disappeared. The two employees that worked there had shown up to work one day and found the door locked, the lights off, and the old couple nowhere to be found. The police searched for a few weeks but found nothing.
“Not long after the search was called off, Mr. Hanson bought the building and opened his oddities shop. Many of the people in the town were suspicious of Mr. Hanson. Many suspected he had something to do with the Beechers’ disappearance, and the fact that some of the stuff in his window display looked like the stuff from a horror film, didn’t exactly help his case.
“‘When did you get this book?’ I asked.
“‘Back in November, while my dad was having one of his all-night poker sessions that he has once a month. I could have hopped on a boxcar parked on the siding by the station and have been taken anywhere, and my dad wouldn’t have noticed, nor would he have probably cared.” Sam said. Now I had known Sam could be weird. Heck, he had a dog he named Cat, read horror and suspense comics like Tales from the Crypt and Shock and Suspense instead of superhero comics such as Superman or Batman like most boys did, and once wore rain boots to school on a bright sunny day for no other reason other than he ‘just felt like it’, but dabbling in something like witchcraft was something else.
“‘How do you know this Dark Man ritual will work?’ I asked.
“‘Simple, I summoned him myself before Christmas break,’ Sam replied.
“‘And who did you have the Dark man get rid of?’ I asked.
“Sam smiled and said, in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘Our teacher, Miss Gibson.’ I gulped. Miss Gibson had to have been the meanest teacher in our school. She was an elderly spinster with a face that looked like she had been raised on lemon juice her entire life and was as cantankerous as they came. Why the school kept her around was a mystery. Both Sam and I were unlucky to be put in her class where she took an instant dislike to us the first time she saw us, but hated Sam the most. Her reign of terror ended over Christmas break in 1952, when she died in a house fire that reduced her large Victorian house to charred rubble and ash. Her body was found by firefighters and was nothing more than a blackened skeleton. ‘You mean you used the Dark Man to kill our teacher?’ I gasped.
“Sam nodded. ‘When I said the Dark Man makes people not be around anymore, what did you think he does? Turn them into frogs, take them to another dimension, or some other Hollywood junk like that?’ Sam asked.
“I was hesitant at first, but like a fool, I decided to go along with it. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t. We went to Sam’s house where he let himself in. Sam lived in a rundown old house in the seedy part of town. The neighborhood itself was surrounded by factories and train yards. Of course, no one was home. His father was away working in the old steel mill that was torn down years ago. We went up to his bedroom where he took that accursed book from his bookshelf. It was an ancient relic, bound in black leather with the title written in gold lettering with a pentagram in a circle below it. There was no author’s name just the title and symbol.
“‘This looks old,’ I said. Sam smiled.
“‘Mr. Hanson said it was written around 1700, but he has no idea who wrote it or where it originated from, but he let me have it for one dollar,’ Sam said. He then turned to a page that was marked by a red bookmark. It had the Dark Man ritual written on it. The instructions were simple. Stand before a mirror in a darkened room, light two black candles having one on each side and say an incantation.
“The incantation went like this:
“Dark Man, Dark Man, come to me,
So that my eyes can see.
Dark Man, Dark Man,
Take away who I no longer wish to be.
“At that point, the Dark Man was to appear in the mirror and you had to say the name of the person, or in my case, persons, you wanted gone. Then wait ten seconds before blowing out the candles and turning the lights on. Sam still had the black candles that used when he did the ritual so we used those. I said the incantation and what I saw is now in this room. It was the dark figure of a man with a top hat. He was blacker than the darkness in Sam’s bathroom. No features, just a dark silhouette. I said my brother and sister’s name and blew out the candles after ten seconds. When Rupert died just a few days after I did the ritual, my parents were so devastated they barely talked to each other for weeks, just went through their day to day lives like mindless zombies. Then just as they were getting over their grief, Olivia was murdered in her bed, cut open from solar plexus to just above the groin, and of course, my parents went back to dealing with the grief in silence.
“After the grief passed, I got all the attention I ever wanted. After all, I was the only surviving child. I got so much attention it was almost sickening. It wasn’t until years later that I learned what I know now. You see I managed to skip the 7th grade which allowed me to graduate high school in 1960. I went on to attend Michigan State and joined the Navy after. Sam, on the other hand, went through the seventh grade and finished high school in 1961, the year I would have normally graduated. Sam didn’t go to college. Instead, he went on to try and have a career in professional baseball. Sam thought of himself as another Mickey Mantle. However, he never got out of the minors, and eventually hung up his cleats and traded his baseball bat for a rifle by joining the Army. I lost touch with Sam after that.
“I met your grandmother down in Norfolk, got married and when discharged moved back up here and got a job in the city as a Certified Public Accountant. It was early fall, 1968 when I happened to sit next to another friend from my childhood, Lester Green on the commuter train home. Lester and his family were one of the few African-American that lived here back then. Like me, Lester had gone to college, and like Sam had joined the Army. The pleasant surprise turned sour when I learned that Sam had been killed in Vietnam. According to Lester he and Sam were in the same platoon and while exiting a clearing in the jungle were ambushed by the Viet Cong. Moments before the attack, Sam had dropped his rifle and starting fleeing screaming something about a ‘Dark Man’. Moments later he was shot in the back by a Viet Cong sniper, and died instantly.
“Lester and the rest of the Army believed the ‘Dark Man’ Sam screamed about was a Viet Cong soldier Sam had spotted before the ambush and had turned coward instead of facing the enemy head-on. Being the leader of the platoon, Lester was tasked with telling, Sam’s father the news. When I heard about Sam shouting about the ‘Dark Man’, I became worried, so I asked if I could tag along as there was something I needed to see for myself. Lester let me as long as it didn’t interfere with his official duty. I told him it wouldn’t.
“While Lester talked to Sam’s father who refused to not only believe that his son was dead, but that his son was a coward, and yelled at Lester for telling him lies, I went up to Sam’s old bedroom. It still looked the same as did when I last visited him. Baseball Penates and old horror movie posters adorned the walls and on the top shelf of his bookcase was that black book. It still had that red bookmark the marked the page with the Dark Man ritual. I took the book and opened it to the page. I didn’t know what to find but when I did, I knew I would never be the same again. At the bottom of the page, in fine print, was a warning.
“‘Warning: The Dark Man will require payment in the form of your soul. The Dark Man doesn’t operate on any fixed schedule and can come to collect as early as a week after providing the requested services to decades. Regardless of when the Dark man collects, you cannot escape him, no matter where you go or how far you travel, the Dark Man will collect his payment whenever he decides no matter what.’
“After reading that, I knew I was doomed. I tried to return it Hanson’s Oddities which at that time was still in business, but Mr. Hanson said the book could not be returned to its previous owner and since I had taken it from Sam’s house, that made it mine.
“‘He also told me that the book could only be destroyed by a man of the cloth. I called him a liar and forced him to take it. The next morning I found it under my pillow. Again I took back to Hanson’s and was told the same thing. I tossed it in the dumpster in the ally but found it again the next morning in my sock drawer. At first, I thought Mr. Hanson was stalking me and placing the book inside the house, but the more I thought about it the less that made sense. He would have to have left his store, followed me home, waited till your grandmother and I went to bed, have found a way in, somehow got passed Hercules, our Doberman Rottweiler mix, and placed the book in the spot of his choosing.
“‘I tried multiple times to get rid of it, I threw it in the river, buried it in a field, I even tossed it into a cement mixer when they were building the Scottstown Mall. Every time I’d get rid of it, I’d find it in unusual places around the house. I did consider having it destroyed by a religious figure and almost took it to the Saint George Cathedral to have the priest destroy it, but chickened out at the last minute because I was afraid of the priest finding out what I did all those years before, and contacting the police. It sounds silly I know, but back then I didn’t want to face what I did, so I put it in the crawl space in back of my closet where it remained all these years.’”
* * * * * *
After hearing the story I stared dumbfounded at the story. My Grandpa spoke up again. “Promise me you’ll destroy Spells, Summoning and Rituals after I’m gone,” he said, squeezing my hand. “Sure, Grandpa Henry, I will,” I said. “You’re a good young man, Nicolas,” my grandpa said then he looked to the corner and said, “Okay, I’m ready now,” and with that, he breathed his last.
After the funeral, I went to his house. I made my way to his bedroom and after moving his old golf clubs out of the way, I found the crawl space, and in it, I found the book. Whatever doubt I had about my grandpa’s story soon vanished when I saw the dust-covered book. I took it back to the seminary school where I enlisted the help of an old professor, Reverend Smith, to destroy the book.
We took it out behind the campus chapel and using white candles from the sanctuary burned the book Spells, Summoning and Rituals till there was nothing left.
Credit: Andrew Scolari
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