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The Schoolhouse

The schoolhouse

Estimated reading time — 38 minutes

Storytelling has been a popular pastime among humans as long as language has existed. Through this telling of stories, folklore of strange creatures, haunted places, cryptids, witches, and other supernatural occurrences have evolved over millennia. Accounts of mysterious and terrifying things within the woodlands of North America have existed since European settlers first set foot upon its shores. Most folklore can be traced back to nothing more than stories, meant to scare the ones unfortunate enough to be listening. Sometimes stories were a way of explaining natural phenomena that scientific knowledge has since come to provide answers for. Some were invented to keep children from misbehaving when they were unsupervised, out of fear that supernatural beings might “get them”. A few of these stories, however, are said to be based on real events. Multiple eyewitness accounts with similar details, given in unrelated cases, lend credibility to a small number of these tales. We’ll never know for certain what marvels were caused by natural forces, or something… darker. Only those who lived through the horrors will ever know what really happened. The following story takes place in the late 1880s outside a small village in the upper Midwest.

As day broke over the hills and brought to life the various livestock inhabiting the small farm outside the tiny village of Ellisburg, Thomas Hollis was already up and tending to his morning chores. He and his wife, Catherine, and their three children, Anna, age 15, Benjamin, 13, and Cora, who had just celebrated her 8th birthday, had recently moved onto the property only weeks ago. They had moved from the nearby town of Gale’s Ford, about 6 miles south of Ellisburg, to pursue a livelihood in farming and to live an overall quieter life. Nestled in a wide valley between the scenic hills and bluffs roughly 2 miles outside of town, the farm sat on the site of a former schoolhouse that had mysteriously burned down two years prior. Little was known to the Hollis family about the circumstances surrounding the fire and the locals were cautious to answer any of Thomas’s inquiries into the matter. After it burned down, members of the village had subsequently decided to rebuild the school house so the children in the surrounding rural area could receive a formal education, but the project was abandoned shortly before construction was completed. Thomas was able to obtain the property at a price so low he couldn’t comprehend why anyone from the village would permit an outsider to purchase it before anyone from the community could or would. The building was nearly finished from a structural standpoint but considerable work needed to be accomplished in order to convert it into a residence. Thomas and the family looked forward to completing the project together.

While they worked to finish their new home, the family had organized a temporary makeshift bedroom where they implemented a communal sleeping arrangement and constructed a simple, yet functional, kitchen. The house had everything they needed to live comfortably until they completed the project. In the months prior to moving in, the previous landowner had allowed Thomas to visit the property and construct the necessary infrastructure to support his farm. During this time he built a small barn, a wood/tool shed, a root cellar, an outhouse, and had fenced in separate areas of the property into pens and corrals for the various creatures that would call this farm home. He’d also set aside a small garden for Catherine, who enjoyed planting flowers and several types of vegetables for the family to eat. She enjoyed spending time in the garden. The Hollis’s were new to rural life, and what little knowledge they’d had in rearing livestock and farming crops was supplemented by the experience of friendly members of the nearby community. The locals were generally welcoming, hospitable, and eager to assist the new family in settling into their new home. The exception to this rule of hospitality was anytime Thomas had inquired about the history of the property or why no one else had come to purchase it before he did. People were quick to change the subject or ignore his questions altogether, with the interactions occasionally bordering on hostility. The Hollis’s quickly learned to avoid the topic in order to keep things cordial with their new community members.

As summer gave way to autumn and the temperatures began to cool, Thomas was feeling confident in his ability to tend to the creatures under his care, and was optimistic about planting various cash crops in the spring in hope of turning a profit the following harvest season. According to his calculations, they would have plenty of animals to provide them with food through the winter, and still have enough left over in the spring to take to market. A handful of goats, a dozen cattle, three horses, several large hogs, chickens, and a donkey were the resident menagerie at the Hollis farm. In addition, there were multiple stray cats that skulked around the property, stalking various vermin and the occasional unlucky song bird with poor situational awareness. The family’s two hound dogs, who Thomas hadn’t named but Cora affectionately referred to as Dash and Jack, patrolled the property, keeping an eye on things. Jack was a bear of a dog and an excellent guardian for the farm, but he was always mild mannered around the family. Dash, the smaller and younger of the two, had an affinity for chasing the horses around the property and getting into any and all trouble he could find. Both of the hounds were wary of strangers and barked constantly at friends and neighbors that visited the farm, but were loyal and affectionate members of the Hollis family.

Thomas and Catherine educated the children at home, as the nearest schoolhouse still in operation was on the far side of Ellisburg. The Hollis’s felt that this was too far for the children to walk, and the farm required too much of Thomas’s undivided attention for him to take the wagon into town twice a day to transport them to and from school. The practice of homeschooling was not unusual in those days and Catherine was a patient, nurturing mother and teacher. She was strict when necessary and made sure the children adhered to their curriculum, but she also allowed them to take interest in what topics they liked and taught based around the children’s curiosity in various subjects. Anna had developed a habit of reading as much and as often as she could and she begged her parents to get her a new book any time the family ventured into town. She often assisted Catherine in looking out for her younger siblings and regularly prepared meals while Catherine was occupied with other household tasks. Benjamin was adamant about spending as much of his time outdoors as possible and took interest in tales of the gunslingers and mountain men of the American west. He loved to hunt the small game that inhabited the surrounding woodland and was often exploring well beyond the boundaries of the property. Cora often joined Benjamin on his adventures. She occasionally fell victim to his frequent pranks and general mischief, but the two usually got along fine. Cora enjoyed the typical things an 8-year-old girl enjoys. She had dolls, she liked to read, but she also split her free time between her siblings and enjoyed aspects of both of their personalities. She was gentle and kind, but had a quick wit and a sharp sense of humor.

On a crisp October afternoon, after the children’s daily lessons were finished, Benjamin, as usual, took to the forest with his slingshot, hoping to vanquish as many unsuspecting creatures of the wood as possible, before Catherine rang the bell to call him home for dinner. He set out and made his way along his usual route across the field, into the woods, and beside the creek. He knew the area well and as he walked, he keenly honed in on any sign of his quarry. Before long he heard leaves rustling behind him. The rustling sound soon grew into the unmistakable cadence of a living creature moving through the forest. He stepped behind a tree, listening intently, attempting to identify what sort of animal the sounds were coming from. At first, he was certain it was a squirrel or a cottontail, but quickly recognized it sounded faster and larger than any squirrel or rabbit he had ever encountered. When he realized it was nearly upon him, he felt a chill run down his spine. Afraid, but not willing to let whatever monstrosity this was get the upper hand on him, he stepped out from behind the tree with his slingshot drawn. What he saw caused him to scream and stumble backwards, tripping over a broken tree branch and landing flat on his back. There, running at him full speed, was Cora, laughing maniacally when she saw the look on his face as he tumbled over. When she caught up to him, she yelled “Boo!” and collapsed to the ground in laughter.

Benjamin cursed and stood up quickly, brushing leaves and dirt off of his clothes. He thumped Cora on the head with the handle of his slingshot. “Ow!” she cried.

“Why would you do that?! I could have shot you!” Benjamin exclaimed. Cora quickly brushed off the slight pain on her forehead.

“I scared you!” she laughed “That’s for always scaring me.”

“You didn’t scare me, I tripped.” Benjamin lied, “Come on, let’s go.” The two carried on along Benjamin’s traditional hunting trail, though hunting was a fruitless pursuit after the commotion Cora had just caused. They joked and chased each other and sang songs, enjoying their afternoon in the cool autumn air. In their ignorant amusement they thoughtlessly ventured beyond the boundary of their usual patrol, and came to a bend in the creek. Ahead of them a large tree had fallen across the entire width of the creek, creating a natural bridge. The two excitedly crossed over, eager to explore an area of the forest they hadn’t previously visited. Upon reaching the other side of the log and trekking just out of sight of the creek, Cora stopped and began cautiously looking around. Benjamin, assuming Cora was again attempting to retaliate for all the pranks he had pulled on her over the years, ignored her and yelled, “Come on, I’m not falling for that!”

“Do you hear that?” She asked

“Hear what? Knock it off, let’s go,” he retorted.

“Shhhhhhh, listen!” Cora insisted.

Benjamin entertained his sister’s mischief and stood quietly, listening to the noises of the forest. He realized after a moment the only sound he could hear was a faint hum, or buzz. There were no birds chirping, no leaves rustling in the wind, just the faint humming sound. The two followed the sound around an enormous dead oak tree to the source of the noise. As they rounded the large trunk, they were met with a horrific, putrid odor. They soon saw what the smell and sound were emanating from. Cora screamed and they both covered their noses with the front of their garments. There, seemingly placed intentionally atop a large, flat rock, was an unidentifiable mass of flesh, bone, and hair. The horror was writhing in thousands of maggots and a colossal cloud of black flies filled the air. The pile had no recognizable shape and didn’t seem to be the remains of any animal either of them had ever seen. The hair was long and coarse, like a horse’s mane, but there didn’t seem to be enough mass of flesh and bone present for a horse to be the victim. The flesh and bone seemed to be ripped and broken apart rather than cut. Puzzlingly, there did not appear to be any blood in the pile, on the rock, or on the ground.

“What kind of animal could even do that?” Benjamin questioned as he examined the mess.
“I don’t know. Maybe a bear?” Cora replied.

“I don’t think a bear would just leave this here, and where’s all the blood?” Benjamin queried as Cora just shrugged.

Benjamin noticed that the rock stood out compared to others in the area. The geological features in this part of the country were mostly sandstone and limestone. This rock was smooth and black with an unusual gloss, and seemed as though it had been deliberately flattened across the top. The two looked at each other, disturbed yet morbidly fascinated with what they had found. Benjamin attempted to poke the lump with a stick but disturbed even more flies that began to swarm them. They screamed and ran back to the house as quickly as they could, with Benjamin occasionally slowing down to allow Cora to catch up to him.

As they exited the forest and ran across the field, Thomas, who was feeding the hogs at the time, called out to them. “Stop screaming! Come over here, what is the matter with you two?” He asked. They stumbled over to him and, between deep breaths, attempted to explain what they had just witnessed in the woods. Thomas chalked it up to another attempt to include him in their endless series of silly pranks and told them to go inside for dinner. He shook his head and returned to his chores. At dinner the duo explained their adventure at length until the other family members were tired of listening to it, and forbade them to speak of it any further, at least, until they were finished eating. After their meal, the children all helped clean up and the family turned in for the night, still begrudgingly listening to the tale of the, “dead thing in the woods”. As the family members began to fall asleep, Anna, as per usual during her nightly routine, remained awake, engrossed in one of her books. She usually waited until the snores of Thomas were too much to tolerate, then she would extinguish the lantern and tightly wrap a pillow around her head in an attempt to drown out the racket. That night, in between her father’s snores, she thought she heard the horses neighing outside. She ignored it until she began to hear the other farm animals’ cries of fear and realized something on the farm was causing a stir. The hounds, who had been asleep outside near the front door of the building, began barking hysterically, waking up the rest of the family. Thomas tore outside ready to scold the dogs when he too heard the commotion. He rushed in and grabbed the lantern and his rifle, and hurried out across the yard to deal with what he expected to be wolves or thieves. The family waited nervously inside for Thomas to return, and when he did, they were relieved to learn that there didn’t seem to be anyone or anything out there. “Probably some coyotes or a lone wolf or something. I’m sure Jack scared them off,” Thomas assured his family. Everyone turned back into bed for the night and the farm remained quiet until morning.

There were no lessons today so the children slept in later than normal. Thomas conducted his chores and Catherine prepared breakfast. After their morning meal, the kids talked of going back to the place Cora and Benjamin had discovered the day before, at the behest of Anna. Anna’s morbid curiosity ultimately got the better of her usually sound judgment, and she hesitantly agreed to join her siblings on their macabre quest. They set off around midday. It was another bright cool October afternoon and the children enjoyed their stroll, each explaining in disgusting detail what they supposed might have happened to result in the grisly sight they had seen yesterday. After crossing the big log over the creek, they approached what they thought was the site of their appalling discovery. However, there was no large dead oak tree, and no large rock. There were no foul smells or faint buzzing sounds; just the usual sounds of the forest.

“I knew it,” Anna said, disappointed yet somewhat relieved. “This was one of your stupid pointless jokes.” The two insisted that they weren’t lying to their older sister and while they were doing so, Anna held up a finger and shushed them. “What is that?” she asked, pointing farther into the woods. About 40 yards from where the children were arguing, through the thick forest, the peak of a small house could be seen through the foliage.

“That was not here yesterday,” Benjamin insisted. All three of the children’s blood oddly ran cold at the site of this strange building. They hadn’t been aware of anyone living this close to their property and although only the peak was visible, there was something strange about the architecture of the house. It didn’t match the appearance of any other houses they’d seen in their short lives. The craftsmanship was crude and it was constructed entirely of dark wood, with black shingles, most of which had fallen off.

“Can we please go home!?” Cora shouted, looking visibly nervous.

“You two said you were here; how could you have missed an entire house?” Anna asked, sternly.

“Anna, please let’s go!” Cora continued.

“Anna, I swear this is where we were yesterday but we didn’t see that house. I don’t know how we could have missed it! Something feels off. I’m with Cora, let’s go back.” Benjamin suggested. Anna, who was older and usually considerably more responsible than her siblings, also was peculiarly struck with the urge to approach the house and get a better look, as if something was drawing her to it.

“I’m sure it’s just one of our neighbors. Stay here, I’m going to check it out and come right back,” declared Anna.

Benjamin and Cora vehemently tried to prevent their sister from approaching the mysterious building. They stood their ground and waited patiently for their eldest sibling to return. Anna approached the door of the house and noted how old and decrepit the structure was. The windows appeared to have shutters on the inside, all of which were closed, but there was no glass in the panes. She gently pushed on the door and it opened with ease. As she crept inside, an acrid, acidic smell filled her nose. She gasped and pulled the front of her clothing up over her face just below her eyes. She had never encountered a smell so powerful and it immediately made her nauseous. As her eyes adjusted to the dimly lit interior of the house, she began to notice strange things around the room she didn’t recognize. Small wooden figurines that resembled twisted and contorted human bodies were strewn across the floor.

Bones, sticks, feathers, and other mysterious items hung from the ceiling in odd configurations. Cages of various sizes were placed and stacked in the corners, and bizarrely shaped glass receptacles with unidentifiable contents sat on a table on the far side of the room. In the center of the room was a pedestal-like structure atop of which sat a strange looking book. It seemed to be bound in some type of leather but she noted it was quite pale compared to leather she’d seen in the past. Due to her affection towards literature of any kind, Anna grabbed the book. As she opened the pages, she couldn’t make out what was written in them. A strange language that she thought looked similar to French, which she’d learned about in her lessons, filled the pages, along with strange symbols and gory illustrations of humans and animals being mutilated by monstrous creatures in progressively grotesque ways. She was overcome with the urge to keep the book and bring it with her, although she couldn’t read any of its contents. Her compulsion to keep the book puzzled her. She’d never stolen anything in her life and this book clearly belonged to someone. Yet there she was, ready to bring it with her. As she contemplated whether she should return it to its pedestal or take it home, there was suddenly a bright flash that disoriented her. Temporarily blinded by the flash, she scrambled out of the house, one arm outstretched to prevent her from running into anything, the other arm clinging to the book. She ran back to Benjamin and Cora, struggling to mask her urgency. “Okay, let’s go!” She said, concealing the book she’d just pilfered. No one protested and the trio scurried back to the farm. She decided not to tell her siblings about what had just happened to her. “Stay out of there, the floor is all rotted and there’s nothing in there anyway,” she told them. Neither Benjamin nor Cora had any interest in exploring the house in any case, it was too unnerving for them.

When the children returned home, Benjamin and Cora kept themselves occupied with games in an attempt to forget the creepiness of the house and Anna stowed the book in her bedding. The afternoon turned cold and gray as an autumn thunderstorm appeared and began to drench the farm in a heavy rain. The shower was steady and occasionally lightning illuminated the farm, followed by deep groans of distant thunder. The remainder of the evening went on without incident.

In the cozy comfort of the house, the Hollis’s enjoyed their evening meal and one by one turned into bed for the night. As the family fell asleep, Anna pulled out the book she had stashed in her bedding. She carefully examined the pages in the pale lantern light, searching for anything, anything at all, that she could comprehend. Anna was entranced by the contents of the book. Although she couldn’t understand the text, she was captivated by the uniqueness of the symbols and illustrations. As she stared at the pages, suddenly, a deafening clap of thunder startled her and broke her intense concentration on the book. She gathered her senses and noticed that, like the night before, the farm animals outside were in a state of panic. At that moment the deep bellows of the hounds exploded from the porch. Anna quickly hid the book out of sight. The family, abruptly awakened by the dogs for the second night in a row, all shot up in their beds. Thomas swore under his breath and scrambled out of bed to grab his coat, rifle, and the lantern Anna was using to read. As he neared the door a bright flash of light temporarily lit the farm in daylight, followed by a loud crash of thunder. Through the front window the family saw a figure standing in the middle of the yard. Though it was brief, they could clearly make out the shape of a human standing on their property facing the house. Disoriented by the sudden flash, she felt a sharp pain pierce her skull. Her vision was blurred and her ears were ringing. She put her hands up and rubbed her temples, wincing at the discomfort. Benjamin asked if she was alright. She insisted she was fine, but she knew something wasn’t quite right. Something about that figure had made her shudder in fear a moment before her symptoms began. It wasn’t quite human, she thought, but wasn’t entirely sure why. The disorientation was short lived but Anna still felt strange. Apparently, she was the only one who’d noticed something peculiar about the stranger. Thomas flung the door open and made out into the yard, ready to deal with this visitor by any means necessary. He hurried out to where the figure had stood and held the lantern up, revealing that whoever had been there was clearly gone now. “If I catch you out here again, I’ll shoot!” He shouted into the blackness of the night. He scoured the area for tracks but there were none. “Odd,” he thought, but the rainfall was quite heavy and he decided it was possible for them to disappear so quickly. Suddenly, the hounds erupted again and tore off across the field and into the woods, apparently in pursuit of the trespasser. The barking receded farther and farther into the forest until Thomas could no longer hear it over the sound of rainfall. He was impressed with how far the stranger had made it without the dogs catching up, but he figured they’d reach them eventually. Satisfied with the warning he had shouted, in addition to Dash and Jack’s pursuit, he returned to the house to inform the family that the problem had been dealt with.

“Who was that?” Catherine asked.

“No idea,” Thomas explained, “They were long gone by the time I got out there. Don’t worry though, I’m sure the dogs will deal with ‘em and we won’t see ‘em around here anymore.”

“It’s cold and rainy out there! What if something happens to them?” Cora cried.

“They’ll be fine, they’re used to being outside, Cora. They’re tough.” Thomas assured her. As the adrenaline gradually faded from everyone’s system the Hollis’s returned to their beds to try and get some sleep before the morning. Benjamin passed out as though nothing had happened. Cora quietly cried to herself, still concerned for the dogs’ wellbeing. She tried to stay awake until they came back but eventually slumber overcame her and she drifted off. Anna was quite unnerved by the day’s events and found it difficult to fall asleep. She tossed and turned most of the night.

Morning broke and it remained cold and gray. Dense fog hung around the property, amplifying the gloominess. Cora awoke and scrambled out to the porch to ensure her beloved hounds had returned. She was saddened to discover there was no sign of them. Her eyes welled but she kept her dismay to herself, attempting to wipe away the tears before anyone noticed. Thomas, however, had taken notice of his youngest daughter’s disappointment and put his hand on her shoulder. “They’ll be back, don’t worry,” he assured her, partially trying to convince himself. They had never stayed away from the farm this long. He headed out to commence his daily duties and Cora watched him from the window to keep herself occupied. He threw grain to the chickens, fed the goats, and made sure all of the gates were secured after last night’s intruder. He walked to the barn to retrieve hay for the horses, cattle and donkey and disappeared from sight. Cora traced shapes with her finger where her breath had condensed on the cold glass of the window. A moment later she saw Thomas stumble backwards out of the barn, nearly slipping and falling in the mud. Cora leaned forward against the glass, startled by her father’s behavior. He gained his balance and stood there for a moment, staring wide-eyed into the barn before quickly returning to the house. His loud and hasty entrance startled Catherine and the children. “What is it?” Catherine exclaimed.

“Umm, I’m…uh…I’m not sure what happened. Benjamin, I need your help. Put your boots and your coat on and come with me.” Thomas said sternly.

“Well, is everything alright?” Catherine asked, visibly concerned.

“Yes, come on Benjamin.” He replied. Benjamin quickly got dressed and headed out to the barn with his father with a nervous feeling in his gut.

“What’s going on?” He asked.

“I found the dogs, Benjamin. They’re in the barn, but uh…they’re dead. Something tore them apart. I have no idea what could have done that but we need to clean it up before the girls come out.” Thomas declared. Benjamin thought back to the figure they’d seen in that flash of light the night before. In that brief moment he’d clearly made out the shape of a person, but they seemed too small and slender to take on Jack, let alone both hounds. As they entered the barn, Benjamin froze in his tracks and his blood turned to ice. His affection towards the dogs hadn’t been quite as strong as Cora’s, but the scene before him made his stomach turn and his eyes well up. He choked down his tears, concealing his emotions from his father. He stood with his mouth wide open. Laid out on the barn floor were Dash and Jack. Hardly even recognizable as dogs, their skin had been completely removed and their legs were broken in multiple places, mangled and twisted like fleshy tree branches. Their heads were turned completely around and facing the wrong direction and their eyes were missing. Entrails covered the floor and there was blood everywhere. He couldn’t make sense of what he was seeing. He’d spent enough time in the woods to be acquainted with the relationship between predator and prey, but never had he come across anything this violent.
“Pa, I’ve never seen anything like this,” he muttered.

“I haven’t either, son. I know this is hard but I need your help here. I need you to man up and help me clean this mess so your little sister doesn’t have to see it.” Thomas said with a somewhat reassuring tone. Benjamin snapped out of it and helped his father. They used hay to soak up as much of the blood as they could and placed the mangled corpses and guts into empty burlap feed sacks to dispose of in the forest. When they were finally satisfied with their work they stood for a moment, processing what they’d just seen and done. After catching their breath, they regrouped and departed the barn to finish the job. They used a wheelbarrow to haul the bags of carnage outside, trying their best to conceal what they could from the onlookers through the front window, especially Cora. They wheeled the mess across the field and beyond the tree line to a spot they both felt was far enough to keep Cora from stumbling upon it.

“What are we going to tell the girls?” Benjamin asked his father.

“I’ll figure that out, thank you for the help, son. I guess for now we will just have to tell Cora that the dogs won’t be back and that we will get her new dogs in the spring. I’ll tell Anna and your mother the truth,” Thomas replied. They left the woods and returned to the farm. As they crossed the field back into the yard and neared the hog’s pen Thomas stopped abruptly. Benjamin stopped as well, wondering what suddenly overcame his father. Before he could ask what was wrong, he was hit with a horrific stench. The hog pen normally emitted a foul smell anyway, but this was different and Benjamin recognized immediately what it was. It smelled exactly like what he and Cora had discovered in the wood days ago.
“What the hell is that smell!?” Thomas croaked. “It smells like rotting meat, but worse!” As he said this, he and Benjamin simultaneously noticed that the hogs were enamored by something in their pen, and had gathered around it, apparently in a feeding frenzy. “No way,” Benjamin thought as he peered between the hogs’ large bodies and saw what they were feasting on. Thomas gasped when he noticed too and yelled out, “What the hell is that!?” The hogs were gorging themselves on a pile of flesh, bones, and long black hair, exactly like the one his children had described two days ago. Black flies filled the air around the pen. “This pile is much smaller, the hogs must have eaten most of it,” Benjamin thought to himself. The sounds coming from the pen sickened him. In addition to the smell, the grunting and squealing of the frenzied hogs combined with the cracking of bones and squelching of rotting flesh was too much. He turned away in an attempt to keep from vomiting.

The scene before them shocked and disturbed Thomas. First the dead dogs, now this. “What the hell is going on?” He wondered. At this point he knew something strange was happening and for the first time since moving to the farm, he became concerned for his family’s safety. Now faced with the second cleanup project of the day, he decided to send Benjamin inside and deal with this on his own. He didn’t want the hogs consuming anymore of the putrid mess and shooed them away with his shovel. He scooped the remainder of the pile into the wheelbarrow, and got a close up of what it was composed of. He immediately took note of the hair. It was long, black, and coarse. He couldn’t make out what kind of animal it belonged to and thought, “It almost looks human, but that can’t be.” The state of decay puzzled him, too. The mess obviously hadn’t been there long, or the pigs would have consumed it in its entirety. So how was it so rancid if it had appeared so recently? “Someone is trying to scare us off,” he thought. “Someone doesn’t want us here.” He recalled his interactions with some of the locals when he’d asked about the property’s history and how they suddenly became ill-tempered at any probing questions. In his mind he’d decided that someone local, possibly someone he knew, was attempting to drive them out. As he pondered he hauled the wheelbarrow back to the dumping site in the forest. The remainder of the chores still needed to be done and Thomas was now far behind schedule. He continued on to make sure everything was completed before nightfall, cursing under his breath the stranger responsible for doing this to him and his family. Inside the house the others sat quietly.

Benjamin hadn’t given details regarding what he’d just helped his father do, but the girls sensed that he’d undergone something traumatic and didn’t pry for information. He did break the news to Cora that the dogs would not be returning. He told her they’d probably run off and that Thomas said they could get puppies in the spring to replace them. This brought Cora little comfort and she fought to hold back tears. It was midday now, and Catherine decided a hot meal might improve morale around the farm. She sent Benjamin out to fetch one of the chickens so Anna could prepare it for lunch. Catherine ventured outside separately to choose one of the few remaining squashes in her garden for the family to enjoy as well. Benjamin easily caught one of the medium-sized chickens and dispatched it quickly. He returned to his sisters inside the house and handed the bird to Anna. He and Cora went to play a game while Anna prepared it. Anna proceeded to remove the organs and pull the feathers out, disposing of the waste in a bucket on the floor. To keep themselves occupied, Cora decided that she and Benjamin would play jacks, and they sat on the floor facing each other. Benjamin was disinterested and was letting Cora win when he noticed strange sounds coming from where Anna was standing. He could see Anna, still at work preparing the chicken, but she wasn’t tossing anything into the bucket. With an uneasy feeling in his stomach, he walked over to her and asked “Hey, you almost done with that?” She didn’t respond. “Hey, Anna!” He said as he tapped her on the shoulder. As he stepped from behind her and observed what she was doing, he gasped in horror. Anna’s eyes were rolled back, with only the white part visible. She was frantically grabbing handfuls of feathers, innards, skin, and torn pieces of meat, and stuffing them into her mouth. In between mouthfuls she was muttering something Benjamin couldn’t understand. Blood covered her hands and face. “ANNA STOP!” Benjamin screamed as he shook her. Her eyes flung back to their natural position and began to scream in one long continuous breath, louder than Benjamin had ever heard anyone scream. “ANNA PLEASE STOP!” Benjamin begged. She snapped out of it and began to cry.

“What happened?” she whimpered.

“I don’t know! I came over and you’re eyes were rolled back and you were…eating the chicken. All of it, raw. Guts and feathers and everything.” Benjamin explained. By this time Cora was standing behind them, terrified and bawling.

“I’m…I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened. The last thing I remember I was pulling feathers out, and then nothing. Nothing until you shook me. Cora I’m sorry come here.” Anna remarked. Benjamin handed her a towel to wipe the blood from her hands and face as Cora embraced her.

“What the hell is going on? This has to have something to do with that pile of meat and that creepy house we found,” Benjamin declared. Before either of his sisters could answer, another bloodcurdling scream erupted from outside.

Catherine had been in the garden choosing a squash. Thomas had seen her walk out to the garden and as she searched, he’d gone back to his chores. He had been working exceptionally hard to make up for the delays during the morning, but thought to himself he needed a short break, and that he’d accompany his wife in the garden for a few moments before returning to work. He turned towards the garden and as he walked, he saw that Catherine was standing with her back arched forward, facing away from him with her arms down, but slightly away from her sides. “Catherine,” he called out. She didn’t answer him. “Catherine what are you doing? Catherine? CATHERINE!” At this point he was right behind her and as he rounded where she was standing, he understood why Catherine wasn’t responding. Her fingers were twitching rapidly and her eyes were rolled back. Her mouth was wide open and a breathy, gurgling sound sporadically left her throat, like she was straining as hard as she could to move but was unable. Thomas shook her shoulders and screamed “CATHERINE!” Her body relaxed and her eyes returned to their usual position and she screamed. It was a long, impossibly loud scream. In his panic, he hadn’t heard Anna’s scream inside, but the children had heard their mother’s.

“Catherine what the hell just happened to you? You were having some kind of episode. I called out your name and you didn’t move!”

“I don’t know, I came out to find a squash, and then the next thing I remember is you shaking me. I’m sure I’m fine, it was probably nothing. If it happens again, we can see the doctor in town.” She calmly assured him. It was like her to pretend that her health was of no concern and that it was never something serious.

“I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. It was like something had ahold of you, like you were trying to fight back,” Thomas argued. As he tried to rationalize what had just happened the children ran outside to see what was happening.

“Everyone inside, now!” Thomas shouted. The children had decided not to tell their parents about Anna’s episode, and vice versa. Neither party was fully aware of what the other had experienced. Everyone was shaken up from the day’s events.

“Everything is fine,” he said sternly, clearly distressed. “I need to go finish these chores, everyone stays in the house until I’m finished, and we can eat dinner and go to bed and forget all about today. Things will be back to normal tomorrow.” No one had an appetite after that. The hot meal Catherine had planned as an afternoon treat would have to wait until the evening. A few moments passed and everyone regained their composure. The children sat down and Catherine headed into the kitchen area.

“Anna what happened to this chicken?” Catherine asked. Benjamin shot Anna a concerned look and slightly shook his head.

“Oh, uh…I heard you scream and it startled me so I made a bit of a mess. I’m sorry, mother.” Anna lied.

“Alright, well, I’ll finish up and put everything on until dinner. You three keep yourselves busy until your father returns,” Catherine instructed.

The children did as they were instructed, and Benjamin and Cora returned to their game of jacks. Anna decided she would read to keep her mind off things. She left the strange leather-bound book where it was stashed and instead chose one of her classics. She had trouble concentrating and drifted off in thought. “All of this started when they found that thing in the woods, and things got worse when I took that book,” she thought to herself. She recalled how the book had a strange effect on her when she first laid eyes on it. Like it was drawing her in, tempting her to steal it. Then, when she’d gazed into the pages, it had a hypnotic effect on her, placing her in a trancelike state until something had broken her concentration. First it was the flash in the house, then the lightning and thunder that had snapped her out of it. “I’m just being paranoid. It’s all of these strange things happening at once and I’m just looking for something to blame it on. That book was just left there in an abandoned house. It had no owner anymore and I took it,” she decided.

Several hours passed and Thomas returned from his chores. The family ate their dinner and as they finished, Thomas explained that things would be back to normal tomorrow. “It was just a bad day. Some days are like that,” he said. “Sometimes things all go wrong at once.” He knew that this was different, but he needed to keep his family from worrying. They all got into their beds that night, expecting at any moment to hear a commotion on the farm again like the two previous nights. There was a slight breeze and occasionally the goats would bleat, but there was nothing unusual happening outside. Slowly the family fell asleep, and the night remained quiet. Nothing came to disturb them and they slept soundly until morning.


Everyone woke the next day with a more positive demeanor. Maybe their troubles were over. Maybe those few days of strange events were merely a coincidence and things would remain normal from now on. Everyone got up and prepared themselves for the day. The children had lessons today and Thomas, as usual, headed out to commence his duties around the farm. Catherine started the children on their schooling and the atmosphere in the house felt calmer. As she read a chapter from a text book, the front door burst open and Thomas stomped inside.

“They’re all dead,” he stated.

“Thomas, who is dead?” Catherine replied, dropping the textbook with a loud thud as she shot up from her chair.

“All the animals. Every single one of them. They are all dead,” Thomas declared. “How could they ALL be dead? I need the sheriff. I need to go to town. Stay here, I’ll be back this afternoon.”

The sheriff’s office was in the main square in Ellisburg, approximately 2 miles from the farm. He grabbed his rifle and set off walking since he no longer had horses to pull the wagon. The family watched him depart through the front window. As he crossed the field towards the nearest road on the far side of the property, they all examined the carcasses of the farm animals outside. They could see several of the cattle and goats, and one of the horses, all lying on their sides, motionless. As Benjamin studied the scene, trying to determine who or what could have accomplished such a feat in one night without making any sound, he noticed that the bellies of the deceased animals were abnormally swollen. He was aware that animal carcasses bloat as they decay, but the size of the animal’s bellies seemed far too large for having perished so recently. Even in summer it took an entire day or two to bloat to even near this size, and this was October. It was cold and they had only died last night. It was something he’d inform his father of when he returned, he thought. Until then, no one had any interest in venturing outside to get a closer look.

Thomas reached the edge of town and turned down the main street towards the Sheriff’s office. He’d met the Sheriff once before when he’d ventured into town for errands but didn’t quite know what to expect from him when he explained his situation. As he climbed the steps in front of the office door, he paused for a moment, contemplating what exactly he would tell the sheriff. He didn’t want to sound paranoid or crazy, so he decided he’d leave out information about the stranger, the dead dogs, the strange piles of meat, and Catherine’s bizarre behavior. As he entered through the doorway and into the sheriff’s office, he didn’t see anyone around in uniform. There was a man in a jail cell at the back of the building, sleeping on a bench. Soon a man much older than Thomas, entered from around a corner to Thomas’s left.

“Morning! What can I do for ya?” The old man asked.

“Um, good morning, I’m looking for the sheriff,” Thomas replied.

“Sheriff stepped out for a moment but he should be back shortly. I’m his deputy, Buck Williams. My real name is Daniel but everyone around here calls me Buck. You must be Mr. Hollis,” declared the old man.

“Yes, I am. Have we met?” Thomas asked, startled by Buck’s intuition.

“Lived here my whole life, son. I know everyone around here, and I hear people talk. We haven’t met, but I figured you must be Mr. Hollis on account of I didn’t recognize you and you look like the Mr. Hollis I’ve heard about from people in town,” Buck explained.

“Ah, I see. Well do you know how long the sheriff will be…” Before Thomas could finish his sentence, the sheriff entered through the front door.

“Hello, sir,” the sheriff started, “Ah, Mr. Hollis. I see you met Buck. What can I do for you today?” Thomas explained the sudden death of his farm animals and insisted that the sheriff investigate the crime scene to determine if there was foul play, hoping that this would allow him to regain some of his lost investment.

“Even if I can do that Mr. Hollis, there is no guarantee you’ll get any money back. Where would it even come from?” Thomas hadn’t really thought that through. This seemed that no matter the outcome, his hopes of starting a farm were coming to an end. The sheriff agreed to come out and investigate, regardless. He wanted to see what was going on and be aware of any potential threat that may affect other members of his community. If this was the work of some wayward criminal, the sheriff wanted to see how they operated. “Well, let’s go. Buck, I’d like you to come too, riding shotgun. Mr. Hollis, we’ll give you a ride,” the sheriff announced. Buck got the horses and wagon ready outside. Thomas waited inside with the sheriff when the man in the jail cell woke up and stumbled over to the bars.

“Hey, mister. You living up at that old school house outside of town?” he asked.

“Yeah. I am. What’s it to you?” Thomas shot back.

“Shut up Mr. Miller, ya drunk bastard,” the sheriff chimed in.

“I heard what you said about them animals. I bet you’ve had other stuff going on too, huh? Things you didn’t tell the sheriff. She doesn’t want you there. You probably pissed her off,” the drunk inmate mumbled. He began laughing to himself between hiccups.

“Quiet now, Mr. Miller!” shouted the sheriff.

“Who is ‘she’? What the hell is he talking about, sheriff?” Thomas asked.

“Mr. Hollis, look at him. Bastard never makes any sense. It’s the ramblings of a drunk. Don’t worry about it,” the sheriff assured him. The drunk man laid back down on the bench, still laughing to himself. The mention of “other things” happening at the farm was unsettling to Thomas. How could he have known other strange occurrences had taken place and who the hell was “she”? At this time, Buck re-emerged.

“Ready when you are,” he said. The trio hopped aboard the wagon and headed back to Thomas’s property. They exited the road and crossed the field and as they approached, they could see the bodies of the farm animals strewn about the land. They parked the wagon in front of the house and disembarked, ready to investigate the scene. Benjamin ran outside to inform his father of the discovery he’d made from the window.

“Pa, I was looking at the animals from the window. Look at how swollen they are. Why do they look like that?” he asked his father.

“Whoa, Benjamin, slow down. This here is the sheriff and his deputy, Buck,” Thomas replied. Buck and the sheriff nodded at Benjamin.

“Hello young man,” the sheriff said. Benjamin nodded back at the strangers.

“What’s this now about the animals?” Thomas asked his son. Benjamin explained that the animal’s bellies looked abnormally swollen and as they looked out at the carcasses strewn across the property, Thomas realized his son might be right. Thomas, Benjamin, and the law enforcement officers sauntered over to the cattle pen to get a closer look. They approached the closest cow and stood in front of it, inspecting it for any obvious cause of death.

“No blood or anything,” the sheriff remarked. “But your boy is right. There’s no reason any of them should be this bloated. It’s cold out and you said they died last night, right?”
“Yeah, found them early this morning,” Thomas replied. He pulled the knife from his belt and began to field dress the animal.

“What the hell are you doing,” asked Buck, alarmed by Thomas’s actions. Thomas ignored him and began cutting the thick hide at the lower part of the cow’s abdomen. He reached the membrane that separates the organs from the hide and carefully sliced it open, pulling the hide towards him while he cut between his fingers. As he got to the stomach, he noticed how firm it was. Normally, the gastrointestinal system of a deceased animal fills with gas post mortem, and it becomes soft to the touch, almost like a balloon. This was hard, as if it was completely stuffed with unknown contents. He took a deep breath, gathering his composure before he cut into the stomach, knowing whatever he discovered was not going to be pleasant. He stuck his blade into the lining and made an incision about 6 inches long. No gas escaped from the stomach, instead, wet, sticky clumps of long, black hair began oozing from the opening. Thomas fell back in horror. Buck and the sheriff each took several steps back but Benjamin remained where he was, shocked at what he was seeing. It was the same type of hair he’d seen in the meat piles.

“What the hell is that!?” the sheriff shouted. “Is that hair?”


“Yes, it is,” Benjamin answered.

“Mr. Hollis, what on earth do you have going on here?” exclaimed the sheriff.

“Sheriff, I have no idea. I…I don’t know. I don’t know what is going on.” Thomas replied. At this point, Thomas, shocked and confused as he’d been several times before in the last several days, decided to fully disclose all the strange events that had been happening to the sheriff. He described the events in chronological order, starting with Benjamin and Cora discovering the strange pile of meat. Then the trespasser and the dogs chasing them off, followed by finding the dogs torn to shreds in the barn and so on. Buck and the sheriff listened patiently as Thomas desperately explained his predicament. When he described Catherine’s behavior Benjamin got goosebumps and decided he would explain what had happened to Anna as well. This was news to Thomas but he didn’t scold Benjamin from concealing this information, it didn’t matter now.

“Sheriff what the hell is going here? Why did I get this place so cheap? Why didn’t anyone buy it before I did? How did the schoolhouse burn down and does that have anything to do with what’s happening now?” Thomas pleaded with the sheriff. The sheriff exchanged a long, concerned look with Buck, and let out a deep sigh.

“Mr. Hollis, I’ll be honest with you. There have been strange things happening here since before you moved in. I’ll let Buck explain, he knows the story better than I do,” the sheriff conceded. “Go ahead, Buck.”

“Ahem, well, uh…sure thing. You hear rumors all the time about the history of a place. And from what I’ve gathered here, these are all rumors too, but obviously there’s some truth to it or we wouldn’t be standing here looking at a field full of dead live stock. We don’t know her name for sure, some call her Marie. She and her husband came over from France sometime in the 1700s to join in the fur trade in the town of Trepanier, about 20 miles southwest of here down on the river. They built a house and started a family, I guess she had a kid when they moved here. Long story short, not long after they’d settled in, her husband got into it with one of the Indian tribes. He got into some kind of altercation and ended up killing a young man. The natives didn’t take kindly to that as you can imagine, and they came after them. The family fled and ended up here. I suppose somewhere right around here where we’re standing. The natives caught up to them and killed her husband and child, scalping them right in front of her. For some reason they let her live. She sat here for days crying and mourning her loss before she finally lost her mind. The story goes, she turned to the occult to get her revenge on the ones responsible for her family’s death. The details get fuzzy here, but in a nutshell, she’d gotten her hands onto some kind of book, something she could use to live an abnormally long life and inflict those she disliked with all kinds of horrible, unnatural afflictions. Some say the book was bound in human skin”

“This is some kind of joke, right?” Thomas asked. “You fellas are telling me a witch is responsible for this? A French witch? Is this why no one would answer me about the history of the place?”

Buck replied, “I wish I could tell you this was a joke Mr. Hollis, but look around. Look what’s happening to you and your family. And the reason no one would tell you what happened is because that schoolhouse that burned down? All the children were still in it. Killed every last one of them. Folks are either too distraught from losing someone in that fire, or too ashamed to tell a stranger that something that tragic happened in their little town. It’s a damn shame, but now you know. You’re all caught up now. I didn’t believe any of those stories either until that fire. Several of the kids had reported sightings of a strange woman in the weeks leading up to it. No one took it seriously, and now you know the rest. It’s awful, Mr. Hollis, really awful. We thought at that point she’d had her revenge and this would all be over. Guess we were wrong.” The sheriff had stared at the ground during Buck’s long explanation, but now looked Thomas in the eye.

“Well, what the hell do I do now?” Thomas asked, completely stunned by what he’d just heard.

The sheriff finally looked up and addressed Thomas. “Well Mr. Hollis, at this point, what do you think you should do? All your livestock are dead, and after what happened to the kids in the schoolhouse, it’s safe to assume this isn’t going to end here. I don’t know where you should go, but if you’ve got family in any of the towns nearby, if I were you, I’d pack up and leave tomorrow morning and cut my losses. I understand the investment you’ve made here, but it’s not worth the lives of you and your family. I’m not sure what more I can do here. I’ll leave one of these horses here so you can at least pull your wagon with you if and when you decide to leave. I’m sorry it came to this Mr. Hollis, I truly am.” With that, he and Buck climbed back onto the wagon and departed the farm, leaving Thomas and Benjamin standing in the yard, completely dumbfounded. Thomas couldn’t even wrap his mind around what had just happened. He knew something strange was going on but he’d thought it was someone from the local area trying to scare him off for some reason, not some foreign witch out for revenge. His whole world was rocked by the sudden and drastic implications caused by losing his entire livelihood.

“Alright then. We’ll pack up and head back to Gales Ford tomorrow. We’ll stay with your grandparents,” Thomas told Benjamin. He turned and walked into the house.

“Wait. Pa, but what…” Benjamin trailed off as his father ignored him and entered the house. He was just as shocked and confused as his father. The drastic turn of events was too much for him to make sense of. He paused for a moment and then followed his father into the house. Thomas explained to the girls that they were leaving the next day and they would not be returning. They were confused and upset, but after seeing all the dead livestock, no one argued. They understood there was nothing here for them anymore. They spent the rest of the day packing their belongings and loading the wagon. In the late afternoon, Anna finally questioned Benjamin about what was going on.

“Something about some lady that came from France and Indians killed her husband and child. I guess she found some witch book made of human skin and became a witch herself or something.” Anna’s face turned pale “I don’t know…” Benjamin continued, “…all I know is that I don’t want to be here anymore. Especially with that creepy house we found nearby, I’m sure that had something to do with her.” She understood now why that leather looked so pale. Her stomach turned and she got light headed. “Whoa are you alright?” Benjamin asked.

“Benjamin. I have that book,” Anna stammered quietly.

“YOU WHAT?” Benjamin half whispered.

“I found it in that house that day. I brought it back here and stuffed it in my blankets. It makes so much sense now, the weird language, the symbols and drawings. Oh my god,” Anna said as she sat down.

“Well for the love of god leave it here when we leave. Don’t bring that with you to Gales Ford,” demanded Benjamin. Anna nodded in agreement and they continued packing. They worked into the evening by lantern light until only their bedding remained.

“Let’s try and get some sleep and get outta here first thing tomorrow morning,” Thomas said as his family crawled into their beds one last time. He blew out the lantern and the family drifted off one by one. In the early hours of the morning, after a quiet night, everyone awoke to a large crash into the side of the house.

“WHAT WAS THAT!?” Cora screamed. Then there was another loud crash from the other side of the house, then from all sides of the house. It happened over and over while the family screamed and held each other inside. Thomas thought the best way to protect his family was to stay with them inside. He fumbled with the lantern in an attempt to light it, and when he finally got it lit, he grabbed his rifle, training it on the front door and window. The family all huddled together on one of the beds. The crashing abruptly stopped and there was complete silence. Suddenly, the crashes began again, but this time coming from the roof. It sounded like something large was smashing itself into the exterior of the house. Dust fell from the rafters and the walls creaked as it slammed into the house over and over. The crashing on the roof continued and it started again on the walls of the house. Suddenly everything went quiet again and the family sat in silence, the only sound coming from their quick, panicked breaths. After a moment, the front door blasted open, pieces of the frame splintering off and nearly striking the family. In the doorframe they could make out the silhouette of a person. It appeared to be a woman, with long slender limbs and thick dark hair that fell well past the waist. The family recoiled in horror as the figure slowly stepped into the room. Thomas unloaded his rifle into the torso of the being, striking it with each round. With no reaction to being hit, the figure kept moving forward. As it stepped into the lantern light, they finally laid their eyes upon who had been tormenting them. She was completely nude and covered in pale gray skin that was deeply wrinkled. She had thick scars all over her legs and torso, and thick, black blood oozed from the fresh bullet wounds. Her facial features were sharp and exaggerated and her hazy grey eyes were sunken far back into her skull. Her stench filled the room and Anna recognized it from the house. It was a horrific, acrid odor. It, or she, raised up a hand with an outstretched long and bony finger that she pointed at the family and let out a deafening shriek. Everyone covered their ears and fell to the ground, trying to shield themselves from the sound. They all frantically scrambled to the back wall of the room as far as they could from the monstrosity. It jumped up onto one of the beds and began tearing it apart, tossing shredded pillows and linens all over the room. It paused for a moment, then picked something up from the pile of destroyed bedding. It turned and looked at the family, began shrieking again, and ran out of the house. The door slammed and locked behind it as it scrambled out. They could hear it screaming all the way back into the woods and out of earshot. The family sat in silence, trying to take in what had just happened.

“Well, I guess Buck wasn’t lying,” Thomas said, finally breaking the silence. “Whose bed did it tear up? Anna that was your bed, wasn’t it?” Anna nodded, but didn’t give any indication as to why it had singled out her bed. She knew what it was after. It had taken back the spell book, bound in human skin that she’d stolen from the house. Just as she began to feel some relief, everything went black.

“Anna!” Thomas shouted as Anna’s eyes rolled back and she began to scream. Then Catherine did the same, similar to the day before, with her fingers fluttering and her eyes rolled back, screaming as loud as she could. Cora started bawling and covered her ears. Thomas took turns shaking Anna and Catherine trying to bring them back to reality.

Benjamin was the first to notice the smell of smoke. It started faintly, and then the air got thick as billowing clouds filled the room. A pale glow began from the back windows and soon they realized the house was on fire. “Benjamin, get that door open! We need to get them out of here!” Thomas shouted as he began to drag Catherine and Anna by the clothing towards the door. Benjamin tried the door but it wouldn’t budge.

“Pa, it’s stuck!” He exclaimed.

“Move,” Thomas shouted. He ran full speed into the door in an attempt to break it off the hinges. Thomas cried out in pain as the impact dislocated his shoulder. The door gave slightly but still didn’t open. The flames were spreading rapidly towards the front of the house and up the back wall onto the ceiling. Thomas turned towards the door one more time, closed his eyes, and charged the door again. The pain was unbearable but Thomas kept his composure. Again, the door moved but remained closed. Benjamin and Cora were beginning to cough now and Benjamin had wrapped Cora in his arms to comfort her. With all of his strength Thomas ran at the door one more time and it broke in two, sending Thomas crashing out onto the porch. Benjamin and Cora followed behind. “Benjamin, your mom and sister!” Thomas yelled as he got to his feet. He and Benjamin returned to the interior to retrieve the girls. With his good arm, Thomas dragged Catherine out and Benjamin grabbed Anna. Anna had been laying with her feet towards the door and her head towards where the flames were encroaching. Her hair had caught fire. Benjamin patted out the flames, but not before most of Anna’s hair had burned away. Luckily her scalp had been spared from suffering severe burns. They dragged them out to the middle of the yard away from the inferno, and as they fell to the ground to catch their breath, they turned back towards the house. The fire had engulfed the entire structure. Had Thomas not broken through the door, the Hollis’ surely would have perished in the fire. When they’d gotten away from the house, Catherine and Anna regained consciousness and looked around confused. Benjamin studied Anna’s new look and thought back to what Buck had said about the Native Americans scalping the mysterious woman’s husband and child before they killed them. “Could be worse,” he thought. It was a thought he’d share with Anna when she realized her hair was missing.

“What happened?” Catherine asked in a calm voice that didn’t match the urgency of the situation.

“No time to explain, we need to leave,” Thomas replied, and he ushered his family over to the wagon. As they loaded onto the wagon, Thomas frantically retrieved the horse the sheriff had left. Thank God this horse survived, he thought, as he attached it to the wagon. He scrambled onboard and set out into the darkness. It was early morning now and the sun would be out soon; they just needed to hold out and get away from the property as soon as they could. As they neared the property line, they heard shrieking erupt from the forest again, and Thomas hurried the horse on to pull them faster. They were relieved when they realized the sound wasn’t following them. Benjamin watched as the orange glow that was devouring their home disappeared behind the trees.

When they met the road, they turned to head back to Gales Ford. The horizon began to glow in a pale pink, and they all breathed a sigh of relief. They’d survived. They would likely be traumatized for the rest of their lives and no one would believe their story, but they were alive. They returned to Gales Ford where they remained until Thomas and Catherine passed away years later. He’d been able to secure a job with the railroad and earned enough money to stay afloat after losing his investment on the farm. In the following years, the property remained abandoned. The Hollis’ were the last ones to encounter whoever or whatever it was that haunted that property. The forest eventually reclaimed it and decades later it was cleared for farming. No permanent dwelling existed there again so there’s no telling if the witch still lurks in the forest, waiting to torment those who spend too much time there. Should another unfortunate soul decide to reside there, only time will tell if the stories are true…or if it’s nothing more than folklore.

Credit: B.R. Timothy

Please Note the Author of this Creepypasta does NOT give permission for it to be used for any podcasts or narrations

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed under any circumstance.

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