Estimated reading time — 14 minutes
Salem, Massachusetts; Police Department – Public Records
CASE: Jason Duluth, Resident of Salem, Suspected victim of occult murder
STATUS: Case Closed
RULING: Accidental death due to rotted floorboards and delusions. No foul play involved.
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE: Victim’s body. Crime scene and related evidence. Six (6) handwritten pages by victim dated just prior to death. Typed narrative by victim, publicly released by Chief of Police. Narrative is transcribed below.
“Well, Mr. Duluth, you should have your whole bathroom gutted, I’d say,” said the plumber. “But, that’s not my job.”
The plumber hiked up his pants as he stood. He had been peering at the pipes in my bathroom, and thought everything looked fine. Which was weird, because that didn’t help explain my water problem at all.
I paid him his fee, and he left, having been a waste of time and money. Well, except for suggesting I have my entire bathroom redone. That wasn’t a waste; that could prove to be useful advice later. It has been three days since the problems in my bathroom had started.
Three days ago, I was cleaning out my shower when I noticed that some of the tiles on the wall had cracked. I knew my house was old, but I thought the bathroom had been a fairly new renovation. According to my realtor, there was no reason for anything to be broken or old, at least in the bathroom. And yet, here I was, and my whole shower was literally rotting.
My shower has a shelf that is positioned about stomach height, and goes down to the floor. It’s more like a niche or an indent in the wall than a shelf, but it works just as well, and that was where I set my shampoo and soap and whatnot. That was where I had noticed the tiled wall cracking.
I had cleaned away some of the broken tiles, and found that the wooden shelf that supported the tiles was itself rotting. After some more exploration, I found out soon after that my bathroom’s framework was entirely made of wood, and it was all rotting. Especially the shelf.
That same day I tore the wooden the shelf away to see what wAs underneath. Beneath it I found, to my surprise, that there was a large, hollow space inside the walls of my bathroom, like a secret passageway. I poked a flashlight inside and looked around, but saw nothing more than insulation and more rotten wood; exactly what I expected to find in what I thought was a crawlspace. There was, however, something that caught my eye just inside the shelf. Right at the top, near where I had broken the board off, strange symbols were carved into the wood. They were fading with the rot, and most of them just looked like carved smudges, but a few stood out as being surprisingly well preserved.
I checked the board I had ripped out of the shelf and found that the underside, the part facing the empty area in the wall, also had these same syMbols. It occurred to me again that the bathroom had indeed been a recent addition to the house, but how long had this crawl space in the wall been there? I would have to ask the people I was renting it from, I thought to myself.
That was when the water troubles started. The same evening as when I pulled the old boards up, the water from the tap in the bathroom began to run brown with rust. At least, I assumed it was rust. I wondered if perhaps I had knocked a pipe or something during my explorations, but the visit from the plumber a couple days later showed these beliefs to be unfounded. And now here I was.
I wasn’t sure what to do now. All the problems were confined to my bathroom, which, unfortunately, had the only toilet in the house. I could still drink water and wash my hands in the kitchen sink, which wasn’t having any problems, but any attempt to shower proved futile, as the water still ran brown and stank of… something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t quite an iron smell, though that was there, too, but smelled more of… old. Rot.
Sometimes the toilet wouldn’t flush, either. Or it would get backed up for no reason. I had the plumber check that out, too, but he said there was nothing blocking it. Calling the local utility service didn’t do any help, either, as they had received no complaints about rusty water or stopped toilets, other than my own. They suggested I call a plumber, which of course I had already tried.
Things got worse, though. Sometimes I would get this awful stench rising up from the hole in the wall I had busted open. One of my friends, when I told him about the crawl space, suggested I stick a fan and a light inside of the space to dry it out, clear out any mold. That same friend, when confronted with the stench, said I should take bleach and spray it around inside. So I did.
That only made the smell worse, though. It wafted up, through the shower, despite the multiple fans I had inside of it. It got so bad that occasionally I had to leave my house entirely. It was the stink of something DEAD decaying, almost. But so much worse. The bleach did nothing.
I suspected that there might have been a raccoon trapped in the wall at some point, and it had died there, but another check by flashlight proved nothing of the sort; at least, nothing I could see. I did, however, find more symBols carved into the wall. I hadn’t noticed them before.
Two days later, a total of five days after I opened the wall, I began to think the smell was making me hallucinate. Sometimes, when I was looking in the mirror to comb my hair or brush my teeth, I would see something move out of the corner of my eye. Or there would be something off about my reflection that I couldn’t quite place. My eyes were too dark, or a freckle was in a different spot. One time I could have sworn I saw something dark, like a gas, coming out of the hole in the shower (which I hadn’t closed yet), but when I turned to face it, there was nothing. But the most real hallucination, though, was the thumping. I heard it sometimes, coming from beneath my feet. It was as if someone was stuck below me, trying to get out, banging on my bathroom floor. It shook me up a little bit, and I tried to stay out of my bathroom. But, having only one, I had to go back occasionally.
At that point, though, I had been a good five days without a shower, and my friends agreed to let me use theirs. They even talked me in to calling a renovation company to check out my bathroom. When I called the company, they said they’d look at it and give me an estimate on what it would cost to completely rebuild it. And of course, I let the plumber know he might need to install some pipes for me.
I was in my kitchen during most of the estimation process. At one point, though, the workers called me in to show me something. They had accidentally knocked a chunk out of the wall because it had been so rotted, but it wasn’t the rot that frightened them. They showed me the piece of wood they broke, and I saw, to my horror, that the backside was entirely covered in the same symboLs as the inside of the bathroom shelf. They left soon after that. One of the workers said there wasn’t a price I could pay to make him tear down the walls all the way. He said he was scared by wHAt was unDernEATH, whatever that was supposed to mean.
I wasn’t sure what to do after that. I called the people I was renting from, and they told me that they’d lower my cost until I got the bathroom fixed. It was an enticing deal, but I got the feeling that the bathroom would take a long time to fix, unless I did it myself, and I couldn’t do that to the people who were so nice to offer such a discount to me. So, I decided to do just that, and began fixing the bathroom myself.
I started by taking a sledgehammer to the walls, and knocked a huge chunk out of it. I needed to see what, exactly, was in there. There had to be something.
I finally put a hole in the wall that was big enough for me to crawl through, and I stepped inside the crawlspace. With my flashlight, I took a look around. The empty space wrapped all around my bathroom, and even went behind some of my other rooms, like a border to my house. It was surprisingly spacious, but it stunk of rotted wood and… something else. The stench of dEcay was there, strong as ever, but there was more to it than that. There was a chemical, salty smell, too. Sulfur, maybe?
I shot my flashlight around, looking at the walls of the craawl space, and noticed there were more symbosl, hundreds of them, lining the walls and floor on all sides. Many of them had been erased by rot ROT at this point, but they were there. I also suddenly realized what the workers might have meant by “What was IS undERn3ath.” The wooden boards that made up the floor of the crawlspace were a good foot or so below the floor level of the bathroom, meaning that my house was set above something else. And there was sometimes a gap in the wall, between some floorboards, that led to another empty space beneath the bathroom. Almost like a basement. But I didn’t have a basement DO TOO.
I got out of there as quickly as I could, stopping only once in the bathroom to look in the mirror. And what I saw terrrrified me.
In the mirror was a reflection of me, but it wasn’t me. The hair was too long, too greasy to be mine. My face was cut up and bruised BLACK AND BLUE. My eyes were sunken and glazed, and my arm was slashed in multiple places. I looked like a walking corpse YES in the reflection. But what was worse was the reflection of the hole in the bathroom wall.
The hole in the reflection was much, much darker than in real life, and if I looked hard enough, I thought I could see something standing in the shadows. It looked like a man, but he was so covered in shADows that I couldn’t make out any feetures besides his silhouette. Except his eyes. They were a bright crimson, but empty-looking. There was a hunger in them I didn’t like. He opened his mouth, then, and bared his teeth at me. They were long and sharp, like a vampire’s, and r3d with blood. My blood, YES I somehow knew. I got out of there as fast as I could.
I ran from my house, outside, and was surprised to see how dark it had gotten. The sun had been high in the sky when I entered the space between the walls. Now, it was beginning to set. Darkness would descend soon, and I didn’t want to be anywhere in my house when it did.
I ran, unthinking, not knowing where to go. I decided that maybe it was high time to look into what those symbOls were. It was time to go to the library, I figured. Maybe there would be something there about my house, too.
The streets were empty on the way to the library, and there was no one in the library, either ALONE. I could hear someone talking on a phone in the back, but that was it. I ran to the cultural section of the nonfiction books, thinking maybe the sYMbols were some sort of pagan practice or something.
It took me a while, but I finally found some of the SymbolS in a book about classic witchcraft and hoodoo. The smylobs depicted in the book were much crisper than that of the crawlspace walls, but they were fundamentally the same. That was when I figured out just what they were used for. They were protection charms.
It didn’t take long for me a get a grasp of what that meant. Reading further into it, I found that for hundreds of years, CHARMS symBOLs like the ones I had fouNd were used for keeping away or locking in evil spirits and monsters. And the more that were used, the more powerful the creature was supposed to be. And they all had to be perfect UNBROKEN, too, or the monster could escape… THE BINDS
Seven days ago (was it really that long? I couldn’t be sure), I had torn up a piece of wood that had been inexplicably rotten. It had sYMBols on it, symBOLs that I now knew were meant to lock something in. I had broken the chain. I had let something out. But that’s ridiculous, right?
It was impossible, I concluded! Monsters don’t exist, ghosts don’t exist, demons certainly don’t exist. And why would something be under my bathroom, of all places? It hadn’t always been a bathroom, though. But, still, I had seen it. The water, the smells, the distorted reflection, the bumping, the thing in the shadows YES YES YES. And the renovators had seen it, too. Or heard it. But the question remained, WHat was uNDerneath YES WHAT? I needed to know, and yet, I wanted to be as far away from it as possible.
I walked towards the library desk, hoping to ask someone about finding house records or records of strange events. The librarian loOKed up as I walked over, and she screamed.
“What? What’s wrong?” EVERYTHING I asked, trying to see my reflection in some glass behind her. The librarian moved backwards, edging towards her phone in the back room.
“Sir, your face. I need to call help for you. You’re… You’re all beaten up,” she responded, terrified SCARED STIFF. Responding to my blank look of confusion, she handed me a pocket mirror. I looked into it. I gasped when I saw what I looked like.
My face was exactly as it had looked in the mirror at home, horrible disfigured. In the mirror, my arms were sTill scratched up. But, lo0king at them without the miror, just looking, I couldn’t see a thing. I felt no pain that would go with the cuts and bruises I had sustained. But then came the kicker for dread… In the mirror, over my sHOulder, I could see the silhouette of a man, completely covered in shadows, save for his eyes and teeth. I dropped the mirror and spun around, fully realizing that nothing would be there. Of course, nothing was SOMETHING WAS.
I had lost time DID YOU. What had happened in those hours I had somehow spent in the wall? It had felt like minutes when I was there. But, nonetheless LESSTHENONE, I had lost time. And I was covered in scars that only others could see OR COULD YOU SEE THEM. I wasn’t sure what to do.
I ran home, hoping to find something in the walls to put an end to this YOU DID. When I got to the b=BAThroom, I looked in the mirror REFLECT YOURSELF, again seeing the silhouette in the shadows, watching me ALWAYS WATCHING. This time, there was a new bruise in my reflection. A bruise around my neck, like a noose. HANGMEN I turned around away from the mirror, and seeing no silhouette, I climbed into the wall, picking up the sledgehammer I dropped earlier. It was time to see what WHAT was WAS underneath UNDERNEATH. I climbed back out into my bATHroom
It wasn’t long before I broke through the floorboards and rotted wood, working my way into the space beneath my bathroom, smashing down through the floor. It was dark, and my flashlight flickered unpredictably as I first looked inside. It was a small space, smaller than I imagined, SAW but had an ominous feeling, like a great weight of DEAD dread was on my chest. I karefully dropped down into the small space, knowing it would be difficult to get out again. I looked around RED EYES.
There were no symbols MYBOLSS on the walls here, but, as I looked at the floor, DIRT FLOOR there was one, massive symbol DAMN PAGANS scrawled on the ground. I looked around, and noticed there was absolutely nothing elllllllse. No decaying body, no silhouette, nothing. It was dark SO DARK all around, and I looked up, into my btahroom. I had broken through the floor WHAT WAS UNDERNEATH, and the light above me faltered ominously. I thought for a second I saw the silhouette, IT WAS THERE smiling above me in the bathroom, but it was gone. What was I going to do now? WHERE WAS IT
I grabbed the leeeedge that was just above me, pulled myself up, into the bathroom. I looked around, eyeing the hole in the wall. Perhaps I really had been crazy the whole time, or there had been some sort of hallucinogenic gas in the space that I accidentally released. But, I looked in the mirror, and my face was HORRIBLE HORRIBLE normal. My chaotic experience was over. And it was dawn. DARKNESS OF NIGHT
How had I lost so much time, though? TIME IS RELATIVE When I went back to see the librarian later, sehe KNOWLEDGE CAN KILL claimed I had scratches, but there were none. YOU DIDN’T SEE HER Why were the symb0ls there, or were they there at all? Was I hallucinating? Was she hallucinating? What was that stench? Soo0o many questions unanswered, but I would hopefully put this all behind me now. I glanced in the mirror one more time, smiling TEETH LIKE DAGGERS to myself. Everything would be just fine. …—…
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO N N N N N ——-………………………… 3VeryTTTHinGGG W0ulD bE ju5T FFIne …—… …—…
[END OF TRANSCRIBED EVIDENCE]
POST-CASE REPORT: Filed by Chief of Police
They found the body two days after his death. The search began when he hadn’t shown up for work two days in a row and his boss complained. Jason Duluth had fallen into a crawlspace beneath his bathroom and suffered a broken neck, killing him instantly. We were quick to dismiss the case, saying that the strange symbols around the bathroom had nothing to do with the accidental death of Mr. Duluth. There was nothing occult about his death, not even the enormous symbol placed directly in the middle of the space Jason had fallen in to. I personally went into the crawlspace, something only I and Jason have done. It seemed completely normal, disregarding the symbols.
The official cause of death, as filed in the local court system by myself, was accidental death due to rotten floorboards and delusions. The doctors blamed some sort of paranoia or schizophrenia when Jason told his friends about strange bathroom troubles and seeing things in the mirror. His friends encouraged him to get help, but he never had the chance, even with the various companies he called to renovate the bathroom.
A few days before he died, he apparently would have bouts of insanity, huddling in his house and screaming at nothing. He would cut his arms and bang his head against the wall. He once attempted to hang himself, but the rope broke. When he was lucid, it seemed he tried to actively figure out what was in his house. Ultimately, of course, what was underneath turned out to be rotten floorboards.
Exploring the house, we found a letter written by Jason, showing strong signs of delusions and mental illness. It was written a day before he died. There was a lot about death hiding in the shadows of his crawlspace in the walls and below him, waiting. There was a lot about things seen in the mirror, and how he had to defend himself. He showed signs of having hallucinated strongly, even when he was lucid (if you want to call it that). He also wrote the above story on his computer before he died.
Though the events as he tells them do not directly correlate with the actual events leading up to his demise, there is some truth in what he says. The chaos of his final days is well reflected in the narrative he wrote, but there is one major difference. Jason never made it out of the space below his bathroom. His body was found there, sprawled on the ground, with pieces of the floor scattered around. He never broke through the floor with a sledgehammer. He tripped and fell, splintering the weakened floorboards, falling into what was underneath.
His visit to the library was the last reported sighting of him lucid before he died. The librarian said he was covered in cuts and bruises, and his eyes had a glazed look to them. She neglected to call the police after he left, assuming he went to a hospital. She claimed he was mostly rational.
Much about his final days is not known, or when or how he wrote the story above. There is one catch, though, that makes this otherwise depressing story of a man gone insane, possibly by gas poisoning, more interesting. When the librarian got her mirror back, a symbol was scratched into it. A symbol exactly like the one that Jason fell into, beneath his floor. The librarian also mentioned occasionally seeing a shadow with scarlet eyes and red teeth in the mirror Jason held, but she told us it disappeared after a while. She hasn’t called since. It is suspected Jason had some connection with the symbol in the mirror, possibly scratching it in while he had the mirror in his possession.
Even with all of this, something nags at my mind. The renovators that Jason called filed only one sentence about the house in their reports. “We cannot know what was underneath.” There is something about this cryptic sentence that bothers me. Is it impossible for us to know what was underneath, because we cannot grasp it, or because if we knew, it would destroy us? As in, opening it at all would release something…? How much of Jason’s tale is truth? What really happened in those days? No, I must be day-dreaming. That basement was filled to the brim with mind-altering gasses. These questions are preposterous.
Ah, anyway, it is a terrible story of a collectively shared, gas-induced delusion. But something still remains. Of the hundreds of thousands of symbols carved into the wall, some were broken, and, if it were a chain, this means the chain itself was broken. It would release something, then… Something that is now among us. What is -was- underneath, would no longer be underneath. It would be free. But that is, of course, ridiculous. The gas and this bizarre case are getting to me.
My condolences go out to the family and friends of Jason Duluth.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to call a plumber. There’s something wrong with my pipes.
Credit To – Andrew Sova