Author: Patrick Kroh (page 2 of 2)

The Ghoul

Ray had spent most of his life in a cemetery. For thirty-seven years, he had been the groundskeeper for a cemetery in western Maine. It was a quiet life, but it suited Ray just fine.

Among cemetery groundskeepers there’s an unspoken code that what happens in one’s lot is one’s own business, but after his retirement in 2007, Ray contacted me to relate a few terrifying experiences.

In the early 1970s (Ray wasn’t sure of the exact year), Ray had to deal with a wave of vandalism at his cemetery just as he was settling into the job. “There was graffiti,” Ray recalls, “and a few headstones was knocked over.”

Ray wanted to protect his lot, but he also wanted to avoid a confrontation, especially if the vandals were using the cemetery to drink and do drugs. “I didn’t need no showdown with a pack of teenagers high on goofballs,” Ray tells me.

So Ray repaired the gate, added an impressive-looking lock, and put up some ‘No Trespassing’ signs. That put an end to the graffiti and the empty beer cans; it seemed the cemetery had lost its appeal.

In the weeks that followed, Ray kept an eye on things from his small house adjacent to the cemetery. With no lights in the cemetery at night, the grounds looked like a blank, black rectangle.

A few weeks later, however, Ray was cutting the grass around the old Butler mausoleum when he noticed something strange sticking up from the weeds. “I reached down to pick it up,” Ray remembers, “and damned if it wasn’t a piece of bone.”

Ray was shocked; being a cemetery man brought one close to bodies and bones, but never this close. Ray held a small piece of very old bone; it nearly crumbled to dust in his hand.

Ray fished the big ring of keys from his pocket and opened the lock on the Butler vault. Inside the still air and layer of dust told Ray that nobody had been in there in a long time. The bone must have come from somewhere else.

“I thought them damn kids got no respect,” Ray tells me. “Drinking your beer in a cemetery is one thing, but messing with the remains is another.”

Ray checked all over his lot for signs of disturbance but found none. Although he didn’t know where the bone had come from, Ray was determined that there wouldn’t be any more hijinks in his cemetery.

That night and for many that followed, Ray kept watch on the cemetery until dawn. He sat by his window, flashlight and shotgun on his lap, and waited for signs of life in the cemetery.

After a week of long nights, Ray’s stakeout finally paid off. It was a clear spring night and the moonlight reflected off the stone and marble grave markers.

For over an hour Ray had been watching the cemetery’s tree-lined border and listening to the sound of something walking through the underbrush.

A pale figure finally emerged from the shadows and scurried up and over the fence. “I ain’t never seen anything move like that thing before,” Ray recalls. “Like a lizard or a bug, but just as big as me.”

Ray figured he was dealing with some nut from the hills who didn’t know better or some freak from town who got his kicks in graveyards. With his shotgun slung over his arm, Ray quietly entered the cemetery.

Ray knew his lot with his eyes closed, so he left the flashlight in his pocket. “The moon that night was so bright, I could’ve seen regardless,” Ray remembers. Among the eerily glowing headstones, Ray carefully made his way in the direction of the intruder.

The cemetery grounds were quiet as Ray swiftly and warily crossed them. “As quiet as the permanent residents,” Ray joked. Ray stopped as he heard a strangely ordinary sound in these macabre surroundings: coughing. Up ahead, Ray could hear a muffled, raspy cough. It sounded near, but somehow muted.

Ray slowly advanced in the shadows until he saw the old Butler mausoleum ahead. Even in the dark, Ray could see that the vault door was slightly ajar – a black shaft in the silvery stone – and he realized that the coughing was coming from inside.

“Well, I’d never heard of no one breaking into a mausoleum,” Ray tells me. “I was getting ready to whup some butt.” Ray crept up to the tomb’s door and peered through the crack to the darkened chamber inside.

“Now there was plenty of moonlight, and there was a grimy little window, so I could see pretty good,” Ray tells me. “But I wish I hadn’t seen.”

Ray still regrets the vision that crouched before him in the mausoleum’s moonlit interior. A pale naked man was hunched over on the floor, his greasy black hair hanging in wisps from his head, his skin pulled taut over his bones. “I could see the backbone sticking out,” Ray tells me.

Ray thought some crazed person had broken into the crypt, but then the figure lifted its head at the sound of a dog barking in the distance.

“This guy – this thing – looked up at the window ‘cause of this dog barking down the street,” Ray recalls, “and, man, I ain’t never seen a face like that before.”

Two sunken eyes cast a dead glance toward the darkened pane. A nose like a ragged gash sat atop a hungry, fanged mouth. The creature’s face was like a dead thing, but also like a feral animal.

“It looked like one of them monsters from a zombie movie,” Ray tells me. “But it had parts what was like a critter.”

The creature turned away again and coughed, and Ray finally noticed what it was doing on the floor. The creature had opened the vaults and was stuffing its mouth with powdery bones and handfuls of dust.

The creature was choking on the earthly remains of the long-gone Butler family.

Ray backed away from the mausoleum, mindful that the creature had not yet detected his presence and that he ought to keep it that way. As he turned to go, Ray heard the creature cough again as long, black claws reached out for more bones to consume.

Ray spent the rest of the night watching from his window as the creature went from mausoleum to mausoleum and then back into the woods. In the morning he investigated the locks, but could find no sign of forced entry or of any entry at all.

“I don’t know how to figure it,” Ray tells me, “except that the door and the locks didn’t want to know that thing was there so they just ignored it.”

Knowing that he needed help, Ray reached out to his local union representative with a much toned-down version of his story. He was quickly referred to the state office and the response he got from them was stunning.

“The boys up in the Bangor office said to sit tight and wait,” Ray recalls, “that things like this tend to take care of themselves, especially with summer coming and the ghouls migrating back north.”

Ray had never heard talk like this before. While he wasn’t sure what to do, waiting seemed like all he could do. Sure enough, by summer, the cemetery was peaceful again.

In the years since, Ray has come to see and hear many more things he never had before. Ray’s advice to any other young caretakers is never stay up to watch your cemetery at night. “It’s best to let it go with the sun,” Ray tells me. “It’s almost like it don’t belong to you at night. It belongs to all them things and all them critters what comes out at night.”

 

Read more terrifying true stories of the unexplained in Scary True Stories Vol. 1 and Scary True Stories Vol. 2!

In Darkness We Wait

The following story is found in The Hamlyn Book of Ghosts by J. Allen Randolph, published in London in 1959:

The American Civil War killed hundreds of thousands of soldiers, far more than any other war fought in America, indeed, more than any other war fought by Americans. If a violent death is a prerequisite for a haunting, then the American Civil War must have produced a plethora of ghosts or at least as many ghost stories.

One such story comes to us from a correspondent in the American state of Tennessee. Civil War ghosts are as numerous as the stars, but this particular tale struck me as intensely intriguing, resonating as it does with a mythic past almost forgotten on these shores.

In April 1862 the Battle of Shiloh was fought for two days in southwestern Tennessee. On the first day, the rebel army of the Confederates almost overran the federal Union line, but on the second, reinforcements turned the tide.

Our correspondent – my friend – is an avid historian, albeit an amateur one, and his interest drew him many times to the site of the battle. On one such occasion, he was exploring an unusually dense thicket with a tragic past.

It seems that on that bloody first day, as the Union lines retreated, small bands of brave men gathered here and there and held their positions so that their fellow soldiers could regroup and repel the quickly advancing rebel army.

One such stand was made in the lonely thicket by remnants of the 9th and 12th Illinois regiments. These men steadfastly refused to retreat and their rifles never stopped firing. It was their courage and the courage of others like them that saved the Union army that day.

Unfortunately, history does not record a happy ending for these particular soldiers. As the Union line solidified behind the thicket, a plan was hatched by an officer to use the thicket’s advantageous position to surprise and repel the oncoming enemy soldiers. Once the Confederates passed the thicket, the Union soldiers were ordered to attack them from the rear.

It seems, however, that no one thought to tell the Union artillery of the plan. The thicket was quickly mistaken for an enemy holdout and the heavy Union guns rained hell upon it.

Of the three dozen soldiers in the thicket, only one lived long enough to tell the tale of the lonely last stand in the thicket and how the soldiers there died waiting for the order to advance and rejoin their line. Only pieces of these soldiers were found.

Seventy years later, our intrepid correspondent enters the scene. The Shiloh battlefield is well-known in America, but the story of the last stand in the thicket is not. My friend, however, was well aware of it, being a connoisseur of history’s mysteries, and was determined to uncover its exact whereabouts.

Surveying the battlefield, our correspondent quickly perceived four candidates and began his explorations.

What was he looking for? I am not an historian and I do not pretend to share their particular variety of perspicacity. Whatever my friend was looking for that would provide evidence of a battle some seventy years old – whether bullets or bones – he did not find it in his examinations of the first three thickets.

The fourth thicket stood alone. Apart from spindly trees and thorny bushes, it seemed to shelter only deep shadows and a bitter chill that rebutted the balmy May afternoon. Our correspondent, however, with his preternatural sense of the historical, had a feeling he was in the right place.

The sunlight seemed to disappear in the cool air of the overgrown thicket. My friend walked slowly among the trees, carefully examining the wild undergrowth for hidden signs from long ago.

As the shadows lengthened, one could not say whether the sun had set yet or not, but my friend did not care, for as he leaned his back against a sturdy trunk, he looked down and at his feet, he saw a cracked, yellowing skull staring up at him.   

Our correspondent was certain that he was in the right place and carefully examined the remains without picking them up. He left the skull where it lay and ventured further into the trees.

As my friend walked through the thick grove, he looked down and saw bones and skulls, scraps of long-decayed cloth, bits of rusted rifles and twisted canteens among the roots and undergrowth.

He stopped to contemplate the significance of his grisly find and thought he could almost smell the smoldering flesh and hear the bugles and terrible cries of the dying men. Then he saw something move.

Behind the trees shadows moved, crowding the few open spaces. They were men – or shadows of men – that surged toward our correspondent, and as they did, he could see the outline of the Union caps and the long barrels of the rifles carried by federal soldiers.

They swarmed among the trees but stopped and lingered a few meters away. My friend could still only make out their dark shapes and the countless sets of dim silver light that he took for eyes.

The shadows stood quietly, seemingly contemplating the living intruder in their place of rest. My friend could only stand his ground, struck as he was with both fear and wonder at the strange assemblage before him.

A gust of icy wind whipped through the trees and one of the shadows seemed to lean forward. My friend heard the voice as if it came from far away, from long ago, but he knew it was the shadow before him that whispered, “Is it time? Is it time yet?”

My friend staggered under the weight of the sudden burden that had been thrust upon him. “No,” he answered. “Not yet.” He immediately regretted his response, but he appreciated the immediate effect as the shadows retreated and quickly dissolved in the darkness.

My friend’s heart was pierced with terror and sorrow at the poor wretches who lingered in the world long after it had abandoned them. Had he given the right answer? Had he released the spirits from their bondage, what would they have done? My friend believes that only more tragedy would follow.

There exist numerous stories of sleeping warriors in the British Isles. In Ireland, the hills are said to be filled to the brim with them. It seems these stories, like many others, have crossed the Atlantic. The last warriors of Shiloh remain, waiting, as King Arthur and his knights slumber in Avalon, to fight again when their country calls upon them once more.

 

Read more stories of true encounters with the paranormal in Scary True Stories Vol. 1 and Scary True Stories Vol. 2!

Mind out of Time

The more you dive into the crossroads of scientific and paranormal research, the more you begin to believe that consciousness, time, and space are outmoded concepts for measuring something that is, for now, ineffable. Here is an article with a lot to say but few conclusions to reach. It seems that when it comes to malleable concepts that attempt to say something about the strange relationship between the mind and the universe, the empty answer is the only answer.

Mysteries of the Unknown

Man, I loved these commercials almost as much as I loved the books. Still have a few on the old bookshelf. These were, I guess, one of my gateway drugs into the wide world of weird paranormal stuff. What got you hooked on the spooky train?

 

Trees Are Scary

I like to read stories about people encountering weird stuff way out in the woods. What is it about the primeval forest that makes it so scary? Is there something mysterious and alive in those woods that we haven’t yet classified through traditional knowledge-making channels but somehow we still recognize at the fear of it deep down in the ancient parts of our consciousness? Take a walk and explore for yourself. Here is a list of some really haunted hiking trails. Good luck.

Polybius Lives!

Here are two great write-ups on the Polybius urban legend from AVClub and Uproxx. To sum up, Polybius was an old arcade game that had strange effects on its users.  After reading these articles, you might want to read about what happened when they released the sequel Polybius II! Find that story and more in Scary True Stories Vol. 2 available from your favorite ebook vendor.

Scary True Stories Vol. 1

Get it at Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

America is haunted. From its wilderness to its suburbs, from its cities to its backyards, come reports of zombies, ghosts, vampires, aliens, and monsters. Scary True Stories collects 25 of the most terrifying and bizarre stories of true paranormal encounters from across America. Featuring never-before-seen legends of dark creatures and chance meetings with strange beings.

Walk with the ghost of a long-dead king, visit a school for shadow children, see the trap that finally caught Bigfoot, run in terror from a pack of zombies. From a lake monster to a town full of werewolves, from a corpse-eating zombie to a blood-drinking gargoyle, Scary True Stories will leave your blood curdled and your spine tingled!

So true, it’s scary!

Featuring 25 stories of all-new, all-true very scary stories:

The True Story of the Litch House
The Ghoul
Night of the Melon Heads
The Legend of Mother Meade
In Darkness We Wait
The Kettle Creek Incident
The Midnighters
Attack on Camp Wepawaug
The Bridge of Lost Souls
Family of Shadows
The Tomb of the Lurker
The Monster in the Shed
Dragons of the Old World
Phantoms Fill the Skies
Demon Wings
Return of the Midnighters
The Ghost of Halloween
Descent of the Wolf
The People Underground
In the Shadow of the Mound
The Thing in the Lake
The Scholomance
What Jenny Saw
The Midnighters: All Hallows
In the House of the Widows

Scary True Stories Vol. 2

Get it at Amazon, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo.

America is gripped by fear. In the cornfields, a witch waits for the unwary. In the alleyways, a monster hides in plain sight. In the suburbs, inhuman neighbors are moving in. In abandoned video arcades, something otherworldly is trying to communicate. Scary True Stories Vol. 2 collects 25 of the most terrifying and bizarre stories of true paranormal encounters.

So true, it’s scary!

Featuring 25 stories of all-new, all-true very scary stories:
Polybis II
Black Mold
Curse of the House of Glamis
The Corn Witch
The Midnighters: Four Rivers
Demon of War
The Impostor
Nomads
The Boy in the Well
Shadow in the Sky
The Midnighters: Shadow of Midnight
The History of a Bottomless Pit
The Halloween House
The Occupant
The Midnighters: Green Man
The Beast of Blue Mist Road
Sasquatch City
The Thing in the Closet
The Keystone Devil
The Midnighters: Mad Science
The Starr Interview
The Walker in the Fog
1313 Beech Hill Drive
The God of Winter Returns
Christmas with the Krampus

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