Tag: monster

The Legend of Mother Meade

Western Pennsylvania has its fair share of strange stories and weird legends, but none more so than the story of Mother Mead and her thirteen children. In the early eighteenth century, the state was sparsely settled with European immigrants. In an effort to attract more settlers and displace the native Indians, the English welcomed religious sects of all flavors.

One of these groups was centered around the personality of Mother Mead, an enigmatic and colorful early American figure. It was said that Mother Mead was a powerful witch or a lapsed Anglican nun or a runaway slave who took up with the Iroquois. Whatever her true identity, she became the focus of a number of tall tales over the years.

One of those tales concerns Mother Meade’s numerous children. Although they were all very different and spawned many legends of there own, one thing they all had in common was that they were born monsters.

Some thought the birth of monsters was a sign of the impending End of Days, the time when the earth would be sundered by war in heaven. On this apocalyptic foundation, Mother Meade was said to have formed a cult centered around her charisma and her gruesome brood. Hailed as a prophet of terror and destruction, Mother Mead attracted much attention but only a marginal following.

After a few years roaming New England, Mother Mead’s cult ended up in Pennsylvania. They took up residence in a largely uninhabited expanse of forest known as Broome’s Quarter. While the cult settled down to await the end of the world, Mother Meade’s monstrous children stalked the Quarter’s shadowy ridges and dark hollows.

Bill grew up next door to Broome’s Quarter. He writes to tell me of the strange encounters he experienced in the shadows of the ancient forest.

Bill’s first story comes from his childhood when he explored Broome’s Quarter with his older siblings and cousins. In the warm summer months, Bill would often head out with a sampling of his kin, intent on fishing the small brook that ran the Quarter’s length.

On one particular sunny July morning when he was ten years old, Bill set out with his older brother and a teenage cousin. They started fishing the brook and hunting for the tiny crayfish that hid among the rocks. “The old brook was always full of crayfish and minnows,” Bill recalls.

As Bill and his brother carefully checked under rocks for their elusive prey, Bill’s cousin was watching the brook’s head with a strange expression on her face. Bill and his brother exchanged a mischievous look and decided to play a prank on the older girl.

As Bill’s cousin stared at the splashing water, Bill and his brother found a mean, old crayfish under a big rock. Their cousin would certainly get a scare if they slipped it down the back of her shirt, they thought.

But before the boys could even get out of the water, their cousin was on top of them. She grabbed both boys by their shirts and dragged them out of the brook. “I thought she figured out our little prank and was gonna give us hell,” Bill writes.

But Bill’s cousin had a look of abject terror on her face. She screamed at the boys and told them to run. “I was never so scared because I didn’t know what was going on,” Bill remembers. As Bill and his brother took off running through the trees, Bill turned to catch of glimpse of something struggling and thrashing in the water near the bank where Bill and his brother had been playing.

Bill’s cousin never returned to the Quarter. She refused to talk about the incident except to say that there was something in the water and she thought it was going to eat the boys.

When Bill grew up, he went to work in the coal mines that accounted for most of the region’s meager economic activity. Bill still enjoyed the occasional foray into the Quarter, especially when he could take out his dirt bike and ride the winding trails.

On one particular overcast August afternoon when he was in his 20s, Bill was racing down a steep incline. “After that it levels out a lot and there’s a straightaway,” Bill recalls, “But I saw right away that there was something on the trail.”

Bill slowed his bike and cursed his luck. From where he was stopped, he could see that a tree had fallen across the path and he would be forced to turn around or drag his bike over the top. Deciding that his bike wasn’t so heavy, Bill continued on the path toward the log.

As he got closer, Bill could sense that something wasn’t quite right. “Well, for starters, that log was moving,” Bill remembers. What Bill took to be a fallen tree was apparently being dragged across the road.

“I thought maybe someone was in the woods moving the log off the trail,” recalls Bill. “I thought things were looking up after all.” But then as Bill got closer, there was something tugging at the back of his brain, something was telling him that he was in serious danger.

“It just didn’t look right,” Bill recalls. Bill got within 20 feet of the log when he could see that the log was not a log. What he thought was a fallen tree was some sort of animal; what he took to be movement was an undulating wriggle; what he thought was old tree bark was a grizzled hide of dull brown scales.

Bill couldn’t believe his eyes. In front of him there appeared to be just a small part of a truly giant snake. “I didn’t know how big the sucker was,” Bill says. “I could only see about ten feet or so.” The part that Bill could see was thick, about three feet in diameter. But that wasn’t the extent of Bill’s surprise that day.

“I was in shock,” Bill remembers. “Just staring at this thing that I knew was there, but knew couldn’t be.” Bill wasn’t prepared for what happened next. From his left, he heard a rustle coming from the bushes. Then the giant snake in front of him stopped moving.

“I looked to my left and saw it right above me,” Bill says. Leering above Bill’s head was the one end of the giant snake he didn’t want to see. Huge, watery yellow eyes fixed on Bill from a blocky head covered in countless scars and oozing sores. The giant snake head began slowly descending towards Bill as its jaws opened wide to reveal rows of tiny, jagged teeth like a mouth full of venom-dripping needles.

Bill does not recall exactly what happened next. “I was riding my bike as fast as I could go to get back home,” says Bill. “I almost got lost because I couldn’t think straight, much less drive my bike straight.”

Like his cousin before him, Bill never returned to the Quarter, and when the mines closed, he left Pennsylvania for good. Although the rest of Bill’s story unfolded in places far from Broome’s Quarter, he’ll never forget his meeting with the great serpent, and tells me that he’ll always wonder if the creature he encountered was one of the legendary monster children of Mother Meade. If it was, did her offspring somehow survive the centuries stalking the lonely tracts within and below Broome’s Quarter? Or did they live long enough to produce a new monstrous generation and, as monster begat monster, populate the woods with grotesqueries and horrors?

Only more sightings of these terrible beasts will help us unravel the mystery.

 

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

The Impostor

If there’s one thing that epitomizes the celebration of Halloween, it’s dressing up in a scary costume. The practice of trick-or-treating has a long history as a means of imitating evil spirits and placating the restless dead. Sometimes, however, traditions become unmoored from their origins and people forget their own customs; sometimes, even the evil spirits forget.

Don writes to tell me the bizarre story of one Halloween night in 1993 when something strange – stranger than usual for Halloween – came to the door. Don and his wife Kathy were home with their son Brian handing out candy to the children who came to the door.

“Brian was just thirteen then,” Don tells me, “but he thought he was too old to go trick-or-treating.” Don and Kathy took turns answering the doorbell. It was getting late and Don was about to turn out the porch light and call it a night.

“There hadn’t been a trick-or-treater for a good half hour,” Don recalls, “but near nine-thirty, there goes the bell again.”

It was Kathy’s turn to answer the door and she rose from the family room sofa. Don heard his wife grab the bowl of candy from the chair in the hallway and open the door. It was quiet for a moment and then Don heard his wife’s low fearful gasp.

“I thought it must be a doozie of a costume to give her a scare,” Don tells me.

Don set down the magazine he was reading and leaned back on the sofa to listen better. He could hear his wife nervously clearing her throat and the night sounds coming through the open door – crickets and far away traffic – but the trick-or-treater remained quiet.

Kathy broke the silence and said, “That’s quite a costume you’ve got there, young man…or young woman?” She nervously tapped the candy bowl with her fingers for a moment, seemingly waiting for a reply.

Suddenly Don heard a strangely amplified voice scream “Trick-or-treat!” It sounded like a recording played on poor quality speakers, and Don jumped up off the sofa when he heard the crash of the candy bowl as it hit the floor and shattered.

Don called to his wife and she reassured him that everything was fine, she had just dropped the bowl. Don walked to the door and he could see his wife’s back but not the trick-or-treater standing outside. As Kathy bent down to pick up the shards of porcelain, Don got his first glimpse of the costumed figure.

“Well, it was real odd,” Don remembers. “It was a mixed-up sort of costume, I guess.”

A small figure, not five feet tall, stood in a ragged brown robe, a dirty plastic bag held out in one mittened hand and a small orange box with a jack-o’-lantern face in the other. On its head, it wore a yellow-stained pillowcase with two frayed holes for eyes.

When it saw Don approach, it held up the orange box and punched a button. “Trick-or treat!” the box screeched.

Don stopped and stared for a moment, not sure if what he was seeing was a threat to his family or just a harmless kid. “I mean, not every kid gets a new costume and you make due with what you got sometimes,” Don tells me. “But this kid gave off a really weird feeling.”

Don continued to the door and got down on his knees to help his wife gather up the candy. He glanced up at the trick-or-treater. The porch light was behind and above the figure, so when Don was standing, he couldn’t see much of the face. But now, as he knelt on the floor, he could see into the ragged eye holes.

“There were the eyes and they were black, like completely black, no irises or pupils,” Don recalls. “And the skin around the eyes, I’m pretty sure it was covered in black fur, real fur.”

Don recoiled in surprise and put his hand on Kathy’s arm. She looked at Don and then slowly rose with a fistful of candy in her hand. “Trick-or-treat!” the plastic toy screamed again.

The costumed figure cocked its head slightly and Don could hear a low gurgle. Kathy held the candy in an out-stretched arm. The figure held out the plastic bag in a mirror image of Kathy.

The two stood frozen facing each other, Kathy waiting for figure to close the gap between them and the figure apparently mimicking her posture. At last Kathy stepped forward and quickly dropped the candy into the bag.

As she stepped back, the figure stepped forward, and Don, still on his knees, could see that the feet under the cloak were shoeless, but covered with the same black fur. “And they had claws, big claws,” Don tells me.

Kathy nodded at the plastic bag but the figure continued to stare at her. Suddenly Brian walked up behind his parents and said, “What’s going on? Somebody break the…”

Brian stopped when he saw the trick-or-treater at the door. The figure looked at Brian, studying him, and then grunted sharply. Rising to his feet, Don could see the black eyes widen in reaction to his son and Don began to feel very afraid.

“Well, I guess my wife has things more together than I do most of the time,” Don says. “She knew just what to do.”

Kathy took another step backwards and slowly closed the door on the strange little figure. The trick-or-treater simply stood there with the plastic bag still extended, still staring at Brian.

“Damn it if he didn’t stay there for another fifteen minutes,” Don remembers. “Every so often we’d hear that gizmo go off.”

Finally, it walked away and Don and Brian peeked through the curtains as it did. “It walked funny, kinda exaggerated,” Don recalls, “like it didn’t know how to do it right, but it was trying to imitate a person walking.”

Sharing their thoughts afterwards, Don and his family agreed that the last trick-or-treater to visit their house that Halloween night was not human. “Maybe it was a really, really good costume,” Don tells me, “but you can’t fake the feeling we all got that whatever was under that pillowcase was a monster.”

Halloween costumes represent a kind of meeting of the dead and the living, the human and the monstrous, a halfway point where recognition is exchanged. Could it be that the other side – the monstrous side – has changed the terms of the agreement and more visitors like the one that came to Don’s house are already on their way?

Or have the ghosts and goblins that come out to play on Halloween night forgotten their role in the show and are they now merely imitating what they see around them? Maybe the ancient practice of dressing-up as evil in order to conquer it has now been obscured, becoming merely the performance of a performance.

“I think my wife said it best after I kept pestering her,” Don tells me. “She said, when a monster comes to the door, you give him some damn candy and then send him home.”

 

Read more stories of the bizarre and unexplained in Scary True Stories Vol. 1 and Scary True Stories Vol. 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!

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