I Run a Ghost Referral Service

mila

Thank you for stopping by.

Before you leave, would you mind filling out the short questionnaire on the desk by the door? I’m always interested in how people hear about me, and my Ghost Referral service.

My name is Truman Dansforth, III. And, your here to ask me how you can meet with a certain ghost. Alrighty then, let’s get down to business. Please take a seat, as I take notes.

“The ghost’s name?”

“Cindy Mayberry.”

“Family member, or lover?”

“Well… my lover, but her life was cut short in a car accident.”

 “I see. And your name?”

“Jake Harriman.”

“I’m going to ask you to relax Jake, as I step outside the room for a moment to check on my poltergeist contacts in the next room. Would you like a drink?”

“No, thank you.

When I walked to my spirit contact center down the hall, I had an odd feeling about Jake. I’m a sensitive guy who picks up vibes all the time. It’s probably why I have such success with ghosts. I’m use to people being nervous when they come in. But Jake had an air about him like a wounded animal on a mission. Hard to explain.

It didn’t take me long to find Cindy Mayberry. She was stuck in the “in-between.” It’s amazing how many ghosts get hung up with earthly issues that weren’t resolved. She was sitting in the front passenger seat of a wrecked Corvette. She seemed glad to see me and knew why I was looking for her.

“Jake’s at my place and would like to talk with you Cindy.”

For a moment, I thought I saw a spark of anger in her eyes, but it passed when she spoke.

“Dear Jake,” she said sarcastically. “Take me to him.”

When we entered the parlor where Jake was waiting, I noticed a sudden coldness in the room.

“Don’t mind me, you two. I’m going to clean the fireplace and build a fire.”

“Cindy! How I miss you!

“I’ll bet you do Jake. Remember how you use to beat me up when you thought I was seeing someone else?

“Hold on! You were seeing someone. I followed you, and saw you get into a blue Corvette with another man three times in the last month.”

“Your insane jealousy was what use to turn me off about you Jake. Did you ever read the newspaper report about my accident? I doubt it, because if you had, you would have known that was my brother Ron. Now look at me!” she cried.

“I just didn’t want to lose you,” Jake moaned.

“Is that why you punctured the brake lines on his car? Investigators ruled that someone sabotaged the Corvette by putting holes in the double-wall steel tubing that led to the front brakes.”

“How was I supposed to know he was your brother?” he whined. 

“You could have asked! But no, you had to assume the worst and kill both of us!”

“I didn’t know you were going for a ride with him that morning.”

What do you want from me Jake?

Forgiveness… I love you Cindy.”

“I have to go now. Come back tomorrow, and we’ll talk about it,” she said, and nodded at me.

I had a roaring fire going in the parlor fireplace when I walked back to the spirit room with her. I could sense her unrest, and a simmering anger. As I wondered if she was going to share her thoughts she spoke up, “Are there any rules about getting revenge while in the “in-between?”

I had to admit that was a good question. I really didn’t think the negative vibes associated with revenge would help her move on to another level, and told her so.

“What about haunting him? He may even like my attention at first. In time however, I’m sure I could arrange for him to drive off a cliff, or something along those lines.”

“You’re still seeking revenge,” I reminded her.

“I prefer to think of it as justice, Truman.” 

The next day Jake returned. He was more upbeat that the day before, and I welcomed him in to my parlor. He looked like a man who got a good nights sleep and was ready to get on with his day.

After some small talk I went to get Cindy. She was waiting for me in a skimpy outfit. Just the opposite of the jeans and blouse she had on the day before (and what she probably was killed wearing).

I expressed surprise. “What’s this?”

“The haunting begins today,” she said sweetly with hellfire in her eyes.

Jake rose from his chair when we came into the room and approached Cindy.

Wow! I mean…you look different.”

” I’ve got good news for you Jake. I’m going to look different every night for the rest of your life. How about that?”

“In outfits like that, I hope,” he answered.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said with a lecherous smile.

“I can’t thank you enough Truman. Here’s you finders fee.

Three weeks later.

I came home late one night after attending a movie premier with a friend, and found Jake sitting on my doorstep. He looked bad. I unlocked the front door and invited him in.

“I’m going crazy! She won’t leave me alone! Day, or night! I just want some peace. Make her go away!

“I’m sorry Jake, but I run a referral service for people to contact ghosts. I don’t give refunds. You need to find a good ghost hunter to solve your problem. I know there’s a couple of guys in town that offer that service. I don’t provide referrals for them, however. I prefer to deal with putting folks together with ghosts. What happens after that…who knows?

“Oh, by the way, you didn’t fill out your questionnaire yesterday. Do you mind terribly doing it now? Wait! What are you doing? Put that gun back! I’ll refund your money and give you a name of a good ghost catcher if you do.”

The sound of gunfire filled the parlor!

As It Stands, contacting loved ones who’ve passed on can be a jarring experience.

The Escapist

3-weegee_boy-with-finger-in-his-mouth-in-a-movie-theater-new-york.jpg

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

At ten-years-old, inside a movie theatre in 1945, Alan accidentally discovered how to escape from reality.

He was hunched down in his balcony seat watching Captain Kidd starring Charles Laughton, Randolph Scott and Barbara Britton, and imagining himself as the hero, Adam Mercy (Randolph Scott) throughout the film. It was getting to the end of the movie and the evil Captain Kidd was hanged, and Adam’s honor was restored. Alan grew dizzy for a moment and felt a strange sensation and then he was asking for the hand of Lady Anne in marriage!

There was no way of telling how long he spent in the year 1700. It felt like a lifetime. The usher woke him up while cleaning the balcony. The experience haunted him for weeks. He didn’t dare tell anyone because they’d think he was a kook. The more he thought about his initial guess that it was an unwanted daydream, the less it bothered him. Still, he stayed away from theatres for a year before breaking down and seeing “The Virginian”  starring Joel McCrea, Brian Donlevy, Sonny Tufts, and Barbara Britton, who he had a thing for.

It was only twenty minutes into the movie before Alan felt a familiar strangeness before finding himself in the movie playing Steve Andrews, a friend of The Virginian. Both men were courting Molly Wood (Barbara Britton of course).

Minutes became days as the plot advanced. The Virginian discovered who the local rustlers were. It turns out his friend Alan/Steve is one of the rustlers and is caught along with two other men. As they are being strung up on a makeshift gallows, Alan/Steve pleads with them, “No! You don’t understand! I’m real!” Blackness.

John, Alan’s friend who came to the theatre with him slugged him in the arm, “What’s up with the sleeping? You missed a good movie dork!”

“Guess, I was more tired than I thought. I didn’t get much sleep last night,” he lied. Alan didn’t see another movie until 1968, when his girlfriend talked him into going to a drive-in show. He tried not to think about his last movie in 1946. He was a man now, not some kid with a wild imagination. It was time he proved that to himself.

When Susie told him she loved horror films and wanted to see “The Night of the Living Dead,” Alan broke out into a sweat. They found a parking place in the rear which afforded a little more privacy than being up front. His powder blue, 1964 Chevy Malibu SS convertible, had a comfortable front seat which was ideal for snuggling.

Alan had his arm around Susie when the movie began. The camera followed seven people’s adventures in western Pennsylvania where they all are trapped in a rural farmhouse by an ever-increasing army of the living dead. Susie was pressed up hard against Alan as the black-and-white movie became increasingly intense. The monsters were breaking through and killing people when Alan’s eyes rolled back and he went limp. One of the creatures was chewing on a human arm when Susie realized Alan had passed out. She did what any normal teenage girl would do under the circumstances…she screamed!

Meanwhile, Alan found himself in the farmhouse fighting against an undead creature that was halfway through a boarded up window. The sheer ferocity of the thing was terrifying as it screeched. He looked down on the wooden floor and saw a bloody baseball bat and picked it up. With a powerful swing that would have made Lou Gehrig proud he smashed the thing’s head! Another was right behind. Alan turned and ran to one of the bedrooms. It was locked! When he turned around the monsters had him cornered. He screamed then.

Alan’s mother jumped up from the chair by his hospital bed and tried to soothe him as he shivered in fright. “It’s alright darling,” she cooed, “Your Dad and I are here.” Alan opened his eyes and realized he was not in the rural farmhouse. His relief was obvious. “It’s okay Mom, I was feeling dizzy and kinda passed out. I’m okay now.”

“Why were you dizzy son? his Dad, a cop, asked.

“Not eating,” he lied. “Stomach’s been bothering me for a day now, and I haven’t eaten,” he explained. His Dad still had a skeptical look on his face when he said, “I sure hope it wasn’t drugs. Like LSD, or something.”

“Harold!” his Mom cried. “There’s no need for that. You know our boy doesn’t do drugs,” she defended him. He huffed and excused himself, “Gotta get back to work.”

His mother stayed for another hour until she knew he’d be checking out that day. “I hope you feel better honey. Why don’t you come by and have dinner with Dad and I tonight?” she asked.

“Thanks! I’ll do that,” he reassured her, and laid his head back down on the pillow.

Ten years passed before Alan was confronted with having to go see a movie again. His latest girlfriend, Margie, was a sweetheart, and he thought he might be in love with her. He thought that before with other women, but was wrong every time. Still, it didn’t discourage him. He was a romantic at heart, and hoped for a happy ending.

When she asked him to see a romantic drama called “Days Of Heaven” starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, and Linda Manz, he agreed. The movie was about two lovers, Bill and Abby, and their adventures in the Texas Panhandle. The couple worked for a wealthy farmer.

At Margie’s insistence, they went to a drive-in movie to see it. Alan comforted himself that this was a love story, or at least that’s what the movie trailers said, and there probably wasn’t any violence involved. Things went well as the two lovers snuggled in the back seat of his new 1978 Dodge Charger.

Then things started to grow dark. Bill encouraged Abby to claim the fortune of the dying farmer by tricking him into a false marriage. Alan’s head was swimming and his eyes rolled back. The next thing he knew he was Abby’s boyfriend Bill. But something even more unexpected happened next, Margie was Abby, and she was smiling at him.

“Wow! This is trippy,” she gushed. “We’re actually in the movie. Let’s see if we can change the plot, she suggested.

“Why not?” Alan agreed.

As It Stands, there are moments when movies and reality collide, and the earth shifts slightly.

The Battle Scavenger’s Story

The_Battle_of_Towton_by_John_Quartley.jpg

Carrig Conchobhar fled his native Ireland just ahead of his pursuers, and the hangman’s noose.

He was a peasant turned highwayman out of necessity. Having violated the rules according to Brehon Law, Ireland’s legal system at the time, he knew that he could expect to have his neck stretched until it snapped like a dry twig.

So he went to Europe, working as a deckhand on a boat for passage. He left the ship when it docked in Normandy, setting out into a foreign land on a quest to make a living. As he walked through the countryside he ate wild fruit and berries, and drank from small streams that crisscrossed the rugged territory. On his third day he met a man, a commoner like himself, who said he was on his way to a great battle.

“Not to fight I take it, judging by your looks and no weapons,” Carrig observed.

“Ain’t yew the clever one,” the man chuckled.

“Why do you travel to such a dangerous place? Battlefields are harvesters of souls.”

“It’s afterwards…when the fighting is over, that I wait to make a harvest of me own. There’s wealthy men lying on the field of death for days sometime. Taking their gold and silver is an easy thing that requires little labor and pays handsomely,” he grinned through a nearly toothless mouth.

“Don’t you fear a penalty if you’re caught? It seems to me looting a battlefield is akin to robbing graves.”

“Aye, but a quick death is better than a slow one watching your family starve to death. We all take chances in life don’t we?” Thomas the commoner, asserted wryly.

Carrig nodded in agreement. The man was right. Being a highwayman was a lot more dangerous than stripping valuables off of corpses. Their conversation died out as the two men made they way through the thick forest. In the distance they heard the screams of men fighting and dying. Then the rain came down so hard they had to take cover under a fallen oak that had been hallowed out by others seeking shelter in the past.

When the downpour stopped in the early morning hours the two men resumed their journey. When they got to the edge of the forest a great plain lay before them. Thousands of dead horses and men were scattered about. They could see campfires still burning on both sides of the battlefield. It meant the fighting would resume that day, Thomas explained.

Carrig and Thomas found comfortable hiding places where they could observe the battle safely. They were both nibbling on scraps of food when they heard a mighty horn blare, and the birds in the trees rose up in surprise. Their eyes turned on the two approaching armies. The English knights powerful steeds broke out in a trot, then a full run towards the French line. The French knights sallied out to meet them from behind their foot soldiers.

The clash of horses, armor, swords, and lances produced a hellish din. In the clouds of dust, men died savagely, fighting until their last breath. When the two armies infantry units collided, the screams of men could be heard for miles.

Finally the French line broke and the English chased the survivors until darkness stopped them. There was only one set of campfires that night and Thomas gave the go-ahead to start looting bodies. Carrig didn’t feel a twinge of guilt peeling the rings and necklaces off of mangled knights. He did keep a sharp eye out for someone who might cause him trouble. Under the light of the moon he could barely make Thomas out, moving among bodies of men and horses like a ghoul.

Carrig was in the process of stripping a jeweled belt off of a white-haired knight who bore the crest of France on his elaborate armor, when he noticed movement to his left. He instinctively hunkered down and watched as a tall shadowy figure moved among the dead, stopping at times to see if life still existed. When he found a man still alive and propped up against his shield, the shadowy figure stopped and bent over him.

At first, Carrig thought it looked like he was listening for a heart beat, but minutes passed and the shadowy figure stood up and wiped his gory lips. He didn’t know what to make of the sight. The figure disappeared in the growing fog.

Weighted down with his loot wrapped in a knight’s cape and in several leather purses, Carrig hurried back to the shelter of the forest, and to the hollowed-out oak he slept under the night before with Thomas. He had found a fine sword that he laid on his lap while he went through the leather purses contents. Suddenly he heard a noise. A minute later Thomas came stumbling toward him with a clay flask in one hand, a large leather bag in the other, and a nobleman’s gold gilded helmet askew on his head.

“A gift from the gods,” Thomas said, slurring his words as he held the clay jar up for inspection. “What a night. I’ve already hidden twice this much,” he picked up the leather bag, “… and with no problems! You’ve brought me luck, good Carrig. This is the first time other looters didn’t beat me to the goods, or take away my findings.”

“I’m glad to hear this,” Carrig said, “but I have a question for you. Did you see a tall thin man dressed in black moving around the battlefield?”

Thomas dropped his clay jar and it shattered on the forest floor. “What was the man doing?” he asked in a rapidly sobering voice.

“I couldn’t really make it out that well, but it looked like he was embracing a live survivor. When he stood straight, I’m sure I saw blood on his lips. Then he disappeared.

“Vampire...” he muttered. “That thing you saw wasn’t a man. He was a count in England once, before being attacked by a vampire as he lay wounded on a distant battlefield. Now he roams battlefields in search of dying men with enough blood left to satisfy his thirst. You’re blessed that he didn’t see you.”

“I wouldn’t say that you greedy fool,” the vampire said, as he appeared before them. “I was just waiting to get both of you scavengers together. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s thieves,” he snarled, showing his sharp fangs.

As It Stands, I’ve always suspected battlefields would be like a delicatessen for vampires.

To Awaken A Giant

th

For over a year, the cult followers of Tand came from all corners of the planet to the rolling plains in the Algarve region of Portugal. They gathered there to witness “The Rising.” 

While they waited, they lived in crude outdoor camps in the nearby mountains. Some took up residence along the region’s coastline, living in limestone caves. Scattered about like the lost souls they were, the cult members trekked to a place in the open plain everyday, hoping to witness the return of the giant god Tand.

According to the legends, when the giant hand of Tand breaks through the planet’s crust a new age will dawn. The old religions will be doomed. Only those ready to serve Tand without question will be allowed to live in the new world order. Peace, through terror, will reign when the god giant once again walks the surface and establishes a new dynasty to rule over mankind.

In eons past the giant was defeated by the upcoming new religions in the world, and made to eternally sleep beneath the earth’s surface. The giant has slumbered beneath the dirt in Portugal’s plains for untold ages. If not for his loyal remaining supporters, his influence would not have passed along through the generations…each one more eager than the next to be the blessed ones to witness his return.

On June 10, 2031, cult followers from all over the world were spread around the plains. Some gathered into groups that chanted around-the-clock. Today was going to be the big day.

Not too far away.

Living quietly on the Alentejo plains, west of Algarve region, was a hermit. People of the region talked about the hermit in hushed tones. Some claimed he was immortal. Others said he was wizard. Still others thought he was a vampire. No one intentionally sought out the hermit in his crude thatched hut near a cluster of olive trees.

In fact, the hermit, Aloisio Rapoza, (a member of the religion that defeated the god giant) was more a sentinel than anything else; waiting to meet his destiny with icy calm. He existed as a final safeguard, a present to humanity should the giant rise from his coma in another age.

The powerful magic from his time was consolidated into Aloisio, who stayed in contact with the old gods using dimensional travel. He read ancient tomes with long-forgotten spells and stories, as he waiting for the predicted Rising.

Among the acolytes following the Tand cult, was a sorcerer named Zamos. It was he who announced the date of the giant gods coming. Now, he moved around the plains and outlying areas telling the devoted ones the good news, and to be ready.

On that fateful day Aloisio was contacted by the ancient ones who summoned him to their domain.

“Aloisio, your time has come. A necromancer named Zamos has breached the magic that makes the giant sleep,” one of the elders said with regret in his voice.

“I’m ready! What shall I do first?

“Kill Zamos. Then help us fight the giant, whose coming can’t be avoided.”

“Is it true that Zamos has the sacred Necronomicon?” Aloisio asked.

 “It is of no concern to you, our champion. Your power far exceeds the spells Zamos will summon up from that grimoire. Our ancestors made a pact with humans, back when they lived in caves, to protect them in return for their worship. The unspeakable has happened and now mankind’s fate rest on your shoulders Aloisio. Our honor is also at stake. Remember what you learned over centuries of reading. Power flows through your every cell. Go now…and use it!

When Aloisio opened his eyes he was back in his cottage sitting in a wooden chair. A candle flickered uncertainly on the small table in front of him. It was dark out and a full moon bathed the plains in a soft light. He took his staff and singing sword, Jevrik, and left the cottage. Following his instincts, he walked towards the east, towards a small mountain range in the dim distance.

He smelled them before they attacked. He drew Jevrik from its leather scabbard and was ready when four crazed cult followers of Tand attacked! They carried tree limbs for clubs, and surrounded him. Aloisio calmly accessed his opponents. No wizards. Just followers too stupid to know better than to attack him. Their screams, as he slit throats, and sliced off limbs, mingled with the sword’s savage song of death. It was over in moments. He knew this crude attack was only a prelude to what could be expected ahead. As he held Jervik aloft, a bolt of lightning shattered the silence, caroming off his sword, and searing the earth nearby.

The ground below him began to rumble.

“I’m coming for you Zamos!” he roared to the heavens.

The two adversaries met on the top of the small mountain range overlooking the part of the plain where Tand was expected to appear. Zamos, in his business suit, hat, and cloak, looked like a wealthy businessman. Aloisio wore a plain gray smock with a dark blue cape made from some rough material. The contrast was striking.

Zamos pointed a cane at Aloisio and swore a dark oath. At the same moment, Aloisio waved his walking stick and an invisible shield stopped a blue light heading for him. He locked eyes with Zamos and reached into his mind and soul. Then he twisted them, leaving a drooling idiot who stared at him blankly. Following his instructions, he cut off Zamos’ head.

The earth moved so violently the mountain he was on started to break up. He levitated and looked down on the plain and saw a crack appear! It was the god giant. He flew down and stood next to the opening gap in the earth. The hand of Tand thrust through the crust amidst a loud cracking sound that reverberated across the plains, thrilling the legions of waiting would-be servants.

Aloisio stood his ground and spoke ancient curses. Each one building upon the next, according to the books of magic he’d consumed all those years, and with the elders help by channeling their power through him.

The shaking stopped. The giant hand was frozen into stone. Only five fingers showed above the surface. The moon disappeared, and suddenly a rain storm broke out. It didn’t stop raining for days until all of Tand’s followers drown, or left the area. As for Aloisio, he went back to his cottage and took a well-deserved nap.

As It Stands, fantasies are among my favorite stories.

A Hung Jury at Brimstone

untitled

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Badlands Billy stoically waited to be hung.

He was wanted for stealing souls in Brimstone, and was captured in a saloon there by two zombie bounty hunters. Not without a fight however.

One of the zombies lost his hand when Badlands Billy hacked it off with his hatchet during the melee. Saloon patrons tried to stay out of the fracas, but there were still some injuries from errant bullets buzzing around like mad bees in the increasingly smoky saloon.

When it was over, the two zombies had Billy hogtied and drug him to the sheriff’s office where he was thrown into jail. The Sheriff, a second-level demon, paid the zombies their bounty then unceremoniously kicked them out of his office.

“Next time take a bath you smelly bastards!” Sheriff Bodi shouted, “You’ve stunk up my jail again!”

He turned to Billy and looked him over critically.

“You don’t look stupid,” he mused out loud. “But anyone who thinks he can get over on the Master has to be an idiot,” he firmly declared.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it lawman.”

“I have. But the difference between you and me is, I’m smart enough not to. That really pisses Lucifer off, you know.”

“Why don’t you let me go Sheriff? You know my gang is going to show up soon and there will be hell to pay.

“Another level, here or there, doesn’t particularly bother me Billy.

A day later, while the sheriff waited for the judge from Tombstone to arrive, Billy’s gang rode into Brimstone on black horses. They trotted up to the jail house and got off their silent steeds without exchanging words. All five of them were pulling out their pistols when the towns inhabitants opened fire! They were expected.

Bullets rained down from porches. Every window and door had a shooter busily firing at the gang. Like Billy, they were all level one demons and were dropping like fetid flies. When the firing stopped they lay scattered on the dusty street in front of the jailhouse. Their riddled bodies seeped blood that trickled down into the dirt in little pools.

Level one ghouls bid on the bodies afterwards. Their flesh sold for far more than beef. It was one of many reasons why Brimstone didn’t have a coroner. When Billy learned of his gang’s fate he howled like a wolf all night.

“I guess that’s it for you wise guy,” the Sheriff later mocked him. “I expect the judge tomorrow so you better get ready to be served up on someone’s plate when the death penalty is handed down.”

“What? No jury, or trial? I thought even level one demons had some rights.”

“There’ll be a jury, and you’ll get your trial. But at the end of the day, the devil always wins.”

The trial was held at the saloon. The judge arrived with two officers of the county court who immediately set up rows of chairs and constructed a crude platform where the judge would sit on an old stuffed chair from one of the upstairs whores room.

When the sheriff escorted Billy into the saloon cheers broke out. Apparently Billy did have some supporters in the crowd. The jury consisted of level one demons that weren’t too drunk to sit upright for an hour. Billy’s peers.

The judge slammed his gavel on a little desk in front of him and called for silence. He looked down at Billy with undisguised disgust. Even a stupid soul-stealer like Billy knew that wasn’t a good sign.

“You stand accused of stealing souls from humans who are the Master’s playthings. By poaching on Lord Satan’s subjects you have crossed the line of no return. Your fate now lies with this jury,” the judge said indicating a group of 12 demons sitting unsteadily in two rows of rickety chairs. “How do you plead?

“I’m as innocent as a new-born babe, your honor.”

Rolling his eyes in scorn, the judge called on the first witness. A parade of previously paid witnesses spent the next hour testifying against Billy. The jury bravely tried to stay awake during their testimonies, but occasionally one of them would slip off in his chair, only to waken startled and blurry-eyed before regaining his seat.

“It’s time for the defense to state their case,” the judge declared.

Billy’s lawyer slowly stood up. His rumbled jacket had vomit stains on the front. Blood-shot eyes searched the room before settling on Billy. “You my client?” he asked Billy after letting out a long belch.

“Yeah,” Billy admitted in resignation.

The lawyer, Travis Goldblot, turned to the judge and bowed. “If it pleases the court my client begs for mercy and a lower level of hell. He didn’t mean to do it.” 

The judge dismissed him with a wave of his long skeletal fingers, and turned to the jury. “All right you lazy bastards! You go over to that room behind the bar and make a decision on what we should do with this piece of scum.”

The decision only took ten minutes.

When the jury assembled before the judge, ten of them looked pale with fright. The eleventh jury member appeared to be unconcerned. He was casually chewing on a wad of tobacco and talking with the twelfth juror when the judge asked for their decision.

The forlorn speaker for the jury stood up and mumbled a reply.

“Speak up damn you!” the judge groused.

“We have a hung jury, your lordship,” he admitted.

The saloon broke out in roars of laughter! This never happened before. The accused in any trial was always declared guilty. That was part of being damned. The situation was so unique that the judge sat there in shock during the chaos.

One of Billy’s supporters in the crowd shouted, “Free drinks on me!” causing a stampede to the bar. The judge and the two county officers seemed to shrink in stature as they slithered past the revelers and out the batwing doors.

As It Stands, even the devil’s minions get out of line sometimes.

Taffyman, The Terror of Trenton

Boys-riding-bikes--006

Once, Trenton New Jersey’s claim to fame was that it was (briefly) the Capital of the United States. Since the Taffyman first appeared in 2024, that positive moment in history has been overshadowed by one of terror stalking the city.

It was two teenage boys that first saw the Taffyman in downtown Trenton, near the Mill Hill neighborhood where they lived. The boys were riding their bicycles home from football practice and it was getting dark when they saw a tall thin figure down the road beneath a street lamp.

It was dancing in a little circle while laughing happily. They slowed down, until they stopped about a block away. The man, they could make out his yellowish skin stretched across his round face now, stopped his dancing and looked at them.

For days after the incident all the boys could talk about was his eyes. There were no pupils. They looked like the soulless eyes of a shark.

As they watched he smiled and reached out one arm that kept coming towards them! It reached an exaggerated length when both boys stopped being mesmerized by the impossibility. They turned their bicycles around and pedaling away with all of their strength.

People laughed at the boys when they first told their story. Some wits even called the boys boogeyman, the Taffyman. Ditties like “The Taffyman can..” became popluar at their school.

A week later a drunk from Louie’s Bar bumped into the Taffyman. It was 2 a.m. Closing time. The drunk, Jerry Burkhart, wasn’t in a good mood because the bartender kicked his ass out. He took a swing at the tall thin man in front of him who simply moved his head back…without taking a step. His suddenly long neck wobbled for a moment then returned to its normal size and place.

Even drunk, Jerry knew something wasn’t right. The man’s arms grew like snakes and struck out, engulfing Jerry’s body! They wrapped around his torso and squeezed like twin Anacondas! Jerry passed out from lack of air. When he woke up on the sidewalk his ribs hurt. He still had his wallet, so whatever he ran into wasn’t interested in robbing him. When Jerry told his story he was confronted with skepticism. His reputation preceded him.

Thus far the early encounters with the Taffyman were relatively harmless. But one day a hunter (who fired before properly identifying his target) saw him in the forest dancing wildly and fired two quick shots at him! One bullet hit him below his right eye and he shrieked like a banshee! He ran away before the hunter could fire at him again. The hunter, convinced he’d hit his target tried to track him down, but had no success. He still wasn’t sure what he shot at, and idly hoped it wasn’t a man as he drove back to Trenton.

That night, unbeknownst to the hunter, Taffyman followed him home – loping in the growing darkness behind the hunter’s pickup truck. Taffyman could see the hunter and his wife through the front window sitting in reclining chairs. They finally turned off the lights and went to the bedroom. It was time.

Taffyman climbed up to the roof and went over to the chimney. He effortlessly slid down it and reformed in the dark living room. There was a puckered hole beneath his eye where the bullet passed through him with no effect other than a localized pain. It was enough to anger him. He moved confidently in the dark until he found the right room. They were both in bed. He went to the hunter’s side and put his rubbery hand over his mouth. His eyes opened in terror. He picked him up like a baby and carried him into the living room.

With one extra-large hand engulfing the hunter’s face, he couldn’t scream when he pulled his right arm out of the socket! Then the left. After that he twisted his legs so hard the kneecaps shattered as he wrenched them out of their sockets. He was busy twisting the mans head around when his wife walked in and screamed! There was a snapping sound as he let go of the man’s head. He got up and left through the front door without looking back.

The wife’s story made the murder go national as reporters from all over the east coast sought interviews with her. The authorities didn’t know what to think about her story. The coroner was perplexed by a few things as he examined the body during the autopsy. Rumors grew like mushrooms in bars, as people debated if the killer would reappear somewhere else.

After that, every unexplained murder was attributed to the Taffyman. It was during this period that old-timers say he no longer was seen dancing or laughing. His attacks became more frequent and the bodies accumulated over the years. Baffled authorities never gave up trying to catch him, but they were helpless to predict when he’d strike next.

They knew nothing about the killer. The newspapers and media picked up the derisive nickname Taffyman, after hearing about how the two teenage boys were ridiculed by community members after the first sighting. The name stuck.

The Taffyman’s decision to stay in Trenton was a curse the old city didn’t deserve. But, that changed one day after a casual encounter.

After years of revenge he was growing weary. Thoughts of moving on became more frequent. His anger was gone.

He was walking through a community park early one morning when he saw a young girl bumping into things. She looked to be about 12-years old, and was pointing her arms out in front of her. He watched her barely avoid a trash can and turn towards a pond where several ducks were calmly floating. She was heading in that direction and was within two steps of the water, when he shot his arm out and grabbed her by the elbow. She was startled by the touch and cried out, “Help me. I’m blind and lost!

Something turned over in his heart as he said, “I’ll take you home.”

No one seemed to notice the tall thin man with the little girl walking along, holding hands. She gave him her address, and told him her name was Bonnie. He was familiar with most of Trenton and didn’t have trouble narrowing down her neighborhood.

“What color is your house?” he asked.

“Brown, and white.”

“How do you know?

“My parents told me in case of an emergency. I wish I knew what colors looked like,” she added wistfully.

He looked down the block and saw a house fitting her description. As he walked her over to the house, he asked how she came to be so far from her home?

“I went for a walk, but must have accidentally turned on the wrong street. I have a regular route that I take. When I took too many steps, I realized something was wrong. I panicked. But thanks to you sir, I’m home,” she said while opening a little white gate leading to the front door of a brown-and-white house.

“Would you like to meet my parents,” she asked.

The smile that crept onto his round face felt good. “No, but thank you for asking. I have to go.”

“Can I ask you, what’s your name?”

He grinned playfully. “Taffyman. My name is Taffyman,” he replied, and went into a little dance.

As It Stands, this tale of revenge, and redemption, is a theme that goes back to ancient times.

The Ladies of the Lake

173454.jpg

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

Not far from Lake Minnetonka, in Minnesota, there’s a smaller lake east of it that few (if any) tourists have ever seen. The locals say it’s haunted by three women, and avoid going there. If the lake ever had a name, no one knows what it is now.

North of the lake, a 30-mile trek away, is White Earth Lake. A young man born on the Indian reservation that surrounded it, desperately wanted to see the world. He was part of the White Earth Ojibwe Band, and expected to live his whole life there. But the urge to leave coursed threw his veins, and his blood boiled for adventure.

His native name was Niimi (He is dancing). His white name was Roger. In school, everyone had to answer to their white names. Afterwards, the moment they left school, they went by their “real” names.

Niimi was a reader. It was why he was so smart. He absorbed knowledge like a sponge and was able to retain what he learned. He loved mysteries and studied stories that were passed down by the Ojibwe elders. Tales from the ancient days when the People lived in harmony with Mother Earth.

One day he had an epiphany. He’d tell his family and friends that he wanted to go on a vision quest. It would give him the reason he needed to leave the reservation, and it could provide direction for his future. He was ready to seek his guardian spirit, who he could call on for protection and guidance. It had been many years since someone in the tribe set out on a sacred vision quest, and the elders were pleased that someone so well-schooled in their culture was undertaking it. Although they felt he should be a little older, they agreed to hold the ceremony.

When the rising sun-kissed White Earth Lake’s surface the next morning Niimi set out on his quest…for adventure. He was dressed in leather britches and jacket. He wore a pair of beaded moccasins with good luck tokens sewn into them.

Two days, and 30-miles later, Niimi came upon the nameless lake. When the locals told him it was haunted, he felt a thrill of excitement. This was a challenge he decided, and made a crude camp by the lake.

That night he had weird dreams. He was talking with a woman who was promising him crazy things like immortality, and the ability to fly, or to stay underwater for as long as he liked without having to breathe air. When he awoke in the morning his clothes were wet. Not damp. Soaking wet. He scrambled to his feet and jumped around shaking himself dry under the newly arrived sun.

Instead of being worried about why he was wet, Niimi recalled the stories the locals told him. He didn’t remember anything about water witches though. Just that there were three women who guarded the nameless lake. Unlike most men in his tribe, he didn’t fear the unknown.

The next night he tried to stay awake, but succumbed to sleep by midnight. His dreams were chaotic and violent. He was flying over the tree tops looking down at a herd of buffalo being chased by hunters with spears and arrows. He could hear the cries of the hunters as they brought a big bull down. The swirling dust made his eyes gritty. The thrill of the chase increased his heartbeat…and then he woke up in his campsite next to the lake. His eyes burned as he looked around.

Afterwards, he walked along the lake’s shore wondering what his dreams meant. As exciting as they were, he longed to know if the lake was really haunted. Thus far, he hadn’t seen any ghosts. Yet, the locals insisted they were there. He’d gone five days without food, hoping it would give him a vision. His body was so weakened he quit walking and sat down by the lake, staring out at its shimmering surface with glassy eyes.

That night as he lay barely conscious by the smoldering fire pit in his camp, three woman came to him. They wore diaphanous dresses that accentuated their lithe bodies as they walked across the lake, and on land to his camp.

“How much longer before this human dies from lack of food and our nightly bloodletting?” one of the women asked the other two.

“It’s hard to say sister. This human has a strong spirit.” another one commented.

In spite of his condition, Niimi heard their voices and struggled to focus his eyes as they peered down at him. His first thought was they were beautiful. They all had full red lips and pale faces that were expressionless. All three had pale blue eyes that watched him struggle to sit up.

None of them wanted him to die…and least not until someone else came along. Human blood was the ultimate intoxicant for them. They seldom got visitors because people feared the place. When they did, they tried their best to make the experience last as long as possible before draining the victim’s final lifeblood. It had been decades since the last victim stumbled into their domain. Niimi’s blood was a special treat after that long drought.

In spite of his weakened condition he recalled a tale one of the elders told him about supernatural beings. That if he could drink their blood he would be strong enough to banish them to hell where they belonged. Summoning up the last of his strength he spoke, “Ladies of the Lake, I am Niimi your loyal servant. If you could each give me a little of your blood, I could continue serving you longer instead of dying right now.”

The three were startled by the request and argued among themselves for a while before coming to a decision. When they did, each one used a fingernail to slash their own wrists.

“Come, drink then human,” one offered as she held her bloody wrist out.

Without hesitation Niimi sucked on the proffered wrist. When she stepped aside the second offered hers, and by the time he was sucking on the third’s wrist he felt a hot powerful surge course through his veins! Night turned to-day. He could understand what the animals in the nearby forest were saying.

Power incarnate made his bronze face glow. The sisters, sensing something had gone wrong, hurdled together and watched his transformation with their pale blue eyes. When he finally turned his attention on them they could see the mistake they made. In their eagerness they ignored the law of blood. Their mixed blood took him to another level of awareness. And power over them.

He slowly stretched. Never taking his eyes off the three women. They turned in fear, as if to go back in the lake, when he clapped his hands together and sent them straight to hell!

As It Stands, evil is meant to be destroyed by heroes in all cultures.