The Traveler’s Strange Tale

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Tonya, and I, are travelers who’ve seen a strange thing or two.

We’ve trekked through the harsh outback of Australia, traversing the arid ‘red center’ to the tropical lands of the north. We’ve braved the scorching sands of the Sudan and rode camels in Egypt. For ten years now, we’ve traveled the world in a non-stop quest for adventure.

For the last year we’ve been thinking about writing a book on our travels. We’re hesitant however. The problem is we’ve seen some supernatural things that, if we talked about them, might lead the reader to think we’re a couple of loonies. I’m for documenting those encounters with the unknown, but Tonya is worried people won’t take the book seriously if I do. Her argument is that the book would end up in the fiction section, instead of the non-fiction travel section.

She’s agreed to let me tell you about one strange encounter to see what your reaction is. Go ahead, and get comfortable, while I tell you about the werewolf community we met in the Western Carpathians. I believe we were in Slovakia – it could have been Hungary – when we came upon a tiny village in the middle of nowhere.

It was in the spring and we were trekking on foot. Wildflowers paved the hills as we walked along, sometimes spotting a deer, or squirrel, as we enjoyed the sunny day. As we came to a crest of one hill we saw a small village that could have been something out of a guide to 17th century living for peasants. The crude thatched huts sat on both sides of a muddy street. At one end there was a communal well.

A dozen men were working in the nearby fields planting next year’s crop of wheat. Sitting in the front of the only stone building were two old man with long clay pipes watching us with curiosity as we approached.

Tonya, who knows 16 languages, called out to the men. When she picked the right language a lively conversation followed. Their names were Arpad and Nandor. Arpad was the village’s mayor. I was amused watching Arpad talk with Tonya because he had a habit of pulling on his knee-length beard when he got excited. Every now and then Nandor would pipe in for a moment before giving way to Arpad again.

They welcomed us warmly and we ate a meal at the mayor’s house. When we finished Arpad sat down in front of the fireplace and beckoned us to sit near him on a wooden bench. His wife brought us all a small glass of Palinka made from plums.

“We’d be honored if you’d spend the night here. There is no tavern. Tonight is a not a good night to camp out. It’s a full moon,” Arpad told us.

Tonya, whose bolder than I, asked what he meant by suggesting a full moon was somehow sinister?

Arpad looked over at his wife who was quietly knitting. I could tell he was wrestling with something, but he couldn’t quite get it out. Finally, after a long awkward pause, he said there was a pack of wolves nearby that hunted during full moons. I thought it was an odd excuse but moved on when the conversation shifted. It was almost midnight when we went to the bedroom they provided us with.

“Please. Lock your door. Dobrú noc,” Arpads wife said.

Tonya and I both felt uneasy as we got into the bed. Shortly thereafter, we heard a wolf howl. Then another. And another. We sprang from the bed and went to the window in time to see a group of naked men transforming into animals. Wolves to be exact. The process looked agonizing as their limbs twisted and reformed.

The largest of the pack stood up on his hind legs and howled at the moon. Soon they were all standing and howling with great enthusiasm. We noticed a wooden cage near the pack of werewolves. One of them, the biggest and probably the leader, opened the cage and pulled a terrified man out!

The leader then pointed towards a tree line and growled “Go!”

The man broke out into a loping run towards the forest. He was almost there when the leader encouraged the others to go after him. Their animalistic shouts of joy froze Tonya and I’s blood.

We knew there was no where to go, so we resigned ourselves to being in the locked room. Neither of us could sleep as we waited for the sun to rise. At first light we grabbed our backpacks and left the room. Arpad and his wife were already up and sitting at a table drinking dark coffee.

He got up and pulled over two chairs.

“Come eat with us before you go!” Arpad offered.

It was a traditional meal of Slovakian bread with butter, ham, cheese, boiled eggs, salami, vegetables, sausages and honey to round it out. I was surprised how hungry I was and dug in eagerly. The sausage was excellent, the ham tasty, the cheese zesty, the eggs just right, and the bread was fresh and hot.

Tonya wasn’t as hungry and just picked at her food. Afterwards our host wished us good travels and asked a question; “Did you like the sausage? Our hunters were successful last night.” 

Somehow, Tonya and I kept from retching. We didn’t want to offend Arpad and end up being served for breakfast ourselves! After our farewells we set out at a quick pace. We weren’t exactly running…but I think it was a record for miles walked in a day for us.

I remember we got within eyesight of Castle Bran (also called Dracula’s castle). It was built on a steep cliff between Magura and Dealul Cetatii. The imposing castle looked down into the Moeciu Valley where we were trekking along.

Tales of Vlad the Impaler (Vlad Tepes) filled out thoughts as we looked for a place to camp for the night. Oh wait! I was just supposed to tell one story.

We had other strange encounters during our travels, and I expect we’ll have more in the future. So, I’ll leave it up to you. Should we document these stories or just talk about good places to eat?

As It Stands, happy travels, my friend!

The Abby of Little Horrors

When Ivan went to school Friday night he had one thing in mind; to get even with his classmate, Miles Newton.

Their rivalry had taken on new heights in the last week when Miles visited Ivan’s girlfriend, Celia, uninvited; while Ivan was taking an exam in the world spells department.

That was the incident that crossed the line.

There’s a saying among monsters, that if you mess with another lupine’s bitch, you better be prepared to eat silver. Touch a wizard’s woman, and there’s going to be hell to pay.

Ivan wasn’t as physically big as Miles who was a werewolf, but he was smarter. He was the son of a wizard. He wasn’t going to attack Miles without some help. That’s where the Jackson twins, who were vampires, came in. They were always ready for an adventure.

Because school hours were at night, it was easy to conceal oneself in the overgrown ruins of the ancient Abby that was their school. Dusky corridors echoed with the screams of monks that were brutally murdered by Viking invaders in dark days past.

Great stones still held up the roof of the Abby, unlike the outlying buildings that were in worse repair and roofless. Stars shone down on the venerable structure and it’s strange inhabitants like curious bystanders.

The creatures of the night that attended the unusual academy of learning at the Abby, were children of werewolves, vampires, and wizards. They were taught by their elders to abide by the laws of the school without question.

Generations of little horrors were prepped for their lives by savvy teachers descended from the most powerful warlocks, witches, werewolves, and vampires of lore. For hundreds of years it had been thus.

Things were about to change.

Ivan and the Jackson twins were waiting for Miles as he rounded the corner smack dab into the three waiting attackers. No words passed. The savage brawl that followed only ended when Ivan pulled out a silver knife and drove it into Mile’s chest!

The law was broken.

When Miles body was discovered, a general alarm went off among the students and teachers. Ghosts wailed pitifully.

Magic crackled in the air angrily. New dimensions opened up. Supernatural electricity darted though the Abby’ stone walls seeking culprits for the outrage.

Chaos was taking over.

The one main rule was violated – Thou shalt not kill a fellow student.

The Abby of little horrors depended upon dark magic and ancient spells for it’s existence. The meanings of the curses and spells were long forgotten, by the central message was always crystal clear. It was a safe zone.

No longer.

A very human emotion, jealousy, was the undoing of all the little monsters. They would never be safe again anywhere. Their universe shifted slightly. A new crack grew between the real world and the supernatural one.

The difference between man and monster narrowed.

As It Stands, the line between the supernatural and the real world is a very fine one.

A Monster in the Midst

Columbus, Ohio 1849

Conor O’Callaghan, and his family of eight children and a wife, left Ireland in a coffin ship bound for America.

They huddled together in the ship’s filthy hold with the rest of the impoverished Irish immigrants escaping the An Gorta Mor (The Great Hunger) in Gaeilge, Ireland.

When God’s wrath struck Ireland’s poor population in 1845, with a potato famine, it was devastating. The people’s only staple food, potatoes, were afflicted with a Blight that turned them black.

Starving peasants tried to eat them, but ended up vomiting.

When the O’Callaghan family arrived in Columbus, Ohio, they found a place to stay in the north side of the city. In the swamp flats where inexpensive land was available. Work was also available with the city.

Two years later, the Irish settlement spread to Franklin, on Naghten Street where the O’Callaghan’s had moved up in the world into a large six-bedroom house. Conor had gotten a job in the police force.

He was also an entrepreneur who sold whiskey, disguised as Dr. Talent’s Medicinal Tonic. He sold it on the sly, and never had trouble finding customers. After working out a deal with a local bootlegger, he produced enough product to ship to other counties as far away as New York.

The moral duality of Conors life never troubled him. He always saw it as survival. He’d do anything for his pack. It was that simple. He’d defied the odds, and provided them with a roof over their head, and food in their bellies.

In his three years of police service he’d seen a fair amount of violence and broke up numerous fights. He built a reputation on toughness and the ability to get things done. He even solved a couple of murders after being promoted from patrolman to lieutenant recently.

Conor’s political and underworld contacts gave him an advantage over his fellow officers. He was both trusted and feared.

Conor and his wife Aingeal, avoided the social life in town, perferring to stay at home with their family. Neither were brought up with any social graces, and they didn’t attempt to assume them as their financial status in society improved.

Because of their desire to stay away from most people, the O’Callaghan clan was looked upon suspiciously by their gregarious countrymen. But Conor had the people’s respect, if not their love.

In one unseasonably warm night, as Conor sat alone on his porch rocking back and forth and puffing on a pipe, he heard the keening wail of a banshee! It pierced his ears and caused him to drop his pipe.

Like most of his peers, Conor was a superstitious man, and believed in banshees, fairies, and leprechauns. He knew that wail meant trouble. Someone was going to die that night. He picked up his pipe and relit it.

He heard about the murder before he even reached his office the next morning. A crowd of people, with patrolman fighting to hold them back, surrounded a body of a man sprawled out in front of the general store.

His neck and face were slashed to meaty ribbons, as was most of the rest of the body. The victim had bled out, and the drying pool of blood was attracting flies.

“Sergeant Whelan! Will you kindly cover up this body, and have it taken to the coroner’s office?”

“Yes sir! What shall I tell that reporter over there? He’s been waiting to talk to someone.”

“Tell him I don’t know a damn thing, and when I do, I’ll let them know,” Conor replied.

He didn’t like the way the day started and it was only going to get worse.

When he got back to his office he sent one of the patrolman out to bring in one of his public contacts – a drunken gadfly who knew everyone in the city. He was easily located in the nearby saloon.

Davin McGrath was an alcoholic who was well known in Columbus for spending most of his waking hours in a saloon. His keen ears picked up on conversations like a well-trained hound dog.

He knew who was mad, at who; and who was screwing someone else’s wife.
He heard many interesting conversations in the saloons confessional, presided over by the bartender, Tommy Shea.

His worth came in the form of collecting those drunken tidbits in order to get a good idea what was happening in the small community of 3,000 immigrants.

When summoned, he passed on this information to lieutenant, Conor ‘O’Callaghan.

“Right to the point today, McGrath. What have you heard about a murder on Naghten Street last night?”

He took a sip from the silver flask in his jacket pocket and regarded Conor, trying to judge his mood.

“Nothing yet, it’s too early,” he gingerly replied.

“Damn! No arguments at the saloon last night? No fights?”

“Aye, there were a few tussles, but nothing to take note of.”

Conor handed him two silver dollars. “Let me know when you do hear something won’t you?”

“Aye governor!” McGrath grinned happily on his way out.

In the following two months, two more bodies were discovered. Both were attacked on full moons. They were as badly mutilated as the first victim.

The pressure from the townspeople to catch the killer was becoming intense. Conor knew they were afraid and they wanted answers.

Worse yet, he knew who the killer was.

McGrath showed up at Conor’s office late one afternoon in a strange state.
It took Conor a moment to realize what it was, the red-eyed old man wasn’t drunk. He was dead sober and looked like hell roasted over. He wouldn’t sit down when offered.

“Gotta leave today lieutenant! I was wondering if you could float me a small stake for old times sake?”

His was trembling nervously, looking over his shoulder and around the room as he waited for a reply.

“Sit down mate. What’s the matter? Why this sudden rush to leave town?” Conor asked.

“I saw something I wish I hadn’t last night in the alley behind the saloon. I just want to move on now, and I desperately need some financial help.”

“Tell me what happen Gavin,” he said, using the other man’s first name to sooth him. Getting up from his chair, Conor came over to him and put an arm around his shoulder.

“You can tell me anything. If you have any knowledge whose committing these terrible murders it’s your civic duty to tell me right now.”

“I’m afraid,” the old man whimpered.

“What did you see last night? I must know!”

“Your son, Aidan,” he said, with cracked lips dry from fear.

“What?” Conor let go of him and took a step back. “Are you sure?”

“I went outside to drain my pecker when I saw your son down on all fours and howling like a wolf! As I watched his body transform into a hairy horror, I must of passed out.

The next thing I remember was he was tearing into that man’s body!”

“You’re were seeing things. The liquor has finally turned your brain into mush.”

“Please lieutenant, I won’t say a word about this to anyone! I’ll disappear.”

Conor studied the old man, watching him tremble uncontrollably, with one hand out pleading. No one would ever believe his crazy story. Their family secret was bound to get out someday. But not today.

He opened a desk drawer and took out a leather wallet. Pulling out some paper money, he gave it to McGrath and wished him luck.

Shortly after the visit, Conor quit his job and moved his family out West to start over.

Aidan’s secret was forever guarded with the family’s new system to lock him up on full moons. They’d gotten careless in Columbus.

For decades the people of Columbus, Ohio talked about the rash of horrific mutilation murders. Rumors had it that the killings mysteriously stopped when the town drunk and a police lieutenant suddenly left town.

As It Stands, Conor was willing to do anything for his pack.

The Hobo and the Werewolf

Lewis “Doc” Shrivner became a hobo when the market crashed in 1929.

His descent into poverty was a reflection of what was happening to Americans everywhere. The rich suddenly became poor. The poor somehow got poorer. Hard times caused lifestyle changes.

Doc once rode in First-Class train cars and enjoyed the many amenities that came with it. The conversion from riding in luxury to empty boxcars was surprisingly smooth for him. He was always disillusioned with humanity in general.

His decision to “drop out” of society turned out to be a good one, and he found himself happy for the first time in his life. The months turned to years and he made a reputation for himself in the hobo universe.

After two years of riding the rails without being thrown off a train, he became a legend. His peers talked about his exploits with pride. He’d made many a fool of the security thugs that went after him.

Doc knew about, and was greeted at, every hobo camp from California to Maine. His stories were shared from coast-to-coast by admiring fans. Sometimes his peers suspected he was telling them a yarn, but still eagerly listened, enthralled by his mellow baritone and speaking skill.

One night in an Indiana hobo camp, Doc told a group of about twenty men and boys about a scary experience he once had.

“I was riding from Iowa to Idaho on the Central Railroad, when I met a strange man. Right after I jumped onto the car I looked around, as always, to see who else might be there.

“A big man wearing a knee-length fur coat was standing in a corner staring at me. His dark hair and long beard were scraggly and unkept. But it was his pale blue eyes that got my attention. They were souless. Like a sharks. 

“I said hello, and he nodded slowly. As I came closer his size surprised me. He was the biggest man I’d ever seen. And believe me, I’ve seen a lot of guys in my time. He was at least seven feet-tall and thick with bulging muscles.

“The bearskin coat he wore was greasy-looking and matted with dried mud and something else. He wasn’t wearing a shirt under his coat, and his dirty chest showed numerous scars. I wondered if he was a mountain man like I read about in dime novels?

“He still hadn’t said anything when I approached him and stuck out my arm to shake his hand. They call me Doc, I said conversationally, What’s yours?

I saw what looked like a flicker of a smile as he reached out his enormous hand (twice the size of mine) and engulfed mine…gently.

“I am Richard, Earl of Sandwich, late of England,” he said with a true limey accent. He sounded serious, so I didn’t laugh at what I thought was a silly pretense on his part.

“Suddenly he was serious, “Will you help me?” he asked.

“If I possibly can, I replied.

He stooped over and picked up a heavy-looking canvas bag.

“There were steel shackles for hands and feet inside. He dropped the bag and I heard the metal clank. Taking a key off a necklace he wore around his thick neck, he handed it to me. 

“It’ll be dark soon, so I don’t have much time, he continued. I’m a werewolf – I do hope you know what that is – and there’s going to be a full moon tonight. Before it comes up I need you to lock me up until daylight comes, and I’m in my man shape again.

Well, I can tell you boys, I was scared shitless. I couldn’t very well turn him down though. When I stopped gulping for air and calmed down, I assured the Earl I’d be glad to help. I’m pretty sure he smiled when I said that.

The hours went by fast and I locked him up as he requested. He told me he was tired of killing people, but he didn’t know how to rid himself of his curse. The padlock and chains, he reasoned, would contain him long enough until the curse withered in the daylight.

Just before the moon was totally full he said one more thing.

“I hope this works!”

The next thing I knew a snarling horror was struggling across from me, trying to rip itself loose from the chain wrapped around the two-by-fours lining the side of the car. It’s howls curdled my blood!

To my absolute horror, the thing broke loose and was working on the chains holding it’s hairy arms and legs together. I can still hear it’s howls of rage. Then it was free and looking at me!

“What happened next?” One of the listeners cried out.

“It killed me!” Doc howled with laughter.

The group slowly stood up stretched. Everyone was getting ready to settle down for the night when a huge man in a bearskin coat stepped into the light of their bonfire.

Could you help me?” he asked.

As It Stands, werewolves, or no werewolves? That is the question.

The Curio Shop On The Corner

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Louisiana 1924 – Livingston County

The Village of Albany – Population 396

Main Street consisted of a barber shop, a general store, two boarding houses, a saloon, and on the corner, a curio shop with a fully articulated skeleton hanging in the front window.

The only time people came to Albany was if they had relatives there, or if they went to the curio shop. The owner and curator of the shop, Mr. Li Wei, was a wrinkled old man with a long thin white beard and piercing blue eyes.

He walked with the aid of a long wooden staff that had intricate carvings on it. He looked out-of-place wearing a plain black suit, white shirt, and red bow tie. A photo of him in full Mandarin dress when he was a young man hung over a display of shrunken heads and poison arrow tips.

In the course of Mr. Li Wei’s years of travel he acquired curiosities from all over the world. From Memento Mori Dolls to an ornate Tibetan Human Kapala, Mr. Li Wei collected oddities that went from the macabre to the ugly.

There were worn out old movie props and rows of apothecary jars holding strange herbs and roots in glass cases. Trick boxes made from bamboo sat alongside intricate pieces of carved ivory in the front display case.

Mr. Li Wei also had a dark secret.

He provided protection for werewolves by locking them up in his cellar on nights when there was going to be a full moon. It started with his son, Niu, then his werewolf friends in Livingston County began showing up too.

On some full moons he had as many as four werewolves locked up in chains and snarling at one another until dawn. In the morning he’d unlock the chains of the sleeping men.

The good news for Livingston County was that ever since Mr. Li Wei opened his curio shop unsolved murders went down to zero. For thirty years there was no talk about loup-garou’s in Livingston County, unlike the other counties surrounding it.

Who knows how many more years that arrangement could have gone on if not for the local chapter of the Klu Klux Klan?

One afternoon a Kluxer saw a black man enter the curio store. The problem with that was the curio store was considered to be on the white side of town. Blacks were not allowed to be there.

The Kluxer, sensing some fun, got out of his chair and ran over to the saloon. Minutes later six rowdy drunken men showed up at the curio shop. Their leader went in first and moved Mr. Li Wei aside as he looked for the black man. He wasn’t there!

Where’s that nigger?” the Kluxer shouted.

“Not here anymore. Go away,” Mr. Li Wei calmly replied.

“Are you screwing with me chink?” 

“No screw. Li, no know. Man leave.”

The others outside grew restless when they saw there wasn’t going to be any action.

“Niggers are not allowed on this street! You know that.”

“That what Li said. So man go.”

As the Kluxer walked out the door he couldn’t help but feel the old man was hiding something. How could that “darkie” get away so fast he wondered?

The next night the curious Kluxer, Billy Ray Nedhem, decided to stake out the curio shop instead of going out hunting with his friends.

It’s going to be full moon tonight Billy Ray! C’mon!”

“Naw…you old boys go without me. I’m feeling a bit peckish.”

From Billy Ray’s position on the second floor bedroom in the boarding house he was able to see the curio shop clearly. Hours slipped by as Billy Ray tried not to nod off when he saw a man appear at the curio shop door.

Instantly alert, he watched the man enter. He was white. He kept watching and another man showed up. He was black! Then another white man went in. It was enough for Billy Ray who grabbed his hunting rifle and run downstairs.

Two of his Kluxer brothers were playing checkers in the front parlor.

“Grab your shootin irons!” Billy Ray shouted. “Follow me!”

When the three men burst through the door Li Wei was sitting in a wicker rocking chair puffing on a long whalebone pipe. His eyes lit up when Billy ray pointed his rifle at him.

“That does it you sneaky chink! Where are you hiding them? I seen ’em come in here with my own eyes.” 

Mr. Li Wei looked over at a bright red oriental rug in the corner. He knew Billy Ray had been watching him. So he didn’t chain the werewolves in the cellar up. The moon was full when he pointed at the rug and said, “Trap door.”

Billy Ray grabbed the rug and threw it aside. Grinning he opened it and charged down the steps with his buddies behind him. Mr. Li Wei quickly closed the door and put the rug back over it.

He could barely hear their screams.

As It Stands, some things are best left alone.

 

The Last Blood Drive

01-blood-transfusionThe human slave donors stood quietly in line outside the temporary tent, waiting to give their lives.

Blood was desperately needed for the victims of the attack.

Nine of them lay in a row of cots, weakened by their terrible wounds. A slave knelt by each of them making sure the IV’s were working properly.

When the donor slave was finally drained of all life blood, the body was tossed aside into a growing pile of corpses. The four vampires that survived the attack intact were gathered outside the black tent keeping watch.

It was the second time this winter that the werewolves launched a vicious sneak attack deep into the vampire’s stalking grounds on a full moon. Clearly, something had to be done. It was a lean time, and their human stock supply was getting dangerously low.

The vampire community was using up their walking blood banks to survive these savage assaults.

Count Baltar, their leader, urged them to come up with a way to find out where the werewolves spent their days as humans and easy targets. This was the second blood drive, and possibly their last, if they weren’t successful he warned them.

The population of werewolves in the area had been growing steadily for years.

The werewolves knew they were getting close to killing the last 13 vampires in the entire country. By banding together, the werewolves were finding out they were more than a match for their blood-sucking foes.

Their wounds healed faster and they didn’t require human blood to heal.

In their human state the werewolves were able to organize the humans in the small country. They taught them how to kill vampires and where to look for their lairs during the day when they slept.

Finally the day came and no more blood lines were needed. The vampires were all gone.

Once that was achieved the humans celebrated for days. So did the werewolves who declared open season on them with their foes out of the way.

As It Stands, mankind is no match for the supernatural.