The Dauphin County Horror

Listen to master story-teller Otis Jiry narrate this story here.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 1981

People began disappearing in the fall of 1979.  Not long after The Three Mile Island accident happened on March 28th.

The partial meltdown in reactor number 2 of Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (TMI-2) in Dauphin County, caused widespread panic. Locally and nationally. Despite company denials, radioactive gases and radioactive iodine were released into the environment.

Nuclear agency experts assured the public there was no lasting damage done. The radioactive gases that escaped would soon dissipate, they told Dauphin County and Harrisburg residents.

The incident was rated a five on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale: Accident with wider consequences.

It wasn’t long before residents in Dauphin County reported seeing strange things in the woods in the aftermath of that accident. Strange lights and colors. A local farmer disappeared without a trace, leaving behind a bewildered family.

A year later, a couple of hunters claimed they saw a man-like thing tearing a deer apart – limb by limb – on their way back to their pickup truck. It was dusk.

When asked by friends at the bar afterwards why they didn’t shoot the thing, both men said they didn’t want to take the chance of killing a man. It was hard to make the figure out. He could have been a really big strong man. As far as they could tell, he wasn’t breaking any laws.

That night, on their way home, one of the hunters asked the other, “Why didn’t you say something about that thing eating the deer’s raw flesh? How it tore pierces of meat off the legs with its bare teeth?

“Who would have believed us?

“But, it’s true.”

“Don’t you understand Bob? It sounds like crazy talk and people would be laughing at us. You don’t want people laughing at you. Do you?

Henry dropped Bob off at his trailer. He didn’t want Bob to know how shaken he was. He wasn’t sure what they saw in the woods, but the next day when he backtracked their trail he found freshly broken deer leg bones, half a rib cage, and a skull with the eyes missing.

In the following months people began disappearing. Authorities searched everywhere. Including the woods. People were warned not to go out alone after dark. A dark pall had descended over the county. Fear.

Coffee shops were crowded with old men trading conspiracy theories like baseball cards. Bob and Henry went hunting again. They were both combat Vietnam veterans and never tired of one another’s company. Or hunting.

Both men lived alone. Bob’s wife had died of breast cancer. Henry was divorced. His wife couldn’t stand living with his PTSD. Both men carried Remington Model 783 Bolt-Action rifles, with 3-9×40 scopes. They were both expert shots and trackers.

For weeks they hunted for deer, and signs of the mysterious man who now haunted their dreams. Was it a man? If not, what? It was obviously powerful. And elusive.

The county sheriff was frantic. People continued disappearing. The word was getting out to the world. Something bad was happening in tiny little Dauphin County. National reporters were seen around town talking with residents. Sniffing around like curious squirrels on the scent of a story.

Henry adjusted his new Pulsar Challenger GS 3.5×50 mm Night Vision scope. He’d made a decision. He was going to “return to the jungle” and hunt the thing out there. He didn’t tell Bob. Both men were in their late 30s, but Bob wasn’t in as good as shape as Henry was. There wasn’t a pound of fat on him, unlike Bob who was losing the battle of the bulge to sweets and pasta.

As Henry prepared for his hunt, donning camos, and filling ammunition clips, he thought back to his days in Vietnam as a tunnel rat.

A flashlight and a .45 caliber pistol were all that stood between him and death when he slithered into the enemy’s tunnels. He was bit once by a venomous snake, but survived thanks to a savvy medic who carried snake anti-venom with him in the bush.

He packed his rucksack with enough supplies to stay out for a week. His web belt had a military K-Bar knife, two 20-round ammo pouches, two 30-round ammo pouches, and two 40-round ammo pouches,  a compass, and a length of rope. He had a custom-made sling for his Heckler & Koch Mp7 automatic pistol.

The Mp7 fired 4.6×30 mm ammunition capable of penetrating soft body armor. Henry liked that it was light – only weighing a couple of pounds but could bring on major heat. He grabbed his bolt-action Remington with the new night scope, and locked the front door. He pinned a note on the front door: “Back in a week. Visiting family.

The first three nights there was no sign of the thing. On the fourth night – on a hunch – Henry was checking out a perimeter fence surrounding the 3-Mile Island Generator Plant when he heard a scream.

Alarms went off and two security guards ran out of a small wooden shack. Henry watched them though his scope. They ran around with automatic weapons, shouting. Two more guards appeared and they were also shouting frantically.

From his position in the tree line, Henry watched the chaos unfold. Then he saw the thing! It had a man’s body tucked under one massive arm, and was loping along seemingly unconcerned with the noise less than 300 yards away.

Suddenly he burst into a run and disappeared further down the tree line. Henry jumped up from his kneeling position and gave chase. The thing was moving amazingly fast. It didn’t make a lot of noise but Henry’s ears were still keen enough to hear it.

After a hard five-minute run, the trees opened up and Henry saw rolling hills. And nothing else! Where did the thing go? He felt exposed out in the open on a full moon that caused shadows to appear everywhere.

Henry went back to the tree line and climbed halfway up a tall spruce. He picked a sturdy branch to sit on and lashed himself to the tree. He slept soundly, dreaming about a large underground complex he discovered in Cambodia in 1970.

The next day Henry walked around the hills looking for tracks and tunnels. It was well into the afternoon when he discovered a well-hidden cave that was big enough to stand upright in. The charnel house smell told him dead things were inside.

He loosened his Mp7 and popped a 40-round loader into the gun. Turning the LED light on his helmet to bright, he cautiously stepped into the dark interior. Minutes ticked by. At one point the cave branched off to the left, before continuing on in a straight line. Henry checked out the new opening and discovered mutilated human bodies inside!

Skulls and rotted flesh in piles. Broken bones. Gnawed on bones. Flies and maggots. Scraps of torn clothing clinging to headless torsos. This is where the missing people were. Butchered and forgotten.

As Henry took in the horror his sense of survival kicked in when he heard a noise from within the cave. Something was grunting and growling. That’s not Charlie out there good buddy, he murmured to no one.

The best defense is a good offense Henry use to tell his friends. No more thinking. Time to act.

Henry stepped out into the main tunnel and fired quick bursts in both directions. The shots thundered through the tunnels. No sign of the thing. Only the scent of gun powder. He popped the loader out and replaced it with another 40-rounder. It was time to get out of the tunnel.

It took him longer than he thought. He wasn’t out of the putrid tunnel until nightfall.

Instinctively getting out of the open, Henry trotted over to the edge of the forest. He re-slung his Mp7, and unhitched the sling holding his Remington Bolt action. He held the rifle up and peered through the night scope, waiting for the thing to appear.

It troubled Henry that he didn’t know what the thing looked like. Or what it was. It was best to know your enemy. He learned to never underestimate the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. To do so could mean your life. The more you knew, the better.

Hours later he spotted movement on a nearby hilltop. He focused the scope and found himself staring at the thing’s face. It might have been a man’s face once, but the grotesque thing he saw in his cross hairs was so misshapen it was unrecognizable as any known animal.

He squeezed the trigger on his Remington. The shot caught the thing near one of it’s uneven eyes. It looked startled at the impact, but didn’t fall down. Instead, it turned in his direction and charged!

He fired the Remington one more time, and dropped it while grabbing the Mp7. In one motion he popped a 30-round clip in it and fired away. The full burst only slowed the thing down. He tried to pop another clip in when the thing slammed into him, sending him violently backwards!

The Mp7 flew out of hands as he fell. Without thinking he drew his K-bar and staggered to his feet. His nose was bleeding profusely as the thing drew itself up. It was an abomination of a man. A hideous reminder of the perils of radiation, and body transformation.

Henry was startled to hear a gun shot. Sounded like a 12-gauge. Part of the thing’s head disappeared, and another shot followed. The thing swayed drunkenly and took a step towards Henry. Two shots this time! Both barrels slamming into the things chest. A pause. Then two more shots, and the thing crumbled to the ground, both legs blown away.

Bob stepped up to the still heaving body and ejected two shells. As he popped two more shells in he asked Henry if he was alright? Then he fired both barrels again into the midsection. They burned the thing afterwards.

As the two old friends walked away from the bonfire, Henry finally asked, “How did you know what I was doing Bob?”

“You haven’t got any family left like the note said. Other than me,” he chuckled. “I figured you wanted to hunt the thing, but didn’t want me to go along in case I’d get hurt. So I just followed you my friend, and covered your back.”

“Are we going to tell people what happened after the murders quit?” Bob wondered.

“Hell no! They’ll just think we’re crazy veterans telling war stories,” Henry assured him.

As It Stands, as the bard said, “all’s well, that ends well.”

The Little Pawnshop of Horrors

thUDZN1MVJEstuardo Zacapa, late of Guatemala, bought a little pawn shop in Oakland, California, for a price he couldn’t refuse.

His cousin and lawyer said not to talk about what a great deal he got with anyone.

The prior owner was killed by a crackhead who carried a shotgun into the store to sell. When told he wasn’t interested in buying it, the crackhead fired both barrels into the owner’s body!

Estuardo did not know this when he bought the business. Even if he did know it, chances were he would have bought it anyway. It was a chance to come to America. The land of his dreams.

It took him twenty years to save up a nest egg big enough to realize his dream of leaving Guatemala. His cousin, Adolfo Benitez, moved to Oakland fifteen years ago, and had his own little restaurant that brought in enough to support his big family of eight children.

It was he who kept an eye out for business opportunities for Estuardo. It was he that talked Estuardo into learning how to speak English ten years ago. So when he called one day about buying a pawn shop in Oakland, Estuardo eagerly agreed to.

Adolfo set him up with a passport, work visa, and information on how to apply for citizenship.

A week later, Estuardo was living in a small apartment in downtown Oakland. He was alone in the world, and his needs were simple. He put all of his trust in his cousin’s advise and bought the store.

He lived in the apartment for a month as the sale went through escrow. During that time he read everything he could get his hands on about pawn shops. Trade magazines, and books, that gave him the basics he needed. He hoped.

When he finally got the key to the store he moved his meager belongings into the smallest of the two rear rooms. There was a bed frame, but no box springs or mattress in it. A three-legged night table stood next to the maple headboard.

He didn’t hold a grand opening because he couldn’t afford advertising. He needed what he had left to eat, pay his water and electric bills, and a small cushion for emergencies. So he just hung an Open sign on the front display window one day.

He was surprised when a dozen customers showed up. Seven of them pawned items for money. The other three bought items he had for sale. One of the sales was a wizen monkey head that looked alarmingly like a human shrunken head.

It came with a piece of paper certifying that it wasn’t a human head, and was harvested 100 years ago when there were no restrictions against such souvenirs. The other two sales were a watch, and a faux gold necklace with colored stones.

Some of the items pawned were a Japanese Katana sword, a high-end coffee machine, a nearly new set of socket wrenches, a 1975 String Ray bicycle, a set of naked manikins, and a Black and Decker skill saw still in the box.

When Estuardo decided to renovate the two back rooms he tore the carpeting out and the old dry wall. During that process he discovered two badly decomposed bodies standing up behind his bedroom wall.

They were so old they looked like mummies. He called the police and they came and recovered the bodies and left. It shook him up, but he managed to finish the room makeovers a week later.

He never heard back from the police and didn’t particulary want to walk into the police station and ask about the two dead people that were in his room. His curiousity was aroused and he went to the public library.

He went through reams of past issues of the daily newspaper the East Bay Express, all the way back to it’s inception in 1978. The Express, known for investigative news and feature stories would have what he was looking for according to the libarian; any information about his pawn store.

It did. The pawn store building dated back to 1911. It started out as a general store but transformed over the generations into a pawn store around 1931. The building was the site of countless murders over the decades.

The more he read he got a feeling of dread. Since the first murder happened in 1914, not a year passed where a murder wasn’t committed! Some years there were as many as six murders!

It wasn’t always an owner who was murdered every year. Some owners ran the business for ten years and more before being killed themselves. But, in the end they all died violently. By the time Estuardo was done reading about the building’s history he knew he had to do something.

The building, the store, demanded a human sacrifice every year. It became apparent to paranoid Estuardo that as long as he owned the building someone had to die. He thought about the dark Mayan gods of his heritage and their demand for blood.

He decided he’d rather be the priest than a victim and fed the building a month later by shooting a customer in the head while he was bent over a glass case looking at a Katana. Afterward, he told the police that he was attacked.

As It Stands, I know there must be a cursed old store building genre out there in the hinterlands that I’ve tapped into.

The Secret Life of Preston Smith


“But I lived in a world where you could never want what you wanted out in the open.” –Tayari Jones

At a very early age, Preston Smith (an only child), learned not to tell his parents the truth about everything.

It was pointedly apparent that he not talk about the animals he killed, and how much fun he had when doing it.

When he did, he got into lots of trouble.

That set the stage for the other Preston who was allowed to think or do whatever he wanted – no rules – no lectures. Total freedom. The older he got, the other Preston demanded more time.

Preston was always a good student and got great grades. College came easy for him. He lived on campus, but had no interest in fraternities. Not that he wasn’t social. He had a girlfriend.

She, Laura Lee, even fell in love with him. The other Preston didn’t like her however.

Still, they dated until he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. To celebrate this accomplishment, the other Preston took over and viciously murdered her a week after graduation.

It took Preston two years before he had his own successful practice. His reputation for helping people grew every year. Former patient referrals and word-of-mouth kept him very busy.

At first, both Prestons settled into a comfortable routine working like a well-oiled machine. They delved into patients inner fears like miners in search of gold. It was refreshing to Preston to know he had an excellent reputation.

No one ever linked the bad things that happened to some of the patients to Preston. Why should anyone have reason to be suspicious if one of the nuts killed themselves? If, on a rare occasion police did come by seeking information on a deceased client, Preston always cooperated.

One thing troubled Preston; the other Preston had established complete control when nightfall fell four years into the practice. During the day it was still a joint arrangement. This slow dawning of facts (unequal hours) told him the other Preston was making a move for complete control 24-hours a day.

He knew he was going to die soon.

His father and mother always wanted him to tell the truth. He reflected on his 34-years and what goals he accomplished. Preston wanted to be like normal people, even after he slaughtered his parents, two aunts, and a friend in a night of horror.

It was about freedom. Wasn’t it?

As It Stands, I was shocked at the carnage that one man, Stephen Paddock, created in Las Vegas recently. It made me wonder how many other people are leading “secret lives.”

The Sage of 4th Street’s Deadly Game



Psychopaths come in a variety of packages.

Some just kill their victims straight out with whatever’s handy.

Some like to play with their victims. “Cat and mouse” is a favorite game. It rings a bell among the unbalanced set.

Then there’s the more refined psychos who like to stage elaborate games with their prey.

That would be “The Juicer.” He’d forgotten his birth name years ago. One of the many street denizens in Los Angeles called him The Juicer once. He liked it, and kept the nickname.

The Juicer lived to play the Deadly Game. He invented it years ago and was still refining the rules and the roles of the participants. It took three people to play, not counting himself.

The best part of the game was that players came to him. The Juicer, also known by his business and stage name, The Sage of 4th Street, had a fortune-telling business. It was located in a nondescript neighborhood that only had a few old storefronts.

“Fortunes Told Anytime,” the sign outside The Juicer’s business read.

He looked for people who were gullible in their grief, easily hypnotized, and single. It wasn’t easy, and he often waited months before getting enough good candidates to play.

When the big day arrived and he had all three qualified gamers, the fun started. Each person was locked in a wooden box that was only three-feet high by seven-feet long. with air holes on the top.

A small speaker was inside each box. The boxes were the only thing in the tiny room with the concrete floor. One bright LED bulb dangled from the ceiling. The three unwilling gamers would still be sleeping off the effect of the drug he gave them.

The Juicer unlocked the end of each of the boxes. When they woke, they’d be able to crawl out. Then he went back up the stairs, shut the trapdoor, and went to his parlor. He could see the boxes and the room clearly, with the cameras he’d installed.

He sat down and poured himself a cup of tea from a fine China teapot one of his past victims gave him in appreciation when he contacted her dead husband the first time. He put one lump of sugar in his cup and glanced at the monitor. The room was also audio monitored and he could hear every noise.

Box number one contained, Dan Wrightwood, a thirty-three year-old vegan nature boy. In box number two, he had Linda Lunquist, a single 22-year old woman. Box number three contained, Elton Eisenberg, a 20-year old college freshman at UCLA.

He listened as they woke up, one by one, and realized they were in a box. The screams always provided a great prelude to what would soon come. He finally spoke to them, “There’s a little ring just behind your head. Pull it and you can get out.”  

The three wood boxes shook and all three of them slithered out on their backs at about the same time. Dan was the first to stand up and inspect the room. Linda and Elton slowly got to their feet by supporting one another.

They’d all been unconscious for over 24 hours and were thirsty and hungry. The Juicer savored their confusion for a few minutes before he announced, “I’m going to give you an apple. Enjoy!”

The basement door opened and he tossed the apple in. The three looked down at the bruised apple. Elton bent down and picked it up. “We can each take a bite” he suggested.

That was Day One, and The Juicer smiled in anticipation. Seven days later he announced that he was going to give them an apple again, “Enjoy,” he called out as he lobbed it down.

Now was time to make his bet. Who would be the last person standing? He figured Dan, being the biggest and strongest, would be the sure bet. But after watching them on the monitor another week, he wasn’t so sure.

Week three was a bloodbath as they clawed, bit, and hit each other until passing out. The combination of Elton and Linda versus Dan kept the game interesting. When he tossed the last apple down on week four, Linda was the only one alive. She died the next day.

The Juicer cleaned up all the evidence, until not even Sherlock Holmes could find a clue.

As It Stands, I’ve always been uneasy with fortune teller types.