The Mail Order Bride

Mail order brides were a common occurrence in the Old West, so when Hank told his friend Logan he’d sent for one, they celebrated in the Bucket Of Blood saloon until they were kicked out by the bartender who was closing up.

Logan had married a lady from Boston last year, when she replied to his ad for a bride. Seeing his friend so happy, Hank decided it was time to seek martial bliss himself. It was pretty lonely at the miner’s camp in Big Gulch, Nevada.

He’d saved up money that he earned hunting for meat and furs for the miners, and felt confident that he could support his new wife.

Unlike Logan, who worked hard everyday at the gold mine owned by the Loman Brothers, Hank was a free spirit who didn’t want to be tethered to anyone, or business.

Gold was first discovered in the vicinity of Carlin in Eureka County, Nevada, in the 1870s, and by the time Logan and Hank arrived from Ohio, it was a thriving business in Jackass Junction.

Hank was a good hunter, and the fur that he cured was easily sold to miners. He also made arrangements with other small mining towns like Jackass Junction, to bring them meat in exchange for coffee, tobacco and liquor.

Once he decided to get married he built a log cabin away from the boom town, and filled it with crude wooden furniture he made himself. There was a bed, kitchen table, four chairs, and several wooden shelves on the wall near a wood-fired stove he bought in a 1887 Sears catalogue.

There were still very few women in the area, and when one arrived in town it was a big occasion for the men, who gathered on the street to greet them. As soon as word got out a newcomer was there to meet her husband, most of the men lost interest and went about their business.

Hank purchased a buggy and two roan horses to pull it. When the day came around for his new bride’s arrival, he joined Logan and the other men in town, lingering around at the saloon.

“What’s her name again pard?” Logan asked.

“Annabel Lee,” Hank cheerfully replied.

There conversation was abruptly terminated when someone shouted, “Coach is here! The stagecoach is here!” The men poured out of the saloon like lemmings to get a look at the new arrivals.

It was a bumper crop of brides, with five women inside. Turned out that only two were brides, and the other three were “soiled doves,” to the absolute delight of the women-starved miners.

Annabel Lee stood out from the other sun-tanned women, because she was so pale. She wore a black dress, with a matching hat and veil, and carried an umbrella. Hank couldn’t help notice some men staring at her oddly.

The stagecoach driver was pulling down Annabel Lee’s luggage when Hank approached her timidly.

“Might you be Annabel Lee?

“You are Hank then. You’re much more handsome than in the photo you sent me.” she said matter-of-factly.

Hank blushed under his recently trimmed beard.

“Thankee mamI’ll take care of your luggage.

Hank helped her up to the buggy seat and went after her luggage. Left alone for a moment, she raised her veil slightly…and hissed, as she surveyed the townspeople.

Hank returned after loading her luggage, and hopped nimbly up onto the buggy seat beside her. He took the reins and gently tugged them. The roan’s took off in a steady pace as they headed to the cabin.

After a few cursory questions the conversation died down. Hank had never felt more awkward in all of his life. His only experience was with a prostitute in the nearby boom town of  Hell’s Half-Acre. Once.

When they got to the cabin he helped her down and unhitched the horses. He led them over to a water trough as she stood silently in front of the cabin. After securing both horses near his stallion, he came back and opened the front door.

“C’mon in,” he said with as big a smile as he could muster.

She didn’t comment on any of the furnishings while Hank started a fire in the woodstove.

“Built this place m’sef,” he offered, by way of conversation.

She took off her hat and veil, and appeared paler than before.

“Very talented,” she softly replied. “What else can you do?” she asked coyly.

“Well…I’m a pretty fair hunter, and a decent shot with a Colt .45. Been riding horses since I was five…

She studied his face as he spoke. He seemed like a nice guy. She knew he would provide good cover for her being here.

He was her complete opposite. She was a traveler who had seen many cities in her long lifetime. He was a country boy out of his league right now. She spoke 22 languages. It was apparent to her that he hadn’t even mastered one, with his accent.

She was tired of the east coast, and when she heard about mail order brides it encouraged her to go on another adventure. So, she answered Hanks letters for a proper period of time, and then made arrangements to come out west and get married.

It had been over 30 years since Edgar Allen Poe immortalized her. She, in turn, encouraged him to pursue his tales of mystery and the macabre. He was the last man she lived with for a while.

The intervening years were spent single, roaming the streets of eastern cities in search of new blood supplies. Unlike novice vampires, Annabel Lee had evolved over the centuries to the thing she was now. The sun was no longer fatal to her. Just something to be avoided.

“I just can’t get over what a handsome man you are Hank! Please forgive me. I know I’m being forward and we aren’t married yet.”

Awwww shucks mam. I set it up with the preacher so we could get hitched tomorrow.

“How thoughtful,” she said. “Come here Hank…”

The next morning while they were riding to town, Hank felt an itch on the side of his neck. When he scratched it, he got a little blood on his fingernails. Not overly concerned, his thoughts quickly returned to getting married.

Most of the miners in town were working when they got there. The preacher was waiting in the saloon for them.

“Sorry mam!” the preacher said, “We don’t have us a church yet. This will have to do.”

Annabel Lee smiled sweetly and declared, “Oh, that’s all right reverend. I’m ready to marry this fine man anywhere.”

After the five-minute ceremony the bartender bought the bride and groom a drink. He set two beers down on the bar for them. Hank tossed his beer down without hesitation.

Annabel Lee looked at hers, and then at her new husband, “I’m so sorry. But I don’t drink any kind of alcohol. Not that I mind if you do though. It doesn’t set well with me,” she explained.

Months later, a dozen miners grew so weak they could no longer walk. The local doctor, between bouts with John Barleycorn, had no idea what was wrong with the men. He told anyone who asked that they were sicker than anything he’d ever seen. He knew it wasn’t consumption.

Hank and Logan were having a beer at the saloon one afternoon when Logan asked, “What do you think about what’s happened to those men? I ain’t never seen anything like it. The doc says the same.”

“Not sure pard.

As Hank rode his horse back to the cabin he was troubled. He knew Annabel Lee was sneaking out at night when she thought he was asleep in the wee hours. He decided that he had to find out what was going on that night.

The moon was at its fullest when Annabel Lee stealthily got out of bed. He marveled at how quiet she could be, then rolled off the bed, and pulled his trousers on and his boots. He slipped on a shirt, and leather jacket.

After a slight pause he strapped his gun belt on. One ould never be sure in this wild country.

Hank followed her trail on foot. It wasn’t easy. She barely disturbed the ground she walked on. As a hunter, he learned long ago on how to track prey. As he followed her a growing uneasiness told him this wasn’t normal.

Women didn’t just get up in the middle of the night and go for long walks without telling their husbands. There was something about her that made him uneasy at times. He just couldn’t figure out what it was.

He was lucky to catch a flash of her skirt as it disappeared inside the tent set aside for the twelve sick men. Hank got down on all fours and crawled over to the tent. A candle flickered weakly on a table next to the woman who was asleep in a rocking chair.

A pitcher of water and partial loaf of bread were on the small table. Annabel Lee confidently moved from man-to-man, sucking on their sleeping necks! Hank who was peeking from underneath the tent flap, recoiled back in sheer horror when he saw what she was doing!

The thought of lying next to that monster who was sucking the poor men’s lifeblood away was too much. He was a simple man who knew very little about supernatural things. He heard a few scary yarns growing up in the Ohio Valley.

But nothing like this.

Hank crawled away from the tent until he was near the livery stable. He got up and made a mad dash for it. Inside, he found the preacher snoring loudly and still clasping a bottle of rot gut rye in one hand.

Hank plucked the bottle from his chubby fist and shook him hard, “Wake up! I need you!” he whispered. It took a pail of water and some slapping, but Hank got him to finally wake up.

Sputtering indignantly, the preacher demanded to know why he was so rudely awakened?

“Hush! Keep it down and listen to me. What kind of creature sucks folks blood?

The preacher’s eyes grew wide as saucers. “Why do you ask?

“That gal I hitched up with, is sucking men’s blood. That’s why those miners are so sick!”

This time the preacher crossed himself, “Are you sure?”

“Saw it with my own eyes a little bit ago,” Hank assured him.

“She must be a vampire!” he said, and crossed himself again for good measure.

“What in Billy hell is that?

“A demon of the night. They can only be killed by a wooden stake through their black heart, or cutting their head off!” the Preacher explained.

“You mean bullets don’t kill them?”

“I’m afraid not Hank. They also have supernatural strength, so don’t get in no wrestling match with her.”

Hank left the now very sober preacher and went back outside. He got back down to the ground and crawled over to the tent. She was still there, stroking the hair of the sleeping woman.

Careful not to make a noise, he headed back to the cabin as fast as he could. It seemed like he no sooner got there when the front door creaked and she slipped in inside beside him on the bed.

It took all the will power he had to lie still, and wait. It wasn’t long before he could tell from her regular breathing that she was asleep. The predawn quiet seemed sinister as Hank slipped out of the bed.

Without dressing, still in his long johns, Hank went outside to the woodpile and went through a stack of sticks that were trimmed off from his last load of firewood. He picked one that was sturdy and narrow on one end.

With a nearby hatchet he sharpened it. Then he got a hammer from the tools in his small shed. The hunter in Hank kicked in as he went back inside.

Before he chickened out he put the stake over her heart and thrust down! He hit the stake again with the hammer! It was over in a moment. Her body turned to ashes. There wasn’t even a skeleton left.

Horrified and amazed, Hank got dressed and rode into town. He went straight for the saloon and waited until it opened. The bartender shook his head when he opened up the saloon.

“Kinda early Hank.”

Nearly a bottle later, Hank was still standing but reeling awkwardly.

When Logan came in the saloon later that afternoon, after working at the mine, he found Hank three-sheets-to-the-wind. Logan patted his old friend on the shoulder and asked him about married life.

Hank started to say something…but started coughing so hard, he fell down to the ground gasping for air. He finally got air enough to moan, “Never again!”

As It Stands, whose to say a few bloodsuckers didn’t go west back in the day?

In The Dead Of Night

“Your got here just in time.

“Find yourself a comfortable place near the bonfire, because I’m ready to tell a story.”

“My name is Duke Masterson, and I’m the oldest resident in Weston… still able to talk that is. There’s old Charlie Dent, but since he lost his dentures no one can understand him. Truth be told, his memory isn’t as good as mine. 

“Any of you folks from Missouri?

Only one arm went up. The rest of the group was tourists from all over the country. One young couple was busy passing a bottle of Jack Daniels back and forth while keeping their eyes on Duke.

“Just a little history first. One of the things this town has always been proud of was our rich heritage built by beer and whiskey. There was a time, long ago, Weston was a main port for riverboats, but things changed.

I’m proud to tell you we have been drinking quality beer since 1842, when John Georgian built one of the first lager beer breweries in this country. Old John was a German immigrant who brought us a fine old world beer they we still enjoy today.

“Any questions?”

“Yeah! What time does that brewery open tomorrow?” a young man with a baseball cap that said “Booze Hound” asked. A couple of other tourists laughed. Duke waited until the laughter died down.

“I’m back to bragging again about liquor. We’re also home to McCormick Distilling Company, founded in 1856. For you history buffs, it’s the oldest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi River that’s still in operation.

How about this; the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped not far from here at today’s town hall. Remember reading about William Buffalo Bill Cody? He was a resident here for years.”

“Hey Duke! One of the men sitting on a lawn chair said, “Enough history. We’re here to listen to your story!”

Applause broke out as the group looked at the old man eagerly. Duke managed to muster up a smile. They were right. They wanted to be scared tonight. They wanted ghost tales that would tickle their fears.

He was happy to accommodate them.

“Back in 1840, before we had beer and whiskey industries, most folks were farmers. Hemp was a crop that grew well and exporting rope helped keep the town going. I think I mentioned that riverboats used to come here.

“One day a strange-looking fella got off one of those riverboats and caused quit a stir. He had tattoos all over his body. His bald head was painted blue. He had three negro servants and was wearing silk robes. You can imagine what a sight they made.

“The tattooed man hired someone to haul their baggage over to the old Frontier Hotel where he rented two rooms. Well, it didn’t take long for rumors to circulate about him being a witch doctor and his negroes being zombies.

When a series of strange things started happening around town, people started questioning the tattooed man. All of the cows stopped producing milk and the chickens stopped laying eggs. The owner of the hardware store went nuts and ran down the street frothing at the mouth!

The city fathers got together and held an emergency meeting. They decided that the tattooed man and his negroes were bad medicine. Tempers flared and things sorta got out of hand because they marched over to the hotel and pulled the tattooed man and the negroes out of their rooms.

The next thing you know, they hung them from all from a tree just outside town. Before they slipped the noose over the tattooed man’s neck he cursed them all…and their descendants!

Just before they liberated him from this world, he warned them that their town would become his at night from that moment forward.”

Duke looked at the group to gauge their reactions. They were quiet and subdued.

A wolf howled nearby. The bonfire sputtered and a sudden rush of wind put it out. As the group watched in horror Duke transformed before their bulging eyes. Gone was the old man. A tall tattooed man with a bald head painted blue drew a knife from the sash at his waist.

He roared in rage, and then plunged into the terrified group!

As It Stands, storytelling time in Weston is a hell of an experience!

Ghost Radio

Listen to the story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

3-2-1…you’re on the air!

“Hello folks! Glad you could make it to my broadcast – The Tom Mahon Hour. We have a lot to talk about tonight, but before we do, I’d like to ask you something; do you believe in ghosts?

The reason I ask, is the production crew has been complaining of some wacky things going on in the studio lately. Things disappearing…and reappearing again somewhere else. Stuff like that.

I’ve got to tell you right now that I don’t believe in ghosts. If you do, call and let me know why, okay?

Let’s move on to the controversies that are currently surrounding our state legislators and crime in the local neighborhoods. Hello caller, this is Tom…what’s your name?”

“Jacob.”

“Okay Jacob, what’s your beef this evening?”

“I want those young hoodlums to quit walking over my grave.”

Pause.

“I’m sorry Jacob, I think we have a bad connection. Did you say someone’s walking over your grave?”

“That’s right! I’m getting sick of it and if it doesn’t stop I’m going to have to resort to haunting them, and the neighborhood!”

“Oh boy…they’re out tonight!” Tom laughed while hanging up on the caller.

“That’s what I like about doing this show, listeners. There’s always something new under the sun…or like in this case, the phone. Stick with me a minute while our sponsors get their messages across this windy night in Chicago.

Tom took the opportunity to see what Dexter, the production’s sound man wanted.

“What’s up Dex?” he asked.

“Someone outside wants to see you.”

“Who?” Tom asked with real interest. This wasn’t a common event.

“He says his name is Jacob.”

Tom froze. “The guy’s a nut. Tell him to leave. Say you’ll call the police.

He hurried back to his swivel chair and flipped the mic on just as the logo music ended for an ad about blood pressure medicine.

“Back again callers! I have a hunch it’s going to be a long night. Going ahead and sip on something good, and share your thoughts. This is Tom Mahon, and I’m listening.”

The next forty minutes went by quickly as people called in to complain about local issues and corrupt politicians.

“I’ll take one more call before calling it a night. Hello, this is Tom.”

“This is Jacob, and I’m not happy with you Tom. That was pretty rude, hanging up on me like that.”

Tom stared at the mic with growing horror. He didn’t like the sound of this guy’s voice.

“I told you, I’m getting tired of people walking over all over my grave. You know that empty lot you live by on Elm street Tom? Well, that’s where I was buried. Things were fine until the developers built your brand new neighborhood around my final resting place. I want it to stop!”

Somehow Tom stammered, “You’re crazy! Leave me alone!” He turned the mic off and sat there ashen faced. His heart was beating so fast he had to take a couple of deep gulps of air.

“Hey Dexter!” he shouted at the sound room. “There’s a caller named Jacob whose crazy…”

“Yeah, I know,” Dexter said. “I was listening you know.

“Don’t ever let him through again!”

Tom was still shaking when he went outside and got into his car. It would be light soon and thoughts of Jacob would dissipate during the day.

When five o’clock rolled around it was time for Tom to go to bed. He started work at midnight. All he needed were six hours of sleep.

He woke up with a start. Someone was pounding on his front door! He slipped his robe on, walked out into the living room and turned the porch light on. Leaving the latch lock in place, he peeked out the opening.

He didn’t see anything at first and started to relax thinking it was just some kid playing a prank. Then he looked down on the porch. There was a pile of foul-smelling dark rich earth spread out covering the tile.

It was 10 o’clock and he decided to stay up. He couldn’t sleep now if he wanted. This was getting out of hand. But how could he tell the police that a pile of dirt was a threat? There was the phone call from the night before. Would it be enough?

By the time he got to work he had a pounding headache. It was clear and cold outside. He welcomed the cup of hot coffee Dexter gave him as soon as he entered.

“Are we doing open mic night again, or do I have a guest tonight?” he asked eagerly.

“No guest. Sorry. It’s open mic again.

Tom sat in his leather swivel chair and held the hot cup of coffee up to his mouth and inhaled the aroma. He took a couple of aspirin and looked over a list of topics his producer, Dan, lined up for him.

The first hour of phone calls went smoothly with some lively topics. Then Tom’s jovial tone stopped abruptly as the caller identified himself as Jacob! He looked over at Dexter with panic and surprise in his eyes. Dexter looked shocked and was shaking his head.

“I’m about to lose my patience with you Tom. You find a way to keep people from walking all over my grave or you’re going to be seeing a lot of me in your dreams! This is your last warning...”

On the way home from work that morning he decided to contact the developer who was, an old classmate, and find out what the status of the open lot was.

That they were friends, was another reason he decided to buy one of his new homes, on the newly named Elm street.

“What’s that status of that empty lot at the end of my street,” Tom asked.

“It’s not a full lot. I’m not sure what to do with it.”

“There’s something you should know Rory. The neighborhood kids have been playing there frequently and there’s been a couple of injuries. At some point some angry parent may try to sue you for damages.

“I had no idea! Thanks for letting me know pal. I’ll get right on that and put up a fence with warning signs. I can’t thank you enough for bringing this to my attention.

Tom left feeling relieved. He hoped the ghost – which he now believed in – would allow time for the fence to go up before haunting him.

True to his word, Rory was at the open lot the following day with a work crew, who put up a solid wooden fence around the lot’s perimeter. No trespassing signs were also posted.

Four nights later. Tom was feeling normal again. His logic was badly bruised by the experience, but he was glad it turned out well. That night on open mic all of his callers were animated, and he was enjoying himself.

“Hello! This is Tom Mahon, how can I help you?”

“My name is Issac, and a friend of mine referred me to you to get some help.”

The skin began to crawl on Tom’s arms, and the hairs on his neck bristled. “What’s your friend’s name?” he reluctantly asked.

“Jacob. He says you can get people to stop walking all over my grave...”

Tom’s scream reverberated across the airwaves…

As It Stands, you never know what you might hear on the radio.

The Shoeshine Boy’s Street Story

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

“Shine? I’ll make ya shoes look fine!

The man passed 10-year old Leroy like he wasn’t even there. It was getting dark and soon there would be no chance of making any money. Reluctantly, Leroy folded up his little stand and seat.

He had a long way to walk back to Harlem. He couldn’t afford any kind of transportation. Not even the subway. Every penny he made went to keep his family from starving. His father was dead. His mother who had a terrible case of gout, could barely move on some days.

His three sisters, all older than him, did what they could to help provide funds for a roof over their head, and food. Being black, and poor, almost guaranteed they would never leave the slums of Harlem.

Because of bullies, and territorial gangsters, Leroy was forced to always keep moving where he did business. Some days he walked miles, relocating three or four times out of necessity’s sake.

Leroy learned his way around over the course of several years. He got to know which neighborhoods to avoid, and where it was safe to set up shop. Still, there was always new neighborhoods to explore in his search for money.

It was a new neighborhood where he hit his best payday ever!

All day long, men in dark clothes passed the Funeral Home near where he set up his stand. Many of them wanted a shoeshine. All were quiet and extremely generous, leaving him tips.

He lost track of time until the last shine, when darkness crept up on him like a thief. There were only a couple of street lamps working. Most were dark. Leroy pulled his threadbare coat around his chest tighter and shivered. A cold wind struck up as he starting walking down the street.

He was looking over his shoulder and didn’t see the man until he bumped into him! He immediately dropped his stand and covered up his head, fully expecting to be hit for his impropriety.

When nothing happened, he looked up and saw a tall pale man smiling at him.

“Sorry sir, I….”

“Don’t worry about it boy. We all get in a hurry sometimes, and make mistakes. Could I talk you into shining my shoes right now?

Despite Leroy’s misgivings about the strange-looking man wearing an 18th century coat, he set up his stand under one light that worked.

Fear tiptoed through his head as he dutifully buffed the man’s antique shoes. He knew shoes. He was sure he never saw anything like these ones.

When he was done, Leroy shyly asked if the stranger approved of his job?

The man stroked one end of his long black mustache and nodded agreeably. “Yes, well done boy. Here’s your reward.” He handed Leroy a gold coin. His eyes widened in surprise. The only gold coin he’d ever seen was in a pawn shop.

“Thank you,” he stammered.

“I’ll make a deal with you. Meet me once a month on this same day after dark, and I will continue to pay you with a gold coin. You must never tell anyone about our arrangement however.”

“Yes…” he assured him, “I won’t tell anyone.”

Then the stranger was gone.

After he got home that night he showed his sisters his prize. They were dumbfounded and excited. The next day all four kids went to the pawn shop where their uncle worked. The uncle’s eyes opened wide in surprise after examining the coin.

It was a $4 gold piece called a “Flowering Hair Stella” and was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars! The uncle was trembling when he picked up the phone and called an appraiser he knew.

“I’d guess you’ll get somewhere around $200,000 at auction,” the expert said.

All four kids screamed out loud in joy! The uncle was busy figuring out how he could get a cut of this sudden good fortune.

A month later life had changed drastically after they moved into a new house in a nice neighborhood. This sudden life of luxury caused them all to go a bit crazy and they spent most of their money.

Leroy thought about what the stranger said. He unpacked his old clothes which he couldn’t bear to throw away, and put them on. It took him a while to find his shoeshine stand. Someone had put it in attic.

He showed up at the same street where he met the stranger just before dark. The poor lighting caused shadows to undulate along the buildings and pour out into the street. He was looking at the ones across the street when he heard a cough nearby.

“Ahhhhum,” the stranger said, “You’ve returned to shine my shoes, I see.”

“Yes sir,” Leroy meekly agreed.

This time the stranger was more talkative.

“What did you do with the gold coin I gave you” he asked.

“I used it to put a roof over my family’s head, and for food for all of us,” he answered.

“Excellent! Good boy! Here’s your payment for tonight’s work.”

He handed Leroy a gold coin that looked just like the other one.

“In a month then?”

Yes…thank you!

When Leroy returned home that night he showed his sisters the gold coin. Their excitement soon changed to suspicion.

“Where you gettin these coins?” Latasha, his oldest sister asked.

“Told you. I got it for giving a man a shoeshine,” he said sullenly.

The same man?” she queried.

“Maybe...”

“What you mean maybe? C’mon lil man, this is me! Your sissy.”

Leroy began to feel guilty. He loved all of his sisters and he was keeping a big secret from them.

“Yeah…it was from the same man.”

“How did you find him again?” Tisha, his other sister asked.

“Well, that’s easy,” Tonya, the third sister claimed. “He went back to the same neighborhood. Isn’t that right Leroy?

“Yeah.”

The next day all four kids, and their mother, went to an independent coin appraiser to cut the uncle out of this windfall. He proved to be an ass the last time, demanding finders fees.

The coin was put up for auction a month later, and sold for $250,000.

This time, the mother and sisters paid off their accumulated bills, and took the rest and invested it in the stock market. Two days later the stock market crashed on Tuesday, October 24th, 1929!

The following night Leroy kept his appointment with the stranger. Once again the stranger was talkative.

“So, what did you do with the last gold coin I gave you?” 

Leroy hesitated. He hated telling the truth and risking rebuke, but he was an honest kid.

“My family lost it,” he admitted.

The stranger’s eyes darkened in anger. He looked Leroy in the eyes as if reading his mind. His countenance softening when he spoke, “I’m sorry to hear that. Here’s your coin. It’s the last one you’ll get from me. Better luck with this one boy.

Leroy looked down in his hand and saw the same type of coin as the other two. When he looked up the stranger was gone. He stood there for minutes on the sidewalk, watching the fog creep in.

When he got home he hid the coin. He would wait until he was 21 years-old and could lay claim to it without any legal challenges from his family.

As Leroy neared his legal age, he was still shining shoes. He seemed to enjoy the streets however, and started telling fantastic stories that his customers enjoyed. Their favorite story was how Leroy was really rich and was doing this – shining shoes – to pass time.

As It Stands, this was my twist on the generous stranger genre.

A Visitor From Hell

Oman was an apprentice sorcerer who studied under the Grand Master of Upswich.

While practicing a spell one night something went wrong, because instead of summoning up his girlfriend, he got a visitor from Hell whose name was Dumas.

Like most demons, Dumas was fierce-looking and smelled like death. He was also thirsty.

“So where’s you good whiskey?” he asked while taking a seat at Oman’s crude table.

The only experience Oman had with demons was when his master summoned them to perform tasks. This was the first time he ever dealt with one by himself. He was wary, but he knew enough not to show fear. That was rule number one.

“I’m a poor man. All I have is beer,” he replied.

Dumas’ tail thumped the wooden floor hard, and he rolled all three of his eyes upward in exaggerated despair.

“If that’s all there is, I suppose I’ll suffer through it. Bring me a mug!” he demanded.

“Hold on there! This isn’t how it’s going to work. I won’t order you around, and you don’t order me around. As a visitor, it’s my obligation to offer drink and food. Is that clear?”

There was a sparkle of admiration in the demon’s eyes as he agreed to Oman’s terms.

After draining four large mugs of beer, Dumas was feeling groggy and agreeable. He politely listened to Oman’s stories for hours before his heavy head hit the table and he was snoring.

When he was sure that Dumas was sound asleep he got up and went over to the book shelf his master built, and stocked, with books on magic and guides for successful sorcerers.

It didn’t take him long to find what he was looking for – Enslavement Spells. After deciding on one, he prepared himself for when Dumas woke. It wasn’t long before the demon stretched, belched, and opened all three bloodshot eyes.

Oman stood before him and recited words from a lost civilization that came before mankind. The woozy demon focused his eyes in surprise and asked, “What’s this shit?”

Oman kept chanting.

The demon farted, and scratched his hairy ass.

Oman continued to chant.

“All right, already! Don’t you get it? That babble your spewing isn’t doing anything to me. Oh, by the way…it’s damn rude of  you to treat a visitor like this.”

Oman stopped. He felt slightly embarrassed. Obviously his crude attempts were ineffective. To top that off he had to agree it was a hell of a way to treat a visitor.

“I’m sorry. I guess I have a lot to learn.”

“About what? Casting spells correctly, or how to properly treat visitors?”

“Both.”

“Fair enough. Have you got any more beer?

“No, that was all I had.”

“Any drugs? How about some killer devil weed?

“I do have some Witchy Kush that I recently cured. Pipe, or joint?”

“Let’s roast a bowl. I don’t like the taste of paper.

Oman got his wooden pipe out, and blew into it to clear any ash out. He plucked a chunk off of a fat bud and stuffed it in. Then he handed the pipe to Dumas who snapped his claws and lit it.

They quietly passed the pipe back and forth until only ash was left. Oman started to pack another one and Dumas said, “Whoa there! That was some good shit. Let’s take it easy huh?

I wonder what my master would say if he came in here right now?”

“You know what I’m wondering?” Dumas asked.

“What?”

“How did you ever manage to bring me here? I can see you’re just an apprentice, and a young boy at that.”

Oman’s face grew red with embarrassment. “I’m not a boy!”

“Okay fine. Let’s just agree you screwed something up, and now I’m stuck.”

“Your stuck?”

“Yes, damn it. You closed the door on me. I can’t get back until you open it again.”

The consequences of what he’d done hit him like a thunderbolt!

He brought a demon into the world and couldn’t send it back. His master’s anger would be terrible to behold. How could he explain it? He wasn’t supposed to be looking at that book of spells without him around.

As if reading his mind, Dumas asked, “How long until you expect to see your master again?”

Oman coughed nervously. “Any time,” he admitted.

“He’s a famous sorcerer who will make short work of me. What will he do to you?” Dumas asked.

The thought made him tremble involuntarily. “I have to find a spell to get us both out of here,” he proclaimed. The tension in the room increased as Oman looked through the book of spells.

“Here! This should work!” He quickly intoned the sacred words from Solomon’s Book of Knowledge.

Suddenly it grew dark and they could hear rushing winds. They were outside in a storm. Unfamiliar vegetation surrounded them. Something huge let out a roar that shook the ground!

A Tyrannous rex stomped into view and stopped to look at the man and the demon.

“I don’t suppose you brought the book with you?” Dumas asked.

As It Stands, this tale was a lesson on etiquette, and unlikely friendship.

Undying Love

A spark of life suddenly animated Arnaud Harte’s moldering corpse. 

His body had been thrown into a large hole with hundreds of other French soldiers after the Battle of France – also known as the Fall of France – against the Germans months before.

Now, he clawed at the dirt surrounding him with supernatural strength until he broke through to the surface.

His uniform was rotting off his decomposed corpse as he crawled out of the hole into the moonlight. Anna Marie, the love of his life, was in danger! He clearly remembered telling her, before going off to battle, that he’d always protect her…no matter what.

The German patrol was tracking Anna Marie and the other five members of the French Resistance in a forest near Paris. For two days they had eluded the Germans, but they were wearing down and several were wounded. Anna Marie was among those wounded.

The German pursuers had made camp and were setting up a perimeter when Arnaud shambled over to one of the sentries and grabbed him from behind! He never saw the thing that choked him to death. Fortunately, he didn’t feel it bite into his face!

Arnaud took his bayonet and went hunting for another sentry. As he approached another sentry the man suddenly turned around and saw him! He screamed in terror and fired a round at Arnaud, which passed through his body with no effect.

What the sentry saw was a vision from hell! It wore a ragged French uniform over it’s decaying flesh. It’s teeth were exposed in a death mask created by rigor mortis. The hallow eyes burned with hell fires. Patches of stringy hair hung from it’s partly bald head.

He meant to fire again but the thing had swiftly moved in and stabbed him in the throat with it’s bayonet. The soldier’s terrified eyes grew dull as Arnaud kept stabbing him. When he finished he went looking for another victim.

When the German camp awakened early the next morning, Hauptmann Reinhard was already barking at his men. Then he started getting the reports. Every sentry that night was dead! Not just dead, but dead and horribly mutilated!

A pall settled over the remaining soldiers. Each one felt a fear like nothing they’d ever experienced before. They had to hastily bury the bodies as Hauptmann Reinhard was eager to pursue the French Resistance fighters.

He didn’t know what to think about the men’s deaths. In all of his years in the military he’d never seen anything like it. They were all partly eaten! He couldn’t let the men know his concerns though. He had a job to do.

Later that day, shortly before the sun went down, the Germans caught up to the French fighters. In the ensuing firefight four Germans and three of the French fighters were killed. The two French survivors crawled away into the underbrush as night fell.

There were still twelve Germans left, counting Hauptmann Reinhard, when the firing stopped. It was a moonless night and the wind whispered through the trees. A wolf howled forlornly.

Anna Marie was bleeding from two wounds. One in her left arm and another in the chest. Joan Fournier, her fellow resistance fighter, was hit twice in the chest and was barely alive. They both lay hidden in a thicket of bushes. Anna Marie had a revolver with three shots left.

The German soldiers were dispirited. They couldn’t get their comrades deaths out of their minds. All of them were hardened infantry who saw several major campaigns. None of them had ever seen anything like it. Four sentries were stationed around their small perimeter.

The wolf stopped howling and the creatures of the forest were unnaturally quiet. Arnaud snuck up on a sentry and drove his bayonet through his throat! Then he sunk his teeth into the man’s face and ripped away flesh!

By the time Arnaud killed the other three sentries the sun was coming up. One of the first soldiers to awaken walked outside the perimeter to take a piss. When he saw the mangled body of his comrade he screamed uncontrollably. The rest of the camp came alive and men grabbed their rifles as they sprung up from their sleeping bags.

Hauptmann Reinhard had his Ruger out and ordered two of the men to investigate where the screams were coming from. Arnaud waited until the two new arrivals came upon their screaming comrade to attack!

He drove his bayonet into one man’s mouth and grabbed the other’s rifle from him. The other soldier went down like an ox when Arnaud shot him in the head!

It was time to end the chase once and for all.

Arnaud walked into the camp where the four surviving Germans were. He started shooting and they retuned fire. Their bullets however had no effect on Arnaud. Pieces of his decaying flesh flew off from the impact of the bullets.

The last German alive was Hauptmann Reinhard. When the smoke cleared he was lying on the ground but trying to get himself up. Arnaud walked over to him and gave his best death head grin. Then he brought the butt end of his rifle down on Reinhard’s skull!

When Arnaud found Anna Marie she was barely alive and unconscious. Next to her was her friend Joan, who had passed away during the night. He sat down next to her and held her hand as she took her last breath.

Somewhere in another world, they were alive and healthy again; and still very much in love.

As It Stands, a violent love story is off the beaten track.

The Secret Of The Old Dunsmere House

Listen to this story narrated by master storyteller Otis Jiry

If it wasn’t for the lightning, Cecil would never have gone into the old Dunsmere house.

The intensity of the storm made visibility difficult. He was still, at least, an hour walk from town. The fierce storm lashed the trees that lined the lane leading to the deserted old house.

Cecil cursed his junk heap of a pickup truck for the hundredth time. It was broken down on the side of the road four miles out-of-town. He suspected the engine finally gave up the ghost when he saw smoke pouring out of the block.

He was born and raised in Louderville, Tennessee, population 1,788. He knew all about the Dunsmere House, and the ghost stories associated with it. As a kid, he and his friends would go by there on Halloween and dare each other to go inside.

No one ever accepted the dare.

The house was built in 1858. It’s builder, Lucius Dunsmere, was destined to be a captain in the Confederate Army. He was killed at Gettysburg in Pickett’s valiant charge against a well-entrenched Union Army.

His wife, Dorie May, remained a widow for two years before marrying a prosperous businessman; Earl Jason Jones, who came with a cloudy past. No one seemed to know where he was from, or exactly how he acquired his wealth.

He built a hardware store in town and soon became a member of the city council. He was an outgoing personality who never tired of hearing his own voice. At six-feet, two inches, he was taller than the average man at the time.

It was easy to see how he stood out in a crowd with his flaming red beard, and booming voice. No one in town could beat him at arm-wrestling during drunken saloon gatherings. His ability to consume alcohol was legendary.

What people in town didn’t know about Jones was that he beat his wife and young adopted son, Blake, for the slightest infraction of his rules. They were prisoners in their own house. One more thing about Jones; he was a hired killer, willing to murder anyone for the right price.

It amused him to live in two worlds. 

One day Earl pushed his luck too far. He was beating Dorie May for not shining his boots well enough when 12-year old Blake snuck up on him and stabbed him in the back! He pulled the hunting knife out, and when Earl turned to face him…slit his throat with a vicious slash!

His life blood squirted out on Dorie May, and Blake. It splattered the floor and two walls. His big body crashed onto the wooden floor, thrashing about for a bit before finally stopping.

They both knew they hid to hide his body. It would be too hard to convince his cronies that he was attacking them, and they were only defended themselves.

It was Blake’s idea to cut the body up and to hide the parts throughout the house.

The story goes that Dorie May and Blake convinced the towns people that Earl Jason Jones took off on his own, deserting his family. When Dorie May passed away in 1891 the house reverted to Blake, who didn’t want anything to do with it.

The new owners were said to have discovered a dismembered torso in the basement and promptly moved out while the police investigated. The house was already in need of repair and the new owners gave up trying to sell it (the local gossips assured that).

As Cecil warily opened the front door, his heart was beating like a drummer in a rock band. He tried to calm himself and stepped inside. Lightning lit the room up through the open door for a moment, revealing antique furniture in need of repair.

A broken chair lay in the entryway. As he carefully stepped around it a loud clap of thunder made him piss his pants! The suddenness and the following humiliation were draining away his resolve to be brave.

He couldn’t help from feeling like that little boy who came to the house for Halloween and was afraid to enter. He did it now, but there were no witnesses. No one to share the feeling of terror that was growing inside of him like a living thing.

The wind whistled through a broken window in the living room and screeched through the house like a banshee. The spatter of rain that followed, soaked the moldering couch beneath it. A rat ran across the room and disappeared into the ancient cushion on an overstuffed chair.

He felt an additional coldness in the air. An evil presence. Even with his eyes adjusted to the darkness he could only make out basic shapes. He slid down the wall in the entry way into a sitting position.

A woman cried out in pain! A man growled something in response. The voice of a boy pleaded with the man to stop.

Cecil tried to stand, so he could run, but his legs had turned into rubber.

A woman screamed in terror! Again, and again!

The blood curdling quality of the scream finally motivated him enough to stand up…but, he ran the wrong way and into a wall, smashing through the thin sawn wood lath that was used to support plaster, exposing a hidden room.

Thunder rolled through the valley. The following lightning lit up the old house once more and Cecile saw a skull sitting on a tiny table in the corner. Next to it stood a tall man with a red beard.

Cecile’s sanity slipped away into the night.

When the search party found him two days later, he was near death and in a coma. They transported him to the county hospital where he was put in the intensive care ward.

Two weeks later Cecile came out of his coma, and was transferred to a regular room. He still hadn’t talked yet.

The doctor thought it was a good idea for his old school buddies to visit him. They might even get him to talk. One Sunday, when a group of his old buddies stopped by to see him, Cecile spoke!

He sat up in the bed and looked everyone over carefully. They clustered closer.

Any of you boys wanna arm wrestle for a drink?” he asked his stunned friends.

As It Stands, it’s always a good idea to avoid haunted houses.