A Gothic, Cosmic, and Psychological Lifetime of Horror: The 16 Greatest Short Stories from Robert Bloch

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Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

Robert Bloch wrote literature that ranged from the psychologically terrifying to the downright “weird” horror; his inspiration stemmed both from watching his first scary film on his own as a child—and his subsequent nightmares—and his admiration for the stylistic horror of H.P. Lovecraft. His stories, however, are and always will be uniquely Robert Bloch, a genius in psychological horror with a splash of the supernatural. His deep interest in serial killers brought back anti-heroes like Norman Bates and Jack the Ripper.

“The Shambler From The Stars” (1935)

This particular short story first appeared in the September issue of Weird Tales, in 1935—later on, it was included as a part of his first published book, The Opener of the Way (1945). It was one of the many works that bore the influence of H.P. Lovecraft and can be considered part of the genre of cosmic horror. More than just another author following the footsteps of Lovecraft, Bloch still included elements of Lovecraftian influence, such as the inclusion of The Necronomicon, and The Book of Eibon. Deliciously self-indulgent, Bloch’s story is about a writer of weird fiction obsessed with learning all things occult when he looks to find the aforementioned esoteric tomes of forbidden knowledge. As we all know when it comes to Eldritch cosmic horror, this writer inevitably summons something disastrous.

“The Secret in the Tomb” (1935)

Another instance of cosmic horror in the early days of Bloch’s writing career, it has been compared directly to the stylistic literature of the father of cosmic horror himself—to the point that, if the author of this had been unknown, it would have been assumed to have been a product of Lovecraft. This dark, dank tale of eldritch horror and dread is lurking, just beyond sight, and awaiting the arrival of the last descendant of a long line of sorcerers.

“The Mannikin” (1937)

Another Weird Tales original, published in the April edition in 1937, we get a tale of a strange reclusive and a disfigured, hunchbacked man named Simon, whom the locals all despise. As a short story, of course, it doesn’t take long to find that this cosmic horror is based all around the diabolical hump on Simon’s back—just wait until you find out what the hump really is.

“The Sorcerer’s Jewel” (1939)

This is a story that Bloch originally published under the pen name Tarleton Fiske in Strange Stories Magazine, in 1939; in this story we see a similarity to “A Shambler in the Stars” when we follow a photographer who takes incredibly bizarre photos as his life’s passion. While he doesn’t believe in the occult, his assistant happens to be a devotee of a peculiar occult practice and everything changes when the photographer is brought an ancient jewel.

“Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” (1943)

Over the years, Robert Bloch’s short story “Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper” has been adapted to various mediums following its publication—the story is about a man from Chicago who is approached by a gentleman from England who tells him that he’s looking for Jack the Ripper. This, of course, is strange on its own as the infamous serial killer should have died years before. The Englishman believes that Jack the Ripper has become immortal through occult means and that his serial murders are actually ritual sacrifices that restore his youth. The man from Chicago is enlisted to help to bring the Ripper to light.

“Satan’s Phonograph” (1946)

A slow burn for a short story, this haunting tale follows the narrator down memory lane as he tells the reader about the ingenious, but wildly mad piano teacher that helped him to reach Carnegie Hall—but when the pupil returns from his tours across Europe with his new wife in tow, he finds that his old teacher had been institutionalized—when his insane old teacher shows up in his house with a seemingly innocent phonograph and his wild theories, the narrator believes his teacher is simply delusional.

“Sweets To The Sweet” (1947)

Bloch spins the thread of a sinister six-year-old girl, following the narrative of the housekeeper as she speaks to her former boss’s brother, who happens to be a lawyer. The housekeeper encourages the lawyer to look into what she believes to be a brutally abusive situation between father and daughter. She tells the brother about all of the signs of alcoholism and beatings, while the child is accused of witchcraft. When the lawyer finally goes to investigate what is happening in his brother’s home, he finds out that the truth may be more disturbing than he expects.

“Floral Tribute” (1949)

An eerie tale of a young boy being raised by his grandmother brings her fresh flowers home every day—it’s not until the inhabitants of the local cemetery come to speak with the grandmother that she finds out that he has been taking them from the graves of the nearby graveyard, where he plays among the tombstones.

“The Shadow From The Steeple” (1950)

Yet another story based in the Lovecraft universe, Bloch starts the story off with the friend of a character Lovecraft had killed in his short story “The Haunter in the Dark” whom Lovecraft had modeled after Bloch himself. A convoluted and dark fictional tale based on Lovecraft and his circle of writers, we get to see the authors appearing as characters of their own making. As another story within the Cthulhu Mythos, we see how involved Bloch was still within the Lovefcraft style even at this point in his career.

“Head Man” (1950)

An interesting spin on Nazi Germany’s obsession with the occult and paranormal, a SS executioner puts everything on the line to keep possession of the heads of a man and woman who had been charged with witchcraft and executed as a result.

“The Hungry House” (1951)

A tale that will once again make you fear your own reflection in a mirror; “The Hungry House” takes place after a couple moves into their new home. As they try to get comfortable in their new house they begin to see spooky inexplicable reflections around the house and dismiss it as being an overactive imagination. It’s not until the husband finds the locked closet in the attic that they realize something is incredibly wrong with their house—in it are all of the mirrors that the previous owners had removed from the walls of the house.

“Notebook Found in an Abandoned House” (1951)

This story is told from a notebook found in an abandoned house, which was written by a twelve-year-old boy by the name of Willy Osborne who is trapped within the house by the sinister beasts, or “them ones,” that stalk him from within the woods and swamps that surround the house. “Them ones,” that Willy is scared might come and get him are monstrous, Lovecraftian elder creatures who used to be take sacrifices to be appeased.

“The Light-House” (1953)

This particular short story took special influence from a story that Edgar Allan Poe began before his death in 1849, but was never able to finish; in 1953 Bloch took this unfinished short story, finished it, polished it up, and then had it published. As such, it is considered a posthumous collaboration. It follows the pursuits of a nobleman who takes a job as a lighthouse keeper, so he may write in solitude. His loneliness gets the better of him in this weird and satisfyingly dark tale, when he tries to psychically summon a companion.

“House of the Hatchet” (1955)

A couple with a relationship on the rocks decides to take their a second honeymoon on the road—on their trip they end up stopping at a haunted tourist attraction, where the story goes that a husband had killed his wife with a hatchet in one of the rooms. When they decided to take a tour of this haunted house, the husband begins to feel a heavy dark presence in the room where the murder was said to have occurred…

“Terror In Cut Throat Cove” (1958)

Considered a horror adventure tale, “Terror In Cut Throat Cove” follows the tale of an American writer who is approached by a treasure-hunting duo; they end up recruiting him to help them locate this long-lost legendary ship that sunk with a massive fortune aboard because the writer has an undeniable fondness for the girlfriend of the treasure hunter. A crazy adventure ensues until they find the ship and one of the divers returns from the ship’s wreckage without his head.

“The Animal Fair” (1971)

This story of a drifter who ends up in the small town of Medley, Oklahoma while the carnival is in town—where he enters the a tent that houses a gorilla who happens to be the main attraction—not to mention seriously abused by his trainer. This horrifying weird tale ends in a shocking twist and is well worth the read.

Works Cited:

Cowan, Matt. “FIFTEEN HORROR TALES BY ROBERT BLOCH.” Horror Delve, 4 Apr. 2016, horrordelve.com/2016/04/04/robert-bloch/.

HorrorBabble. “The Shambler from the Stars” by Robert Bloch. Youtube/”The Shambler from the Stars” by Robert Bloch, HorrorBabble, 12 Mar. 2018, youtu.be/0Q6xA0f9SNk.

HorrorBabble. “The Secret in the Tomb” by Robert Bloch. Youtube/”The Secret in the Tomb” by Robert Bloch, HorrorBabble, 20 Aug. 2018, youtu.be/vodqchPxgCoyoutu.be/vodqchPxgCo.

Thomas, G. W. “The Early Robert Bloch.” Dark Worlds Quarterly, 6 Aug. 2020, darkworldsquarterly.gwthomas.org/the-early-robert-bloch/.

A Look into the Life of Horror Writer Dennis Etchison

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Featured Horror Books

Possibly one of the most well-received writers and unfortunately, one of the most recently deceased within the horror writing community, Dennis Etchison made his waves in the world of writers at large. As an American writer and editor of fantasy and horror fiction, he has been hailed as, “one hell of a fiction writer,” by his peer in horror, Stephen King. Etchison himself described his work as, “rather dark, depressing, almost pathologically inward fiction about the individual in relation to the world,” which is fair–writing horror is a pretty grim business. It could be argued that The Viking-Penguin Encyclopedia of Horror and the Supernatural, which described him as, “the most original living horror writer in America,” really did recognize the genius and inspirational talent of him as a writer. At the end of this month, we’re coming up on the first anniversary of the death of this highly regarded writer of horror fiction. So join us as we celebrate the life and work of Dennis Etchison for our Dead Author Dedication of May.

Growing Up…

Born Dennis William Etchison on March 30, 1943 in Stockton, California and he grew up as an only child when World War II was still ravaging the globe. He, therefore, didn’t have any men in his home and as a result believed he was spoiled greatly as a child where he spent most of his time without normal exposure to children his own age. It’s said that this sense of isolation from his peers, as well as the need to interact with society, was reflected later as parts of the themes of many of his work. His father regularly took him to attend shows at the Olympic Auditorium where he developed a fascination in the fight between good and evil–and gave him the ability as a young boy to become a fan of wrestling as a sport.

During his teenage years he wrote for his school papers and was a decidedly good writer for his age, having discovered Ray Bradbury and emulated his style before he had developed his own. This was the time that he began writing short stories, but upon submitting them for publication was rejected every time–that is until he remembered Ray Bradbury, who had suggested that a writer should look to a market that would be the least likely to publish their work. After heeding the advice of his source of inspiration, he was promptly accepted for publication in a gentlemen’s magazine entitled Escapade.

Career

While we’re going to focus more on the literary career of Dennis Etchison in our next installment of the Dead Author Dedication for the month of May, we feel it’s important to recognize here some of the highlights of his achievements. Dennis Etchison had a prolific writing career when it came to short story fiction, something utterly unheard of for an author who was actually quite popular during their lifetime–considered a king of anthologies, he began with publications of his short stories in the 1960s.

At UCLA he sought a higher education in the 1960s, Etchison studied film and eventually became highly knowledgable on the subject; he wrote various screenplays, many of which were never produced. He even became a consultant to Stephen King for his non-fiction volume Danse Macabre (1981) and also wrote for television. In his expansive five-decade career, his range included short stories, movie novelizations, original novels, anthologies, essays, editorials, and radio work.

Not surprisingly, Etchinson also served as the President of the Horror Writers Association from 1992 to 1994. At the turn of the century, in 2002, he adapted almost one hundred episodes of the original Twilight Zone television series for a CBS radio series which was hosted by Stacy Keach. Over the course of his career, he won the British Fantasy Award three times for fiction, as well as two World Fantasy Awards for anthologies he was responsible for editing. In 2017, Etchison was recognized by the Horror Writers of America when they bestowed the honor of the Bram Stoker lifetime achievement award upon him.

Much of Etchison’s work can be found under his pen name, Jack Martin, One thing that Etchison can be credited for aside from all of his other achievements is his excessive humility when regarding his own work. Inspiration can be found from his relatability for aspiring writers and we think that this can be summarized by one quote in particular.

I know a short story or a book that I’ve written much better than anybody else in the world. I’ve read it a hundred times. And just because it’s published doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect. You don’t write in a vacuum. You write on a schedule, professionally, and something may be published that I know is flawed. I understand the weaknesses of the work better than anybody else.

I could give you an annotated version of one of my stories that would point out not only the references and the origins of the lines and thoughts, but what I was trying to do – what I wished there were more of, what I now think there’s too much of. After you’ve written it and set it aside, you can come back to it and you see it in a different light. So I now look back at any story of mine more than a couple of years old and it does not look good to me. I could go through it and make it better, but I don’t do that. It represents the best I could do at that time, under those circumstances, and it’s representative of the person I was. I am embarrassed by some of the early stories, which continue to come back in reprint anthologies around the world.

It’s nice to be paid for work I did in my teens! But I can look at it as if someone else had written them and say, “My God! Is he aware of how these words look on the page?” I have a more acute sense of style than I did then; a better understanding of myself and human relationships. Two years from now I’ll look back at the present stories and be appalled. But it’s like life: what you do is the best you can do on that day. You have to finish your job at the end of the day and say, given the circumstances, this was the best that I could do. But tomorrow’s a new day. I can try to do better.

Dennis Etchison on his own writing.

Throughout his career Etchison gave back to the next generation of aspiring writers, by teaching classes in creative writing at his alma mater, UCLA. The most admirable trait of this horror master, is that he inspired many to write down their stories and accept that our flaws as writers actually contribute to our ability to evolve and improve.

Death

Although his cause of death has still been relatively unreported upon, we do know that Etchison was reported to have died during the night on May 28, 2019, at the age of 76. This was a tremendous blow to the modern horror community, as it lost one of the most influential modern writers who brought originality and life to such an exciting genre of fiction.

Aamon

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Featured

Aamon is an ancient demon who has many shapes and over the centuries he has been written about he has many different influences and dark abilities. He is a personal assistant of Ashtaroth (Ashtaroth was a demonic goddess). He is one of four personal assistants of the demon goddess Ashtaroth. 

Date of Discovery

The earliest known written record of Aamon is dated to 1583.

Name

Aamon from the Dictionnaire Infernal - Grand Marquis of Hell
Aamon from the Dictionnaire Infernal

Aamon is also known by Amon, and Amun. His name means  “who induces to eagerness.” Aamon’s name scores a number 9 on Chaldean numerology. Chaldean numerology is a system that identifies one’s true self based on a mix of their birthdate and/or legal name. A number 9 represents a personality that is an enforcer of Karma and Justice.

Physical Description

At times he appears with a wolf’s body and a serpent’s tail, in which shape he can breathe fire–at other times, he appears with a man’s body, with a raven’s head that possesses a set of dog’s teeth. This description, of course, varies in different sources.

Origin

According to the Dictionnaire Infernal written by Collin de Plancy in 1818, Aamon commands forty legions of demons and carries the title of prince.

Also related to the primary Egyptian God Amon or Amun.

He is also Associated with the God Baal Hammon who was a weather god, and the king of gods, in Ancient Carthage. It is said that people would burn their children as offerings to Baal Hammon in hopes for prosperous weather.

Aamon and demons from Dictionnaire Infernal
Aamon and demons from Dictionnaire Infernal

Mythology and Lore

The Symbol of Aamon - Grand Marquis of Hell
The Symbol of Aamon

He is found in any Abrahamic religion (Judaism, Christianity, Islam etc..)

His father is a God and mother is Asherah. Asherah is the wife of God and mother of all Demons in ancient semitic religions.

Christian demonology states that he holds the most power during day time. He has psychic powers that allow him to know the power of his enemies and detect those nearby. He can extend spikes from his wrists, tail, and wings that can cut through any organic material. He can fire off powerful energy bolts that gradually build in power. He can extend his limbs and breathe underwater. It is speculated that he has even more power than this.

He makes men and women fall in love with each other, and he settles disputes between friends and enemies.

Grand Grimoire

Excerpt from Pseudomonarchia daemonum by Johann Wier in 1583

“Amon, or Aamon, is a great and mighty marques, and commeth abroad in the likeness of a Wolf, having a serpents tail, [vomiting] flames of fire; when he putteth on the shape of a man, he sheweth out dogs teeth, and a great head like to a mighty [night hawk]; he is the strongest prince of all other, and understandeth of all things past and to come, he procureth favor, and reconcileth both friends and foes, and ruleth forthy legions of devils.”

Excerpt from The Goetia by S.L. MacGregor Mathers

“The Seventh Spirit is Amon. He is a Marquis great in power, and most stern. He appeareth like a Wolf with a Serpent’s tail, vomiting out of his mouth flames of fire, but at the command of the Magician he putteth on the shape of a Man with Dog’s teeth beset in a head like a Raven; or else like a Man with a Raven’s head (simply). He telleth all things Past and to Come. He procureth feuds and reconcileth controversies between friends. He governeth 40 Legions of Spirits. His Seal is this which is to be worn as aforesaid, etc.”

You think me a savage beast? Unlike you, I preside over forty legions of squabbling beasts, thirsty for gore and viscera. Whatever your position is, I am a mountain to your anthill.

Aamon



Is there anything we missed about Aamon? Let us know in the comments section below!

Anna Byrne: Chapter 01 – The Haunting of Heceta Head

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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

I could hear the waves lapping viciously against the rocky slope as the fog moved in and the seagulls were baying loudly against the incoming tide. I could feel the salt licking my face as I was driving up through the breezy, chilly air of the coastline. A quick glance at my GPS told me I was about an hour south of Newport, Oregon. It had been a beautiful day so far on my drive up from Humboldt County on my way to check out other universities on the West Coast; my mom had always told me to shop around for my education, despite my own desire to continue on with graduate school closer to home. Even though I had been driving since six in the morning, I hadn’t fully appreciated the sun until I saw it begin to disappear behind the dismal cloud cover and bleak front that was coming off the water. I was less attuned to this type of dreary atmosphere than I had realized and for some reason, I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

I could feel my grip tighten on the steering wheel and I flashed back to catching black ice on the roads back home during the winter; a spike of adrenaline pumped through my body, something was strange about this stretch of coastline. Then I saw it, even if it was barely visible through the fog that was just now kissing the shore. It was the lighthouse I had heard those rumors about… The Heceta Head Lighthouse–it had been a beacon of maritime safety on the Oregon coast since 1894, but it had a robust morbid history that seemed to fly under the radar. I scooted along highway 101 in my cheap rental car, but the closer I got, the stronger I felt like I was being pulled towards it. It was an eerie trance that was dark and dangerous, but I couldn’t keep from being lost within the tunnel vision–the rest of the drive there was a blur–then I was pulling into the visitor parking for the bed and breakfast that was now set up in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Cottage.

It’s like I blinked and I was just–there. The normally bright red roof of the bed and breakfast was dull and bluish under the gloom that seemed to linger around the white cottage and I was compelled to see if they had any vacancies. The lady at the front desk was sweet yet homely, but I suspected that there was something dark and secret hiding under the shallow layer of her calm demeanor.

“Hey there, I was hoping that you had a room available?” I barely recognized my own voice, it sounded so dreamy when I heard it out loud. It didn’t register to me that there was another guest in the lobby until he cleared his throat, it made me jump a bit but he simply turned the page of the newspaper he had his nose buried in as if he didn’t notice me either. The desk clerk handed me the key for something called the “Victoria” room and her melodious voice directed me up the stairs to what seemed to have been a master suite in a previous life and according to the desk clerk was where the lighthouse keeper and his wife slept once upon a time…

Heceta Head Lighthouse Keepers Cottage
Photography by Jrozwado

I heard the name Rue come up somewhere in her story, but to be honest I kind of drifted in and out of the whole thing, I’m sure it would have been a captivating tale on any other occasion, or perhaps just in any other location. This place just seemed so hollow and there was a feeling that there were too many secrets lying just beneath its quaint and cozy facade. Maybe it was just that creepy, old and dirty-looking doll that sat on a shelf behind the counter that was giving this place a weird vibe.

Regardless, when I opened the door with that ancient-looking key, I felt my face scrunch up, “Great… it’s pink.” I don’t know who I was talking to, maybe it was just due to my own dismay to find the room was painted from floor to ceiling in that sickly pink pastel color. The bed was decorated with a floral quilt and matching pillowcases, I mean I knew I couldn’t complain about what the room looked like, after all, I only asked if they had any rooms available and this was the only one the desk clerk had to offer me. Come to think of it though, there only seemed to be two room keys missing. Didn’t she tell me that there were no other rooms available? Maybe she just meant that they needed repair or cleaning or… who knows, maybe I was just being paranoid.

The one saving grace that I could see was that the antique vanity near the corner had a complimentary bottle of wine and a glass. I sloughed off my bag onto the corner of the four-poster that was trussed up in such a girlie fashion, then grabbed the bottle and opener from the vanity and walked to the window. It seemed like the fog had lifted for the most part–although maybe it should have seemed strange, I had just arrived less than thirty minutes ago. Not a bad view though, the garden was stunningly manicured except for one small overgrown corner that looked as if it housed a headstone. That wasn’t all too interesting to me, honestly, but at least the darkness would be more forgiving on these walls, I hoped. I gave one final tug to the corkscrew and heard that satisfying pop and hello, vino!

I glanced over at the bedside table next to the window and a small pamphlet caught my eye–I picked it up without any reason, but perhaps it was due to my incessant curiosity, regardless it was in my hands; the title gave it away as a rundown of the history of this adorably macabre bed and breakfast. I took the chair in the corner, switched on the light, and flipped through this crisp little historical piece. I stopped on a page about the woman named Rue. Shit, maybe I should have listened to that desk clerk’s story, this was actually pretty interesting. I mean, I’d heard the rumors of course, but nothing I heard was as juicy and dark as the brief info in the pamphlet I was holding. Namely, because I was staying in Rue’s room, the “Victoria” room–well, at least she didn’t die in here.

I took a swig of the wine straight from the bottle, no reason to unnecessarily dirty a glass, then set the bottle down next to a plant that looked as if it were on death’s door and set the pamphlet down next to it. It was getting close to sunset here, but I wasn’t tired, nor was I going to waste the rest of my day in the room. After all, I was at a B&B that sat on the threshold of crashing waves and was within a short jaunt to a lovely lighthouse that had a creepy history that was begging to be scrutinized. I wasn’t even sure that I believed in ghosts, goblins, or whatever the hell people thought went bump in the night, I just knew that I was intrigued by it.

I was only brought out of my train of thought when one of the pictures hanging behind me crashed to the floor, the pane of glass on it shattered under my feet and the startle that overtook me made me feel as if something was grasping my throat. It escaped me momentarily that I had jumped to my feet when the picture had initially fallen and I felt somewhat silly. Coincidence, that’s what it was. Well, that’s what I thought until the one right next to it was propelled with great force down to the floor as well, I jumped back once again as the shower of broken glass sprayed past my ankles.

“Woah, what the hell!” I barely got the words out before the rest of the pictures in the room came down with the same force in quick succession. My heart rate jumped almost as quickly as I had when I found myself pressed against the foot of the four-poster bed. Everything went silent after that and I let go of an unsteady breath I hadn’t been aware I was holding in. Apparently this was going to be a more interesting stay than I initially believed, but if it wasn’t an excuse to take another swig from that bottle of wine then I wasn’t sure what was. I wouldn’t say I chugged some of it, but it wasn’t exactly a sip either–I replaced the cork in the bottle and set it gently in the bathroom sink, lest there was another exciting incident with glass objects in here while I was gone.

I rummaged through my bag and grabbed my camera, this sunset would definitely be worth capturing. I wasn’t exactly used to seeing the sun as it set over the ocean having grown up in the interior of Alaska and I had to get out of the room to get some fresh air. I swear I nearly high-stepped the entire way down the stairs back to the lobby and stopped abruptly in front of the desk where I had checked in.

“Charlie stepped out for a bit, she said she’d be back in an hour or so,” the mystery man behind the newspaper spoke up. “Did you see Rue already?” I was taken aback, to say the least, how the hell would he know? “Don’t look so speechless, I heard the pictures breaking from here. I’m guessing you weren’t just throwing a fit because of the godawful paint job.” He chuckled to himself.

“I–I, uh…” I blinked and shook my head, “I just need some fresh air.” I’d never been at a loss for words before, but there I was, stumbling as if–as if I had just seen a ghost? No. This was utter crap, I felt my head shake again before I hastily stumbled through the door. Fresh air. Fresh air. Yep, that’s all I needed. Oh wow, the colors in the sky looked as if they were bright paint splashed across a canvas haphazardly–I raised my camera and CLICK–not only had the fog lifted, but the cloud cover had completely dissipated as well. The white picket fence screamed of the “American Dream,” that simply didn’t exist where I was from, but that barely registered on my mind until I passed through the gate. There was a hard gust of wind off of the water, then my senses were assaulted with the chilled salt air and I pulled my light jacket a bit tighter around myself. If I had taken two or three more steps forward, I would have walked straight off the bluff into the tumultuous tides below.

I followed the path that wrapped around the front of the cottage and the adjacent garden and passed the recreation and grilling area when I noticed the path that disappeared beyond the shed near the back. When I approached I noticed the sign that labeled it as the way to the lighthouse and shrugged, it couldn’t hurt to get farther away from spook-central. I glanced over my shoulder at the cottage and shuddered, still unable to acknowledge it as having happened. In an effort to put that disturbing experience behind me, quite literally, I headed down the path that eventually had me shrouded in trees where I finally felt safe and more at home than I had since I left Alaska. The walk was easy and blissfully serene, it opened up to the grand structure of the lighthouse that now stood a short distance past what I could only assume had been the fuel sheds before automation had occurred.

Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Head Lighthouse

I was surprised that on such a beautiful evening, no one else seemed to be around, but there were a lot of things that seemed to be off about today. The gulls were louder near the lighthouse and the wind was sharper, I guess I answered my own question, most people would probably be indoors eating dinner instead of subjecting themselves to the bone chill that came with the violent burst of ocean gales. With no one around though, I figured I could satisfy my long-standing curiosity by doing a little harmless B-and-E. I tried the handle of the watch house and it was locked–of course, it was locked–I rolled my eyes at my own overconfidence and tried one of the windows at the side of the micro-building and it squeaked upwards with a little elbow grease.

I was grateful that I had taken after my petite Yup’ik mother instead of my gangly, bumbling Scottish father, as my hips narrowly avoided getting stuck and I clumsily slipped through and fell into an impossibly contorted mess on the other side. Luckily, I had cradled my camera so it hadn’t hit the floor as hard as my elbow had–that would leave a bruise. A cursory look around the room, while I nursed my elbow, showed me that it no longer served as a watchhouse, but instead as a storage shed for tools and other necessary equipment to maintain the upkeep of the now-automated lighthouse. I smiled to myself, my fascination with lighthouses probably spurred from the fact that it wasn’t a type of building that I was particularly familiar with and I could just smell the history in this place.

A clanking sound echoed down from inside the tower and I had a suspicion that I wasn’t truly alone–but at the same time, I knew there was no one else in the building. There couldn’t be. I moved into the tower and looked up, but the empty space in the middle of the spiral staircase that lined the walls proved to be just that–empty. Well, I wasn’t a cat, so curiosity couldn’t kill me, right? The stairs creaked underneath my feet, the light that filtered in was even dimmer as the sun sunk lower toward the horizon. I’d been curious about the inner workings of a lighthouse for years, ever since I saw my first one in a picture in a history book as a child.

There was no one in the lighthouse, I noticed when I reached the top of the stairs, and the lantern room was just as spectacular as I hoped it would be, but I ached to see what it must have looked like before automation took place in the 1960s. There was something else in the air here though–something was off, it just didn’t feel right. I looked around the cramped space and still saw nothing. I shook my head and settled my eyes on the sun as it began to disappear over the ocean, this is what I really wanted to see. No view could compare to this, my hands rested gently on the glass as I pressed against the window cautiously–CLICK. The satisfaction from getting a good photograph compared to nothing else–I sighed.

Another creak of the floor rose from behind me and my breath caught in my chest, but I was frozen, I couldn’t turn to see what it was before my head was thrashed hard against the glass. The thick glass splintered out like thin ice under a heavy boot and I could see the blood that stained the cracks as my vision blurred and I dropped unwillingly to the floor, blackness seeped into my sight, but I could still feel the pain as my body crumpled under further assault by what I could only describe as a black mass hovering over me. It was impenetrable darkness that had no interest aside from causing me harm and it won.

I awoke to a shout, my eyes were bleary, I felt like I was looking through a red lens–blood had spilled into my eyes. What I could see now was the ground threatening me from afar, I was halfway through the railing of the catwalk and was dangerously close to falling to what I could only assume in my state was certain death. There was another shout and in my delirious state, I could see an obscure figure run full speed toward the lighthouse. Blackness overtook me again.

A strong jerk brought me around once more, my legs were being pulled by someone capable and I somehow knew I was going to be alright–the man behind the paper, from earlier, was that him?

“Are you okay?” my mystery man asked me, the concern on his voice was transparent.

“Ngh–help,” I barely formed the word, “ghost?” I wasn’t sure what had happened, I just knew it wasn’t something I had ever seen before.

“Yeah, little mouse–but you’re alright now.” I could feel him drag me up and back into the lantern room–or somewhere, I wasn’t certain where I even was anymore, but even in my poor condition, I knew that this was a defining moment for me. This was something I was going to need to figure out later on down the line.

“Anna,” I huffed through my laboriously jagged breaths, “my name is Anna Byrne.”


The rest of the night was a pretty much a blur, the mysterious man with the newspaper–he identified himself as Burton Januszczyk–helped me walk back to the cottage and then quite reluctantly to his room when he realized I didn’t feel safe in my own. I fished the key out of my dirty jeans and he went to retrieve my bag from the room while I sat fretfully on the edge of his tub in the bathroom.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” He asked when he came back, with my bag in hand, “are you sure you wouldn’t like me to drive you to the hospital for that gash on your head?”

“No, I mean–yes, I’ll be okay. I just–” there was a pronounced throb in my head once he mentioned it, “–I need to know what is going on here.”

“It’s Rue.” He said in a very matter-of-fact sort of way, “y’know you should really let me take a look at that,” I felt like he was simply trying to change the subject.

“Yeah, fine.” I relented and he reemerged with a first aid kit a few moments later. I winced when he applied the alcohol to the wound on my temple, “why do you think Rue attacked me?” Burton eyed me cautiously, as he cleared the blood from around my eyes, he looked like he was thinking hard about something–what was he hiding?

“I’ve been looking into this place for quite a while now, there’s been a habit of young women going missing in this area and I noticed a trend. I’ve traced most of the disappearances to this lighthouse.” The expression on his face looked haunted. “Not to pat myself on the back, but you’re pretty lucky I was here when you checked in–I was just about to leave.”

“Wait, do the owners know about this?” I furrowed my brow and the immediate shock-wave of pain reminded me of what was there.

“Do they know?” He tried to hold in a laugh under his breath, “they’re the ones that disturbed her spirit and brought her back in the first place–they thought it would make the bed and breakfast more popular! You saw that nasty doll behind the front desk? That belonged to Rue.” His story was wild–I had never heard of anything more ludicrous in my entire life, but here I was with a dent in my skull for my own skepticism. Burton finished tending my wound just as I was getting a call from–ah, shit it was my father.

“Sorry, I’ve got to take this–hey, I’m sorry I forgot to call and tell you I stopped for the night, I–” I was cut off by the sound of his voice rushing into the receiver.

“–are ye’ okay, Anna?” my father’s voice was curiously distraught.

“Yeah da–I’m fine! What’s wrong?”

“I got tha message from ye saying tha’ yer gonna stop ‘fore Newport? Where’d ye’ end up stoppin’?”

“Oh–uh,” I didn’t know if I should tell him about what happened, didn’t want him to worry, I was fine after all. “Uh–Heceta Head Lighthouse, there’s a B&B here, it’s uh–it’s cute. I guess.” I struggled to keep my voice even as I lied to my father.

“Cut the shite, Anna–wha happen’d?” I sighed and recounted the events that had just occurred, my stomach sank when he didn’t speak for a few moments after I finished the story. I could hear a sharp inhalation as if he were about to say something–then he loudly exhaled as if he had thought better of it. “Anna, we’ve got ta lot to talk about when yer home. Get out of that place as soon as ye can, come home. Please.” The urgency in his voice made me realize there was something he hadn’t been telling me for a long time–I needed to get home.

Anna Byrne: Chapter 02 – The Burden of a Witch’s Son

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Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

Urban Legends: The Curse of Lafayette

I looked up at the loft in my father’s study, my eyes burned from a lack of sleep, but if I was ever going to get broken in to some of the insane notions that my father spoke about the night before this was how I should do it. I felt his hand grasp my shoulder and the kiss he gave me on the back of my head, as he encouraged me to do the deed.

“Oh Anna, it’s not that bad,” he chuckled as he watched me climb the wooden loft steps.

“JESUS CHRI—”

“You watch your mouth young lady!” I heard him snap, as he stood in his office below.

“What is all of this stuff, Da’?” He couldn’t really blame me for my initial reaction, his loft seemed to extend the length of the entire house and not just over his own study. It was also filled with boxes, filing cabinets, and the odd armoire—speaking of which, how the hell did he even get that up there?

“Oh, don’ ye touch the armoire!” I heard him shout as he had read my mind when he settled back in front of his computer, “that’s a story fer another day!”

“You don’t expect me to get through all of this today do you?” the incredulous tone in my voice came out without my permission, but dad already knew the kind of sass that I brought to the table.

“Nah, jus’ find Oregon, seein’ ye already met Rue.” I heard him chuckle to himself, as if he had just remembered a funny joke and I could almost feel my eyes roll into the back of my head.

Oregon, Oregon—my eyes scanned the boxes, he told me he wasn’t going to help me go through anything, but that I had to go through it. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go through a few notes he’d collected on the subject. This, however, was far and away beyond a few notes that he had alluded to. Finally, I found a box against the wall that was labeled Oregon, it was sitting on a stack of boxes—also labeled Oregon—shit, I knew it, I was going to be here all night. I grabbed the top box and wrestled it over to the desk that sat in front of the octagonal loft window, where radiant light filtered through.

“Well, here goes nothing,” a sigh escaped my chest and I threw back the dusty lid of the first box of many that I was charged with reading through and memorizing. I quickly scanned the file names for the Heceta Head Lighthouse, but was disappointed to find there was nothing about it in this particular box. Another file name caught my eye though, LAFAYETTE, OR – WITCH’S CURSE, father’s handwriting neatly headed the label. My curiosity was piqued now, I had to read this one first.


The year was 1885 and the Willamette Queen had just pulled into the dock of Lafayette, Oregon. Despite the early hour, the skies were gloomy, overcast, and the clouds threatened to batter all that which laid below. Locals disembarked with a spring in their step to meet their families who had gathered to welcome them home, while others shuffled off in a daze as they attempted to gather themselves. One such family, a man as well as his wife and mother stepped off to the side; they looked around for a moment and after a brief conversation with a local street vendor, set off down one of the muddy dirt roads that led into downtown.

Sheriff Harris, propped up on his horse, eyed the newcomers into his town and noted all of the people with which he would become acquainted in the days to come. He was a relic of older times and practices; his hat, brown duster coat, and boots proved as much, the splatters of dried mud gave away his hands-on approach to his livelihood.


The Marple family had recently become settled in a home on the outskirts of town, the matron of the family, Anna Marple had already become a name on the lips of the townspeople. As a widow, it was not unusual for her to live with her son and his wife, but she never seemed to act her part. The other women of the town shunned her, gossip telephoned from one ear to the next, and there always seemed to be some small scandal or another lingering around her. This didn’t seem to matter to one David Corker, a lonely widowed shop owner; she had caught his eye nearly the first day she and her family disembarked from the Willamette Queen that dreary fall day in 1885. Anna had gained a reputation of being a very unchristian woman, her traditional black widow’s clothing turned heads, children ran when she came walking into town, and there always seemed to be a raggedy black cat that trailed behind her wherever she went.
Folks in those parts believed the widow Marple to be a witch, but the topic was never broached in proper company.

I am beginning to suspect my husband’s mother is making sinister plans for me; I fear that my mouth has become too much for her to stand to provide food for. I have no money to my name and my only contribution is that I keep a tidy home. I am quite proud of that fact, if I am to be frank, I was raised to be a homemaker after all. That of course seems to be of no consequence to my husband’s mother.

Julie Marple – May, 1886

Seasons had passed in the town of Lafayette, the summer had been a prolific one for the townspeople and consequently the burglaries had been numerous. The widow Marple had effortlessly acquired the company of the widower Corker, who had earlier that year begun the process of courting the target of his affections. This of course spawned more gossip and rumors, of the widow having Mr. Corker under some type of spell. The sheriff of course had more important things to worry about, mostly the burglaries that had been occurring in the middle of the night—and at present he only had a single suspect. It of course didn’t help that the description of the perpetrator had matched quite exactly with the lanky, sallow Mr. Marple with his dark and greasy long hair.

The Marple residence had been frequented by Sheriff Harris on many occasions, mostly due to complaints by other townspeople, but recently it had more to do with the fact that before their arrival the theft of property had been a rarity in his town. There was just nothing else that could be said on the matter, in fact, the only thing Harris could do was charge him with a crime—but the evidence supporting his theory was severely lacking. It would just have to wait.

The fall of 1886 came quickly, like the changing of the leaves, it was there before anyone could realize it was even happening. Sheriff Harris continued to get more reports of burglaries in the area and he knew he would have to do something about it soon, or risk his own unemployment. Luckily for Harris, what happened on November 1, 1886 was exactly what he needed to solidify a case that would take Marple off of his streets for good.

Let me start by saying I did it, of course, I did it. Who else could have? Who else would have? We haven’t been living in Lafayette for very long, but it feels like forever when no one will give you and job and let you keep it. That is to say—me—they won’t give me a job and let me keep it.

Richard Marple – November 1, 1886

The widow Marple had not been seen in town for a few weeks now, but her beau David Corker couldn’t leave his shop unattended. So it was to much of the surprise of his regular customers when, unlike his normal routine, Corker didn’t open the shop exactly at nine on the second morning of November. This was so odd to one of his patrons that they immediately went over to the house of the widower to see why he couldn’t purchase the much needed laudanum for his wife’s debilitating headaches. When the patron found the door to widower Corker’s home ajar, he stepped inside and realized why the store had not been opened on time that morning.

Suffice it to say, Sheriff Harris was called immediately; upon the discovery of a bloody, mutilated, and hacked Mr. Corker alongside a house that looked as if a herd of stampeding cattle had been driven through, he knew exactly who must have done it.


Sheriff Harris pounded heavily on the door of the Marple residence, the haunted silence and blackness of the night otherwise unsettled him. “Richard Marple!” He hollered into the thick wooden door before him, “This is Sheriff Harris, open up!” The plain and mousy Julie Marple opened the door in her pink floral night-coat. She held a chamberstick aloft in her hand and drew up the light to her pale and sunken expression to get a look at the Sheriff. The look on her face was one of bewilderment and exhaustion.

“What can I help you with Sheriff?” Julie’s voice was a small, melodic sound, but her confusion was thorough.

“My apologies Mrs. Marple for the late hour, but I was hoping you could tell me if your husband was in your company two nights ago?”

“I—uh—that is to say, he left early in the evening, he said that he had business to attend to in town, why is it that you ask?”

The Sheriff shook his head then further explained that he wasn’t at liberty to disclose the details of his visit, but that it was an urgent matter that required her husband’s attention. Within a moment she disappeared and the door closed with a solid thud in the sheriff’s face. When Julie’s husband appeared at the door, his expression was as sullen and bleak as could be expected—he knew what the sheriff was now at his doorstep, but his poor acting might have a fool believe that he was surprised.

“How can I help you Sheriff Harris?” Richard Marple feigned a look of foolish innocence, the lines on his pallid face were strikingly deep when the dim light of a half-moon fell upon them.

“Mr. Marple, I’m going to need you to come down to the jail with me, I’ve got several questions for you.”

“Oh, alright—let me just get my coat,” Richard of course could have used that time to establish an alibi with his mother and wife, so Harris couldn’t risk any more time spent allowing Richard the opportunity.

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that, Mr. Marple.” The sheriff reached out and shackled his suspect, “let’s go.”


Julie watched as her mother-in-law deteriorated over the winter—there was no one left to financially support either of them and Julie wished that she had gotten out of that wretched household already. She swore to herself that the only reason she stayed in Lafayette was because she was needed for her testimony of the night in question. Otherwise she would have already hopped back on the Willamette Queen and taken it back to Corvallis to stay with her parents until she could find a way to make her own way in the world.

Her mother-in-law seemed to get smaller and smaller the longer Richard was in jail, but without his overbearing presence, Julie felt like she was thriving. She had taken the opportunity that was presented with his absence to take up a small side-business sewing and darning clothing for people in need; when the sheriff had searched her home and found the blood-soaked shirt, piece of paper, and tools of her husband’s thieving trade, however, she found she no longer had any customers. Her husband’s assumed guilt was apparently her own as well.

I must admit that I never loved David Corker—nor did I ever much enjoy his company. He was a sad older widower and a dullard at that. I sometimes suspect that his late wife passed simply to be rid of his intolerable presence. It soon became clear to me, however, when my son Richard could not find steady means of employment that it would fall to me to secure this family’s financial future. What better way than to lure in a lonely shopkeeper with my feminine gifts? Now you may be thinking that I am some sort of working lady, but I find those sorts of ladies to be utterly deplorable. I was a well-respected woman in my time, especially whilst my dear departed husband was still alive.

Anna Marple – January 7, 1887

From where Richard sat rotting in the cell at the Lafayette jail, he saw winter turn back into spring, the light slowly made its way through his barred window and he got a new cellmate often enough to keep the company fresh. Aside from not having bar-girls, tobacco, and drink, it was almost as if he wasn’t missing much of the outside world at all.

We moved here from Corvallis and you might now be imagining something awful that I must have done to drive us away from such a place. Well, I must confess that sleeping with the local tavern owner’s wife was not exactly an innocent affair, it was surely not as seedy as might be otherwise imagined. I may also, on more than one occasion, have liberated the random shop or home of certain valuables that need not have been immediately noticed. Regardless, nothing that I did in Corvallis was as terrible as what I am now suspected of.

Richard Marple – January 20, 1887

It wasn’t until early spring of 1887 that Sheriff Harris finally had enough to convict Richard Marple of the murder of shop owner David Corker—although with two witness who couldn’t corroborate his whereabouts, evidence stained with Corker’s blood, and the tools with which he broke into the home it would have seemed like an open-and-shut case. Richard, however, maintained his innocence from the time he was arrested; until he unwittingly divulged the facts of his own guilt to a cellmate, who was more than happy to give testimony in return for a reduced sentence of his own.

I wish I could tell you that I married well, that I married for love, and that I could, beyond a shadow of a doubt, trust my husband. There is a reason we moved away from Corvallis in 1885, though, and it was not a good one. My mother and father did not know Richard well enough when they gave me away, however, I trust that if they had understood the character of the man that they would have vehemently objected. My story may not be remembered but I have a strong suspicion that my husband and his mother will live on in history. After all, murderers usually do.

Julie Marple – April 10, 1887

The conviction of Richard Marple was unopposed after that final piece of the puzzle was fit roughly into the picture—a confession, even second-hand was enough to convince the jury of his peers. Even with the general disdain of the town for him and his family, they had otherwise been unwilling to suspect that one of their own was capable of committing such a crime. Corker had been a beloved member of their community though and his absence continued to be felt on a daily basis; the only recompense was someone would hang for the crime. Eventually the realization of the one they should hang became self-evident and he was sentenced to swing by the neck on November of that year.


The Gallows
The Gallows

The burly Sheriff Harris stepped up to Richard at the gallows, papers in his hand as he read off the convictions for which the man was to be executed. “For the robbery and most heinous murder of our own David Corker, Richard Marple shall now be executed by hanging!” This announcement was met by unwavering applause from the thirty or more men, women, and children that made up the crowd that stood before them.

Richard stood hunched next to the confident authority of the Sheriff, his shoulders slumped forward in defeat as the noose hung heavily around his neck. His beetle black eyes scanned the crowd which continued clapped heartily to watch him meet his demise. Several men shouted from the crowd, but Richard could only make out one man in particular, who told shouted to let “the murderer burn in hell!”

“Put the hood over the prisoner’s head,” Sheriff Harris ordered the executioner immediately, he was in no mood to let a murderer have his last words, but before the hood could be shoved over his head, Richard pulled roughly away.

“MURDER!” He shouted desperately into the crowd below him—his dehydrated lips cracked with his efforts, “May God judge you all!” Anything else that Richard may have said was muffled as his head was stuffed forcibly into the hood. The executioner stepped back to the lever of the trapdoor and on the Sheriff’s signal pulled forcefully to release it. “ACK!” The sound that escaped Richard’s throat was inhuman, as his feet fell out from beneath him and the rope snapped taut. His eyes bulged out of his face, the knot lodged directly under his throat, which prevented his neck from breaking and him from meeting a quick end.

Richard’s mother emerged from within the center of the crowd, her hair was wild and unkempt—her eyes were red with a year’s worth of tears. Her dress billowed around her as she fell to her knees, the people that surrounded her moved suddenly to give her a wider berth.

“Murderers! All of you! Murderers!” She bellowed, her grief-stricken voice cracked with a hoarse pain. “You shall all feel the pain of those you have wronged! Your town shall never prosper! I curse you and all of your children’s children to feel the fiery hell of my fury as your town burns around you time and time again!” Her head fell limp into the hands that now rested on her lap, her sobs shook her body viciously as Richard’s body twitched and seized. His wife, Julie, came behind his mother to comfort her, her own face streaked with tears, but Anna pulled away wailing for the loss of her only son.

Witch Burning a Village
Witch Burning a Village

“Hot damn,” I heard the words come out of my mouth after having reviewed the file at length. I folded up the file, but several news clippings fell out into my lap when I went to replace the file into the box. There was a clipping of every single fire that had occurred in Lafayette since the widow Marple had placed her verbal curse upon the town and its people. In fact not a decade had gone by since, that the town had not experienced some type of devastating fire—and there had been, I saw, on two separate occasions, fires so intense that they had leveled the entire town. “That was one pissed-off witch.”