Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: Don’t Take What Belongs to the Dead

While attending college in the Interior of Alaska, at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Yup’ik—a Central Alaska Native language—on Halloween of my second year, my professor deemed it appropriate to tell us Alaska Native ghost stories. Hearing these stories in Yup’ik gave unique perspective on the particular experience of growing up in such a harsh environment, his soothing rhythm and melodious speech gave it all an otherworldly feeling. It’s important to keep in mind that while this story is told as a folktale, but all folktales begin as oral stories and all of them have honest beginnings.

The Ghost’s Tea Kettle

Snow covered graveyard
Photography by Joy Real

There once was a Yup’ik man and a white man who were traveling from one city to another, during one cold January, by dogsled. The two men came upon an abandoned fishcamp alongside the river, and wishing to avoid the harsh cold of the evening, they made camp in one of the houses for the night. They had forgotten to bring a teakettle, but longed for hot tea to provide relief from the chill of the night—the white man recalled having passed a graveyard near the fishcamp, in which there were several teakettles sitting beside some grave markers. Upon hearing the idea, the Yup’ik man told the white man that it was dangerous to take something out of the graveyard, but this advice fell upon deaf ears.

Once the white man had gotten back from retrieving a kettle from the graveyard, he began to boil snow for their tea, but the Yup’ik man refused to drink any. The two companions began to ready themselves for bed when they heard a snapping sound, the house began to shake, and fog began to drift in through every crack in the house. The white man panicked, he didn’t know what was happening, but the Yup’ik man explained to him that a ghost was trying to get into the house.

Rusty old tea kettle
Photography by Jørgen Håland

Suddenly, the door burst open violently, the ghost seeped into the house like a dense white mist, and the door slammed with a bang behind it. The white man screamed and attempted to run in fear, but his escape route had been sealed off by the ghost and he was trapped. The Yup’ik man approached the ghost without fear and put his hand on the ghost’s head—the ghost was so cold, his hand went numb, but he refused to remove it, knowing what he had to do. He gently applied pressure on the ghost’s head and the ghost began to sink slowly into the ground, but soon he grew anxious and tried to push the ghost down faster, this didn’t work to the Yup’ik man’s benefit and the ghost started to come back up.

The Yup’ik man steadied himself, took a breath, slowed down and pushed down once more with a steady and firm hand, until the ghost slowly disappeared into the ground entirely. Unable to stay in the house any longer, the two men packed up all of their belongings, the Yup’ik man told the white man to return the tea kettle to the grave from which it had been taken. They believed that returning the kettle that it would give them freedom from the ghost, but it continued to follow them as a glowing red orb—the Yup’ik man stopped and made markings in the snow, these prevented the ghost from following them, but ended with them becoming incredibly sick. Once they got to the next village, the Yup’ik man had them roll in garbage to throw the ghost off of their scent and then according to traditional practice when dealing with ghosts, they both urinated around their house to keep the ghost away. Eventually they recovered from their illness and left them with the experience that would help teach others to not take what belonged to the dead.

Categories
Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Frozen Spectre

Haunted Boardwalk
Haunted Boardwalk

One Halloween night, as the sun slipped beneath the horizon, the young children were coming back from their rounds through the little Yup’ik village on the tundra in Southwest Alaska. The teenagers had waited their turn and eagerly squeezed out of their home, as their mother told them they were allowed to leave. They raced through to each of the small houses that dotted the dark, decrepit, and narrow boardwalks that snaked through the village. Not all of them donned costumes and there was still not yet a flake of snow on the ground, a rare occurrence for such a chilly autumnal night. The tall grass line the boardwalk like two moving walls that whispered with the winds that rushed through the spaces between the houses. They grabbed candy within the first house, then came back out and started back off; at each of the doors, they held their plastic grocery sacks aloft, and they became more heavily laden with candies and treats.

After coming out of the fourth house they spotted something strange emerging from the tall grasses onto the boardwalk behind them—it was a traditional Yup’ik parka, the hood was up and the ruff obscured the view of the face within. It wouldn’t have been strange except for the fact that it had no visible feet or hands. The teenagers sprinted to the next house, scared to death and unsure of what the seemingly floating parka had really been, but they were unwilling to say anything about what they had seen to the adults that were now handing them candy.

Ghost Parka
Photography by Joe Leahy

Between each and every stop for candy, the teens stepped outside and the floating parka had appeared again, as if it was just waiting to scare them. They had all grown up hearing the traditional stories of ghosts and ghouls—all meant to teach them to be cautious in one way or another, as a way to keep them safe in their unforgiving lands. They had a sense that they were being pranked—as if to test their knowledge and preparedness, but not a single one of them could muster up the courage to approach the floating apparition or to try to figure out who was toying with them.

The far north side of the village is where the last batch of houses resided—the travel between where the teenagers were and where their last glimpse of the prized sweets laid was a lengthy weaving, dismally unlit sprawling boardwalk. This path took them directly past the hauntingly abandoned teacher’s quarters that the entire village regularly avoided being near and even speaking about in passing. They made their way down the boardwalk towards this last remaining treasure trove of candy, when the little parka appeared behind them once again. One of the teens looked behind them as they crawled into the artic entry of one of the houses and saw its silhouette looming alone between the spirit-infested teacher’s quarters and the house they entered, blocking their dark and dreadful passage home.

The teenagers reappeared cautiously from the house, but the little parka was nowhere to be seen–each house they exited they huddled together in fear that the ghostly figure would leap out of the shadows and attack them from the front or back, but it didn’t. Then one of the teens gasped and pointed, there it was in the darkness beneath a building, huddled behind one of the steel posts that propped it up from the permafrost–it sat upright, waiting for them. All at once, it sprang up toward them with a hideous scream and chased the teenagers down the boardwalk, growls emanated from the unending abyss of the hood. As the spirit overcame them, they recognized the dead black eyes that sat deep in his sunken frostbitten features; it was the village boy whose snow machine had broken through the ice on the river. The boy had then managed to climb out from what would have been a certain death only to succumb to the elements before anyone could find him, only a year prior.

Broken Ice
Photography by Eberhard Gross-Gasteiger
Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

Ghost Tales of the Arctic: The Red Skeleton

Like many other folktales of the arctic region, Yup’ik folklore emphasized keeping children safe from the elements and the dangers of being alone and ill-prepared. This folktale is no different, but it definitely gave me goosebumps the first time I heard it over an early-winter bonfire.

Red skull wall
Photography by Jayberrytech

A very long time ago, in the Cape Prince of Wales, in a village off the shore, there once lived a poor orphaned boy with no one to look after him—because he had no one to care for him, he often found himself being forced to do the bidding of all the other villagers. Every single villager treated him cruelly, especially when they all gathered in the kashim—the men’s communal building where they gathered to stay warm, eat, and keep company during the cold winter months. One particularly blustery night, while the snow was falling harshly upon the village, the other villagers told him to leave the kashim to see if the weather was getting any worse. Due to the fact that he was an orphan, he had no one to make him skin boots or warm clothes, so he objected. It was too cold and the boy did not wish to go outside but was driven out of the kashim anyway. Upon returning inside, he told the others that it had stopped snowing, but the weather had gotten even colder. Every so often, the men would drive him back out into the elements, just to torture the poor boy.

Finally, the boy came in, stating that he had seen a ball of fire that looked like the moon coming over the hill to the north, but the men simply laughed at him. They accused him of seeing things and told him to go back out and to look again, that he might see a whale coming over the hill instead. When the boy quickly returned inside, he looked scared and reported that the red ball had come nearer to the kashim and that it was right outside of the house. Once again, his words were met with laughter, but the boy was truly frightened and hid within the kashim. As the men were still laughing, a large fiery figure appeared on the gut-skin covering over the vent in the ceiling and it appeared to be dancing. The men were both scared and captivated by the figure and did not notice the figure creeping through the passage into the room on its elbows and knees. The figure was a frightful sight—a human skeleton that with a brief wave of its hand somehow caused all of the men in the room to follow it, as it crawled through of the passage to the outdoors. Under the spell of the skeleton, the men followed it to the edge of the village until every last one of them had died of the elements, at which point it vanished.

 Other villagers returned from fishing to find the rest of the men of the village had died, bodies scattered over the snowy landscape. They entered the kashim finally, finding the orphan boy who recounted the entire story and how the men had died—investigating where the tracks of the skeleton had come from, they followed the tracks through the snow, up the side of the mountain. The tracks ended when they came upon an ancient gravesite—it was the grave of the boy’s father.

Categories
Indie Horror

Phantom Hitchhikers and Vanishing Vagabonds

Phantom hitchhikers, or vanishing hitchhikers are most popular as an urban legend, or ghost story within the continental United States–typically a young woman stranded on the side of the road who desperately needs to get home. This original story based on the phantom hitchhiker legend is a typical account of what is to be expected if you were to pick her up on the side of the road.

Upon a Lonely Road…

Lightning cracked, the electricity streaked across the sky in brilliant resonance, lighting up the dismal drowning mountainous landscape. The rain was suffocating his windshield, even with his wipers at their highest speed, he could barely see the road ahead of him. The man’s hands tightened around the steering wheel and his knuckles blanched as the road began to twist angrily down the lonely mountain road—walking in on his wife in the throws of passion with another man was just the start of his bad luck it seemed, now he felt as if he were going to careen off an icy road into a dark deep ditch. He sighed, his heart ached deeply and the song on the radio mirrored the depth of his pain. He truly didn’t know where he was going tonight, but it was better than where he had come from.

Phantom Hitchhiker on the road

The patter of rain against his windshield was deafening as he rounded another treacherous turn and he flicked on his high beams—it was at that moment he caught sight of a woman walking down the side of the road. His brow furrowed, she was dressed too poorly for the weather and there weren’t any homes that he knew of in the area, he couldn’t imagine the type of luck she had that would land her in the situation that she was clearly in. He slowed his truck to a stop just as he had passed her by, his blinker clicked steadily, matching the beat of the music that droned on in the background. He reached over and opened his door for the woman as she approached the cab, then shivered as the cold air pulled him into its tight embrace. His breath blurred his view of the woman as she stopped in front of him, “are you going towards town?”

“Yeah, I’m in no rush though, where are you headed?” The bedraggled woman slid into his truck and closed the door, her white dress had her soaked to the bone—he turned up the heater for her, then pulled off his own jacket, offering it up to her.

“I live downtown, if you don’t mind, I can give you directions?” The man nodded and she accepted his coat graciously and pushed her wet hair out of her face. He didn’t know if he ought to ask her what had led her to be on the side of the road at this hour, in such awful weather, but he figured that it really wasn’t any of his business, so decided against it. He pulled back onto the road and felt the awkward air that had taken over the entire truck. Her hands twisted uncomfortably in her lap, his coat hung limply over her pathetic and grief-stricken figure. There were no words that could be spoken now, anything he thought of uttering left his mind just as soon as his lips moved to speak the words. The road continued to be treacherous, but she seemed unbothered by anything, his eyes drifted to her face briefly, her lips formed an unconscious pout that drew him in.

He hadn’t noticed when she had gotten in that she possessed such beauty, but he didn’t linger on it long, the road finally evened out as they reached the bottom of the mountain and his mind wandered to other things. The woman maintained her painfully silent demeanor, her exhaustion was apparent and it was clear she wasn’t much of a conversationalist.

They made it downtown without incident, she only spoke briefly to tell him where to turn and finally they made it to their destination—he brought his truck to a stop in front of the house she had indicated and turned it off. He turned to wish her luck, but his eyes landed on an empty, drenched seat. He blinked, dumbfounded, she couldn’t have possibly have left without his notice—but in her place there was a small, damp leather-bound book. He picked up the book, then thumbed through it realizing it was her journal and somehow felt dirty, as if he had stolen her secrets.

The confusion that he felt in that moment would never match his need of an answer for what had happened—how she had suddenly vanished from his company, there had to be a reasonable explanation of what he had experienced. He stepped out of his truck and approached the house, uncertainty was the only thing he knew anymore, but perhaps she had just slipped away without his notice. He found his finger on the door bell and briefly entertained the idea of running from what he might find out here, but before he could follow through, a woman answered the door.

“Hello, can I help you?” The woman looked drained, as if the night had been a long and deeply harrowing experience for her as well.

“I… I just gave a young woman a ride here, she left her journal in my truck?” He handed her the book and saw a change in her expression.

“This must be a mistake… This can’t be,” her voice caught in her throat as she opened the journal’s cover, “perhaps you should come inside, I’ll get my husband.” The man stepped inside the home cautiously, he felt like an imposter, but he needed to know what was going on. The woman led him to their sitting room, where the walls were covered in pictures of what looked like family and friends. Just as he took his seat, his eyes caught a picture of the woman who had answered the door hugging the young woman who he had picked up on the side of the road.

“What’s going on?” He almost knew the answer, but he didn’t dare speak his own truth, “where is she?”

The woman whimpered under her breath and once her husband came into the room, she handed him the journal. “This man brought us Heather’s journal,” was all she could get out before she became noticeably upset and walked quickly out of the room.

The man began talking, trying to detail everything that had brought him to their house tonight—he didn’t care how wildly untrue it sounded, or if his crazy story made him seem like he was completely out of his mind. The husband listened intently, his face remained calm and there was an eerie ease that settled the man as he finished his story. “I’m sorry, I know how all of this sounds, I’m just a stranger—I—I can let myself out.”

The husband raised his hand to stop him, “no, please. I know what it sounds like, I know you probably feel like you’re going insane, but… you’re not the first person to try to bring her home.”

The man’s breath caught in his throat, “I—what?”

“Heather has been trying to come home on the anniversary of her murder for the last six years, but we’ve never gotten anything like this before,” the husband’s hands clutched the journal gratefully. “They never found her killer, but… this may give us some closure. I know my wife wasn’t able to say it, but we appreciate your time.”

The man’s heart was beating much too violently in his chest and he couldn’t stand it, he had to get out of here, he had to put some distance between himself and what had happened tonight. There were so many questions that he had, but he knew he could never ask them. The man got the name of the young woman from her mother and father, then made his goodbyes—he knew his next stop would be at the closest dive bar he could find. It would be too much to ask for this to all be a weird dream, but seeking numbness on his own from the bottom of a liquor bottle might make him forget about what he had experienced.

The next morning greeted him with a headache that mimicked the after effects of a concussion—he sat up from his uncomfortable position in his truck and rubbed his eyes to find that he had driven himself to a cemetery after he had left the bar the night before. He was grateful he wasn’t waking up to a tree through his windshield and was about to start his truck up and drive away before something strange caught his eye. His eyes narrowed and he stepped out of his truck, the gloomy, overcast day gave him something to be grateful for, no sun to shine in his eyes between the thumps of his throbbing head. He approached the tombstone that had captured his attention, and realized that what had drawn him there was the fact that his coat was draped so gently over this particular stone. It all came back to him at that moment, the hitchhiker, her parents—the lack of explanation of what had really happened—he picked up his coat and saw her name chiseled into the stone.

Categories
Featured Horror Books

The Gothic Literary Pioneer: Edgar Allan Poe

Without question, one of the most important and influential American writers of the 19th century, Edgar Allan Poe was the first author to attempt to make a real professional living out of writing. Most of Poe’s work was inspired by the events that happened around him and to him throughout his life. During his career, he was a pioneer of the science fiction genre due to his fascination with the sciences available during his time and it can be seen that he often wrote stories that spoke about new inventions. With stories such as The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Poe has also been credited with inventing the modern detective story, using concepts such as deductive reasoning–this inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous Sherlock Holmes.

Despite all of his talents within different genres of writing and the fact that his modern reputation is based primarily on his horror stories and lyrical poetry, he made his living as a literary critic and theoretician–one of America’s greatest.

Short Stories

Poe can be considered the master of the macabre, as he famously transformed the genre of the short horror story with his psychologically deep and insightful tales that the genre had never seen before. His classic stories helped to re-imagine the genre, where The Tell-Tale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Black Cat, and The Masque of the Red Death which revealed the depths of his masterful story-weaving talents. While The Black Cat isn’t Poe’s most popular short story, it definitely reveals in a shorter form the dark and psychological terrors of Poe’s mind–the words that poured out of this author’s soul spoke of deep pain and misery that one can only credit to the gothic form.

The Black Cat (1845)

The Black Cat

For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not–and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified — have tortured — have destroyed me. [Read More…]

Other Notable Short Stories

Poetry

Even if Poe had never written a single story, his poetry would have been enough to secure his legacy in literary history, as nearly every single one of them is considered a poetic masterpiece. A brief introduction to some of his works of poetry would most notably include The Raven, Annabel Lee, To Helen, and Ulalume. Below we have included one of our favorite poems by this famous dead author, which can be considered one of the all-time favorites and most notable of all of his poems, The Raven.

The Raven (1849)

The Raven Illustration

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door–
“‘Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door–
Only this and nothing more.”
[Read More…]

Other Notable Poetry

Why Should You Read Edgar Allan Poe?

To be clear, this selection of the work of Edgar Allan Poe is woefully lacking, but these are a great selection out of his incredibly large body of work. We urge you to read as much of it as possible and if you’re already a studied fan of Poe, let us know what your favorite story or poem is below!