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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

50 Years of Sasquatch Experiences in Clackamas County, Oregon

As most people are aware, Bigfoot or Sasquatch is a notorious cryptid that has been reported to roam throughout all of North America–one state, however, that seems to have an abundance of sightings is Oregon. While it’s impossible to cover all of these sightings in one article, these are some of the highlights we found during our research.

Timeline of Sightings

1971

June – Motorists see Sasquatch at Nighttime Near Boring

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY near the town of Boring, a witness was driving in the wood when a large bipedal creature ran up onto the road from the right.

First-Hand Experience

After seeing the car, the creature ran away from the car on the road approximately thirty to forty feet before it ran up the small embankment to the left and out of eyesight. The driver and their companion jumped out of their car to investigate, but couldn’t see anything else—they estimated that it was at least six feet, covered in hair, and they also reported that the creature ran as if flat-footed. It reportedly paused to look at their car when it first came up onto the road, before it turned and ran—it was dark, so they only witnessed what could be seen with the headlights of the car.


1974

June – Sighting From a Hunting Platform Behind Skyline Mobile Park

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY two brothers witnessed a cinnamon-colored creature walk by them while sitting on a hunting platform in the woods behind Skyline Mobile Park off of Sandy Heights Road.

First-Hand Experience

Behind the Skyline Mobile Park are woods, with a small stream at the bottom of the hill called Tickle Creek—an area that these two witnesses used to frequent, but noticed after having been absent from the area directly before the sighting, that the area had grown immensely. Just six feet up on a platform in the crook of a tree, the two brothers, both in their teens at the time, were using their BB gun to shoot a stump down the hill from where they were sitting in their tree. Just as one of the brothers was about to shoot the BB gun, something passed right in front of the tall stump, but everything except the creatures head was obscured by the surrounding trees and brush. The witness got a good look at the head though, as it had short cinnamon-brown fur covering the head, and a flat nose.

The view of the creature was quick, as it disappeared into the brush without making a sound due to the bed of fir needles that covered the ground. While there were two boys there, only one of them actually witnessed the creature, the other only having seen the disturbed brush that the creature had disappeared into. Once they were sure the creature had gone they decided to investigate what they believed they had seen and estimated that the creature must have been approximately 7 1/2 feet tall. The witnesses went to an adult and related their story, but weren’t taken seriously. Later that same day, during the evening, they looked up to where the tree platform was and they saw a silhouette of a bipedal creature—they were unable to make out any facial features.


September 1 – Foul Odor and Unusual Sounds Near the Northfork Bridge on the Collawash River

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY while camping, a witness reported a foul odor and unusual sounds at 2:30 am, then found tracks the next morning.

First-Hand Experience

A short distance off of a sandy shore, a family was camping in a small bushy clearing. Right before the encounter, the family’s dogs woke suddenly and frantically began to bark for several minutes—after a short while their barks stifled into whines and then whimpers. Eventually the dogs were so frightened that they lay there silent and trembling—this of course awoke the witness who reached for the gun he had resting under his pillow. He began to hear something wading through the water, which he noticed smelled utterly foul—this witness reported it smelled as if it were urine-soaked fur. The witness pretended to sleep, hoping that it would pass by without attacking and said that the encounter lasted approximately four minutes. He also reported that it brushed against his head which greatly frightened him. The next morning, he investigated the shoreline in which he found very large foot prints in the dryer sand, as well as all around their campsite.


1978

August – Nighttime Sighting by Motorist Between Barton and Carver

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a motorist driving between Barton and Carver encountered at nighttime.

First-Hand Experience

A motorist and their roommate were driving along Highway 224 between Carver and Barton around 10 pm when they saw a pair of eyes reflecting the car’s headlights on the side of the road nearest to the river. The two frequently traveled up to Estacada at night in order to visit a friend who was working at the Safari Club. As they got closer to where the owner of the reflective eyes, they began to see the creature they were attached to standing near a maple tree. The creature enormous, dark brown and hairy—and simply stared at them as they drove past. After driving another mile, the driver finally asked their roommate if they had seen the creature on the side of the highway, which they had.


1984

August – Molalla River Sighting by Tree-line

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY past Molalla in Dickey Prairie, there is a small store that sits alongside the river–just three miles further is a bridge that crosses the river where some girls viewed an unidentified bipedal creature that happened to be retreating back into the tree-line.

First-Hand Experience

In 1984, a fifteen-year-old who lived just outside the town of Molalla in Dickey Prairie where her home sat just on the river. One evening before dusk, she and her friend were hanging out near the bottom of the bridge where they swam regularly during the warm summer nights. Something–perhaps a sound or just a feeling–made the two girls look across the river where they saw a flash of a man-like creature running between the trees. She described it as being dark brown or black and covered in hair, she also estimated that it had to have been at least 7 1/2 feet tall.

Having been a resident tomboy, this young girl had roamed all over the woods, the abandoned logging roads, and knew the forest well. She reported having never been more scared than that evening, where she and her friend promptly ran all the way back to her home. It wasn’t until they reached the safety of the house did they even try to talk about what they had both seen, but when they tried to tell her parents they weren’t taken seriously. They noticed that the creature had wanted to get away from them as much as they wanted to get away from it.


1987

June 20 – Couple Hears Strange Vocalizations on Troon Drive

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a couple hears what sounds like a woman screaming.

First-Hand Experience

During a construction development of homes, a couple had just moved into the first completed house—after two weeks of living in their new home, they left their windows open overnight and began to hear strange sounds. They couldn’t identify them at first because it was a low rumbling sound, which eventually got louder and louder—very soon they believed it to be a woman screaming or yelling. At first they believed that it may have been a woman or teenage girl being attacked by a potential rapist and the wife was told to call the police. The husband threw on clothes and ran down into the newly paved cul-de-sac and as soon as he got outside he realized there were no cars or teenagers that he could see, but the vocalizations got much clearer. After about five minutes the screams stopped and the police arrived, they checked it out but found nothing.


1991

July – Sounds Heard at Skookum Lake

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a group of friends went camping near Skookum lake when they had a strange encounter and heard unusual sounds.

First-Hand Experience

Four friends went camping near Skookum Lake, one of whom had a father who worked for the Forest Service and set up their camp as soon as they arrived near the lake. They decided to go on a long hike up Thunder Mountain and upon returning, the sun had already begun to set. The four friends were exhausted after such a long hike and all decided to go to sleep right away. Sometime during the night, one of the campers woke up to strange sounds—not the type of forest sounds that they were used to hearing. They heard rocks being thrown down from the ridge above them, and heard them banging off the other rocks on the way down.

During the hike earlier in the day, they had noticed a large pile of boulders near the top of the ridge where the rocks were tumbling down and speculated that it sounded as if there was someone hunting for something. The witness sat up in their tent and realized that they weren’t dreaming and then they tried to wake up their friends, but no one else would wake up. The noises of the rocks falling stopped and the camper fell back only to be woken up to the sound of foot steps outside of their camp. The camper didn’t believe it was a bear, because they heard that the foot steps were too spaced out to be a four-legged animal. None of the other campers friends heard anything that night.


1993

June – A Family is Approached Near Cabin in the Forest

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a family was approached near their forest cabin outside of Rhododendron.

First-Hand Experience

A woman’s fiancé had a cabin on Mt. Hood near Rhododendron and while visiting their cabin, she had their Rottweiler tied to a tree. While she was outside doing some work, the Rottweiler started growling towards the forest, which is when she looked up and saw a big and hairy creature stepping between the trees. She didn’t register what was happening at first, so she yelled at the thing to leave the property, or else she would let the Rottweiler loose.

When the hairy creature continued to step behind and between trees, she called out her kids and told them to keep an eye on whatever it was while she got her work done. All the while, the creature continued to move closer and closer, before her fiancé pulled up to the cabin and the creature disappeared. This was when she realized that what she had seen was not actually an intruder or a bear.


1995

May – Campers Hear Vocalizations Near Timberline Lodge

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a group was camping within walking distance of Timberline Lodge near Mt. Hood when they heard strange unidentifiable sounds.

First-Hand Experience

Three friends were invited to go camping, just below Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, by mutual friends who worked at the ski resort. They had gotten there on a Friday afternoon, but on the following evening while sitting around a campfire they began to hear strange sounds coming from the woods directly below them. One of the campers, who was less knowledgeable than some of the others asked if any of them knew what had made the sounds, but after listening for several minutes, none of them could identify what could have been making the noise. They all agreed it sounded like a scream or a yell that could not have been coming from a human due to the volume of the sound. The sounds lasted for approximately a half-hour, but they could also hear the sounds of something large walking through the brush where the vocalizations were coming from. They jokingly discussed the possibility of it being a Bigfoot, but after returning home from camping, they heard audio from a Discovery Channel program where they were researching the legend of Bigfoot and the sounds presented as evidence in the show were identical to the ones that they had all heard while camping.


July – Camp Counselor Has Daylight Sighting Near Molalla River

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a camp counselor was doing trail work near the Molalla River when they sighted a Bigfoot during the daytime.

First-Hand Experience

A sixteen-year-old was volunteering as a day camp counselor when they took a friend for a walk on the trails within the camps—they were cleaning the trails and brought their lunches to eat while on a break. A half-mile away from the main camp, on the outskirts, the two friends were near a swampy area when they stopped to eat lunch, one of them realized they had left something back at camp and left while the other ate their lunch.

Expecting only to be alone for around ten minutes, the volunteer counselor heard something in the woods to their left and stood up to get a better look at what it could be. What they saw was a massive hairy man-like creature that was standing next to a large cedar tree approximately fifty feet away. They estimated that it was about eight feet tall, very wide, and bulky. They perceived the creature as having long thick fur that was approximately six inches long and medium brown in color. The creature looked at them for a few seconds of solid eye contact before it immediately ran away. The witness knew it was not their friend pranking them, due to the fact that they ran into their friend on their way back to the camp after their disturbing encounter.


November – A Dusk Encounter in the Woods Off of Hunter Road

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a bow-hunter reported having an encounter around dusk in the woods off Hunter Road.

First-Hand Experience

A witness was bow-hunting between two deer trails, facing west into the wind at around dusk—he noticed that the night was eerily quiet considering it was usually a hot-zone for deer activity. By the time it became too dark for the bow-hunter to see through his aiming sights, he heard footsteps crunching along the forest floor behind him—at first he believed it to be a buck and that it seemed to be following his scent to where he was hidden in some blackberry bushes. That’s when the witness realized that the creature was actually what looked like a Bigfoot standing approximately 75 feet behind him; the Bigfoot looked to be approximately 7 1/2 feet tall and around 600 lb. Eventually after staring at each other for what seemed like forever, before the Bigfoot turned around and walked in the direction that it had come from. When the hunter went to look for tracks the next day, there were no tracks due to the thick layer of leaves on the ground.

Dark Creepy Forest
Photography by Harrison Broadbent

2000

June – Strange Sounds Heard on a Property Outside of Molalla

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a sixteen-year-old experienced something strange while walking home.

First-Hand Experience

A teenager who had lived in a wooded area all of their life, had been accustomed to walking alone in the woods in the dark without worrying about their safety or being anxious about creatures being in the forest with them. This particular night, they had been using the computer at their grandmother’s home before they walked to their own home which was less than a football field away. For some reason that night they had a a strange feeling that they weren’t alone in the forest and adrenaline rushed through them as they walked home, terrified. Thirty feet to their right they heard a loud thumping and crashing sound. They broke out into a run and believed they could hear bipedal movement quickly following after—the teen got to their house and threw the door closed behind them and locked the door.


July 22 – Vocalizations in the Morning Near Sandy

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY a visitor to the area heard unusual vocalizations in the early morning near Sandy.

First-Hand Experience

While looking out of a second-story window of the Sandy Inn Hotel, a witness in a room on the north side of the building was looking upon the woods and the Columbia River in the distance. During his three day stay, on the night of the 21st, this particular witness couldn’t sleep. The rest of his family was sound asleep; it was a humid night a few hours after a thunderstorm and was awake around 3 am on the 22nd when he heard the strange sounds. The witness was attempting to cool off and had their head out of the second-story window, enjoying the breeze while looking off into the woods. Otherwise a silent night, they suddenly heard a sound that they could not quite describe—it was too long for it to be the sound of tires screeching, but then thought it might be a man screaming or wailing—but it was definitely a high pitched and inhuman sound. Admittedly the witness emphasized that they had never heard a Bigfoot sound previously, but from later research, they believed them to be a match to what was heard.


2001

March 18 – Tracks in Table Rock Creek

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY within the wilderness of Table Rock, once again near Molalla and Dickey Prairie, nearest to the town of Glen Avon. Two Hikers came across tracks during their hike near the Table Rock Wilderness.

First-Hand Experience

While hiking near Table Rock Wilderness, near the end of the winter season in March, two brothers came across footprints in the snow. They were surprised to find that their size 12 and 13 boots were dwarfed by these veru large, bare, human-like footprints. The men took pictures using a digital camera, where they used a dollar bill as a size reference of not just the track, but also the length of the stride, the latter of which they measured to be approximately four feet.


November 29 – Sighting in Neighborhood Near Mt. Hood

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY an Oregon resident near Mount Hood caught a glimpse of a Bigfoot in his neighborhood.

First-Hand Experience

This sighting was approximately forty feet from a small outhouse building in an area near Rhododendron off Highway 26. The witness who submitted this report said that they saw the creature from a distance of about 130 feet, from a window in their home. Although this sighting was at night, a car’s headlights backlit the creature as it ran from the left side of the road to the right side from this witness’s perspective. The here unidentified occupants of the car also sighted this creature, all witnesses stated that it was around seven-feet-tall hairy bipedal creature, running quickly. The neighborhood dogs were apparently all barking excitedly, which is what initially caused the witness to look through his window. A limited search for footprints with a flashlight were unsuccessful, despite a moist evening with light precipitation. Upon going out to investigate what he had seen, the witness also reported noticing a bad odor where the sighted creature had been.


2003

November – Bigfoot Experience in Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY on the property that bordered the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness—a witness that was living off of Elk Park Road in Welches believes they experienced a Bigfoot attempting to come into their residence, as well as having witnessed several vocalizations.

First-Hand Experiences

A forty-year-old had an experience with what they believed was a run-in with Bigfoot. This person was living in an apartment just above a garage that overlooked the Salmon River. That particular night at 6 pm, there was a loud bang on their (thankfully) locked front door, which prompted them to call 911 and report being alone and scared after something hand banged on their door. After calling 911, they heard grunting on their deck, and looked out to see if they could see anything. When the witness came face-to-face with a set of eyes from what would have had to be a huge creature. They made eye-contact and just watched each other for a moment—it was described as having been furry.


2004

June 19-22 – Off of Highway 211 Northeast of Colton

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY just off of Highway 211 Northeast of the Colton area, around midnight, the witness heard strange vocalizations and discovered footprints.

First-Hand Experience

While visiting a friend in the Colton area at the base of Goat Mountain in a reportedly known Bigfoot area; a witness reported that around midnight, they began to hear strange noises in the tree-line which was approximately 100 yards from the friend’s house. These noises also seemed to be coming from three different locations, as if communicating back and forth, but it was clear that these calls were coming from something very large. After listening for around thirty minutes, when the witness finally had everyone else at the house come outside to bear witness to what the original person had been hearing. Not a single one of them could identify what the noise was and all agreed that the noises were strange.

They decided to shine a light at which point the noises ceased until the flashlight was shut off—they couldn’t identify anything due to heavy brush. The calls back and forth lasted until about a half an hour before dawn. The witness was an experienced outdoorsman, as was the owner of the property and neither could identify anything other than a Bigfoot that the creature could have been. That morning after day broke, they went and were able to discover two possible tracks that were also unidentifiable after comparing them to other animal tracks from the same area. They also noticed that the grass was pushed down in what looked to be heavy three to four foot strides. The property owner has heard the same noises ever since that night, as well as thrashing sounds from within the brush. There is a speculated link between the sudden frequency of the sounds and logging that may have pushed them out of their habitat.


September 26 – Tree-shaking Display near Molalla River

In CLACKAMAS COUNTY campers were greeted by an unexpected tree-shaking display near Molalla River.

First-Hand Experience

Thirteen miles south of the Glen Avon Bridge on the Molalla River, two friends and their two large dogs took a trip to check up on a campsite that they were planning on using during the summer. They had only walked approximately twenty-five feet from the gravel road and a huge sound of bushes and trees crackling and breaking came from their left. One of the witnesses saw the disturbance out of the corner of their eye and looked over where they saw brush moving violently ten feet off of the path. No creature was visible, but it was clear there was something large moving the trees—they could all feel the vibration of footsteps under their own feet and the distinct sounds of heavy thumping strides. They felt as if they had been startled by something that was enormous, close, and very fast.

If you happen to live in Clackamas County and you have encountered a Bigfoot or Sasquatch, let us know below!

Categories
Horror Mystery and Lore

A Look Into the Succubus

What do we really know about succubi? As far as can be seen from movies and literature, they aren’t usually regarded with fear—although they should be. The idea of a run-in with a succubus, a female sex demon, is usually considered an arousing fantasy—those who have experienced them first-hand would strenuously disagree. There are numerous posts on Reddit that offer details of the simultaneously pleasurable and terrifyingly evil encounters with a real succubus. Suffice it to say, some of the victims of succubi meet their end in a terrible fashion.

The silhouette of a woman in bed, Succubus
Photography by Alexander Krivitskiy

Real Encounters with Succubi

While it seems unthinkable that something as outlandish as a succubus could be real, let alone feed off of their human lovers, there are documented cases that lead us to believe that such demons could possibly exist—have you ever encountered a succubus or an incubus?

J. K. Huysmans Seeks Religion, Finds Sin

A French author of the nineteenth century, J. K. Huysman had decided to go on a pilgrimage—having spent much of his life exploring various paranormal and supernatural phenomena. In an effort to travel back to the Christian roots of his childhood, he took up residence at a monastery. A misled belief that has been held for centuries, especially in the case of demonic possession, is that a pious lifestyle will provide personal protection from all evil spirits. This was an unfortunate rumor because it seems that the more dedicated a person is to their religious beliefs, the likelier that they are susceptible to attracting demons of all kinds. As a man with good intentions, he was not necessarily the most virtuous of people and he soon found himself to be the target of a succubus.

While he slept one night in his room at the monastery, he was awakened in the middle of his climax—seeing the succubus just as she began to vanish. Huysmans was certain, after seeing evidence that someone or something else had been in his bed with him while he had been sleeping. The belief at the time was that a succubus would steal the semen from unwitting male victims, then transform into an incubus, the male counterpart to the succubus, then use it to impregnate female victims.

Silhouette of a woman, Succubus
Photography by Alexander Krivitskiy

Pope Sylvester II’s Rise to Power

Prior to becoming Pope Sylvester II, Gerbert of Aurillac was a student, he fell in love with the daughter of the dean of this university. Unfortunately for Gerbert, she rejected him as he was far below her own social class—the anguish and unrequited passion he had for this woman possessed Gerbert with lustful and lascivious feelings. This was when he met Meridiana, an exquisitely beautiful young woman who seemed to appear out of nowhere. She promised him that should he remain faithful to her alone that she could make him intelligent, wealthy, and provide him the intimacy that he so desired. Gerbert couldn’t accept her deal quickly enough and through proving his loyalty, she helped him traverse through the ranks of the church and was appointed as archbishop of Rheims. By the time he had become pope, he was far above the social class of the woman who had slighted him; when he cheated on Meridiana with the dean’s daughter, she forgave him due to his previously intense loyalty.

Meridiana was Gerbert’s closely guarded secret, because of the well-known requirement of chastity for the Catholic clergy. He continued in his successes, until one day, Meridiana predicted he would die during a pilgrimage to Jerusalem—as it would seem, the age-old adage of, “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” is really the case when dealing with a possessive, jealous, female sex demon. Terrified, Gerbert canceled his trip to Jerusalem, then publicly confessed to his lifetime of sins, fearing that if he were to die without repenting, he would have gone straight to hell. He later died in Rome, where he now resides in a tomb, which is reported to begin to sweat when the current pope is destined to die.

A Succubus Disguised as An Imaginary Friend

In 2012, a young man named Patrick was the target of a succubus that had been posing as his imaginary friend from childhood—this friend, Lucy, would come to Patrick when he was lonely and play with him, following him throughout his childhood and watching him grow. One day, she confided in Patrick that one day he would be old enough for her to teach him interesting and exciting things that he couldn’t yet understand. His parents were understandably disturbed by his obsession with his imaginary friend, so they took him to several different psychologists to see if they could get him some help. When Patrick got to the age of sixteen, he said that Lucy persuaded him to meet and date real women so that she could start teaching him these new things; he claims she stuck around for several years, teaching him how to satisfy himself and the women he took as partners. Lucy finally disappeared when Patrick fell in love and married.

Cultural Representations of the Succubus

Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868
Lady Lilith Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1868

Lilith, the First Wife of Adam

As the first wife of Adam from the Garden of Eden, Lilith is the archetype of feminism, independence, and dominance. While she takes many forms in the various versions created of her, she became the first succubus when she left the Garden of Eden and interbred with demons—she was said to give birth to over a hundred children a day, creating an entire race of succubi. She is such a powerful icon as a demon and a succubus, that there are reports from men from vastly different cultures, throughout the centuries that claim to have been visited by Lilith—some who summoned her, others were just unsuspecting victims. Lilith, is by far the most famous succubus in all of the lore, appearing in Christian, Roman, Greek, Judaic, Sumerian and Egyptian cultural mythologies.

In Sumerian lore, she was the goddess of fertility and witchcraft, which evolved with the Assyrians and Babylonians who categorized her as a demon. She appears in Greek mythology as well, portrayed as a romantic adversary of Hera, who as a jealous goddess cast her out and sent her to roam the lands and consume infants.

Um Al Duwayce

In the Middle East there is a version of the succubus known as um al duwayce—she is the possessor of both incredible beauty and the most intoxicating scent. Um al duwayce roams the desert, acting as judge, jury, and executioner to men who would commit adultery. Hold on though, it gets better—for the men who she has tempted into having sex with her, her lady bits act as a guillotine for the victim’s manhood, then she reveals her true form and devours him alive.

Qarînah 

Similar to the succubus, the qarînah belongs to Arabic superstition, she is a spirit with origins in ancient Egypt and possibly within the pre-Islamic animism of Arabia. While the qarînah is invisible, she can be seen by a person who possesses the second sight, but instead of showing as a woman, they are depicted as a household pet. It is said that the people that the qarînah possesses can never enter into marriage, or she will end their lives.

Autumniessink

The Hawaiian succubus isn’t known by too many details, except that she appears as a beautiful young woman, then sneaks into the tents of virgin men at night and robs them of their purity. In order to stay virginal and otherwise thwart the Autumniessink, the man must wear a loincloth made from Hawaiian Snowbush.

Movies and Television Shows That Make Us Weary of Pretty Women

Jennifer’s Body (2009)

Lost Girl (2010 – 2016)

Categories
Featured Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

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

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.”

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Anna Byrne: Chapter 04 – Finding the Bokor

I twitched awake, I felt the unsettling warmth of sweaty palms, and my heart pounded in my chest as I gasped for air. It was the week following the winter Solstice and it was colder than it had been all year; the skies above my cabin were entirely void of cloud cover and had the clearest view of the milky way. Clear skies during the darkest parts of winter would always have a chilling effect on the temperature, this time it caused it to plummet to thirty below. Living in Alaska wasn’t always pleasant, especially times like the present, where I could see my breath rise as a fog above my face, even in the darkness of my cabin.

“The water again?” I groaned silently, then rolled over onto my side and squinted into the backlit screen of my laptop as it booted up. I blinked my eyes a couple of times to help them adjust to the screen, then clicked the only icon on my desktop. I waited as my secure connection bounced between Bruges, San Francisco, and finally Vancouver; Tor, the anonymous browser I used to access the dark web, opened to its usual homepage. I vaguely remembered where I had left off in the Oasis when I signed off at two in the morning, but when my eyes flicked over to the clock in the corner I saw that had only been three hours earlier. My dreams had turned into nightly hauntings, which always ended with me choking for air as I drifted beneath the murky surface of a strange body of water. I shook it off, even thinking about it gave me the chills.

It had been over eight years since the first time I logged into The Oasis, that was the summer before my nineteenth birthday, which now felt like such a long time ago. I entered in a string of seemingly random numbers into the address bar, this sequence had taken me nearly two weeks of typing it in to commit it to memory, despite entering it several times a day. Even with my high status as a long-term member of this particular darknet paranormal community, I still had no idea who ran the whole thing, let alone where it came from, all I knew was that it was legitimate.

I had only received an invitation after trolling the dregs of the paranormal communities for some time—right after I had sought out and documented proof of the Alaska Bushmen, the creatures that had been gnawing at my subconscious since I first heard of them as a child. It had taken me almost six years to find the damn things. A chat request from my anonymous buddy popped up in a panel on the side of my screen, I smiled softly. Even though I had never met him, he was probably the closest thing to a friend I had anymore–ever since my father lost his ability to speak, I had developed a tendency to keep to myself.

BanJack: Please tell me you heard.
Nevermore: Heard what?
BanJack: The Bayou is blowing up with news on the undead.
Nevermore: Back up Jack, are you telling me they might have found it?
BanJack: It’s possible, I mean the readings were off the charts. It’s really similar to the kind of power that we saw back…
Nevermore: Back when my dad had his stroke.
BanJack: Yeah, everything since then has only been a blip on the radar. I wasn’t expecting to see you on here for a few more hours though—had that dream again?
Nevermore: You’re psychic, B.
BanJack: So, you’re going, right?
Nevermore: Booking flights now. I’m not going to miss this opportunity again.
BanJack: Let me know what you find out.
Nevermore: You’ll be the first.

BanJack signed out of the chat and I was left to her own devices. There had been a little-known trend in New Orleans, for a small percentage of fringe Voodoo practitioners to fall in with a cult. Those unfortunate enough to be lured into the embrace of this cult, led by a bokor of ill repute ended up vanishing off of the face of the earth. This usually only happened to newly initiated followers who had no familial ties, nor anyone likely to miss them; these poor souls would end up on the lengthy list of officially missing, usually only after missing work for several consecutive days.

I had been the one to stumble upon this trend several years ago and mocked up a dossier to keep track of the happenings, but it had since only resurfaced twice. The first time was the day before my father experienced a stroke, the second I was already in the midst of an investigation. I was stuck in the Trinity Alps of Northern California in search of the Giant Salamander and only heard about it once I returned to civilization. Now I would finally get my opportunity to investigate this voodoo cult while the news was still fresh; if I could track down people with information before the trail went cold, I might actually have a chance to access this cult where the bokor was said to be resurrecting the dead.

The first flight that I would be able to make out of Fairbanks was set to leave in about five hours, it had an hour-long layover in Seattle before it would be off to New Orleans–it was a pricey flight, but she would be there before this time tomorrow and every moment counted. I sighed, finished booking my flight, then a lump of blankets moved at my feet. Within a few moments, my ragged, angry-looking cat emerged from beneath the blankets that I was still stubbornly buried under.

“Hey Shazu,” a yawn escaped my mouth, “looks like you’re gonna have a babysitter here the next couple of days.” An unexpectedly small and sweet trill escaped the large black and gray mop, which served as a half-hearted feline shrug. My bear of a cat was used to me coming and going at the drop of a hat, but to prove his contempt for my schedule he would surely leave a dead shrew in my slipper for when I came home. I unlocked my phone and sent a quick message to my neighbor, headed to New Orleans on an emergency, I’ll be gone for a couple of days, the standing arrangement between us would ensure that Shazu would be taken care of while I was away. The next few hours passed in the blink of an eye, but I had managed to make breakfast for myself and the cat, then scheduled delivery of heating fuel so that I didn’t come back to a frozen cabin and a catsicle. Through the icy blackness of the early morning outside, I saw the headlights break through my frosted-over windows, the cab I had called twenty minutes prior had just arrived to take me to the airport. “I’ll see you in about a week ‘Zu,” I fluffed my cat’s head before I slipped a cowl over my head and pulled my heavy Carhartt jacket on. Thankfully I always had a bug-out bag ready for days like today, when I would need to leave without much preparation. I grabbed my bug-out bag and the messenger bag that held my laptop and paperwork, then headed out into the blisteringly unsympathetic weather.

What might be a harrowing experience getting through TSA in any other airport in the contiguous United States, was only a brief twenty minutes from check-in to the terminal for my flight. Fairbanks International Airport was always half empty, even this soon after the holidays. I found myself sitting at the bar in the only restaurant in the airport, the thick dossier of her years-long investigation cracked open and resting lightly on the edge of the bartop. Flying usually only made me uneasy when the destination was on the other side of large bodies of water but for reasons, I couldn’t quite articulate, the prospect of this flight was causing my anxiety to flare up. The bartender set a rum and diet cola in front of me, “thanks Gus,” I mumbled over her paperwork. My focus was on the picture of a vèvè that had been spray-painted in black on a dilapidated, moss-covered tomb in the Lafayette Cemetery; I knew it was connected to the activities of the bokor I was seeking.

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I took a sip of the cocktail that sat perspiring on the napkin in front of me, I’m sure my expression twisted, I wasn’t quite expecting it to slap me so hard in the face. “Still pouring them weak Gus?” I’m sure my voice was dripping in sarcasm, but the truth was I didn’t mind–Gus knew me well enough to know I appreciated a heavy pour.

I traced the vèvè with my finger, it consisted of a decorated cross upon a tomb that was flanked by two coffins, the symbol of Baron Samedi. Another hour passed without my notice until I heard them announce the flight to New Orleans was boarding. With the two flights and my layover, I would have plenty of time to review my file and bring myself back up to speed on everything I had found and worked on in connection with this cult. It was all of the relevant news articles that referenced the cult’s activities and missing person reports which dated back over ten years. It was like a morbid scrapbook that pointed me to the place where I would need to start looking.

The ride from the airport reminded me why she still lived in Alaska, buildings were crammed against other buildings and the small streets gave no room to breathe. I could never handle living in a cramped city. The cab pulled up in front of the hostel, it was a lemon-yellow small two-story victorian house with white pillars, decorative black wrought iron guardrails, and a row of colorful flags that fluttered lightly in the heavy air.

It wasn’t until I had checked in, that I felt like I could relax again. I was assigned a bunk, but I wasn’t tired, instead, I pulled out my laptop and logged into Tor so I could surf the Oasis for the new information to which my friend had tipped me off. The French Quarter was known to be the voodoo center of New Orleans, but that’s not where people had been going missing—what I had found was that the disappearances were actually occurring in the Bywater neighborhood—the Desire area in particular.

Most recently, a young man by the name of Stanley Dean Keeling had gone missing, I worked at a corner store and after two consecutive days of not calling or showing up to his job—something which he apparently had never done before—his boss of three years had gone to check on him at his home. His home was in disarray, beyond just poor housekeeping, his boss told the police it looked like there had been a struggle. A week later and it was a nonissue, the police had insisted that Stanley had probably left town–and just like that Stanley was another name on a growing list of missing people who had no one to really miss them.

A brief stop in at Stanley’s home only revealed how quickly the landlord cleared out his abandoned belongings and relisted the home for rent. I didn’t fail to notice the vèvè of Baron Samedi that had been carved into the threshold of the front door. My eyes darkened because I knew it was no longer a question of what happened to Stanley, he had been taken, but where and by whom? I knew what my next step had to be; I was close enough to the French Quarter where I could search the local voodoo market for leads on where to look next. It was going to be tedious work, but I knew I would come up with something before I had to turn in for the night. I had no delusions that tracking down a cult that had stayed hidden this long was going to be easy, but the hunt for the truth was what I lived for.

A short muggy cab ride to the French Quarter gave me access to almost a dozen different voodoo shops on foot. I could see now that jeans were the wrong choice to wear in such a humid environment—even with the temperatures in the mid-fifties, it was difficult for me to breathe. I wandered with purpose from store to store, trying to conversationally ask questions about the local voodoo scene until I got to the last shop on my list. I eyed the old wooden sign that hung from the awning, then took in the scene in the window. It was dreary on the outside, animal skulls adorned the display and there was nothing about the shop that welcomed a stranger. Inside it had a different atmosphere than any of the other shops, it was darker, less kitschy, and there was something else about it—maybe it was just my imagination, or maybe it was the lack of tourists in this particular shop. Either way, I realized I was probably exactly where I needed to be.

Upon walking inside, I was in a completely different world, the old ornate shelves were worn and the paint was distressed. Each of the shelves were full to the brim with ritual ingredients, like powdered eggshells, chicken bones, and feet, then there was a full spectrum of hairs from different animals. Each of these oddities had a brief description on the label, but even upon reading some of them I couldn’t quite understand what might be useful about dirt taken from the grave of a mentally ill convicted murderer. A petite bottle of Florida water caught my eye and in my research I had heard of its usefulness in protection and cleansing rituals, so I took one from the shelf without a second thought. Moments later my eyes fell upon a jar of red brick dust­—for use in thresholds, so none that intend to cause harm may cross—I plucked the jar from the shelf, noting that this and the Florida water may come in handy somewhere down the line.

Caught up in the ambiance of the store, I perused a display of jewelry, where I saw the familiar loa vèvès carved into metal pendants. Among the ones I was most familiar with, I saw Maman Brigitte, Papa Legba, Erzulie Dantor, and Baron Samedi. A copper one for Papa Legba, as well as a silver one for Baron Samedi, seemed to make their own way into my hands. I considered putting them back but thoughtfully considered that a ritual offering to both of them might afford me some protection in my search. All I would need now would be a couple of fine cigars, rum, and freshly baked bread to set out for the two loa I would be petitioning for help. Once I was done looking through each section of the small shop, I approached the counter, set down my selected items, and pulled out the picture of Stanley that I had brought with me. I had the foresight to bring it with me, I might as well see if it got me any reactions, but this cashier looked unamused from the moment I had walked in.

“I was hoping to ask you if you had seen my cousin in here,” I offered before I slid his picture across the counter, while the cashier rang up my purchases.  “No one has seen him in the past two weeks—we’re really worried, he usually doesn’t go this long without contacting his mom.” I was an honest person–I swear–but I considered these kinds of white lies fairly valuable in gaining information—Stanley, as far as I knew, didn’t actually have any living family and even if he did, they obviously weren’t making too much of a fuss about finding him. A brief search on the darknet had told me as much, these days I didn’t have to dive too deep in order to find the information I needed. Because that’s what friends are for…

“No,” the cashier was curt, but upon seeing the look of distress on my face, he continued, “he used to come in here a lot, a ways back at least. It’s been a couple of months since I seen him last.” At this, my face brightened.

“O-oh, he did?” I watched as the cashier bagged up my items. “I’m kind of desperate to find him, the police won’t take this seriously, won’t even officially take him down as a missing person. Told me he had just moved on,” my hand gestured in the air as if Stanley had just wafted away on a light breeze. “Do you know if he ever came in with anyone else? It would be helpful if I could find someone who knew him down here.”

The cashier looked at me as if I had just asked him to cut out his own tongue, his jaw tightened—I knew something wasn’t quite right, but I thought my questions were quite reasonable considering the persona I had taken on to find this guy. After a moment of awkward silence, the cashier took a piece of scrap paper and scribbled something down, then slid Stanley’s picture and the note back across the counter without looking back up at me.

“Listen, this is just a rumor, I don’t know if there is any truth to it, but it might be something—you didn’t get this information from me and I’ve never seen you before.” My brow furrowed softly, I slowly grabbed the picture and note from the counter and nodded my head.

“Thank you—,” I looked down at the note, it was an address, but the whole situation felt wrong, I took my bag, then stuffed the address in my jeans pocket, “I really appreciate the help.” It wasn’t until I had stepped out of the shop that I realized that it felt like there was something heavy sitting on my chest while I had been in the store. The sensation passed and I breathed in the dense but cooling evening air. It was getting fairly late, but one more stop at the closest corner market had me laden with some snacks, a bottle of rum, some nice cigars, and two white pillar candles which I would take with me to Lafayette cemetery where the vèvè of Baron Samedi had been marked on an old tomb. It was going to be a long night, but if everything worked out like I hoped it would, the address I had gotten from the creepy cashier and this offering might give me a better direction to continue in.

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Anna Byrne: Chapter 05 – Night of Resurrection

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It was a nice walk from the corner store to the cemetery I had marked on my map, it was so alien to see grass that was still green this time of year, and the sun beat down through the thick humid air. I reminded myself to not get used to the length of the days down in the lower forty-eight, it would just make me miss the sun that much more when I got home. Walking through what felt like ancient relics dedicated to days of luxury, I noticed many of the tombs I was passing by were in various states of decay. The lavish stonework had gone through years of disrepair and had been devastated by vandals in some places, but there was still a certain beauty to it. Moss grew heavy on the older monuments to the dead as if the tragically forgotten were being reclaimed by the earth. I found the tomb when I stumbled upon it, quite literally, my foot had caught on a rough edge that stuck out just-so underneath the bedraggled grass that lined the trodden pathway.

The tomb adjacent to the one I had been searching for had enough of an overhang to cast some shade—I settled myself down on the grass and leaned back lazily, sweat beaded down the side of my face. I had just realized how much I had been moving around when I finally let out the breath I had unwittingly been holding. The vèvè graffiti had been covered up since the picture I had, had been taken. The blotchy, mismatched paint stared back at me tauntingly—why had it been covered up when the rest of the cemetery was in such disarray. I pondered the thought for a while, even though I already had my suspicions—I had no authority to jump to conclusions, but I had a gut feeling that there was someone higher up involved with keeping it all under the radar.

The shadows grew longer and longer as the day drew to a close, the rhythmic chirp of the crickets as they began to sing caught my ears, but I still felt the sun left me too exposed to be comfortable with leaving an offering out in the open. My paranoia often worked in my favor, so I couldn’t help but listen to the agonizing anxious conspiracies that often traipsed lackadaisically through my mind. The sun seemed to be taking its sweet time and in my restlessness, I got my notebook out to study and scribbled down the address I had been given at the voodoo shop. Another thirty minutes would go by before I finally opened the bags I had been hauling around.

I set the candles down, on the left and right sides of where the covered vèvè was blaring through the shadows that had been cast by the fading sunlight. I set the sweet snacks and the cigars next to one another and then produced a shot glass from the tchotchkes section of the corner market I had found on my way here. I poured an ample shot of rum into the glass, took a swig and winced at the roughness of the liquor that hit my tongue. I lit the candles and began what some may call a ritual, others may call witchcraft—I knew it best as an offering, in honor of the spirits of the region. My experience had proven, that when in Rome wasn’t just a silly thing that people said when they were feeling uncomfortable with customs that seemed alien to them. I slipped the metal pendants over my neck and verbally petitioned Papa Legba and Baron Samedi to be with me in my investigation. It was just something you paid attention to—customs were to be respected and followed if at all possible.

After two hours of sitting there in silence I noticed the sky darkened until it was eventually pitch black. With just the flickering of the dim golden glow of the candles against the paled, peeling paint of the stones they sat against, I felt my eyes grow heavy as I sat there, in near meditation. I shook my head and mentally made a note to get a grip. The heaviness in the surrounding air still hadn’t given me a break since I had left the airport and I doubted I would find a reprieve from it before I left. I decided that I had sat there long enough and gathered everything but the offering I had left then set a course to walk back to the hostel. It still wasn’t all that late, and the Blues being carried by the wind through the streets on the way back, gave me a bit of bliss after a trying evening. In unfamiliar territory, I was just thankful that the GPS on my phone was working, or else I might be utterly lost.

I noted the course that I would have to take from where I was and slipped my phone into my bag—I couldn’t shake the feeling of eyes on me though and I stopped in my tracks just as I began to pass what looked to be an abandoned shop. My eyes were fixed on the door to the shop, it was white, the glass panes cracked from the corners, paint peeling on the bottom where the sun was brightest and hottest during the day. What really made me stop though, was the slight creak that rose above the fading melancholy of the band playing at the old club around the corner. The ruddy glow of an aging light fixture cast a haunting shadow—did that door just—I instantly dismissed any notion that it had but watched as it creaked open into the darkness beyond.

I walked slowly towards the door and stopped short of the cracked and weathered façade when I felt the force of someone pushing me hard against the door. My head cracked against the threshold, the sound drowned into blackness and conscious thought evaporated from me completely.

Zombified victim of voodoo ritual

My eyes opened to look upon a freshly painted black vèvè that stung the wall of the tomb and it was barely illuminated in the night that surrounded me, but it wasn’t night. I realized that when I looked to either side of me, the shadow was as thick as tar. I looked back at the tomb where the symbol was; it had begun to bleed down the wall in an inky red. Over my shoulder, I could feel someone press their chin gently upon the top of my head as if viewing the blood as it gushed down the face of the wall. Beyond the adulteration of my peripheral and through my own copper hair, I saw the outline of what looked to be a skull, but was it wearing a top hat?

The Cheshire grin that spread across its toothy smile was unsettling, even so I couldn’t help but bring myself to look at it directly. My eyes barely caught the hand reaching for my neck before it grasped me unrelentingly, the ashen skin was streaked with blood as it protruded through a large crack that had appeared in the center of the symbol. There were drums in the distance, a beat that I had not ever heard before, I gasped for air, closed my eyes for a moment, then opened them to find I was back staring up at the surface of the water. I screamed inaudibly and water began to fill my lungs.

My screams were interrupted by an abrupt jerk of my head; my head throbbed. The last thing I remembered was a misty old storefront and an intense curiosity. My confusion was unaltered by the strangeness of my current surroundings. My eyes were crusted over, no doubt from the sensation of choking… was that a dream? By the looks of it, I was in a root cellar somewhere; the only problem was, the infamous swamplands of the south didn’t create a hospitable foundation for root cellars to even exist. I twisted my body and finally noticed that my hands and feet had been bound. Awkwardly, I squirmed into a sitting position and backed up against the wall; I could tell now that I wasn’t actually underground at all, but the room had been insulated with a thick layer of muddy clay.

The darkened corners of this room seemed to house a dark and looming presence, a guttural and graveled groan that arose after a moment of my blurred gaze. It took longer than I would later like to admit, but I finally recognized the figure of a man in the corner, hunched and aggressive. “What have I gotten myself into?” My chest felt like it was going to explode—this adrenaline rush was working me up into fight-or-flight mode, but neither option would really get me anywhere in my current situation. I closed my eyes gently and took in a shallow unsteady breath.

This wasn’t the first time I had been in a tough situation but given the circumstances, I felt that I would much rather be back in front of the polar bear I had the bad luck of running into while traveling in the North Slope as a teen. Luckily for me, not so much for the unfortunate polar bear, I had my rifle with me that day and I survived to tell the tale. Looking back, I still wasn’t sure how I had steadied myself, but my mother’s brothers had developed a fondness for me, their little kassak niece from which we had formed an unlikely bond. I had known how to track and make myself scarce in the wild from the time I was a child—a forte I had never managed to possess while in the city or around too many people.

My face felt hot when I heard chains drag against the concrete floor, the automaton in the corner had grown more agitated; in a grasp for hope, I hugged my legs close to my chest and awkwardly fished through the ankle of my boot for the knife I always kept handy. When I finally fumbled it out of my boot, it loudly clacked upon the floor. The creature that kept me company responded in kind, his chains clanked as a hand reached out from the shadows. The blood-streaked arm reaching for me from my nightmare flashed through my mind, I shuddered and grasped the knife and clipped the zip tie on my ankles, then made quick work of my wrists as well. Before my corner companion could utter another, “eergh!” I was up on my feet with my knife tucked back into my boot.

My investigative and curious nature urged me to look more closely into the figure in the corner—the light was too dim for me to see much of anything, but my internal voice was telling me this was just a man. He lunged at me when I inched too close trying to analyze something which I had never truly believed could exist and he briefly came into the light—this man looked as if he had been drained of all of his color, his lips were cracked, his eyes bloodshot and glazed over.

“Holy fuck, Stanley?” slipped out of my mouth before I even realized I had said it and I stumbled backward. This last sound must have roused the suspicions of whoever was guarding the room because I heard steps echo from the hall just outside the door. In a moment of hesitation, my feet slipped out from underneath me as I scrambled on the concrete to get behind something, anything, that I could hide behind to stall for time. I narrowly ducked behind a bookshelf stacked with dusty boxes when the door opened. Another man walked in, he was large in stature and all of his exposed skin painted in symbols I wasn’t familiar with. My breathing was unsteady as I watched the man through a space between the boxes, he was obviously looking for me and I wasn’t exactly ready to be found.

It wasn’t long before the man found me in my hiding place, I wasn’t exactly a secret agent, skilled in elusive behavior. I feel like I bravely attempted to fight back left me kicking my feet in futility as he ultimately dragged me out of the room and into the hallway. There the strange drumbeats I just barely recognized, could be heard coming from the direction in which we were headed. I was pulled violently through another door which led outside, the drums grew louder and the lights got brighter. I was tossed into a corner of what looked to be a small, closed-off courtyard and my head hit the ground hard. Dazed and likely concussed I tried to regain my senses once again and even with my blurred vision I saw the bonfire in the courtyard. If I had been uncertain of whether or not I was in danger before, it couldn’t be clearer now—this is what I had been searching for all along.

There were several men and women gathered loosely around the fire, one of the women danced around in a trance, a man followed suit chewing on coals, while a couple of others dragged a struggling pig into the mix. I wasn’t versed in French Creole, otherwise, I might have been able to understand words other than the brief recognition of them calling out the names of the loa I was familiar with. I knew I heard, “Baron Samedi!” as well as, “Papa Legba!” being shouted within their chants and hollers, but it wasn’t until a man came into the circle with a machete and slit the screaming pig’s throat that I became nauseous. The pendants that rested against my chest began to burn slightly and another man dragged me closer to the bonfire.

My vision had cleared somewhat and I could see a man standing over me, colorful clothes, beaded jewelry, and white paint adorned this man—he looked like a witch doctor straight out of an anthropology textbook. I knew, without having to be told, that he was the bokor I had come to New Orleans to find. He knows… I need to find out what he knows. Tears involuntarily began to streak down my face, I would never be able to find out how to help my father if I didn’t find out the source of this man’s power. The bokor crouched down, a handful of white powder presented in his palm, and just as he was about to blow it in my face, I kicked my feet out at the man who was holding me on the ground. Apparently, I caught him off guard because he stumbled directly into the powder that burst forth from the bokor’s palm, in a last-ditch effort I rolled off to the side. The man writhed and screamed, the white powder coated his face and the ceremony came to an abrupt end.

Sirens blared just as the participants were ready to converge upon me and police officers burst through the doors, breaking up a party that would have likely ended in my own demise. An intense hour of speaking with the police made me aware that an anonymous caller had alerted them to my location and that I had been kidnapped. Despite not understanding who might have called it in, I was just thankful that the night was over and that these people were going to go away for a long time. I was allowed to recover my bag, which had been taken from me, my laptop and phone were still in my bag as if it had been utterly undisturbed. It was clear these people had no idea who I really was, perhaps they really just didn’t want anyone on their trail, and the act of someone coming to look for one of their zombified victims was enough to catch their attention. I could have just been another statistic, a tourist who slipped through the cracks in a city with a hidden reputation of violence.

I told them about Stanley being locked up in the building and once all of the participants had been cuffed and stuffed into the back of police cruisers, I was told I was free to go. The police officer I had been speaking with turned and walked away and I was left to my own devices. I spotted a large book that had been sitting in proximity to where the pig had been slain, but in the commotion had been knocked into the blood that had been spilled on the ground. Certain that no one was paying attention, I grabbed the book and haphazardly stuffed it into my bag. It was the only thing I knew I could get from the scene without an extensive search of the premises which I knew was not an option now.

Coffee and Beignets at Cafe Du Monde
Photography by Chelsea Audibert

Light broke over the horizon and I finally felt my body start to give in to exhaustion, I had managed to call a taxi and asked to be taken to a place where I could get food and coffee at such an early hour. I was dropped off after a short ride at Café Du Monde, apparently famous for their beignets and chicory coffee. I had spent the past several hours feeling as if I were going to die at any moment and to me, this was a relatively sane response. I heard the relay of orders being shouted to and from the kitchen, the scant crowd of early birds waited for their piping hot beignets and scalding coffee while a lovely, slender black woman tended dutifully and happily to her customers.

The waitress approached me with a coy smile, “what can I get you, hun?” and I knew that the woman had me pegged as a tourist. Who could blame her, after all, I was wearing heavy jeans in New Orleans.

“I was told this place was great for coffee and beignets,” I responded with a weak smile; I must have looked as exhausted and disheveled as I felt because the waitress simply nodded and took down my order.

“I’ll have it right up for ya!” there was an enthusiasm in this woman’s voice and step that I knew I couldn’t hope to match even on my best day, let alone today.

I pulled my laptop out of my bag and was pleasantly surprised to find that my phone still had a decent charge on it when I turned on my hotspot access. I began the long task of documenting what I had encountered during my investigation? Kidnapping? I honestly didn’t know what to call it at this point. I felt as if I was no closer to the answers that I needed than I was before. I would have to wait to take a look at the book when I was back home, a cursory glance at it when I had been in the taxi proved that it was far too much to absorb in a short car ride and much too disturbing to look through in public. I was midway through a new entry into the dossier when a message popped up on my screen.

BanJack: You’re lucky I knew where you were going.

I wasn’t sure whether or not I should be happy that my anonymous friend had been keeping tabs on me; there was part of me that was disconcerted at the idea of him knowing where I was.

Nevermore: I’m guessing you hacked the GPS on my phone?
BanJack: You promised to keep me in the loop, remember?
Nevermore: Fair enough, I’m catching a flight home later today, I’ll send you some of what I found when I get back.
BanJack: Just don’t disappear on me again.
Nevermore: Pinky promise.

My waitress set my coffee and before she set the beignets in front of me, asked if I wanted extra powdered sugar on them. I thanked her and politely declined, then changed my booking to an earlier flight as she walked away from the table. I had never ached to be at home, curled up in my bed next to my goblin of a cat, more in my life.