Two weeks ago, I was in Cleveland on business. There was a small antique shop on the other side of the street where I was parked, and after finishing what I was there for, I walked up to the door for a quick peek. "Merryweather Curiosities" was not only closed but in a severe state of disrepair, and very dim inside, but I could swear that back in the shadows I saw movement once or twice. As my eyes adjusted to peering through the glass into the darkness, shielded by my hands, I saw a stuffed bear that looked very much like Baron tucked away in one of the corners. Nothing of note happened and I went home, only to come back the next day to retrieve my clip-on sunglasses that I had accidentally left in the waiting room of the office.
Baron, and it was indeed my childhood friend, was on the sidewalk outside the shop, a McDonald's hamburger wrapper plastered around his leg by the wind. There was no pricetag. On closer inspection, his fur was ragged and worn in some places, mostly on the extremities of the forepaws, and most oddly, his eyes were gone.
I looked up and down the street and put him in the back of my Isuzu Trooper.
At home, I hurried in to check my email and phone messages. I forgot to bring Baron in, which I sometimes do with groceries if I don't need them right away. In the morning, I went out to the car. Opening the door, I was practically bowled over by a very powerful stench of rust, mold, and what can only be described as the scent of a filthy wet dog. A dead filthy wet dog.
The back lining of my trooper had been torn out after it started to mold from being used as a work truck (hauling firewood in the winter got it wet and dirty), so I figured that maybe the carpet up between the seats needed cleaning, and that some of the smell might be coming from Baron who if I remembered properly from the tag, was machine washable. I pulled him out, put him on the porch, stuck my bike in the back of the trooper, and drove down to the local carwash and auto detailing place to have the interior steamcleaned to see if that would help. My seat was slightly misadjusted and some of the controls were sticky for no apparent reason. The cycling ride home was uneventful. The bear was still in the same position where I left him.
Once I got home, I snapped a quick photo with my cameraphone just for fun, and stuffed Baron into my Staber washing machine, which is an expensive high quality washer, and ran him as a light cold water load. Afterwards, I spread him over a laundry rack outside to dry because it was such a nice sunny day. Right after coming inside, the phone started ringing. It was the auto detailer, and they wanted me to pick up my car (this was much earlier than expected).
On arriving, I found the Trooper to be only partly cleaned but the smell was greatly diminished. None of the college students who worked there would look me in the eye or give me more than a monosyllablic reply. The manager pulled me aside, told me that he wanted me to take my car and leave, that he wasn't willing to discuss anything about it, and that there would be no charge. This made me feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed, and I tried to think of what might have happened. The Trooper had the windows rolled up tightly while sitting in the sun and was very warm, so I put on the air conditioning on the drive back. There was almost no airflow, and then a few dried feathers started to spiral out of the vents, followed by a shaking rustle and a dead baby bird dropping onto the carpet from the under-dash air vent.
I immediately pulled into the Target parking lot, locked my car, and spent an hour pacing and then looking underneath the car. I decided that the source of the stench and problems with the carwash had been birds nesting in the air conditioning ducts, which then died. I finally scooped up the dead hatchling with a plastic bag, dropped it in one of the errant shopping carts and got back in my car. I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something looking at me from in back. Not malevolently, but accusingly. Like I had done something wrong.
At home, I worked outside for a while cutting down some new brush growth and dragging it down to the ditch by the road, then went inside and out into the back yard to check on Baron drying. The rack had collapsed and he was sprawled on the ground several feet away, but completely dry. It almost felt as though there were hard objects inside him, just deep enough to be difficult to feel under the padding. There was no smell. I put most of my problems outside of my mind and carried him upstairs to be stowed away in the guest bedroom, with some of my other old stuff.
For a few days, nothing happened. Then I began feeling like I wasn't alone in the house. My girlfriend came over, and started to mention seeing things out of the corner of her eye. I said they must have been my cat Harlequin, but we found her upstairs asleep on my bed. That night when we were watching The Island, we both heard a very loud banging sound coming from upstairs. Later, she swore she heard footsteps descending the basement stairs and then sounds coming from underneath us. I was still trying my best to be skeptical about the odd things happening, and made fun of her being easily spooked. Our night didn't last much longer, she went home and I stayed up listening to every single sound - and this is an old house, it DOES have some creaks from the heat making it expand and contract - with my hair slowly prickling up on the back of my neck. Some of the pieces from my chess set were missing.
I went to sleep with a small light on for the first time in years, and finally drifted off around 3 am. I can't remember much from my dreams from that night, but I woke up with most of the coverings balled up on the floor and dark bags under my eyes. The one mental image that remained was the lingering sensation of being trapped deep underground in a space too small to pass through, with the knowledge that something was coming after me.
Harlequin didn't show up for her breakfast, but I figured she was just out sleeping in the bushes or in a sunny spot. I realized that I hadn't seen any birds or squirrels around lately, and there hadn't been any birdcalls in the morning. Harley takes a bird now and then, but not enough to silence them all. Walking out the front door, I saw a massive puddle under the back of the trooper. It was something like motor oil but was dried and blackish brown. Test driving it showed no problems and there was no longer any smell at all. Also, the feathers were gone. At this point, I began questioning whether some of the events were just my overactive imagination running wild after a period of stress and extra work. I decided to take the car for a drive to make sure nothing was wrong, and ended up heading toward Cleveland again. The antique shop popped into my mind, and I made a beeline for it, thinking maybe I could ask where they found Baron. I was starting to put some of these strange occurences together.
At the corner where I had picked up Baron, there was only brick wall at the section where the shop had been. I thought I was going nuts. It was the exact same place, but nothing was there. I walked to the next door down, a local coffeehouse. The grayhaired lady behind the counter told me that there never had been any "Merryweather" shop there.
Sure that I was going mad, I came back home to see the local utilities board scooping up all the brush I had been cutting over the past week. One of the orange hard-hat wearing workers flagged me over and pointed at what the backhoe claw had unearthed pulling up branches. There was a good four or five cubic feet of small bones mixed in with the twigs and saplings, drying white and brown. Feathers, fur, and scraps of flesh still clung to most of them. Among the bones was a pink flea collar exactly the same as the one Harlequin had been wearing.
This incident caused me a great deal of difficulty with the city, fortunately some of the executives on the utilities board and city council members were close friends of my parents and didn't take to any wild flights of fancy as to why a small animal graveyard might have appeared in my discarded branches. I was beginning to be terrified about the possibilities. My house was rapidly taking on a very uncomfortable feeling, and no one came inside without commenting on feeling unease or even outright fear. At several times I heard low moans uttered from other parts and this happened once while a guest was over. The shuffling sounds increased in frequency, always happening on a floor I wasn't on until one day they started happening several rooms over on the same story. This set me on edge like nothing you would believe. It was worse than hearing the scraping sounds inside the walls at night had been. Sometimes I would wake up with a few scratches on my face, or feel something jump up onto my bed at night. I started to question my sanity more and more. The next night my girlfriend was sitting on the couch while I stepped into the kitchen for a drink of water. I heard a low thump and dragging sound, and then the wind howled around the house. Coming back into the living room, I discovered her laying limp with her eyes staring into space, monotonously repeating "there is a way out. there is a way out. there is a way out," over and over. The altered voice I could rationalize away. The chorus in the background, I couldn't. She has since refused to talk or have any contact with me.
Up to this time, I had only looked in the spare bedroom a few times, and Baron was always in his place, eyeless sockets staring into space. I looked at him that day I heard the shuffling, and caught myself starting to talk to him. This time it wasn't a pair of child friends, it was me threatening him with the evisceration of his stuffing and the fate of being stuffed into my woodchipper if he didn't stop whatever was going on, if it was related to him and I was sure it was. As I spoke, I felt chills trace up and down my spine and tears jumped into my eyes for no reason. The room felt twenty degrees colder and visibly darkened. My heart was in my throat and I felt an incredibly palpable sensation of hostility spreading through the air like waves.
Shakily I backed out of the room, slammed the door, and ran downstairs to fix myself some tequila. I noticed in the kitchen that most if not nearly all of my knives were missing, and that there were chunks of wood missing out of the locked cupboard under the sink, a holdover from when the previous owners had had small children to keep away from drain cleaner, almost as if a very short person had been gleefully chipping away to try to break past the latch.
After drinking for a good twenty minutes, I started to rationalize everything that had happened. The feeling that washed over me had been a natural reaction, all part of my mind spooking itself and reacting on cue to my subconscious desires to find strange and scary things. Emboldened by liquor, I strode back upstairs and decided for no apparent reason to repair Barons eyes. I remembered that once, long after Baron disappeared but still in my childhood, that I had found a small box with a pair of stuffed animal type eyes in it, nestled in strips of paper with scrawled writing, and then was scolded heavily for snooping. As if my hands found it unbidden, it only took a few minutes of searching in one of the upstairs closets. The box was wooden with inlaid crucifixes and a carving of the Virgin Mary, which struck me very oddly as my parents had most definitely not been Catholic. Inside were many little strips of parchment, almost as if it had been put through a shredder. Written on each one was a latin phrase, repeated over and over from one strip to another. Underneath a wrapping of these were a pair of simple button eyes that I recognized as definitely having belonged to Baron in the past. They felt very, very cold.
I took a needle and thread left over from my last shirt repair and took Baron downstairs. Slamming him onto the dining room table, I roughly stabbed the needle into the sockets, laced in the eyes, and sewed them both tight. Again, I felt as if there almost might be an actual skeletal structure under his padding, but after prodding quite hardly, found nothing. After taking a few pictures of my handiwork, tired of the whole thing and wondering why I had done what I did, I opened the basement door, threw him down the stairs, and locked it.
Nothing happened all day and all night. Maybe I had solved the problem. Loading my week's laundry into the machine, I noticed that it was already full of liquid. Looking closer with a flashlight revealed a layer of scum floating on oily water, glinting red under the beam from my mini mag. My reflection swirled and distorted in the water, and I heard whispering, not just one voice but one main tone with a whole chorus of others in the background. I slammed the lid down and put a cinderblock on top of it, and ran the machine empty. Five minutes later all of the power to that side of my house went out and I have still not been able to find the circuit fault. I called up an electrician the next morning, after a tormented night of sounds and bumps, and then tried looking up an exorcist. Exorcists unfortunately aren't in the yellow pages. The workman came around noon and went down to the basement (where I had not gone) to check the breakers. He left shortly after going down and told me that he was never coming back and that he had a good mind to hit me with his wrench for calling him here. The shadows in the corners of the house seemed bigger than before, and I don't like shadows that shift and adjust when you aren't looking. There was a puddle slowly forming under the washer.
I went outside to pace under the sun, and started to notice odd scraps of ragged fabric stuck to some of the trees and brambles edging my property. One of them was recognizeable as part of one of my much older stuffed animals, from when I was a toddler. There must have still been a box of them tucked away somewhere. I went upstairs to look, and found only a decapitated Pooh in an otherwise empty cardboard box. Pooh's eyeless, mouthless head was on the seat of my car. The rest of the never-alive animals slowly came to view as I dug through some of the uncleared thickets, some of them with their heads seperated, some of them much worse. I saw the entrance to the crawlspace under the sideporch was open. This crawlspace leads directly to another crawlspace that goes to the basement. I saw some scraps of fur and stuffing laying in the entrance and was sure that I heard heavy, animal breathing deeper inside.
Inside, as the sun faded, the noises started again. I looked at some other pictures I had taken before and found one I hadn't noticed where Baron's eyes glowed a faint eerie red. Staying in the house for another night was a terrifying prospect. I was being forced to accept that some sort of evil supernatural entity was making a residence and destroying my life and my wellbeing. Looking in the downstairs bathroom mirror, my skin was almost china-pale, with dark veins showing through. The corruption that was overtaking the house was starting to get me as well. As I looked at my face in the mirror in the dim fluorescent light (I needed to change one of the pair and hadn't) the reflection slowly faded to grayish dark, and swirled into ornate patterns that gave way to a pure blackness that looked back at me through a pair of bright red eyes, the only thing I could see. I heard a horrible scream that might have been my own, as the lights went off through the entire house. The bathroom door is opposite the basement door, only a few feet to the other side and back a bit. I could hear slow shuffling sounds coming up them. My maglite was in my hand and my adrenaline was on full fight or flight mode. I chose fight.
I shone the light into the door and pulled it open. I swear to god I'm not crazy, and this is what I saw. There below me on the steps was Baron slowly walking up on two legs, one of my kitchen knives in his paws, scraps of other animals hanging off him. I yelled at the top of my lungs and shut the door, but it bounced back open. I was already several yards away, running upstairs for my guns. In my bedroom, the moonlight filtered through my curtains and I quickly grabbed my 870 and prepared to charge back down. I felt prickles on my neck and turned to see the eyes outside my window. They winked out into nothing with an unearthly moan and I left the house as fast as I could. I did not see 'Baron' on the way out.
The rest is too difficult for me to write down just now, from the ordeal under the cellar to what we found in the crawlspaces. With the help of a Wiccan aquaintance, my house is partially cleansed (thank God!) and the bear is now locked up in a box. I need to sell it, for someone to willfully accept it. Please help me.
There is a large rip on the back, a small one on the belly that is sealed up with red thread. The eyes are firmly attached and for reasons I am not willing to discuss should not be removed under any circumstances. I am not a professional ebayer or anything like that. I just want some peace in my life again.
(The original eBay auction was here.)