Monday, September 26, 2011

Long Jack

The Slender Man meme reminds me of a story my great-grandmother (who we used to call tiny grandma, since she was Yoda-ish) used to tell about a monster named Long Jack. I know Slender Man was started on Something Awful, but certain images and aspects remind me of that old ghost story.

I should caution that I didn't actually hear the story first-hand. When I was little, we lived for a while at my grandmother's house while my parents were sorting out a divorce. My great-grandmother lived down the road. The power would reliably go out during big winter storms in those days, and tiny grandma would come over and we'd sit in the fire and wait it out.

The old folks would tell stories and read books. I was only four or five, so tiny grandma would only tell the story of Long Jack after I fell asleep. My older brother and cousins would tell it to me later.

Now, tiny grandma and the rest of us live in the Pacific Northwest, way out in the boonies. She herself was an infant when her parents brought her out west. They were homesteaders.

There's an old dageurrotype of her as a child, standing with the rest of her class in front of a one-room log schoolhouse. There are huge, old growth trees behind her and lots of dark shadows. It's still very gloomy in the winter months in the PNW, even though the trees are much thinner these days.

Long Jack, whatever he is now, was originally a person. I don't know his real name. In that time in history, families lived by themselves in the woods, miles away from each other. However, there were a lot of people coming and going (other homesteaders, people looking for logging jobs, prospectors on the way to a gold rush, etc.).

There weren't hotels except in the bigger cities, either. When you slept, it was either in your own camp or some courteous homesteader would give you a place to sleep. Maybe violent crime wasn't an issue back then, or maybe people were more naive, but the guy who would become Long Jack was a murderer.

There had been a great string of murders in the region; whole families were slaughtered. Sometimes Native Americans would be blamed, as there were still some isolated Indian wars going on, but it didn't really look like that. It looked like people were inviting someone in and he ended up murdering them in their sleep.

Obviously, detective work wasn't big back then. In any case, sometimes it would be weeks or months before they discovered the bodies. The killer would be long gone by then.

I don't know if this one guy, Long Jack or whatever his name was, killed all of them. He did kill at least one family, though, and was caught (literally) red handed near the town of Bellingham, where my family is from.

They used to lynch people in those days. Usually it was black people. In the PNW, where there weren't a lot of black people, it was more often Chinese or East Indian men. Occasionally they lynched white men, even though they had a proper court system at the time.

It was risky to do and the vigilatntes did risk some blowback, especially for lynching white men. The local sheriff, John Larrabee, led the murderer out of his cell at night and took him out of town with a posse to some cliffs a couple miles outside the south side of town. They built a primitive gallows with an extra long rope, with the intent to hang him off the cliff extra high.

The hangman that day was a local eccentric by the name of Dan Harris. They picked him because he was a retiard sailor and knew everything there was to know about ropes and knots. He volunteered for the job, too. As a sailor, he had specifally been a whaler and had a morbid fascination with flesh and how to disassemble and render it.

If the posse had known that, they probably wouldn't have taken him on for the job. Dan Harris didn't just put a noose around the condemned man's neck. He put small nooses made of cord around each of his fingers and at the end of each cord was a heavy lead weight.,/p>

Around each wrist was a length of rope with a heavy stone. At each ankle was a rope attached to even heavier shoes. The posse watched Harris do all this, but they did not know what he was doing. Even Larrabee didn't have the forethought to object.

It came time to hang the man and somebody in the posse finally pushed. The man fell quickly to his doom. The posse expected to hear the sharp crack of a breaking neck, but all they heard was the sound of counting, in Harris' low voice. He had tied the noose to strange, not break. 1...2...3...4...

They heard a loud crack, almost like a shot. 7...8...9...10... Then they heard another. It wasn't the man's neck, but his legs dislocating from his hip. 14...15...16... They heard more pops and cracks. His shoulders dislocating, then his elbows followed by his ankles.

21...22...23... Then his fingers dislocated at each knuckle, sounding a bit like popcorn. Choking grunts could still be heard coming from the man; he was still alive and conscious throughout this. 36...37...38... Harris' voice became louder as his audience became more enraptured in the spectacle.

When he came to 43, there was the loudest crack of all. The makeshift gibbet broke and the murderer, all the weights, and rope went tumbling down the cliff face. His neck and limbs twisted and flailed into impossible angles. In the darkness, they could barely make out his corpse at the bottom. It was a horrific sight.

His limbs had all been stretched to awful, fantastical lengths, all intertwined with the ropes and each other. It was too dark to retrieve the body and, by the next day, animals had gotten to it and carried it away.

This is where my great-grandmother comes in. They used to tell her the ghost of Long Jack haunted those woods, abducting defenseless people if they so much as set foot there. They said that he would count as he stalked up behind you.

1...2...3...4... She heard him once, as she walked the long distance home from school one fall afternoon. 14...15...16... According to the story, you couldn't look back or he'd get you. You had to run as fast as you could, and ran she did.

21...22...23... The counting continued. It was like he was whispering, but it was still getting louder and it seemed he was right behind her. 27...28... She could hear his footfalls; his pace was much longer than her's - longer than any adult's.

She could tell from the rhythm that his legs were impossibly long. His arms and legs must be bending in some unnatural motion. She got to the door of their cabin...37...38...and slammed the door shut. Silence. She knew that if Long Jack had gotten to 43, she would have died.

There were other kids that got lost in those woods those days and they were never found. None of the adults ever mentioned Long Jack, but she had her thoughts to herself.

So that's the story of Long Jack, as my great-grandmother told it...or at least as my brother and cousins re-told it. I don't believe in ghosts myself, but I always liked the story. I haven't found any mention of such a murderer in the local archives but, then again, I wouldn't really expect to. Some of the other historic names, though, do check out...


Sunday, September 25, 2011


You have asked me several times, constable, what occurred on the 3rd of June, and I apologise that it is only now that I am able to relate the events to you. However, the events that led up to the crime in question were much too painful to recollect, and I still shudder when I think of that... thing.

But I know that I have to get this story off my chest, or the nightmares will never stop. However, the story does not start on the 3rd of June. It starts nearly one month before, on the 5th of May...

At the time, I worked as a short story writer, paid by the word. I specialized in the genre of macabre horror, and thus had a peculiar imagination and a slight dose of superstition, which may have been a catalyst to the events that followed. I used my income mainly to support my wife Margaret and I, a quaint happy family of two, soon to be three. You see, Margaret was expecting a baby. I bought pregnancy charms for her (for did I not say that I am somewhat superstitious?) as well as medicine to lessen her pains.

However, I also had a hobby that I used a significant portion of my pay to indulge myself in. This hobby was that of collecting queer and weird objects. Many of the visitors who have seen my collection that are not artists or poets have recoiled in horror at the strange objects that I have bought or imported from different parts of the globe.

These include, among others, a Haitian voodoo doll from the far reaches of Hispanolia, a copy of the Voynich Manuscript, a collection of shrunken heads including Shuar, Achuar and Aguarana tribe creations and the head of a multi-eyed moose from South America.

My wife, as much as she loves me, regularly remarks that the collection that I have may be too macabre for the ordinary taste, and that I should throw the things out, or sell them. And, as much as I love Margaret and regularly give in to her many wishes, I simply could not follow this particular want of hers, as these antiques of mine were far too valuable to simply be disposed of.

On May 5th, I went to a nearby flea market to look for queer items to add to my collection as well as to look for more birth charms for dear Margaret. The flea market sold many things that ordinary people no longer wanted, things which I have come to find regularly consisted of objects strange and eldritch, which were perfect for my collection.

As I looked through the items that came in that day, my eyes fell on a glass sphere. It was about an inch and a half in radius, and I could barely conceal the entire thing in the palm of my hand. Inside the sphere perpetually swirled a mass of a mud-textured substance of many different colours.

Green, blue, purple, brown, all the colors came together and mixed and swirled and separated. I was immediately captivated by the spherical object. I had to have it. I handed twenty bills to the shopkeeper, told him to keep the change, and hurried home with my newfound treasure.

I burst in the door just as Margaret was preparing dinner. I smiled warmly, remarking that whatever she was cooking smelled lovely, as I placed the sphere carefully on the dining table. I then told her not to strain herself, and helped her carry the dishes to the table.

I remember her remarking on the strange artifact, and I saying that I believed that such a captivating artifact would bring us good luck, which we needed, for the child was due to be born the next month. And I remember both of us settling down onto our chairs, eating and enjoying the good company.

But even as I enjoyed Margaret’s company, I could not help but occasionally glance at the patterns forming on the glass sphere. After dinner, I excused myself and brought the sphere to my study to examine it. It induced a nearly hypnotic effect upon my person.

The only effect I can compare with that of looking into the sphere is the mind-numbing and mind-dilapidating relaxing sensation of marijuana. And indeed, I fancied the swirls themselves similar to a hallucination that could only be conjured by one under the ill effect of psychedelic substances. The swirls were almost dream-like, and I could not help myself from looking deep within them into another richer world inhabited by the weird and the unknown.

At first, I only looked at the swirls for minutes at a time. However, as the days progressed, I started looking at them for longer and longer periods of time, feeling myself being pulled into the sphere's spell. I neglected my job and did not write a single story in the entirety of May, and very slowly, I began to neglect Margaret as well.

It got to the point where I would place the sphere upon my study table and look at it, and before I knew it, I would have spent hours looking at the thing, even though it felt like less than a minute! The swirls were consuming my life, and with it, my mind. I say this for I began to get strange revelations from the sphere. The swirls formed images, and, I know it sounds mad, but those images were always of evil things.

Killers. Demons. Sickness. Once I even fancied I saw Lucifer, his horrid and ghastly appearance made manifest through the swirls! I could not take my eyes off the new evils that continuously formed before my eyes!

As I have said, as the days wore on, I grew more and more distant from Margaret. She regularly attempted to bring me out of my seclusion, even going so far as to encourage me to go out to purchase more things to add to my collection, but I remained adamant and stayed in my study all day, only stepping outside to eat.

She grew more and more desperate, telling me that it was unhealthy to look at such a thing for so long a time. And finally, as my interest towards the sphere reached certain heights, her cheerful demeanor dissipated, and she stopped smiling. As I look back now, I regret how I ignored her warnings. It was childish, and if I had only listened to her, I may have prevented what would then follow.

It was on the night of June the 2nd, one day before the actual incident. Staring into my glass sphere as always, I sensed that there was something different about the swirls. I could not place my finger on it, but I was positive that on that night, there was an inherently larger malevolence than there ever had been within that glass sphere.

I watched intently the swirling of the substance as it started molding itself into what I assumed would be the paragon of all evil, when I heard Margaret cry out painfully from outside my chambers. Even though I have grown distant from her, deep within my heart I still loved and cared for her, and on hearing those inhumane shrieks, I feared the worst.

I rushed out through the door to find Margaret groaning in a fetal-like position on the floor. She was breaking water! In my desperation, I took Margaret up in my arms and ran out the front door, not even bothering to lock it. We got into my car, and I sped as fast as I could to the hospital, with her in the backseat crying in pain.

The doctors and nurses carried dear Margaret in a stretcher to the maternity ward, where I accompanied them as they prepared to assist my wife in childbirth. For the first time in a month, the glass sphere was not in my possession. I was not even thinking about it, for my heart and my soul were fraught with worry for Margaret!

I knew she was due, she had been carrying the baby for nine months, and yet, because of my obsession with the glass sphere, I completely disregarded any reason and completely neglected her! Tears in my eyes, I sat by her side, telling her to be strong, and that I was there for her.

Hearing these words, she smiled for the first time in a long while. And finally, with much effort, she gave birth to a lovely baby boy, with a cross shaped birthmark on his right arm. Margaret, though in pain, smiled, and remarked that the cross was surely a good omen. Then, having used up all her energy, she promptly fell asleep. I stayed by her side till morning, cradling the baby boy in my arms.

The next day, we returned home from the hospital in high spirits. We finally had a family! I knew that I had to give attention to my new child, and hurried to my study to put the glass sphere on my collection rack so that it would not disrupt my thoughts any further.

And then I saw what the glass sphere beheld. I uttered a low guttural sound from deep within my bosom. It was the sound of terror, the sound of the betrayed. I fell onto my knees as I beheld the atrocity before me. The contents of the glass sphere, the glass sphere that had only prophesized to me great evil, had not changed from last night. The swirling substance had been held in place, such that it looked as if time had stopped in the sphere. And what had it formed, that horrified me so? I will tell you.

It had formed a baby boy with a cross-shaped birthmark on his right arm.

I ran out like a madman at that instant. My mind was so muddled, the actual events are so hazy… But I remember seizing from the baby from Margaret, and running to my study, locking the door behind me. I remember grabbing the oriental knife that hung from my collection. I remember stabbing the demon, over and over and over.

I remember its smile as I stabbed it. Yes, its smile. A most terrible smile, like the smile of a predator that had lured its prey into a trap… And most singularly of all, I remember the shrieks from outside my door. Pained, coarse, high-pitched shrieks, then a halting, eerie silence. It was only later that I found out that my wife had died from shock.

As you can see, constable, even as I tell the story, I shudder and I weep. Even the mere recollection of it pains my heart so! I have no evidence that what I have said is true. I know that I will be hanged. And I welcome the respite of death, constable; I embrace it, for sweet, sweet death will finally rid me of my grief, my sorrow and most importantly, the nightmares that I have at night… Nightmares of a laughing baby boy with a cross-shaped birthmark on his right arm, molding substance in a glass sphere into forms and shapes of infinite evil!

(This story is credited to a person called Necronophore. It's their first story, so be nice.)