The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley
A Grim Inheritance
Written by Benjamin Fouché
I. Dr. Joseph White’s Journal – October 3rd, 1873
Herein, chronologically, are my accounts of extraordinary events that transpired in the autumn of 1873 and the winter of 1873-74.
Never has a wrongdoing haunted me so remorselessly. Not one of my own wrongdoings, but one committed by the notorious mortician who once dwelled in my hometown: the God-forsaken town of Hemlock, Vermont. Pondering upon what could have possibly led him to a state of such profound psychological agitation has brought me to the doorsteps of my own mind’s shadowed corners: the precipice of insanity. Of course, I do not dare to venture into such a place. But my dreams, God, my dreams; or visions; they worsen each night. But I feel immeasurable reluctance calling them visions, because if indeed they are, the conceptualization of their true meaning causes me to shudder. Thus, I shall call them dreams for my own sanity’s sake. In these dreams, I am walking through the halls of Winston Manor: the mortuary where one of the most horrific crimes in the region (no, the country) transpired.
I continue along with acute unease, pacing farther into the abandoned structure. I observe the parlor, the staircase, and the idle living quarters upstairs. But one of the most dreaded parts is when I decide to stride back down the stairs. Every instinct during this moment urges me not to, and yet there lingers a subconscious thought so dark, yet enthralling. I do not know the most accurate way in which I can articulate this peculiar sentiment. But regardless, this forbidden impulse urges me to walk down each step. And then, when I enter the downstairs once more, the rooms shift into a bleak forest: a wilderness familiar, yet unfamiliar. Down a desolate, rural road, I approach a neglected abode. This house is impressive, yet its state of deterioration and abandonment invoke a spiritual terror. I gaze upon the four lofty, weathered columns, behind which resides a shadow so dark and so opaque. The nine windows are what instills the greatest amount of disquiet. I naturally expect to see the home’s foreboding occupants peer out at me.
But perhaps it is the unpleasant anticipation that is responsible for the subsisting fear. Nothing occurs, and the longer I wait outside the unknown mansion, the more intense my premonition becomes. When I awaken from these perturbing dreams, I leap from my bed and open the curtains of my window. Staring out into the thick blackness of night, I cannot help but believe that the house of which I see in all of my dreams is real; that somewhere, such a daunting dwelling exists. I ask myself in soliloquy why my mind conjures this vivid house. What architype does it represent? What deeper meaning is this reoccurring dream trying to convey? Perhaps soon I shall break free from my ignorance. The week prolongs, and I am beginning to regret aiding detectives with finding the lost mortician.
My name is Dr. Joseph White and I am a psychiatrist at Warwick Asylum. How this task came to be is a long story. But once I became involved in the case involving The Winston Manor Mortuary, I felt as though the same shadow that flung the mortician into the abyss of madness has been hanging oppressively over my soul. Indeed, restful evenings are scarce, and even having unpleasant dreams unrelated to the house is, to some degree, comforting. The letters that were discovered during the initial investigation are as puzzling as they are intriguing. I have analyzed each one at least twice. With whom was the mortician corresponding? The hand writing in the letters is neat and very distinct, yet each letter appears like a shadowy phantom. And I shall admit, the correspondent’s letters are very persuasive; there is almost a poetic rhythm that beckons the reader. And although when scrutinized, the subjects are undoubtedly absurd, there lingers a forbidden invitation. Of course, it should be no surprise to me that this transpired in the town in which I was born.
Indeed, Hemlock has an extraordinarily dark history. The mysterious and unexplained disappearance of the majority of its citizens in the Autumn of 1851 has left many baffled. The inhabitants of New England refuse to speak of, nor acknowledge, the bizarre event. And only a few of the residents outlasted whatever visited the town. I thought surely the community would become forsaken. But strangely enough, others have decided to make their home in Hemlock a few years since the inexplicable occurrence. Nevertheless, the town is not the same. And I am certain that it will never regain the conviviality which it once held. The occupants are dreary individuals. I do not understand why they bother to live in such a despondent location. During my youth, I dwelled in the township of Hemlock, but after so many years of living far away, it has only been a dying memory. Until now.
The task of which I speak began back in September when I was visited by two detectives from the larger district of Jarrahdale, New Hampshire. They knocked on my office door at Warwick Asylum—and upon opening it, they were insistent on discussing, as they said, “earnest matters”. At length, while they explained who they were in full detail, I became alarmed. At first, I wondered if perhaps an inmate escaped; but the further they discussed why they came to me, a mere psychiatrist at a state-funded facility on the brink of closing, the greater my understanding became. It was a case that they had been struggling with since December of the previous year. I recalled reading in the newspapers about the horrid discovery at the shuddersome mortuary in Hemlock: Winston Manor.
The mortician’s whereabouts were still unknown at the time. Well, even now as I am telling you my story, his precise location continues to remain a mystery. But at the time, they assumed that I would be able to study the letters that were uncovered in his workplace. Perhaps they fancied me intelligent enough to figure out where it was exactly that the mortician fled to. Moreover, I shall admit that one of the reasons I accepted helping the investigators was because my occupation at Warwick was immensely depressing; I had already heard several probable rumors about our facility shutting down and the state transferring our patients to a larger institution in a faraway, marshy region of the country. And for some reason they were persistent with their invitation, assuring us that their sanctuary had room for hundreds. Despite Warwick Asylum having plenty of space for forty more patients, the state funding was unbelievably insufficient; after all, Vermont is a small, underdeveloped state.
I did wonder why the patients could not have been relocated to a nearer institution, but I realized it mattered little, for once they were committed, family never visited. I can sympathize with the relatives of the more violent inmates never wanting to visit, but I have always found it dejecting when relatives of the more benevolent patients never return. But mayhap, if a humble place such as Warwick did not exist, all of our patients would have been neglected unto death. Undoubtedly, after bestowing these insights of my life upon you, you may now be able to understand my irredeemable misery (which as I have stated before, is the reason I chose to assist the detectives). Thus, they left a box on my desk. And kept within were the letters written by the mortician’s mysterious contact. After examining the first three, I was fascinated, but frightened. What dark influence could possibly manipulate someone with so little effort? One might at first read through the letters and presume the man was writing about pure nonsense. But if examined meticulously, his subjects become increasingly more disturbing.
The enigmatic correspondent tells the mortician that he must discern something that resides within his own heart. Once I read this, I had a self-revelation: the contact was most likely insinuating that the poor mortician needed to discover his inner shadow: his own darkness of the mind, if you will. And surely, this correspondent was stressing that once these ghastly desires and impulses were set free, nothing could cease the venomous transformation. So far, this is the conclusion that I have come to when interpreting the first several letters. What I personally find most upsetting is the degree to which the dark contact encourages the mortician, praising his hair-raising actions. What kind of human, if human at all, could descend into such malevolence?
Nightfall will signal my arrival at Warwick. The dark wraith has informed me of my assignment, which shall be undertaken with such precision and deliberateness; Chester will aid me. Greater things shall proceed this visit. It has indeed been quite some time since I have stepped foot out of the shadowed valley which is now my everlasting home. The Dark Sickness guided me there when I was rendered no other choice but to leave my dear home: Winston Manor. And thus now, the twilight dies within night’s remorseless clutch—the feeble-minded mortals shall pay greatly. Hurriedly, I march up to Warwick’s gargoyle-guarded gates. Imposing, they stand; but my will is immortal and cannot bend. Pushing them open, I pass beyond the penitentiary’s bleak boundaries.
Farther into the sullen prison’s heart I walk—fearless and without mercy. The sentinels halt my progress as I near the entrance of the main hall. They shout and demand that I tell them who I am. But in an instant, I strangle the first one while Chester lunges from the blackening shadows and subdues the life of the second guard. Seizing the key ring from his worthless pocket, I take it, continue forward, and unlock the central doors, entering uninvited. From beyond the thick and unpitying walls, I can hear the shrieks of joy from the unfortunate prisoners—they are indeed aware of my arrival. Confused and afraid, a gentleman at the desk questions my presence within the dreadful compound—I look into his eyes deeply and deliver a rather clever explanation: I state that my reasons for coming to Warwick this evening are to discuss urgent matters with the administrator about a potential patient. He nods, accepting what I tell him and disregarding what his instincts truly say about me.
Leading me to the entryway of the facility’s northern wing, he occasionally glances over his shoulder as I follow close behind—and my anticipation increases each second. Inward, we continue past the cells of the misunderstood inmates—all wailing, crying, but mostly laughing—for they know who I am. While continuing further, I raise my cane and pound it against the desk clerk’s head. As he collapses on to the cold floor, I pause a moment and revel in the thoughts of what is about to transpire. Without permission, I take the key ring of which he was carrying. And all at once, the delirium of the asylum ignites wonderfully—and thus a leer of uttermost happiness forms upon my gaunt face. Approaching the cell doors, I begin to feel such great worth—for they will certainly appreciate my courtesy.
Trying all six of the well-worn skeleton keys, I finally discover the one which matches the cell locks. “Your time here is over—and now your sorrow shall be broken—forever,” I say to them. One by one, I unlock each cell—and with such immeasurable glee, they flee from their confining spaces, ready to carry forth their own tasks, which my dark shepherd has given them. The blaring sound of the inmates increases cell after cell—undoubtedly, I have never done so much good in the entirety of my life. And now, as I near the end of the northern wing, I hand the keys to one of the patients, who will continue the long-overdue liberation. Up the stairway, I advance towards the second story—my eagerness constricting the essence of my heart. Pacing through the dimly-lit hall, I tell the screaming prisoners that they will be freed shortly—the time is imminent.
Unlocking the doors leading to the administrative quarters, I cannot help but leer with immense mischief—the time is closer. Hastening through another deadened hall with my ebon cane, I move onward with such pride. As I pass another sentinel, he questions my authority, eyeing the ring of keys that I hold. Turning towards him, I gaze into his frightened eyes. “My good sir, I am the new desk clerk—has a problem arisen?” He does not reply to my simple inquiry, and thus, I continue on. Upon reaching a turn, I pause a moment and smile again—oh, how I cannot wait to see the look upon Dr. Joseph White’s face! I shall find humor in it—much humor.
With every step—beyond each door—I become closer to the lowly psychiatrist’s office. Many more cries of agony and joy resound from below—indeed, what a mess I have made. Farther on, into the wrathful penitentiary, I am stopped by another loathsome guard who begins to approach me, dismayed by what is occurring. He asks me if I hear all of the uninhibited insanity that is brewing down below. But as he starts to sense my true intentions and looks into my eyes, he becomes silent and backs away, yielding to the presence of the Dark Sickness. Half-grinning, I ask him where the good doctor is with utmost politeness. Unwillingly, he tells me that Joseph White is in his workplace, around the corner. Tipping my hat to him, I hurry along.
Alas, as I reach his workplace, he is nowhere in sight—how can this be? Enraged by this, I throw his chair against the wall and scatter his books across the floor. And as I am about to disorganize his desk, I notice several letters scattered upon it—letters which the wraith of the night wrote to me. Memories from a time that is not so long ago begin to constrict my mind. How inconsiderate for one to read through these. Without doubt, I shall have to take them all with me. Sliding them into one stack, I then place them within a satchel belonging to the doctor. Afterwards, I conceal it behind my coat and tip over Mr. White’s desk, leaving his now disordered office. Down the stairwell, I access the central hall of the facility. The wrongfully condemned prisoners roam while many of the sentinels succumb to the joyful times I have unlocked. Gazing through the plaguing madness, I search for the doctor—where could he be?
Without warning, I am approached by the same guard that told me Joseph White was in his office. Pointing to me, he exclaims that I am responsible for the mayhem that now flourishes in the asylum.
I say to him, “Well sir, I cannot lie—this is of my own doing. But you—you lied to me. And therefore, I am afraid I cannot forgive you.” While he beseeches, I only offer an unpleasant mirth that tortures his worthless mind.
“Please!” he begs.
“Chester, bring this one back—his husk will serve as a useful fixture in one of my future, crafts—but it must be aged prematurely first,” I say.
Hearing his undying screams as Chester seizes him, I cannot not help but laugh, amused by how fearful he is. Returning my attention to finding the doctor, I commence my search in the southern wing of the dejecting penitentiary. The prisoners here have already been freed—there are only shadows amidst the quietude. “Doctor White?” I call out. Still, there is nothing. “Dear doctor, I am not here to harm you—I only wish to speak to you—to tell you the truth. I know you have been trying to decipher my friend’s letters, but I can tell you now that they are what they seem—there is no hidden message to decrypt—no secrets—no invisible meaning. Perhaps, in time, I can bestow upon you the magnificent gift that my brethren and I hold.” Regrettably, there is no response after my courteous invitation. Moving up the stairway to the second floor of the southern wing, I begin to hear gentle footfalls—as if someone is trying to remain as undetectable as possible.
Leering with confidence, I too move through the halls. Oh, how surprised the doctor shall be! I now approach—near—nearer—nearest. His footsteps pervade the silence, and I follow like an ever-stalking nightfear. Through another corridor, I find myself in the facility’s library. Waned candles glisten from upon the walls, weakly illuminating the spacious room. Steadying my pace, I walk sluggishly—peering into each shadowed row of bookshelves. Yet the doctor’s presence only seems to be dying; perhaps he is not in the library after all. But to make certain, I call out, gesturing Mr. White to come forth. “Dear doctor, you have nothing to fear—I would only like a brief word with you. My time grows short—for I must return to my home before sunrise. I ask that you make known your presence.” I receive no response, despite trying my best to remain convivial.
Leaving the library, I then step back into the drafty halls to hunt elsewhere. Staying ever so perceptive, I listen with remarkable attentiveness; where could the doctor be? A strengthening wind whines from the outside, breaking the interior’s stagnant deadness. “Perhaps the good doctor is hiding within the treatment quarters?” Passing various medical instruments of dubious nature, I feel my impatience intensify. Then, quite suddenly, I hear loud footsteps resonating from the main hallway. Making haste, I follow the continuous sounds, spying a dark figure rushing ahead; and indeed, the figure is none other than the doctor himself. Hurrying after him, down the staircase, I watch as he darts through another doorway—rushing farther into the labyrinth of insanity.
III. Fedrick Winston’s Journal
October 7th, 1817
Our new manor house’s construction has been completed after well over two and a half years. My dear wife, Mabel, is rather reluctant, but I am certain she will eventually fall in love with the house, in the same way she fell in love with me several years ago. And our son, Edgar, shall surely become attached to the home as he grows. Although only five, he is already an incredibly intelligent and impressionable boy. Alas, he speaks very little, though when he does, he articulates his thoughts with such focus. Nevertheless, perhaps brining him to his new home will help loosen his aloof disposition. My family means everything to me, and I hope that they will settle in over the proceeding months. I do not wish to display our wealth, and thus, purchasing the remote, valley demesne was a choice I had to make. Indeed, it is a beautiful tract of land, encircled by lush, forested mountains; filled with graceful meadows; and strewed with soothing brooks where the clear water smoothly rolls over the rounded boulders. We shall be far from those who envy our inheritance money and wish my dear family ill. Sadly, my brother, Jacob, and his family are already being treated differently since they also acquired the other half of the inheritance money. I do not understand why he remains in Hemlock.
October 9th, 1817
The drays continue to come and unload the furniture. Everything is falling into place exactly as I had anticipated. We are so very fortunate to have had our new home erected. The four pure-white columns meet at front entrance, the shutters sentinel both sides of each window, the roof towers above the nearby treetops, and the two, great gargoyle-like knockers on the two front doors guard the entrance. Mabel’s uncertainty is already lessening, and Edgar wanders the house with such curiosity. I hope they continue to become acquainted with our new house. Last night was our first evening spent in the home. And I shall admit, there lingers a troubling disquiet during the nocturnal hours. Mabel and Edgar do not appear to perceive whatever it is that I sense. But I will not tell them, lest I wish to worry my wife and cause her clever imagination to become vivid and play tricks on her mind. I do hope that throughout our time here, I can come to understand Edgar more. Although I endeavor to spend time with him, I do not feel the closeness that a father should have with his son. He is exceedingly independent. And despite Mabel being closer to him, even she feels the same as I.
October 11th, 1817
I was quite surprised to find a cat prowling behind one of the columns this morning. His fur is midnight-black and eyes are a radiant golden. He approached me cautiously, but soon became rather friendly. It is all very odd indeed. How this kingly feline came about is all a mystery. But I suspect he leapt on to one of the drays that delivered our furniture from Hemlock. And because he was showing apparent signs of domestication, I decided to bring him into the home. Edgar has already become quite fond of the cat. My wife, who has shown an irrational fear of cats in the past, is even becoming well-acquainted with this ebon feline. I believe we shall call him Tobias: a fitting name for a delicate creature who thinks highly of himself. I am very glad to see my son playing with him too; Tobias will surely be a good companion for dear Edgar. Watching them wander the manor together brings Mabel and I such joy. Their growing attachment seems almost preternatural. As long as my son is content, so am I. Tomorrow, the last of the furniture will be arriving. Indeed, our blood already feels deeply connected to our home, and we have not even been living here for a week.
October 12th, 1817
I regret to admit in this journal that the past evening was rather disconcerting. While I lay in bed, there lingered an unpleasant stillness which I cannot even begin to describe. There were no drafts of air, no lone crickets chirping, and not even the somber bawling of a timber wolf. This unnatural pervasion haunted me all throughout the night, even during my scarce slumber. Perhaps I shall become used to this silence as our time here prolongs. Even so, my instincts whisper that something is not right. But I must not alarm my family. Our time here has merely begun. And each day reminds me of the reasons why we moved here. Tobias and Edgar continue to explore the land and play throughout the many rooms of the manor. Yet I hope that I will be able to become closer to my son. Sometimes I wonder what kind of thoughts are spawned from his very unusual mind. Thankfully, however, Mabel is becoming less tense. She told me this morning that she is beginning to adjust to the manor and our remote surroundings. I can only pray that this evening is more peaceful than the preceding.
October 13th, 1817
Last night was far worse than all of the past evenings combined. Not only was the perverse silence far more daunting, but something very unnerving transpired at around one o’ clock a.m. I gazed towards the doorway to see Tobias standing there, staring upon me sharply. I rose from bed to see if he was all right. Yet as I walked over to him, he scurried off down the hall into the study. I thus followed him, but found him nowhere. When I entered Edgar’s bedroom to see if Tobias had gone in there, I was still unable to find him. Knowing that it could all be my weary mind, I returned to the study to observe every inch of it one last time. At length, I did find Tobias was perched atop one of the bookshelves. And I swear he was glaring upon me and yowled in such a menacing way. I left the study and returned to our bedroom, wanting the wretched night to end. It seemed as though one a.m., that cold, desolate hour, lasted many centuries before I was able to drift fast asleep. But what occurred continues to pass over me. Tobias appears quite normal this morning. Nonetheless, I remember very distinctly what I saw last night. And the way he looked at me. It was not a nightmare—I know this!
This story is currently a work in progress.
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