The Many Morbid Tales of Spookinite Valley
The Ghoul of Maple Hill
Written by Benjamin Fouché
Over the course of many lengthy and dreary months, there have been documented disturbances at a quiet, rural cemetery in northeastern Vermont. They began as mere sightings, isolated across the days of each passing week. However, according to many of the denizens, they have insidiously increased. In a recent front-page newspaper article, a few unnamed bystanders claimed that they bore witness to an animal-like figure prowling about the burial yards. In some cases, the alleged being was holding a corpse in one of its hands, devouring the head. But what made these dubious sightings convincing to me was that there were many findings supporting the claims: graves had been unearthed, and in some circumstances, the coffins were missing.
During one encounter, a family crypt had been utterly ransacked—the coffins were later uncovered by a farmer who discovered them on the edge of his field. The cadavers were gone without a trace. And as if the predicament could not have been anymore peculiar, what they did find were monstrous claw markings on the sides of the coffins. In another case, a well-aged corpse was found mutilated, lying against a tree at the cemetery. What appalled many were the carnivorous teeth marks upon the dried flesh—teeth that define no earthly animal of existence. Was this a ghoul: an ethereal creature that dines upon the dead by night? Nothing was certain, and that is exactly why I—a mere detective from Hemlock, Vermont—was assigned to investigate Maple Hill.
I arrived at the cemetery before nightfall, by foot. For I did not want to be seen by whatever was responsible for the sullen occurrences. Silently, I advanced towards the cemetery’s gates. The quietness and solitude were, to a degree, rather disquieting. Never before had I investigated such an unsettling case. I was alone, and felt as if I were a wandering soul, venturing into the abyss of dejection. Perhaps what unnerved my soul most was that my fears were the fears of the unknown.
The twilight ceased as I warily strode forth. The old maples hung their limbs over the grounds, blanketed in the leaves from past autumns. The wrought-iron fences were webbed in spiders’ silk and the melancholy headstones were crooked. Some of which were even strangled in weeds. While I proceeded down an older path, I noticed something several yards away. Straining my eyes, I could scarcely discern what it was.
Remaining aware, I moved through the thin copses that were spread about the graveyard, until I came upon the baffling sight. There before me was a disinterred grave. The rotting coffin was torn apart, and as expected, a stiff there was not. I knelt down to have a closer inspection of the soil. It was evident that an animal had excavated the burial place, but the question of greater magnitude was this: what species in the region possessed such strength?
I examined the earth, searching for a footprint or claw marking. Surprisingly, I discovered one. There indented into the dirt was the mark of a hind foot. However, this was the footmark of no other creature native to the surrounding wilderness. It appeared birdlike, but the longer I studied the odd track, the sooner I came to realize its skeletal characteristics. I could distinguish the joints that linked the bones together. Hence, I came up with an illogical supposition: it was indeed a ghoul.
Still, I refused to accept such a preconceived notion. You see, I needed further proof to acknowledge that such an elusive being could manifest itself. Therefore, I continued on around the cemetery. While I quickened my stride down a narrow path, there suddenly came a fork. And as soon as I neared it, a dread which I cannot describe sluggishly settled in. Positioned in between the branching trails was a disfigured corpse. The arms were erect, and in the hands of the stiff was its very own decapitated head. It perched like a vulture with its knees against its ribbed chest. Unfortunately, the slight apprehension I felt was not significant enough to frighten me away.
I observed the disturbed remains. It was a horrid sight, but did not convince me that this latent ghoul was residing in Maple Hill. For all I knew, it was the sickening work of a rather morbid individual. I knew there was more to be uncovered, and so I carried on my task. But what had unearthed the coffin? All of my conjectures had proven to be in vain and the more I pondered upon the idea of a real, living ghoul, the more uneasy I became.
After scrutinizing Maple Hill further, I came across what I would call another oddity, to say the least. There were about eight exhumed graves. The coffins scattered all about had been shred to pieces. They were thrown into the limbs of the barren trees, whilst others lay upon the land scratched and splintered. The whole area was also strewn in chunks of soil. As expected, there were no bodies to be found. The very same ghoulish footmarks I had seen earlier were here and there in the dirt.
It was then clear that there was no sensible interpretation of the scene. I was unable to gather my thoughts. Each time they became frozen by the conception of this feasible ghoul. Something unnatural and wicked was befalling Maple Hill—something of the preternatural. Something beyond the control of any mortal. And what was I to do about the situation? Nothing—and nothing more. I decided that it was time I had left.
While trudging through the wooded sections of the cemetery, I felt a rather grim presence. This insufferable sensation pervaded my spirit. I wished I were home, safe within the comfort and warmth of my fireplace—sheltered underneath my roof that would reflect the coldness of late November. Oh, why had I chosen to undertake this case? Was I to perish that night? Only time would tell, as I wandered farther into the graveyard, becoming lost in the blackness.
I recall there being a sliver of moon gleaming down upon me. But before I could even feel grateful for the bit of light it offered, the crescent was swallowed by several clouds. Whether it was an ill-omen or purely nothing, a dark presence felt imminent. All attempts at easing my spirit were ineffective—I could not disregard any thoughts about this ghoul. Was it watching me? Could it hear my every breath? Was I to become its midnight feast?
All at once, a cry echoed. I became equally as petrified as all the corpses that rested below the grounds upon which I stood. Motionless and aghast, I seemed to wait for what would happen next. I had to make a decision and there was unquestionably no time for it to be rational: I was going to flee. And I was going to flee far from the nightstalker. I did not care if I made a sound—all I desired was to escape the fate that awaited me—the fate that I had inherited the moment I set foot upon the cursed land. As I ran straight through the gloom, another howl resounded through the blustery air.
I then heard a snarl followed by a shriek. I hastened through the duskiness, wondering if the end was near. Was this to be my final night on the earth? Would my soul have to haunt the forsaken Maple Hill for all of eternity? Surely this would not be the end—it could not be—it was not supposed to! Oh, how unmerited—how undeserved! I could already hear the wings of the creature flapping. Gusts of dead air stirred wildly and ran down my spine. I could hear it breathing as it drew nearer.
But before all hope vanished, suddenly, there stood an old chapel upon a hillock. A dim light flickered from the windows. I had never felt such relief; the joy that I contained was immense! I dashed with all of the might I possessed and sprung through the sturdy doors of the sanctuary. When inside, I shut and locked them. But the ghoul did not violently knock against the door as I had anticipated. Instead, there was a rather lifeless silence.
The quietness endured while I kept watch over my surroundings. Dust had accumulated upon the maroon carpet—opaque shadows hung over the far side of each row of pews—and on the altar, there stood a silver candelabrum. Its crimson candles had been lit and a blackish wax slowly ran down each stick. The flames were unmoving; I had never witnessed such an unhallowed sight. My relief was gradually shattered as I continued to gaze around the chapel. Something was indeed very wrong.
Without prior notice, emerging from the darkness of the back doorway came a strange, old man. He had a steady, yet menacing gait. His face was corpselike. His fingers were exceedingly gaunt. The eyes sunk inwards. And the nose—skeletal. He was formally dressed, and his ebony cravat seemed to be knotted tightly around his neck. The figure also wore a black, finely polished top hat. He stared upon me, and slightly grinned.
“The Dark Sickness has been good to me,” said he. “His wraith shall descend from the nocturnal heavens, and with passion, he shall sully the earth. The living are quite deplorable and imprudent.” He paused a moment, as if lost in deep thought. “My endeavor has been accomplished, for the Eternal Night is near; farewell.” He took backwards steps, and as he disappeared back into the shadows, the candles snuffed themselves out. I stood in the unlit sanctuary, reflecting upon what had been revealed to me by the old man. Had I clearly not seen what was really happening? As I recollected all of my odd encounters in the cemetery, everything came to light. It was uttermost disturbing—sickening—terrifying: Maple Hill was the heart of an ominous conjuring and I had stumbled in the midst of it.
My premonition strengthened as the bell tolled eleven; I had to leave at once. Rushing through the doors of the chapel, I fled to the cemetery entrance. The leaves whirled in the furious winds, and thunder groaned far in the distance—a tempest was brewing. I charged headlong through the gusts of wind, trying to grasp the bit of hope that remained. Alas, before I could pass beyond the gates, they swung shut. I gripped the wrought-iron rods with my hands, pleading with the spirits to release me from the God-Forsaken place.
I plummeted to my knees, and leaned my head against the gate in despair. I wished that I had declined the offer of investigating Maple Hill. I wished this all to be a mere nightmare—but a nightmare it was not! All hope had died within the clutch of misery, just as my spirit had. And suddenly—very suddenly—there came a heavy breathing behind me. I felt its abominable presence feeding upon the fear I reeked. I knew it was hungry and yearned to digest something livelier than a measly stiff. The beast held the two halves of a torn cadaver in its hands. The head had already been chewed off the corpse’s shoulders.
The creature’s thorny, bat-like wings rose. The ribs were slanted, all meeting at the sternum. The leg bones were thickly structured and the feet matched the footprints I had discovered earlier that evening. His skulled face was wide and the jaws bore sharp, thick teeth. In the creature’s hollowed eyes glimmered an orange glow. A mist drifted from his nostrils as he inhaled and exhaled. Dreadfully leering upon me, the fiend released the corpse from his hold.
The creature raised his arms high and forced his chest forward—the wings spread farther than they had before—and he unleashed a thunderous yell. It was over, and willingly, I embraced the gruesome death which I was fated. The Ghoul of Maple Hill lunged at me, tore apart my body, and feasted upon my flesh, then morsels, and finally, my bones. With many cries and screams, my soul departed. Alas, and henceforth, I have haunted—and lingered within the fence of this forlorn cemetery. I know not what shall happen, but we phantoms sense that the Eternal Night’s advent, of which the old man spoke, is forthcoming.
© Spookinite.com - All text, music and photographs by Benjamin A. Fouché | Music: "The Ghoul of Maple Hill" by Morbus Tenebris