Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Charlotte Hamm

Believers,

The week has been restful.  Thank you for your well-wishes through the blog's official Facebook (www.facebook.com/paleforestdiary).  As a reminder, if you have not done so, you can follow this journey there.

As promised in my last post, I would like to share what I have discovered of Charlotte Hamm.  Unfortunately, however, there isn't a great deal of personal information about her to be found.  At least not here in Pale Forest.

I spent a part of Monday looking through records and trying to get my hands on a birth certificate.  This was not easy as the woman at the front desk was less than hospitable.  I remember she called me Mr. Clark before I had introduced myself.  Despite this, I did manage to get a look at certain public files.  It would seem that there is no record of a Charlotte Hamm, though there was a family with that surname who lived in Pale Forest in the 1960's.

I drove out to their house Tuesday.  There was nothing at the address now except a sign that read "Private Property". I found this odd since there was no house or any other structures on the lot.  I did look around a bit, though, and found an old well.  Admittedly, shadows.txt was in the back of my mind and I didn't go too close. I did take a quick picture of it, though.


I spent a few more minutes snooping around until I heard noises out in the forest and decided it was time to end my reconnaissance.

Later that day, while combing the Internet, I did find another sign of Ms. Hamm in the form of yet another short story.  This one is only a few paragraphs long but shows a continued interest in the macabre.

 Sounds From My Basement
Some nights, as I lie in bed trying to sleep, I am instead pained by the noises from my basement and what they might portent.
I have identified every one and why they frighten me.
There is the deep rumble that sounds as if a madman is banging on water pipes.
Another is shrill, like a woman crying out. How it goes right up my spine!
Then there is the thumping of what I imagine to be footsteps carrying murderous intent.
Still another sound reminds me of chains rattling somewhere in the darkness below my house.
I know my fears are silly and that there is nothing to actually worry about. While I am consumed by these noises, however, sleep will not find me. Though I toss and turn, I soon realize I must go down into the basement to assuage my tattered nerves.
Thus, my mind wracked with doubt, I climb the twisting stairs down two floors and into the darkness of the cellar. I carry not but a candle to light the way.
And, of course, I find everything just as I left it. Even so, to make certain, I begin my nightly ritual.
Bloodshot eyes stare emptily back as I make my rounds throughout the tables.
Only after I have tightened their chains, doubled their knots, and adjusted their gags, do I return once more to my bed. And then, with a peace of mind that no one can hear them, that no one will ever find them, sleep comes for me.
While the tone is sinister, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Pale Forest as "The Monster on Browning Street" did.  Perhaps this was simply nothing more than a story.  Or perhaps there is no validity to my thoughts of her being somehow connected with this mystery.  I don't really know.  With no actual evidence of a Charlotte Hamm having lived here and nothing more to go on, I might have to table this search for now either way.

What do you think, believers?  Is this nothing more than a dead end or should I continue to pursue it?  I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Until next time...


Sunday, January 27, 2013

shadows.txt

Believers,

The mystery of message.PNG has been solved!  Special thanks to Brittany for all her hard work.

Here is a rundown of what she found (you can follow her comments under the post where I originally asked for help):

1. The picture was indeed encoded as I had speculated.  Brittany ran it through the decrypting site at http://mozaiq.org/decrypt.  This returned the numbers 2034931404.

2. The message in the photo turned out to be a phone number with a weird recording of a grinding noise (similar to what I heard at the mill) and then a voice calling out letters.  The voice did not seem real, though, and was hard to understand.

3. After listening several times, Brittany was able to write down what the voice said.  It was a URL: 2219cw.xp3.biz.

4. This page contained nothing more that a link to a text file named shadows.txt.

I have confirmed all of this to be true.  The grinding sound I find extremely troubling as I believe it confirms that this whole cover-up is tied to important people here in a Pale Forest.

Here is what can be found on the text file:

There once was an ancient city plagued by the shadows of men who didn’t exist.
And in this city lived a very brave man who was tired of the shadows.
“I’ll hunt them,” he promised the others, “and we’ll have peace.”
So he did.
And the man was very good at this job even though the task was troublesome.  Shadows are, after all, hard to find at night.
The first shadow he caught as it was hiding under a girl’s bed.  He used a special rope to bind and drag it into the light where it burned and faded out of memory.
The next shadow was cunning, but the man was more so.  He tricked it into coming for a young boy at the town’s church before throwing open the windows.  That night the village celebrated the victory.
The man did not allow himself to enjoy success for long, though.  He still had shadows to hunt. 
He found the third in the well at school, poisoning the children’s drinking water.  Unable to draw the shadow out, he wisely chose to close off the well’s mouth, trapping it below.
A fourth shadow was but a whisper and its words were madness.  So the man devised a plan.  He would lay in wait until the shadow came for his own son.  There was no risk, for the boy was deaf.  This plan, too, worked and now there was but one shadow left in the ancient city.
But there is a darkness that is persistent.  There is an evil that is timeless.
Despite his efforts, the man found he could not catch this last shadow.  Though it was the youngest of all his quarry—and the smallest—it was also the fastest and most devious.
No rope could ensnare it.  No trick confuse it.  No rock trap it.
For months he schemed and gave chase, but this shadow was different.  It had learned from the mistakes of its brethren.  And it was angry.
The man watched as this shadow, the last of its kind, took the youth and peace of the ancient city.  It came relentlessly, night after night, until there was nothing left for it to steal.
Then it left, having completed its revenge.
The man finally died old, reviled, and broken.  He had suffered greatly for his arrogance.
“I was so close,” he is remembered to have remarked with his last breath.  But for all his efforts and strength, this brave man could not best the shadow.
This is, of course, a cautionary tale.  The destruction of evil is impossible.  It is at best a foolhardy quest, and at worst, to invite the retribution of the devil himself.  Though we may contain them in the light of day, shadows will always exist.
They are, after all, very hard to find at night.
Whoever went to the trouble of setting this all up obviously wants us to leave it be.  But I am not afraid of shadows and I'm not going to turn back now.

My thanks again to Brittany.  You did an amazing job and brought us all closer to unraveling this mystery.  Our next goal is to figure out who the author of "The Monster on Browning Street" truly is.  All we have is a name:  Charlotte Hamm.  I've done a bit of research into this and I'll be back when time permits to share what I've found with everyone.

Until next time...


Friday, January 25, 2013

The Monster on Browning Street

Believers,

While trying to track down more information and solve the riddle of the message.png image I uploaded, I came across a short story that made me feel a bit sick.  The subject matter is unbelievably familiar.


The Monster on Browning Street
--Charlotte Hamm 

Brad heard the pet door in the kitchen creak.  A few moments later, Mr. Stumpey, his cat named for an unfortunate accident involving a mouse trap, came sneaking into the living room.  The feline jumped onto the couch, his tail curled about his deficient paw.
Brad smiled and stroked the animal’s back, eliciting a deep purr.  He was glad to see the cat; with what had happened to his neighbor’s dog last week, he was never sure if each time Mr. Stumpey went out was the last.
He’d been the one who’d found the dog—or rather, what was left of it.  Something terrible had apparently found it first.  Brad had never seen a dog without its jaw.  Of course, he’d never really wanted to either.  
It hadn’t been the first animal found mauled, either.  Brad had only seen the most recent carcass, but apparently they had all shared similar mutilations.  In total, there had been five, each partially skinned and disemboweled.  Not cleanly, either, like a hunter might, but with a savagery equal parts cruel and desperate.   The fact that this had taken place right after the McPherson boy had gone missing only heightened the paranoia within the community.  Though Brad couldn’t see how they were related, he too was unnerved by the unfortunate string of tragedies.
Brad stood up to switch off the television.  He never used the remote to do this; it made him feel lazy.  Behind him, Mr. Stumpey had already disappeared again.  He smiled as the sound of the pet door squeaking signaled the cat’s next fearless excursion.  Brad flipped the light made and his way upstairs to bed.
**** 
Brad sat straight up, disoriented.  The clock on the bedside table read two thirty-four.  He struggled to gather his wits.  What had he heard?  Shattering glass.  Where had it come from?  Not downstairs, it hadn’t been loud enough for that.  Then where?
He jumped to his feet before scrambled over to his own window.  Across the street sat the answer to this last question.  His neighbors, elderly retirees, were clearly up.  Their house was lit as if they were throwing a party, though the sounds coming from their second floor gave a distinctly different impression.
Lights within the other houses nearby come to life as his street awoke to the barking of dogs and the blood-curdling screams coming from next door.  Unable to move from the spot, he stood agog for several minutes until the familiar sound of sirens joined the maddening chorus of animals.  Apparently someone with a better head in a crisis had thought to call the police.  By now the shrieking of his neighbors had died away, leaving the tired yet intensely curious community to wonder what had caused them.  Brad watched until the crime scene tape made its appearance before finally pulling himself away.
**** 
The next morning, the tape was still there.  Brad noticed it, along with a gaggle of other residents as he took his trash to the sidewalk.  It wasn’t garbage day.
James Teague, leader of the community watch, was out in front of the group.  Brad grinned at the older man’s slippers.  Teague had dressed hastily but hadn’t forgotten his usually stern look.
“You expect us to just let this go?” Teague asked a tired looking officer.  Brad had apparently missed the beginning of the conversation.
            “We’re doing all we can,” the policeman said flatly.  “You’re not going to be able to handle this by yourself, sir, so you should probably leave it to us.”
            Teague scoffed at the idea.  “Right, just like the Hoffmans did?”  He was referring to Brad’s elderly neighbors.  “They were depending on you for protection!  And look at them…”
            “I’m aware of what happened,” the police officer interrupted.  He suddenly appeared pale as he spoke.  “No one wants that again, trust me.  We’ll find the animal responsible.”
            “You’d better,” Teague added as the mob began to disperse.  He nodded at Brad, noticing him for the first time.  “Can you believe this?”
            Brad shrugged his answer.  “I still don’t really know what happened.”
            “The Hoffmans are dead!” Teague announced without an ounce of propriety.  “Whatever got those pets must have been really hungry last night because it did a real job on them, too.”
            Brad, his eyes huge, couldn’t find the words to say.  He’d expected something bad, sure, but this?  “It… it ate them?” he stammered.
            “I would think so!  Why else would it break into their home?” Teague reasoned.  “Of course, I haven’t seen the bodies, but I can only imagine how horrendous it must be in there.”
            There was an air of excitement in Teague’s voice as he spoke about the killings.  Brad found it off-putting.  “Do the police have any idea of what did it?”
            “Most people are saying it had to be a bear.  That, or perhaps a mountain lion.”
            “Do we even have those here?”
            Teague smiled.  “We do now.”   He waved as he turned.  “Be careful, though.  It happened right across the street, after all.”
            Brad felt his heart pounding.  Teague was right—what if the beast that attacked the Hoffmans got hungry again?  He’d have to be cautious.  Maybe he could board up the windows and…  Brad paused as the feeling of something winding about his ankle demanded his attention.  He looked down to see Mr. Stubbey weaving back and forth against his feet.  Apparently it was time for breakfast.  Brad reached down to scoop his cat off the ground.  Maybe he could use something to eat, too.
**** 
The next few days were an odd time to live on Browning Street.  Fear of the beast lurking among them had driven more than a few residents to the extreme.  No one left their house unless they had to and fences had sprung up overnight.  Brad thought they made the neighborhood look like a prison yard.  Worse still was James Teague’s quickly growing band of suburban mercenaries.  Brad understood the terror was to a degree warranted; whatever was out there had killed almost half a dozen pets and at least two humans in the last month.  His response, though, had been far more reserved.  He’d boarded up the windows on the bottom floor and didn’t go out after dark if he could help it.
Tonight, however, Mr. Stumpey hadn’t yet come home and Brad was beginning to worry his cat had missed its dinner only to become one.  Certainly going out onto the front porch wasn’t going to result in a grisly death, right?  Armed only with a can of tuna, he carefully turned the lock and stepped into the cold, uncertain air.
He’d hardly had time to call to his cat when a rumbling from a few houses down caused him to involuntarily duck behind his porch’s front railing.  A moment later, several of the neighborhood’s more impressionable men, armed with whatever they’d had laying around their house, come sprinting by.  Brad watched them pass as James Teague came to a rolling stop out in front of him.  He was driving a golf cart emblazoned with the Browning Street Watch’s crest.  Even in his current state, Brad had to stifle a laugh.
            “You shouldn’t be out here with no way to defend yourself,” Teague chastised from his ridiculous carriage.  “There’s been another attack!”
            “What?  Who?”
            “The McPhersons,” Teague replied with fake sympathy. 
            “Oh my God…”
            “Yes, it’s dreadful.  Hardly surprising, though, considering the thing must have acquired its test for man there first.”
            “You mean their son?”
            Teague gave Brad an exasperated look.  “Who else?  Apparently we’re dealing with a real brute, too.  Rumor is it gutted Paul McPherson without so much as a struggle.”  Teague still seemed to be deriving morbid entertainment from it all.
“Tonight will be its final meal, though.  We won’t rest until it’s dead!  You should put that can away and join us!”
            Brad looked at the tuna still clutched in his hand.  This all seemed so surreal.  “Thanks for the offer, but I don’t really own a gun.”
            “Suit yourself.” 
Teague began rolling slowly out of sight as Brad watched.  Then he was alone again and the crushing weight of what was happening all around him came rushing back.  Brad winced at the smell of the fish juice he’d spilled on his shirt.  Maybe Teague’s blue-collar militia would get that thing after all.
**** 
The following morning brought no news of the beast’s capture.  Nor did the next.  Or the day after that.  An all out panic eventually consumed even the most rational residents of Browning Street.  The police, despite their promises, were actually doing very little as most were themselves afraid.
Several families had packed up and left, content to wait it out elsewhere.  Others were determined to play hunter.  Brad just wanted it to end.  He’d begun leaving work earlier so he could arrive home before nightfall.  His employer was quite sympathetic and didn’t complain.  There were no offers of a place to stay, though.
Thursday, despite his best efforts, he couldn’t get away as he normally did.  A coworker had lost an important file and it had to be replaced.  As a result, it was already dark when he arrived home.  Brad felt uneasy as he stood watching his garage door roll noisily towards the ground.  He’d taken to doing this to make sure nothing somehow slipped in as it closed.  It made him feel silly but somehow safer.  Now inside, he allowed himself to relax.  There was pizza in the fridge and a Bill Murray movie on television.  Maybe the night could still be salvaged.
**** 
Brad awoke to the sound of a beer bottle toppling from the coffee table to the floor.  He’d dozed off.  The lamp to his left suddenly seemed blinding.  He squinted as he tried to find the cause of the noise but his head was swimming.  To his left, a shadow darted across the wall.  His heart pounded.  This was it.
He’d decided to make a break for the carving block in the kitchen when the source of the sound suddenly leapt up upon the far window sill.  Brad gasped then laughed in relief as Mr. Stumpey mewed appreciatively back at him.  He took several deep breaths to steady his nerves as he went to stand beside the cat.  The scene outside the window was disquiet as Brad absentmindedly rubbed his pet’s neck.  Was this his new life?
He craned his neck to stretch.  Sleep was becoming a premium and even what he did find was fitful.  He wondered if his neighbors—those who hadn’t fled, anyway—felt like captives, too.  The house next door was dark.  It been that way since his neighbor Phillip had packed up a week ago.   He’d been one of the first to leave.  Brad hadn’t noticed at first, but the driveway wasn’t empty tonight.  James Teague’s golf cart sat in the front lawn as if he’d pulled up in a hurry.
Brad had to admit this was strange, but he wasn’t about to go investigate.  Teague was, if nothing else, cautious; if anyone was armed, it was him.  Besides, Brad was sure the rest of the watch would be along shortly.  Teague was seldom seen without them these days.   
He pulled himself up the stairs with some difficulty, resolved to try and go back to sleep.  Hopefully his nap hadn’t ruined his chances of a full night’s rest.
An hour later, however, Brad finally gave up and rolled out of bed.  His head hurt from the battle raging in his mind.  Why hadn’t he heard Teague’s men show up next door yet?  Maybe the older man had left already and didn’t need them.  He uttered a curse word under his breath as he reached the window.  Next door the cart sat just as it had earlier.
Now what?  He could call the authorities, but the police hadn’t been any help up until now and standing around doing nothing certainly hadn’t saved the Hoffmans.  Was going over there really worth the risk, though?  Brad reminded himself what a prick James Teague really was.  It was an agonizing choice, but he knew there was really only one right thing to do.
Brad removed a baseball bat from his closet before saying a quick prayer.  This was his neighborhood, damnit, and he was tired of standing by while everyone on Browning Street either died or was scared away.  If that beast was next door gnawing on the captain of the watch, Brad was going to either kill it or hope Teague was at least enough to fill it up.
**** 
Brad felt a sense of confidence as he strode the distance between his yard and Phillip’s.  It may simply have been the sleep deprivation, but he felt a calm he hadn’t since the first attack.  One way or another, his parole from this terror came tonight.
The front door was slightly ajar as he approached.  Brad had seen enough horror movies to know this was never a good sign.  Edging slightly forward, he pushed the door open with the bat.  It was dark inside and the lights didn’t work when he tried the switch.  Phillip must have had the power turned off.  Brad took out his cell phone to use it as a flashlight but it couldn’t quite illuminate the entire room.  Brad noticed his feet squished as he stepped onto the carpet.  He swept the light towards the center of the room and immediately recoiled at the horrible scene in front of him.
A body lay mangled and partially dismembered on the couch.  There was no doubt it was Teague’s.  Brad’s scream caught in his throat as he fought the urge to retch.  The bravado that had carried him here had abandoned him, replaced by a distinct feeling that he wasn’t alone.  He desperately began waving his phone from side to side, but the effect was more strobe-like than helpful.  Instinctively backing up, he eventually ran into the wall but his feet kept moving on the blood-soaked floors anyway.  He was losing his mind.
Then he heard it: a sickening snap that seemed to be coming from across the room.  The sound, though repulsive, helped him to focus.  With his phone pointed straight at it, Brad watched as Teague’s body suddenly started twitching as it being reanimated.  That was impossible, though, right?  Brad readied his bat as best he could, but suddenly the corpse became just that once more and again lay still.  Something smaller, apparently having been hidden behind Teague’s body, stood up.  It looked to be a child!  Brad was shocked but relieved it wasn’t the monster.
“Come on,” he forced himself to call out.  “You’re safe.”
The child appeared to be holding on to something pretty tightly.  Though the darkness prevented him from seeing clearly, Brad hoped it wasn’t Teague’s gun.  The child’s state of mind couldn’t be good after what it had witnessed.
            “I’m here to help you.”  Brad was careful to speak slowly and reassuringly.  “I know you’ve been through something terrible.  Let’s get out of here.” 
The child slowly raised its arm, bringing whatever it held towards its mouth.  It paused briefly to rip a piece off with its teeth before flinging the rest at Brad.  He ducked as it bounced off the wall behind him.  Brad gasped as his phone illuminated the awful thing in the floor; there laid the forearm and hand of James Teague!  Several fingers were missing, though it was easy to guess what had become of them.
In front of him, Brad could hear the child’s gibbering laughter but felt frozen.  It wasn’t until he heard the sound of it jumping from the sofa that he managed to scramble for the door.  The monster beat him there, though.  Recoiling at the sight of the "thing", Brad swung his bat wildly and missed before stumbling sideways.  This was enough of an opening for the monster to leap onto him.  Brad could feel it reaching for his throat and managed to push it away, though it still spun him to the floor by his arm.  It was small but powerful.
Brad struggled to his feet and managed to mostly dodge the monster’s latest attack, though still took quite a blow to his left arm.  He yelped in pain as he fell backwards.  Luckily his momentum had taken him towards the door and he toppled through it and onto the front porch.  A second later the monster was upon him again, this time pinning him to the ground.  It cackled maniacally, wheezing and drooling blood, as it hacked at him through his exhausted defenses.  Just when it seemed he could no longer hold it off, the creature suddenly jumped up to assume a defensive posture.
Battered and bloodied, Brad looked up from his prone position to see Mr. Stumpey bowed and hissing at the monster.  The thing was responding to the cat’s challenge.  This was all the opportunity Brad needed.  A new found strength driving him, he leapt to his feet, his baseball bat in hand.  He reared back.  Momentarily distracted, the monster did not see the blow coming until it was too late.  It flew from the porch and across the yard. 
Brad ran after it, his weapon raised, but he stopped just short of delivering the next blow.  Now that they were in the moonlight, he could hardly believe what he was looking at.  He recognized the monster.  This was the McPherson’s missing son!  The face was contorted and drawn and his teeth were razor sharp, but there was no doubt it was him!  Brad’s knees felt weak.
The boy started to move again, his long, gaunt arms reaching for Brad as if to hug him.  Almost reflexively, Brad brought his bat down again, this time squarely on the thing’s head.  It made a sickening thud and then the monster was still.
Gasping for air, Brad fought back tears as he pulled himself across the lawn and towards his house.  He needed to call 911 and his cell phone was lost somewhere in a house he was not going back into.  Mr. Stumpey followed along behind him.
Once inside his house, Brad instinctively locked his door before limping over to his phone.  Though he wasn’t sure what he’d say, he gingerly dialed the number as he collapsed into a chair.
            “911 emergency,” came the voice on the other end.
            “Yes,” Brad stammered.  “I need an ambulance and police to 132 Browning Street.”
            “And what is the nature of your emergency?”
            Brad looked down at the cuts covering his torso and arms.  “The ambulance is for me.  The police,” he began as he pulled himself up to look out the window, “they’re…”
            “Yes, sir?”
            Where was it?  The yard where he’d left the monster was empty.
            “Sir?  Are you ok?”
            There was no reply, but as the operator listened she heard something that still haunts her to this day.  Though the terrible cackling and shrieking were almost impossible to listen to, it was the sound that preceded them that troubled her the most.  Though it was hard to say for sure, it reminded her of the creaking of a pet door.

Is it possible that this is in some way a reference to what is happening in Pale Forest?  I don't know of any Browning Street here, and I've never heard of Charlotte Hamm, but this is too much of a coincidence not to look into.  I believe I'll need to do a little investigating into Ms. Hamm.

The more I dig the deeper the hole gets, believers.  I'm not sure I'll ever get to the bottom.

Until next time...



Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Wordless Visitor

Believers,

First, let me start by thanking you for your help deciphering the image.  It is appreciated.  Unfortunately, I am not significantly closer to arriving at the answer to the riddle.  However, while doing research (and potentially ruining my eyes staring at the image), I came across the idea of steganography.  Perhaps there is something to this.  Or perhaps it is a dead end conjured by an exhausted and desperate mind.  Either way, it might be worth looking into; though I haven't a clue how to go about decrypting the image.

Along with the assistance on cracking the picture's secret, I also received an email I thought I would share.  I have removed the address, per the author's request.  Please be aware that it is not mine and therefore might be fake.  I've taken the liberty to edit one word as well, though the sentiment is hardly lost for it.  The subject, however, was chilling enough that I thought to include it.

Jonas,

I almost didn't send this to you, but I couldn't stop thinking about your friend Mike.  It made me sad to read your post about him, and not only because he's probably never going to be found.  But also because it was so familiar to me.  I used to live in Pale Forest but my family moved a couple of years ago.  I don't miss it.  I do miss my brother, though. 

He was only six when it first visited him.

It was summer.  I remember because I had just gotten back from swimming in my best friend's pool.  Corey (my brother) was sitting in the living room when I came in.  I immediately knew something was off because he was just there in front of the TV but it wasn't turned on.  After walking over to him, I noticed he had a weird expression on his face but he didn't respond when I asked him what was wrong.  I had to shake him to get his attention.

Corey was pale, but he smiled when he saw me.  It was the same one he gave me when I woke him from his naps.  I hadn't seen it for a while.  Reaching down, I hugged him and asked him what he was doing in the living room but he didn't seem to know.  Honestly, he seemed really disoriented.  I picked him up and carried him to his room where he went to sleep as soon as his head touched the pillow.

That night, after dinner, I was on my way to the bathroom when I passed by the door to Corey's room.  He was slumped over on his bed with the same look on his face that I'd seen earlier.  Again I had to shake him.  This time I was determined to know what was going on, so I stayed to talk to him for a while.

Corey said he hadn't been asleep, though I could tell he was really tired.  He told me he'd been talking to a friend of his both times and hadn't noticed me.  This was kind of strange, but little kids have imaginary friends so I didn't think too much about it until he attempted to describe the thing to me.  He'd never seen more than a shadow so he didn't know what it actually looked like, Corey told me, and it didn't speak like we do.  He assured me he understood it anyway.  I asked him how, and he said it kind of growled and he somehow knew what it wanted.  Apparently what it generally asked for was his complete attention.  He said it didn't allow him to sleep, growing incredibly angry when he did.  It had, for example, been furious because of the nap he'd taken that afternoon.  Beyond that, Corey said it simply wanted to be his friend.

This was disturbing.  While I didn't yet think there was an actual monster keeping him awake, it seemed really unhealthy anyway.  When I asked if he'd been sleeping at night, he relunctantly told me the nap was the first time he'd slept in a week.  He begged me not to tell our parents, though; the thing had warned him that they wouldn't understand their friendship.

I hate myself for it now, but I agreed to keep it a secret as long as he promised to sleep.  A week later I learned he'd not been resting as we'd bargained, and went to my parents, but I can't help but blame myself for not going to them sooner.

The next couple of months were torture for my poor mom and dad.  They had to watch as their young son withered in front of them.  They tried to save him, but the thing was relentless in its pursuit of my brother.  Our father, like yours, worked for the mill, so we didn't have a lot of money.  Still, my parents spent pretty much every dime we had on trying to reach Corey.  The mill even provided a child psychologist to help, but now that doesn't seem like the advantage that it did then.

Corey's "spells", as we came to know them, were slowly taking over completely.  He was becoming aware of those around less and less until eventually he spent more time in his mind than with us in reality.  I remember I had to hit him once to snap him out of it.  I felt so guilty for doing that.

As it turned out, the thing hadn't needed to worry about me telling our parents.  They were convinced it was all mental.  I, however, fought with the idea of a monster destroying Corey everyday.  My brother didn't have a great imagination; he watched a lot of TV instead of playing games.  Was he really capable of creating this whole story?  When I confronted my parents about it, they cried, afraid they were losing me, too.  I decided then that I'd let it go and concentrate more on getting Corey better and less on what was making him ill.

Six months after I'd found him on the couch, Corey finally went to sleep and never woke up.  We found him curled up in his closet.  My parents had taken to staying up with him, but my dad had fallen asleep the night before and hadn't heard Corey creep away.  We were all devastated.  Deep down we had believed he'd get better.

After reading about Mike Scola, I wept for an hour because of how it reminded me of my brother.  Then I dug out a box from the top of the closet where I'd stored my memories of Corey away for the past few years.  I vaguely remember the looks on the faces of the people who ran the funeral home where we said goodbye to my brother, but I didn't understand their shock at the time.  Having lived with Corey throughout his illness, I'd slowly accepted what he'd become as normal.  Time had mercifully wiped away those final days, though, and I almost screamed when I saw a picture that I'd taken less than a week before he'd passed away. 

My brother's body, which had been that of an ordinary six year old boy, had been warped by a lack of sleep and whatever else that horrible f****** thing had done to him.  His frame was thin beyond what looked capable of life, his face was drawn and dark, and his teeth had become twisted and almost feral.  But what struck me the most after reading your story was my brother's arms.  They were so long and thin!  My God, they were almost impossible to look at!  Why were they that way and why hadn't I noticed it before?  After a minute or two, I couldn't stand it any longer; I tore the picture to pieces before the image could drive me mad.

I think you're on to something, Jonas, and I wish you the best.  I just can't be a part of it.  Even writing this email has brought back feelings I had hoped were burried with Corey, and I can't put myself through it again.  I know that makes me selfish, but so be it. 

If you decide to post this, please remove the email address.  I will probably delete this account, but I don't want people using the old email to find out who I am.

Good luck.  I'm praying for your safety.
There isn't much I can add so I won't even try.  This is starting to get to me.

Until next time...


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

I Need Your Help!

Believers,

I am fine, but I have a request.  After I viewed the video on the CD, I admit I was panicked.  It has taken a day, but I am now in my right mind again.

I had assumed that the video was the CD's only contents, but now I know better.  It wasn't until I browsed the CD that I found it contained an image also.  It appears to be of the mill.


It was titled, rather dubiously, message.png.  I am sure the CD's creator is trying to tell me something but I am not sure what.  I don't see anything unusual about the image (other than how creepy the mill is at night).

Maybe you will be better at this than I am.

Let me know what you discover.

Until next time...

Monday, January 21, 2013

The CD

Believers,

I am having a hard time typing right now.  My hands are shaky.

Today I came home and found a CD in my mailbox.  I put it into a player and it wouldn't work, so I figured it must have data on it instead.  I was right.

When I placed it in my computer, a video popped up.  I have attached it here.
video

That is my bed and my bedroom.

I am not sure how to respond to this.  I think we are past assuming this is part of some prank.

If there is a next time...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Mike's Dreams

Believers,

Thank you for coming back.  Your faith in my sanity is all I have right now.  I've been looking forward to writing again since the last update, but I just haven't been able to collect my thoughts until now.

Today, if I can make it through the story, I want to discuss my friend, Mike Scola.  He was just about the only person I was close to in high school, and I've never shared this with anyone for fear of what could happen to me.  I believe Mike Scola was murdered here in Pale Forest.

Mike was the son of a paper mill worker like I was, but he was far more outgoing.  It was strange that we would be friends, but he said he enjoyed the peculiar way I viewed the world.  I was cold towards him at first, but as a teenager I quickly discovered that even I needed someone to talk to occasionally.

We didn't really hang out much, to be honest.  He was generally busy with sports or his girlfriend, but we sat at the same table at lunch and would occasionally go to the Fun Lanes.  Not many of the teenagers in Pale Forest were interested in bowling, so that was really the only thing we had in common.  We'd have a good time there, though, as we were both pretty good (he was slightly better) and the owner would occasionally give us beer even through we were only seventeen.  It was generally on the nights when we had alcohol that we'd talk openly.  I would complain about politics and other topics too mature for my age, and Mike was content to listen and laugh.  He didn't seem to worry about anything, unlike me, which probably made him healthy for me to be around.

I remember that his attitude changed towards the middle of our senior year.  He suddenly became jittery and easily angered, as if something was constantly bothering him.  I asked him on more than one occasion what was the matter, but he declined to say.  I later found out that his father was having a hard time at the mill and was coming home drunk and violent and assumed this was the root of the problem.

Eventually Mike's dad lost his job for some reason that was never explained to me.  One Saturday night in February, Mike told me he'd be moving.  This would be our last bowling trip.  I was sad but not devastated.  He also apologized for being so moody and then confided in me in a way he never had before.

His new attitude was not, as it turned out, a result of his father's work problems, but instead was owed to him hardly sleeping for weeks.  He had been having a reoccurring nightmare for the past several months and it was destroying him.  I remember nonchalantly asking what his dreams were about and then instantly regretting it.  Mike, though somewhat embarrassed, told me that they always involved being chased by a human sized monster, though he never saw its face.  What was always present, however, were its long, thin arms that seemed to be reaching for him as he ran.  He was aware that it meant to do him harm, though it had never caught him.  He added that the creature did seem to be getting closer with each dream.  I remember he shivered several times as he spoke about the thing that "came to him in his sleep".  Mike told me he hadn't mentioned the nightmares to anyone else because he was afraid of what people would think if they knew he was having them.  High school is a rough place, after all.

We didn't bowl very well that night.

I never told Mike about my own experiences with what sounded like his monster.  I wish I had.  Three days later Mike disappeared from his bed.  It was the night before his family was to move.

The police made a cursory look into the whole thing, but the teachers and students at Pale Forest High School (we still had three schools back then) couldn't wait to point out how angry Mike had been over the past few months.  He was eventually ruled a runaway.

When they came to speak to me, I didn't say anything about the dreams.  Why would I?  I didn't understand, nor did I want to tarnish his memory any more than necessary.  I still get sad thinking about Mike, though.  And I hope I'm wrong about what happened to him.

I also hope it doesn't happen to me.

Until next time...

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Creature in the Woods

Believers,

The past week has gone by quickly and, thankfully, without incident.  I am now of the mind that the email I shared in my last post might have been nothing more than a reader trying to freak me out.  If so, then job well done.  Allow me to return the favor.

As promised, I am going to share something of a much more paranormal nature than the mill.  I understand if you don't believe me-- I probably wouldn't either.  All I ask is that you read this fully, with an open mind.

The first time I remember venturing into the sickly woods surrounding Pale Forest was when I was sixteen.  I am sure that I did so when I was younger as well, but of those times I have no recollection.  This trip was not merely to explore the grotesque countryside, though.  In my teens, I had been the owner of a rundown stick-shift which, despite its reluctance to start at times, was my pride and joy.  I have always enjoyed working on cars since the first time I was old enough to do so.  On this particular day, my craft had betrayed me, leaving me stranded on the side of the road, a good three miles from my house which was in a neighborhood outside of town.  I am usually good with direction, and I knew that heading north would get me home in half the time.  Unfortunately, the road ran east.  My options, therefore, were to follow the empty road for three miles or to cut through the forest.  I reluctantly chose the latter.

I have been in forests since then, in other areas of the country, so I am not speaking from ignorance when I say that the woods of Pale Forest are unlike any place I have ever been.  It is not the unnaturally white trees that I am referring to (though they are, thankfully, unique in my experience), but rather the lack of virtually any other life.  Within these woods, it is as if sound does not naturally exist-- it is quiet beyond all sense of reason.  This exaggerates the sound of your own footsteps until they are all you can hear or focus on.  That is, unless, the monotonous crunching of debris underfoot is broken by something else.

That is what happened when I was sixteen.  I had only been in the forest for twenty minutes or so when a sound off to my left made every hair on the back of my neck stand on end (the fact that it was the first noise I'd heard that wasn't my own since the car had broken down made it even more frightening).  It is hard to explain what it sounded like.  It was a sort of loud skittering, replaced by shuffling every few seconds, as if something large was running around in the woods, pausing every few moments to drag something along with it.  I had already been consumed by a feeling of apprehension the minute I set foot in the forest, so it took very little to push me over the edge.  The sound was clearly out in front of me, and I don't remember my panicked sprint back to the car, but I do know it took far less time than getting out there to begin with. That night, I thought about telling my parents about my experience, but I remembered my father sternly telling me to never go into the woods, and thus thought better of it.

It wasn't until after college that I dared to go back.  Now, a man, I was determined to face old fears and conquer them.  Looking back, I wish I had been less arrogant.  What I had seen as a silly, childish fear, I now regard as something wholly to be feared.  For if it had been my intent to find the cause of the sound I had heard years before, then I was successful to a greater extent that I had hoped.

No, I did not see an actual creature.  Thank God for that.  What I did find, however, was a cave not far from where my car had broken down.  The sight of it was repugnant, though I'm not truly sure why.  It was little more than stone with an opening large enough for me to enter if I stooped a bit.  Still, there was something about it that made me sick to my stomach.  I eventually managed to convince myself that there was nothing to be afraid of, and after several minutes of mental deliberation, found myself ducking under the mouth of the cave.

Inside, there seemed initially little to see (I had wisely brought a flashlight).  The cave consisted of an area no larger than a child's bedroom, the floor of which was apparently barren.  I swept my flashlight towards the back wall, hoping to find the place empty. I sighed afterwards in relief, glad to find I was alone.  I was just about to leave, in fact, when the beam of light caught something that was a very different color than the stone walls.  There was little to do but investigate, which involved digging very briefly into the floor of the cave.  The ground was quite loose as if recently replaced.

Removing the object from the soft mound, I brought it closer, my dirt-covered hands trembling.  I had to steady myself to keep from dropping the flashlight when I recognized what it was I held.  There is no doubt in my mind, so help me, that it was a skull!  I involuntarily let it fall again to where it had been hidden.  It landed with a thud that did not sound right, and I had to force myself to shine the light into the small hole I had made.  The skull was not alone.  I was standing in a burial mound!

I have no memory of the next few moments.  My assumption is my mind has been wiped clean by a combination of fear and adrenalin, much like my teenage experiences in the same area of the forest.  The next image I have is that of the interior of my car as I drove haphazardly away from that awful place.  I hadn't investigated well enough to truly say whether or not the skull was human (it was cracked and badly disfigured), but the possibility is terrifying and quite real.  The sight still haunts me.

I have not been back to that "lair" since, and I hope to never have a reason to do so.  I did try reporting it to the Pale Forest police, but they told me it was probably nothing more that the home of a bear.  They also dismissed the possibility of any humans having been attacked or eaten.  I'm not so sure of either conclusion.

Hopefully you are still with me, believers.  I intentionally did not share this story until now because I was afraid that you'd write me off as a lunatic if I started off with tales of a man-eating monster. Now that we've moved into more supernatural territories, think it's time I talk about my best friend, Mike.  That will have to wait, though.  I have been getting migraines lately and I need to lie down.

Until next time...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Surprise Correspondence

Believers,

It's only been a couple of days, but I had to bring you up to date on what has been happening since my last post.

I had mentioned before that I suspected this blog might have already been discovered by the people of Pale Forest.  Well, now there can be no doubt of it.  Today, in my inbox, I found a short, rather cryptic email from an unknown source.  I have included it in its entirety (with the email addresses removed), though doing so might prove less than wise.

To: xxxxxx
From: xxxxxx
We know you've been looking around the mill and have seen your silly posts.  You are already unpopular here.  Don't make it worse.  
We are watching you.  Always.
What this means I am unsure.  Could this simply be someone playing a prank?  I suppose so.  It could also be someone at the mill who doesn't care for publicity.  I've already shared how secretive most of the residents of Pale Forest can be.  Still, this is unnerving to say the least.  I have not returned to the mill since my first trip, though, so if that was the point, this email really wasn't necessary.

This won't be the end of the blog.  There is still too much to say for an email to scare me off completely.  I will be careful, though, as it seems the idea that something is off in this town isn't completely crazy.  There is at least one person who would rather me keep silent.

I will be back in a few days.  There is still the matter of the forest and the "creature" to discuss.

Until next time...

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Mill

Believers,

I apologize for the delay in this second post.  My weekend was busy, though I feel quite a bit refreshed since I first brought my story to you.  I did notice a few more stares than usual from the locals when I went out for groceries on Saturday, though.  Does everyone already know what I'm doing with this blog?

Speaking of the residents of Pale Forest, I thought I'd spend some time describing them and the town so that you might have a better idea of what I'm dealing with.  They're an odd lot-- coming from me this might not mean as much, I realize-- so I hope I can do this justice.

Pale Forest, to an outsider, would probably appear to be a fairly ordinary town.  There isn't much to look at, really.  This is likely why there are so few visitors (that and the odor coming from the paper mill).  There's a town square with a few musty stores and the usual government buildings, a small strip mall on the outskirts of town where we do most of our shopping, the usual assortment of gas stations, a school, a bowling alley, and the paper mill.  The rest is a smattering of houses, with the majority clustered around the mill, which had previously been the town's lifeblood.  As I said last time, the mill is not as prosperous as it once was.  In fact, the layoffs that came with the shuddering of many of the mill's facilities reduced the population of Pale Forest by quite a bit.  Or so I've been told-- this all happened back when I was ten and I don't remember it well.  I do recall my father being one of the few who kept his job, though.  Had he not been, we likely would have a packed up and left with the others.

The people of Pale Forest are just as run down as the buildings.  Let me start by saying that I have nothing against the elderly.  This town, however, is simply full of them for whatever reason.  And they are all the type that stare as if they're "keeping an eye on you".  It's unnerving.  The lack of kids and teenagers is also unnatural.  I went to school here and, even though I had few friends thanks to being painfully introverted, I remember other children.  Now there are so few, they've all been lumped into a single school building.  It's as if the town is rotting from the inside out.

At this time, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to go back and describe the mill since it's impossible to talk about Pale Forest and not include it.  It has, in fact, existed for as long as Pale Forest itself, the trees surrounding the town having been used to make paper for centuries.   The locals had apparently fought its expansion for years before finally allowing outsiders to move in and work the mill.  My father, a man of few words, rarely spoke of his job.  Maybe he thought it was too boring.  I do remember his face often being an ashen color, much like the trees themselves, after work.  The mill has since gone back to only being operated by "natural born" residents again, which is fine by me.  The official story is that the supply of trees had dwindled under the stress of the larger mill.  I can't really comment on this other than to say I certainly never felt as if there were less of those thin, cruel giants fencing us in.

I thought I'd conclude this entry with a recent story about the mill.  Since moving back after college (I will describe the circumstances behind that unfortunate decision at a later date), I have noticed that the mill has begun running at night and is mostly closed during the day.  This was tremendously puzzling.  In fact, it was my questions regarding this that first raised a flag with the residents of Pale Forest.  Since no one seemed willing to explain, and given my curiosity getting the better of me, I eventually drove there after dark to take a look myself.  The first thing that caught my attention was the new fences that had been put up.  They were at least seven feet tall, topped with seemingly unnecessary barbed wire.  While the mill had always had some sort of wall around it, these new structures made the mill look less like a factory and more like a prison. Despite the impression of heightened security from the walls, there was no one stationed at the front.  There were, however, lights on and the humming of equipment could be heard from inside the compound.  I wandered around for a half or hour or so (though I probably lost track of time), before a familiar sound distracted me.  It was similar, God help me, to the grinding I had heard when I was a child, though far louder and slightly more mechanical in nature. This time it seemed to be coming from the mill instead of everywhere at once.  Perhaps I should have investigated more thoroughly, but I'll have to ask for your forgiveness for now.  The noise had brought my childhood fears with it, like a boogeyman suddenly emerging from an adult's closet.

I fled without once looking back.

So there it is.  At this point I am convinced that there is something strange happening at the mill, but I am having a hard time summoning up the courage to go back.  Perhaps in time, I will.  Until then, I have included a picture that I took of the walls surrounding the mill.  Doesn't it look as if the intent is less to keep people out than to keep something else in?

I am going to have to stop here-- my head is beginning to hurt.  Hopefully I will be back in the next few days to share more.

Until next time...

Friday, January 4, 2013

Help Me Discover the Truth...

I know you're all going to think I'm crazy.

Unfortunately, this has become an unavoidable truth. Certainly all of my neighbors, even my friends, have decided the very same thing of me.  I can't, however, keep it in any longer.  If even one person who reads these accounts believes me, then perhaps I will find solace in that.  Although I can't imagine what actual help the trust of a stranger somewhere out over the Internet will provide.  Regardless, I will endeavor to start from the beginning, if for no other reason that to order my own chaotic memories.

I have not always lived in Pale Forest.  This fact I know, yet I hardly remember a time when my house wasn't surrounded by the sickeningly white trees this place is so unimaginatively named for.  My parents moved here when I was five.  The city had just been "blessed" with an addition to its paper mill and my father needed the work.  I'm told that there was a great migration to Pale Forest at this time, though most everyone I know has roots that run deeper than the damn trees.  The mill still remains, along with its unbearable smell, though it operates on a much smaller scale now.

My earliest memories of this place are hazy at best.  Whether I owe this inability to make sense of the past to the natural act of aging or to something more sinister, I do not know.  Either way, the result is that thinking back too far is akin to trying to remember a dream the morning after.  Bits and pieces come to mind, but there is an impenetrable fog over the central themes.  It is unbearably frustrating.  What I can recall, however, is possibly more troubling than the things that I can't.

What I am about to write, I haven't shared with anyone fully.  What I have told others has only succeeded in making me a virtual pariah, so I have learned to keep things from those around me.  It is for that reason that I now bring this to you, since I can't very well be disowned by people I have never actually met.  Whatever you decide of me, please read the full account before making that call.

Though the exact order of events escapes me, I know of at least five occurrences from my past in which I opened my eyes to the same shape playing against the back wall of my room, illuminated by the He-Man nightlight my aunt had given me. It was never there for more than a few seconds.  Despite this transient nature, its image is, unfortunately, burned into my mind.  Though not human, it did seem to be the shadow of a creature that stood upright, its long, gangly arms apparently outstretched as if reaching for something.  I shudder to think what it was trying to find, there in the dark.  It is impossible to guess its exact height using only a shadow, but it did seem to be at least the equivalent of an average sized man.  (You'll excuse me if I stop my recollection here, as putting this in written word has made me feel somewhat queasy.  I often wish this memory would join the host of other I have lost over the years.)   I tore my room apart each and every time it appeared, vainly trying to find what could have produced it but, to this day, I have no idea of its origin.

The memory of the sound is more vague, still. It was a kind of grinding noise that was wholly foreign to me then and now (if I am indeed remembering it correctly).  I would hear it as a low humming at first, followed by a gradual growth in volume until it was about as loud as an electric drill.  I never went in search of the source, however, as it didn't seem to have one.  It wasn't as if it came from within my head, though, so please don't think that; it's origin was simply everywhere.  Regardless, it never lasted more than thirty seconds which was hardly enough time to investigate.  I only asked my parents about it once.  My mother's look of worry combined with the frustration on the face of my father quelled that curiosity.

Now, I know most children experience scares similar to these, but at this time I must point out I was a painfully practical youth.  One might have even labeled me as boring.  I did not play with toys or watch cartoons (the He-Man nightlight was a gift), choosing instead to draw.  And there was nothing whimsical about my artwork which consisted of diagrams and random blueprints for buildings that did not yet exist.  Looking back, it could be concluded I was fashioning the engineer I am today, but at the time it was a point of concern for my parents who were no doubt worried I would become a shut-in.  Perhaps it is best that they did not live to see me in my current situation.  All of this is to say that my own "bumps in the night" hold more credence than those of other, more childish children.

More than either of those explainable memories, however, was the pervasive feeling of always being watched.  This I list as something from my childhood and my present day as I can't recall a time since I have lived in Pale Forest where I did not have the uneasy feeling that a thousand unseen eyes were always upon me.  I am not referring to the tingle in one's spine that causes an involuntary need to turn and look behind you, either.  This sensation was and is far more visceral, as if everything I do is on display for some cosmic, disapproving audience.  Even now I feel as if those same eyes are watching as I share things they'd rather I keep to myself.

But I am not going to suffer alone any longer.  No one in Pale Forest will listen, but hopefully someone, an outsider with no preconceived ideas, will.  It is exhausting to recount my experiences, much more that I anticipated, but I will do my best.  I had wished to share more this first time out-- about the mill and how it runs at night now, about the unnatural quiet that hangs over the forest itself, and the creature in the woods, but I can't bring myself to write anything else, presently.  I will do so, however, as my time permits.

If you have not yet labeled me insane, or at the very least detached from reality, I thank you.  I assure you that your patience with my sanity will yet be tested.  There is more to share.  Please read it-- only then will I experience any form of closure.

Until next time...