Listen to ““AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE” by Ambrose Bierce, and 2 More Horror Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode… it’s Creepypasta Thursday – and this week I’m bringing you three tales of fiction.
I’ll share a short story that has been described as “one of the most famous and frequently anthologized stories in American literature” – it’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by the legendary Ambrose Bierce, from 1890.
I have a classic creepypasta from 2016 that many people mistakenly believe is a true story because it is so well written. It’s “The Strange Case of Edmonson Kentucky” by Joe Terrell.
But first, it’s a short story of fiction as told by one of the hardest-working writers I know, as she is always posting new stories on Facebook: Christina Skelton. It’s a story from April 2020 titled simply, “The Ghost Bus”.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! And if you’re already a member of this Weirdo family, please take a moment and invite someone else to listen. Recommending Weird Darkness to others helps make it possible for me to keep doing the show! And while you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com where you can find the show on Facebook and Twitter, and you can also join the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook group.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE GHOST BUS, by Christina Skelton=====
For years, my parents had told me about the horrible bus crash that happened near our house years ago. One morning, just days before I was born, my mother had been out in the garden, plucking weeds, when she heard a horrible noise. It was a series of high pitched screams, then a screeching of tires, followed by a tremendous crash. All of the people in the area rushed out of their houses to see what was going on.
Down at the bottom of the old coach road, they found black tire marks leading to a nearby cliff. When they rushed to the cliff edge, they saw the wreckage of a bus down below. It had apparently driven straight off the cliff and crashed on the jagged rocks at the bottom. The people ran down to where the smoking wreckage was lying strewn about, in an effort to help the survivors. They were horrified when they discovered that it was the local school bus and all of the passengers on board were their own children.
The bodies of the dead kids lay tangled in the twisted metal. Some had been thrown out of the bus as it fell. The parents were screaming and crying as they found the mangled remains of their sons and daughters in the charred wreckage.
When the ambulance and fire department arrived, they found no survivors. Every single child on the bus had been killed in the crash. It was the most horrific disaster the area had ever experienced. In one horrible moment, an entire generation of our small town had been nearly wiped out. The parents of the dead children were inconsolable.
A few days later, a huge funeral was held for all of the kids who had perished. People came from miles around to pay their respects and share in the grief. Almost every family in the area had lost a child in the accident. Some had even lost two or three. Almost 40 small coffins were lowered into the ground that day.
An inquest was held shortly afterwards, and police got to the bottom of what had happened and finally determined who was to blame for causing the terrible crash. It seems that a prisoner from the local mental hospital where he had been for a evaluation , had escaped the night before. He had broken into the bus station and stolen a driver’s uniform. That night, he lay in wait until the doors of the bus station were unlocked. Then, he crept aboard the school bus and drove out through the gates without alerting anyone.
That morning, he drove the school bus around the countryside, picking up all the unsuspecting kids who were waiting by the roadside, on their way to school. He was dressed in a bus driver’s uniform, so nobody suspected a thing. Once he had collected every kid on the route, the crazed man floored the accelerator and drove at high speed off the cliff.
The people in our area never forgot the terrible accident that escaped prisoner caused. When I was growing up, there were not too many other children to play with. Most had been killed in the terrible bus crash. The only kids that survived were those who had been too young to attend school at the time or where in high school already.
The story I am about to tell happened when I was thirteen years old. My parents allowed me to go to the movies at the theater in town. I met a bunch of friends there and we had a great time watching the movie. Afterwards, we lost track of time and it was very late by the time we decided to go home.
I must have been waiting at the bus stop for half an hour before I realized that I had missed the last bus. Cursing myself for being so careless, I wondered how I would manage to get home. It wasn’t all that far to walk, perhaps a mile or two. But the roads were treacherous at night because, in our area, there were no street lamps to light the way. A lot of people had been hit by cars as they walked in the darkness.
I found a payphone and called home. My mom answered and I told her I’d missed the last bus home. She began to panic, telling me that my father was out and had taken the car with him. She wouldn’t be able to pick me up. I told her I’d just walk home, but she begged me not to, saying that the roads were much too dangerous at that time of night. Even worse, it was beginning to snow, which meant that even if a car did manage to see me in the dark, it probably wouldn’t have time to brake before it hit me.
She said she would try to contact our neighbors and see if they would be able to drive into town to pick me up. After I hung up the phone, I began to get impatient. Eventually, I decided that the only thing I could do was walk home by myself, so I set off and hoped for the best.
I was walking along the lonely country road in complete darkness, trying not to trip over a pothole or fall into a ditch, when I saw headlights coming up over the hill behind me. Whether it was a car or a bus, it was coming up very fast, and quite noiselessly through the snow-covered road.
As it drew nearer, I could make out the outlines of the vehicle. It appeared to be a bus and my only hope was that the driver would be able to see me in the dark and stop for me. It came round the bend of the road, and bathed me in bright white light. The headlights blazed through the darkness like a pair of fiery meteors.
I jumped to the side of the road and waved my handbut the bus passed me at full speed and for a moment I feared that I had missed it. But then I heard the screech of brakes and the bus stopped dead a short distance ahead of me. I ran as fast as I could and came up to it just as the door swung open.
As soon as I stepped in, the door shut behind me and the driver took off again at full speed. The bus was dark inside but as my eyes began to adjust, I could see that it was almost full, despite the fact that it was late at night. I found a vacant seat and sat down, resting my weary legs.
The atmosphere of the bus seemed cold. Colder, if possible, than outside, and there was a strange and disagreeable smell. I looked round at the other passengers. It was dark and They were all silent. They did not seem to be asleep, but each of them stared straight ahead. The deathly quiet was unsettling and the smell was quickly becoming unbearable.
I felt much too ill to say anything at all. The icy coldness inside the bus chilled me to the bone and the strange smell was making me sick. Shivering from head to foot, I turned to the young boy beside me and asked if I could open the window.
He didn’t answer. He didn’t even blink.
I repeated the question more loudly, but still got no answer. When I could no longer stand the stench, I reached across and tried to open the window myself but the latch broke off in my hand. It was then that I realized the window was covered in cobwebs and mildew. In fact, every part of the bus seemed to be in a terrible state of disrepair. Almost decay. The leather seats were crusted with mould, and the floor was literally rotting and breaking away beneath my feet.
I turned to the boy beside me again and asked “What is wrong with this bus?”
Without saying a word, he turned his head slowly and looked me in the face. I will never forget that look as long as I live. My heart turned cold and all the blood drained from my face. His eyes were wide and seemed as if they were popping out of his head. His face was as pale and leathery as a corpse. His bloodless lips were drawn back.
The words that I was about to utter died upon my lips, and a dreadful feeling of horror came over me. I became aware that everyone on the bus was staring straight at me with the same ghastly look on their faces. Their awful faces were covered in rotting flesh and their clothes were covered in dirt. Only their eyes, their terrible eyes, were living; and those eyes were all staring menacingly at me.
A shriek of terror burst from my lips as I ran down the aisle, threw myself against the door, and tried to open it. In that single instant, as the bus door swung open, I heard a mighty crash and the bus rocked to and fro like a ship in a storm at sea. Then, I heard many voices, children’s voices, all screaming in unison and I felt a crushing pain before everything went black.
It seemed as if I had been unconcious for days when I woke up and found my mom was by my bedside. She told me I had fallen over a cliff, near the old coach-road. The only reason I hadn’t been killed was that I had landed on a deep snowdrift that had accumulated on the rocks beneath. I was discovered at daybreak by a local farmer, who carried me to the nearest hospital. The surgeon found me in a state of raving delirium, with two broken legs, a broken arm and a deep cut on my forehead.
The place where I fell, my mom told me, was almost the same exact spot where the horrible school bus accident had happened, thirteen years before. Now, you can believe what you want. Some people may call me a liar and others may say I’m just crazy, but I know that thirteen years ago, days before I was born, I was a passenger in that crazy bus crash.
Up next, it’s a classic short story that has been described as “one of the most famous and frequently anthologized stories in American literature” – it’s a story from 1890 entitled “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by the legendary Ambrose Bierce – when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE, by Ambrose Bierce=====
A man stood upon a railroad bridge in northern Alabama, looking down into the swift water twenty feet below. The man’s hands were behind his back, the wrists bound with a cord. A rope closely encircled his neck. It was attached to a stout cross-timber above his head and the slack fell to the level of his knees. Some loose boards laid upon the ties supporting the rails of the railway supplied a footing for him and his executioners — two private soldiers of the Federal army, directed by a sergeant who in civil life may have been a deputy sheriff. At a short remove upon the same temporary platform was an officer in the uniform of his rank, armed. He was a captain. A sentinel at each end of the bridge stood with his rifle in the position known as “support,” that is to say, vertical in front of the left shoulder, the hammer resting on the forearm thrown straight across the chest — a formal and unnatural position, enforcing an erect carriage of the body. It did not appear to be the duty of these two men to know what was occurring at the center of the bridge; they merely blockaded the two ends of the foot planking that traversed it.
Beyond one of the sentinels nobody was in sight; the railroad ran straight away into a forest for a hundred yards, then, curving, was lost to view. Doubtless there was an outpost farther along. The other bank of the stream was open ground — a gentle slope topped with a stockade of vertical tree trunks, loopholed for rifles, with a single embrasure through which protruded the muzzle of a brass cannon commanding the bridge. Midway up the slope between the bridge and fort were the spectators — a single company of infantry in line, at “parade rest,” the butts of their rifles on the ground, the barrels inclining slightly backward against the right shoulder, the hands crossed upon the stock. A lieutenant stood at the right of the line, the point of his sword upon the ground, his left hand resting upon his right. Excepting the group of four at the center of the bridge, not a man moved. The company faced the bridge, staring stonily, motionless. The sentinels, facing the banks of the stream, might have been statues to adorn the bridge. The captain stood with folded arms, silent, observing the work of his subordinates, but making no sign. Death is a dignitary who when he comes announced is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him. In the code of military etiquette silence and fixity are forms of deference.
The man who was engaged in being hanged was apparently about thirty-five years of age. He was a civilian, if one might judge from his habit, which was that of a planter. His features were good — a straight nose, firm mouth, broad forehead, from which his long, dark hair was combed straight back, falling behind his ears to the collar of his well fitting frock coat. He wore a moustache and pointed beard, but no whiskers; his eyes were large and dark gray, and had a kindly expression which one would hardly have expected in one whose neck was in the hemp. Evidently this was no vulgar assassin. The liberal military code makes provision for hanging many kinds of persons, and gentlemen are not excluded.
The preparations being complete, the two private soldiers stepped aside and each drew away the plank upon which he had been standing. The sergeant turned to the captain, saluted and placed himself immediately behind that officer, who in turn moved apart one pace. These movements left the condemned man and the sergeant standing on the two ends of the same plank, which spanned three of the cross-ties of the bridge. The end upon which the civilian stood almost, but not quite, reached a fourth. This plank had been held in place by the weight of the captain; it was now held by that of the sergeant. At a signal from the former the latter would step aside, the plank would tilt and the condemned man go down between two ties. The arrangement commended itself to his judgement as simple and effective. His face had not been covered nor his eyes bandaged. He looked a moment at his “unsteadfast footing,” then let his gaze wander to the swirling water of the stream racing madly beneath his feet. A piece of dancing driftwood caught his attention and his eyes followed it down the current. How slowly it appeared to move! What a sluggish stream!
He closed his eyes in order to fix his last thoughts upon his wife and children. The water, touched to gold by the early sun, the brooding mists under the banks at some distance down the stream, the fort, the soldiers, the piece of drift — all had distracted him. And now he became conscious of a new disturbance. Striking through the thought of his dear ones was sound which he could neither ignore nor understand, a sharp, distinct, metallic percussion like the stroke of a blacksmith’s hammer upon the anvil; it had the same ringing quality. He wondered what it was, and whether immeasurably distant or near by — it seemed both. Its recurrence was regular, but as slow as the tolling of a death knell. He awaited each new stroke with impatience and — he knew not why — apprehension. The intervals of silence grew progressively longer; the delays became maddening. With their greater infrequency the sounds increased in strength and sharpness. They hurt his ear like the thrust of a knife; he feared he would shriek. What he heard was the ticking of his watch.
He unclosed his eyes and saw again the water below him. “If I could free my hands,” he thought, “I might throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, reach the bank, take to the woods and get away home. My home, thank God, is as yet outside their lines; my wife and little ones are still beyond the invader’s farthest advance.”
As these thoughts, which have here to be set down in words, were flashed into the doomed man’s brain rather than evolved from it the captain nodded to the sergeant. The sergeant stepped aside.
Peyton Fahrquhar was a well to do planter, of an old and highly respected Alabama family. Being a slave owner and like other slave owners a politician, he was naturally an original secessionist and ardently devoted to the Southern cause. Circumstances of an imperious nature, which it is unnecessary to relate here, had prevented him from taking service with that gallant army which had fought the disastrous campaigns ending with the fall of Corinth, and he chafed under the inglorious restraint, longing for the release of his energies, the larger life of the soldier, the opportunity for distinction. That opportunity, he felt, would come, as it comes to all in wartime. Meanwhile he did what he could. No service was too humble for him to perform in the aid of the South, no adventure too perilous for him to undertake if consistent with the character of a civilian who was at heart a soldier, and who in good faith and without too much qualification assented to at least a part of the frankly villainous dictum that all is fair in love and war.
One evening while Fahrquhar and his wife were sitting on a rustic bench near the entrance to his grounds, a gray-clad soldier rode up to the gate and asked for a drink of water. Mrs. Fahrquhar was only too happy to serve him with her own white hands. While she was fetching the water her husband approached the dusty horseman and inquired eagerly for news from the front.
“The Yanks are repairing the railroads,” said the man, “and are getting ready for another advance. They have reached the Owl Creek bridge, put it in order and built a stockade on the north bank. The commandant has issued an order, which is posted everywhere, declaring that any civilian caught interfering with the railroad, its bridges, tunnels, or trains will be summarily hanged. I saw the order.”
“How far is it to the Owl Creek bridge?” Fahrquhar asked.
“About thirty miles.”
“Is there no force on this side of the creek?”
“Only a picket post half a mile out, on the railroad, and a single sentinel at this end of the bridge.”
“Suppose a man — a civilian and student of hanging — should elude the picket post and perhaps get the better of the sentinel,” said Fahrquhar, smiling, “what could he accomplish?”
The soldier reflected. “I was there a month ago,” he replied. “I observed that the flood of last winter had lodged a great quantity of driftwood against the wooden pier at this end of the bridge. It is now dry and would burn like tinder.”
The lady had now brought the water, which the soldier drank. He thanked her ceremoniously, bowed to her husband and rode away. An hour later, after nightfall, he repassed the plantation, going northward in the direction from which he had come. He was a Federal scout.
As Peyton Farquhar fell straight downward through the bridge he lost consciousness and was as one already dead. From this state he was awakened — ages later, it seemed to him — by the pain of a sharp pressure upon his throat, followed by a sense of suffocation. Keen, poignant agonies seemed to shoot from his neck downward through every fiber of his body and limbs. These pains appeared to flash along well defined lines of ramification and to beat with an inconceivably rapid periodicity. They seemed like streams of pulsating fire heating him to an intolerable temperature. As to his head, he was conscious of nothing but a feeling of fullness — of congestion. These sensations were unaccompanied by thought. The intellectual part of his nature was already effaced; he had power only to feel, and feeling was torment. He was conscious of motion. Encompassed in a luminous cloud, of which he was now merely the fiery heart, without material substance, he swung through unthinkable arcs of oscillation, like a vast pendulum. Then all at once, with terrible suddenness, the light about him shot upward with the noise of a loud splash; a frightful roaring was in his ears, and all was cold and dark. The power of thought was restored; he knew that the rope had broken and he had fallen into the stream. There was no additional strangulation; the noose about his neck was already suffocating him and kept the water from his lungs. To die of hanging at the bottom of a river! — the idea seemed to him ludicrous. He opened his eyes in the darkness and saw above him a gleam of light, but how distant, how inaccessible! He was still sinking, for the light became fainter and fainter until it was a mere glimmer. Then it began to grow and brighten, and he knew that he was rising toward the surface — knew it with reluctance, for he was now very comfortable. “To be hanged and drowned,” he thought, “that is not so bad; but I do not wish to be shot. No; I will not be shot; that is not fair.”
He was not conscious of an effort, but a sharp pain in his wrist apprised him that he was trying to free his hands. He gave the struggle his attention, as an idler might observe the feat of a juggler, without interest in the outcome. What splendid effort! — what magnificent, what superhuman strength! Ah, that was a fine endeavor! Bravo! The cord fell away; his arms parted and floated upward, the hands dimly seen on each side in the growing light. He watched them with a new interest as first one and then the other pounced upon the noose at his neck. They tore it away and thrust it fiercely aside, its undulations resembling those of a water snake. “Put it back, put it back!” He thought he shouted these words to his hands, for the undoing of the noose had been succeeded by the direst pang that he had yet experienced. His neck ached horribly; his brain was on fire, his heart, which had been fluttering faintly, gave a great leap, trying to force itself out at his mouth. His whole body was racked and wrenched with an insupportable anguish! But his disobedient hands gave no heed to the command. They beat the water vigorously with quick, downward strokes, forcing him to the surface. He felt his head emerge; his eyes were blinded by the sunlight; his chest expanded convulsively, and with a supreme and crowning agony his lungs engulfed a great draught of air, which instantly he expelled in a shriek!
He was now in full possession of his physical senses. They were, indeed, preternaturally keen and alert. Something in the awful disturbance of his organic system had so exalted and refined them that they made record of things never before perceived. He felt the ripples upon his face and heard their separate sounds as they struck. He looked at the forest on the bank of the stream, saw the individual trees, the leaves and the veining of each leaf — he saw the very insects upon them: the locusts, the brilliant bodied flies, the gray spiders stretching their webs from twig to twig. He noted the prismatic colors in all the dewdrops upon a million blades of grass. The humming of the gnats that danced above the eddies of the stream, the beating of the dragon flies’ wings, the strokes of the water spiders’ legs, like oars which had lifted their boat — all these made audible music. A fish slid along beneath his eyes and he heard the rush of its body parting the water.
He had come to the surface facing down the stream; in a moment the visible world seemed to wheel slowly round, himself the pivotal point, and he saw the bridge, the fort, the soldiers upon the bridge, the captain, the sergeant, the two privates, his executioners. They were in silhouette against the blue sky. They shouted and gesticulated, pointing at him. The captain had drawn his pistol, but did not fire; the others were unarmed. Their movements were grotesque and horrible, their forms gigantic.
Suddenly he heard a sharp report and something struck the water smartly within a few inches of his head, spattering his face with spray. He heard a second report, and saw one of the sentinels with his rifle at his shoulder, a light cloud of blue smoke rising from the muzzle.
The man in the water saw the eye of the man on the bridge gazing into his own through the sights of the rifle. He observed that it was a gray eye and remembered having read that gray eyes were keenest, and that all famous marksmen had them. Nevertheless, this one had missed.
A counter-swirl had caught Farquhar and turned him half round; he was again looking at the forest on the bank opposite the fort. The sound of a clear, high voice in a monotonous singsong now rang out behind him and came across the water with a distinctness that pierced and subdued all other sounds, even the beating of the ripples in his ears. Although no soldier, he had frequented camps enough to know the dread significance of that deliberate, drawling, aspirated chant; the lieutenant on shore was taking a part in the morning’s work. How coldly and pitilessly — with what an even, calm intonation, presaging, and enforcing tranquility in the men — with what accurately measured interval fell those cruel words:
“Company! . . . Attention! . . . Shoulder arms! . . . Ready! . . . Aim! . . . Fire!”
Farquhar dived — dived as deeply as he could. The water roared in his ears like the voice of Niagara, yet he heard the dull thunder of the volley and, rising again toward the surface, met shining bits of metal, singularly flattened, oscillating slowly downward. Some of them touched him on the face and hands, then fell away, continuing their descent. One lodged between his collar and neck; it was uncomfortably warm and he snatched it out.
As he rose to the surface, gasping for breath, he saw that he had been a long time under water; he was perceptibly farther downstream — nearer to safety. The soldiers had almost finished reloading; the metal ramrods flashed all at once in the sunshine as they were drawn from the barrels, turned in the air, and thrust into their sockets. The two sentinels fired again, independently and ineffectually.
The hunted man saw all this over his shoulder; he was now swimming vigorously with the current. His brain was as energetic as his arms and legs; he thought with the rapidity of lightning:
“The officer,” he reasoned, “will not make that martinet’s error a second time. It is as easy to dodge a volley as a single shot. He has probably already given the command to fire at will. God help me, I cannot dodge them all!”
An appalling splash within two yards of him was followed by a loud, rushing sound, DIMINUENDO, which seemed to travel back through the air to the fort and died in an explosion which stirred the very river to its deeps! A rising sheet of water curved over him, fell down upon him, blinded him, strangled him! The cannon had taken an hand in the game. As he shook his head free from the commotion of the smitten water he heard the deflected shot humming through the air ahead, and in an instant it was cracking and smashing the branches in the forest beyond.
“They will not do that again,” he thought; “the next time they will use a charge of grape. I must keep my eye upon the gun; the smoke will apprise me — the report arrives too late; it lags behind the missile. That is a good gun.”
Suddenly he felt himself whirled round and round — spinning like a top. The water, the banks, the forests, the now distant bridge, fort and men, all were commingled and blurred. Objects were represented by their colors only; circular horizontal streaks of color — that was all he saw. He had been caught in a vortex and was being whirled on with a velocity of advance and gyration that made him giddy and sick. In few moments he was flung upon the gravel at the foot of the left bank of the stream — the southern bank — and behind a projecting point which concealed him from his enemies. The sudden arrest of his motion, the abrasion of one of his hands on the gravel, restored him, and he wept with delight. He dug his fingers into the sand, threw it over himself in handfuls and audibly blessed it. It looked like diamonds, rubies, emeralds; he could think of nothing beautiful which it did not resemble. The trees upon the bank were giant garden plants; he noted a definite order in their arrangement, inhaled the fragrance of their blooms. A strange roseate light shone through the spaces among their trunks and the wind made in their branches the music of AEolian harps. He had not wish to perfect his escape — he was content to remain in that enchanting spot until retaken.
A whiz and a rattle of grapeshot among the branches high above his head roused him from his dream. The baffled cannoneer had fired him a random farewell. He sprang to his feet, rushed up the sloping bank, and plunged into the forest.
All that day he traveled, laying his course by the rounding sun. The forest seemed interminable; nowhere did he discover a break in it, not even a woodman’s road. He had not known that he lived in so wild a region. There was something uncanny in the revelation.
By nightfall he was fatigued, footsore, famished. The thought of his wife and children urged him on. At last he found a road which led him in what he knew to be the right direction. It was as wide and straight as a city street, yet it seemed untraveled. No fields bordered it, no dwelling anywhere. Not so much as the barking of a dog suggested human habitation. The black bodies of the trees formed a straight wall on both sides, terminating on the horizon in a point, like a diagram in a lesson in perspective. Overhead, as he looked up through this rift in the wood, shone great golden stars looking unfamiliar and grouped in strange constellations. He was sure they were arranged in some order which had a secret and malign significance. The wood on either side was full of singular noises, among which — once, twice, and again — he distinctly heard whispers in an unknown tongue.
His neck was in pain and lifting his hand to it found it horribly swollen. He knew that it had a circle of black where the rope had bruised it. His eyes felt congested; he could no longer close them. His tongue was swollen with thirst; he relieved its fever by thrusting it forward from between his teeth into the cold air. How softly the turf had carpeted the untraveled avenue — he could no longer feel the roadway beneath his feet!
Doubtless, despite his suffering, he had fallen asleep while walking, for now he sees another scene — perhaps he has merely recovered from a delirium. He stands at the gate of his own home. All is as he left it, and all bright and beautiful in the morning sunshine. He must have traveled the entire night. As he pushes open the gate and passes up the wide white walk, he sees a flutter of female garments; his wife, looking fresh and cool and sweet, steps down from the veranda to meet him. At the bottom of the steps she stands waiting, with a smile of ineffable joy, an attitude of matchless grace and dignity. Ah, how beautiful she is! He springs forwards with extended arms. As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence!
Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.
Coming up, it’s our final story – a well-known creepypasta written in December of 2016 by Joe Terrell, which is so well written that many people have mistaken as a true story. It’s called, “The Strange Case of Edmonson, Kentucky” and it’s up next on Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE STRANGE CASE OF EDMONSON, KENTUCKY, by Joe Terrell=====
On October 16, 1962, every man, woman, and child disappeared from the town of Edmonson, Kentucky. The date is relatively easy to pin down. The day before – October 15 – a traveling salesman named Arnold Johnson passed through the small town in an unsuccessful attempt to sell an exciting new product – the bagless vacuum cleaner.
During an interview with authorities afterwards, Johnson said he noticed nothing unusual about Edmondson in the day before the disappearances. He did, however, remark that none of the housewives he spoke with during his brief stay seemed remotely interested in his product – something he found slightly surprising compared to the response he typically received when demonstrating the vacuum cleaner to similarly-sized towns.
“Not only did I not sell a single vacuum cleaner, but no one even wanted to see the product in action,” he said during the interview. “If you could get in the door and show the women what that vacuum could do, you were guaranteed a sale.”
Johnson chalked up his failure to the apprehension related to the Cuban Missile Crisis, which had begun a day before and had been dominating the airwaves.
“It’s hard to sell a vacuum cleaner when your audience thinks there’s a possibility they’ll be radioactive dust by the end of the week,” he said.
Johnson left the town of Edmonson the evening of October 15. The next town on his sales route – Clement – was eighty miles away. He drove all night and didn’t think about Edmonson until investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation knocked on his door two weeks later.
During the early morning hours of October 17, Randall Pierce – a farmer who sold his produce to the only grocer in Edmonson – drove into town to discover empty streets and closed storefronts.
“It was eerie,” Pierce told the county newspaper later. “Usually at seven in the morning that little town was bustling. I thought I had maybe driven up during a holiday.”
Pierce lived with his wife and three children on a farm fifteen miles outside of Edmonson. Like most farming families in the early 1960s, Pierce’s wife homeschooled their children when they weren’t helping their father tend the farm.
“But I couldn’t think of any holiday that would close up a town in the middle of October so I started getting a little spooked,” Pierce said. “I knocked on the doors of a few houses and didn’t get a response from any of them. Around eight o’ clock, I realized there wasn’t a single soul in Edmonson.”
Shaken and a little disoriented, Pierce returned home to his wife and children. He told them what he had seen (or not seen) in Edmonson and with nationalistic fears of a Communist invasion running rampant, his wife convinced him to drive to Clement and report what he had seen to the authorities. The Pierce family had no phone at their farm.
Pierce arrived in Clement shortly after noon and immediately pulled into the parking lot of the local police department. He told the authorities what he had witnessed in Edmonson.
Initially, as Pierce tells it, his story was met with disbelief and ridicule. But after multiple calls to Edmonson’s police chief went unanswered, Clement’s Sheriff – Jonathan Ambrose – gathered a group of men and traveled to Edmonson to investigate Pierce’s claims.
Sheriff Ambrose died of lung cancer in 1968. However, in spite of being a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, on his deathbed Ambrose said that his visit to Edmonson on October 17th was “the most disturbing and haunting experience of my entire life” and thinking about the events of that day would still “turn the blood in his veins to ice.”
* * * * * *
According to the most recent census, 236 individuals lived in Edmonson in 1960. It was a small town, nestled between the hills of western Kentucky. Named after a Captain who killed during the Battle of 1812, Edmonson was populated primarily by the ancestors who founded the town in 1825.
Edmondson had one public school, a grocery store, a bank (Wells Fargo), a hospital clinic, two churches (Baptist and Methodist), and a post office. Most of the men worked small farms – like Pierce – or ran a trade. Edmondson, like most small communities in rural areas, was self-sufficient and self-sustaining. Every two weeks the grocery store would be restocked and the post office would deliver mail every Tuesday. For entertainment, residents of Edmondson would have to visit Clement or another nearby town.
On October 17, 1962, Clement Sheriff Ambrose, two deputies, and the Clement’s primary physician piled into a squad car and followed county farmer Randall Pierce back into Edmonson. Ambrose carried his service pistol – a M1911A1 .45 ACP – and ordered his deputies to bring their shotguns – Browning 12-Guage pump-actions. The physician – Alan Cathey – was brought along in case a mass casualty event had taken place.
Before he died in 1968, Ambrose recounted the events of October 17th to his older son, who transcribed his father’s testimony and published it in a men’s magazine to little fanfare in 1974.
“It was a two-hour drive from Clement to Edmonson, and we all expected to show up in that little town and find nothing wrong except for a drunk police chief who overslept his shift,” Ambrose said. “However, I couldn’t deny the fact that a palatable tension was present in the squad car. My two deputies kept fiddling with their shotguns and
Cathey wouldn’t stop rummaging through his physician’s bag. It was the same type of behavior I observed among soldiers before we were set to launch a big assault.”
Upon arriving in Edmonson, they immediately realized something was, in fact, very wrong. Pierce and Ambrose parked their cars in front of the grocery store along the main street.
It was just as Pierce had described it – the town seemed completely devoid of life. Ambrose, who personally knew Edmondson’s police chief and where he lived, decided they should check out his home first.
The five men set out on foot into the residential neighborhood. All the men were struck by the silence. It was then that one of the deputies realized that not only were there no people in town, there were no animals to speak of. Yards with fences that clearly meant to keep in dogs were notably empty.
The men arrived at the police chief’s home to find the front door unlocked. Ambrose, with his gun drawn, entered the house first and was followed by his two shotgun-toting deputies.
“I don’t know what we were expecting to find,” Ambrose said. “I honestly thought we’d find a body. Maybe poisonous gas had leaked from the ground at some point during the night and killed off the whole town. But I think what we found was worse.”
The police chief’s house was empty. The bed was made up in the bedroom and the fridge still contained bottles of fresh milk. The men were baffled. Maybe, they thought, the townspeople had left to attend a large community picnic. But as the hours dragged on and the search continued, that possibility grew less likely.
“We searched six other houses in the neighborhood after we canvassed the police chief’s house,” Ambrose said. “It was always the same story – the house seemed fine, no sign of forced entry, unlocked doors, and no occupants.”
However, a few similarities began to make themselves apparent as the men made their way from house to house. For one, there was no luggage to be found anywhere in the homes and it appeared as if a majority of the clothing was missing from drawers and wardrobes. Pierce – the farmer – also noticed that much of the food left in the pantries and refrigerators were perishable – there were no canned goods.
Ambrose, who had just finished reading C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, remembered thinking “it’s as if the whole town just packed up their belonging
and boarded a bus to Heaven.”
Some of the discoveries were less benign. In the backyard of one home, the men discovered a dead Labrador retriever. One of the deputies stumbled across the animal and thought at first it was sleeping. The dog was wearing a collar and was loosely chained to a tree in the backyard. It was the first animal they’d seen in Edmonson since arriving two hours earlier.
While the men searched the home, Cathey – the physician – performed an ad-hoc autopsy on the animal. Rigor mortis had only recently set in, indicating the dog had not been dead for more than a day. Additionally, Cathey found raw hamburger meat in the animal’s stomach – hamburger meat that had been peppered with small, white pills.
The dog had been poisoned.
In another home, they found the words “Revelation 9:1“ scrawled on a bathroom mirror in light pink lipstick. The men were unfamiliar with the Bible verse and this led to the next disquieting discovery: they could not find a single Bible in the town.
Edmonson had two churches, and it can be deduced that a majority of the township probably attended one or the other. In the early 1960s, a vast majority of Americans considered themselves ‘Christian’ and even those who wouldn’t consider themselves very devoted could be expected to at least own a Bible.
However, Ambrose and his men couldn’t locate a Bible in any of the homes they searched. When they inspected both churches, they found only hymnals or Books of Common Prayer in the pews.
Except for the poisoned dog, during their three-hour search of Edmonson, they found no signs of violence or struggle. Every home’s interior looked impeccable, and running water and electricity appeared to be in working order. Ambrose was reminded of the model communities the U.S. Army had built in New Mexico to test the destructive power of the atomic bomb.
As the sun began to slip beneath the trees and the men’s shadows grew longer and dimmer, Ambrose detected another palpable sense of urgency brewing among members of the group.
“It was obvious the men didn’t want to remain in Edmonson after sundown,” Ambrose said. “And I felt it too. I somehow sensed that if we stayed in Edmonson overnight, there’d be another group of men from Clement trying to find us the next afternoon. And I don’t think they’d find us.”
Before twilight ended, the men loaded up in their cars – the two deputies, Cathey and Ambrose in the squad car, and Pierce in his truck – and left Edmonson. Even though they knew the town was empty, each man reported a creeping sensation that they were being watched from the darkened windows of the homes they passed on their way out of town.
“We didn’t talk much on the ride back to Clement, and I’d be lying if I said I was driving with any regard toward the speed limit,” Ambrose said. “We had to get out of there. At that point, I was convinced we had stumbled across ground zero of some new Communist weapon system. Something that could vaporize the inhabitants of an entire town without causing any collateral damage. But even then I knew that story didn’t
completely add up.”
After the men arrived back in Clement, they agreed that Ambrose would contact the Federal Government in the morning. None of the men expressed any interest in returning to Edmondson. That night, Ambrose retrieved his family’s Bible from their study and flipped to Revelation 9:1.
And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from Heaven unto the earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit.
“I didn’t know what to make of that,” Ambrose said.
* * * * * *
The next morning, Ambrose reported what he had seen in Edmonson to the governing authorities in Frankfort. Things began moving very quickly after that.
While the rest of the world was transfixed by the escalating tensions between Cuba and the United States, the FBI sent an investigative team to investigate the disappearances at Edmonson.
Fearing a Communist plot or (as Ambrose had suspected) the use of a powerful
new weapon, the FBI shut down access to Edmonson on October 19, 1962. The strange case of Edmonson made its way into a few local papers, but it was a story that always ended up buried behind pages of international news.
Because many of the town’s inhabitants were ancestors of the people who founded the town, there weren’t too many relatives inquiring about the status of their loved ones. The roads that passed through Edmondson (there were very few) were rerouted around the town.
The FBI finished their investigation in 1967, but by then no one really cared about Edmonson anymore. In between the town’s disappearance in 1962 and the FBI’s final report on the incident the nation’s attention had been distracted by a number of earth-shattering events – the assassination of President Kennedy, the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and the U.S.’s involvement in Vietnam.
Unfortunately, the results of the FBI’s investigation were sealed and deemed confidential. As the decades progressed, nature began to overtake Edmonson, Kentucky. No attempt was made to rebuild or resettle the town. Edmonson soon became a little-known historical footnote in Kentucky’s history. While many of the structures collapsed due to exposure, a handful of homes and one of the churches remain standing, enshrouded by thick vines and a thriving deer population.
In 2002, the official report from the FBI was made public after a local historian placed a Freedom of Information Request. Dennis Miller, president and sole member of the Edmonson Historical Society, learned the FBI officially declared the reason for the town’s spontaneous abandonment as “fears related to the possibility of nuclear annihilation and unexplained atmospheric phenomenon led to a panic-induced dispersal of the town.”
“Of course, that reasoning was bullshit,” Miller said. “The report doesn’t even mention the fact that none of the townspeople had ever been accounted for, there were no reports of ‘atmospheric phenomenon’ by anyone in the area.”
However, by then, a new theory had emerged regarding the fate of the Edmonson’s inhabitants. A theory that began circulating after two self-proclaimed “backyard adventurers” stumbled upon a hatch in the basement of the abandoned First Baptist Church of Edmonson.
* * * * * *
The Mammoth Cave in Kentucky is the world’s largest known cave system. At least 400 miles have been mapped, and some scientists estimate there could be another 600 miles that are unexplored and have never been seen by human eyes. As of 2016, twenty-six entrances into the cave system have been discovered.
And in 1981, one of those entrances was discovered in the ruins of Edmonson, Kentucky.
During the late 1970s, the abandoned ruins of Edmonson attained a cult status among backpackers and hitchhikers in the area. With the roads leading to Edmonson in disrepair, getting to the abandoned town is extremely difficult. But every year, intrepid amateur adventurers and curious locales would make the trek to one of the country’s greatest – but forgotten – unsolved mysteries.
Nineteen years after the disappearances, hikers Emilio Stevens and Julie Page parked their vehicles thirty miles outside the edges of the forest that surrounds the abandoned township and began their trek to Edmonson.
“We’d visited Edmonson two years before that day,” Stevens said to scientific journal afterwards. “It’s creepy as hell. It takes about a day and a half to reach the town from the trailhead and when you get there, you really don’t feel like sticking around. Most hikers pass through it or camp overnight on the outskirts. That November, Julie and I planned on staying overnight in the church. I think it was more about testing our nerves than anything else.”
The church Stevens is talking about is the First Baptist Church of Edmonson. It’s the largest structure still standing in the town. The grocery store and Methodist Church collapsed in the late 1960s.
“We arrived in Edmonson around nightfall on the second day,” Stevens said. “Julie wasn’t feeling too hot and it was beginning to sprinkle. We set our tent in the center of the church and prepared for our night. I could tell it was going to be a miserable night. The roof [of the church] leaked and a lot of pews had been destroyed by vandals and raccoons.”
As they settled in for the night, Stevens and Page both couldn’t shake a creeping sense of dread. Even though they had hiked into Edmonson before, they both felt unprepared for the degree of uneasiness they were experiencing. Around midnight, however, exhaustion got the better of the two of them and they fell asleep.
Two hours later, Stevens awoke to a loud cracking sound.
“I first I thought it was thunder, but then the floor slanted and we were falling,” Stevens said. “There is nothing more disorienting than waking up in a tent and experiencing the sensation of free fall.”
The floor of the church had collapsed in the middle of the night, flinging Stevens and Page into an as-of-yet undiscovered basement. Luckily, both Stevens and Page survived the fall without any serious injury.
“We were both pretty shaken and, frankly, a little banged up,” Stevens said. “But in all the time we had spent in and around Edmonson, we had never heard of a basement in the Baptist church. We knew we had found something no one else knew about it.”
Armed with only their flashlights, Stevens and Page set exploring the decrepit basement. The room hidden beneath the floorboards of the church was small and appeared to have been carved into the bedrock beneath the building’s foundation. Stevens said there wasn’t much to see – it looked as if the room had been used to store extra tables and chairs, presumably for after-church socials.
But then they found the hatch.
“Page found it in the far corner of the basement,” Stevens said. “It was set flush against the floor of the basement, and it was made of four thick wood planks, and the hinges had been bolted into the bedrock on the left side. The door had one of those old fashioned drop-ring handles.”
Stevens gripped ahold of the drop-ring handle and, after several tries, wrenched the hatch open. A square of darkness stared back up at him. Page activated and dropped a glow stick into the shaft. The pale green glow of the stick stopped about five feet from the mouth of the hatch.
“Well we had to go down there,” Stevens said. “It was probably three in the morning and we for sure as hell weren’t going back to sleep. “
Stevens tied a climbing rope to his back pant loop and dropped down through the hatch. Page stayed above and metered out the rope as Stevens progressed into the darkness.
“At the bottom of the shaft, a passageway opened up to my left – pointing westward. It was obvious by then that I was traveling through a cave tunnel, and that it was not manmade,” Stevens said.
Eventually, the tunnel tightened and Stevens found himself crawling on his hands and knees. The roof of the passageway scratched his back and his hands began to get rubbed raw by the cave’s rough floor.
“I’m not claustrophobic, but it started getting pretty tight,” Stevens said. “I began to worry about not being to turn around and get back to the hatch. But I started to hear something coming from up ahead of me. I should have been freaked out, but at that point, I figured I had gone too far to bail out.”
After fifteen minutes of crawling, Stevens was straining to push his shoulders through the ever-tightening passageway. But the eerie noises emanating from ahead drove him deeper into the cave. However, his adventure came to an abrupt end.
“The passageway ended at a pile of rocks,” Stevens said. “Each rock looked to be about the size of my head and they completely blocked any further spelunking. I could hear the noises clearly now – could even distinguish words and phrases. But my journey was done.”
However, right before the passageway terminated at the cave-in, Stevens found a couple of objects. He put them in his jacket and began backing out. It took him thirty minutes to back up out of the tight passageway. When he made it up out of the shaft and back into the church’s basement to a relieved Page, he took out the objects and inspected them.
“I had found a pair of eyeglasses – like old-fashioned reader’s glasses, and a woman’s shoe with the heel missing,” Stevens said. “It didn’t mean anything to us at the time.”
Stevens and Page hiked out of Edmonson early the next morning, battered and spook. When they reached their car, they immediately headed into Mammoth National Park and reported what they had found to a park ranger.
In the investigation that followed, it was determined that Stevens and Page had discovered an entrance into an unmapped portion of the Mammoth Cave System. Unfortunately, geologists determine that the cave-in that had stopped Steven’s progress was at least one hundred feet thick. Unless they used to explosives, there was no way to investigate further.
However, it was the discovery of the cave entrance coupled with the objects that Stevens found that held disturbing implications for the unsolved mystery of the disappearances in Edmonson twenty years prior. Historians dated the eyeglasses and the woman’s shoe to the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Most historians and geological experts are now in near-unanimous agreement about what happened to the inhabitants of Edmonson, Kentucky in 1962: Driven by fears of a first strike by Cuba during the missile crisis and religious fanaticism, the people of Edmonson sought refuge in a secret, labyrinth cave system underneath their town. Unfortunately, a cave-in – perhaps triggered by their panicked influx through
the tight passageways – trapped every man, woman, and child deep underground.
“It’s deeply unsettling when you realize that at the same time Sheriff Ambrose and his men were exploring the town, that everyone they were searching for was probably about four hundred feet underneath their feet,” said Sam Tso, a ranger at Mammoth National Park.
If they had fresh water and food, and if the cave had a clean air supply, some experts believe that the people of Edmonson could have survived for at least six months underground.
“I reckon it’s a pretty good theory,” Stevens said. “But it still doesn’t explain what I heard that night – the reason I dropped down through that hatch and crawled on my hands and knees for fifteen minutes. It doesn’t explain the singing I heard. While I was crawling down there, I clearly heard voices singing the hymn ‘Come Thou Fount.’”
* * * * * *
Dennis Miller started the Edmonson Historical Society in 2001 to raise awareness about the town and the mystery surrounding it. He was twelve years old.
“It really is a 20th Century Roanoke,” Miller said, referencing the New England colony that disappeared in 1590. “And there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to figure out what happened.”
Miller lives in Clement and on his days when he’s not researching Edmonson, he runs a small pawnshop. Many people would consider Miller’s fascination with Edmonson to border on obsession, but when they learn about Miller’s personal history with the area, it begins to make sense.
During a family camping trip in 1997, Miller’s father and mother went missing after making camp in the wilderness three miles north of Edmonson. Miller – who was seven at the time – was with them when they disappeared.
“We camped often, and we used a big tent for the three of us,” Miller said. “That night, we went to bed around 9 after cooking hot dogs. I woke up around 1 in the morning and realized my parents weren’t in the tent anymore and the front flap was open.”
Miller spent two days alone in the woods, never straying far from the campsite in case his parents came back. After sustaining on hot dog buns and marshmallows, he was discovered by another of campers passing through the area.
“After searching the area for two weeks, the police officially concluded that I had been abandoned in the woods by my parents,” Miller said. “But that’s not true. My parents loved me. I never doubted that. And if they had abandoned me, why didn’t they hike to their car? It was found untouched at the trailhead.”
After the investigation closed, Miller spent the next decade of his life in and out of the foster care system. Driven by a desire to protect his parents’ reputation and validate their love for him, Miller began reviewing historical records in libraries and did a sweep of the police records in the surrounding areas.
Some might accuse Miller of attempting to connect unrelated dots, but some of his data and findings are shocking, to say the least.
For example, the three counties that border the location of Edmonson have a missing persons rate seventeen times higher than similarly sized counties in the United States.
“It’s an area we sometimes refer to as the “Kentucky Triangle,” said FBI agent Brittany Hooper, head of the state’s missing person division. “For some reason, a lot of people seem to disappear in those counties.”
Some of the disappearances can be attributed to caving accidents, the vast swaths of unmapped wilderness, and the recent boom of meth operations in rural areas.
Also, Stevens wasn’t the first person to report hearing strange voices and singing in and around the Mammoth cave systems. Some people consider Mammoth National Park to be the “most haunted national park in the United States.” There have been dozens of accounts of people hearing strange noises in the woods and caves since the 1970s, as well as sightings of a tall humanoid-like creature (called “The Black Demon” according to unrelated local lore).
Geologists and historians dismiss many of these accounts. After Stevens told authorities he had been following the voices of singing as he made his way through the passageways, expert cavers were quick to point out that even if he had heard people singing, it could not have come from behind the caved-in rocks – the cave-in was too thick for sound to penetrate.
Also, because Mammoth National Park sits on top of the Mammoth Cave System, it’s not unreasonable to assume that a lot of the strange noises and voices are a result of sound bouncing and echoing throughout the caverns. Caves are, after all, notorious for their disorienting acoustics.
But Miller has a different theory – a theory as macabre as it would be revelatory if it turned out to be true.
“I think some of the trapped people of Edmonson are still alive,” Miller said. “I think they’re down there in an unmapped portion of the cave system and that have chosen to stay below. It’s been about seventy years since they went in, which means the first generation has probably mostly died off and there’s an entire second or third generation that only knows life underground.”
As for the disappearances, Miller has an answer for that as well.
“I think they’ve found other exits and every now and then they come out and take people – hikers, drifters, campers and locals,” Miller said. “I think that’s what happened to my parents. And it has been happening years before they were taken and it continues today.”
On his off-days, you can find Miller searching the forests around Edmonson and the outskirts of Mammoth National Park for additional entrances into the Mammoth Cave System. He carries a GPS locator, rappelling gear, multiple flashlights, and a Colt .45 Automatic Pistol.
“For some reason, they don’t want to be seen by us,” Miller said. “I don’t know what they do with the people they take, but I know what it takes to maintain an underground society. It requires food and a fresh gene pool. I don’t like thinking about what that meant for my mom and dad, but even if the truth is ugly at least I’ll know. And I be able to do something about it.”
In spite of being armed, as soon as the sun begins to slink behind the trees Millers makes sure to abandon his search and head back to his vehicle.
“You’ll never find me spending the night in those woods again,” Miller said.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org – and you can find the show on Facebook and Twitter, including the show’s Weirdos Facebook Group on the CONTACT/SOCIAL page at WeirdDarkness.com. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, click on TELL YOUR STORY – or call the DARKLINE toll free at 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-5944.
Stories on Thriller Thursday episodes are works of fiction, and links to the stories or the authors can be found in the show notes.
“An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce
“The Ghost Bus” by Christina Skelton
“The Strange Case of Edmonson, Kentucky” by Joe Terrell
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.” — Romans 12:11
And a final thought… “Every morning you have two choices, continue to sleep with your dreams, or wake up and chase them.” – Carmelo Anthony
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.