“MRS. AMWORTH, THE VAMPIRE” and 2 More Stories of Horror! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: “Mrs. Amworth” by E.F. Benson *** “The White Death” by Christina Skelton *** “My Old Home Videos Showed Me a Life I Never Lived” by Richard Saxon
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TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
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“Mrs. Amworth” by E.F. Benson: https://tinyurl.com/yyvqdwub
“The White Death” by Christina Skelton: https://tinyurl.com/yxjcujwx
“My Old Home Videos Showed Me a Life I Never Lived” by Richard Saxon: https://tinyurl.com/y4l9zzgq
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Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and is intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode… it’s Creepypasta Thursday! If you’re a fan of vampire stories, you’ll want to stick around until the end because my last story is a classic horror story written by a master! It’s a vampiric tale by E.F. Benson called “Mrs. Amworth”.
I found a great story from the Creepypasta.com website written by Richard Saxon called “My Old Home Videos Showed Me a Life I Never Lived”.
And we’ll begin with Christina Skelton as she recalls the urban legend of La Muerta Blanca – or, “The White Death”.
While you’re listening, you might want to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the newsletter and also get entered into a random monthly drawing for Weird Darkness merchandise, you can find transcripts of the episodes, paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, a FREE 24/7 streaming video channel of old horror movies and hilarious horror hosts, you can find my other podcast, “Church of the Undead” where this Sunday the sermon will be titled: “FAKE FAITH” (or “Will The Real True Christian Please Stand Up”). Also on the website, you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide. And you can shop the Weird Darkness store where all profits I receive go to support depression awareness and relief. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
THE WHITE DEATH by Christina Skelton
I am currently sitting in front of my computer, scared witless. Any moment now I am going to be killed.
Today a friend of mine told me a story.
His aunt had taken care of him since he was a small boy, and she told him last night about how his parents died. He did a very fair imitation of her (I knew them both pretty well):
“They were doing mission work in some little South American country when a man burst into the mission hospital one night, terrified out of his mind. He told them that his sister had been killed by a Muerta blanca, and that he was certain that it was coming for him next. What is a Muerta blanca?
Apparently it was some sort of bogey-man or woman , a vengeful spirit of sorts….something like that.. They called it the White Death or the White devil Girl, because it was the soul of someone who hated life so much that they came back in their shrouds to kill those who spoke of them.
The man had been told about the vengeful spirit by his sister hours before her death. It was a girl with dead, black eyes that wept bile. The thing moved without ever actually moving its legs, and it stalked its victims back to their homes. Now, if you weren’t already aware that this thing was following you, once it got back to your house, it would start knocking on your door…
Once for your skin, which she’ll use to patch her own decaying flesh.
Twice for your muscle, which she’ll gnash her teeth on between victims.
Thrice for your bones, which she’ll make knives to pick her teeth and kill her victims.
Four times for your heart, which she’ll wear around her neck.
Five times for your teeth, which she’ll polish and keep in a box.
Six times for your eyes, which she’ll see the faces of your loved ones through.
Seven times for your soul, which she’ll eat whole – you can never pass while you’re in her stomach.
She has to repeat this on any mirror or door between you and her.
You can try to outrun her, but she’s faster than the fastest man. And if you leave your home while she’s knocking on your door, she won’t be so courteous when she catches up to you.
Now the man was certain that this thing had killed his sister, that he had tried to tell the police, but they would not listen. Next he had tried to tell his priest, but the priest turned him away when he saw that the thing was following him now – oh, that’s right, I forgot about that – it can only get you if you tell someone else about it, or you saw it kill someone else.
The man, after finishing his tale, stole a car from the mission, and was never seen again.”
Apparently his mother and father had immediately called his aunt about this when it happened. They were found in the morning, skinned and dismembered. Their bodies were covered in tiny, child-like handprints.”
His aunt was really drunk the night before, and had told him about it all. He told me this story early in the morning today at school, before the cops arrived. His aunt had been murdered that night. I called him later that night, and he told me that he was being chased by someone, and now they were knocking on his door. I told him to stop messing with me.
He held the phone away from his face for a minute, and I could hear slow, deliberate knocking. A moment later, I heard the door rip from its hinges and the dying screams of my friend.
Then a little girl’s voice spoke over the line: “WITNESS.” It yelled…I hung up.
Three minutes ago someone started knocking on my door. She has to knock 28 times on my front door, 28 times on the mirror in the hall, and another 28 times on the door to my bedroom.
She’s doing it slowly… I think she wants to scare me some more, let me know that my death is just moments away. I will not run – I couldn’t get to my car in time anyway. She started knocking on my bedroom door a minute ago, she should be done any moment.
This is why I tell you all this tale.
MY OLD HOME VIDEOS SHOWED ME A LIFE I NEVER LIVED by Richard Saxon
No matter what you see in the coming months, regardless of how convincing it might seem; Know that I didn’t want to die. I’m going to take all possible steps to prevent my predetermined demise, but if I don’t make it, I need at least someone to know what really happened to me.
I’m not, nor have I ever been a remarkable person. I’ve never been terrible, but I never did great deeds either. To put it bluntly: Ever since I left high school, I’ve found my place in eternal mediocrity.
Honestly, being perfectly average didn’t bother me much while growing up. Life was decent, I didn’t struggle, and it felt like I had an overabundance of time to improve myself. But, once I entered my thirties, the time I’d wasted started to wear on my confidence, and a bout of anxiety invaded my otherwise peaceful existence.
In order to make myself feel better, I decided to look through my old home videos, figuring that maybe I could get an inkling as to where I lost my passion for living.
I dug through my parent’s basement while they were at the market, to look for the long since forgotten memories. We hadn’t filmed anything since the death of VHS tapes back in the early 2000s, but with some luck, the infinite procrastination abilities possessed by my father, meant that both the tapes and the player still waited idly by in the dust-covered boxes.
After a long search, and a couple of coughing fits from the dust clouds, I found a box marked “Home Videos.”
The box was full to the brim with old tapes and the player itself. It was far more than I ever remembered filming, but it already started to satisfy my hunger for nostalgia. I felt confident that I’d find at least some inspiration, and drive within the films. So with little hesitation, I eagerly brought them home to my one-bedroom apartment, and connected the old player, using a ton of adapters to make it fit modern televisions.
I picked up the first tape, labeled “Adam Davies, Highlights: 1985 – 2006,” and inserted it into the player.
Though some of the footage was more than three decades old at that point, the tape itself was rather new, or at least as new as VHS tapes could possibly be. It meant that someone had transferred the footage to a newer tape to preserve the film, probably my mother.
It had to be rewound, and as it did, I poured myself a glass of cheap whiskey while listening to the loud whirring sound of the tape being dragged back to its beginning, then I hit play.
A poorly focused picture came to view, partially covered by the date, reading January 5th, 1985. It was myself as a baby, barely out from the womb, and my mother was the person behind the camera.
She cooed and made funny hand gestures to get me to smile, which I diligently did as she laughed in joy at her wrinkly, little creation.
I sat through half an hour of footage, watching myself grow up, and though I had no recollection of these events, it felt nice to see that I once lived a carefree life of joy and exploration.
Everything felt amazing, and before I knew it, Christmas of 1989 had rolled around, one of my very first happy memories.
Four years old and wearing an oversized Santa hat, I sat on our carpeted floor and fiddled with a colorfully wrapped Christmas gift. Cheerful music played in the background, and a dog ran around, excited about the torn wrapping paper littering the floor.
The dog eventually ran over to my young self and started to playfully pull on my present while I attempted to push it away, all the while laughing my heart out.
It was a wonderful scene to behold, and though I had a vague memory of that day, my first Christmas to remember, I had absolutely no recollection of ever owning a dog.
Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs. In fact, I always wanted one, but due to horrible allergies that developed during my childhood, my parents always kept me away from the furry and lovable creatures.
My first thought was that the dog belonged to some other family member, but as the years went by, the dog proved a fateful companion and made several appearances on the tape. Though the footage was clearly real, and I was the center of it, I couldn’t for the life of me remember the dog.
He, Doug, followed me around until the age of twelve, where it suddenly stopped showing up on the tape. Presumably passed away from old age, but he wasn’t discussed any further in any of the other clips.
I kept watching through my primary school years, then high-school, and finally college. Everything was exactly how I remembered it, every minute detail matching my memory of life, everything except for the dog.
As the tape neared its end, the date read October 7th, 2006. I was filming myself out with some colleagues from my part-time job. We were just having a few drinks after work, and though it wasn’t a particularly exciting evening, I remember feeling so happy, absolutely certain of my place in the world. Everyone was laughing and we seemed to have a genuinely great time.
The evening went on, and my memory turned hazy while the footage turned more sloppy. As it often goes with an overabundance of alcohol, there were holes in my memory from that night.
The screen cut to black for a few seconds, and once the picture returned, someone was filming me from the other side of the bar.
Whoever held the camera, they weren’t one of my friends, nor did I seem to pay them any attention.
On the footage, I still sat with a couple of my colleagues at the table, just finishing up my final beer, before getting up to pay the tab. As we left the bar, the cameraman followed us, keeping his distance. We still didn’t acknowledge his presence.
Unbeknownst to us, a stranger had gotten a hold of my camera, and my drunken state I never realized. He kept following us down the street as my friends dropped me off into a taxi.
The clip ended, and the screen cut to black for a full minute. I wondered if the tape had reached its end, but the timer kept counting up. Once the picture returned, I was met by a dark scene.
The camera was pointed towards a dimly-lit road, and slowly panned along the street. Small pieces of debris and chunks of cloth littered the road, all accompanied by a vague crackling sound in the distance.
Before long, the picture showed a mangled car, wrecked and partially on fire. The cameraman moved closer to the wreck. I gasped in shock as I saw the severity of the crash: The driver’s head had been smashed beyond recognition by the steering wheel. He’d suffered a quick, unexpected death, but the passenger, I, was still alive.
It zoomed in on my mangled body, as I desperately tried to get free from my seat, but I was stuck under twisted metal, and my broken legs had been caught within it.
The fire spread slowly at first, and the cameraman stood by idly watching as it reached my body. Still, I didn’t notice anyone filming me. The fire started to spread quicker, and I screamed in agony as it climbed up my body towards my face, my clothes fusing to my skin and my face charring from the heat.
After the fire had burned away most of my skin killing each of the nerve endings, I stopped screaming, though I never stopped moving, not until my muscles had stopped functioning did I finally go quiet.
I’m not sure how long the scene lasted, nor do I care to go back and check. I sat frozen in fear as I listened to each second of my pleading screams until the moment I fell silent and finally died.
My life had ended, on camera, the 7th of October, 2006…
That was just the end of the first tape. I sat speechless trying to figure out if I had fallen victim to some sick prank, or if the footage showed an alternate version of myself that never made it out of college. I dug out another tape and read the title.
“Adam Davies, Highlights: 1985 – 2002.”
With extreme trepidation, I removed the first tape, and inserted the second into the player. Be it morbid curiosity, or a desperate need to find answers, I decided to watch another.
The footage was almost identical to the first tape, but no dog ever showed up in the film. Instead, the only notable change to my life was the fact that my grandfather died in 1999, instead of 1993, and that the color of my first car changed from black to red.
I kept forwarding to the very end of the tape, only watching bits of clips along the way. Once at the end, the day was dated November 15th, 2002.
It was a party, and though too young to legally drink, it hadn’t stopped me from enjoying the occasional house party. I remember leaving the place around midnight, after being rejected by my crush, and walked the two-mile journey home, alone in the dark.
As I walked, someone followed me in the distance, filming me without my knowledge, just as with the first tape. I crossed the street and took a shortcut through an alleyway, and was immediately cut off by a hooded figure.
The scene was filmed from too far away to hear what was happening, but the hooded person pulled a gun, and I lifted my hands up in response and immediately froze. Whether it was supposed to be a robbery, or a hostage situation, I didn’t know. I just kept holding my hands up high while the robber erratically waved the gun around. Before I could defuse the situation, the gun went off and hit me point-blank in the throat.
I fell to the ground, clutching my throat. While I lay there, desperately trying to slow down the bleeding, the cameraman approached me with slow, patient steps. This time I noticed the stranger approaching, and I stared into the camera as I gasped for air, unable to call out for help.
It took me less than a minute to bleed to death. The camera continuously getting closer to my panicked face until the moment I took my last, gargled breath, then it cut to black.
In 2002, I died alone on the street, never knowing why…
The same scene kept repeating itself for each of the recordings. Every time, small details were changed, memories that didn’t make sense, things that didn’t happen, but they always ended with my untimely death.
On September 29th, 2004, I drowned as my car plunged into the river. The windows didn’t open, and I couldn’t break through the windshield.
On January 13th, 2005, I fell off a cliff and broke my legs while hiking alone in a neighboring city. The fall caused an open fracture which severed one of my arteries, and it took me a full hour to bleed out as I desperately tried to crawl for help.
Four deaths, each filmed by a stranger, never offering a helping hand, never speaking a single word.
I returned to my parents’ place with the box of tapes and demanded to know what the hell was going on. They took one glance at them and denied knowing about their existence. Despite my father’s extreme laziness, he’d long since gotten around to digitizing the footage, putting it on a hard drive and storing it in a fireproof safe.
They showed me the home videos they’d made, and everything appeared just as I remembered it, with no horrific death at the end.
The tapes had to have been put in the basement recently, as a flood had destroyed most of the stuff stored there only a year before while I was abroad. Whoever had put the videos there, it wasn’t my father.
Following the conversation with my parents, my first instinct was to throw the tapes in a fiery pit and forget they ever existed, but saner thoughts prevailed. I had to talk to the police, to figure out who had made them and more importantly, how.
I loaded them into my car, checking over each of the titles once more when I noticed one marked
“…Highlights 1985 – 2021.”
I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared at the tape in my hand. It was bizarre enough to hold a cassette dated in the future, but the fact that I already knew its ending horrified me even further.
After what felt like an eternity of contemplation, I decided to see what the tape had to offer, a glimpse into my near future, for better or for worse. If it revealed any details, maybe I would get the chance to escape whatever fate had in store for me.
I stared intently at each memory depicted on the television screen, desperate to look for any deviations from my memory. If I was lucky, it was another reality altogether, but no matter how hard I tried to look for any discrepancies, it perfectly matched my life as I knew it.
Once the tape got to December 2020, I took a deep breath and paused the video for a moment. Maybe I should have let the police deal with it. If fate is predetermined, then how could I even prevent it, but I had to know what would happen to me, the urge was irresistible.
I hit play once more…
The date read December 17th, 2020, and the picture revealed a cold, gray hospital room. I was there, holding my unconscious mother’s hand as she took her last breath and fell eerily silent, as if her presence had left the world. The doctor in the room assured me she didn’t feel any pain, that she was at peace, but the actual cause of her death never came up.
Whoever filmed it didn’t seem to take part in the interaction, just like with the other clips, the stranger simply observed us, unnoticed by anyone actually in the room.
The clip ended rather abruptly, cutting to black remaining empty for a full minute. Once it faded back in, the date read January 24th, 2021.
I saw myself sitting in what looked like a dirty motel room, one I couldn’t recognize. I kept my hands folded over my lap as I sat on the edge of the bed. I was clearly distressed, and paid little notice to the cameraman in the room.
It went on like that for a couple of minutes, me muttering some incomprehensible, panicked sentences, and the camera remaining focused on my hands. Suddenly, I lifted my head towards the cameraman with pleading eyes.
“Please, I don’t want to do this, don’t make me do this, I don’t want to, I don’t want to,” I said with a trembling voice.
The cameraman remained silent, but the look on my face said enough. I was horrified, and it was clear that whoever filmed me, was also coercing me to do something against my will.
I lifted my hands up from my lap to reveal a knife. Just the run of the mill pocket knife, but threatening nonetheless. My hands shook as I once more begged for mercy.
“I don’t wanna, please, don’t make me do this.”
Then I directed my attention to the knife, and without hesitating any further, I plunged it into my wrist, dragging it up along my arm towards my elbow as I winced in agony.
I sat motionless on the bed as viscous blood poured from the cut. The camera keeping its focus on me as the life slowly drained from my body.
Minutes passed, and I dropped dead on the floor, letting out a final breath before succumbing to blood loss.
The tape ended with the familiar jagged lines and gray screen, with a high pitched, monotonous beep the only thing left to keep me company.
Following the last tape, I headed straight to the police station and handed over the tapes. They were hesitant at first, but quickly came around as they saw the footage.
Of course, their explanation was more within the realm of logical possibilities, that someone had altered the footage, and created a doctored video. Though they took it seriously, as a threat to my life, and swore they’d keep me safe while they looked into it.
Unfortunately, without a perpetrator, it would be hard to do anything. I was left with little choice, but to hide in my home with all the doors locked, and every window covered up.
After getting home, I sat myself down by the phone and waited for the police to call me with any updates, though I knew if anything came up, it would take days, if not weeks.
It’s possible, that it’s another reality, and that I’ll be fine. Maybe it’s just a sick prank and not someone that can literally see into the future.
Those are all just hopeless thoughts, because about an hour ago, I received a phone call from my dad. He told me that my mom collapsed in the bathroom, and that they’re taking her to the hospital.
He keeps reassuring me that she’ll be fine, but I know better. In a few weeks, my mom will be dead, and then shortly after, I’ll follow…
If you love vampire tales and classic horror, you’ll love our next story. It’s a twist on the idea of Dracula. What if the demon of the night was… a woman? Classic horror author E.F. Benson wondered that very thing and penned the story “Mrs. Amworth” – which I’ll have the privilege of narrating when Weird Darkness returns.
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“ MRS AMWORTH” by E.F. Benson
The village of Maxley, where, last summer and autumn, these strange events took place, lies on a heathery and pine-clad upland of Sussex. In all England you could not find a sweeter and saner situation. Should the wind blow from the south, it comes laden with the spices of the sea; to the east high downs protect it from the inclemencies of March; and from the west and north the breezes which reach it travel over miles of aromatic forest and heather. The village itself is insignificant enough in point of population, but rich in amenities and beauty. Half-way down the single street, with its broad road and spacious areas of grass on each side, stands the little Norman Church and the antique graveyard long disused: for the rest there are a dozen small, sedate Georgian houses, red-bricked and long-windowed, each with a square of flower-garden in front, and an ampler strip behind; a score of shops, and a couple of score of thatched cottages belonging to laborers on neighboring estates, complete the entire cluster of its peaceful habitations. The general peace, however, is sadly broken on Saturdays and Sundays, for we lie on one of the main roads between London and Brighton and our quiet street becomes a race-course for flying motor-cars and bicycles. A notice just outside the village begging them to go slowly only seems to encourage them to accelerate their speed, for the road lies open and straight, and there is really no reason why they should do otherwise. By way of protest, therefore, the ladies of Maxley cover their noses and mouths with their handkerchiefs as they see a motor-car approaching, though, as the street is asphalted, they need not really take these precautions against dust. But late on Sunday night the horde of scorchers has passed, and we settle down again to five days of cheerful and leisurely seclusion. Railway strikes which agitate the country so much leave us undisturbed because most of the inhabitants of Maxley never leave it at all.
I am the fortunate possessor of one of these small Georgian houses, and consider myself no less fortunate in having so interesting and stimulating a neighbor as Francis Urcombe, who, the most confirmed of Maxleyites, has not slept away from his house, which stands just opposite to mine in the village street, for nearly two years, at which date, though still in middle life, he resigned his Physiological Professorship at Cambridge University, and devoted himself to the study of those occult and curious phenomena which seem equally to concern the physical and the psychical sides of human nature. Indeed his retirement was not unconnected with his passion for the strange uncharted places that lie on the confines and borders of science, the existence of which is so stoutly denied by the more materialistic minds, for he advocated that all medical students should be obliged to pass some sort of examination in mesmerism, and that one of the tripos papers should be designed to test their knowledge in such subjects as appearances at time of death, haunted houses, vampirism, automatic writing, and possession.
“Of course they wouldn’t listen to me,” ran his account of the matter, “for there is nothing that these seats of learning are so frightened of as knowledge, and the road to knowledge lies in the study of things like these. The functions of the human frame are, broadly speaking, known. They are a country, anyhow, that has been charted and mapped out. But outside that lie huge tracts of undiscovered country, which certainly exist, and the real pioneers of knowledge are those who, at the cost of being derided as credulous and superstitious, want to push on into those misty and probably perilous places. I felt that I could be of more use by setting out without compass or knapsack into the mists than by sitting in a cage like a canary and chirping about what was known. Besides, teaching is very very bad for a man who knows himself only to be a learner: you only need to be a self-conceited ass to teach.”
Here, then, in Francis Urcombe, was a delightful neighbor to one who, like myself, has an uneasy and burning curiosity about what he called the “misty and perilous places”; and this last spring we had a further and most welcome addition to our pleasant little community, in the person of Mrs. Amworth, widow of an Indian civil servant. Her husband had been a judge in the North-West Provinces, and after his death at Peshawar she came back to England, and after a year in London found herself starving for the ampler air and sunshine of the country to take the place of the fogs and griminess of town. She had, too, a special reason for settling in Maxley, since her ancestors up till a hundred years ago had long been native to the place, and in the old churchyard, now disused, are many gravestones bearing her maiden name of Chaston. Big and energetic, her vigorous and genial personality speedily woke Maxley up to a higher degree of sociality than it had ever known. Most of us were bachelors or spinsters or elderly folk not much inclined to exert ourselves in the expense and effort of hospitality, and hitherto the gaiety of a small tea-party, with bridge afterwards and galoshes (when it was wet) to trip home in again for a solitary dinner, was about the climax of our festivities. But Mrs. Amworth showed us a more gregarious way, and set an example of luncheon-parties and little dinners, which we began to follow. On other nights when no such hospitality was on foot, a lone man like myself found it pleasant to know that a call on the telephone to Mrs. Amworth’s house not a hundred yards off, and an enquiry as to whether I might come over after dinner for a game of piquet before bed-time, would probably evoke a response of welcome. There she would be, with a comrade-like eagerness for companionship, and there was a glass of port and a cup of coffee and a cigarette and a game of piquet. She played the piano, too, in a free and exuberant manner, and had a charming voice and sang to her own accompaniment; and as the days grew long and the light lingered late, we played our game in her garden, which in the course of a few months she had turned from being a nursery for slugs and snails into a glowing patch of luxuriant blossomings. She was always cheery and jolly; she was interested in everything, and in music, in gardening, in games of all sorts was a competent performer. Everybody (with one exception) liked her, everybody felt her to bring with her the tonic of a sunny day. That one exception was Francis Urcombe; he, though he confessed he did not like her, acknowledged that he was vastly interested in her. This always seemed strange to me, for pleasant and jovial as she was, I could see nothing in her that could call forth conjecture or intrigued surmise, so healthy and unmysterious a figure did she present. But of the genuineness of Urcombe’s interest there could be no doubt; one could see him watching and scrutinizing her. In matter of age, she frankly volunteered the information that she was forty-five; but her briskness, her activity, her unravaged skin, her coal-black hair, made it difficult to believe that she was not adopting an unusual device, and adding ten years on to her age instead of subtracting them.
Often, also, as our quite unsentimental friendship ripened, Mrs. Amworth would ring me up and propose her advent. If I was busy writing, I was to give her, so we definitely bargained, a frank negative, and in answer I could hear her jolly laugh and her wishes for a successful evening of work. Sometimes, before her proposal arrived, Urcombe would already have stepped across from his house opposite for a smoke and a chat, and he, hearing who my intended visitor was, always urged me to beg her to come. She and I should play our piquet, said he, and he would look on, if we did not object, and learn something of the game. But I doubt whether he paid much attention to it, for nothing could be clearer than that, under that penthouse of forehead and thick eyebrows, his attention was fixed not on the cards, but on one of the players. But he seemed to enjoy an hour spent thus, and often, until one particular evening in July, he would watch her with the air of a man who has some deep problem in front of him. She, enthusiastically keen about our game, seemed not to notice his scrutiny. Then came that evening when, as I see in the light of subsequent events, began the first twitching of the veil that hid the secret horror from my eyes. I did not know it then, though I noticed that thereafter, if she rang up to propose coming round, she always asked not only if I was at leisure, but whether Mr. Urcombe was with me. If so, she said, she would not spoil the chat of two old bachelors, and laughingly wished me good night. Urcombe, on this occasion, had been with me for some half-hour before Mrs. Amworth’s appearance, and had been talking to me about the medieval beliefs concerning vampirism, one of those borderland subjects which he declared had not been sufficiently studied before it had been consigned by the medical profession to the dust-heap of exploded superstitions. There he sat, grim and eager, tracing with that pellucid clearness which had made him in his Cambridge days so admirable a lecturer, the history of those mysterious visitations. In them all there were the same general features: one of those ghoulish spirits took up its abode in a living man or woman, conferring supernatural powers of bat-like flight and glutting itself with nocturnal blood-feasts. When its host died it continued to dwell in the corpse, which remained undecayed. By day it rested, by night it left the grave and went on its awful errands. No European country in the Middle Ages seemed to have escaped them; earlier yet, parallels were to be found, in Roman and Greek and in Jewish history.
“It’s a large order to set all that evidence aside as being moonshine,” he said. “Hundreds of totally independent witnesses in many ages have testified to the occurrence of these phenomena, and there’s no explanation known to me which covers all the facts. And if you feel inclined to say ‘Why, then, if these are facts, do we not come across them now?’ there are two answers I can make you. One is that there were diseases known in the Middle Ages, such as the black death, which were certainly existent then and which have become extinct since, but for that reason we do not assert that such diseases never existed. Just as the black death visited England and decimated the population of Norfolk, so here in this very district about three hundred years ago there was certainly an outbreak of vampirism, and Maxley was the centre of it. My second answer is even more convincing, for I tell you that vampirism is by no means extinct now. An outbreak of it certainly occurred in India a year or two ago.”
At that moment I heard my knocker plied in the cheerful and peremptory manner in which Mrs. Amworth is accustomed to announce her arrival, and I went to the door to open it.
“Come in at once,” I said, “and save me from having my blood curdled. Mr. Urcombe has been trying to alarm me.”
Instantly her vital, voluminous presence seemed to fill the room.
“Ah, but how lovely!” she said. “I delight in having my blood curdled. Go on with your ghost-story, Mr. Urcombe. I adore ghost-stories.”
I saw that, as his habit was, he was intently observing her.
“It wasn’t a ghost-story exactly,” said he. “I was only telling our host how vampirism was not extinct yet. I was saying that there was an outbreak of it in India only a few years ago.”
There was a more than perceptible pause, and I saw that, if Urcombe was observing her, she on her side was observing him with fixed eye and parted mouth. Then her jolly laugh invaded that rather tense silence.
“Oh, what a shame!” she said. “You’re not going to curdle my blood at all. Where did you pick up such a tale, Mr. Urcombe? I have lived for years in India and never heard a rumor of such a thing. Some story-teller in the bazaars must have invented it: they are famous at that.”
I could see that Urcombe was on the point of saying something further, but checked himself.
“Ah! very likely that was it,” he said.
But something had disturbed our usual peaceful sociability that night, and something had damped Mrs. Amworth’s usual high spirits. She had no gusto for her piquet, and left after a couple of games. Urcombe had been silent too, indeed he hardly spoke again till she departed.
“That was unfortunate,” he said, “for the outbreak of — of a very mysterious disease, let us call it, took place at Peshawar where she and her husband were. And –”
“Well?” I asked.
“He was one of the victims of it,” said he. “Naturally I had quite forgotten that when I spoke.”
The summer was unreasonably hot and rainless, and Maxley suffered much from drought, and also from a plague of big black night-flying gnats, the bite of which was very irritating and virulent. They came sailing in of an evening, settling on one’s skin so quietly that one perceived nothing till the sharp stab announced that one had been bitten. They did not bite the hands or face, but chose always the neck and throat for their feeding-ground, and most of us, as the poison spread, assumed a temporary goitre. Then about the middle of August appeared the first of those mysterious cases of illness which our local doctor attributed to the long-continued heat coupled with the bite of these venomous insects. The patient was a boy of sixteen or seventeen, the son of Mrs. Amworth’s gardener, and the symptoms were an anemic pallor and a languid prostration, accompanied by great drowsiness and an abnormal appetite. He had, too, on his throat two small punctures where, so Dr. Ross conjectured, one of these great gnats had bitten him. But the odd thing was that there was no swelling or inflammation round the place where he had been bitten. The heat at this time had begun to abate, but the cooler weather failed to restore him, and the boy, in spite of the quantity of good food which he so ravenously swallowed, wasted away to a skin-clad skeleton.
I met Dr. Ross in the street one afternoon about this time, and in answer to my enquiries about his patient he said that he was afraid the boy was dying. The case, he confessed, completely puzzled him: some obscure form of pernicious anemia was all he could suggest. But he wondered whether Mr. Urcombe would consent to see the boy, on the chance of his being able to throw some new light on the case, and since Urcombe was dining with me that night, I proposed to Dr. Ross to join us. He could not do this, but said he would look in later. When he came, Urcombe at once consented to put his skill at the other’s disposal, and together they went off at once. Being thus shorn of my sociable evening, I telephoned to Mrs. Amworth to know if I might inflict myself on her for an hour. Her answer was a welcoming affirmative, and between piquet and music the hour lengthened itself into two. She spoke of the boy who was lying so desperately and mysteriously ill, and told me that she had often been to see him, taking him nourishing and delicate food. But to-day — and her kind eyes moistened as she spoke — she was afraid she had paid her last visit. Knowing the antipathy between her and Urcombe, I did not tell her that he had been called into consultation; and when I returned home she accompanied me to my door, for the sake of a breath of night air, and in order to borrow a magazine which contained an article on gardening which she wished to read.
“Ah, this delicious night air,” she said, luxuriously sniffing in the coolness. “Night air and gardening are the great tonics. There is nothing so stimulating as bare contact with rich mother earth. You are never so fresh as when you have been grubbing in the soil — black hands, black nails, and boots covered with mud.” She gave her great jovial laugh.
“I’m a glutton for air and earth,” she said. “Positively I look forward to death, for then I shall be buried and have the kind earth all round me. No leaden caskets for me; I have given explicit directions. But what shall I do about air? Well, I suppose one can’t have everything. The magazine? A thousand thanks, I will faithfully return it. Good night: garden and keep your windows open, and you won’t have anemia.”
“I always sleep with my windows open,” said I.
I went straight up to my bedroom, of which one of the windows looks out over the street, and as I undressed I thought I heard voices talking outside not far away. But I paid no particular attention, put out my lights, and falling asleep plunged into the depths of a most horrible dream, distortedly suggested, no doubt, by my last words with Mrs. Amworth. I dreamed that I woke, and found that both my bedroom windows were shut. Half-suffocating I dreamed that I sprang out of bed, and went across to open them. The blind over the first one was drawn down, and pulling it up I saw, with the indescribable horror of incipient nightmare, Mrs. Amworth’s face suspended close to the pane in the darkness outside, nodding and smiling at me. Pulling down the blind again to keep that terror out, I rushed to the second window on the other side of the room, and there again was Mrs. Amworth’s face. Then the panic came upon me in full blast; here was I suffocating in the airless room, and whichever window I opened Mrs. Amworth’s face would float in, like those noiseless black gnats that bit before one was aware. The nightmare rose to screaming point, and with strangled yells I awoke to find my room cool and quiet with both windows open and blinds up and a half-moon high in its course, casting an oblong of tranquil light on the floor. But even when I was awake the horror persisted, and I lay tossing and turning. I must have slept long before the nightmare seized me, for now it was nearly day, and soon in the east the drowsy eyelids of morning began to lift.
I was scarcely downstairs next morning, for after the dawn I slept late – when Urcombe rang up to know if he might see me immediately. He came in, grim and preoccupied, and I noticed that he was pulling on a pipe that was not even filled.
“I want your help,” he said, “and so I must tell you first of all what happened last night. I went round with the little doctor to see his patient, and found him just alive, but scarcely more. I instantly diagnosed in my own mind what this anemia, unaccountable by any other explanation, meant. The boy is the prey of a vampire.”
He put his empty pipe on the breakfast-table, by which I had just sat down, and folded his arms, looking at me steadily from under his overhanging brows.
“Now about last night,” he said. “I insisted that he should be moved from his father’s cottage into my house. As we were carrying him on a stretcher, whom should we meet but Mrs. Amworth? She expressed shocked surprise that we were moving him. Now why do you think she did that?”
With a start of horror, as I remembered my dream that night before, I felt an idea come into my mind so preposterous and unthinkable that I instantly turned it out again.
“I haven’t the smallest idea,” I said.
“Then listen, while I tell you about what happened later. I put out all light in the room where the boy lay, and watched. One window was a little open, for I had forgotten to close it, and about midnight I heard something outside, trying apparently to push it farther open. I guessed who it was – yes, it was full twenty feet from the ground — and I peeped round the corner of the blind. Just outside was the face of Mrs. Amworth and her hand was on the frame of the window. Very softly I crept close, and then banged the window down, and I think I just caught the tip of one of her fingers.”
“But it’s impossible,” I cried. “How could she be floating in the air like that? And what had she come for? Don’t tell me such!”
Once more, with closer grip, the remembrance of my nightmare seized me.
“I am telling you what I saw,” said he. “And all night long, until it was nearly day, she was fluttering outside, like some terrible bat, trying to gain admittance. Now put together various things I have told you.”
He began checking them off on his fingers.
“Number one,” he said: “there was an outbreak of disease similar to that which this boy is suffering from at Peshawar, and her husband died of it. Number two: Mrs. Amworth protested against my moving the boy to my house. Number three: she, or the demon that inhabits her body, a creature powerful and deadly, tries to gain admittance. And add this, too: in medieval times there was an epidemic of vampirism here at Maxley. The vampire, so the accounts run, was found to be Elizabeth Chaston… I see you remember Mrs. Amworth’s maiden name. Finally, the boy is stronger this morning. He would certainly not have been alive if he had been visited again. And what do you make of it?”
There was a long silence, during which I found this incredible horror assuming the hues of reality.
“I have something to add,” I said, “which may or may not bear on it. You say that the — the specter went away shortly before dawn.”
I told him of my dream, and he smiled grimly.
“Yes, you did well to awake,” he said. “That warning came from your subconscious self, which never wholly slumbers, and cried out to you of deadly danger. For two reasons, then, you must help me: one to save others, the second to save yourself.”
“What do you want me to do?” I asked.
“I want you first of all to help me in watching this boy, and ensuring that she does not come near him. Eventually I want you to help me in tracking the thing down, in exposing and destroying it. It is not human: it is an incarnate fiend. What steps we shall have to take I don’t yet know.”
It was now eleven of the forenoon, and presently I went across to his house for a twelve-hour vigil while he slept, to come on duty again that night, so that for the next twenty-four hours either Urcombe or myself was always in the room where the boy, now getting stronger every hour, was lying. The day following was Saturday and a morning of brilliant, pellucid weather, and already when I went across to his house to resume my duty the stream of motors down to Brighton had begun. Simultaneously I saw Urcombe with a cheerful face, which boded good news of his patient, coming out of his house, and Mrs. Amworth, with a gesture of salutation to me and a basket in her hand, walking up the broad strip of grass which bordered the road. There we all three met. I noticed (and saw that Urcombe noticed it too) that one finger of her left hand was bandaged.
“Good morning to you both,” said she. “And I hear your patient is doing well, Mr. Urcombe. I have come to bring him a bowl of jelly, and to sit with him for an hour. He and I are great friends. I am overjoyed at his recovery.”
Urcombe paused a moment, as if making up his mind, and then shot out a pointing finger at her.
“I forbid that,” he said. “You shall not sit with him or see him. And you know the reason as well as I do.”
I have never seen so horrible a change pass over a human face as that which now blanched hers to the color of a grey mist. She put up her hand as if to shield herself from that pointing finger. which drew the sign of the cross in the air, and shrank back cowering on to the road. There was a wild hoot from a horn, a grinding of brakes, a shout — too late — from a passing car, and one long scream suddenly cut short. Her body rebounded from the roadway after the first wheel had gone over it, and the second followed it. It lay there, quivering and twitching, and was still.
She was buried three days afterwards in the cemetery outside Maxley, in accordance with the wishes she had told me that she had devised about her interment, and the shock which her sudden and awful death had caused to the little community began by degrees to pass off. To two people only, Urcombe and myself, the horror of it was mitigated from the first by the nature of the relief that her death brought; but, naturally enough, we kept our own counsel, and no hint of what greater horror had been thus averted was ever let slip. But, oddly enough, so it seemed to me, he was still not satisfied about something in connection with her, and would give no answer to my questions on the subject. Then as the days of a tranquil mellow September and the October that followed began to drop away like the leaves of the yellowing trees, his uneasiness relaxed. But before the entry of November the seeming tranquillity broke into hurricane.
I had been dining one night at the far end of the village, and about eleven o’clock was walking home again. The moon was of an unusual brilliance, rendering all that it shone on as distinct as in some etching. I had just come opposite the house which Mrs. Amworth had occupied, where there was a board up telling that it was to let, when I heard the click of her front gate, and next moment I saw, with a sudden chill and quaking of my very spirit, that she stood there. Her profile, vividly illuminated, was turned to me, and I could not be mistaken in my identification of her. She appeared not to see me (indeed the shadow of the yew hedge in front of her garden enveloped me in its blackness) and she went swiftly across the road, and entered the gate of the house directly opposite. There I lost sight of her completely.
My breath was coming in short pants as if I had been running — and now indeed I ran, with fearful backward glances, along the hundred yards that separated me from my house and Urcombe’s. It was to his that my flying steps took me, and next minute I was within.
“What have you come to tell me?” he asked. “Or shall I guess?”
“You can’t guess,” said I.
“No; it’s no guess. She has come back and you have seen her. Tell me about it.”
I gave him my story.
“That’s Major Pearsall’s house,” he said. “Come back with me there at once.”
“But what can we do?” I asked.
“I’ve no idea. That’s what we have got to find out.”
A minute later, we were opposite the house. When I had passed it before, it was all dark; now lights gleamed from a couple of windows upstairs. Even as we faced it, the front door opened, and next moment Major Pearsall emerged from the gate. He saw us and stopped.
“I’m on my way to Dr. Ross,” he said quickly. “My wife has been taken suddenly ill. She had been in bed an hour when I came upstairs, and I found her white as a ghost and utterly exhausted. She had been to sleep, it seemed — But you will excuse me.
“One moment, Major,” said Urcombe. “Was there any mark on her throat?”
“How did you guess that?” said he. “There was: one of those beastly gnats must have bitten her twice there. She was streaming with blood.”
‘And there’s someone with her?” asked Urcombe.
“Yes, I roused her maid.”
He went off, and Urcombe turned to me. “I know now what we have to do,” he said. “Change your clothes, and I’ll join you at your house.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you on our way. We’re going to the cemetery.”
He carried a pick, a shovel, and a screwdriver when he rejoined me, and wore round his shoulders a long coil of rope. As we walked, he gave me the outlines of the ghastly hour that lay before us.
“What I have to tell you,” he said, “will seem to you now too fantastic for credence, but before dawn we shall see whether it outstrips reality. By a most fortunate happening, you saw the spectre, the astral body, whatever you choose to call it, of Mrs. Amworth, going on its grisly business, and therefore, beyond doubt, the vampire spirit which abode in her during life animates her again in death. That is not exceptional — indeed, all these weeks since her death I have been expecting it. If I am right, we shall find her body undecayed and untouched by corruption.”
“But she has been dead nearly two months,” said I.
“If she had been dead two years it would still be so, if the vampire has possession of her. So remember: whatever you see done, it will be done not to her, who in the natural course would now be feeding the grasses above her grave, but to a spirit of untold evil and malignancy, which gives a phantom life to her body.”
“But what shall I see done?” said I.
“I will tell you. We know that now, at this moment, the vampire clad in her mortal semblance is out; dining out. But it must get back before dawn, and it will pass into the material form that lies in her grave. We must wait for that, and then with your help I shall dig up her body. If I am right, you will look on her as she was in life, with the full vigour of the dreadful nutriment she has received pulsing in her veins. And then, when dawn has come, and the vampire cannot leave the lair of her body, I shall strike her with this” — and he pointed to his pick — “through the heart, and she, who comes to life again only with the animation the fiend gives her, she and her hellish partner will be dead indeed. Then we must bury her again, delivered at last.”
We had come to the cemetery, and in the brightness of the moonshine there was no difficulty in identifying her grave. It lay some twenty yards from the small chapel, in the porch of which, obscured by shadow, we concealed ourselves. From there we had a clear and open sight of the grave, and now we must wait till its infernal visitor returned home. The night was warm and windless, yet even if a freezing wind had been raging I think I should have felt nothing of it, so intense was my preoccupation as to what the night and dawn would bring. There was a bell in the turret of the chapel that struck the quarters of the hour, and it amazed me to find how swiftly the chimes succeeded one another.
The moon had long set, but a twilight of stars shone in a clear sky, when five o’clock of the morning sounded from the turret. A few minutes more passed, and then I felt Urcombe’s hand softly nudging me; and looking out in the direction of his pointing finger, I saw that the form of a woman, tall and large in build, was approaching from the right. Noiselessly, with a motion more of gliding and floating than walking, she moved across the cemetery to the grave which was the centre of our observation. She moved round it as if to be certain of its identity, and for a moment stood directly facing us. In the grayness to which now my eyes had grown accustomed, I could easily see her face, and recognize its features.
She drew her hand across her mouth as if wiping it, and broke into a chuckle of such laughter as made my hair stir on my head. Then she leaped on to the grave, holding her hands high above her head, and inch by inch disappeared into the earth. Urcombe’s hand was laid on my arm, in an injunction to keep still, but now he removed it.
“Come,” he said.
With pick and shovel and rope we went to the grave. The earth was light and sandy, and soon after six struck we had delved down to the coffin lid. With his pick he loosened the earth round it, and, adjusting the rope through the handles by which it had been lowered, we tried to raise it. This was a long and laborious business, and the light had begun to herald day in the east before we had it out, and lying by the side of the grave. With his screwdriver he loosed the fastenings of the lid, and slid it aside, and standing there we looked on the face of Mrs. Amworth. The eyes, once closed in death, were open, the cheeks were flushed with color, the red, full-lipped mouth seemed to smile.
“One blow and it is all over,” he said. “You need not look.” Even as he spoke he took up the pick again, and, laying the point of it on her left breast, measured his distance. And though I knew what was coming I could not look away.
He grasped the pick in both hands, raised it an inch or two for the taking of his aim, and then with full force brought it down on her breast. A fountain of blood, though she had been dead so long, spouted high in the air, falling with the thud of a heavy splash over the shroud, and simultaneously from those red lips came one long, appalling cry, swelling up like some hooting siren, and dying away again. With that, instantaneous as a lightning flash, came the touch of corruption on her face, the color of it faded to ash, the plump cheeks fell in, the mouth dropped.
“Thank God, that’s over,” said he, and without pause slipped the coffin lid back into its place.
Day was coming fast now, and, working like men possessed, we lowered the coffin into its place again, and shoveled the earth over it…
The birds were busy with their earliest pipings as we went back to Maxley.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========>
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Be sure to join me this Sunday for church at the Church of the Undead – and all Weirdos are welcome!
This Sunday’s sermon is titled: “FAKE FAITH” (or “Will The Real True Christian Please Stand Up”).
You can listen to previous messages anytime by clicking on the Church of the Undead link in the show notes, you can find it at WeirdDarkness.com, or search for “Church of the Undead” wherever you listen to podcasts! Hopefully I’ll see YOU in the Weirdo congregation this Sunday!
Do you have a dark tale to tell of your own? Fact or fiction, click on “Tell Your Story” at WeirdDarkness.com and I might use it in a future episode.
“Mrs. Amworth” by E.F. Benson
“The White Death” by Christina Skelton
“My Old Home Videos Showed Me a Life I Never Lived” by Richard Saxon
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If you’d like a transcript of this episode, you can find a link in the show notes.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.” — John 1:4-5
And a final thought… “Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from negativity.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.