Music by Myuu
Superstition is the bedrock of my family’s beliefs. Ghosts, demons, monsters, etc. It’s the dogma of the Miller family. I so envied the logical thinkers of the world who saw past such shams, but it wasn’t until I’d aged that I came to the jealousy. I grew up in eastern Kentucky with the other corn-husking hill-jacks and rednecks. The Miller farm was passed from generation to generation, each devout in its religious practices and beliefs. So naturally, we went to church every Sunday morning and evening, we said our prayers before dinner and bed, and we read our Bibles in our free time. We even had a big statue of Mother Mary in our front yard.
Mom and Dad were very strict. We weren’t allowed to watch scary movies, read scary books, or really anything that had to do with the supernatural. If I had to blame anyone, it would be them. Anyone who is forbidden to do something will only want to do that very thing more and more. I suppose that’s why I desperately craved to explore what was in the dark.
Wireless internet arrived at my house when I was ten years old. At first it was monitored in the house, and advertised by Dad as a privilege. But as time went on, years passing by like nothing, my parents grew more and more relaxed. I suppose I had gained their trust after playing the role of the goody-goody in the house so well. Nobody suspected that I was surfing the web, searching some of the strangest things.
I had had Facebook for four years by the time I was a senior in high school. I was never addicted to social media like most people my age. I used it mostly to keep up with what was going on with family members who lived out of state, or the occasional funny picture or video I’d share on my wall. Nothing major. And I kept it on the down-low purposefully, as to lay under my parents’ radar and evade provoking their uptight wrath.
But around September something began to catch my attention in my news feed. Story after story and news report after news report about strange sightings at night. Sightings of people alongside the road dressed as clowns. At first I didn’t pay much mind to it, thinking it to be some kind of pre-Halloween college prank. But the fiasco had evolved quickly and substantially. Schools were being locked down and people sent in panic over clowns with machetes and guns. It was… weird. But I found it fascinating, to say the least. I followed all of the pages I knew would keep me updated on the clown sightings. Like after like after like. I was never so active on the internet. The sightings had started in South Carolina, I later discovered. They were an epidemic spreading all across the country, and I was drowning in interest. Eventually a story rolled past my widened eyes informing me of a clown sighting in my area, and my chest pulsed with a strange adrenaline-powered excitement.
It was the twelfth of September, I remember exactly, on the day of my greatest boredom. It was the weekend and the day after I had my predilection denied harshly and cruelly. I was kind of a geeky girl―and shy in every sense of the word. I guess it was because of the guilt I felt when flirting with boys, given that my parents forbade a boyfriend. That, and I am not the prettiest, nor do I try to be. I’ve always prided myself in being intellectual, studious, and hard working. I worried about those things rather than on boys or love. But human nature is human nature. There were some boys I couldn’t help but develop feelings for. And Jake Harvey was one of those boys. I spent several weeks low-key crushing on him, devising how I might ask him out, until I finally said something to him. And that was when my heart was broken. Humiliation was the devisee of all of emotion to me thereafter.
That Saturday, I found my finger bounding through the list of suggestions on Facebook. I didn’t have many friends, not ones I could trust to talk to about my feelings. On top of that, I was too full of pride. Honestly, I hated to expose any morsel of negative emotion to anyone. All I wanted was someone to talk to. Of course I’d never actually message anyone I requested, but the imaginary thought of talking to one of them was somehow comforting. Then―wham―my finger halts above a strange profile picture. It’s a clown. A white-faced, red-lipped, bushy-haired clown. His name on Facebook was “Craig Klown”. I hesitated, but only for a second before I sent him a request. I kept flipping, trying not to think of any consequences for what I had just done. The next suggestions were also clowns. Many with colorful or dark profile pictures, each with a clever name. “Queen Klown”, “Samwise Klown”, “Kenny Klown”. They were in my suggestions by the thousands. I frantically requested each of them, excitement pouring into my gut like an electric circuit springing to life. It was a rush. A bad one, though.
My eyes flickered up to the clock on my wall. Tiredness welted my eyes shutting just as I took my gaze off my phone’s screen. At two o’clock in the morning, my mind was in shambles. I pounded my pillow to a comfortable shape and laid my head down, setting the phone off to the side for tomorrow.
Ding. My phone sounded, perturbing my gentle slumber. My eyes flashed open and with a confused moan I rose from the body print I had left in the mattress to flash on the screen of my iPhone. Someone sent me something through Facebook Messenger. Odd. Really odd. I didn’t talk to anyone. Through my blurred gaze I didn’t pay much mind to the notification, but went straight to open the quaint little app. I was taken to a message sent to me by someone I had never met before. Their name at the top of the screen read “Prancer Daklown”.
PRANCER: “Hi there Adrian! :D”
I deduced that, like most of the clown accounts, it was just some teenage punk looking for attention or trying to scare people. I took a look at his page, finding his profile picture to be some ugly looking clown with big purple hair. Inevitably, as I began to awake my hurt emotions flooded back into my being. My will to live was remembered back into its faint state. So, in my loneliness, I made a foolish mistake.
ME: “Uh, hi. Who are you?”
PRANCER: “My name is Prancer! I saw your post where you said you were feeling down so I wanted to cheer you up! We can be best friends!”
There was something unnerving about him right off the bat. Maybe it was just the odd friendliness. I couldn’t really tell, but then again I didn’t care as much as I should’ve. I continued to type to him.
ME: “Aight.. so whats up?”
PRANCER: “Just klowning around! Aahahahaha! Why?”
ME: “Just sitting here.”
PRANCER: “Boo! Sounds boring! >_<”
ME: “It is.”
PRANCER: “Well allow me to enthuse you! Do you like clowns?? :P”
ME: “Idk. Never really met one…”
PRANCER: “Oh goodness! Well I will make sure I give a good first impression! Ahaha…”
ME: “Where you at?”
PRANCER: “In the woods! They’re wonderful you see! My favorite place to be. Especially at night. All sorts of things happen there. From campfires to hiking to deer hunting to four-wheeler riding to sex to forest fires to homicide to cult gatherings! Ahahahaha!”
At this point I was sure he was just trying to scare me. Sighing, I aggravatingly typed back, “not buying it”. I could see that he was typing and I waited impatiently for many long moments. I figured he was coming up with some clever comeback or something. I really wasn’t sure. But the silence was broken by a loud ding as his next message appeared on my screen.
PRANCER: “Buying what?”
ME: “I’m not scared of you”
PRANCER: “Ahahahaha, I’m not trying to scare you! That may come alone the way though, my sweetheart. Scaring is easy. Humans are so ignorant, so low on the evolutionary tree. Incapable of perceiving the workings of filth, darkness, evil. You are scared of what you cannot understand. And I understand it―that savagery is intellect.”
ME: “So what are you trying to do…?”
PRANCER: “Do you like games????? I like games!”
ME: “I guess. What kind of game?”
PRANCER: “A guessing game. You will love! Here are the rules: Ask a question, then the next person does. Answer honestly. No running away. I’ll start.”
PRANCER: “What’s your favorite color?”
ME: “Blue. What’s yours?”
PRANCER: “Black! What’s your favorite song?”
ME: “bad romance by lady gaga. What’s your favorite movie?”
PRANCER: “Stephen King’s It! Do you have any pets?”
ME: “Two dogs. What’s your real name?”
PRANCER: “Calamity Alaric Prancer! 😀 Are you a virgin???????”
My chest began to throb. I felt my fingertips go numb for a second. This was beginning to feel more and more like one of those news stories, or an episode of Dateline. Why would he ask that kind of question? That was no concern to a total stranger, unless they were looking for some kind of promiscuity from me. I should’ve closed the phone right then. Blocked him. Something. But for whatever reason I didn’t. Looking back, I guess it was just too much of a thrill. I kept replying, ridiculously interested and appalled at the same time.
ME: “What the hell? Why do you care?”
PRANCER: “I’m just wondering what your soul would taste like ahahaha. No worries!”
What? I didn’t understand. Was that some kind of sexual slang that I didn’t know about, or was he actually talking about eating my soul? Either way, it was repulsive.
ME: “My soul?”
PRANCER: “Why yes! You see, every soul has a different taste. Through the coppery taste of blood and flesh, there’s always an exhilarating hint of a supernatural force, the soul. Sometimes it’s blueberry, sometimes vanilla. Momma always told me the purer the person, the tastier the soul. And she was right! For some odd reason the souls of virgins tend to have a hint of raspberry in them. Delicious!”
ME: “You’re saying you EAT people??”
PRANCER: “Oh yes! Don’t you?? D:”
ME: Hell no you sicko
PRANCER: “Oh cmon! A guy has to get by”
ME: “By eating people? Have you really done that or are you still just trying to scare me?”
PRANCER: “Heavens no! I’m all serious, Adrian! Believe me. But to answer your question, yes! It’s how I survive, donchaknow. I usually go for the little children who are too young yet to perceive actual sin. But when I get the chance I slash open a tummy or two and take a fetus! Those are to die for..”
ME: “okay, that’s too far. Leave me alone.”
I put my phone on airplane mode and went back to sleep, confident that it would’ve been buzzing all night. Teen prankster or not, that guy needed professional help. The rest of the night went by painfully and without rest, for with each passing moment I felt nonexistent eyes running down my entire body. Their gaze I worriedly felt caressing every inch of skin and article of clothing on me, running against my bed sheets, and fingering my long hair. In the last hour of the night was when I finally drifted off, only to have light pull my eyelids apart like pliers just sixty minutes later. I had forgotten about last night’s creepy exchange until I set my phone off of airplane mode and watched a swamp of messages from Prancer flood my phone like Katrina.
I decided to take a look at this guy’s page again and inspect it closer. His posts caught my eye immediately. Some of them expressing his frustration with humans beating up people who dressed as clowns at night. One of them started off abruptly and without context, giving what appeared to be a spinoff of the Ten Commandments. “Thou shalt love all clowns, for they are thy kin. Thou shalt not harm other clowns. Thou shalt not betray thy kin. Thou shalt not reject the clown name.” The list continued, and with each commandment I felt more on edge.
The top of my screen flickered down with a ribbon displaying his latest message, which I tapped to read it in its entirety.
PRANCER: “Adrian… I’m sorry about what I said last night. It was uncalled for. Please message me back.. I miss you!! D: I know you don’t understand me, but I really want you to… So I talked to my brothers and we’re gonna let you come see our secret pages, if you want. Just click this:”
What followed was a long URL of random numbers and letters. I didn’t understand what it was, and at first I figured it would’ve been some kind of screamer. Totally typical of someone like this, right? But after clicking it, I was brought to a black screen with blocky, bright purple text. The top of the screen displayed the title, “KLOWN KINGDOM”. Underneath it was a navigation bar complete with a portal, forum, chat room, gallery, blog, and what I presumed was a video service, as it were titled “klowntube”.
The front page was plastered with pictures of clowns. Clowns everywhere. Clowns in the woods. Clowns by the road. Clowns indoors. Clowns with people. And layers upon layers of text which I skimmed over, documenting ideologies and religion, and hate towards the mainstream religions. I remember saying to myself, “This… this is serious.” All of the funny moments―the feelings of childish thrill in the face of the spooky shapes against the wall―were gone. My stomach turned over as I flipped through the gallery. Those… those images will never leave my mind. I see them every time I look into the dark.
I cleared my browsing history. I closed all of my tabs on safari. No more. God, no more. I was done. I placed my phone back on my desk. I had spent all Sunday staring at it and now my head was throbbing with that stale needle-drawn pain between my eyes. The glow of the digital screen still present when I closed my eyes. I tried to cool down by watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, even though it hurt my eyes. It would still help me unwind. Anything to get my mind off of clowns.
I grabbed my phone.
PRANCER: “What a pretty statue!”
Tap, tap, tap.
My heart exploded. I felt the scratchy knocking against the window beside my bed. My head did a full ninety degrees as I saw the twiggy shadow passing through the curtains. Instantly I yanked them over and in the dim light of my night light I saw bushy, deep violet hair and creamy white skin. Black lips and dark shadows extending from primal, demonic, scarlet eyes. A big checker-pattern bow tie and a striped suit. A long, nimble, dark hand stretched towards my window and with an array of glossy black claws tapped against the glass. Seeing me, the wet black lips parted and the blood flow stopped within me as I spotted pointed teeth in its rotten mouth.
The giggling. God. Make the giggling stop.
PRANCER: “Glad you visited my site! Your IP was easy.”
PRANCER: “Why did your parents bring guns out in the yard the other night?!?!? You know I don’t like guns Adrian…”
PRANCER: “Adrian? Where are you!”
PRANCER: “Why did you kill yourself, Adrian? You know I loved you…”
(c) Spooky Boo – You have permission to tell this story on your podcast and/or your YouTube channel provided that you give verbal and written credit to Spooky Boo and link to the Scary Story Time Website.
Music by Myuu
It was a cold autumn night. A dense fog had rolled across London, it was impossible to see anything more than five feet ahead of you. The mist reduced people to vague, ghostly figures, or disembodied voices.
In short, it was the perfect Halloween night.
Fifteen year old Michael Blake shivered as he walked through the fog with his best friend, John. On John’s insistence, he’d managed to give his parents the slip so that they could perform that time — honored Halloween ritual — to walk through a deserted cemetery in the middle of the night. Conveniently, there was a supposedly haunted neighborhood cemetery nearby.
Trust John to come up with an idea like this, thought Michael. But he wasn’t going to complain. One of John’s ideas had once saved his life. Somehow, John always seemed to know the right thing to do, even if it seemed absurd at the time.
And then, out of the fog, the cemetery gates suddenly appeared before them — old and disused. The iron had rusted to brown so that they looked like twisted pieces of wood that had been bound together. In fact the entire cemetery was in disrepair; the authorities weren’t bothered about it and the relatives of the people in the cemetery didn’t complain.
The cemetery is abandoned and unloved, thought Michael, perhaps just like the souls of its residents. Then he chided himself. Why did he let such weird thoughts enter his head?
John kicked the cemetery gates, which swung open with a loud groan of protest. Michael looked around nervously, but nobody seemed to have heard them.
As they entered the cemetery, John suddenly stopped.
“I almost forgot,” he said casually. “We’ll have to watch out for gravediggers.”
“The poorest of London’s poor. They’re usually homeless and jobless. They go about stealing from the dead. They rob graves of glasses, watches, even the clothes worn by the corpse, if they’re desperate. And most of them are armed with knives.”
Nice of him to tell me now. Michael shivered. But once again, he didn’t complain, and followed John into the cemetery.
This is so cliché, Michael thought to himself. Two friends performing a Halloween dare get a lot more than they bargained for. He could see the phrase on the back cover of a dozen cheesy horror flicks.
John kicked aside a pebble. It skittered and came to a stop in front of an old tombstone. Despite the fog, Michael could make out the words inscribed on it- Here Lies FRANK JONES
Died as he lived- in the pursuit of justice
He must have been a policeman, thought Michael. It was a strangely comforting notion.
They continued onward through the cemetery. Michael had to admit, it made him irrationally nervous, even though he had thought that he had long since ceased to be afraid of ghosts. But the cemetery itself scared him. Unlike in a typical cemetery, there were trees planted at seemingly random spots, casting long shadows in the foggy moonlight. Birds squawked and chattered in the trees. The idea behind the planting of the trees was that the remains of the dead would give rise to new life. However, the trees had never been trimmed, and at this time of night, they only heightened the uneasiness one would naturally feel in a cemetery. They made the entire place look wild and overgrown. Michael imagined those branches reaching out to grab him…
He shivered and trudged forward, trying to keep up with John, who had gone totally silent. John went through these moods- he would be happy one moment, surly in the next. Right now he was making Michael feel nervous.
Don’t be stupid, he said to himself. It was the cemetery creeping him out, not John. He had no need to be afraid of John, or to be distrustful of him.
In front of him, John suddenly stopped, and pointed to a spot a few feet in front of him. The fog parted and Michael saw a crouching figure. He seemed to be digging into the ground.
A gravedigger, thought Michael. What had John said? Most of them were armed with knives. They were homeless, desperate. What if this man tried to steal from them, or kill them? He tried to pull John back. But John pushed him away.
“Who’s that?” he said loudly, and boldly walked forward. Michael hesitated, then followed.
As they walked up to him, the gravedigger gave a sudden start. He rose up and drew out a knife.
“Didn’t see you there, laddie. You shouldn’t be out here alone at night, a nice lad like you.”
He slowly moved towards Michael, making slow circular motions in the air with his knife.
Michael’s eyes were fixed on the blade- a few inches of metal that could mean his death. He was rooted to the spot with fear.
But as the gravedigger reached him, he crumpled, falling towards Michael. Michael grabbed him to stop his fall, and the gravedigger leaned on Michael like a dead weight. He could see the man’s strangely blank eyes, smell his rotten breath. Then, he pushed the gravedigger away, and he collapsed and lay there as if dead.
In front of Michael stood a policeman. Clearly, it was he who had knocked out the gravedigger. Michael sighed with relief, then gasped when he clearly saw the policeman.
His face was a pale milky white, with a crooked nose and two deep-set eyes that were pitch-black in color. Somehow, it did not look entirely human. The policeman looked unnaturally thin. Corpse-like was the phrase that came to mind.
“That was a close one wasn’t it?”
Michael just nodded.
The policeman moved forward to stand right in front of Michael and frowned down on him.
Michael saw his name tag, and gasped again.
The tag read ‘F. Jones’.
“What exactly are you doing out here?” asked Jones.
Michael stood speechless, staring at him. His heart was thundering- it seemed about to burst out of his chest. It seemed impossible, but it looked as though he had been saved from the gravedigger by the ghost of Frank Jones.
Michael turned to John, his throat dry.
John had gone completely white.
“You explain,” he said to Michael, then turned and fled into the fog.
I should have expected that, thought Michael, staring after John.
Officer Jones followed Michael’s gaze into the fog. But John was no longer visible. It was as if the fog had swallowed him up.
Jones frowned, then turned back to Michael.
“Well, boy? I’m waiting for an answer,” said Jones. He was speaking softly, almost whispering. “What are you doing here? Only gravediggers come here at this time of night. This place is one of their frequent haunts.”
Haunts. Funny choice of words.
Michael trembled. He was about to start speaking, but Jones interrupted.
“Unless…unless you’re a gravedigger.” Jones smiled. His teeth were yellow and rotten. Decaying. Now Michael was sure. Officer Jones was a ghost.
“You’ll have to come with me,” Jones continued. “Oh yes.”
He smiled again, and licked his grey, cracked lips with his grey tongue.
Michael was terrified. Jones thought he was a gravedigger. And what did he mean by “You’ll have to come with me?”
“I… I’m not going anywhere with you!” Michael screamed. “This is a mistake! I’m not a gravedigger!”
But it was useless to argue. Michael could see that Jones did not believe him. An evil fire had lit in his eyes.
“Save your protests for later, boy. You’re coming with me, where you belong!”
And Jones reached for his belt. Michael saw his hand close around his gun. Jones was going to kill him!
And so, without pausing to think, Michael acted.
He pushed his legs forward, falling as if he had slipped over something. Jones was right in front of him and Michael’s legs crashed into Jones’ feet. It was the last thing Jones had expected. He fell right on top of Michael, and as he did so, Michael punched him where it hurt most. Jones howled with pain, and Michael pulled Jones’ gun out of its holster.
I have to move quickly, thought Michael. Before Jones could react, Michael pushed him away, pointed the gun at his face and pulled the trigger. Blood spurted from Jones’ head and into Michael’s eyes, but he didn’t care. He was alive! He’d done it. For once, he’d saved his life without John’s help. He laid on the ground, laughing with relief.
Then he heard footsteps behind him. He got up, but before he could turn around, he’d been expertly cuffed and twisted around. It was another policeman. He stood staring at Michael, his face white. Then, without a word, he walked Michael to a nearby police station. He was taken to a holding cell. For what seemed like hours, he was left alone. Then the policeman who had arrested him walked in.
“What did you do?!”
And Michael told him everything — about the Halloween dare, Frank Jones’ grave, the gravedigger, and the ghost.
The policeman stared silently at him. Then he pressed a buzzer and Michael’s parents walked in. They looked pale, shocked. It seemed they had heard everything.
“Michael, how could you do this?” his mother asked in between sobs.
“I had to protect myself.”
“Why did you leave the house without telling us?” his father screamed.
Michael looked at him sadly. He had reacted similarly- last time.
“It was John’s idea,” Michael said.
“Did… did you say John?” his mother asked. She seemed to have gone even paler.
“Yeah, Mom. He told me to walk through the cemetery with him. He told me about the gravediggers.”
“No Michael!” his father said, clutching at his hair. “I told you about the gravediggers a week ago!”
He left the room with Michael’s mother and the policeman. Michael could hear parts of their angry conversation outside.
“…let him leave the house!” the policeman was saying.
Michael strained to hear his parents’ reply.
“…stabilised…they let us … for a few days… we never dreamed…”
“You should have,” the policeman snapped. “I lost a good friend today.”
And then all was silent for a few hours.
The policeman entered the room again. He grabbed Michael and took him out of the station and into a car. They drove him to the last place he wanted to be. His home for the last few years, until a few days ago.
They took Michael to a cell- his cell, deep within the facility.
They tried, once again, to feed him their lies. They told him that Frank Jones had been a criminal lawyer who had a heart attack while cross-examining a murderer.
They told him the policeman’s name had been Francis Jones. He had been a young, enthusiastic officer. When he confronted Michael, he had been reaching for his cuffs, not his gun.
And Michael had killed him.
Of course, Michael didn’t believe them. Six years ago, they had also lied to him. They told him that John, his best friend, was imaginary! It was a lie! John was real, but he was a ghost. Only Michael could see ghosts. That was why he had been able to see the ghost of Frank Jones tonight.
Six years ago, John had saved Michael’s life by warning him that his teenage cousin, David, was planning to kill Michael and his parents. Michael remembered the feeling of intense relief he’d experienced when he wrapped his hands around David’s neck and squeezed the life out of him- the same relief he’d felt when he shot Jones.
And they had arrested Michael for killing David, when he had actually saved his family! And now he was back in this hellhole for ‘killing’ Jones. Damn them all!
But Michael knew the truth. The policeman he had shot was the ghost of Frank Jones. Of course, shooting a ghost wasn’t a crime! And John… John was not imaginary. Michael knew that John would help him escape this place…someday…
And Michael laughed and laughed, his laughter mingling with that of some of the other souls condemned to spend their lives at London’s maximum security prison for the criminally insane.
Inspired by Anthony Horowitz’s THE HITCHHIKER