The House That Bernard Wellingsworth Built
For me, in all my illustrious educational splendor, to sit back and not allow the black veil to be cast aside from that house, to not convey a hint to the masses as to the inexplicable horrors of which I have seen, would be hypocritical and an injustice to the all of us. But moreso to me than any of you. My positioning has brought to the foot of my door many an uncanny individual, and I have made it my mission to help those that cannot help themselves. I needn't explain to you the joy that courses through my very soul when I've helped to free the shackles of the mind that have been encased by any number of things. And yet, the practice of psychiatry carries with it a certain suspension of belief. If I were to go public with the following account I will not only be lambasted by my comrades but I could also be revoked of my esteemed license. I may from this point on be branded as insane as those whom I've tried to help. But--regardless of any such consequence, a man's moral responsibility should far outweigh any desire to fit into the pieces of a puzzle, or in this case, be plucked from it. And it was from this feeling that it was decided. I shall tell the story to the best of my ability.
The house in question belonged to a deceased of my own kindred by the name of Bernard Wellingsworth, brother of my departed mother. Bernard was the head of a real estate agency, one in which he himself built from the ground up; and though never able to compete with the more known entities, his dealings made him quite the fortune in his own right. I had not seen my uncle, ever, due to a dispute long hitherto forgotten between my mother and other members of family while I was still a babe, though I was told of his death, which occurred at some point during my adolescent years. He was killed in a--in a witch-hunt. The authorities were ordered to shoot for death, and they chased him through thick fog and the forest that adjoined his mansion until they finally had him cornered. It pains me greatly to speak of it, but it is truth. He lived a life of solitude, which was adequate in masking his true conduct, witchery, the occult, sadism, all manner of evil things. It is said that the victims of his atrocities were primarily women whom he'd meet in pubs, and from there they'd travel to his sojourn, which to them, I imagine, looked not unlike a dark castle in a fairy tale, but nonetheless enticing. How or when he began these I was not told (and there is really no way for anyone to know), though the why of it all boils down to one simple word: pleasure, pure and unadulterated.
The family name had been shattered by the likes of these shenanigans, and I journeyed from my quaint dwelling in upstate New York to Manchester, to take control of the estate, and to get a first-hand account of the activities of my uncle, the sorcerer and sadist. Arriving in Manchester, I immediately made haste for the realtor that was in charge of the property, which was--coincidentally--the same one own and operated by Bernard. I told them of my intentions, showed identification, signed papers, and was provided with a handy map before my departure. A guide would have suited me best, though none were available. And so at length I arrived in the residential district of my deceased, demented uncle.
Just as I was told, there was a spread of forestry that separated the mansion from the main road, and, consulting the map, I saw that the paved road to the right would lead me straight to the premises. So I drove onward, and as I made headway became distinctly aware of an immediate change in the clouds, for they seemed to be taking on that sickly appearance just before a storm, dark and grayish they were, floating above my vehicle without the slightest inkling as to the wonder that they'd stirred in my being. Hardly could anything scenic remove my eyes from such a strange occurrence but the house of my uncle itself.
Far back in the horizon and below dark, ominous clouds it loomed intimidatingly, and I found myself moving ever the more closer towards this sprawling structure of doom. The gates were thrown open and warily I continued on through an extended lane of flowers and shrubbery. Then I beheld the true strangeness of this place: a bevy of pale horses were lined against the very front of the house itself, grouped on either side of the great porch and spaced evenly; there were many markings imprinted in the grass, which, though I am no expert, seemed to have come from some spell book of sorts; and, at the very heart of the yard, a fountain that looked to be made out of brown, withered thorns planted itself in the ground. How any rational individual could conceive such a blasphemous creation was beyond my knowledge. Its architect must have surely been an imp of Lucifer himself.
Pulling into the winding driveway of this murky pile of despair I was, how shall I put it, drawn, instantly, as if the camera had shift focus, from its grim exterior to a lone figure standing atop the stairway and between two statues of lion near the door, clad in black. He was a very lanky individual and his face looked as if the whiteness had been shocked into him.
Extending his hand he said: "Dr. Eli Wellingsworth I presume? My name is Alexi Shostakovich, the caretaker here. I was phoned a short time ago of your arrival. How was your journey across the Atlantic?" Spoke he. And as he did so, I could not help but to notice how horribly congested his voice was.
"It was--a very pleasant flight. I had much time to think of my uncle, and this--this--" But I could not finish my statement, as my eyes began to wander, beholding the vile creation that stood before me.
"This house?" Said Alexi in a congested manner. Though I was thinking something more along the lines of abomination. "So you did. So you did. And what, may I ask, were your thoughts?"
"If you would be so kind as to enlighten one."
"Wonder. Wonder at how it still stands to this day. I was given the impression some years back that it was to be destroyed. What prevented it?"
At this questioning, Alexi turned his head back towards the house and spoke, as if to his own self. "It wished not to be."
I showcased my bewilderment and he ventured to settle it.
"As you say, there were plans to bring about its destruction. But on that very day there came a storm, as if issued from the depths of the house itself. So quickly it came and with such destructive power, that no man walked away from the demolition team."
"...I see." There was a pause, in which I had much time to gather my thoughts. I then spoke: "If I may be so bold as to question--your voice, sir? Forgive me, but it almost sounds as if you've swallowed a cat." Said I with apprehension. And at this he chuckled a chuckle so disturbing that I at first perceived he was choking, and immediately went to his aid.
"No, no." He said, bringing his hand up to meet me. "I am fine. Yes. You'll have to forgive me, for I've recently contracted a slight strain of influenza. It will pass. Now, do you plan on staying here?" Spoke he.
"I only wish to refurbish it, tidy it up a little. Afterward, I'll put it on the market. I'm sure I could scrape a pretty pound for it, don't you think?"
And at this he said nothing. "Let us enter."
I followed him up past the twin lion and lioness statues on either side, and waited as he extracted the keys for the double doors. A wait that, if it had lasted eternally, I now would not mind. For upon first entering this house I felt, as sure as one can be sure, an overwhelming dread, that to which I have never felt up to this day. So all-encompassing was this singular feeling that I had desire to retrace my steps and never look upon this dreary edifice again. But I was highly schooled in my field and the whole of this meant a mere nothing. I discredited it as trepidation (though strong as it were) caused by the history associated with such houses in countless forms of art and entertainment and nothing more.
"Here are the keys," remarked Alexi. "This reconditioning, I trust, will take some time and help. I wish you well."
Speaking as such, the door creaked and slammed. He was gone, leaving me the lone figure in this eerily depressive expanse of structure. And so it came, after much roving of the eyes, that I determined to pry myself from the initial fear that held me at bay, and contended, at least for the while, to scour about the middle level of this haunt. Now, when put in such a circumstance as this, the mind has a tendency to play tricks on one. And this I knew all too well. Yet still, the cranks and clogs of my mind must have been set on overload that dreary Wednesday afternoon, for after a little times distance I scarcely heard the sound of what could only be described as the rapping and clapping of hoofs in the upper chambers. Fading. Now rising. Then fading. Now galloping. And finally subsiding. And then a very distinct and audible nay. What it was I could not tell, or rather, I did not wish to even entertain myself with such fancy. Though--regardless of whatever I held to be true, I could not shake away the dread and fear that had situated itself throughout my person since I had entered this house of terror. And at that moment that terror had climaxed. Simply put, I felt opposition. An unceasing urge overtook me to leave this place, and I kept hearing little whispered words like leave and exit and depart and phrases such as you are not wanted here and the price for your meddling is death. These things were never halted.
After giving in to the voices, I made reservations at a nearby lodging, which is where I was to spend a wakeful night. The next morning I made it my duty to round as much hired help as I could. All over town I placed signs advertising my dilemma: HELP WANTED they read; WELLINGSWORTH MANOR IN NEED OF SPRUCING UP; GENEROUS COMPENSATION WILL BE GIVEN. And much to my chagrin I received no calls on that first day, nor the second, or third, neither fourth, fifth, or sixth. None. Which was to be understood. The name Wellingsworth was now a name to be likened with the devils and witches of the underworld. The house was a defect, a flaw, a blemish on an otherwise spotless coat of paint. The town was the face. And the Wellingsworth Manor? A very large mole. However I interpreted the reasoning for the lack of interest, it yet still tore my insides asunder to know that this was indeed the case. Our name had descended to such a depth that my efforts to bring back any lasting lustre may have been in futility. But effort I would put forth nonetheless...
I have already spoken of the elasticity of which I received no reply, but there is yet more to add. The one and only call came a little over two weeks time, and the voice on the other end was the speaker for three lowly young men. They were just as eager to begin as I, and we arranged to meet at the mansion at 11:00 A.M. the next morning.
So the morning came, and I arrived in a dump truck to find my help awaiting me near the gate in a small, compact vehicle. They all seemed to be within the same age bracket (late teens I surmised) and were lowly, as I have said. The ringleader approached me first, for I call him so because of his initiative.
"Mr. Wellingsworth, sir? I'm called Doug. And this here's Matt and Joel"
The others acquainted me with gestures and such. I then responded: "A pleasure, young sirs, it is to meet you in person. I must thank you again, for you see, I was on the brink of undertaking this tremulous task myself, which would have been near impossible. Rest assured, you'll be highly compensated for your services."
"Begging your pardon, sir," chimed in Matt. "But...being able to walk through the halls of your late uncle is compensation enough, if I may say." And at this I was shocked, taken aback quite a bit.
"Don't get us wrong," sprung in Joel. "We'll take whatever you have for us. If this chowder head won't accept his portion, then Doug and I'll split it."
"That's--not what I was expressing concern about."
"He's talking about our enthusiasm, you dolt," Spoke Doug. "It's not what you may think though, sir. We're not occultists or anything, just horror freaks."
"I didn't think there was a difference," joked Matt.
"Well you'll find no quibbles here. Now, if you all don't mind, I'd like to begin as soon as possible. I do wonder how much we'll be able to get to today. There's much of the place I have yet to see, and that also concerns me. Well, come what may. Let us be off."
With the keys given to me from Alexi, I unlocked the gate. They loaded up in their vehicle and I in mine and we passed on. Coming to a stop near the great porch, we exited our vehicles and headed for the door. Now I must mention this. With a reluctance that I had not felt ever, I found myself not being able to unlock the door. The objective was clear, that being the unlocking of the door and entering of the house. But I was halted by some unknown power. It was as if I was frozen solid for many seconds by thought of what lay just beyond those double doors. The others, I believe, did not notice this. They were busying themselves gawking at the surroundings of this demented abode, and may have fancied that I was simply looking for the right key. Was it just fear alone? Had I not already experienced an episode of fright here not too long ago, and was I not reflecting on that episode even unto the time I had arrived at this place? These wild speculations and their relatives danced in my mind, and I conquered my reluctance and unlocked the door.
Remembering all too easily my experience when I first entered, I caught the expressions of the young men, which was more along the lines of awe than horror. They seemed oblivious to the demeanor of the house, and might have been mistaken for kids in a candy store.
"This place is so creepy," broke in Doug as he scaled the steps. "I feel like I'm in a...in a movie or something."
"It definitely has that kind of a feel to it." Spoke Matt.
"Quick, let's get some pictures!" Shouted Joel while chasing after his brethren.
"No time for games, gentlemen. There's much work to be done. Now, come down from there."
"I do trust there will be none much more of that. That is, of course, unless you wish to find a significant deduction in your payment scheme."
Needless to say, the threat was not to their liking. And so with a renewed vigor from the lads, we were able to clear out much of the items populating the middle level. Old, cobwebbed infested sofas were hoisted from the corners of the spacious living room whilst I instructed. In the dinning room, we came across a wonderfully long oaken table, which had to be dismantled before we could even begin relocating it. Sculptures were lifted from broad hallways while paintings were pulled down from walls. Large rugs even, with fine stitching, were rolled up and shown the door. Indeed, we were making good time and much was going as I wished.
Then there was to come the time spent in the library, which, though nothing had been removed, occupied a great deal of my dwelling. For you see, it was events related to the library which had rekindled that sense of intense fear that had made itself no stranger unto me, and of which was soon to introduce itself unto the lads. The work had fatigued them, and I had granted the youth a period of relaxation, which would be taken in the library. Beforehand I had expressly made it known unto them that there was to be no wandering about. And so the gauntlet was laid bare. The last I saw of them they were huddled together around a professed book of spells, chanting things aloud and the like. I, for my own part, was also engrossed in the selections of my uncle's library. For I was bewildered beyond bewilderment to find nothing but books concerning magic and of its ilk. Every row, every book displayed showcased little more than hardbacks with strange symbols, exotic letterings, and images of such foul depiction that I dare not rebroadcast here. And it was this curiosity which prevented me from monitoring the lads as I should have been.
For some time I had been pacing through aisle after towering aisle of bookcases when at length my reflection fell upon the lack of anything resembling sound. A bitter silence had encapsulated the entire chamber when only a few moments ago the unintelligible muttering of three young men could be heard in any given area of the room. I then ventured to reassure myself of their presence and was perturbed to find the door of the library swung open and the table they had chosen as their own in complete isolation. I called out their names and was given no reply in return. Convinced that the young men had made trekking elsewhere, I chanced to follow, when, from some unknown source, a very deliberate wind raced past me and closed the door, stopping me dead in my tracks. This peculiar happening caused me much reflection and the skipping of several heartbeats, and I stood there in silence for a span of time I cannot recall. Regaining my posture, I took heed for the door once more, and was disturbed greatly to find it had been locked. Many twists and turns were attempted on the knob, but it would not give way in the least. Beatings and run-up-against became the order of the day, and when I tired myself out I slid to the floor with my back against the door in contemplative silence. A silence which was soon broken by small, hardly distinguishable whispers.
I stood with the quickness and glanced around avidly. Immediately my mind conjured up the whispers that accompanied my first entering of this house. But there was a stark contrast between the latter and former. The earlier whispers seemed to come from no particular area and were multiple in their manner, whereas these were singular and of clear origin, as they came from the library! Being the inquisitive soul that I was I began moving through the passageways. The whispers were getting stronger now, and sometimes broke off into trailing laughter. And in one particular aisle I fancied that I heard the pitter-patter of feet and saw the ends of a little girl's bright blue blouse as she turned a corner. These occurrences on the whole had worked my mind to such a degree, and I knew this, yet I just could not, would not accept such foolishness, and began looking for other plausible scenarios. The young lads had said they were horror aficionados, and I wondered if not they had devised some sort of prank to play on me. This little girl, I surmised, could have easily been hired to frighten me. Were not all of them missing and had they not left me here alone without thus a word spoken? Indeed, nothing queer had occurred before their departure. Yes, it was the lads. It had to be! With this in mind, I became relieved in a very peaceful sort of way for a short while. And then came a revelation of sorts. If that was the case, how then was I to explain the earlier whispers, horse-related incidents, and the wind? The answer was not nearly as difficult as one might have guessed, I fathomed. I must simply add to my theory by including Alexi as in on this little game of wits too. Had it not taken more than two weeks until I received an answer to my request? Alexi, being the caretaker, must have been privy to information regarding my progress. And I did detect of hint of distaste when he discovered my decision to sell the property, thus providing him with motive. It would have caused him no trouble at all to gather three young men for the sole purpose of upsetting my soul, and even lesser trouble to hide wind machines in libraries and have horsemen walk around in high places. Imbeciles! How dare they try to mock such genius! As if I wouldn't eventually decipher their pathetic scheme with the oh so obvious hints that they had left before me. Such pretentious bastards they were!
It took the realization that the whispers and laughter were yet continuing for me to return to the land of the sane, and I ventured to track its source. Skipping a few aisles, I finally came to one where a little girl stood at its end with her back facing me. Her blouse, as I have made mention of, was of a bright blue, but there was, I believed, a distinct glow about her, which made it appear even moreso blue. I advanced toward her slowly, my earlier thoughts at a standstill, awaiting confirmation. Soon I would discover they to be true. A fixture of light she must have possessed, yes? A candle? No. A light bulb? No! A flash light?...Perhaps... Something of...distinct invention? For this singular purpose alone? Yes! I stopped a mere few yards short of her, unable to advance further. And then, she turned towards me, slowly, and her glow was magnificent. I stood there in complete and utter awe. And then there came another revelation: could she have been a victim of my uncle Bernard's malice? I could not decide which upset me more: the thought of this child being a ghost or that my uncle had murdered her. And then, at that instant, there came something which warmed my heart. The little girl in blue, she smiled at me. A very faint smile, but a smile nonetheless. Moreso, it was as if the smile was validation for what I dreaded to be true; she was a ghost and the victim of a most demented soul.
I then endeavored to shorten the distance between us, and was startled sharply by a reprising of the multiple whispers, which also startled the girl. She looked at me with a mouth gaped wide open and vanished. The whispers were now increasing violently, and I journeyed to the door when, from nowhere certain, one of the books jumped from its high position on the shelf and fell down before me. Others followed suit, and I soon found myself the lone target of seemingly an infinite number of artillery shells. I covered up on the floor for some time, protecting my head as best I could, when at length the attack ceased. I then stood, sore, bruised, and sorry I had ever stepped foot in this place, when I was again taken aghast by a singular cry of something netherwordly from the upper chambers. Very loud and guttural it was, as if it had been pained in a way, or so I interpreted, as it went GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!
I ran to the door and joyfully discovered that it had been unlocked. Making much headway through the main hall, I was jolted yet again, this time by the cries of the youth, cries which descended from the upper chambers. Hastily I made for the stairs and ascended them without trouble. And when I reached the hall adjoining the staircase a piercing cry escaped me for what I perceived, and I very nearly left the lads where they stood, between myself and the blasphemy. For I beheld a pale horse, very similar to the statues I had seen earlier, on which a rider composed of nothing but eyes sat atop. And beside him, to his right, there stood a she-goat, with the body of a woman, and the head of a goat, pierced with earrings in every crevice of her naked being. And in the midst of those two, a three-headed dog, bearing remarkable similarity to the fabled Cerberus. And all about them was a swirling dark cloud, and the she goat itself spoke. And its voice was akin to a deep and evil echo that upset every fiber of my being.
"THIS IS OUR ABODE, MORTALS! LEAVE HERE! FOR THESE ARE THE SOULS OF THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS, WHICH HE HATH GIVEN UNTO US FOR OUR PLEASURE ALONE. FOOLISH TRESPASSERS! YOU WILL NOT BE LEFT UNSCATHED. OR DOTH THOU WISH TO BECOME A TOY OF THE UNDERWORLD?"
In a spectacle of curling dark smoke and light they were gone. The lads hurriedly made their way toward me, and the all of us were making for the stairway when...now I cannot speak for the others, but a distortion, hideously so, began to envelope all that I could see. A collage of colors swirled about me and immediately my stomach began to churn. It was as if the artist had become frustrated with his work and in a fit of agitation ruined it with a spectacular splatter of paint. As I groped about for the banister, vomit would, at any given time, pass through my esophagus and escape out of my mouth. This distortion did not end, and neither did my groping, until I found myself tumbling down the steps, which is when I became unconscious. I awoke at a very late juncture of the day, latter-end really, as hardly any light entered into the window that greeted my coming. The lads were strewn about beside me, and it took some time for me to restore them to consciousness. And when they were, there was much crying and apologizing. And they spoke heartfelt and earnestly about the day's events.
"Mr. Wellingsworth, sir," spoke Doug with swelled tears in his eyes, "we're so sorry for conjuring up all those demons. It was just out of fun and curiosity, but I see now that either one of us could have been killed. I speak for all of us in saying if we could take it back we wouldn't hesitate in the slightest."
"Don't feel so inclined to bear the burden," spoke I. "This place is literally rooted in evil. And I don't think the activities carried out by you three had any real bearings on the whole of what happened here today."
"We had saw how distracted you were," said Joel, and by now the tears were subsiding, "with those books and all, and decided that it would be a good time to check out the rest of the house. We made quick trekking to the wine cellar, and it was all smelly and infested with cobwebs down there and stuff, but we went anyway. The stairs creaked a lot, and Doug swore he saw ghastly figures moving around behind the wine racks. Matt and I didn't see anything, but after a bottle crashed on the floor from some far corner of the room, we ran back upstairs and didn't look back."
And at this juncture, Matt broke in to continue the account while I listened intently: "Well, after that little spook we had an itching for something more, and we all decided that we wanted to see the attic, which didn't take us long to find. There was a pull-down ladder in the master bedroom and we went up without hesitation. Boxes were stacked everywhere, and it was hard for us to move around. A lot of stumbling took place. I think it was Joel who brought up the idea of opening some of the boxes, so we started doing that. In one of the boxes we found some expensive Cuban cigars, and we just couldn't..." here the young lad halted. "You aren't going to like, try to contact our parents, are you?"
"No. No. Continue."
"Well, the thought crossed our minds that we might never get another chance to try them so we did. I don't know how many we smoked, but it had become real foggy, thickly so. And I asked whether smoking cigars could get you high because--I thought for sure I saw figures imprinted in the smoke, running through and looking back constantly like they were afraid of something. It was really weird too, because they didn't seem to be hindered by the scattered boxes."
And now came the conclusion from Doug's perspective: "We hadn't been keeping track of time, but we knew we shouldn't have been gone so long. So we were heading back for the stairway and that's when that hell hound started acting up--Honestly, I don't think I can put into words the degree of fear I felt, Mr. Wellingsworth, sir. I mean, for those things to just appear like that out of nowhere was really frightening. It took awhile for it to register in our brains, because we didn't even try to move, and our barely audible mumblings didn't turn into screams until some time afterward. And then you showed up. That's about it."
Here I digested all that had been said. And at length there arose one circumstance that I could not fathom, which, after much roving about, I expressed to the youth.
"Do you recall, young lads, how the demon warned us? I mean, specifically? He--it said that we would become a toy of the underworld, which is to imply that it had the power to kill. But how so? Since when has it ever been documented that spirits have the ability to physically harm the living?"
Puzzled expressions populated their faces, and they thought on this questioning for some time. Matt then spoke: "I'm not so sure if it ever has."
"But--that's just a common misconception propagated by literature and such," spoke Doug. "I mean, who's to say that devils or the dead can't inflict physical harm on the living?"
"True. True," spoke I with a succession of nods. "Your statement holds some credence, in saying that there is really no way for us to know for sure. Yet still, if that was indeed the case, what's to stop the dead from murdering the living outright? No, my friend. That singular statement presents a hole in the plot, and I believe I know why. This was a hoax! A genuine game of wits designed by some architect who wished to frighten us!"
Here I strolled here and there with wild gesticulations, and they watched avidly: "With a little searching, I gather we'd find all the instruments of terror: projectors, microphones, electronically coded doors, surveillance cameras. My God, the scope of this thing must encompass the entire property!"
"But--" muttered Joel, "why would anyone go to so such an extreme just to scare us?"
"I don't know," spoke Doug, "but I think Mr. Wellingsworth is right. This was a hoax. Either that or the killings would be implemented through possession."
Now as soon as these words escaped Doug's mouth there descended a succession of claps from somewhere above, which startled us frightfully so. We all looked upward and could hardly get an accurate view of the silhouetted figure, but when I heard the croaked laughs as he descended the steps, I knew who it was.
"I do hope you're planning on reimbursing me for the cigars, little ones."
"Alexi! So it was you! You deviant! I demand to know your motives!"
More muffled laughs escaped him as he continued his descent. "It has been quite amusing listening to you dissect every little detail, and yet still not come to the proper conclusion. Fools! I am Bernard! I staged my own death and now my master's bidding is done even the more stealthily! And now, a showcase of my helpers!"
He extended his arms and suddenly there came the evil beasts that we saw on the second floor. The all of us were in a state of suspended animation at first, but as the creatures began to make their descent our faculties returned to us and our chief desire was to exit this house. We made for the door and he did not attempt to stop us. Upon our exit, we found that heavy rain descended without the slightest hint of letting up, and the darkness was such that, if it hadn't been for the steroid-induced lightning bolts, I may have never found the way to my vehicle. The lads loaded up with me, forsaking their car completely, and we left that demonic place. I tried informing the realtor who Alexi really was, and I need not explain to you the responses I was met with. But I will not give up. Somewhere there is someone who will heed to my message. Have you not heard me? My uncle yet lives and preys on the living!
Copyright © 2004 Michael Harris