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The Hanging Judge
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The Hanging Judge
This is a story based back around the 1890s. It is completely fictional. The story involves a news reporter going to do a documentary on the house of a judge who had mysteriously passed away. The reporter ends up mysteriously dying but no one knows why. Read on to find out the rest.
[722 words]
Joe J Halbach
The authour attends Montana Academy and is a ninth grader.
[November 2005]
[email protected]
The Hanging Judge
Joe J Halbach

Not so long ago, in the town of Bixby there lived a judge. He was an old man that didn’t want anything to do with people. Now it just so happened that this judge lived in a giant house on a hillside that doubled as the town courthouse. When he sent a person to prison he rang a bell that was placed high in the tower of the house. One day the judge mysteriously died and no one knew how or why. The townspeople buried him next to his house and left him alone. Now a few years later a young news reporter came to the town wanting to write a story on the house. He went to a local shop and asked about how to get into the house. The local told him that it was open but it wasn’t wise to go there. He also told him about the judge that once lived there and had mysteriously died. “Why?” the reporter asked. “It’s just a house.” The local told him that the house was haunted and that no one had ventured there in years. The reporter told the local that he would be able to survive the night. The local told him that if he had any trouble to ring the bell in the tower of the house and he would come to help. So, the reporter started the long walk up the hill to the house. He walked through the door and looked around. When he found the living room he sat down in a nice leather chair. The arms were dusty but he didn’t mind. Above the chair there was a portrait of a man who the reporter assumed was the judge. He built a fire in the fire place and sat back down in the chair and opened the book that he had brought to keep him company. He had barely started reading when he looked up at the portrait again. It had something eerie about it. The man had a deep scowl on his face and he seemed very upset. This bothered the reporter very much. The reporter got up and turned the chair so it wasn’t facing the portrait any more. He began to read again. A little later he heard a scratching noise and something scampered across the floor. It ran into a dark corner and stopped. The reporter picked up the candle that he had lit and looked to see what it was but there was nothing there. He sat back down and continued to read. A little later he heard the sound again and went to see what it was but there still was nothing there. He went back and sat down more alert than ever. His ears twitched at every sound and his eyes weren’t even focused on his book. He looked down at the closed book in his lap and opened it to start reading. Now the sound came later but much louder this time. The reporter shut his book and threw it into the corner. The noise stopped. He picked up his candle and walked over tot the corner to pick up his book. When he did, a huge rat lay dead on the floor. He became frightened and stumbled back. He hadn’t noticed the nail protruding up from the floor and he tripped and fell, knocking his head on the mantle of the fire place. Now, when morning came around, the local shop owner was on his way to work when he heard a ringing way off in the distance. He remembered what he had told the reporter about that bell. His usual smile turned to a frown and he started running tot the house. The ringing became louder and louder as he got closer and closer. He ran through the front door and straight to the bell rope. The reporter was hanging there slowly moving up and down. The local stumbled away and ran back to town. He went and told the police the entire story. They all drove up to the house and found the reporter still hanging and he was still moving up and down with the bell ringing. The one thing that was never noticed was the portrait. It had changed. There was no longer a scowl on the man’s face. He was smiling.



"I don't really know where to start with this, there is so little good about this story that it almost doesn't seem worth trying. But I know how annoying it can be when you start out writing with very little knowledge on how to actually tell that amazing story in your head. Okay, heregoes: Firstly, your format is completely wrong. Your story is a paragraph long. When a change in event, description or dialogue takes place, stand up, take a bow and press that big ol’ enter key on your keyboard, because you’ve just made it to the next line of your story. Also, when you do this, it’s usually a good idea to indent with the similarly prominent ‘tab’ key. It’s the one with arrows on it that go in different directions. This separates your story into segments making it far more pleasing on the eye and much easier to read. On to the content. First line: ‘Not so long ago, in the town of Bixby there lived a judge.’ – When? Last month? Just after breakfast? Or as you say ‘around the 1890s’? If you’re setting a scene then your reader needs definite facts so that they can start building up a picture in their heads. Otherwise it can read a bit like: ‘Once upon a time there was this guy and he lived somewhere in a house, I think, and did something somewhere and…’. It sounds a lot like you yourself don’t know much about when or where you are setting this, and if the reader starts to think that then they’ll start to realise that they can entertain themselves better by singing a nursery rhyme. Second sentence: ‘He was an old man that didn’t want anything to do with people’. Right. Okay. But why? Did they make fun of him, or did he just hate them for being penniless scum? I’m assuming that what you are trying to say is that he was a pretty mean guy, because if he didn’t want anything to do with people then a judge is a pretty crappy career to take when he could have devoted his life to being a wildlife welfare officer or something. Third sentence: ‘Now it just so happened that this judge lived in a giant house on a hillside that doubled as the town courthouse.’ Firstly, you’re missing the comma after the ‘now’, but secondly you don’t need that ‘now’ anywhere near the start of this sentence. Writing ‘now’ every other sentence is like saying: ‘and here is another sentence to read. And here is another sentence to read. And here is another sentence to read.’ Unless you’re telling it around a campfire to a bunch of jittery ten-year olds, leave it off the paper. Other than that, it’s not a blistering description, but I do get the idea in a fairytale kind of way. Fourth sentence: ‘When he sent a person to prison he rang a bell that was placed high in the tower of the house.’ Fair enough. I might do that too if I was an evil judge. This is the best sentence so far, but let down by all the ones preceding and following it. Fifth sentence: ‘One day the judge mysteriously died and no one knew how or why.’ Boy, this is vague. It’s not particularly mysterious if an old man drops dead and no one knows why. I should imagine it happened quite a lot in the 19th Century. Elaborate. Were there marks around his neck? Had his eyes been removed? Did he smell like old fish? ‘The townspeople buried him next to his house and left him alone.’ Left him alone? Bothering him with silly questions such as ‘why aren’t sending the bad people to prison anymore?’ Of course they left him alone. You don’t keep company with dead people unless you are mentally ill. ‘Now a few years later a young news reporter came to the town wanting to write a story on the house.’ See third sentence. The rest of it is so God awful that I don’t want to carry on, but I hope from this you start to get the idea. When I was you’re age I used to read a lot. If you don’t read a lot, then don’t try writing until you do read a lot. From this it looks as if you haven’t read anything apart from nursery rhymes and fairy tales. If it is in fact supposed to be a fairy tale I would have taken better to it apart from the fact that it is mainly about dead people. The main thing about writing is the will to do it and to create a story that others can read and enjoy. If you do have this drive, and I’m assuming you wouldn’t have posted this here otherwise, then as I’ve said before and can’t stress enough, for God’s sake, read! Oh and one last thing: 'The ringing became louder and louder as he got closer and closer.' Think about that sentence and then realise that noises generally do sound louder when you approach the source. " -- Can do better.
"This story is based on the famous short story called The Judge's House, by Bram Stoker. It's one of my favorites. Nice Job on taking the theme and making it your own. For the most part the prior review is of no value. Keep up the good work. You have talent as a writer. Stay with it." -- Pops, Boston, Mass, USA.
"These reviews are supposed to be constructive, but "Can do Better" is clearly not interested in or capable of offering constructive help. Sounds like someone who thinks he's a better writer than he really is and just wants to sound important and better than you. Nice job on an old and famous short story. I've heard this told as a ghost story around a campfire. You might think about taking some time to flesh this out and to make it more than a paragraph. Add some dialogue and imagery. Nice Job." -- Bill White, Miwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.
"i think this story had alot of great points about that girl named ona. you know the one that shlobed on my knob lol. and we did some other freaky thigs that i probably shoudlnt put up here. I cant believe people would doubt me im doing great and drug free this is probably something you will never acheive since your still stuck in montana academy most likely." -- mark leppelman, 87124, nm, united states.


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© 2005 Joe J Halbach
November 2005

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