I met Paul Logan at HorroCon 2017, in Richmond, Virginia, November 15.
It was cold and raining that day. The weathermen were calling for snow by the weekend, and being from Florida, I was concerned about the possibility of icy roads, as I had never traversed them before.
The fifteenth was my first day in the city. I had left Ocala the previous evening and drove through the night, arriving in Richmond at sunrise. I rented a room at a Best Western near the interstate and slept for several hours before rising and having lunch at a café south of the motel.
Full, I drove over to the convention center and parked in one of the few available spots. Inside, I found a virtual wonderland: Vendors, writers, workshops, famous actors selling pictures and autographs, VHS tapes and DVDs for sale, tables laden with books from a thousand different indie publishers. The place was packed with thousands of fans perusing the stalls and tables, some of them dressed like famous movie villains: Leatherface in a yellow apron; Michael Meyers in his converted Captain Kirk mask; Freddy Krueger in a red-and-green striped sweater.
Logan's table was near the restrooms, across from Tom Savini's stall and just down from Richard Chizmar, editor of Cemetery Dance, the premier horror fiction magazine. When I came upon him, Logan was at rest, reading a dog-eared paperback copy of 'Salem's Lot. A few stragglers came to his table and scanned his wares before drifting off again; Logan made no attempt to engage them, so engrossed was he in the novel.
Having been friends with Logan on Facebook for several years (if you can really call that being "friends") I knew that he was an avid fan of Stephen King. King had always been one of my favorite writers as well, but Logan's interest in the man bordered on fanaticism. In 2014, he bought a gray cat and named it Winston Churchill ("Church for short") just like the cat in Pet Sematary. In 2015, he spent several months having an extravagant Dark Tower themed tattoo etched onto his back and chest. I can't remember how much he said he spent on it, but it was certainly several thousand. In 2016, he self-published a collection of short stories each named after a Stephen King novel (the first story being Carrie, and the next Salem's Lot, and so on). The stories were intensely original, marked by Logan's unique brand of dark humor and social observation, but I remember being taken aback by the titles. Ripping off every single book title Stephen King had ever used? Seemed...strange to me.
In a message via Facebook, Logan told me that the book "Was meant as an homage to the master." I didn't doubt that, but wondered whether he could have done something different.
Presently, I approached the table. Logan didn't look up. "We've been friends on Facebook for six years," I said, "and finally we meet."
He glanced up. "Luke Jointer?"
I smiled. "That's me."
Carefully setting the book aside (with reverence, I thought), he stood and we shook. "There's an extra chair back here. Come. Sit."
Taking up position next to Logan, I watched as Tom Savini picked up a book and scanned it.
"It's serendipitous that you should show up now," Logan said. "There's a street in the town of 'Salem's Lot called Jointer Avenue. Your last name has always reminded me of it. Now you're here. It must be a good omen."
I laughed and told him that I was aware of the street name; though I don't often read the same novel more than once, I had devoured 'Salem's Lot five times over the past fifteen years.
Over the course of the afternoon, our conversations all related to King. When Logan spoke of him, his eyes shone with passion and his body shivered slightly. The naked intensity of his ardor shocked me. I knew many people who adored Stephen King, but none so total in their devotion.
The convention center began to empty out at six that evening. Tom Savini packed up his things and left about five, looking frustrated. Norman Reedus of The Walking Dead passed by us to use the bathroom fifteen minutes later, and from what he was saying into his cellphone, he, too, was leaving.
Logan, who lived several miles outside the city, invited me to spend the night with him. As I had already paid for my room in advance, I declined, though I did accept an invitation to travel to his home for dinner.
At seven, Logan called it a day and I helped him pack his things into his Prius. I suggested I follow, but he wouldn't have it, so I crammed into the passenger seat and was forced to hold a box of unsold books on my lap.
South of Richmond, the land goes from urban to rural with the suddenness of a shattering window. From the city limits, we followed a winding road through densely forested hills. We arrived at Logan's house roughly twenty minutes after leaving. Seen from the road, it sits atop a slight rise, backlit against the surrounding woodland.
"Home sweet home," Logan said as he put on his turn signal.
Looking at the house, I had the most uncanny feeling; namely, that I had seen it before. Only when we were getting out of the car did I realize that it was nearly identical to the house from the 1989 film version of Pet Sematary.
When I pointed this out, Logan beamed proudly. "Doesn't it, though? I had it renovated several years ago. I made the contractor watch the movie with me a hundred times." He laughed as he showed me to the door. "It was expensive and time-consuming, but in the end it was worth it."
The front door opened into a spacious living room with crème colored carpeting and a tan leather sectional. The light brown walls were laden with Stephen King memorabilia: Framed covers blown up to twice their normal size (The Stand, Christine), a portrait of King in his earlier years; a poster of a bearded King wielding a shotgun with the legend Study, Damnit! underneath. A bookshelf flanked one wall, crammed with Stephen King novels. Hardbacks. Paperbacks. Audio books. Trinkets lined the edge of each shelf. A Penneywise the Clown (from IT) bobblehead here, a model of the 1958 Plymouth Fury from Christine there.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Logan asked, mistaking my shock for wonderment.
"It's...something," I agreed. To be honest, I was kind of weirded out. I understand enjoying someone's work, but this was idol worship.
For the next hour, Logan showed me the true extent of his collection. His attic and his basement, both very big, were absolutely filled with King related memorabilia. He had every edition of every King novel ever published. He had props from King movies (some real, some reproduction), movies mentioning King, movies that inspired King, a thousand other unnamed and unnamable pieces of riff raff.
As he conducted his bizarre little tour, he talked about rare King artifacts that he had been looking to acquire.
"Most of King's unpublished papers reside at the Raymond H. Fogler Library at the University of Maine," Logan said at one point. "Some of it is private, but others are public."
"Something tells me you've been there," I said sarcastically.
Missing (or ignoring) my tone, Logan laughed. "Many times. In fact, I spent a month up there copying down everything I could. I take a special pleasure in owning King material that no one else does."
Here he sighed fondly. We were at the top of the stairs now, on our way to the attic.
"I've often dreamed of stealing the private stuff. Pulling off some elaborate heist. I don't imagine it would be hard."
In the attic, he showed me a box full of handwritten manuscripts supposedly by King himself. On the box, the name STANLY EVANS stood out in faded black marker. The name immediately jumped out at me. It was familiar, not in an intimate sort of way, but rather, as though I had heard it multiple times.
Shaking my head, I followed Logan to the back of the attic; the space was so packed that at several points we were compelled to climb, scoot, and duck.
"This is one of my most prized possessions," Logan said when we had reached the end. Looking upon the thing, a strange feeling went through me.
In 1986, Stephen King directed a film version of his short story Trucks called Maximum Overdrive. In it, a rouge meteor passing through earth's atmosphere brings all of the world's electronics to life, from ATM machines to, of course, mac trucks. The trucks, who are evil (because what else would they be?) trap a group of people in a diner. One of the trucks has a strange and massive green goblin head for a grill. I didn't know much about it, but I knew that it had been recently bought by a collector in New Hampshire for over a million dollars.
Yet here it was in Paul Logan's attic, staring at me with wide, demonic eyes.
I asked him how he had come across it, and he laughed, clapping me on the back. "It cost me a lot of money," he said.
Logan allowed me to examine the thing more closely, and to my surprise, I found a name written in neat marker on the back. STANLY EVANS.
He must have been the buyer.
That's how I knew his name.
Still, something bothered me.
Downstairs, Logan sat me on the couch and subjected me to nearly an hour of video from the time he met his idol at HorroCon 2012. For most of the presentation, the camera, which shook incessantly, captured only the backs of people's heads as they waited in line. Then, finally, toward the end, Stephen King could be seen sitting behind a table.
"There he is!" Logan cried delightedly, grabbing my arm. "It's him!"
On screen, King looked up from a piece of paper, noticed the camera, and smiled bemusedly. I didn't hear what he said to Logan, nor what Logan said in reply, for at that very moment, Logan sighed. "He's so beautiful."
I couldn't help but gape at him.
By the time the video was done, it was pushing eight 'o'clock.
"I'm so sorry," he said when I pointed out the time, "I just got carried away. I'll whip us up something right now. Stephen King chicken tenders in Stephen King sauce sound okay?"
God, I thought, rubbing my forehead, he's naming his dishes after the man!
Logan went into the kitchen to Stephen King us some Stephen King while I Stephen Kinged in the Stephen King. Alone now for the first time since that afternoon, I was able to process my emotions.
Paul Logan, I decided, was a nutcase. He reminded me of Annie Wilkes, the crazy nurse from King's Misery, who held her favorite author captive and made him write her a book. The only difference was: Logan had everything but King.
Flashing back to that goblin head in the attic, I thought again of Stanly Evans. The name was familiar. Very familiar. And not, I realized, from buying a stupid plastic movie prop.
Whipping out my phone, I typed the name into Google. The first result was for a Doctor in Palo Alto, and the second for a British statesman who lived during the 18th century.
The third was from a newspaper. The Keene, New Hampshire, Chronicle.
LOCAL MAN SLAIN; POLICE INVESTIGATE
Swanzey - Stanly Evans, a local collector of note, was found dead in his home Sunday morning, police say.
...Evans, a collector primarily of memorabilia associated with popular horror author Stephen King, had recently purchased a prop from a King film for over a million dollars. It, along with several other pieces, was missing...
"Stephen King's ready!" Paul cried from the kitchen. I jumped up and turned just as he stepped into the living room. Holding a tray of chicken tenders bathed in buffalo sauce, he was wearing a mask.
A Stephen King mask. Not a mask of one of his creations, but one of the man himself; it was crude but recognizably King.
"I'm Stephen King!" Logan cried in falsetto. He took a step forward, and I panicked. Winding up like a pitcher on the mound, I threw my phone at Logan's face. It struck him just above the nose. The mask absorbed most of the impact, but Logan still stumbled, falling back and dropping the buffalo tenders onto the floor.
"Stephen King it!" he yelled.
Seizing the opportunity, I fled the house, bounding into the cold night. Reaching the end of the driveway, I looked back just as Logan came to the door. "Wait!" he cried. "Let's have a Stephen King movie marathon!"
There was a gas station a mile back; I'd seen it on our way in. I ducked left, walking as quickly as I could along the blacktop, glancing over my shoulder.
Logan's voice, closer. "Stephen King movie marathon! Stephen King movie marathon!"
I broke and ran. I didn't stop until I reached the blinding lights of the gas station.
Upon their arrival, the police found Paul Logan in his bathtub dead, his wrists gashed open and the word IT written on the wall in blood, mirroring a scene from the Stephen King novel of the same name.
The horror community was scandalized, and from what I heard, Stephen King was "saddened" by the news.
As for me...every time I hear the name "Stephen King" I start to sweat. I've tried to read him since the incident in Virginia, but can't.
I fear that I never will again.