Author's Note: Greetings, horror fiction readers. I'm Historyman101, and I come to you bringing a new story to add to the archive. A bit of background on me and who I am before we get started so you know what to expect.
As you can probably tell by my username, I mostly dabble in historical fiction. If you visit my profile, all of my stories are period dramas, all of them set in World War II or a few years before. So, you're probably wondering what moved me to write a horror story. Well, because if there is one thing form of fiction I like more than historical drama or war, it's horror and mystery. I grew up watching my mother's BBC murder mystery series, and I have a fondness for horror movies (in particular the found footage genre). I've always liked how horror fiction is different from others in that their world is almost exactly like our own with one terrifying addition (i.e., ghosts, monsters, aliens, etc.). And I didn't want to venture back into the past so soon, so I figured why not write a horror story?
I've worked on this over the course of eight months, during the COVID lockdowns. In the massive levels of free time I had while teleworking, I starting binging a lot more horror/mystery than I usually do, from found footage movies to Gravity Falls to Twin Peaks. Needless to say, a lot of them had a big impact on this story, as you will come to find out.
I managed to get this story done just in time for the Halloween season, so better to post it now than later. With that in mind, feel free to read on, and I hope you enjoy.
Two young people from the city visit their grandfather for the summer out in the country. What was thought to be a quiet, uneventful summer turns out to be anything but, as the town they settle into is a happening hub of the supernatural. Such
WELCOME TO WAKEFORD
CHAPTER ONE: LEAVING D.C.
"Hey guys, it's Martin! I'm coming to you live from a train on the way to Wakeford, West Virginia!"
Martin Chalmers flashed a smile and a wink to his camera phone before panning the viewfinder to out the window of the passenger car. The mighty Blue Ridge Mountains loomed in the distance, covered with tall trees that seemed to shine like jade under the summer sun. It was a scene right of a classic postcard.
"With summer here," Martin continued, "it was as good a time as any to get out of Washington for a while. You can't help but feel rather congested in the city, sometimes, am I right? So for the next three months, I'll be updating my blog from Wakeford. Hopefully, we can find just as many ghost stories and paranormal happenings in the country as in the city."
The viewfinder left the picturesque scene outside the window and returned to the interior of the passenger car. Across from him sat a girl his age with long, straight brown hair and equally brown eyes. She was rather fixated on her smartphone, on which she was texting intently. She didn't even acknowledge him when he called to her.
"And I won't be alone, either. My sister Madeline is coming with me for the trip to help me out. Say hi to my followers, Maddie!"
The girl, Madeline, only texted away, flipping a lock of her hair over her shoulder. Martin cleared his throat, zooming in on his sister.
"I said, 'say hi, Maddie.'"
Yet again, silence. Was she doing this intentionally or was she just focused on getting the next text out.
"Hey, say hi, already!"
She took her eyes off her phone for a moment and gave an angry wave.
"Yo, what up?" she greeted, deadpan. Martin only slapped his hand on his forehead.
"What the hell, Maddie! You're making me look bad, here!"
"One, you do that just fine on your own, and two, I never agreed to help you in your stupid ghost hunts! What do you think this is, a goddamn haunted house?"
"Look, Wakeford gotta have tons of mysteries to be solved. And I'll need help to accomplish that."
Madeline rolled her eyes before returning to her phone. Martin's overzealous nature never failed to vex her.
"You should find something else worth pursuing. Something normal."
"Says the girl who has a gun fetish," Martin sharply rebuked.
"Hey, I've been the best shot since I was six! Dad taught me well."
"Guns won't work against ghosts," the older brother shot back, shutting off his phone for the moment. "Besides, what were you hoping to do in Wakeford? Just text Josh all summer?"
"I'm going to be in an unfamiliar place, after all."
"That's not true; we'll be staying with Grandpa."
"That's not what I mean, Marty! When's the last time we even came out here?"
"Well, I think that was around—"
"That's right. NEVER. So, while we're in the middle of nowhere, I'd like some connection to back home, thank you very much."
Madeline returned to her phone and continued texting. Martin, expecting nothing else from her, only slumped back in his chair and sighed.
After graduating high school one month prior, Martin and Madeline Chalmers received an invitation from their grandfather to stay in Wakeford for the summer. Martin, eager to find new locales and legends for his YouTube channel, naturally agreed. Madeline, more accustomed to city living, and faced with the prospect of being away from her boyfriend, was less inclined. Regardless, both youngsters boarded a train, kissed their family goodbye, and embarked on the three-hour long ride south towards the little West Virginian town.
The prospect of staying in a small town far from civilization tantalized Martin. While Madeline was right that neither had ever ventured to Wakeford, Martin had long dreamed of traveling to see their grandfather's home. Not only for familial reasons, but for the lore surrounding the town.
Martin's supernatural escapades had largely been confined to Washington D.C. and the surrounding area. However, according to his grandfather, Wakeford teemed with stories of monsters, ghosts, and strange goings-on. Folklore dating back to the colonial era (and even earlier) painted an alluring picture for the young ghost hunter. Besides, he wanted his view to be greener than the grey marble and stone he often found in the city.
The young boy sighed. While he knew he should be excited, Madeline's indifference (or outright hostility at worst) would derail his investigations before they even started. He sifted his hand through his ash blonde hair, wondering how to brighten his twin's spirits. However, an announcement from the conductor broke his line of thought.
"NEXT STOP IS WAKEFORD. WAKEFORD. WE ARRIVE IN FIVE MINUTES."
Martin stood up in a panic, taken by surprise by the sudden arrival. It was only three hours ago when they left Union Station! How did time pass so quickly?
Madeline only groaned and quickly sent a last flurry of texts before stowing away her phone in her pocket. Evidently, she was not in the mood for a grand adventure, regardless of whether it was inevitable or not.
While the train was packed, only a few stood up and proceeded to the passenger car vestibules. Wakeford wasn't exactly a place that garnered many visitors. In the words of Madeline, Wakeford was…
"…a Podunk town in nowhere, America."
Well, even if it was a Podunk town in nowhere, it was still the home of family. Family was more important than anything. Even if it meant traversing from the big city to a small mountain town.
The train station was constructed from clapboard painted white with a black roof. Atop the doors leading to the station interior sat a black sign bearing the town name in red cursive letters. The platform stood on stilts and was painted white, with a picket fence around the rims to protect people from falling off. Porters helped passengers with their baggage as they stepped onto the platform while a scant few others moved past each other in a silent, unwitting dance towards the station.
There, standing alone in denim overalls and a white T-shirt, stood an elderly man in his 70s. His wiry grey hair was starting to thin around his scalp. A pair of tortoise shell glasses magnified his bright blue eyes and his handlebar mustache bent to his warm, inviting smile as he called out,
"Hiya, kids! Good to see ya!"
"Hi, Gramps!" Martin greeted jubilantly, throwing his arms around him. "Great to see you too."
"Yeah," Madeline added, somewhat less enthusiastic, as she joined in the hug. "Just great…"
"You kids must be starving after that long train ride. Lucky for y'all, I know just the place in town that should fill ya up."
The two teenagers accompanied their grandfather out of the station and to the small square parking lot out front. There, near the entrance of the station, sat his red Chevrolet pickup truck. It was an older model, boasting a grille, headlights and front hood that were straight out of the 1940s. How this truck was still in such prime condition, neither Martin nor Madeline could hope to know. Their grandfather had to spend quite a bit of time maintaining it himself.
As they pulled away from the station, their grandfather was quick to play the game of catchup all grandparents play.
"So, kids, how's school been? I heard you two graduated."
"Yeah, we did," Madeline revealed, staring out the window listlessly. "I'm so glad that it's over." Their grandfather laughed.
"Yeah, I bet. Started thinkin' 'bout college yet?"
"I have a few places lined up. I haven't heard back from any of them yet, though."
Martin, sitting in the back seat, leaned forward and explained in his grandfather's ear.
"Maddie's not going to college right away. She wants to take a sabbatical and work for a while."
"Oh, that's a good idea. Yeah, you'll gain some good life experience that way."
"And stay with Josh for a little longer," Martin snickered.
Madeline shot a stony glare at her brother who soon retreated to his seat with a snort. Looking out the window, the tantalizing sight of Wakeford laid out before him.
Wakeford, even if it was a "Podunk town in the middle of nowhere," was nonetheless picturesque. A tall mountain cast a long shadow on the town while an old coal mine perched like a bird at the summit. A little way to the right of the summit was an immaculate and ritzy-looking hotel, with the sign "Mount Jackson Hotel" in large flashing lights atop the roof. The downtown business section was lined with mom-and-pop stores and small hole-in-the-wall retailers along a single main road. Further in the distance and closer to the mountain, Martin saw small shacks and cottages scattered amongst the trees, marked by thin trails of smoke from chimney drafts. It reminded him of a classic Christmas card. To Martin's eyes, it teemed with possibilities for new stories and interesting locales. For Madeline, she was more content to continue texting.
"Marty," their grandfather remarked, "I think you'll like the restaurant here in town. Plus, there's someone here who's been dyin' to meet ya."
"You mean one of your friends?"
"Nah, more like…an admirer, you could say," he corrected, waggling his shaggy eyebrows.
"You mean someone who follows my YouTube channel?" Madeline snickered.
"Yeah, wouldn't surprise me if one of your 15 subscribers lived here. Dork."
"Piss off, would you Maddie?"
"Easy, Maddie," their grandfather warned. "There's no need for that. I won't be havin' you kids squabble like fools the whole summer, y'hear?"
The truck pulled up to a parking meter outside a neon sign reading BILLY'S BURGERS AND SHAKES. Signaling this was their destination, all disembarked and went inside.
The diner in town was rather quaint, evoking a sense of nostalgia the instant the trio walked in. A checkerboard floor, red leather seats, and a large vinyl jukebox reminded both Madeline and Martin of a scene from a 1950s-era movie. Even the uniforms of the staff were reminiscent of cast members of American Graffiti.
Waiting at the front desk as people were ushered in was a young girl around Martin's age. Her curly, dark brown hair was held up in the back by a gold hairclip while bright blue eyes lit up under the fluorescent lighting. A touch of rouge tried (but failed) to hide the freckles on her cheeks while her red lipstick complemented her matching ruby uniform. She smiled with a sense of knowing as Steven approached the desk.
"Oh, hey, Mr. Chalmers. How've you been lately?"
"Just fine, Julia. You got a booth for three open anywhere?"
"Sure do. Follow me."
Martin was lost in the sounds and sights of the diner as the waitress, Julia, ushered them in. Madeline could only express some agitation at the saccharinely sweet chords of the Chordettes' "Mr. Sandman."
"50s-style diners still exist? I thought they went out of fashion..."
"I'm kind of surprised myself," Martin admitted. "I was expecting to be more...run down."
"You can thank my pops for that," Julia quipped cheerfully. "The inheritance he left for me was just enough to keep this diner kicking. I even gave it a face lift, as you can tell."
"Wait, you own this place?" Madeline asked, shocked. "How old are you again?" Julia only laughed.
"Hey, now, didn't your parents ever teach you not to ask a lady her age?"
In a quieter corner of the diner, the trio found their booth and sat down. As she handed out menus, the perky waitress introduced herself.
"My name's Julia Farnsworth. I'll be serving you today. So, Mr. Chalmers, who are the newcomers?"
"Oh, just my grandkids. They're stayin' with me for the summer."
"Really? That's just swell! I finally get to meet the legendary twins." Madeline and Martin exchanged confused glances.
"Wait, you know about us?" Martin asked.
"Sometimes it's hard to get him to talk about anything else!" Julia chuckled. "He especially has a lot to say about you, Martin." She leaned in with an almost devious grin. "Or should I call you…the Shadow Hunter?"
At the drop of that moniker, Martin's brown eyes lit up. He had another fan in this town, and never even realized it? Why didn't his grandfather say anything before?
"You've seen my videos?!"
"Plenty of them since your debut. My favorites are the Rock Creek Park and the Old Stone House ones. Those were cool. Oh, and your latest one about the Hay-Adams Hotel was great, too!"
"Oh, not those episodes!" Martin cringed a little. "My hair wasn't done right, and a crappy camera to deal with too. I must've looked ridiculous."
"On the contrary, you looked mighty professional to me."
"T-thanks. So, um…if you like my content so much, that must mean you are well informed, too. I was hoping to do some ghost hunting out here." Madeline sighed expectantly as she pinched the bridge of her nose.
"Oh, God, here it comes…"
"As a matter of fact, I think I have something to sink your teeth into."
"You know," Madeline interrupted, "I just remembered that I had to text my boyfriend."
She moved to leave, but her grandfather took her hand and made her sit back down. The normally jovial blue eyes turned cold, reminding her of a glacier.
"Oh, no you don't, young lady. Your mother told me all about your escapades. I'm responsible for you and your brother for the summer, and it's only fair that you spend time with your family more."
"Y-yes, sir," Madeline muttered quietly.
And so, with Madeline stuck in place, Julia cleared her throat and begun her tale.
"So, tell me, Shadow Hunter, you ever heard the legend of the Mothman?"
Martin leaned back, the leather scrunching under his weight. Ever since he started his YouTube channel, he had been focused primarily on the haunted sights around Washington D.C. The local parks, houses of former politicians and even presidential residences were common targets. However, his knowledge of the paranormal only extended to the Capitol suburbs. Everything beyond Fairfax and Prince William counties was as foreign to him as another country.
"Sorry, but no. Is it a really famous one?"
"Only the most well-known monster 'round these parts!" Julia proclaimed, grinning wide. "I'll tell you the details, but first, can I get you guys anything?"
"The usual for me, Julia," their grandfather returned, nodding. "What 'bout y'all?"
The two youngsters soon placed their orders. Being newcomers, they asked for something simple. In the downtime between ordering and waiting, Martin and their grandfather got to talking about his YouTube channel.
"So, how has your channel been doin'? I hear you got quite a followin' now."
"Yeah, I have about 10,000 subscribers." Their grandfather threw back his head in a laugh
"10,000?! Dang, son, that's mighty good. You're fixin' to be an Internet star, I take it." Martin shook his head.
"Personally, I'd be happy with any attention. The fact people engage and really want to know more about the supernatural is what keeps me going. It's encouraging that people care."
"Yeah, dumbass people," Madeline scoffed under her breath.
"You don't believe, do you?" their grandfather pried, somewhat resentful at the girl's tone and language.
"Grandpa, no offense to you, but in the years I've been living on this earth, I have yet to see any evidence of ghosts, monsters or any other ghoulies out there."
"How'd ya know? Ever been in one a' Marty's videos?"
"And make an ass of myself in the process? To hell with that bullshit."
"Hey, language!" Steve chided her.
"Yeah, language," Martin agreed, just as offended.
Martin sighed tiredly. He had heard this from Madeline far too often. Whenever he did invite her on his ghost hunts, she would, without fail, tell him off and demean his endeavors. He couldn't remember the last time his sister ever helped him in his hunts. So, for that reason, he almost always worked alone.
"My channel's a one-man operation," he revealed. "I don't really ask others for help unless it's something really big, like a hotel."
"Y'know, some people say the Mount Jackson Hotel is haunted. Maybe that could be one a' your stops?"
At that moment, Julia came by with their orders. Martin had a rather sumptuous-looking hamburger topped with mushrooms and swiss cheese, with chicken tenders for Madeline, and a bowl of vegetable soup for their grandfather. As she set them down, she picked up on the comment regarding potential ghost-hunting spots.
"Oh, the hotel is a great place. I've heard it's crawling with ghosts. So, you'd rather hear about that or the Mothman?"
"Mothman first," Martin replied before biting into his burger. "So, you say it's really famous? What's the story behind it?"
Julia knelt until she was at eye level. Those orbs of sapphire were entrancing as she spun the local yarn.
"Legend has it that a moth-like monster lives out near an old abandoned arms factory on the edge of town."
"When you say a moth-like monster, what do you mean, exactly?"
"It looks like your average moth, but about the size of a full-grown man. It has giant grey wings and glowing red eyes with a stare that cuts right through you. And when it screeches…" The waitress shuddered at the thought. "…oh, it's a frightful sound, lemme tell ya."
"Is it as frightening as when Marty screams after I fire my gun?" Madeline asked sardonically with a devious smile. Martin returned the snark with a glare sharper than a knife's edge.
"Buzz off, killjoy."
"Anyway," Julia continued, undeterred, "about a year ago, a couple driving by the arms factory late at night say they saw it fly over their car and almost dropped right in front of them. And when they flashed its lights, the red eyes almost blinded them before it flew off into the night with a loud screech. Thing is, after the couple saw that thing, the local bridge over the Shenandoah River collapsed."
"Why's that important?"
"Some people think that the Mothman is a harbinger of bad luck. Whenever you see him, it means disaster isn't too far off."
Martin and Madeline's grandfather nodded thoughtfully as he imbibed another spoonful of soup. He leaned in and offered his knowledge of the local legend.
"Yeah, I know the family that saw it. The Jacobsens. They lost one a' their kids when the bridge collapsed. They…ain't never been the same since that day. If you ever ask 'em 'bout that night, they just go silent…and the waterworks start happenin'."
The young ghost hunter's interest was now thoroughly piqued. It had been a long time since he had encountered such a foreboding and frightening story like this. Even urban legends from the D.C. suburbs didn't compare to this. A monster that could bring bad luck to anyone who saw it. While he was not necessarily a believer of fate, he had to know more, regardless of the risks.
"Do you know where I can find out more about this?"
"You can get the old newspaper archives from the local library." Martin looked to his grandfather with a hopeful glimmer in his brown orbs.
"Can we go there tomorrow, Gramps?"
"Sure thing, Marty. But first, I should get you kids home. You must've had a long day. Julia, the check if you please?" The perky waitress nodded.
"Comin' right up! And it was very nice to meet you, Martin."
"Y-yeah, same here…"
They soon paid for the food and made their way out the door. Julia waved them goodbye, and Martin couldn't get her perky voice, bright sapphire eyes or curly hair out of his head, long after they left the downtown business section. It was not often he met his followers, but she seemed especially nice, he thought. Not only that, but she pointed him in the right direction for his next investigation. If only he could have her accompany him on his ghost hunts. Julia surely was of more help than Madeline ever was.
Out beyond the downtown area, and into the sparser, residential areas, Martin found himself dozing. It had indeed been a long day since leaving Washington D.C. But the first day in Wakeford proved promising. Not only was he with his grandfather, but he had found a new mystery to investigate. Things could only get better from there, or so he thought.
Glancing out the window, Martin saw the ruins of a factory in the distance, surrounded by tall pines. A long, serpentine trail extended out to the factory from the main road. The factory was closed off by a chain mail fence with a warning sign out front, but that was not what caught his eye. Instead it was something unexpected. Something…otherworldly.
Peeking out from behind the walls of the factory stood a tall, black silhouette. One large wing-like protrusion stretched out from the figure's back and a single, blood red eye seemed to track him as the truck sped along. Not minding the ongoing chatter in the front, or the country music blaring on the radio, Martin reached for his phone, switched it to camcorder mode, and pushed on the record button.
He zoomed in, focusing the viewfinder on the figure. Its wing-like protrusion retracted towards its back, almost recoiling in disgust. The eye almost cut through him, and Martin was certain it was staring directly at him. Not at the landscape. Not at the truck. Him.
"What the hell…?"
The figure slipped away behind the factory and faded into the woods. The glowing red eye was the last to disappear, but even afterward, its indelible stare, one that cut right through him, stayed etched in his mind. He turned the phone on himself and muttered,
"Tell me you guys saw that."
Author's Note: Because I don't have a lot of time to meet the Halloween deadline, my upload order will be a little staggered and somewhat rapid-fire. My original plan was to upload the entire story on Halloween, but I figured that might be too overwhelming for some. However, I wasted too much time debating with myself how to upload. So, I'm doing a hybrid: I'll be uploading the chapters in small batches of two or three. I'll be uploading the next batch tomorrow, and hopefully by next week, more than half of the story will public. This story is 15 chapters long, so don't expect this to be a long epic of a story. I don't really have the same kind of time I once did to write those.
See you all tomorrow!