I. The Shadow On The Chimney
2, No. 6 (January 1923), p. 4-10;
There was thunder in the air on the night I went to the deserted mansion
atop Tempest Mountain to find the lurking fear. I was not alone, for foolhardiness
was not then mixed with that love of the grotesque and the terrible which
has made my career a series of quests for strange horrors in literature
and in life. With me were two faithful and muscular men for whom I had
sent when the time came; men long associated with me in my ghastly explorations
because of their peculiar fitness.
We had started quietly from the village because of the reporters who
still lingered about after the eldritch panic of a month before - the nightmare
creeping death. Later, I thought, they might aid me; but I did not want
them then. Would to God I had let them share the search, that I might not
have had to bear the secret alone so long; to bear it alone for fear the
world would call me mad or go mad itself at the demon implications of the
thing. Now that I am telling it anyway, lest the brooding make me a maniac,
I wish I had never concealed it. For I, and I only, know what manner of
fear lurked on that spectral and desolate mountain.
In a small motor-car we covered the miles of primeval forest and hill
until the wooded ascent checked it. The country bore an aspect more than
usually sinister as we viewed it by night and without the accustomed crowds
of investigators, so that we were often tempted to use the acetylene headlight
despite the attention it might attract. It was not a wholesome landscape
after dark, and I believe I would have noticed its morbidity even had I
been ignorant of the terror that stalked there. Of wild creatures there
were none-they are wise when death leers close. The ancient lightning-scarred
trees seemed unnaturally large and twisted, and the other vegetation unnaturally
thick and feverish, while curious mounds and hummocks in the weedy, fulgurite-pitted
earth reminded me of snakes and dead men's skulls swelled to gigantic proportions.
Fear had lurked on Tempest Mountain for more than a century. This I
learned at once from newspaper accounts of the catastrophe which first
brought the region to the world's notice. The place is a remote, lonely
elevation in that part of the Catskills where Dutch civilization once feebly
and transiently penetrated, leaving behind as it receded only a few mined
mansions and a degenerate squatter population inhabiting pitiful hamlets
on isolated slopes. Normal beings seldom visited the locality till the
state police were formed, and even now only infrequent troopers patrol
it. The fear, however, is an old tradition throughout the neighboring villages;
since it is a prime topic in the simple discourse of the poor mongrels
who sometimes leave their valleys to trade handwoven baskets for such primitive
necessities as they cannot shoot, raise, or make.
The lurking fear dwelt in the shunned and deserted Martense mansion,
which crowned the high but gradual eminence whose liability to frequent
thunderstorms gave it the name of Tempest Mountain. For over a hundred
years the antique, grove-circled stone house had been the subject of stories
incredibly wild and monstrously hideous; stories of a silent colossal creeping
death which stalked abroad in summer. With whimpering insistence the squatters
told tales of a demon which seized lone wayfarers after dark, either carrying
them off or leaving them in a frightful state of gnawed dismemberment;
while sometimes they whispered of blood trails toward the distant mansion.
Some said the thunder called the lurking fear out of its habitation, while
others said the thunder was its voice.
No one outside the backwoods had believed these varying and conflicting
stories, with their incoherent, extravagant descriptions of the hall-glimpsed
fiend; yet not a farmer or villager doubted that the Martense mansion was
ghoulishly haunted. Local history forbade such a doubt, although no ghostly
evidence was ever found by such investigators as had visited the building
after some especially vivid tale of the squatters. Grandmothers told strange
myths of the Martense spectre; myths concerning the Martense family itself,
its queer hereditary dissimilarity of eyes, its long, unnatural annals,
and the murder which had cursed it.
The terror which brought me to the scene was a sudden and portentous
confirmation of the mountaineers' wildest legends. One summer night, after
a thunderstorm of unprecedented violence, the countryside was aroused by
a squatter stampede which no mere delusion could create. The pitiful throngs
of natives shrieked and whined of the unnamable horror which had descended
upon them, and they were not doubted. They had not seen it, but had heard
such cries from one of their hamlets that they knew a creeping death had
In the morning citizens and state troopers followed the shuddering mountaineers
to the place where they said the death had come. Death was indeed there.
The ground under one of the squatter's villages had caved in after a lightning
stroke, destroying several of the malodorous shanties; but upon this property
damage was superimposed an organic devastation which paled it to insignificance.
Of a possible seventy-five natives who had inhabited this spot, not one
living specimen was visible. The disordered earth was covered with blood
and human debris bespeaking too vividly the ravages of demon teeth and
talons; yet no visible trail led away from the carnage. That some hideous
animal must be the cause, everyone quickly agreed; nor did any tongue now
revive the charge that such cryptic deaths formed merely the sordid murders
common in decadent communities. That charge was revived only when about
twenty-five of the estimated population were found missing from the dead;
and even then it was hard to explain the murder of fifty by half that number.
But the fact remained that on a summer night a bolt had come out of the
heavens and left a dead village whose corpses were horribly mangled, chewed,
The excited countryside immediately connected the horror with the haunted
Martense mansion, though the localities were over three miles apart. The
troopers were more skeptical; including the mansion only casually in their
investigations, and dropping it altogether when they found it thoroughly
deserted. Country and village people, however I canvassed the place with
infinite care; overturning everything in the house, sounding ponds and
brooks, beating down bushes, and ransacking the nearby forests. All was
in vain; the death that had come had left no trace save destruction itself.
By the second day of the search the affair was fully treated by the
newspapers, whose reporters overran Tempest Mountain. They described it
in much detail, and with many interviews to elucidate the horror's history
as told by local grandams. I followed the accounts languidly at first,
for I am a connoisseur in horrors; but after a week I detected an atmosphere
which stirred me oddly, so that on August 5th, 1921, I registered among
the reporters who crowded the hotel at Lefferts Corners, nearest village
to Tempest Mountain and acknowledged headquarters of the searchers. Three
weeks more, and the dispersal of the reporters left me free to begin a
terrible exploration based on the minute inquiries and surveying with which
I had meanwhile busied myself.
So on this summer night, while distant thunder rumbled, I left a silent
motor-car and tramped with two armed companions up the last mound-covered
reaches of Tempest Mountain, casting the beams of an electric torch on
the spectral grey walls that began to appear through giant oaks ahead.
In this morbid night solitude and feeble shifting illumination, the vast
boxlike pile displayed obscure hints of terror which day could not uncover;
yet I did not hesitate, since I had come with fierce resolution to test
an idea. I believed that the thunder called the death-demon out of some
fearsome secret place; and be that demon solid entity or vaporous pestilence,
I meant to see it.
I had thoroughly searched the ruin before, hence knew my plan well;
choosing as the seat of my vigil the old room of Jan Martense, whose murder
looms so great in the rural legends. I felt subtly that the apartment of
this ancient victim was best for my purposes. The chamber, measuring about
twenty feet square, contained like the other rooms some rubbish which had
once been furniture. It lay on the second story, on the southeast corner
of the house, and had an immense east window and narrow south window, both
devoid of panes or shutters. Opposite the large window was an enormous
Dutch fireplace with scriptural tiles representing the prodigal son, and
opposite the narrow window was a spacious bed built into the wall.
As the tree-muffled thunder grew louder, I arranged my plan's details.
First I fastened side by side to the ledge of the large window three rope
ladders which I had brought with me. I knew they reached a suitable spot
on the grass outside, for I had tested them. Then the three of us dragged
from another room a wide four-poster bedstead, crowding it laterally against
the window. Having strewn it with fir boughs, all now rested on it with
drawn automatics, two relaxing while the third watched. From whatever direction
the demon might come, our potential escape was provided. If it came from
within the house, we had the window ladders; if from outside the door and
the stairs. We did not think, judging from precedent, that it would pursue
us far even at worst.
I watched from midnight to one o'clock, when in spite of the sinister
house, the unprotected window, and the approaching thunder and lightning,
I felt singularly drowsy. I was between my two companions, George Bennett
being toward the window and William Tobey toward the fireplace. Bennett
was asleep, having apparently felt the same anomalous drowsiness which
affected me, so I designated Tobey for the next watch although even he
was nodding. It is curious how intently I had been watching the fireplace.
The increasing thunder must have affected my dreams, for in the brief
time I slept there came to me apocalyptic visions. Once I partly awaked,
probably because the sleeper toward the window had restlessly flung an
arm across my chest. I was not sufficiently awake to see whether Tobey
was attending to his duties as sentinel, but felt a distinct anxiety on
that score. Never before had the presence of evil so poignantly oppressed
me. Later I must have dropped asleep again, for it was out of a phantasmal
chaos that my mind leaped when the night grew hideous with shrieks beyond
anything in my former experience or imagination.
In that shrieking the inmost soul of human fear and agony clawed hopelessly
and insanely at the ebony gates of oblivion. I awoke to red madness and
the mockery of diabolism, as farther and farther down inconceivable vistas
that phobic and crystalline anguish retreated and reverberated. There was
no light, but I knew from the empty space at my right that Tobey was gone,
God alone knew whither. Across my chest still lay the heavy arm of the
sleeper at my left.
Then came the devastating stroke of lightning which shook the whole
mountain, lit the darkest crypts of the hoary grove, and splintered the
patriarch of the twisted trees. In the demon flash of a monstrous fireball
the sleeper started up suddenly while the glare from beyond the window
threw his shadow vividly upon the chimney above the fireplace from which
my eyes had never strayed. That I am still alive and sane, is a marvel
I cannot fathom. I cannot fathom it, for the shadow on that chimney was
not that of George Bennett or of any other human creature, but a blasphemous
abnormality from hell's nethermost craters; a nameless, shapeless abomination
which no mind could fully grasp and no pen even partly describe. In another
second I was alone in the accursed mansion, shivering and gibbering. George
Bennett and William Tobey had left no trace, not even of a struggle. They
were never heard of again.
II. A Passer In The Storm
Vol. 3, No. 1 (February 1923), p. 18-23;
For days after that hideous experience in the forest-swathed mansion
I lay nervously exhausted in my hotel room at Lefferts Corners. I do not
remember exactly how I managed to reach the motor-car, start it, and slip
unobserved back to the village; for I retain no distinct impression save
of wild-armed titan trees, demoniac mutterings of thunder, and Charonian
shadows athwart the low mounds that dotted and streaked the region.
As I shivered and brooded on the casting of that brain-blasting shadow,
I knew that I had at last pried out one of earth's supreme horrors - one
of those nameless blights of outer voids whose faint demon scratchings
we sometimes hear on the farthest rim of space, yet from which our own
finite vision has given us a merciful immunity. The shadow I had seen,
I hardly dared to analyse or identify. Something had lain between me and
the window that night, but I shuddered whenever I could not cast off the
instinct to classify it. If it had only snarled, or bayed, or laughed titteringly-even
that would have relieved the abysmal hideousness. But it was so silent.
It had rested a heavy arm or foreleg on my chest...
Obviously it was organic, or had once been organic... Jan Martense,
whose room I had invaded, was buried in the grave-yard near the mansion...
I must find Bennett and Tobey, if they lived... why had it picked them,
and left me for the last?... Drowsiness is so stifling, and dreams are
In a short time I realised that I must tell my story to someone or break
down completely. I had already decided not to abandon the quest for the
lurking fear, for in my rash ignorance it seemed to me that uncertainty
was worse than enlightenment, however terrible the latter might prove to
be. Accordingly I resolved in my mind the best course to pursue; whom to
select for my confidences, and how to track down the thing which had obliterated
two men and cast a nightmare shadow.
My chief acquaintances at Lefferts Corners had been the affable reporters,
of whom several had still remained to collect final echoes of the tragedy.
It was from these that I determined to choose a colleague, and the more
I reflected the more my preference inclined toward one Arthur Munroe, a
dark, lean man of about thirty-five, whose education, taste, intelligence,
and temperament all seemed to mark him as one not bound to conventional
ideas and experiences.
On an afternoon in early September, Arthur Munroe listened to my story.
I saw from the beginning that he was both interested and sympathetic, and
when I had finished he analysed and discussed the thing with the greatest
shrewdness and judgement. His advice, moreover, was eminently practical;
for he recommended a postponement of operations at the Martense mansion
until we might become fortified with more detailed historical and geographical
data. On his initiative we combed the countryside for information regarding
the terrible Martense family, and discovered a man who possessed a marvelously
illuminating ancestral diary. We also talked at length with such of the
mountain mongrels as had not fled from the terror and confusion to remoter
slopes, and arranged to precede our culminating task with the exhaustive
and definitive examination of spots associated with the various tragedies
of squatter legend.
As to the nature and appearance of the lurking fear, nothing could be
gained from the scared and witless shanty-dwellers. In the same breath
they called it a snake and a giant, a thunder-devil and a bat, a vulture
and a walking tree. We did, however, deem ourselves justified in assuming
that it was a living organism highly susceptible to electrical storms;
and although certain of the stories suggested wings,, we believed that
its aversion for open spaces made land locomotion a more probably theory.
The only thing really incompativle with the latter view was the rapidity
with which the creature must have travelled in order to perform all the
deeds attributed to it.
When we came to know the squatters better, we found them curiously likeable
in many ways. Simple animals they were, gently descending the evolutionary
scale because of their unfortunate ancestry and stultifying isolation.
They feared outsiders, but slowly grew accustomed to us; finally helping
vastly when we beat down all the thickets and tore out all the partitions
of the mansion in our search for the lurking fear. When we asked them to
help us find Bennett and Tobey they were truly distressed; for they wanted
to help us, yet knew that these victims had gone as wholly out of the world
as their own missing people. That great numbers of them had actually been
killed and removed, just as the wild animals had long been exterminated,
we were of course thoroughly convinced; and we waited apprehensively for
further tragedies to occur.
By the middle of October we were puzzled by our lack of progress. Owing
to the clear nights no demoniac aggressions had taken place, and the completeness
of our vain searches of house and country almost drove us to regard the
lurking fear as a non-material agency. We feared that the cold weather
would come on and halt our explorations, for all agreed that the demon
was generally quiet in winter. Thus there was a kind of haste and desperation
in our last daylight canvass of the horror-visited hamlet; a hamlet now
deserted because of the squatters’ fears.
The ill-fated squatter hamlet had borne no name, but had long stood
in a sheltered though treeless cleft between two elevations called respectively
Cone Mountain and Maple Hill. It was closer to Maple Hill than to Cone
Mountain, some of the crude abodes indeed being dugouts on the side of
the former eminence. Geographically it lay about two miles northwest of
the base of Tempest Mountain, and three miles from the oak-girt mansion.
Of the distance between the hamlet and the mansion, fully two miles and
a quarter on the hamlet’s side was entirely open country; the plain being
of fairly level character save for some of the low snakelike mounds, and
having as vegetation only grass and scattered weeds. Considering this topography,
we had finally concluded that the demon must have come by way of Cone Mountain,
a wooded southern prolongation of which ran to within a short distance
of the westernmost spur of Tempest Mountain. The upheaval of ground we
traced conclusively to a landslide from Maple Hill, a tall lone splintered
tree on whose side had been the striking point of the thunderbolt which
summoned the fiend.
As for the twentieth time or more Arthur Monroe and I went minutely
over every inch of the violated village, we were filled with a certain
discouragement coupled with vague and novel fears. It was acutely uncanny,
even when frightful and uncanny things were common, to encounter so blankly
clueless a scene after such overwhelming occurrences; and we moved about
beneath the leaden, darkening sky with that tragic directionless zeal which
results from a combined sense of futility and necessity of action. Our
care was gravely minute; every cottage was again entered, every hillside
dugout again searched for bodies, every thorny foot of adjacent slope again
scanned for dens and caves, but all without result. And yet, as I have
said, vague new fears hovered menacingly over us; as if giant bat-winged
gryphons looked on transcosmic gulfs.
As the afternoon advanced, it became increasingly difficult to see;
and we heard the rumble of a thunderstorm gathering over Tempest Mountain.
This sound in such a locality naturally stirred us, though less than it
would have done at night. As it was, we hoped desperately that the storm
would last until well after dark; and with that hope turned from our aimless
hillside searching toward the nearest inhabited hamlet to gather a body
of squatters as helpers in the investigation. Timid as they were, a few
of the younger men were sufficiently inspired by our protective leadership
to promise such help.
We had hardly more than turned, however, when there descended such a
blinding sheet of torrential rain that shelter became imperative. The extreme,
almost nocturnal darkness of the sky caused us to stumble badly, but guided
by the frequent flashes of lightning and by our minute knowledge of the
hamlet we soon reached the least porous cabin of the lot; an heterogeneous
combination of logs and boards whose still existing door and single tiny
window both faced Maple Hill. Barring the door after us against the fury
of the wind and rain, we put in place the crude window shutter which our
frequent searches had taught us where to find. It was dismal sitting there
on rickety boxes in the pitchy darkness, but we smoked pipes and occasionally
flashed our pocket lamps about. Now and then we could see the lightning
through cracks in the wall; the afternoon was so incredibly dark that each
flash was extremely vivid.
The stormy vigil reminded me shudderingly of my ghastly night on Tempest
Mountain. My mind turned to that odd question which had kept recurring
ever since the nightmare thing had happened; and again I wondered why the
demon, approaching the three watchers either from the window or the interior,
had begun with the men on each side and left the middle man till the last,
when the titan fireball had scared it away. Why had it not taken its victims
in natural order, with myself second, from whichever direction it had approached?
With what manner of far-reaching tentacles did it prey? Or did it know
that I was the leader, and saved me for a fate worse than that of my companions?
In the midst of these reflections, as if dramatically arranged to intensify
them, there fell nearby a terrific bolt of lightning followed by the sound
of sliding earth. At the same time the wolfish wind rose to demoniac crescendos
of ululation. We were sure that the one tree on Maple Hill had been struck
again, and Munroe rose from his box and went to the tiny window to ascertain
the damage. When he took down the shutter the wind, and rain howled deafeningly
in, so that I could not hear what he said; but I waited while he leaned
out and tried to fathom Nature's pandemonium.
Gradually a calming of the wind and dispersal of the unusual darkness
told of the storm's passing. I had hoped it would last into the night to
help our quest, but a furtive sunbeam from a knothole behind me removed
the likelihood of such a thing. Suggesting to Munroe that we had better
get some light even if more showers came, I unbarred and opened the crude
door. The ground outside was a singular mass of mud and pools, with fresh
heaps of earth from the slight landslide; but I saw nothing to justify
the interest which kept my companion silently leaning out the window. Crossing
to where he leaned, I touched his shoulder; but he did not move. Then,
as I playfully shook him and turned him around, I felt the strangling tendrils
of a cancerous horror whose roots reached into illimitable pasts and fathomless
abysms of the night that broods beyond time.
For Arthur Munroe was dead. And on what remained of his chewed and gouged
head there was no longer a face.
III. What The Red Glare Meant
Vol. 3, No. 2 (March 1923), p. 31-37, 44, 48;
On the tempest-racked night of November 8, 1921, with a lantern which
cast charnel shadows, I stood digging alone and idiotically in the grave
of Jan Martense. I had begun to dig in the afternoon, because a thunderstorm
was brewing, and now that it was dark and the storm had burst above the
maniacally thick foliage I was glad.
I believe that my mind was partly unhinged by events since August 5th;
the demon shadow in the mansion, the general strain and disappointment,
and the thing that occurred at the hamlet in an October storm. After that
thing I had dug a grave for one whose death I could not understand. I knew
that others could not understand either, so let them think Arthur Munroe
had wandered away. They searched, but found nothing. The squatters might
have understood, hut I dared not frighten them more. I myself seemed strangely
callous. That shock at the mansion had done something to my brain, and
I could think only of the quest for a horror now grown to cataclysmic stature
in my imagination; a quest which the fate of Arthur Munroe made me vow
to keep silent and solitary.
The scene of my excavations would alone have been enough to unnerve
any ordinary man. Baleful primal trees of unholy size, age, and grotesqueness
leered above me like the pillars of some hellish Druidic temple; muffling
the thunder, hushing the clawing wind, and admitting but little rain. Beyond
the scarred trunks in the background, illumined by faint flashes of filtered
lightning, rose the damp ivied stones of the deserted mansion, while somewhat
nearer was the abandoned Dutch garden whose walks and beds were polluted
by a white, fungous, foetid, over-nourished vegetation that never saw full
daylight. And nearest of all was the graveyard, where deformed trees tossed
insane branches as their roots displaced unhallowed slabs and sucked venom
from what lay below. Now and then, beneath the brown pall of leaves that
rotted and festered in the antediluvian forest darkness, I could trace
the sinister outlines of some of those low mounds which characterized the
History had led me to this archaic grave. History, indeed, was all I
had after everything else ended in mocking Satanism. I now believed that
the lurking fear was no material being, but a wolf-fanged ghost that rode
the midnight lightning. And I believed, because of the masses of local
tradition I had unearthed in search with Arthur Munroe, that the ghost
was that of Jan Martense, who died in 1762. This is why I was digging idiotically
in his grave.
The Martense mansion was built in 1670 by Gerrit Martense, a wealthy
New-Amsterdam merchant who disliked the changing order under British rule,
and had constructed this magnificent domicile on a remote woodland summit
whose untrodden solitude and unusual scenery pleased him. The only substantial
disappointment encountered in this site was that which concerned the prevalence
of violent thunderstorms in summer. When selecting the hill and building
his mansion, Mynheer Martense had laid these frequent natural outbursts
to some peculiarity of the year; but in time he perceived that the locality
was especially liable to such phenomena. At length, having found these
storms injurious to his head, he fitted up a cellar into which he could
retreat from their wildest pandemonium.
Of Gerrit Martense's descendants less is known than of himself; since
they were all reared in hatred of the English civilisation, and trained
to shun such of the colonists as accepted it. Their life was exceedingly
secluded, and people declared that their isolation had made them heavy
of speech and comprehension. In appearance all were marked by a peculiar
inherited dissimilarity of eyes; one generally being blue and the other
brown. Their social contacts grew fewer and fewer, till at last they took
to intermarrying with the numerous menial class about the estate. Many
of the crowded family degenerated, moved across the valley, and merged
with the mongrel population which was later to produce the pitiful squatters.
The rest had stuck sullenly to their ancestral mansion, becoming more and
more clannish and taciturn, yet developing a nervous responsiveness to
the frequent thunderstorms.
Most of this information reached the outside world through young Jan
Martense, who from some kind of restlessness joined the colonial army when
news of the Albany Convention reached Tempest Mountain. He was the first
of Gerrit's descendants to see much of the world; and when he returned
in 1760 after six years of campaigning, he was hated as an outsider by
his father, uncles, and brothers, in spite of his dissimilar Martense eyes.
No longer could he share the peculiarities and prejudices of the Martenses,
while the very mountain thunderstorms failed to intoxicate him as they
had before. Instead, his surroundings depressed him; and he frequently
wrote to a friend in Albany of plans to leave the paternal roof.
In the spring of 1763 Jonathan Gifford, the Albany friend of Jan Martense,
became worried by his correspondent's silence; especially in view of the
conditions and quarrels at the Martense mansion. Determined to visit Jan
in person, he went into the mountains on horseback. His diary states that
he reached Tempest Mountain on September 20, finding the mansion in great
decrepitude. The sullen, odd-eyed Martenses, whose unclean animal aspect
shocked him, told him in broken gutterals that Jan was dead. He had, they
insisted, been struck by lightning the autumn before; and now lay buried
behind the neglected sunken gardens. They showed the visitor the grave,
barren and devoid of markers. Something in the Martenses' manner gave Gifford
a feeling of repulsion and suspicion, and a week later he returned with
spade and mattock to explore the sepulchral spot. He found what he expected
- a skull crushed cruelly as if by savage blows - so returning to Albany
he openly charged the Martenses with the murder of their kinsman.
Legal evidence was lacking, but the story spread rapidly round the countryside;
and from that time the Martenses were ostracised by the world. No one would
deal with them, and their distant manor was shunned as an accursed place.
Somehow they managed to live on independently by the product of their estate,
for occasional lights glimpsed from far-away hills attested their continued
presence. These lights were seen as late as 1810, but toward the last they
became very infrequent.
Meanwhile there grew up about the mansion and the mountain a body of
diabolic legendry. The place was avoided with doubled assiduousness, and
invested with every whispered myth tradition could supply. It remained
unvisited till 1816, when the continued absence of lights was noticed by
the squatters. At that time a party made investigations, finding the house
deserted and partly in ruins.
There were no skeletons about, so that departure rather than death was
inferred. The clan seemed to have left several years before, and improvised
penthouses showed how numerous it had grown prior to its migration. Its
cultural level had fallen very low, as proved by decaying furniture and
scattered silverware which must have been long abandoned when its owners
left. But though the dreaded Martenses were gone, the fear of the haunted
house continued; and grew very acute when new and strange stories arose
among the mountain decadents. There it stood; deserted, feared, and linked
with the vengeful ghost of Jan Martense. There it still stood on the night
I dug in Jan Martense's grave.
I have described my protracted digging as idiotic, and such it indeed
was in object and method. The coffin of Jan Martense had soon been unearthed-it
now held only dust and nitre - but in my fury to exhume his ghost I delved
irrationally and clumsily down beneath where he had lain. God knows what
I expected to find-I only felt that I was digging in the grave of a man
whose ghost stalked by night.
It is impossible to say what monstrous depth I had attained when my
spade, and soon my feet, broke through the ground beneath. The event, under
the circumstances, was tremendous; for in the existence of a subterranean
space here, my mad theories had terrible confirmation. My slight fall had
extinguished the lantern, but I produced an electric pocket lamp and viewed
the small horizontal tunnel which led away indefinitely in both directions.
It was amply large enough for a man to wriggle through; and though no sane
person would have tried at that time, I forgot danger, reason, and cleanliness
in my single-minded fever to unearth the lurking fear. Choosing the direction
toward the house, I scrambled recklessly into the narrow burrow; squirming
ahead blindly and rapidly, and flashing but seldom the lamp I kept before
What language can describe the spectacle of a man lost in infinitely
abysmal earth; pawing, twisting, wheezing; scrambling madly through sunken
-convolutions of immemorial blackness without an idea of time, safety,
direction, or definite object? There is something hideous in it, but that
is what I did. I did it for so long that life faded to a far memory, and
I became one with the moles and grubs of nighted depths. Indeed, it was
only by accident that after interminable writhings I jarred my forgotten
electric lamp alight, so that it shone eerily along the burrow of caked
loam that stretched and curved ahead.
I had been scrambling in this way for some time, so that my battery
had burned very low, when the passage suddenly inclined sharply upward,
altering my mode of progress. And as I raised my glance it was without
preparation that I saw glistening in the distance two demoniac reflections
of my expiring lamp; two reflections glowing with a baneful and unmistakable
effulgence, and provoking maddeningly nebulous memories. I stopped automatically,
though lacking the brain to retreat. The eyes approached, yet of the thing
that bore them I could distinguish only a claw. But what a claw! Then far
overhead I heard a faint crashing which I recognized. It was the wild thunder
of the mountain, raised to hysteric fury - I must have been crawling upward
for some time, so that the surface was now quite near. And as the muffled
thunder clattered, those eyes still stared with vacuous viciousness.
Thank God I did not then know what it was, else I should have died.
But I was saved by the very thunder that had summoned it, for after a hideous
wait there burst from the unseen outside sky one of those frequent mountainward
bolts whose aftermath I had noticed here and there as gashes of disturbed
earth and fulgurites of various sizes. With Cyclopean rage it tore through
the soil above that damnable pit, blinding and deafening me, yet not wholly
reducing me to a coma. In the chaos of sliding, shifting earth I clawed
and floundered helplessly till the rain on my head steadied me and I saw
that I had come to the surface in a familiar spot; a steep unforested place
on the southwest slope of the mountain. Recurrent sheet lightnings illumed
the tumbled ground and the remains of the curious low hummock which had
stretched down from the wooded higher slope, but there was nothing in the
chaos to show my place of egress from the lethal catacomb. My brain was
as great a chaos as the earth, and as a distant red glare burst on the
landscape from the south I hardly realised the horror I had been through.
But when two days later the squatters told me what the red glare meant,
I felt more horror than that which the mould-burrow and the claw and eyes
had given; more horror because of the overwhelming implications. In a hamlet
twenty miles away an orgy of fear had followed the bolt which brought me
above ground, and a nameless thing had dropped from an overhanging tree
into a weak-roofed cabin. It had done a deed, but the squatters had fired
the cabin in frenzy before it could escape. It had been doing that deed
at the very moment the earth caved in on the thing with the claw and eyes.
IV. The Horror In The Eyes
Vol. 3, No. 3 (April 1923), p. 35-42.
There can be nothing normal in the mind of one who, knowing what I knew
of the horrors of Tempest Mountain, would seek alone for the fear that
lurked there. That at least two of the fear's embodiments were destroyed,
formed but a slight guarantee of mental and physical safety in this Acheron
of multiform diabolism; yet I continued my quest with even greater zeal
as events and revelations became more monstrous. When, two days after my
frightful crawl through that crypt of the eyes and claw, I learned that
a thing had malignly hovered twenty miles away at the same instant the
eyes were glaring at me, I experienced virtual convulsions of fright. But
that fright was so mixed with wonder and alluring grotesqueness, that it
was almost a pleasant sensation. Sometimes, in the throes of a nightmare
when unseen powers whirl one over the roofs of strange dead cities toward
the grinning chasm of Nis, it is a relief and even a delight to shriek
wildly and throw oneself voluntarily along with the hideous vortex of dream-doom
into whatever bottomless gulf may yawn. And so it was with the walking
nightmare of Tempest Mountain; the discovery that two monsters had haunted
the spot gave me ultimately a mad craving to plunge into the very earth
of the accursed region, and with bare hands dig out the death that leered
from every inch of the poisonous soil.
As soon as possible I visited the grave of Jan Martense and dug vainly
where I had dug before. Some extensive cave-in had obliterated all trace
of the underground passage, while the rain had washed so much earth back
into the excavation that I could not tell how deeply I had dug that other
day. I likewise made a difficult trip to the distant hamlet where the death-creature
had been burnt, and was little repaid for my trouble. In the ashes of the
fateful cabin I found several bones, but apparently none of the monster's.
The squatters said the thing had had only one victim; but in this I judged
them inaccurate, since besides the complete skull of a human being, there
was another bony fragment which seemed certainly to have belonged to a
human skull at some time. Though the rapid drop of the monster had been
seen, no one could say just what the creature was like; those who had glimpsed
it called it simply a devil. Examining the great tree where it had lurked,
I could discern no distinctive marks. I tried to find some trail into the
black forest, but on this occasion could not stand the sight of those morbidly
large boles, or of those vast serpent-like roots that twisted so malevolently
before they sank into the earth.
My next step was to reexamine with microscopic care the deserted hamlet
where death had come most abundantly, and where Arthur Munroe had seen
something he never lived to describe. Though my vain previous searches
had been exceedingly minute, I now had new data to test; for my horrible
grave-crawl convinced me that at least one of the phases of the monstrosity
had been an underground creature. This time, on the 14th of November, my
quest concerned itself mostly with the slopes of Cone Mountain and Maple
Hill where they overlook the unfortunate hamlet, and I gave particular
attention to the loose earth of the landslide region on the latter eminence.
The afternoon of my search brought nothing to light, and dusk came as
I stood on Maple Hill looking down at the hamlet and across the valley
to Tempest Mountain. There had been a gorgeous sunset, and now the moon
came up, nearly full and shedding a silver flood over the plain, the distant
mountainside, and the curious low mounds that rose here and there. It was
a peaceful Arcadian scene, but knowing what it hid I hated it. I hated
the mocking moon, the hypocritical plain, the festering mountain, and those
sinister mounds. Everything seemed to me tainted with a loathsome contagion,
and inspired by a noxious alliance with distorted hidden powers.
Presently, as I gazed abstractedly at the moonlit panorama, my eye became
attracted by something singular in the nature and arrangement of a certain
topographical element. Without having any exact knowledge of geology, I
had from the first been interested in the odd mounds and hummocks of the
region. I had noticed that they were pretty widely distributed around Tempest
Mountain, though less numerous on the plain than near the hilltop itself,
where prehistoric glaciation had doubtless found feebler opposition to
its striking and fantastic caprices. Now, in the light of that low moon
which cast long weird shadows, it struck me forcibly that the various points
and lines of the mound system had a peculiar relation to the summit of
Tempest Mountain. That summit was undeniably a centre from which the lines
or rows of points radiated indefinitely and irregularly, as if the unwholesome
Martense mansion had thrown visible tentacles of terror. The idea of such
tentacles gave me an unexplained thrill, and I stopped to analyse my reason
for believing these mounds glacial phenomena.
The more I analysed the less I believed, and against my newly opened
mind there began to beat grotesque and horrible analogies based on superficial
aspects and upon my experience beneath the earth. Before I knew it I was
uttering frenzied and disjointed words to myself; "My God!... Molehills...
the damned place must be honeycombed... how many... that night at the mansion...
they took Bennett and Tobey first... on each side of us..." Then I was
digging frantically into the mound which had stretched nearest me; digging
desperately, shiveringly, but almost jubilantly; digging and at last shrieking
aloud with some unplaced emotion as I came upon a tunnel or burrow just
like the one through which I had crawled on the other demoniac night.
After that I recall running, spade in hand; a hideous run across moon-litten,
mound-marked meadows and through diseased, precipitous abysses of haunted
hillside forest; leaping screaming, panting, bounding toward the terrible
Martense mansion. I recall digging unreasonably in all parts of the brier-choked
cellar; digging to find the core and centre of that malignant universe
of mounds. And then I recall how I laughed when I stumbled on the passageway;
the hole at the base of the old chimney, where the thick weeds grew and
cast queer shadows in the light of the lone candle I had happened to have
with me. What still remained down in that hell-hive, lurking and waiting
for the thunder to arouse it, I did not know. Two had been killed; perhaps
that had finished it. But still there remained that burning determination
to reach the innermost secret of the fear, which I had once more come to
deem definite, material, and organic.
My indecisive speculation whether to explore the passage alone and immediately
with my pocket-light or to try to assemble a band of squatters for the
quest, was interrupted after a time by a sudden rush of wind from the outside
which blew out the candle and left me in stark blackness. The moon no longer
shone through the chinks and apertures above me, and with a sense of fateful
alarm I heard the sinister and significant rumble of approaching thunder.
A confusion of associated ideas possessed my brain, leading me to grope
back toward the farthest corner of the cellar. My eyes, however, never
turned away from the horrible opening at the base of the chimney; and I
began to get glimpses of the crumbling bricks and unhealthy weeds as faint
glows of lightning penetrated the weeds outside and illumined the chinks
in the upper wall. Every second I was consumed with a mixture of fear and
curiosity. What would the storm call forth-or was there anything left for
it to call? Guided by a lightning flash I settled myself down behind a
dense clump of vegetation, through which I could see the opening without
If heaven is merciful, it will some day efface from my consciousness
the sight that I saw, and let me live my last years in peace. I cannot
sleep at night now, and have to take opiates when it thunders. The thing
came abruptly and unannounced; a demon, ratlike scurrying from pits remote
and unimaginable, a hellish panting and stifled grunting, and then from
that opening beneath the chimney a burst of multitudinous and leprous life
- a loathsome night-spawned flood of organic corruption more devastatingly
hideous than the blackest conjurations of mortal madness and morbidity.
Seething, stewing, surging, bubbling like serpents' slime it rolled up
and out of that yawning hole, spreading like a septic contagion and streaming
from the cellar at every point of egress - streaming out to scatter through
the accursed midnight forests and strew fear, madness, and death.
God knows how many there were - there must have been thousands. To see
the stream of them in that faint intermittent lightning was shocking. When
they had thinned out enough to be glimpsed as separate organisms, I saw
that they were dwarfed, deformed hairy devils or apes-monstrous and diabolic
caricatures of the monkey tribe. They were so hideously silent; there was
hardly a squeal when one of the last stragglers turned with the skill of
long practice to make a meal in accustomed fashion on a weaker companion.
0thers snapped up what it left and ate with slavering relish. Then, in
spite of my daze of fright and disgust, my morbid curiosity triumphed;
and as the last of the monstrosities oozed up alone from that nether world
of unknown nightmare, I drew my automatic pistol and shot it under cover
of the thunder.
Shrieking, slithering, torrential shadows of red viscous madness chasing
one another through endless, ensanguined condors of purple fulgurous sky...
formless phantasms and kaleidoscopic mutations of a ghoulish, remembered
scene; forests of monstrous over-nourished oaks with serpent roots twisting
and sucking unnamable juices from an earth verminous with millions of cannibal
devils; mound-like tentacles groping from underground nuclei of polypous
perversion... insane lightning over malignant ivied walls and demon arcades
choked with fungous vegetation... Heaven be thanked for the instinct which
led me unconscious to places where men dwell; to the peaceful village that
slept under the calm stars of clearing skies.
I had recovered enough in a week to send to Albany for a gang of men
to blow up the Martense mansion and the entire top of Tempest Mountain
with dynamite, stop up all the discoverable mound-burrows, and destroy
certain over-nourished trees whose very existence seemed an insult to sanity.
I could sleep a little after they had done this, but true rest will never
come as long as I remember that nameless secret of the lurking fear. The
thing will haunt me, for who can say the extermination is complete, and
that analogous phenomena do not exist all over the world? Who can, with
my knowledge, think of the earth's unknown caverns without a nightmare
dread of future possibilities? I cannot see a well or a subway entrance
without shuddering... why cannot the doctors give me something to make
me sleep, or truly calm my brain when it thunders?
What I saw in the glow of flashlight after I shot the unspeakable straggling
object was so simple that almost a minute elapsed before I understood and
went delirious. The object was nauseous; a filthy whitish gorilla thing
with sharp yellow fangs and matted fur. It was the ultimate product of
mammalian degeneration; the frightful outcome of isolated spawning, multiplication,
and cannibal nutrition above and below the ground; the embodiment of all
the snarling and chaos and grinning fear that lurk behind life. It had
looked at me as it died, and its eyes had the same odd quality that marked
those other eyes which had stared at me underground and excited cloudy
recollections. One eye was blue, the other brown. They were the dissimilar
Martense eyes of the old legends, and I knew in one inundating cataclysm
of voiceless horror what had become of that vanished family; the terrible
and thunder-crazed house of Martense.