31 October, 2017

The Missing Man - Annual Halloween Story

31 October 2017

Halloween R. Linda! 

"A time of ghouls and ghosts, of spooks and spectres, of whispers in empty rooms, of menace and mayhem. Listen as if your life depended upon it. Because tonight . . . it might."

I have a story for you from the 1890s. One of a ghost dog with no eyes, a coffin made out of snow, yes, strange stuff it be.

It all begins here in New England, Vermont to be exact, when there was a particularly bad winter of nor'easters that brought almost continuous snow. It all started one October around Halloween time. The white fluff slowly built and built and built. It was so high at times it was difficult for the residents of one small village to get out for essentials. This particular year one Michael McBride left his wife and three young children to go to work. The snow was falling heavy and thick, large flakes usually meant the snow would end soon, and with this in mind Michael ventured out. However, as he trudged through the cold white snow, the flakes became smaller and more intense and he knew too late the snow would accumulate even higher.

He made it to his work at a leather harness shop and toiled all day with an eye to the window as the snow continued to pile up. A few times he went out and shovelled it so customers could come in, but no one came. He told himself the walk home would be a trying one, but it was payday and he needed his pay to feed his young ones for the coming week.

Michael stayed a little longer than he usually would, hoping the snow might stop. When it did not he left with a bad feeling in his bones. Michael's way home was through the woods along a ridge by the river Middlebury. In places the river ran fast and somewhat deep, but the sound of it rushing over the rocks was one he listened for to keep himself on the path since it was hard to see in the dark.

Along the way he came upon two men who seemingly came out of nowhere. They stepped in his path
as he came up to them, giving him a strange feeling like a chill rippling along his spine.

"Halloo," he said as he met them.

They did not move, nor could he see there faces because they had wrapped scarfs just enough for their eyes to show. Their eyes did not look friendly in the dim light.

"May I pass?" He asked sidestepping but one caught him by the arm and the other came up behind him throwing his arm around Michael's throat and pulling tightly.

Michael swallowed, his adam's apple hurt from the man's pressure. He could not speak as they rifled through his pockets and found his pay. The man stuffed it in his own pockets and the other took a knife and thrust it in Michael's side several times. Then he threw him over the ridge where Michael, still alive, rolled down into a culvert near the edge of the freezing water.

Without even a backward glance the two murderers took off ignoring Michael's groaning pleas for help.  So badly were Michael's wounds he could not crawl to get himself out of the bloody culvert. He lay there bleeding for a long time, not a soul in sight to help. Soon the ebbing of his strength gave way to the cold and a numbness took him.

Meanwhile, at his home, his wife Mary looked out the window at the ever piling snow, worried he was late. Was he delayed, or had he lost his way? She was concerned but put on a brave face for the three children who asked too frequently for their father. Even their dog, a white boxer was whining and this made Mary more fretful. Unable to bear the dog's whimpering she opened the door and let him out. She watched as he ran like a flash in the direction her husband would come, faster and with more need than she'd ever seen him. He leaped over the snow like a deer until his coat blended in with his surroundings and she lost sight of him.

The dog somehow sensed its master was in trouble that night, as dogs do sense things we do not. It ran the long way to the river like its life depended upon it. As it neared the edge of the woods the two murderers were just coming out when they saw the dog. They knew who's dog it was and called it to them. The boxer stopped six feet from the men growling. The dog could smell his master's blood upon them and it lunged at the one with the knife. He had got the knife out but dropped it as the dog leaped and knocked him down, ripping at the man's hands as he fought to fend the boxer off. The other went for the knife and with a terrible force brought the blade down without looking and put out one of the dogs eyes, this caused the dog to yelp in pain and pull off but the other man held him, and once again his partner brought the blade down and took out the other eye. They let the dog go as it staggered about dying, its left paw pawing at its face, blind and bleeding.

"I'll finish it off," the one with knife said, and it was easy because the dog was blind and so straddling the animal he brought the blade down and under into the heart killing the boxer. They threw the carcass behind a huge boulder and left the scene.

It wasn't long before the snow covered the blood and there was no sign of any footprints or a struggle. Mary, meanwhile at home was left to get the children abed and fret with worry as she sat alone by the window waiting until dawn's light. The snow had reached blizzard proportions and for the next few days no one went about. Mary was able to get word out of her missing husband and his dog a week later. She had the hopes both had found the snow deep and impassable, and had the common sense to hunker down at a neighbours.

That turned out to be wishful thinking and as the winter progressed and the snow continued to pile up neither dog nor master returned. All sorts of scenarios went through Mary's mind. Had her husband left her? Taken his dog and gone forever? Had he been waylaid by robbers? Yet, no one reported any crime nor body found, but what about the dog? Where did it go in such a hurry? What did it sense? Was Michael not far and calling to him so they could leave together? Was that why the dog took off so quickly? She didn't know and these thoughts bedevilled her for months.

The spring finally came and still no word. Mary's worry turned to anger.

As the year past, Mary lost her home and had to give over her children to a magistrate. She had no money, she couldn't properly care for them and herself. With the loss came bitterness toward her missing husband. She moved south to Massachusetts to live with a sister as she could not abide Middlebury any longer.

It was three years past before Michael's body was found, nothing more than blackened bones caught in old sticks at the river's edge by two young boys out to fish. It was determined he had been murdered for his pay. By who they thought they knew, two vagrants that haunted the river at the time and knew Michael's movements and even worse when he got paid. They disappeared after the storm the year Michael disappeared and many wondered but no one voiced their suspicious until the body was found and the inquest finished.

They were never caught, Mary was told and relieved in a small way. She spent the rest of her life guilt-ridden about giving up her children and the ugly thoughts she had of her husband. She died of fever not long after, so it is hoped she found some peace.

But our story doesn't end there. No R. Linda, there is a footnote.

The little cottage that Michael and Mary lived in is still standing. It was used as a summer place through the years but not until recently was it redone over with modern plumbing, new electric lighting and some modern amenities. A young couple newly married bought it and fixed it up. They enjoyed their spring and summer there but when late October came they noticed a change in the feel of the place. A coldness seemed to fill the house and the newly refurbished fireplace could not take the chill away for some reason. Odd that. But odder still was the sound at the screen door at night. It sounded like a dog scratching to come in but there was no dog. Yet the screen was torn at the bottom of the door and there was no explanation.

Something wants in
When the snow came something strange appeared slowly by increments on their deck. The snow would build, and build, and build and with it a white coffin would appear on the top of the table.

At first the young couple wasn't sure what the snow was building until it became obvious what the shape looked like. Each time Tom, the young homeowner, would go out and shovel it off it would reform. Once they left the 'coffin' alone, something more bizarre would happen, the scratching at the door at night stopped and a dogs howl could be heard in the woods. Tom's wife Annie thought a few times she saw a white dog prowling at the edge of the woods, but she wasn't sure until one day she went outside with her two little ones to make a snowman in the falling snow. She was snapping pictures of them and their snowman when she spied the dog creeping along the woods edge. She put her camera on zoom and took these.

Definitely a boxer

She also took a picture of the coffin at night and then during the day.

Can you imagine seeing THIS at night?
Day shot just as unnerving
A postscript for you, the cottage is for sale. No explanation given.

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  1. CREEPY! BUT so very sad. I would never live in a house like that, too scary

  2. yikes! that is not something i'd want to see on my table.

  3. That coffin Matey is dire. Gives me the chilly willies!

  4. I think the Captain is right that coffin is chilling, excuse the pun. And here I was of a mind that a summer home in Vermont might be in my future. I think I will look across the Connecticut now LOL.