Mysterious forces are at play in the village of Maple Grove.
|Rebecca's Torment -
There aren't many stories to tell from my part of the world- none of a supernatural nature anyway- but there's one that's made the rounds from generation to generation and still lingers even after all these years. Now, everyone knows that stories of this nature have a tendency to be altered with each telling, so I took it upon myself to do some proper research into the truth behind the tale. As is to be expected, there are very few official records of the case surviving (actually, there are none), but through a little legwork and a lot of luck, I did manage to track down a relative of the Malleys who provided me with the actual diary of Miriam as well as a "faithful" version of the story. I also managed to find the related notes kept by Father MacLeod. Using these and bits of local lore, I managed to cobble together the following...
In the early part of the 19th century the small community of Maple Grove was an idyllic place to live. It wasn't much more than a settlement of a dozen or so farming families, but this fact only led to a stronger sense of unity among the residents. Whether a Lutz or MacDougall, Malley or Thebeau, everyone felt a part of the same family- which is what made the events of the summer of 1818 all the more traumatizing.
It all started when a few of the town folk began to notice a marked change in the appearance of Miriam Malley. Despite having a home, a husband and four children to tend to, she always maintained her appearance and carried herself with a grace uncommon among the other pioneers. But all of a sudden, she wasn't quite the same. Her face, once full and rosy had become gaunt and ashen; her once healthy body had become emaciated and stooped; even her temperament- which had always been of cheerful optimism- became dark and volatile. After a few weeks of this steady decline, Charles Lutz (the proprietor of the local mercantile) grew concerned enough to ask about her welfare.
She told him (in an unusually guarded manner) that it was nothing to worry about, only that her oldest daughter Rebecca had become "difficult" since her fiancee disappeared. When pressed for further details, she brushed off the subject and the matter was closed- for the time being. However, a few days later when she was found unconscious in her backyard beneath a freshly hung line of stained bed sheets, the neighbors decided to help- whether she wanted it or not.
They brought her into the house and laid her in bed while another ran to the fields to notify her husband Daniel. It took only a few moments for her to regain consciousness, and only a few more for Daniel to come bursting into the room, his face ruddy with toil and exertion. In a return to her previous gentle ways, Miriam sweetly assured the group that she was fine and had simply fallen victim to a dizzy spell. Any suggestions to have the doctor pay a visit were dismissed and eventually, the bunch of them left her to rest as they retired to the kitchen to speak with Daniel.
No sooner had they gotten settled around the table, when a low moaning began to echo down the hallway. As the Rafferty sisters started towards the kitchen door to check on Miriam, Daniel rushed from his seat and blocked their exit. Becoming quite agitated, he demanded the company leave, but when the moans rose in volume until they reached the pitch of a banshee scream, the men folk stepped up and pushed him aside. The lot of them went down the hall to where they had left Miriam moments before only to realize that the sounds weren't coming from her room, but from one further down.
Between Daniel pleading with them to let the matter rest and be on their way, Miriam calling from her bed for help and the strange gobbling shrieks which came from the sealed room, the commotion was almost unbearable. It was only when Charles Lutz' voice boomed over them all for calm that a silence descended. A few comforting words later and Daniel agreed to let the group in to inspect the source of the noises- much to Miriam's displeasure.
Once inside, they were all shocked into stunned silence- with the exception of the younger Rafferty, who fled from the room in tears- at the sight of the limp form of Rebecca Malley who was lying on her back on a blood stained mattress and whimpering softly. At this, the atmosphere in the room became quite charged with some demanding to know why no help was given to the stricken young woman, while others made not-so-veiled accusations against Daniel. The situation was about to come to blows when Miriam appeared in the doorway, pleading to be heard. It was only after she conceded to a call from the doctor (for her and her daughter) that the neighbours agreed to hear her out. As Lutz rode for the doctor, the rest helped Miriam back to bed (with the exception of Daniel, who stayed with his daughter) where once settled, she told the story of Rebecca's affliction.
The trouble started when Rebecca had begun being courted by Claude Lebrun, a local trapper. As the courtship grew serious and the pair became engaged, Miriam had noticed a change in her daughter's moods. A certain darkness had replaced her general cheerfulness and she had taken to disappearing for days at a time. When questioned about it, Rebecca would fly into a fit of rage and disappear again. Fearful that she would damage their relationship, Miriam stopped bringing it up; After all, she was a grown woman now, and soon to marry. Yet all that changed when one sunny afternoon she came bursting into the kitchen visibly distraught. All that Miriam could get out of her was that Claude was "gone". Where or how he had vanished was never clarified, but after a few days of absence, it was clear that the once attentive beau was no longer around. From there, Rebecca's mood changed from petulant to melancholy, and she sank even deeper into the darkness. This carried on for weeks, but she had seemed to be coming around when the most recent developments began occurring.
It was the middle of the night when the screams from her room alerted the household. Daniel and Miriam both rushed to he assistance but when they entered her chambers, they found her alone and sitting up in bed, her face a mask of terror. As the concerned parents tried to console her, she claimed to have been attacked by the same one that had taken Claude. It was then that Miriam first noticed the strange, faint slashes along Rebecca's legs. Figuring she had simply hurt herself in the throes of a nightmare, they comforted her the best they could with kind words and assurances. But the next night it happened again- and then the night after- until it got to the point that her unseen attacker would strike whenever she was alone. Most disturbing of all was how the faint wounds had grown to deep lacerations that ran from ankle to thigh. They never reached out for help because they feared such a tale would conjure up associations with the Devil, which would have left the whole family ostracized and possibly cast out. Instead they had been trying to cure her ills with loving care and earnest prayer.
The neighbours felt that despite her best efforts and intentions, the situation seemed beyond her capabilities and Miriam quietly agreed. Shortly thereafter, Charles Lutz returned with Dr. Hannington and Father Macleod. How or why the parish priest arrived with the other two was never explained.
The doctor was ushered into Rebecca's room while the priest went to speak with Miriam. Together they prayed and she recounted the story for him. After the doctor finished examining and dressing Rebecca's wounds, he and the priest switched places with the former tending to Miriam and the latter seeing to Rebecca. After a light dose of laudenum to soothe her nerves, the doctor explained how it appeared that Rebecca's injuries were clearly the result of outside forces and nothing to do with internal malady. Both of them ran through a number of possibilities regarding who would want to harm her in this way. all to no avail. Dr. Hannington then suggested that he have a colleague from out east come to check on her daughter. This man (the doctor explained) was trained in illnesses of the brain and might be able to offer a solution to her condition. As the implication that Rebecca might be doing this to herself sunk in, Miriam became agitated and demanded the doctor leave immediately. Father MacLeod returned from Rebecca's room just as Dr. Hannington was on his way out.
The diagnosis of the priest was more in line with Miriam's way of thinking. Perhaps because of the laudanum, but more likely because she was a devout Catholic she eagerly agreed to his plan of action. His interpretation of the situation was that Rebecca was being plagued by a demon and the only course was to perform the rites of exorcism. A demon could be explained by her affiliation with Claude Lebrun, who had been accused of practicing the dark arts. The rumours were dismissed at first since they had been started by a jilted suitor of Rebecca's, but her increasingly odd behaviour, Claude's disappearance and her recent agonies all seemed to lend credence to the story. With great hope, Miriam agreed to allow Father MacLeod to begin the exorcism as soon as possible.
The next morning, the rites began. Father MacLeod arrived at the Malley farm shortly after sunrise in full robe carrying a small leather case. After sharing a greeting and prayer with the family assembled in the kitchen, he retired to the back room with the instruction to not be disturbed unless called for.
The rest of the day passed in surprising peace. No sounds were heard from the room apart from the Father's prayers and occasional shouted challenge. But for the first time in weeks, Rebecca had spent most of the day in restful silence. As day turned to night, the Malleys felt a relief they thought would never return at the apparent success of the exorcism. Miriam wanted to thank the priest and perhaps offer him some food or drink (since he hadn't emerged from the room all day), but Daniel reminded her of their orders to not disturb him. After all, the voice coming down the hallway wasn't faltering and they didn't want to risk undoing any progress made. Surely he would inform them when it was done and then they could feed him with whatever they had to offer.
Father MacLeod, however, didn't share the same optimism as the parents. It started out as best as could be expected (considering this was his first time performing an exorcism), with a few simple prayers and a command for the demon to present itself. When this method garnered no results, he started again with more assertiveness. As the day wore on with no change, he realized that he had to devise a more effective method of inciting the demon to confrontation. He began dousing poor Rebecca with holy water while hollering prayers with no effect. When that failed he turned to insults; ridiculing the demon for its cowardice in the face of the Almighty. By the time the sky began to lighten in the east, both exorcist and tormented were spent- and no further ahead than when they had started. When the sun broke over the horizon, Father MacLeod decided to take a break to eat and discuss the situation with the Malleys.
As he entered the kitchen, Miriam rushed to her daughter's room with a pitcher of water and a small plate of food for her. The Father quietly sat at the table and quietly ate a meager breakfast of eggs and biscuits waiting for Miriam to return so he could speak to mother and father at the same time. When she came back, they had barely the time to begin a discussion before the screaming commenced. The trio ran to Rebecca's room and threw open the door to see her writhing on the bed in agony, with fresh wounds having appeared on her legs. Feeling that the demon had finally shown itself, Father MacLeod asked for Daniel and Miriam to leave the room so he could conduct his battle. For the rest of the afternoon, the priest's shouts and Rebecca's whimpering filled the house until around suppertime when he took another break. This time when Miriam attempted to bring her daughter food, the priest refused her, explaining that the demon would have to fight in earnest if the body it possessed was denied energy upon which to feed. Miriam agreed with uncertainty, feeling the holy man knew what he was doing.
For the next several days, the exorcism continued with Father Macleod taking only short breaks and Rebecca improving but slightly. In fact, it still seemed that she was tormented by something whenever alone, it was just that she wasn't alone as often. Daniel began to suspect that if she went back to spending her days with little supervision, the attacks would return to their previous frequency or perhaps even more so. And although Miriam in her blind devotion to faith trusted the Father to eventually succeed, Daniel was beginning to have his doubts. He knew that if Rebecca wasn't allowed food, she would soon begin a different sort of decline. It was with these thoughts in mind that he decided to seek out Dr. Hannington without Miriam's knowledge. A brief conversation later, and Hannington agreed to set up a meeting with his colleague at the earliest convenience.
It only took a few days before the arrival of Dr. Hannington's associate- a "Mental Physiologist" by the name of Dr. Harlon Frost. Upon his arrival, he wasted little time on introductions and proceeded directly to Rebecca's room. Father MacLeod, who had been continuing the exorcism ( still with no results) and who hadn't been informed of Dr. Frost's involvement was taken aback by the sudden appearance of the "bespectacled little man". After a cursory explanation of his identity and purpose, he turned from the priest and focused on Rebecca. The past week had taken a heavy toll on the young woman's appearance. Having no food and improper rest had left her withered and ashen. However she seemed lucid enough to speak with the doctor and answer the questions directed to her.
Afterwards, he joined the Malleys in the kitchen where Father MacLeod was protesting the appearance of the doctor. Disregarding the priest's criticisms, Dr. Frost gave his diagnosis to the parents. He concluded that if no outside forces (such as people or animals) were responsible, the only other possibility was that she was doing it to herself. Especially considering the attacks only happened when she was alone. He went on to explain that although Rebecca may seem of sound mind, it was not uncommon for those suffering mental illness to experience brief bouts of psychosis followed by periods of seemingly normal behaviour. He also reasoned that the emotional pain of losing her fiance could have been the catalyst for her current state. He then recommended that she be admitted to a sanitarium on the east coast where she could be watched over by trained staff around the clock.
The Malleys forbid any further discussion along those lines; Rumours of what transpired in those places had made their way even to Maple Grove and they refused to send their daughter to suffer any further trauma. Miriam would listen no further and demanded that this doctor leave her home as well- which Frost did without argument. Daniel, however, felt that the strain had affected his wife's decision making abilities and was willing to try just about anything to save his daughter. So, in the hopes that another solution could be found - one that didn't require Rebecca to be shipped away- he followed the doctor outside. Father MacLeod, feeling a small victory of his faith over science, worried about what discussion may transpire between the doctor and Daniel and followed the pair in turn.
Daniel had just begun to ask about their options when the priest interrupted him. His wife had already sent the doctor away, he explained, and his services were clearly no longer welcome. He then asked for Daniel to return to the kitchen to pray before he could resume the exorcism and undo whatever damage the doctor had done. At this the doctor grew angry at the insinuation, claiming the priest had done far more harm than good as evidenced by the girl's deplorable condition. The argument grew even more heated from there with poor Daniel caught in the middle when a whimpering that rose to a wail cut them off.
The trio had been debating right outside of Rebecca's bedroom window and they all turned to the source of the noise. Looking through the glass, they witnessed something that none of them had suspected. There on the bed lay the agonized form of Rebecca, twisting and kicking at something near the foot of the bed. The brightness of the day and the gloominess of the room made it hard to see, but even the doctor and the priest agreed on some of the details. What they saw (according to Father MacLeod's journal) was a odd-shaped, glistening black creature latched on to Rebecca's legs. Of appendages there were none to be seen save for odd flowing tendrils that would bulge from its sides and enfold its victim's lower half. Glowing crimson eyes glared hatefully at the girl from a face that was mostly razor sharp teeth which, even as the group looked on, began tearing new and familiar wounds in her legs.
The vision was mercifully short, since her screaming had brought her mother running from the kitchen.But before the door could fully fly open, the men outside the window saw the creature shift and seem to absorb into the mattress and by the time Miriam was in the room, it was gone.
After that the story pretty much ends. There isn't much documentation regarding the incident that has survived over the years. Only the journals of Miriam and notes of Father MacLeod, which were handed down through the generations and treasured by the descendants who saw their importance. There are also a few snippets of information gleaned from various sources such as newspaper announcements and census results. Pieced together, a person could almost make up a somewhat satisfying end to the tale.
But, I'll stick to the facts...
The afternoon of the sighting, the Malleys packed what they could and left their home, never to return. The house sat abandoned and shunned, and no records exist of it ever being occupied until it eventually collapsed. The rubble of the home sat where it fell until almost a century later when it was bulldozed and paved over to make way for a Dairy Queen.
The Malleys themselves apparently resumed a normal life, moving to the nearby burgeoning town of Granville and fading into the obscurity of time. In a strange little twist, the man of God turned to the bottle and the man of science turned to God.
Indeed, Father MacLeod kept only brief and sporadic notes after his experience- most of them pertaining to his loss of faith, both in himself and in his God. It was around this time that the little Catholic church that served the Maple Grove area welcomed a new priest to serve the parishioners, with no mention being made of Father MacLeod's departure. Records from the time show that he passed away a few years later of "consumption" and was buried in a pauper's grave. Dr. Frost, however found a spiritual awakening that day. He claimed that with what he witnessed, he understood that there were some things beyond the ability of man to contend with and therefore gave himself over to a higher power. He eventually became a minister (of the Protestant stripe) and even wound up officiating at the wedding of Rebecca Malley (who had converted after what she saw as Catholicism's failure) and the subsequent baptisms of her five children.
And that's about it. It's a rather spotty and anti-climactic tale, but it remains as one of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries to come from my neck of the woods.