Title: Tales For The Midnight Hour
Author: Judith Bauer “J.B.” Stamper
Cover Artist: ???
My original plan to cover the second half of this book was to have the recap finished during the summer, preferably August to go alongside “Escape from Vampire Park,” and yet again I was delayed. I’m trying to use November as a catch-up month to finish a few things before December so I can focus on more holiday related recaps.
Looking back I have to say I’m more fond of the stories in the book’s first half, and the only story in this section I favor is “Phobia.” Amusingly, the last tale sets up an ongoing theme Stamper reused for the next three collections featuring the same cast of campers even though the stories aren’t connected by anything else. [Wing: Okay, using the same cast is interesting. I look forward to seeing those stories if we can track down copies.]
The Old Plantation
[Wing: I see this going well.]
Jonas Ellerby traveled down South on behalf of the firm of Stanton and Stanton, to inspect [INSERT TITLE HERE]. The firm represented the plantation’s former owner, Mr. Whitgover. Since the estate was now bankrupt, there were plans to have the plantation torn down to sell the land. Although some of the locals claimed the house had a strange reputation, Jonas was going to spend the night in the plantation before the demolition was scheduled. He wanted to assess the land for the firm.
Being a Northerner, Jonas only had the idea of southern plantations from movies. [INSERT TITLE HERE] was a bit of disappointment to him, since it’d clearly seen better days.
Jonas looked up at the second story of the house. Something was wrong with it. The rooms sagged at a crazy angle to one side. The roof looked as thought it had been blown on by too many storms. And the color of the house was not the blinding-bright whiteness of the plantations in the movies. It was a dull gray, an almost rotten gray color. It was a dying house.
Approaching the plantation in the evening twilight, Jonas thought he saw a light flickering out in one of the second story windows but dismissed it as his imagination. He walked around the perimeter of the plantation house first, seeing a lone rocking chair on the veranda. Jonas was practically assaulted by the smell of damp and decay when he entered the front door, wondering how long it’d been since a human being lived in this house.
Inspecting every room filled with moldy, dusty furnishings, Jonas found a small bedroom on the second floor that would serve as his lodgings for the night. The room was neat and lacked the damp stench, the bed and sheets old but clean. With no electricity in the mansion, the only source of light would come from a candle on a nightstand table. Jonas found a box of matches and lit the candle, the glow of the flame revealing a book in the darkness. The title on the cover read [INSERT TITLE HERE].
Before going to bed, Jonas explored the veranda one last time. The experience was more unnerving than he expected, as Jonas felt completely isolated from the outside world. The only sounds besides his breathing were the crickets and the wind through the trees. Jonas was starting to regret this idea, especially when the mosquitoes started to bite. One managed to pierce his cheek.
Jonas hurried back to the bedroom to get some sleep, but slumber alluded him. By candlelight, Jonas decided to read the book on the nightstand. The first page read:
The story is about a young man, a Northerner, who comes to the South on business. One night, he drives his car up to an old Southern plantation. He decides to spend the night in the old house, even though he is all alone there…
If Jonas was uncomfortable before, he’s practically terrified now. He tried to tell himself it was just a coincidence and would prove there was nothing scary about the book by reading more.
In the story, the young man has turned in for the night, after having gone out on the veranda for a while. His face is still swollen from a mosquito bite he has gotten there. He scratches the bite.
L-lots of people get mosquito bites, Wing.
[Wing: Lots of people have books narrating their actions too, I suppose.]
Now Jonas is trembling. He looks up and sees a cockroach climbing on the ceiling and oh I did not need to imagine that as Jonas tries to keep reading out of fear of what will happen next.
The young man in the story sees a book by his bedstand. The title of the book is The Old Plantation. He picks it up and begins to read. As he reads the first chapter, his face takes on a look of fear. Then, slowly, a look of understanding comes over his face,
Jonas doesn’t know what to make of this, not sure what the man in the story understands.
The young man continues to read The Old Plantation. The more he reads, the more frightened he becomes. Finally, he finishes the book. Then the young man lays the book back down on the nightstand. He knows there is nothing he can do. Nothing he can do… but wait…
[Wing: Okay, book, that is cheating! You can’t suddenly break off into things that haven’t happened to him yet.]
Every page afterwards is blank, and Jonas’s fear intensifies wondering what he was supposed to wait for. Looking outside the window, Jonas notices the trees have stopped moving. The sound of the crickets has stopped. The silence is broken by the sound of a car approaching the plantation. Jonas quickly puts the candle out and hides under the covers, terrified of what was coming until the understanding finally came…
Downstairs, Jonas Ellerby entered the plantation. He was spending the night to assess the land for his firm. Jonas was going to sleep in a neat little empty room with clean sheets on the bed, a partially burned candle on the nightstand, and an old book on the table.
Maybe he’d read the book before going to sleep.
(This story has a feel similar to the end of the black and white anthology horror movie, “Dead of Night,” where the protagonist awakens from the nightmare he had about the several stories and then leaves for the same house where the stories took place in a repeat of the beginning)
[Wing: Well, this was quite a letdown. I liked it until the point where he crawled under the covers to hide. I like timeloops sometimes, but this was not really that. Might have worked better for me if he found himself writing the book at some point, but even then, I don’t know, the ending is rushed and pointless.]
Ellen had always been afraid of mice, and what she went through in the city not only validated her phobia it made it far worse.
One warm summer evening Ellen treated herself to dinner at a restaurant on the edge of the large city park. It was still light out so Ellen felt like walking straight through the park to reach her apartment building on the other side. Too bad Ellen immediately regretted this decision. The leafy trees made the path seem darker, and Ellen felt uneasy. She picked the worst possible time to remember some of the stories she heard about what went on in the park at night.
Ellen tried to pick up the pace in order to get home faster. Getting out from the shaded path and seeing the sky was still light made her feel slightly better and she slowed down. Maybe she’d been overthinking things, but she hoped she might pass by other people on the path. She was close to the lake in the center of the park, which meant it would take longer to get home if she turned around. The sounds of the city seemed muted deep in the park, and all Ellen could hear was the wind through the trees…
And the footsteps.
Behind her, Ellen could hear someone approaching. Yet this person didn’t walk past Ellen, they were walking in step matching her stride. When she slowed down, the footsteps behind her slowed down. When Ellen sped up, they sped up. [Wing: Yeah, that’s creepy as hell.] Fearing what would happen if she tried to run, Ellen desperately attempted to consider how to lose her new stalker. She prayed that someone, anyway, would appear on the lake path in front of her. Sadly, by the time Ellen reached the lake shore she was all alone save her unwanted travel companion.
Before the stranger caught up with her, Ellen dove behind a dense clump of bushes and hoped to hide until her pursuer lost interest. By now the sun had vanished and night fell, adding to the already thick darkness. From her hiding spot, Ellen could just make out the figure of a man appearing on the path. With his back to Ellen, the man walked over to a nearby bench and sat down.
Ellen continued to watch, hoping at some point the man would get up and leave. She hoped again for the arrival of other people, so that she might leave the bushes and blend in with them on their way out of the park as a cover of protection. The man didn’t move and Ellen began to fear he was toying with her, knew where she was and waited for her to reveal herself. Ellen’s nightmare intensified when she noticed something small moving towards the man. A rat! Listening to the scratch of rodent claws on concrete, Ellen needed all her willpower not to scream. For as long as she could remember, the sight of a simple field mouse was enough to send her into hysterics.
Revulsion emerging next to terror, Ellen watched as three more rats joined the first and quickly stopped in front of the man on the bench. A rustle in a nearby bush almost made Ellen scream, and she feared one of the rats coming towards her. She didn’t have to worry about that, because instead of ONE rodent, ALL OF THEM came towards her!
While the four rats scurried to the bushes where Ellen hid, the man got up from the bench and headed towards her as well. Ellen started to panic and stumbled backwards, her foot going through a hole in the ground…
And into a NEST OF BABY RATS!
[Wing: Oh no, poor baby rats! Though I feel for Ellen. If I stepped into a nest of, well, you know, I would probably die of terror on the spot.]
Squealing, horrid little rats swarmed over Ellen’s foot. She swung around trying to get the rodents off, stepping on one and making it squeal in pain. Ellen couldn’t take it any longer and broke from the bushes, finding herself face to face with her stalker. Under the light of the half moon, Ellen finally caught a glimpse of the man’s face only to discover he had THE HEAD OF A RAT.
Screaming in raw terror, Ellen ran and ran as fast as she could until she got out of the park and reached the safety of her apartment.
But from that night on, Ellen could never feel truly safe. The trauma of that night and the image of the rat-headed man haunted her wherever she went.
She could never escape from him.
The Train Through Transylvania
[Wing: I’m a fan of that alliteration.]
Stephanie Archer was traveling by train through Romania with her younger brother Robert and their mom Rita. Rita was bringing the kids to meet up with their dad in Bucharest. Robert was annoying Stephanie by reading from “Dracula” out loud, figuring Transylvania was the perfect place to enjoy the bloodsucking tale. [Wing: A thematic reader. I appreciate you, Robert.] Asking if Stephanie’s afraid of vampires, Robert’s ordered to stop bothering his sister when the train stops at a station in Mehadia. The family is joined by a traveling companion, a friendly older man who introduces himself as Dr. Maurer. Just as the train begins to depart for the next station, one more person enters the compartment. A middle aged man with pale skin, black hair, and ruby red lips.
The new arrival sits next to Stephanie by the window. Stephanie looked at her brother and he seemed to feel the same way about the stranger. There was something so off about him, like he drained the life out of the room. Stephanie couldn’t help but feel cold and asked Robert to get her sweater from one of the bags in the overhead compartment. As Robert got up his book fell to the floor; the man picked up the copy of “Dracula” and smirked.
It started to grow darker outside and Rita asked Robert to turn the light on so they could read better. Dr. Maurer stopped Robert, advising Rita that sunset in this part of the countryside is especially beautiful to behold. Stephanie wished she could enjoy seeing the sights if not for this man so close to her. When the train took a sharp turn, the man didn’t even budge as Stephanie fell against him. Those eyes…
Suddenly, the train reached a station in Orsova and the man left. Stephanie and Robert watched from the window as the man approached a younger woman and the two kissed. The Archer siblings couldn’t help but laugh and laugh at how foolishly they’d been acting. Rita tsk-tsked and got up to use the washroom. As she stood, she noticed in the mirror behind her the doctor had left at some point. But when she turned around, he was still there!
The train went through a dark tunnel, and when it emerged on the other side the doctor had vanished.
Stephanie slumped forward, mumbling something with a smile on her face as drops of blood trickled down the holes in her neck.
[Wing: Not a surprise twist at all, but I did like it. I appreciate when a story nods to the idea that appearances are deceiving and if you get too caught up in one thing, you’ll miss the real dangers. Also the image of the train going through a tunnel and the doctor swooping in to feed and then disappear is gorgeously creepy.]
The Attic Door
Rosalyn was on vacation, visiting her Aunt Harriet for the first time in years. She planned to spend a couple of weeks at her aunt’s home, surrounded by a cast iron gate and a garden. Rosalyn was already a bit uneasy due to the heavy, suffocating scent of lilacs from the garden, the lilac perfume her aunt seemed to bathe, and the lilac coloring of the guest room.
Aunt Harriet was thrilled to finally have Rosalyn visit, after all the time spent trying to get Rosalyn’s parents to let her come. Rosalyn knew her dad and aunt had some falling out because of Harriet’s late husband Arthur, and she knew it’d been four years since Uncle Arthur committed suicide.
While Rosalyn initially thought her aunt lived alone, she was startled by the appearance of Harriet’s pet parrot.
And of course the bird’s named Polly because it’s a parrot.
Too bad Rosalyn hates parrots and tried not to go near the bird’s cage. After being shown to her room, Rosalyn was given time to settle in and then had tea and cake with Harriet. Harriet mentioned how tiresome it can be, not having much company in the house. Surveying the old furnishings and knickknacks in the room, Rosalyn noticed a photo of a young man she assumed was her cousin Herman. Harriet choked a bit at the mention of her son and Rosalyn apologized for her lack of tact. Though she’d never met Herman, Rosalyn knew they’d been born in the same year…
And that Herman died a month before Arthur took his life.
[Wing: Okay, this is heartbreaking.]
Rosalyn admits she regretted not getting to know her cousin and adds she cried when she heard about his death. Harriet asks they not talk about the past and offers to show Rosalyn the rest of the house.
Apparently Harriet can’t follow her own advice, as she gets swept up discussing her husband’s career as a biologist. Showing Rosalyn the room Arthur used for his experiments and research, Harriet talks about what a genius Arthur was as a scientist. He studied human mutations and was on the verge of making several breakthroughs with his discoveries, but his compatriots in the field couldn’t see the value of his work. Seems Arthur had to leave his job at a university because of some scandal. [Wing: Scandal drove him from work, scandal split the family — were you building mutants and bringing people back from the dead, Uncle Arthur? Because it sure sounds like you were building mutants and bringing people back from the dead.]
Harriet tells Rosalyn she can’t touch anything in Arthur’s old rooms, as she wants to keep them preserved for a time when society can finally recognize his genius. Rosalyn’s also instructed the only part of the house she’s not allowed in is the attic. And she’ll regret it if she doesn’t listen to her aunt.
Over the next few days Rosalyn tried to keep busy, but tedium was setting in quickly. There were no other kids her age in the area, and her aunt wasn’t much company. Harriet asked questions about Rosalyn’s dad, but changed the subject whenever Rosalyn mentioned Herman. One day Harriet was invited to tea at a friend’s house and invited Rosalyn to come along. Rosalyn figured she might get bored and decided to stay at the house.
Trying to find something to do, Rosalyn attempted to read a novel she brought with her but surprisingly lost interest. With nothing to do on this dud of a vacation, the only tantalizing prospect Rosalyn could think was to explore the attic. Despite Harriet’s warning, Rosalyn figured her aunt already proved she was a few tea cakes shy of a whole tray if you know what I mean. Harriet didn’t even bother to lock [INSERT TITLE HERE].
The moment Rosalyn reached the top of the attic stairs, she saw that, that THING! Half animal and half human, Rosalyn wasn’t sure what she was looking at and screamed. The creature chased Rosalyn throughout the house and into the garden which was blocked off by a stone wall and the fence. By the time Rosalyn thought to leave through the front door, the creature followed her back into the house. Rosalyn fell in the hallway, and the monster towered over, reached out its big, hairy arm, and said…
“Tag, you’re it!”
When Rosalyn regained consciousness, she found her aunt and the monster looking down at her. Harriet was really upset Rosalyn didn’t listen to her, and now she’s gotten poor Herman so worked up. He just hasn’t been the same since Arthur experimented on him. But don’t worry, because now Rosalyn will have lots of time to get to know her cousin better. All it takes is a phone call to let Rosalyn’s parents know she never arrived, and then Harriet’ll fix up some space in the attic for her.
They’ll be one, big, happy family.
[Wing: Called it! Well, not the bringing people back from the dead part, but the other part. Also, is the implication that Herman killed his dad, or maybe that Harriet did? Because at this point, that’s my takeaway. Also ALSO, why hasn’t Harriet already checked in with her parents to let them know she’s arrived? It’s certainly been long enough.]
The Tunnel of Terror
Ellen, Jane and Diane always attended the big Ohio State Fair at the end of summer before school started. This year was turning out to be a snooze fest, since the girls didn’t see anything different from last year. The Ferris Wheel, the Wild Mouse, the freak show, etc.. Ellen was the one to notice the walkway leading to a ride they hadn’t tried yet, a boat ride called [INSERT TITLE HERE]. The three friends dared one another to try it out, but only Ellen was brave enough to go alone. The carny running the ride grinned at the idea of Ellen going alone.
Descending into the darkness of the tunnel, Ellen started to have second thoughts when lights began to display different scenes of torture and dismemberment. A man getting stretched on a rack, another getting his head cut off by guillotine. Something wet and slimy brushed against Ellen’s face in the darkness and she screamed. Suddenly, the boat shifted and Ellen felt something huge and hairy pressed against her. She thought this was all part of the ride and assumed the large mass would leave at some point.
Outside, Jane and Diane could hear Ellen’s screams and laughed. The carny thought she was sure enjoying herself, until the girls noticed something odd. Ellen was now screaming continuously, and the scream was quickly becoming hysterical. The girls grew worried and asked if the carny could speed things up when they heard an announcement. Officials were warning attendees that a gorilla escaped from the fair’s zoo!
At that moment, the boat emerged from the tunnel exit as Ellen kept screaming with the gorilla next to her.
While Ellen was physically unharmed, they had to take her to the mental hospital in Pleasant Valley. [Wing: …but why? It’s just a gorilla. Those few minutes shouldn’t have terrified her that much? Also, how in the world did the gorilla get inside the ride without being noticed?]
(God I hope this isn’t the same Ellen from “Phobia.”)
The Fortune Teller
Mr. Peebles didn’t believe in stuff like fortune telling, but his wife had persuaded him to give it a try. He didn’t expect this so-called fortune teller would have anything interesting to say, but he wanted to play along for his wife’s sake. The fortune teller’s chamber was decorated in red and black, with silk curtains and tapestries. The room smelled of smoke when the fortune teller emerged and beckoned Mr. Peebles to sit with her in the other room.
Mr. Peebles couldn’t help but admit this woman had a very powerful presence and joined her at a table with a blue crystal ball. The fortune teller order Peebles to look in her eyes, and she could tell he’s suffered misfortune. Peebles was shocked as the woman revealed she knew he recently lost his job and was worried about the future. She knows he fears the hand of death tightening around his neck. Peebles admitted he’s afraid of death, and he’s afraid life has passed him by.
The fortune teller tried to comfort Mr. Peebles by looking into her crystal ball. Humming to herself as she stared into the glowing blue orb, the picture she sees is not one he wants to hear. The woman exclaims his future is black, and death is after him. Peebles is horrified as the fortune teller says all he can do is accept the inevitability of death and make sure his loved ones are provided for. Thinking of his dear wife, Peebles leaves the chamber and heads home.
Peebles told his loving Margaret all about the fortune teller’s grim predictions. He assured his much younger wife she’ll be taken care of in the event of his death, and plans to take out a life insurance policy worth 100 grand. Margaret told her husband to stop this obsessing with death and regretted convincing him to see the fortune teller in the first place.
The next day, Peebles headed to the office of his insurance agent and set up the policy against the agent’s advice. Driving back home, Peebles was lost in morbid thought and almost drove into the path of an oncoming train. Margaret was horrified when told about his brush with death and started sobbing on the couch, even as Peebles told her about the insurance.
Trying to keep himself occupied, Peebles went into the garage to finish one of his mini woodworking projects and only just avoided getting stabbed by a knife falling off a shelf. In a stupefied daze, Peebles tried to isolate himself in his study out of fear of his upcoming death. He wouldn’t eat and he wouldn’t talk to Margaret. Finally, Peebles thought to take an evening walk on a path of deserted road near their house. No one was allowed to drive on that road so Peebles thought he’d be okay. As soon as he left the house, his wife made a phone call…
After finally being able to relax during his walk, Peebles was shaken from his peaceful thoughts by the sight of two headlights coming toward him. Death! Death had come for him at least! And the form death took behind the wheel of the car was the fortune teller with her crystal ball on the dashboard.
…well who needed a crystal ball to see that coming?
[Wing: Ooooh, and then the fortune teller and Margaret lived together in queer luxury for the rest of their lives.]
The Stuffed Dog
Mrs. Heathcote took great care of the dog. She regularly dusted it and made sure to rub oil in its hair. In life, it had been a black boxer that belonged to her husband. The two were inseparable. They even died the same day. That’s why the medical officer had autopsies done on both to figure out if they were killed by the same thing, but the results were inconclusive. Mrs. Heathcote couldn’t bring herself to have the dog buried, so she had a taxidermist stuff the dog instead. She’s kept it in her study for twenty years. [Wing: …so where are you keeping your husband then?]
Now, on the anniversary of her husband’s death, Mrs. Heathcote would bring the dog to the cemetery and place it on top of Mr. Heathcote’s grave. She was getting on in years though and needed help moving the dog, so she asked her grandson Theodore to help. 12 year old Theodore wasn’t keen on this arrangement, and was especially annoyed his grandma kept calling him “Teddy.” He never knew his grandfather and he especially hated that stuffed dog, but his mom convinced him to help his grandmother by spending the weekend with her.
Theodore hated touching the stuffed dog because it felt so oily and gross. He didn’t like sitting in the front seat of his grandma’s car with the dog wedged between them. The reason he loathed the dog so much is because of an incident when he was younger. Mrs. Heathcote once locked Theodore in the study as punishment, leaving him all alone with the stuffed dog. Theodore was terrified of the thing because of the snarl frozen on its face. The way the dog stared at Theodore haunted him in his dreams, and he’s hated the dog ever since.
With the dog placed on her husband’s grave, Mrs. Heathcote couldn’t help but go teary-eyed seeing her husband reunited with his closest friend. She spent a half hour at the grave while Theodore wandered, trying to stay as far away from the dog as possible. When it was time to leave, Theodore went to pick up the dog and then dropped it. His grandmother got angry at this carelessness, but Theodore couldn’t bring himself to say the dog felt warm. Like, like it was alive.
Theodore refused to sit in the front again and plopped the dog back in the study as soon as he could. Mrs. Heathcote couldn’t understand his behavior, but young people don’t have any sense do they?
The rest of the afternoon was more relaxing. Theodore read, ate supper, and even played checkers with his grandma. After about fifteen games, Mrs. Heathcote was tired out. Theodore forgot about the dog until his grandma asked him to get the box of matches from the study so she could light a candle in his room before bed. He looked everywhere for the matches in the other rooms, not wanting to go near the study again. Sadly, there were none and he was forced to enter the room with the dog again.
Finding the matches on the mantel, Theodore almost panicked when he heard a soft growling in the darkness. Striking a match, Theodore could see the dog in the darkness and his hatred grew. Kneeling down to the ugly dead dog, Theodore held the match closer to the dog’s face and then jammed the match near the dog’s whiskers.
From her room, Mrs. Heathcote heard a horrible scream from the study. She rushed inside and found Theodore sprawled on the floor, a look of sheer terror frozen on his face. Mrs. Heathcote couldn’t believe it happened again and called 911. As the ambulance took Theodore’s body away, Mrs. Heathcote mentioned how he looked almost exactly like her husband when he died all those years ago.
Alone in the study, the stuffed dog growled once again as bloody saliva dripped from its teeth.
[Wing: The creepiest thing about this by far is the stuffed dog. No, I mean without the growing and the bloody saliva. Just the stuffed dog itself.]
A Free Place To Sleep
Dave and Tom’s vacation to foggy ol’ London town wasn’t going as planned, as the two couldn’t find a place to sleep. The hotels and inns they went to had no vacancies. It was around 2 A.M. and the guys were wandering in the fog when they came upon a street lined with four story houses. One of them had a “FOR SALE” sign up, so Tom proposed they could squat here for the night.
The guys had to carefully maneuver over the spikes on the iron fence, and needed to pop one of the windows open with a switchblade. The inside of the house was currently being renovated, so they had to find a room that wasn’t full of nails and tools. Aside from the front room, every other door in the house was locked. The only unlocked door led to the attic room, which had no work equipment. And hey, it had a couple of small beds so that’s convenient.
The moment Dave got into one of the beds, they heard a loud bang from downstairs. Tom assumed the window they opened fell shut, but then more weird shit started. They heard a weird cackling laugh that seemed to come from the roof. Any skepticism the guys might’ve had vanished once they heard the footsteps, which sort of slithered up the stairs and moved too quickly to belong to a human. The whole house quickly went to the shit as the previously locked doors began to slam open and closed in rapid fire succession.
Dave and Tom were now too scared to leave the relative safety of the attic room with the iron bolt on their side. The doorknob started rattling and they watched in horror as some invisible hand slid the bolt out of place. The cackling returned and a hideous green blob started to ooze into the room. Out of the blob materialized a ghastly, wrinkled face covered in stab wounds. The head continued to cackle and then slid back into the foul smelling blob.
Dave was especially terrified, and the blob seemed drawn to his intense fear. Tom saw a chance to escape as the blob focused on his friend, darting by the side and feeling something cold and dead brush against his arm. He continued running through the hallways of the house, down the stairs and out the open window, over the fence and into the street. Tom never looked back, even as he heard Dave scream.
The next day, the local paper reported the discovery of Dave’s body impaled through the spiked fence. Police believed foul play was involved and were looking for Tom.
The police dismissed the rumors about the house being haunted as nonsense.
The Gooney Birds
So apparently a gooney bird is another name for an albatross, which I had no idea until now and so you’re all getting subjected to this.
God bless Clone High.
They were a group of six going on a canoe trip down the river. There was Ty, Ron, Peter, Peter’s older brother Phil, Eric, and their guide Jake. Ty and Ron were struggling to keep up with the rest of the group while Peter worried about looking bad in front of Phil. Eric, as usual, agreed with whatever Jake said.
This had been day five of their journey through the wilderness, and the guys all got a laugh when Ty fell into the water as their boats reached the shore. It took them an hour to carry their boats to the next portage and it left them open prey for the mosquitoes that infested the area. Jake was growing increasingly peeved as his face became covered in bites. The boys stopped to check a nest of Gooney bird eggs in a nearby tree, but Jake wasn’t interested. They’d be seeing plenty of Gooney birds on this trip.
Jake made everyone start canoeing as soon as they reached the next shore despite complaints about hunger. They rowed in silence, which was interrupted by the shrill Gooney bird cries as the titular avians dived into the water to hunt for fish. The birds seemed to get bigger as they rowed further down the river. Phil was unnerved, thinking birds this size could easily kill a person if they wanted…
At the next portage the boys made a quick meal of P.B. and J sandwiches, but Jake didn’t want to linger. He had big plans for this group, and was focused on exploring sections of the area he’d never been to before. Jake was sick of the same old, same old. He wanted something new. Phil grew worried since he’d hired Jake as the guide. What would happen if Jake led them into a dangerous situation? Still, Phil didn’t raise a fuss so long as Jake knew where they were going.
When the group began their trek into unfamiliar territory, they stumbled upon another nest of Gooney bird eggs. Only these eggs were HUGE. No normal bird could’ve laid eggs this big. Ty grew worried and asked they leave. Eric couldn’t help but mock Ty, earning silent approval from Jake to keep messing with the younger boy. And because Eric’s a dipshit, he grabs a stick and jams it into the Gooney bird eggs.
That’s when the boys heard the agonized, shrill crying from the trees above. They watched in horror as a giant Gooney bird circled around them. By now Ty was crying, and even Jake look unsettled but told everyone to keep moving. No matter how quickly they made it to the next portage, they couldn’t escape the cries of the Gooney bird. On water was no better, as they paddled quickly to try and escape the crying.
Two hours later, Ty and Ron were far behind the others. Ty feared Jake would leave them when they heard the flapping of enormous wings. Giant Gooney birds began to dive into the water, narrowly missing the canoes. Ron only just managed to get his boat out of the way before it was trashed by one of the birds.
Jake stupidly wants to keep going forward even as some of the guys ask to turn around. I’d want to say they’re stupid for following Jake, but if they don’t know the wilderness then leaving without the guide might be as much a death sentence. Talk about a rock and a hard place. The canoes stuck together and kept paddling for hours on the lake until they reached an island on the far, far point.
The six trekked through the woods to find a place to camp, but what they found did not get them in the camping mood. Seems Jake’s not the first person to venture in this area, as the boys located an abandoned campsite. It was if the owners had just left everything. Jake STILL wants to set up camp and ignores the protests against staying. He inspects some of the belongings and deduces the people who’d left had set everything up only a few days ago. There was food that hadn’t totally gone bad even though insects scurried around it. The boys try to figure out what happened; the sleeping bags are still here. Who leaves all their belongings in the middle of nowhere?
The five boys vehemently wanted to go back, but Jake ordered them to set up their tents. They complied because Jake was their only hope of leaving alive. SIGH.
Camp was set up, though they used the campfire pit from the other abandoned tents. By nightfall the fire was roaring, the boys ate, but they were still uneasy. Phil tried to assure his younger brother nothing would go wrong when oops company came for dinner!
The shrill cries of the giant Gooney birds returned. The giant birds swarmed the campsite, and Ty was the first to be snatched up. As he was carried off to his doom, the other Gooney birds made quick work of the other boys.
A lot of these stories really don’t work for me as I feel Stamper didn’t have enough space to properly set up a real feeling of dread and suspension. They’re too short. I guess that’s why I wasn’t looking forward to the second half.
After this I really don’t know if I’ll be recapping the other three books, since I’d rather focus on the other “Short & Shivery” titles.
[Wing: I hope we get there eventually, though if the boys in the final story are the campers that show up in other stories, I’m no longer all that interested. They were boring. I love a good wilderness survival story, but this is not that.]