Title: Even More Short & Shivery
Author/Editor/Reteller: Robert D. San Souci
Illustrator: Jacqueline Roberts
Tagline: Thirty Spine-Tingling Tales
Summary: Thirty spine-chilling stories from around the world provide plenty of shivers in this spooky collection. Curl up with old friends like Washington Irving’s “Guests from Gibbet Island” or Charles Dickens’s “Chips.” Or make the acquaintance of “The Skull That Spoke” and “The Monster of Baylock” – but beware of spectral visitors like “The Blood Drawing Ghost.” This exciting mixture of classic and contemporary tales from Mexico, China, Poland, Nigeria, and other lands near and far is perfect for hair-raising reading!
Yeesh, the past few months have been a fucking nightmare. It’s STILL a fucking nightmare when you think about it. [Wing: Note that due to the nightmare of 2020 and 2021 so far, this is being posted SEVERAL months after Jude wrote it.]
Since time basically has no meaning anymore I’ve gone back to my original plan of this covering the next five stories in the collection. I won’t be cramming all ten in anymore.
Now, after an unwarranted and unwelcome delay, join me as we explore these tales of a bastard boyfriend, an annoying song, a guy who didn’t know when to shut up, what happens when you take “Beauty” out of “Beauty and the Beast,” and a surprising defender of ‘MURICA!
21. THE SKELETON’S REVENGE (Mexico)
Circa 17th Century something, in the village of Santiago near Mexico City there lived Don Juan de Nava. Padre Juan was an elderly priest, well respected by his village for his hard work and tireless efforts to do good. He settled arguments, helped the poor, guided the young, and spread the word of God wherever he could. He even took in his niece Margarita after her parents died. Padre Juan was a class act.
At some point Margarita began a courtship with the wealthy young Don Duarte. Now, relationships back then were a big deal. You couldn’t just “go out” with someone. There were rules. The closest Don Duarte could get to Margarita was through the iron grates of her window, or he could serenade her from the courtyard underneath Margarita’s bedroom.
Being both a responsible guardian and wanting to make sure Margarita would be happy, Padre Juan ventured to Mexico City to learn more about Don Duarte. The trip was a real eye opener as Padre Juan discovered his niece’s boyfriend was, in fact, AN ASS. Just about everyone who knew of him said Don Duarte was an irresponsible, hedonistic lech who gambled, fought, and had his way with every woman he could get his hands on.
More depressed then angered, Padre Juan did not savor telling Margarita she had to break her relationship with Don Duarte. Tearfully, Margarita told her boyfriend the bad news and he responded with a string of threats against her uncle’s life so vile she ran off.
Well Don Duarte wasn’t gonna let things slide that easily. One night he waited for Padre Juan on the old stone bridge connecting Santiago to Mexico City. Don Duarte approached Padre Juan and swore he’d mend his ways in order to prove he was worthy of Margarita’s affection. Padre Juan made an effort to listen to Don Duarte, wanting to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. However, years of dealing with even the worst sinner gave Padre Juan the ability to determine when someone’s genuine and when they’re lying through their teeth. Padre Juan could tell Don Duarte was full of shit because of how easily the words of change were coming from his lips.
Genuinely put off by Don Duarte’s lack of honesty or respect, Padre Juan politely but firmly denied Don Duarte’s appeal. Well Don Duarte’s next action only proved his would-be father-in-law was right about him, as the spurned jackhole drew out a knife and shoved it into Padre Juan’s head! In fact, the knife was so far in that the hilt was pressed up against the top of Padre Juan’s skull.
Afraid people would recognize the blade stuck in the dead priest’s skull as his own, Don Duarte tried to pull it out by alas it was stuck in there RULL good. So to cover his tracks, Don Duarte dumped Padre Juan’s body into the water below the bridge.
Because Padre Juan was so well-known and respected, all of Santiago and the Valley of Mexico lost their shit when he disappeared. The countryside was searched far and wide, but no trace of the priest was located. Don Duarte was going stir crazy, not because he felt guilty but because it was taboo to approach Margarita during her time of mourning. Eventually, Don Duarte couldn’t keep it in his pants any longer and decided to see Margarita anyway.
It was a dark and stormy night as Don Duarte ventured across the stone bridge, thinking about all the crap he was gonna do to Margarita in her bedroom (I’m embellishing but you know that’s what he’s thinking of) when he heard a scraping noise from behind. The night was so dark Don Duarte couldn’t see where the noise was coming from. A flash of lightning illuminated the area enough for Don Duarte to see his new travel companion.
Coming towards Don Duarte was a skeleton, wrapped in the tattered clothes of a priest, with a blade sticking out of its skull.
GASP! IT’S SKELETON MAN!
Don Duarte didn’t even have time to cry out when the skeleton was on him.
Come morning, a farmer stumbled upon the grizzly site of Don Duarte and the skeleton. The murderous fiend was dead, a look of horror on his face while the skeleton had its bony hands wrapped around the dead man’s throat.
[Wing: BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO MARGARITA NOW ALL ALONE IN THE WORLD?!]
22. LULLABY (England)
Colonel Ewart detested public transportation. Not because he was a snob, well, not THAT much of a snob. He simply didn’t like having to share closed spaces with total strangers. More often they’d want to strike up meaningless conversation, being rude and asking questions and talking about shit he wasn’t interested in hearing. [Wing: He’s got a point!]
Whenever the Colonel was forced to schedule journeys on trains for business-related affairs of business, he’d plan roundabout trips on unpopular train rides. He didn’t mind how much longer they’d take, and appreciated the space to read and relax. [Wing: Y’all, I might be the Colonel. This likely doesn’t bode well for me.]
On the beginning of his trip from Carlisle to London, the Colonel was pleased to see he had the entire train car to himself. Though, it was always likely he’d be joined by a late passenger at some point whenever the train made a stop. He’d keep an eye on the door if that happened. However, the smooth ride and warmth in the car caused the Colonel to fall asleep.
Waking up later in the day, the Colonel saw to his displeasure there was now another occupant in the train car. Across from him sat a woman, well-dressed in old-fashioned clothes with a heavy veil over her face and a shawl wrapped around her shoulders. Looking at his watch, the Colonel figured he’d only slept for less than an hour. He didn’t even notice the train stop.
At the very least the Colonel tried to be polite and nodded to the woman, who didn’t acknowledge him. Instead, she seemed to be rocking something hidden in her arms. The Colonel thought the woman had a baby with her as she started to sing while cradling the thing close to her.
Hush, hush, my sweet, my dearest, my love
Hush, hush, my treasure, my angel, my dove
Now, it’s not that the woman was singing very loudly. But she sang those two lines over. And over. And OVER. Ad nauseum.
Something about this woman made the Colonel so he tried to get her attention. On his second attempt to speak to her, the woman stopped singing and finally turned in the Colonel’s direction. The woman glared at the Colonel and hugged her bundle closer to her chest, as if she thought the Colonel was dangerous.
Perplexed by the woman’s response, the Colonel made no other attempt at communication and went back to reading his paper. Again the woman sang to her bundle, when the Colonel became curious about the hidden infant in the woman’s arms. The second the Colonel tried to get a look at the mysterious baby, the train went to shit. The woman opened her mouth like she was about to scream, she went to defend the thing in her arms, and then the whole train violently shook from a crash!
Colonel Ewart was thrown to the floor as his luggage spilled from the overhead compartment. After getting his bearings, the Colonel saw the woman and her baby were gone. He figured she dashed out of the train compartment.
Later the Colonel found out the crash was caused by the train colliding with some sort of van. However the train hadn’t been derailed, there wasn’t much damage and there were minor injuries. Still the Colonel wondered about his travelling companion, but the conductor was confused. The conductor said when he passed by the Colonel’s compartment just before the crash, he was in it alone!
As Colonel Ewart explained he’d been sharing his compartment with a veiled woman and her baby, he confessed he never actually saw the infant since the woman kept it hidden in her arms.
Oh crap, the conductor knew who the Colonel was talking about. That woman always appears just before a mishap occurs. That’s what some ghosts do, after all.
Turns out a few years ago, there was an accident involving a newlywed couple. They were on their honeymoon trip when the husband stuck his head out the window as the train went full steam. [Wing: People like this is why there are so many announcements about keeping your head and hands inside the bus/car/train/ride/whatever at all times. People like this = me, to be honest, I love sticking my hands out windows, the faster the vehicle the better.] Another train was heading in the opposite direction, and something, a wire or spike or something sticking out, took the guy’s head off. They found his traumatized wife cradling the headless body in her lap. She fought as they tried to take her away, exclaiming she had to find her husband’s head. Apparently the grief and strain were too much and she died some time later.
Well I guess that weren’t no baby she was holding, huh Wing? [Wing: A head is better than a baby. And I was wrong, this bodes very well for me. Not only was she just a warning but I would never have tried to look at the baby.]
23. DEATH AND THE TWO FRIENDS (United States – South Carolina)
Meet George and Aaron, Aaron and George. Best friends. Buddies. They lived together in a cabin near Charleston.
George was big and strong. Aaron was small and weak. Boy isn’t it great how they’re best friends despite being so TOTALLY different?
The reason for Aaron’s weakness was a fever he’d contracted the year before. It was so bad Aaron never recovered to full health. I don’t know if you’d call this chronic pain or not, but Aaron’s days were full of hurt and restlessness. He barely slept at night, tossing and turning and wishing he was dead.
George was sympathetic to Aaron… at first. The stronger man had never been sick a day in his life. Aaron’s complaining began to piss George off. One night, when Aaron was feeling especially horrid due to his fever and joint pains, George had enough. He screamed at Aaron to simply die already. Why not call Death himself to put an end to all this misery?
Well Aaron decided to do exactly that.
Using all his strength to make it to his bedroom window, Aaron called out into the darkness for Death to take him. Well he didn’t so much “call” as “whisper.” All that moaning did a number on Aaron’s throat.
Because they heard no response, George figured the only reasonable thing to do was Aaron had to call out louder. Holler, even!
Again Aaron tried, and again his voice had no oomph to it.
George decided to show Aaron how it’s done, went to the window, and screamed for Death at the top of his lungs.
So that’s when Death came and killed George.
The next morning, Aaron’s fever miraculously broke and he went on to recover to full health.
Gee Death sure has a weird sense of humor, taking a man at the prime of his health while letting a sickly man live. Well Aaron knew how lucky he was, and spent every day living to the fullest. From now on, he wouldn’t call for Death. He’d let Death call for HIM.
[Wing: … ooooookkkkkkaaaaaaayyyyyyy]
24. FOREST GHOSTS (France)
In 17th Century France, there was once a Count.
No, not that Count unfortunately.
This Count owned a grand chateau built deep within the dense forest hills. He loved getting away from it all to relax and do whatever he felt like doing away from the King’s court.
One day the Count married a woman named Heloise, and though their marriage was happy she sometimes felt uneasy in her new home. The trees grew so thick and so close together they often blocked out the sunlight, making it feel like the chateau and forest were steeped in perpetual green twilight. Through open windows came the scent of forest dampness and mold.
During a summer afternoon as Heloise spent her usual fanning hours near an open terrace window, she was startled by the arrival of an unexpected guest. At first Heloise thought this figure was simply a swaying branch, until it took on the form and dimensions of a tall, robed woman. The woman carried with her the scent of forest flowers. This visitor explained to Heloise that these woods belonged to her; she allowed Heloise’s husband to build his chateau because he respects the forest and all its creatures so earnestly (he wouldn’t even let people hunt in the vicinity). The forest woman told Heloise she would be granted a single wish in exchange for honoring the land as her husband does.
Well Heloise wants what everyone woman wants, a son to please her man. Rolls eyes. The forest woman silently nodded and disappeared as Heloise felt herself drifting off to sleep.
Waking up, Heloise thought she dreamed the whole thing until she remembered the part about having a kid. Sure enough she got preggers and eventually had a son whom she and her husband named Henri. Heloise has a name. Henri has a name. The Count doesn’t have a name because he don’t need a name, because HE is THE COUNT.
Heloise began to appreciate the woodlands more as her son grew older. On certain days, while riding inside a carriage with Henri, Heloise sometimes thought she caught a glimmer of the forest woman hidden in the shadows. No one else ever saw this so Heloise was somewhat convinced she was imagining things.
Henri grew up loving the forest, so much so he practically lived in it. He spent all hours of the day playing, running, and hiding among the trees. Henri exercised so much that by age 10 he looked like he was 18. On warm days he even built little huts from fallen tree branches and lived like a wild animal.
Sadly, the Count died when Henri was 19. Heloise’s frail health turned even frailer, and she’d given up on presenting her odd kid to the King some day. He acted more like a deer than a human.
Unfortunately, after Henri turned 21 his love for the forest turned to deep hatred. He announced his plan to turn the chateau into a hunting lodge, of all things! Heloise didn’t know what changed her son, until Henri explained he had a score to settle with a wild stag that tried to gore him with its antlers. Henri even named the stag “Satan.” [Wing: Uh, this is quite a heel turn for Henri. Unimpressed.]
I mean, at least he’s wearing pants so that’s something.
Heloise remembered the dream of the forest woman and tried to talk her son out of his obsession, but Henri’s heart had thoroughly hardened. Soon the chateau was full of hunters as a stable was built to house nearly a hundred horses. Heloise couldn’t talk Henry out of his hunting trips to get rid of the loathed Satan. But were her fears justified or just byproducts of an old dream?
Autumn came and Henri went to hunt by himself. Heloise was filled with a sense of dread and feared for her son’s return. Near twilight, Heloise heard two cries. The first was the cry of an animal. The second was the cry of a man. And what returned to the chateau was a half human, half animal thing bleeding from a gash in its temple. Heloise could only barely make out what human features remained as those of her son!
The servants were too afraid to go near the mutated Henri until Heloise ordered them to help. Heloise spent days nursing her son, assessing his transformation. His human body was covered in reddish-brown hair like fur, and his head was antlered like a stag’s. Henri couldn’t speak from his new stag-like mouth, but Heloise could make out the agony in his eyes and it broke her heart.
When he was finally strong enough, Henri was able to write down what transpired the day of his transformation. Henri had tired out the stag named Satan and cornered it in a glen when he saw a fleeting vision of the forest woman. As Henri buried his spear into Satan, the stag used its last ounce of strength to gash Henri with its antlers. The moment Satan died, Henri started to change into the creature he is now.
Though recovered, Henri hid himself away in his room and became angrier and angrier. He started lashing out, breaking things, until one day Heloise heard horrible sounds in Henri’s room. He was destroying everything around him. Heloise had the servants break the door down just in time to see Henri jump through his window. Henri tried to climb the roof of the chateau but lost his footing and fell to his seeming demise.
Heloise knelt by her dying son when the forest women reappeared. She explained Henri had transgressed against the forest animals, her charges, and he had to pay. While Heloise begged the forest woman to gave Henri back to her, it was too late to stop his impending death. The forest woman could offer any other wish to Heloise. Heloise instead asked the forest woman to undo Henri’s transformation, so he could die like a man. She wanted to see her son before his life ended.
Mother and son said nothing to one another, only looking upon each other with tear-stained eyes before Henri died. Heloise died some time later.
For years, people have sometimes seen the shape of a woman robed in green among the forest shadows. They’ve also seen the figure of a man with a stag’s head blending and disappearing among the darkness of the forest.
Where I’ve Heard It Before: Okay I haven’t really heard this exact story in some other form before, but if he hadn’t died at the end I get the idea this could’ve been a prologue to Beauty And The Beast. The whole “cruel young guy gets turned into a monster because of his own hubris” thing. Especially considering what set Henri off was getting gashed by the stag and the toxic masculinity thing he had going with the hunting aspect.
At least the forest ghost queen woman thing didn’t turn Henri’s mom into a freaking grandfather clock just cuz her son’s an ass. Like seriously, who does that?!
[Wing: I’d like to go woo the forest ghost queen woman thing. I love her.]
25. A CAROLINA BANSHEE (United States – North Carolina)
There used to be a mill on the banks of the Tar River in North Carolina. Though the mill’s gone, the banshee that haunted it is still there. Yeah on rainy nights when the mist rises above the Tar River and the rain crows cry, that’s when the banshee sings her horrible song, just like she did all those years ago…
During the Revolutionary War, a patriot named David Warner
No, not THAT David Warner.
Anyway, David Warner hated the English and ran the Tar River mill. He’d grind wheat and corn to feed the colonial soldiers, FOR MURICA!
From dawn to night, he’d mill FOR MURICA!
One August afternoon while David was busy doing things FOR MURICA!
He heard a horse galloping nearby. A messenger appeared to warn David some British soldiers were on their way and planned to kill him for being a rebel. Fueled by MURICA!
David flexed his big, big arms and said he’d send those dirty Brits packing FOR MURICA!
But the messenger feared not even David Warner could fight a whole army by himself. David went back to work when later on six British Redcoats showed up announcing his arrest and their plans to confiscate his goods. Well David wasn’t gonna let that stand, because this corn is FOR MURICA!
David put up a good fight against the Redcoats but they overpowered him. Pissed off, they decided to kill David by drowning him in the river. David dared them to try, but promised if they did they’d have something much worse to deal with. He warned them about the banshee that lives near the Tar River. David swore she’d haunt them, having seen her many times floating above the mists crying her awful cry. Yeah, she’d get them, and she’d get them FOR MURICA!
[Wing: Banshee’s aren’t even American folklore, story! The fuck?!]
Five of the soldiers got scared and suggested waiting for the commander, but the biggest soldier thought them cowards and ordered them to get rid of David before he causes more trouble. David was led to the Tar River bank where his arms and legs were tied down with heavy stones before he was thrown into the water. As David sank to his death, the ear-splitting scream of a woman in agony appeared out of nowhere. It surrounded the soldiers as the evening mist took on the form of a veiled woman.
At that point even the cruelest of the soldiers looked like he was gonna shit himself.
Later that night the Redcoat commander and the rest of the troops arrived at the mill, setting up quarters for themselves. As soon as the new moon was at its highest point in the sky, the banshee let out another god-awful shriek terrifying the entire group. The soldiers who’d killed David Warner had a haunted look in their eyes as they tried to block out the noise.
When the commander and the other Redcoats saw the banshee floating above the Tar River mists, they questioned the six who arrived at the mill before them. Scared out of their minds with guilt, the six confessed to killing David Warner. The commander got pissed off at them taking such action without his permission, and punished them by forcing them to spend the rest of their enlistment working the mill and listening to the banshee.
By day the six men worked.
By night they couldn’t sleep thanks to the banshee’s awful wailing.
Finally, at the stroke of midnight when fateful evening, the banshee appeared in the doorway of the mill. Throwing off her veil, the soldiers were horrified by the hatred burning in her undead eyes. All but the big soldier averted his gaze, and slowly the hypnotized five followed the banshee out of the mill in the river. Not even fighting back, the five soldiers were swept down the Tar River to their deaths.
The big soldier was left alone, locking himself in the mill and stuffing sack cloth in his ears to drown out the banshee’s wails. Driven mad, the soldier begged David Warner for release.
They found him floating in the river the next day.
David Warner’s dead. The soldiers are dead. The war is over. The mill is gone. And all that’s left is the Tar River, the rain crows, and the banshee. [Wing: THIS ISN’T EVEN HOW A BANSHEE WORKS.]
Where I’ve Heard It Before: A banshee, or rather a bean sidhe, is typically an Irish spirit so whatever the hell one’s doing in North Carolina is anyone’s guess. The name can translate to “woman of the mound” or “woman of the fairy mound.” Their songs can represent someone’s impending death.
I’ve seen banshees depicted in both Tiny Toon Adventures and So Weird, and there’s apparently one really fucking terrifying banshee in the obscure Disney flick Darby O’Gill and the Little People.
Me, I’m more familiar with banshees mentioned in both DC and Marvel Comics.
On the DC side, there’s reoccurring Superman villain Silver Banshee who has the power to kill anyone simply by stating their true name.
Gail Simone and Nicola Scott created the character of Jeannette in Secret Six. Jeannette was a Hungarian woman who in fact became a banshee while she was in the middle of being executed (by a drunk executioner). And at answer your question yes, she is in fact fucking awesome.
On the Marvel side, there’s Sean Cassidy a.k.a. Banshee of the X-Men. In case you’re wondering when the character was first conceptualized he was originally supposed to be a woman but they kept the codename. He’s one of my favorite X-characters because he’s gorgeous.
[Wing: I didn’t even watch this show and yet the first thing I think about when I encounter the word banshee is “The Rock” from So Weird, which is in an episode with a banshee. It’s still fucking great.
I’m singing along to it even to this day.]
Out of these five my favorites the banshee story because it’s such a surprising place to find a banshee, but I don’t have much to say like in the beginning.
Join us next month for the final installment of this book, where we’ll learn sometimes it’s better TO be wasteful. We’ll also get to read about this entry’s retelling of a classic American urban legend, learn about yet another guy who doesn’t respect boundaries, a guy who is too “handsy” for his own good, and a backwoods boogeyman not even the covers will save you from. [Wing: Well that’s terrifying.]