There are things we can't explain, such as love and the crazy things it can make us do. Love, an entity which most of us have at least encountered once in our lives. Why should that be the only inexplicable thing in the whole entire universe? To me that is like being so self-important as a race that we believe we are the only intelligent life form in existence.
There are things we can't explain, I can say that and be sure of it. Phenomena.
There is the unexplainable.
Sadly my grandparents passed away recently. They were fantastic people, strict and sensitive at the right times, everything they had, they worked incredibly hard for. They were also incredibly progressive people, my Grandma was Mayor in the 80's and they both fought hard to do what's best not just for their family, but their town.
Their house is fantastic, it a huge old house with 4 floors. By far the most fascinating and damn right creepy part of the house though is the attic. A floor of its own, not just one that is accessed through a hatch and a ladder that drops down, it was accessible through a peculiar glass door, then up a flight of stairs, lies this huge room.
For as long as I can remember, it was always frozen in the 80s, the time when their youngest child left the nest. Old board games, vinyls and general now retro decor were gathering dust. One feature that always ignited my imagination as a child was the small doors in the walls that lead to who knows where.
My horror education began with the books and TV programs of R.L Stine, I'm sure you guys will have read or seen them too. I imagined secret parts of the house, monsters, everything that filled the world of Goosebumps behind these doors. In fact, behind these doors I thought, anything was possible.
So time passes, and I'm a little more rational and logical now. Though I'm less terrified of the unknown, the possibility that things can go bump in the night remains in my mind and there are times where I can scare myself silly. I still carry with me to this day a sense of awe, wonder and hope that there is the unexplainable.
So I had long since forgotten about my previous fantastical scenarios that I thought could be occurring behind these doors until one day not so long before my Grandparents started to become ill, me and my grandad were in the Attic. One of the doors, (that look like they've been painted over pretty much), must have caught my eye. I asked my grandad about it and he revealed, after all this time, that they just lead to the eaves of the house, which were pitch black save for some dots of light peering through, creepy in their own way I thought.
My Grandad said they were unsafe, and didn't want me stepping inside. Safety first, and there's a one in a million chance the floor could give way but, that's my Grandad for you, not for himself, only concerning those he cared about, a truly selfless man, he was our protector.
He did however allow me to peer in with my phone with the flashlight turned on and do a panoramic sweep of the rafters. We watched the film back and just saw junk, nothing of interest, and we went back down stairs, that's one mystery disappointingly solved I remember thinking.
Years past and as I said, unfortunately so did my grandparents. My Dad likes to make sure everything is clean in the house that will always be his home. Many times he goes alone, he isn't taking his grandparents passing very well and it serves as a time of silent reflection for a man whose a hard worker that never stops, just like his parents.
But this time I decided to go with him and take a trip down memory lane. This house represented so much mystery as a child and it still does, but that's dowsed by crippling nostalgia that brings a tear to my eye to this day. I wondered up to the Attic, my favorite place in the house and once again the door we opened caught my eye.
I instantly remembered the time Grandad opened it for me. Then I remembered other memories, all with a similar theme. It was my Grandad who would tape Goosebumps marathons for me, they had sky, Fox Kids (90's yay). It was my Grandad who would watch documentaries with me about metamorphosis, "real life" werewolves and Greek mythology. My Grandad is the person who fueled my fascination with the unknown more than anyone. With that realization, I broke down. I'd been keeping strong, but it's that moment which frames everything so nostalgically and powerfully, it gets you. My father always said I had my Grandad's brains, I just realized we were much more alike than either of us ever considered.
In tears, I watched over the video I took on my phone again, and this time I noticed something. So, so easy to miss, an old black video cassette. My imagination was set alight again and I wondered what my Grandad would think, would he get the same child like sense of intrigue? For both of us, I opened the door and I found the tape.
Things take a strange turn here.
The cassette was simply labeled: "A Wholesome Life". At this point I was back to my child like state, imagining every single possibility, I couldn't wait to watch it. Many times in life, things like this lead to rational explanations. Many times indeed, but this time the mystery just keeps building and building. I watched the video.
Text: If you are Over the age of 75 please please do not watch this video.
Strange looping music plays, crackling, skipping.
A man stands in the corner of the camera, holding a pink flame in his hands.
Three Ankh like symbols come up and start jittering on screen providing a background for the title which then flashes up: A Wholesome Life
The title sequence fades out but the music still plays, a scene begins of a young man under a spot light, dressed smartly, entirely in black sits there in a large black room on an old stool. He addresses the camera, as the shots shift from a close up of his face to a mid shot over and over again.
The man: "God has punished you, but I offer you salvation". Camera zooms in. "God exists! I have stared into his eyes! But not as you know him" Camera zooms out. "A wholesome life, we can save you" Camera zooms in. "He is governed by two sovereign masters, life and death" The lines now start to interrupt each other. Camera zooms out "You can be more than the sum of your parts, just let us in" Camera zooms in "No longer am I, I am 300 years old." Camera zooms out A number flashes on screen "This number will change your life, there is the unexplainable, let us in!" The line is interrupted by: "You can be more than the sum of your parts"
The screen then fades to black save for the number which stays on the screen, the music keeps playing.
Suddenly there is an insane ominous drone that almost deafened me, as an upside down Ankh appeared on the screen.
What. The. Fuck.
At this point, I'm scared but I'm excited, a million questions go through my brain.
I instantly try dialing the number. For me at least, that was a dead end and no longer seems to be linked. I asked my mother, my father, everyone else in the family. They just blew it off as some strange horror fiction, so for a while so did I. I guess this would be the kind of thing that would make for part of an awesome horror narrative, viral marketing before viral marketing. Yet another reason why my Grandparents were so ahead of their time.
1 year later:
I was granted an exchange opportunity to the states, it was there I struck up conversation with my roommate concerning local urban legends, he told me there was one, one that never received much coverage, but was much more than a legend for many people. Hesitant due to how any of this shit sounds to strangers, he was reluctant to tell me, to make himself potentially look foolish. So I showed him the video, I don't know why I did, what are the chances of this being linked, of this being something that would add to the mythology of the local legend.
His eyes grew wide, in fear and in awe, goosebumps appeared on his arms, the kind of goosebumps you get when a single sight puts everything in its place. It was then he told me to follow him to his parents' house, intrigued I did so and it was there he produced, from under the bed in the spare bedroom, an old box. Inside there were old flyer's and a notebook, scratched at on the front to the point that their original purpose was lost. On the back of them and in the notebook were writings, a recount, answers and questions.
This is what I read. There truly is the unexplainable:
1988, like all those wondrous, inspiring, imaginative stories I grew up on, the setting is Maine. But a far more deserted, a far more ghost town like place. Cold Meadows, its very name exclaiming an eerie story ready to be told. Cold Meadows, it was as chilling as it sounds, year long winters filled the town with a cold chill that grasped hold of every aspect of it. The commercial, bigger is better America this is not, the American Dream visited here once, it didn't dress warm enough, succumbed to pneumonia and died. No Wal-Marts line our streets, no Best Buys. Any book we receive a year later, any movie, 3 years more.
The pneumonia is not just figurative, pneumonia has plagued the old and the young of this town for as long as has been recorded. That would be 1692, when our ancestors foolishly took what wasn't theirs. This is the only thing about this town that I find fascinating.
Local legend has it that after the local people were driven out of their homeland, when the first winter for the settlers came to being, a primitive medical center was formed. The settlement was rich in the medical profession, it's funny because a Doctor is always a job people are meant to aspire for. Being in class on careers day in Cold Meadows, there is a divide, who is a doctor, who isn't, who is an elitist pig, not a life saver but an elitist pig! And who has to endure the constant misery on the other side of said divide.
I'm rhyming and I'm losing focus.
Now, when the medical center was formed it was due to a pneumonia problem, a problem to be expected in such a harsh climate in such a harsh winter. At midnight on Christmas Day of 1852, something incredible happened...
The center was shut down for the night and only those unlucky enough to take the night shift remained, lit by his lantern which separated him from the realm of pitch black darkness, Dr Jonathan Lakeland wrote the following recount:
"A light brighter than the sun appeared. For a moment I felt it consume me whilst it simultaneously consumed everything around me, for a moment I felt part of something bigger, frightening but awe inspiring, for a moment I felt more than the sum of my parts."
The legend continues with the morning after where our good Doctor writes about the aftermath:
"The incident left our light sources drained and our eldest patients lost. Amazingly our youngest souls were improved and revitalized almost miraculously, is this the work of God? On the floor, there lies a symbol not recognizable to me, I think one of our more inquisitive young children picked up a book on ancient Egypt whilst in Southampton waiting to set sail and remembers seeing it predominately within the text, that book was lost to the sea on a stormy night along with half of our other luxuries. This symbol is like a cross but with a circle where the top of the cross should be, what's more is it was formed entirely of what appears to be a sickly mix of salt and sulfur."
This has always made my mind wonder, since junior school began, this was the first thing we were told of in our local history class. The strange thing is this is largely an unknown legend. I often think of the Roanoke colony and of how widespread that legend that is, the conspiracy theorist in me thinks this could be linked, maybe Roanoke is a decoy, maybe this story isn't in the folklore mainstream for a reason.
Wonder, wonder more, and inspire, but it was always positive, never unnerving, at least not in a bad way, anything to break the apathy.
That was until I decided to finally visit the most terrifying destination in all of Cold Meadows: Lakeland Manor. Such a cliche is a haunted house, such a cliche is that name. With all the novels I have read, I hoped for something a little different, but its nice to feel you are a protagonist in one of the many masters of horrors' stories. Lakeland Manor is said to be built on the ground where the medical center was, Jonathan was said to be a recluse in his later days, again cliche I know, but I wonder how much more there is to his experiences than his writings suggest. Could I be stepping into a real life horror story, is it wrong I am trying to orchestrate such a thing?
My girlfriend and I decided tonight was the night. Your sick mind is thinking things I do not mean, she has a shared taste in the unknown, even the macabre, and by the way, we are way past that stage. If I was talking to you, I would wink right now, and then expect a high five. She's perfect in every way, I honestly don't know how I got her, I suppose that's one plus of living in such and isolated town, less choice for the beautiful and even now as I write this, I turn to her and see only beauty in its purest form.
So Lakeland Manor it was that night, boarded up on the outside and looking derelict, but some say its inner beauty is still present inside. By the way, this town is a breeding ground for the type of people who just don't ask questions and just follow, follow, follow.
Rumor has it the boarded up back door blockade is pretty weak, right they were, as we broke in with ease.
The house was extremely grand inside, remnants of a lost time remained, no graffiti, and some old antiques, as pricey as they looked, we are explorers not thieves. One of the most haunting antiques was this grand old mirror, slightly distorting our reflections.
We felt like kids in a candy shop, a twisted, tormented candy shop of horrors, this wasn't a sound stage, this was real, and I prayed and hoped, and I could see my girlfriend did too,o that something would happen, this wouldn't be a well set up but ultimately poor movie.
We slowly ascended the houses 4 floors, checking each creepy cupboard, each claustrophobic closet, there were many. To our delight there were spots of sulfur and salt.
It's the chilling feeling when everything comes together, when you know this is going to be interesting, mysterious and imagination fueling. We had no regard for the danger element in this real life horror film, we were both the audience and the main characters.
We eventually reached the attic. We looked at each other and smiled with the kind of ever so slightly sadistic yet innocent niche look we have always shared. That's one of the many things I love about her.
The attic was full of old portraits, the largest of a child, no older than one, gazing out just above the viewer no matter where I looked at it. The most unnerving part of this portrait was the lack of pupils, just wholly black eyes. I felt myself getting chills, I saw my girlfriend was also scared, I held her. Its not that we are rash people, never fearful. In fact, with what we read of and watch we probably get more scared than most do. But we embrace the fear, no matter how terrifying it is to call out into the darkness and ask "who's there?" we always do. If there's the slightest chance there is something more to life, we always do.
Here is one of those situations.
I noticed that the torch when shone from a certain point could act as a pupil for this demonic looking child. When doing so we noticed something very peculiar, It's gaze seemed to directly be fixed on a part of the wall behind us. With our vast knowledge of horror movies we knew all the tricks, all the genre conventions, it was worth a shot, we proceeded to tear the wallpaper off.
I normally hate predictable progressions in the storyline, but this one was well received by the both of us. A door was hidden behind layers of wall paper, as we struggled to open the door in a tug of war between us and years of dormancy, salt and sulfur danced in the air in place of the usual dust.
Finally we got the door open, what lay beyond it wasn't anything special, just the eaves of the house, plastered in darkness and nothing else. We quickly shone our torch around the area, hoping for something.
Disappointed, the torch went back to my side, briefly illuminating the floor before I switched it off, and it was then when I noticed it. A bunch of flyer's, there are small gaps in the eaves, maybe they had drifted through, I hoped not, I hoped for a reason. No matter how terrifying, we hoped for something more. We turned back, convinced this was the only point of interest in the eaves, a quick turn with the torch was carried out by my girlfriend as I impatiently attempted to read one of the flyer's in zero light conditions.
Then followed the loudest shriek I have ever heard. Pure terror I saw in her eyes as the dropped torch briefly shone into the direction of whatever she saw. All I remember was a figure, a figure entirely white, pointing for a second, whilst my girlfriend was in tears trying her best to move me away and out of this hellish area I was transfixed. The figure was joined by many others, they all pointed in unison, then came the most disturbing laugh in my memory. Such a loud laugh, but it came from another direction. That ended my daze, I realized someone I love was in danger, I ran back, pushing my girlfriend ahead of me, shielding her as best as I could from whatever dwelled in the darkness.
My girlfriend was almost hyperventilating, I held her and she slowly calmed down, only the door was shut, that was our only protection, we should still be scared but we felt safe with each other. I felt bad, I had an overwhelming sense of joy. You know, that sense of joy when you realize life is more than you thought it was, so so so much more, where the boundaries you thought were reality, are actually the imaginary? That couldn't of just been an illusion, a trick of the mind or a walking dream, it's true I couldn't sleep the night before because of excitement, but let's not digress.
My girlfriend looked up, her eyes still wet from the tears and smiled, she felt the same joy, I no longer felt bad, I felt more than ever, completely and utterly in love, I have someone by my side with the same thirst of knowledge, the same drive to know the mysteries of this life and whatever comes after. We were giddy, not to repeat the kids in a candy shop line but we had a childlike excitement we both shared, knowing this was the start of a new stage of our life and a completely new perspective on the world around us.
We didn't realize until we turned around something about the attic was different, something that despite our giddiness produced the same chill as before.
The child was now a man.
Middle aged, but in exactly the same pose, on his front, staring out with a childlike innocence. This same pose having a new creepy element when a fully grown man is still so childlike in their posture and expression. Again there were no pupils, and the reflection pointed to the same place. A perfect metamorphosis surely of unnatural origin. We needn't ask each other whether we were ok to carry on embracing the madness, we knew that by how we looked at each other before.
Almost telepathically we simultaneously thought: We will carry on, together. We decided now was a good time to lie back and think of all the possibilities that lay ahead, we "showed our affections" for what must have been hours, Echo and the Bunnymen's: "the killing moon" was always our song. As our minds and bodies were in complete unity it started to play, as if something was inside our heads, something powerful and dangerous, but benevolent, something that wanted us to be happy at that moment. It was as if our privacy wasn't even violated, we didn't question the source of this euphoria we just embraced it, consumed by this totally blissful state.
That moment is the single greatest in the entirety of my memory.
Embracing afterwards, we released we had forgotten about something: the flyer's. I reached out blindly to the right and grabbed it, my arm innocently yet purposely grazing against her breasts as I reach for it. Still laying down I held the flyers above me so I could read them:
A Wholesome Life Are you the alone? Do you have no one? Only yourself? Strictly ages 75 and over (Number removed, it doesn't work remember) Let us in.
Next to the text was an hourglass and what looked to me as a cross with a circle instead of the top of the cross.
The symbol is an ankh, an ancient Egyptian symbol representing life, death and rebirth. That was what Jonathan saw at the birth of Cold Meadows. Salt and sulfur, salt would be purity, sulfur is often linked to demonic presence, it's the bonding of two worlds, life and death, natural and supernatural, something ultra powerful is at work here.
I read the flyer's first, composed myself and showed my girlfriend. Straight away she screamed, terrified, more than ever before, the sort of scream that brings back a fear you had forgotten as well as what lay before your eyes. In the madness of it all, she had forgotten part of her experience in the eaves. When I heard the laugh she heard something more, something incredibly close up, clear and in an accent unlike anything she had ever heard: "Let us in."
Suddenly, at the mention of that word the door to the eaves started to shake, and the most disturbing sound we had ever heard resonated throughout the domain, the same soothing trick was now used to cause us to experience pure terror. I could see it in her eyes and she could see it mine. The same entity whose presence we embraced with such euphoria was now carving a living nightmare out of our present tense.
On top of the music were the voices of what sounded like children. Could they be the figures I saw? All chanting "let us in, let us in, let us in". We were terrified. I can't count the amount of times I said: "it's okay, it's okay" but my girlfriend eventually managed a reply: "We need to run" she whispered to me, unsure if she should let our plans be known out loud.
Still naked but with no time to dress we had to run, I looked back one last time around the attic, the door still thumping, the sound becoming deafening. I looked at the first eerie thing that caught my eye, that pupil-free painting. Still no pupils were present, but the man's eyes were white, pure white. The man now looked at least 90 and close to death. His posture was very similar but much more disturbing. Deformed, unnaturally deformed. Twisted, he looked in pain, I swear he felt like we did. The childlike innocence, the adult unity, the fearful fragility. The three stages of this frightening night.
We ran, we almost felt like we were leaving someone behind, he seemed like he was in the same position as us, we felt an attachment to him in some way, a painting the closest thing to the reality I once knew. Looking back I often think, should we have ran? gone back on our laurels to face whatever mystery, no matter the terror and fear involved? But love itself is a greater a mystery than any, and that night made me realize that, protecting the one I love most is more important, and we were braver than most.
Out of the attic we go, into the welcome light of day shining through the gaps of the boarded up windows.
There was suddenly dead silence. Only my girlfriends quiet whimpers sound tracked the sight of a giant ankh of salt and sulfur on the floor. We embraced one last time before we were ready to walk out of this house for good.
My thoughts at the time:
Terrified? Check. Questioning my sanity? Check. Renewed Faith in life? Most Definitely.
Our eyes had been opened forever, who knew what lay ahead for us now. But it will be us, forever. I mean forever as this night has cemented my belief in some sort of afterlife.
We descended the house, past the old antiques from before, shocked, scared, hurrying until we stumbled upon the mirror.
In extreme circumstances, they say you only see what you want to see until something shocks you into accepting reality.
What reflected back were two rotting, decrepit corpses. Our naked bodies repulsive to the eye. We cried for each other, the loss of beauty, the loss of our future. We realized simultaneously this was it, we couldn't possibly have any happiness ever again, our dreams lost, our minds completely intact to fully realize and appreciate the deepest form of melancholy that consumed the two of us.
The shock of our own reflection meant only after some time did we notice a middle aged man standing behind us who was very old fashioned in his dress sense with a pleasant smile on his face. This may not all come together in a complete blast of knowledge like it did to us.
"Let us Help" he said.
It was Jonathan.
Whatever the original incident was, he must have learned more about it after devoting his life to it for years, his natural life. It seems ultimately he found the secret to immortality, it seems that he has literally drained the life out of us completely.
We are too weak to move and talk now, we can only look at each other attempting to portray the sadness inside us both but are decrepit faces, half peeling can barely portray anything human any more. With a soft, almost caring touch, Jonathan picks us both up. Our bodies are so gaunt now this an easy feat.
Jonathan is ascending the house now, one of us over each shoulder, we can't speak, maybe that's down to the crippling weakness or the crippling realization, both of which have come upon us so quickly. We can only look into each other's deathly faces, our eyes over exposed as the tears pour in the silence of the ascension.
Back up to the attic he climbs as the painting is reset back to the innocent child. He opens up the door to the eaves and lays us down gently in the darkness.
"Thank you," he said softly, "I hope for a moment you felt like more than the sum of your parts."
As he walked away the screams started up again, let us in, let us in, let us in. Now we are part of the doomed choir in this cesspool of dark magic, our individuality, our imagination, lost forever.
Yet I can feel the flyers in my hand and I have found some lead in the rubble. I wonder what Jonathan has planned. Cold Meadows is such a small town that he can't rely on strange kids exploring his house if he wants to carry on living forever. Is this the start of the ultimate enterprise, a true follower of the American Dream? The first big corporation of Cold Meadows: A Wholesome Life. Remember the name: A Wholesome Life, for our antagonist Jonathan will need to increase his demographic, defy more genre conventions and ultimately maybe even break the fourth wall.
You know that sense of joy when you realize life is more than you thought it was, so so so much more, where the boundaries you thought were reality, are actually the imaginary? I hope you have that feeling now.
End of text.
There is most definitely the unexplainable.
Shock, awe and every other emotion under the roof is running through me right now. It's funny how alike these two are to me and my Emma. Funny is the wrong word.
It's fucking terrifying.
The dude even writes like me. Single sentence paragraphs and all.
More importantly though, I have decided to search for Jonathan, chances are he's still around, some where, wherever that may be. I want to find him, as much he is a genius and extremely dangerous I want to find him. This isn't an adventure movie, I'm not well linked, I don't have a maverick uncle who has explored the uncharted amazon nor do I have access to unlimited riches like Bruce fucking Wayne.
The internet is my best chance of finding this, being?
Please spread this image wherever you can, avoiding retirement homes, Neil Diamond fan sites etc...
I have no idea why the warning exists on that video, but I don't want to put lives at risk more than I absolutely have to in order to seek the truth. So let's do our best to keep our old folks safe.
Throughout this, let us not forget that it is wonderful beyond measure that there is the unexplainable.