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The Happyman

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My name is Doctor Michael Knight. I have been a psychiatrist at Hampstead Hospital in Hampstead, New Hampshire since 1987. On September 21, 1989, we received a patient by the name of Cynthia Vickers who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, depression, just about every mental disorder they teach you in medical school. If I remember correctly, she was sent to Hampstead when police received complaints of strange noises and foul odor coming from her apartment.

When they arrived, Cynthia charged out of the door, covered in blood, urine, and feces toward the officers, who subdued her and entered her apartment. What they discovered still chills me to this day: in the bathroom were dozens of cats skinned alive, wriggling and screaming in agony through pools of their own blood and excrement. The officer later told me, still shaken by what he had seen that there must have been an inch of blood in that small bathroom. That officer would later go on to hang himself in his closet in 1993.

I was assigned to be Cynthia’s psychiatrist. During our first session, she was unresponsive, eerily quiet, and nearly catatonic. Rather than answer my questions, she instead would stare at me with her pale gray eyes deeply set into her ghostly gaunt face.

Over time, she began to open up and I learned that she was raped repeatedly by her father and three uncles, sometimes consecutively. When she had tried to confront her mother about it, Cynthia’s mother beat her for “spreading disgusting lies” about her father. She exhibited reactive attachment disorder as a child, showing no remorse for abusing and killing small animals. As a teen, she would regularly trap stray cats and take them to an abandoned warehouse where she would beat, torture, and eventually kill them, burning their bodies afterwards.

When asked why she targeted her zoo-sadism toward cats, Cynthia said she enjoyed the way they scream. Being a psychiatrist, hearing these disturbing and sickening confessions is standard protocol, but it was when she described the “Happyman” that made my hair stand on end.

Cynthia explained that when she was 16, she was visited for the first time by the "Happyman": She was sitting on her porch looking into the woods behind her home, when she heard a man’s laughter coming from within the trees. She said she had blinked and there at the tree line stood a tall, thin man, with blue veins snaking under his pale white skin.

Cynthia said he wore dark, loose, blood stained overalls and that the skin on his face had been pulled tightly upward and stitched in place, with a nail embedded in his upper lip, forming a grotesque smile. In an instant, the man was on her porch standing over Cynthia. He leaned down and shrieked, “Smile!” before vanishing. Over the years, Cynthia said she was visited many times by the "Happyman", each time hearing his maniacal laughter before he appeared.


During her stay at Hampstead, Cynthia took to staring out of the windows into the woods that surround the hospital, mumbling incoherently and seemingly never blinking. When she was allowed to go outside, she would sneak out food to try and attract stray cats. When I asked why she repeatedly did this, Cynthia revealed that she had discovered, by accident, that the "Happyman" was terrified by cats when he visited her while she was trapping a stray.

How ironic I thought that she would seek salvation in the animals she tortured for pleasure. She tearfully pleaded with me to allow her to have a cat for protection. As this was against hospital policy and health code, I instead reasoned with her by purchasing stuffed cats and safe plastic toy cats to keep in her room. She seemed happy with her new “guardians” and months passed without incident until I got a call around 3 am on Saturday June 7, 1997.

I was called by a frantic nurse who was trying to explain what was going on, but Cynthia’s screaming in the background proved hearing the nurse difficult, so I rushed in to assess the situation. When I arrived, Cynthia was kicking and screaming. As the nurses tried to hold her down, I noticed that she was covered in deep lacerations.

I tried to calm her down to no avail and I was forced to sedate her so that her wounds could be treated. After they carried her off, I noticed that the cat dolls I had given her were completely gutted and turned inside out, and her plastic toys were slashed with what looked like razors, which are not available to patients for obvious reasons.

Over the next week, her condition deteriorated and she was tormented by auditory hallucinations of the "Happyman’s" laughter. It seemed that everyday she would have a new cut or gash, so I decided to place her under suicide watch. I remember our last session on June 16 in which she told me that she hadn’t harmed the animals they had found in her apartment. She said the "Happyman" had overcome his fear of cats would come for her soon. She heard laughter from the woods.

The next morning I pulled up to Hampstead Hospital like any other day, but I was greeted by police cruisers and their flashing blue lights. An officer told me that Cynthia had killed the nurse watching over her the night prior and killed herself. I was in shock. The officer said they hadn’t located the murder weapon, but the nurse’s head had been bashed in by a hammer or like blunt instrument.

As the pale-faced orderlies wheeled Cynthia’s body to the morgue, the sheet caught something and revealed her face: the skin from the corners of her mouth had been stretched and hooked to either temple, and her upper lip was hooked in place, revealing her bloody facial muscles and twisting her face into a monstrous smile. Several of the staff and officers rushed out of the hallway vomiting or growing faint at the horrific visage. When I asked the coroner what her cause of death was, he told me it was a combination of sudden cardiac arrest due to shock and blood loss due to self-mutilation.

16 years have passed since that grisly morning and I thought I had forgotten it and moved on. Yesterday, we received a new patient: a 17 year old girl suffering from schizophrenia and depression. In our first session, I asked if she had any other personalities she associates herself with. She said no..but she is visited by a tall pale man in overalls with his facial skin stretched into a smile who cuts her arms and legs. I felt the blood in my face drain when she showed me her journal which included a page with this drawing and caption that read “The Happyman”. She said she can hear laughter from the woods outside the hospital. He is telling her to smile.

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