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The Zapata Letters

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Originally found here: http://terriblygoodstuff.blogspot.com/2011/06/zapata-letters-creepypasta.html


The Zapata Letters are a series of short, handwritten correspondence from an unknown “benefactor” to one Richard Zapata, a relatively unknown photographer living in Greenwich Village, New York. Zapata’s photographs were never particularly famous, or even popular among the “indie” crowd, with one clear exception.

A great deal of photography is, unsurprisingly, luck; one must be in the right place at the right time. Zapata had one photo that was published in a small subsection of the New York Times, and it was this photo that served as the catalyst from his unknown “benefactor". The photograph was total happenstance. Zapata had been out late one night, walking home from a party, and he was slightly inebriated.

It was around 5 am, and light, but before sunrise, and Zapata happened to catch an unremarkable street-corner just as the streetlights went out and just before the sun rose, creating a play with the fog and lighting just pretty enough to earn filler space.

Within one week of its publication, Zapata received the first letter, and every letter afterward was received exactly one week in succession, without fail.

The First Letter (Dated July 31st, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

There is captured magic in your photograph. Stolen Beauty.

~ Benefactor.“

No return address was given, and the letter, as were all of the following letters, was signed simply as “Benefactor.”

The Second Letter (Dated August 7th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

Perhaps you do not understand. Beauty is not a renewable resource.

~ Benefactor.”

The Third Letter (Dated August 14th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

You continue to take photographs. Not that it matters; what you have stolen from me can never be returned.

~ Benefactor.”

The Fourth Letter (Dated August 21st, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

There is no more beauty. Not for me.

~ Benefactor.”

The Fifth Letter (Dated August 28th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

I must take something from you then.

~ Benefactor.”

Five weeks from the initial correspondence, and therefore, five weeks later, Zapata presented the letters to the New York City Police Department for assistance, believing the Fifth Letter to be a threat. While the police did not take Mr. Zapata’s concerns too seriously, the postage stamps were traced to a Greenwich Village Post Office, which services over 10,000 people. The chances of tracing them were absurd, and after two days of police surveillance, Mr. Zapata was left on his own.

The Sixth Letter (Dated September 4th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

I am made Death, Destroyer of Worlds.

~ Benefactor.”

Exactly one week later, two airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City, killing thousands and ultimately engaging the United States into series of seemingly-endless conflicts in the Middle East. Records indicate 3 people named Zapata were killed in the terrorist attacks, though it is unclear whether any of them were directly related to Richard Zapata. Though he did not receive the letter until the next day, it was dated the same as the attacks.

The Seventh Letter (Dated September 11th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

Do not doubt that this was my handiwork, but that your hands bear blood.

~ Benefactor.”

It is unclear why, at this moment in time, that Mr. Zapata did not bring the Seventh Letter to the Police, as it certainly would have been taken much more seriously, and a full-scale investigation may have been launched. Perhaps the contents of the letter, and its implications, were too heavy to share.

The Eighth Letter (Dated September 18th, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

There is nothing left for you to steal.

~ Benefactor.”

ATM receipts and records indicate that, in the week following the Eighth Letter, Mr. Zapata purchased 4 cameras, 36 rolls of film, and an excessive amount of developing equipment, all from different locations.

The Ninth Letter (Dated September 25, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

I have no more pretty words or empty threats for you. You stole a piece of private beauty that can never be returned, and for that I have responded by stealing all of the beauty from your world. I have left you a world of war, bereft of foggy street corners and slow sunrises. The future to come is bleak at best, hell at worst, and it will have no semblance of a soul. This I have done because of your theft, and yet you continue to steal. Steal things of no value.

~ Benefactor.”

Investigators of the incidents surrounding the Zapata Letters have lingered heavily on the Ninth Letter, mainly because of its length. In it, we see a personal side of Mr. Zapata’s “Benefactor", and the previous accusations lose their sense of ideological anger for an almost selfish, petty tone. While the accepted standpoint is that Zapata wrote the letters to himself, those few that disagree cite the Ninth Letter’s description of the future.

When Zapata’s apartment was finally investigated, 2 weeks after the date of the Ninth Letter, thousands of developed photographs were found all over the small studio. Photographs of everything from pencils to sky-rises, ranging from out of focus to breathtakingly beautiful. That tireless production does not reflect the psyche of one who sees no future.

The Tenth Letter (Dated October 2nd, 2001)

“Dear Mr. Zapata,

No more.

~ Benefactor.”

When Richard Zapata’s apartment was investigated one week later (at the behest of a neighbor’s phone call to the police), the Tenth Letter was found just beneath the mail slot of the apartment, unopened and unread. The walls were lined with thousands of photographs, recently developed. Zapata was found later, in a makeshift darkroom at the back of the apartment.

He had, presumably, clawed out his own eyes and drank copious amounts of acetic acid (used to develop photographs,) resulting in his death.

The most common conclusion is that Zapata believed he had achieved some perfection in that first photograph of a street corner, and that, unable to match it, he had vented his frustration in a series of bizarre letters and, finally, a horrendous suicide.

The conclusion is all well and good, except that one detail seems to challenge it. There were no traces of blood or flesh under Zapata’s fingernails, and no scratch-marks around the eye sockets; it was as if they were removed, with surgical precision, from a position above the photographer.

Of course, this is just as unlikely, as all three locks on the door into the apartment were locked from the inside.

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