When I was kid I was really in to the paranormal (I still am, although I like to think I’m a lot less credulous today than I was back then). At school we had a book club where they’d hand out a catalog three or four times a year and (if you could convince your parents to fork over the cash) you could put in an order, and a couple of months later the books would arrive and get handed out. Now and then the catalog would contain books about monsters, ghosts and other “unexplained mysteries” and I’d always convince my parents to buy them for me.
In one of these books – it had a rowboat being capsized by the Loch Ness Monster on the cover – there was a story that has always stuck with me.
It was about an isolated village in Russia. Just over the hill from this village was another village that had once been run by monks, but in the middle ages there’d been an investigation by the Tsar’s troops who’d discovered that the Monks were devil worshipers and had put them all to the sword. Ever since, the village had been abandoned, and even though it was surrounded by fertile land the locals wouldn’t graze their sheep on it because it was ‘cursed’. The buildings were mostly collapsed, but the church belltower was still standing on one side of the village square, which was surrounded by stone benches.
The only people who used to go to the ruins were the local youths who’d prove how brave they were by trying to run from the top of the ruins to the bottom and then back between when the sun started to set and when the last rays left the belltower. There were all kinds of stories about what would happen to anyone who failed, but no one ever came to any harm, although no one would visit the ruins after sunset.
Now supposedly in the late 1800s a teacher named Swerts was sent to the village by the government to help “modernise” the area. He’d been brought in from Germany and was highly dismissive of the Russian peasants and their beliefs. When he learnt about the ‘cursed’ ruins, he decided that he was going to prove there was nothing to the story, and announced that he was going to spend the night there. The locals tried to talk him out of it, but he was insistent and eventually convinced some of them to assist him. They set out in the afternoon before a night of the full moon, and helped him get into the belltower by stacking up some of the benches from the square. They then hurried away, promising to come back and help him down the next morning.
When the sun came up they headed back to the ruins. They reached the square and called for Swerts, but he didn’t respond. After some nervous discussion two of the bravest men climbed up into the tower. On the top floor they found Swerts, huddled in a corner in terror with his arms wrapped around his head, weeping quietly and whimpering under his breath.
They couldn’t get any sense out of him, but they managed to get him down the tower and into the square. Here he went into hysterics, shrieking in German and apparently gesturing at the piled up benches. In the end one of the villagers had to knock him out, and they carried him back to the village.
After several weeks there was no change in Swerts’s condition, so the villagers sent a message to the authorities. A new teacher was sent out, and Swerts was sent back to Germany, where he was confined to a lunatic asylum in Cologne. No one dared to visit the ruins again, and after the Soviets came to power the site was cleared and the land put back into production.
As I said, this story stuck with me for some reason, always floating around in the back of my head. As I got older I discovered that most of the stories in the book were excitingly rewritten but exaggerated accounts of well known (and often completely debunked) ‘paranormal’ incidents, but I never found any other references to that particular one.
Then a few years back a friend of mine moved to Germany for work and ended up living just outside Bonn (which is just down the road from Cologne). I jokingly asked if he could say hi to Swerts at the local lunatic asylum for me, and in the resulting discussion ended up telling him the whole story. It turned out that one of the friends he and his wife had made was a member of the local historical society and he’d said he’d ask her if any records were available.
It turns out that there was a lunatic asylum just outside Cologne in the late 19th century, and although it was destroyed during World War II some of the records survived. Looking though these (they’d recently been digitised) she found that a teacher named Ralf Swartz was admitted to the asylum in 1882 with ‘hysterical paralysis’ after a trip to Georgia. He remained an inmate until he died of a seizure in 1907 and in all that time was completely non-communicative. He simply repeated just one phrase, over and over under his breath – Die heiligen Brüder nicht gerne auf dem Boden sitzend.
“The Holy Brothers don’t like to sit on the earth”
Any mug can do it when the yards are full…
(Thought I’d give this a shot…)
In any city, in any country, go to any mental institution or halfway house you can get yourself to. When you reach the front desk, ask to visit someone who calls himself “The Holder of the Sovereignty”. Should a disturbing look of eagerness come over the worker’s face you will be taken to and left at a metal door in a brick outbuilding.
Knock three times on the door. A muffled voice should answer. If not, turn around and walk away. You may return and try again another day. If the voice answers, DO NOT say anything. Instead wait until the voice ceases, then knock three times again. The voice will again answer and again you MUST NOT speak. Wait until the voice ceases and knock three times once more. The voice will answer, and if you again remain silent the door will unlock. You MUST NOT speak during any of this, for reasons that it is not safe to explain.
Open the door and walk through. You will be in a small, windowless, brick room with an wrought-iron spiral staircase descending into the floor. The staircase will be covered in dust and cobwebs.
Descend the staircase. It will go far deeper than seems possible but do not turn around, no matter how much you may want to.
At the bottom of the staircase is a dusty hallway leading to a green door. If you are truly committed, open the door and go through. Otherwise ascend the staircase and leave. NEVER return.
Behind the door is a dusty storeroom filled with metal shelves and boxes. Search the room for a black, velvet covered box. Open it. Inside will be dozens of tiny fragments of bone, shaped like puzzle pieces. Fit them together (DO NOT sleep in this room, no matter how long it takes to assemble the puzzle).
When the pieces are properly assembled they form a human skull. This is the Holder of the Sovereignty.
Hold the skull to your ear. It will instruct you to carry out a task of minor betrayal against an acquaintance. If you do not complete this task within one year, you will die.
Once the task is complete, return to the room and hold the skull to your ear again. It will instruct you to carry out a task of substantial betrayal against a friend or loved one. If you do not complete this task within one month, you will die.
Once the task is complete, return to the room and hold the skull to your ear again. It will instruct you to carry out a task of ultimate betrayal against the person you care about the most. If you do not complete this task within one week, you will die.
Once the task is complete, return to the room and hold the skull to your ear again. It will tell you the secret known to the greatest traitors and turncoats in history. Used wisely this secret will make you the richest of the rich, and the most powerful of the powerful. Used unwisely it will cost you everything you own including your soul.
This secret is Object 227 of 538. It must never be shared with anyone.
(Yeah, thought so. Easy :))
Not for the faint of heart
Recently all of us at the office put together a big, combined order from Amazon. Included in mine was some Warren Ellis, some Warhammer novels and a few bits and pieces including a book about weird things in American history by one Robert Damon Schneck named The President’s Vampire.
This proved to be a damn good read. I was familiar with several cases he covered (I mean who hasn’t heard about the phantom attackers of colonial Gloucester?) but there were several new to me. And the final case covered, well.
As the start of the last chapter says, people of a nervous disposition or those prone to obsessive thoughts would probably be better off not knowing about the case. So if you’re one of those, tune out here…
Still here? Good.
OK, the last chapter covers a very strange and downright creepy series of events encountered by a friend of the author who started playing around with a ouija board. Over the period of several months he and his friends made contact with some “entities” (a catch all term for whatever it is you contact via a ouija board, be they ghosts, demons, elementals, aliens, dolphins, the NSA or fragmented sections of the sitters’ subconciousnii) who eventually (quite reluctantly) supplied them with information about a malevolant being whose name I shall not repeat here, because (so the entities claimed) if you know his name he’ll come and hunt you down.
A series of very weird and eerie events followed, including one of the group having an inexplicable late night encounter with something that may or may not have been the creature in question.
After relating the events Schneck goes on to present a very well thought out (although – as in the best stories of this kind – ultimately inconclusive) analysis of the case. You can (and he does) come up with a perfectly rational explanation for it all, as long as you’re willing to accept the subconcious-action theory of the ouija board, but it’s still downright weird – and I speak as someone so well versed in the paranormal that I don’t count things as weird until crop circles start appearing in solid concrete.
Now, just out of idle curiosity I googled the name of the murderous being spoken about via the board. And to my surprise I discovered a simplified account of the case being circulated around the net as creepypasta!
(What’s creepypasta? Get with the program man! It’s the 2010’s for crying out loud! :))
This is strangely cool. Creepypasta is generally assumed to be complete grabage but here we have a case where it’s based in truth. I don’t know if Mr Schneck is aware of this, but I may drop him a line and tell him.