I. A Horror Uncovered
Lovecraft once wrote that the “oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” It can act as both an obstacle to conquer, but many times it can be a shield to protect us from danger. We perceive ourselves undaunted in our quest for knowledge no matter how dangerous or impossible it can be. Sometimes to know what we fear is to no longer be afraid. And there are times that what we find, we wish we never knew.
It was in late September that I received an unexpected delivery in the post. The parcel was unmarked with no return address so there was no way I could identify who had sent it. I found it strange that I would receive a parcel without expecting anything in particular, who would be sending me a parcel? Opening the parcel revealed it to be a small plastic box, with a metallic reinforced lid. It peeked my interest in what could have been inside.
The box opened simply by squeezing two ends as it had a clipped lip in order to keep it closed. Inside I found, at first, a small hand written notebook. Skimming through, I discovered that it had been written by an old friend and colleague, Joel Herbert, a professor of psychology at King’s College. Joel was an authority of Experimental Psychology and had been the author of many books and many more papers on the subject of Cognitive Psychology. I found it incredibly strange that I was receiving mail from him. I was a little unnerved that, not only was I receiving mail from a man I hadn’t spoken to in some time, but who had also killed himself over two months ago.
The notebook was tiny, miniscule even, and I wondered how anyone could write in such a small thing. I flicked through the pages to discover what must have been a jumbled mess of notes and doodles. The writing made no sense to me. They were lists of words and jumbled notes and the only common words that kept cropping up were; STONESHORE and MOYER. None of these names meant anything to me at the time and only provoked more questions than providing any answers; why had I received this parcel? What was the professor’s intentions with these notes or was he just collecting ideas for a new book before his death?
It wasn’t until closer inspection of the box that I found a small hole, about the size to fit the tip of my finger. Pulling back the plastic cover revealed a hidden compartment. Inside was a 32 gigabyte sized flash drive. It contained a wealth of PDFs, JPEGs and various word processing documents and soon it became clear to me what the notebook was for. It wasn’t just notes, it was a contents reference for the documents contained in the USB. The documents were collections of investigations into missing persons and murders surrounding a fishing town called Stoneshore – so named for its pebble beach and rocky coastline. What wealth of knowledge there was on this curious town was clear, but still led me no further to knowing about the professor’s last days or why I had received all this information. I attempted to read on in the hopes of finding any reason how this could be connected to the professor’s suicide.
Reading through one of Joel’s documents I found that he had gone so far as to visit the town of Stoneshore itself on March 1st 2004 – a time before his obsessive collection. It was in an attempt to clear his head after a tragic incident he had suffered one year earlier when he was the only survivor of a coach accident. I remembered him talking to me about how he was on a trip with his students to France when the driver took a sudden unexpected turn on the road taking them off the road completely. After his time recovering in hospital, where I only visited him once or twice, he seemed to have an inner feeling. A feeling of something pulling him away and maybe trying to help him escape from the maddening London crowd.
Upon his arrival to Stoneshore his first impressions were of a town of half-empty shops, cafés and quiet streets, even for its quaint population, the place was close to desolate. It could be attributed that such places of reputable respect in the county have their importance wane with the growth of newer towns or the fading of their most important business, like Stoneshore’s fishing trade, causing a bulk of its populace to move on – but to the professor, the town seemed a little too empty. The town’s people themselves, what few there were, as Joel described, were wracked with a constant look of heavy weariness as if they had been deprived of sleep for days. Even as he stepped into the town, he felt a slight disconnection from it, as if no one wanted him there.
According to his memoir he checked into the Magnolia Hotel, a small place just on the edge of town. The hoteliers, Patricia and Adam Jones, who seemed pleasant enough to him as he arrived, still had that same sleep-deprived look of the others, and spoke to him in the most dreamy, stilted manner. Most of Joel’s time was not spent at the hotel, despite its comfort, but spent for the majority walking along the pebble beach at low tide. There was a long stone jetty reaching out from the shore in an L-shape with very few trawlers moored to them, their time as a working dock long since passed by the looks of it.
Joel relished in describing the sea in detail, as its steady swelling of the waves across the large pebbles presented a welcoming calm to his mind. In the distance he could make out the distinctive sound of a bell rhythmically clanging with each swell of the waves. Looking out at sea he could make out the shape of a buoy. It was on this passage that the document was accompanied by a crude picture, possibly drawn by the professor himself – I couldn’t tell – scribbled into the tiny notebook. It looked like an old thing, a weather-beaten shade of white with a metal rail tower in the centre topped by a light (a side note pointed out that the light was non-functional). What made the buoy so important in his document?
Turning back through the professor’s notes he wrote that during this same jaunt he had met with a woman named Grace Roberts, another visitor to the town, like himself. Miss Robert’s was a celebrity of some small repute, she had been involved in many diving expeditions in searching for treasures lost beneath the waves, though in this part of the manuscript the professor gave little detail into her exploits.
However, Joel had been curious into her reason for coming to Stoneshore. It was here she told him about her interest in the wreck of a small passenger ferry that sank just on the town’s coast. On February 13th 1984, the MS Moyer, as it was called, had been caught in a sudden storm that nearly ravaged the town one evening. The ship had hit a rock causing it to take on water and the remorseless waves battered the ship. In the confusion the crew tried to call for help from the near-by town, but none of their calls were answered. Not even the screams of the passengers carried on the wind aroused any attention. It wasn’t until the next morning that witnesses saw the stranded ship and rescue boats from the town arrived only to come upon the ship as it slid below the waves. All souls aboard were dragged down with her.
A buoy was placed over the wreck site, the same buoy that the professor had taken a sketch of. It remained like a grave stone, reminding people of its presence with an endless hollow distant clanging. His final note on the story was the cold feeling that clanging now gave Joel.
On March 3rd, the third night of the professor’s stay at the hotel, Joel had complained that his sleep was disturbed by terrible dreams. Lying awake in bed and the sudden silence of the buoys bell gave the professor pause for thought. The wind was howling at the window. Yet it seemed to carry the unnerving sounds of, what the professor could only describe as, distant human screams. As the wind grew stronger the screams got louder until their force caused Joel to wake in a startled jump. Lying there, alone and with reality quickly sinking in he could hear the low gusts of wind outside – yet the bell of the buoy was still silent. He noted that his dream may have made his mind deaf to the sound but he was sure he couldn’t hear the bell chimes, before the familiar sound returned moments later.
I had to skip a few pages after this as the professor’s notes mainly spoke of his jaunts around the town. There was nothing really worthy of note until I came upon a passage where he had come across the hotelier’s son. Clive Johnson had come from Birmingham to visit his parents for a few weeks after his sister’s funeral. While the professor did not speak with the young man he could not help over hear him arguing with his parents. It had been clear to the professor that the hotelier’s daughter had died but, for some reason that was not entirely clear, they had refused to hold her funeral at the local cemetery.
Despite their strange distant manner with Joel the past couple of days, the hotelier’s argument with their son had made them more vocal. They had argued that there was something wrong with the town of Stoneshore ever since the Moyer’s sinking and that burying her in the cemetery would be unacceptable. They seemed fixated in not burying their daughter in the cemetery alluding to who or what is buried up there. This had made no sense to the professor and he was fixated in what was buried up in Stoneshore’s cemetery that had made them so uncomfortable.
It was later on his jaunts that the professor had decided to make a major detour, taking himself in the direction of Stoneshore’s cemetery at St. Andrew’s mortuary chapel. The chapel was an old structure, from around the 17th century and built on the remains of an older church from around the Middle Ages. It stood apart from the town upon a tall hill that overlooked the westward coast. I could only imagine from the professor’s description that the view must have been breath-taking. A lot of the town was in view from this point and the professor could even see one of its streets had become so over grown only a few rooftops just about poked over the foliage – this part of the page was marked for a further reference.
Such a view, however, could not compensate for the cold feeling he got from the churchyard. Looking at the records within the PDF files, the chapel and its cemetery had not been used for over 20 years. The doors to St Andrew’s were closed and padlocked shut. Some of the windows of the church had been broken by some probable act of vandalism and a couple of roof tiles had fallen from their place and lay shattered on the ground below. The grave yard was nearly replete with gravestones and patches of overgrown grass and weeds.
My friend made particular note of a curious grave site. It had been marked as being a multiple grave with nine people buried below. At the bottom it was noted on the grave that these nine people drowned with the MS Moyer. A strange notion has passed my mind and I wondered why only nine people were buried here from the Moyer, didn’t they have families? Judging by the lack of names, as the professor noted, these people had been unidentified and were simply buried where they had drowned.
I also began to wonder if this was what the landlady, Mrs Jones, was referring to as the “thing” buried in the graveyard? It could have been possible as the date of the churchyard’s closure and time of the sinking, both in 1984, coincided with one another. Records from the professor’s file noted this, and one other, burial as the last ones interred at St Andrew’s – but the notion seemed highly doubtful.
The professor then touched upon the most remarkable thing that happened there. Upon leaving the church yard the professor had discovered that the doors to the chapel had been opened. The locks were unbroken and he could only have assumed that there was, perhaps, a custodian to the place – despite the place’s poorly kept state. While my friend was not the sort to poke his nose into other people’s affairs his excursion, he explained, left him understandably curious. His intentions were to simply question the person on the burials.
Once inside he described the place as unremarkable yet oddly well-kept. Daylight streamed in through the windows illuminating the flaking white-paint on the walls and puddles lay here and there where the rain had come through the gaps in the roof. Nothing gave any trace of another person there and with Joel’s curiosity unsated, he moved to leave. But something gave him a horrible pause for thought. Someone was there watching him. While he could see that the place was clearly empty he could not shake the feeling. A deep instinct made the professor exit in haste.
Since his time spent at Stoneshore and his final stay at the hotel my friend had not been able to shake the ominous feeling of being pursued by an unseen force. His nights were constantly troubled by dreams and paranoia seemed to flare every time he would hear footsteps behind him or even look out of his window to see what he thought were nine figures staring up at him. He felt as though he had brought something with him. Something evil. Joel, ever being the academic had used this as an advantage to dig deeper into the town’s past to find answers to a place that admittedly, no longer wanted to be recognised by the outside world. The people of Stoneshore were keeping something there, or, as Joel had noted, perhaps to stop anyone from taking something with them from that place. Stoneshore had a secret and that secret had killed people or made them disappear. Of that my friend felt unreasonably sure. The cuttings and reports that Joel had scanned made light of this. His findings were both numerous and fragmented. It would take some time for me to sift through what he had gathered, as my own curiosity began to grow with each document I read.