An essay by Professor Philip Fowler, as provided by Jimmy Bernard
Art by Errow Collins
The tale that will be described here is one of tragedy and mystery intertwined. For many years, people have wondered about the fate of Henrietta Beauchanson, widow of the late oil magnate, Philip Beauchanson. The facts concerning her demise are clear as water, but it is not here that the mystery lies.
Twenty years ago, she died in her house on Longberry road, after a long period of uncertainty and fear. The men who found her remains never fully recovered and haven’t spoken about the event since the filing of their official report. The house where she spent her final days is still for sale and will eventually be torn down, to fully remove the stain that Madame Beauchanson has left on the neighbourhood. Besides valiant children trying to prove their bravery, no one has entered the house since that fateful night and the scream in the dark. One evening there was a small fire, which was extinguished through a window. The police captain and fire brigade sergeant who entered the home came out sweating and trembling with fear.
It’s a tale easy to lose oneself in, especially with all the mystery surrounding it. What will be written down here is a collection of notes and personal experiences, given by people who were in any way related to the events which took place that fateful night. This document will be concluded with several fragments of Madame Beauchanson’s diary, which was found beside her lifeless body.
It is important to try to keep a scientific mind while reading these accounts, for folklore and mythology have no place in the modern world of today.
1. Account of Ernest Dillingue, neighbour.
Account taken a few weeks after discovery of remains.
I hadn’t seen or heard from Henrietta for a few days, not that it was strange. She always kept to herself, even when Philip, God rest him, was still alive. She was always dressed up in her most extravagant clothes and make-up whenever she did leave her house. I’d say sometimes she looked more like a circus clown or a stage performer than a widow.
She was always friendly though, never uptight or rude, not even to the poor people she passed in the street. One time I saw her while I was on business in the city. She was talking to a poor woman with a baby in her hand. I saw Henrietta enter a shop and come back out, giving the poor woman a loaf of bread and some treats for her child. It was a kind thing to do, especially when most people just walk by without even turning their heads.
Those rare moments we spoke, I found she was always filled with a deep interest and honest compassion. There was absolutely nothing fake or acted about her; she was a woman true to herself and her heart. I always liked that about her. My wife used to laugh in your face and stab you in the back, which made my skin crawl to be honest. I can’t say I miss that part of her, and I’m not proud of it either.
Anyway. The night that it happened, I remember hearing noises coming from the house. It was as if someone was breaking down the walls and smashing every piece of furniture to bits. My first thought was burglars, seeing as how Henrietta was always a very quiet and solemn woman. However, when I heard the screams coming from the parlour down below, I realized that it could very well be worse than burglars. I ran outside and up to the open door of her mansion …
Ernest Dillingue looked around nervously at this point. He started several sentences, never finishing one. He went on eventually.
I went into the hallway and it was cold, so cold. It was as if someone had let the icy winds of winter inside, which was strange, seeing as it was midsummer and the nights were usually hot. The shock of the cold made me tremble, and I placed my hand on the wall for support. Pins and needles seemed to run through me, and I pulled my arm back with a surprised cry. Other people had started showing up as well, all gazing at me and the dark house.
I can’t explain why I didn’t enter. It was … It was something keeping me, telling me not to go inside. It was as if all the lights in the world had gone out and eyes were looking at me from the shadows, waiting to devour me.
When the policemen arrived, I went outside among the crowd. Poor Henrietta. I don’t know what happened to her, and perhaps I never will. All I know is that I am glad I sold my house and moved away. I woke up sometimes in the middle of the night. I went to the window and looked at the empty house and I knew, a part of me has always known, that something was looking back.
Ernest Dillingue ended the conversation abruptly and walked away.
2. Official account of Johnathan J. Price.
Police officer and first to enter the home.
We (myself and officer McLawrence) entered the domicile after a disturbance was reported by the neighbours. A crowd of people stood and stared outside. The neighbour Ernest Dillingue was standing in the hallway; we removed Mr. Dillingue from the domicile and went inside.
It felt cold, and we both closed our coats tight around us. The lower floors were clear. Furniture had been upended and partially destroyed, but no human traces were found. We searched the base floor of the home first, never finding anything but destruction awaiting us.
A shriek came from the upper floor. It sounded human, but I can’t be sure. I’m not saying it was a demon or whatever, but it sure as hell didn’t sound normal. I pulled my sidearm and followed McLawrence up the stairs. At the top, we found the first drops of blood. A loud thump came from the room across the stairs, and we called out to whatever was inside to come out.
There was no response, so we went inside. Madame Beauchanson was in that room. I … I saw her first and immediately turned around. Officer McLawrence stepped closer, but eventually ran out the door. I followed right behind him, telling people to stay back. I don’t know what happened, only that it wasn’t the work of a man. This was the work of a monster.
Officer Price has since moved to a different country. The phone number he has listed as contact no longer answers any calls.
Officer McLawrence committed suicide via sidearm a few days after the events.
3. Account of Tommy Longless (age: 10).
Neighbourhood child who entered the house on a dare.
It was cold. The whole house felt cold. It reminded me of my grandpa’s basement–it’s always cold there as well. I didn’t wanna go in, but Peter Pallson and the others called me chicken. I told them I wasn’t chicken, but they kept making chicken noises at me, even when I told them to stop.
I climbed in through the open side window. I hesitated, and Peter pushed me. I hurt my knee but I didn’t scream, because I didn’t want him to know he had hurt me. The house was dark. I could barely see anything. I turned around to climb out, but they called me chicken again, saying I didn’t dare walk around inside. I told them I did, so I turned around and started walking.
When I heard the voice, I thought it was the boys calling me, trying to scare me. But then I wondered how they got up so high that they could call me from upstairs. I came to a staircase and went up. I don’t know why I opened the door, I honestly don’t. I didn’t mean to! But he was in there, calling me.
When asked who was calling him, Tommy answered the following:
The dark man, the one hidden in the shadows. He called my name.
4. Account of Doctor Feldman.
Physician of Erik Andrews.
Mister Andrews suffered severe shock after an incident that occurred in Long street. On a Thursday evening, after having several drinks at the pub I must add, Mister Andrews walked home by himself. Several people can attest to this, seeing as he was singing and making quite a fool of himself.
For unknown reasons, he stopped in front of the Beauchanson mansion. Onlookers say that he was staring at something, but they couldn’t see anything. After a minute or so, he turned around and ran away screaming. His sanity left him that day, a result of too much alcohol and stress in my opinion. Mister Andrews only had a hallucination, nothing more or less.
After asking what Mister Andrews saw, the doctor went on:
Mister Andrews claims–and I must add that this is probably only the raving of a madman–he saw a figure, standing on the roof of the mansion. He said it was dark and that it looked right at him. He claims the figure was not human, that it was more. “Ascended,” is the word he used. As if he had seen something more than a man. Something more evil.
Anyway, like I said, ravings of a madman. You must not look into it too much. He did have a lot to drink that evening, and his marriage was falling apart, so most likely he just had a very vivid hallucination.
5. The diary of Henrietta Beauchanson.
Starting a week before her demise.
Several extracts have been made from this diary, wherever relevant to this account.
Monday, August 20
I went to the graveyard today to visit Philip. It has been so long since I visited him, and I must say that I am ashamed of this. The tombstone had turned a dark shade of grey due to the spring rains. The grass was high around it, and there was even some moss to be found on the backside. I cleaned it all off, until Philip’s stone was bright and shining again. He would have liked that. It made my fingernails dirty and stained my clothes, but that’s alright. He deserves a clean stone.
The truth is that I haven’t visited him in such a long time because I didn’t know if I could bear to look down at him, lying buried below me in his black coffin, wearing that beautiful suit that always made me smile whenever he wore it. These months have been hard on me. To the outside world, he was a businessman, a worker. Someone who woke up to make money and went home knowing he did his job. I’ll bet there’s even people who disliked or hated him. To the outside world, he was all that, but to me, he was my husband. My Philip. He was the one who woke me up in the morning before he left with a kiss and an “I love you.” He was the one who took me for walks on the weekend and always held my hand, no matter who or what was watching. He never forgot my birthday or our anniversary. Every week he took the time to gather me some wildflowers, which he would give to me with a smile that held true love. I loved Philip more than I have ever loved anything else in my life.
And now he’s gone.
I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and turn around, expecting to feel him lying beside me. In the darkness, I’ll start crying and throwing off the sheets of the bed, desperately trying to find my love. A few nights ago, I woke up, thinking I had heard something. I sat up in bed and called out his name, forgetting–blissfully–once more that he was no longer with me. The sounds never came again, but my heart broke once more, because in that one moment, I expected my lovely, handsome Philip to enter the room.
I removed all his pictures, not out of loathing or because I no longer love him. But because I can’t stand to look at his face anymore. I can’t stand to see his charming blue eyes and playful smile. Every time I do, I feel my heart skipping a beat and my legs going weak, until I sit down on the ground and cry all alone, as I always am, and feel my heart break.
Tuesday, August 21
Is it wrong to dream of certain things? I must say that I am not a pious girl, and I am definitely not innocent anymore, but I am not a whore who gives in to her desires and openly speaks of marital matters with her friends. Even writing this down makes me feel uneasy, out of fear someone might one day read this and think of me as a salope or dancing whore.
Anyway, I linger. I had a dream last night, which woke me up and made me do things I am not proud of. Philip came to me in my dream. I cried tears of joy when he entered the room, but he didn’t say a word. He just looked at me and tore my clothes off. He took me and … it was good. It made me feel alive, in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time. When he was done, he told me he loved me, which woke me up.
It was after this dream that I went to the bathroom, where I saw his hairbrush (which I thought I had packed away already, but that’s not important). I used that hairbrush for … pleasure. Oh God, I pray nobody reads this. Maybe I should just rip this page out, just to be sure. Oh, but then my diary won’t be complete anymore. I can’t. I’ll just have to hide it away as best as I can.
Wednesday, August 22
This day had no relevant incidents, besides one short passage which follows.
So when I left the parlour, I stubbed my toe and fell against the closet, rocking Philip’s picture, which was placed on the highest shelf. I hope my toe is not broken. I’m having trouble moving it, but I think that’s just the bruise forming. I really hope it’s not broken. A cast looks so ridiculous, and it would look even worse on me.
Thursday, August 23
Something strange happened today. I’m still not sure how it happened, but it’s been on my mind the entire day. It’s … I don’t know. Strange? Yes, that’s the best word for it, I can’t think of any other which describes it better.
I woke up and followed my usual morning routine. Coffee with breakfast while reading the newspaper. Afterwards a bath and a walk to the market for fresh fruit. Everything seemed normal right until this afternoon, when I came out of the kitchen, ready to eat my evening meal. I was holding my tray, which carried my soup and fish meal, into the dining room. It was then that I saw it. The dining room door leading to the hallway of Philip’s study was open. I hadn’t been in that room since he died, and I specifically remember locking the door. When I looked at the open door and the dark hallway, I saw something move. A figure … a shape. It wasn’t big, or was it? I don’t know. I saw it move in the darkness, as if the shadows themselves had started to come alive.
I shrieked and dropped my tray, spilling hot soup all over my legs and carpet. The pain made me look down and when I looked up again, the door was closed. My heart started pounding rapidly, and I felt a desire to run away as fast as I could. But the sharp pain of my burned leg started creeping up on me, and I went to the kitchen to get a cold towel.
When I finished cleaning the mess I had made, I went over to the closed door. I’m afraid to say that I wasn’t brave at all and that the short walk to the door must have taken about half an hour. My legs seemed to resist every step I wanted them to take, like a force pulling me away from that door and that dark hallway behind it. The golden doorknob seemed untouched, as a small layer of dust had settled upon it. I had to summon all my courage to extend my hand and touch that knob. When I twisted it, I was certain something would jump out at me. But the door was locked.
I don’t understand it. I was certain that door was open, and I know I saw something move. No matter how hard I pulled, the door wouldn’t budge. I checked the closet, but the key was still in there, so it couldn’t be locked from the other side. I just don’t understand.
Friday, August 24
I think I am going mad. The door leading to his study never left my mind. I stayed up almost all night thinking of it. Eventually I fell asleep, only to wake up in the middle of the night. My bedroom door was open. I always close my bedroom door, and I know that I had closed it that night, because I remember looking at the closed door while lying in bed.
The door was open all the way, and I was filled with an intense feeling of fear. It was unlike anything I have ever felt before. I still can’t shake the pins and needles crawling up my back, even though it is daytime and the sun is shining bright outside. It was as if I stared death in the eye, and I could do nothing but remain paralysed, waiting to be taken into his black cloak. I couldn’t even scream for help. I felt my body shake, and I pulled up my covers until only my eyes were above them.
I tried telling myself it was the wind, but my mind would not believe it. Oh God, I was afraid. I stayed there, staring at the nighttime house behind that door. I thought of getting up to close the door, but I couldn’t move a muscle in my body. I could hear the clock in the hallway ticking, a solemn sound in the night, which seemed enhanced somehow.
I’m going mad, I truly am. I thought I saw something. I don’t know what, it was probably nothing. Just my mind playing tricks on me in the dark and my sleep deprived state. But I thought I saw something standing in the room opposite my bedroom, looking at me.
I’m going mad.
Saturday, August 25
I don’t sleep in my bedroom anymore. It is in there. I don’t sleep anymore.
After writing my diary entry yesterday, I heard a thump coming from the dining room. I stood up to inspect it. When I entered, I saw Philip’s pictures standing on the table, all facing me. I didn’t scream. I hadn’t the power to scream. I just stared at the pictures, the ones I had placed on the attic in a cardboard box. I don’t have any housemaids or any houseguests, so I know nobody could have taken them down.
But they were there.
I backed up until my back hit the wall. I looked away from the table and saw the door leading to his study standing open. I walked closer, dreading to see what would be waiting for me. Once I reached the door, I could see into the hallway. Philip’s study was open and I saw it then, for the first time I saw it. I know now that it wanted me to see it. That it was a form of politeness, a way of telling me what was coming.
In the black leather chair sat a figure. It giggled, like a child enjoying a twisted game. I gasped when it stood up and started sprinting towards me. I pulled the door closed and felt it tugging on the other side. I let go of the doorknob and ran to the parlour, where I am right now. I have barricaded the door with a heavy chair. I haven’t heard anything ever since entering the room, but I know that it is waiting for me. The figure in the night is waiting.
Sunday, August 26
I opened my window and called to the people on the street for help, but they walked on as if they couldn’t hear me at all. It’s also been getting colder in here. I am shivering as I write this, and no matter how many sweaters I wear, the cold won’t release me. I thought about opening the door. I haven’t heard anything anymore, but still. What if it is out there, waiting for me? What if it is trying to lure me out by biding its time?
I can’t stay in here forever. What would Philip say, if he saw me right now? He would call me mad, and perhaps he would be right.
I made a drawing of the figure, as best as I could. I’ve never been the artistic type, but I tried. It’s strange, I can’t remember whether it actually looked like this, or if my mind is just trying to fool me. All I know is th–
It’s here. It’s inside the house. I know it now. Oh God, help me. The chair is moving! The chair is moving on its own! The–
It is coming for me. The shadow in the night is coming. I’ve been running from it all night, finding all the doors leading outside locked and the windows being guarded by this creature. This monster.
It almost had me. I ran up the stairs and it followed right behind me. It slashed at my leg and cut it open, but I managed to get inside my room and close the door. I can hear it, throwing furniture against the wood, breaking it down. I saw it clearly for the first time today. It is not a man. It is a shadow, a shapeless form with no eyes. It has a mouth, filled with endless rows of sharp teeth and claws on its hands that are long and sharp.
It makes a sound as well. Oh, this is by far the worst of it. It makes this high pitched shrieking sound every time it comes sprinting for me. It’s doing it right now, and I’m covering my ears, trying to escape from it. Why won’t it stop? Why won’t it STOP!
It imitates as well. I heard it calling me, in my own voice. This demon from hell!
No! NO! WHY WON’T ANYBODY HELP ME HELP ME HELP ME!
The diary ends here.
The creature described in Madame Beauchanson’s diary matches that which was described by Erik Andrews. The drawing she made of it, which was found among several papers on the floor, shows a tall, dark, shapeless creature. It has no eyes, nor nose, nor any other facial expressions. Its mouth is wide and goes from ear to ear, filled with sharp teeth. Underneath the drawing, Henrietta wrote “The Shadow in the Night”.
No official sightings have been reported of the creature since.
One last account follows, perhaps the one most filled with folklore, but nevertheless important.
7. Account of Martha Stineway.
Account given to police officers after the Beauchanson murder.
I was standing on the other side of the street, looking at the crowd and all the policemen entering the house. I blew out my cigarette smoke while looking up and I saw a dark figure standing on the roof. It looked at me and pointed. I thought I heard a shrieking sound, but I can’t be sure. I only remember feeling afraid, more so than I have ever been in my life.
Here ends the account, which police deemed nothing more than attention-seeking behaviour. Martha Stineway was found dead, several days after, with her throat slit and her skin peeled off.
Professor Philip Fowler has a degree in forensic science and psychology. He specializes in unsolved or mysterious crime cases and devotes himself to shining a new light on these. His colleagues describe him as a detailed but obsessive scientist. It is unknown where this keen interest of his originates from and some speculate it could have something to do with the death of his younger brother, when Professor Fowler was a mere boy.
He resides in Bruges, Belgium, where he has an office looking out on the canal.
Jimmy Bernard is a 25-year-old writer with a degree in applied psychology. He works as an HR analyst and writes stories in his spare time. Besides writing, he plays guitar and spends most of his time reading. He resides in Belgium and visits Professor Fowler, a very old friend of his, at least twice a month, to discuss some of the new cases he has uncovered.
Errow is a comic artist and illustrator with a predilection towards the surreal and the familiar. She pays her time to developing worlds not quite like our own with her artist fiancee and pushing the queer agenda. She probably left a candle burning somewhere. More of her work can be found at errowcollins.wix.com/portfolio.
“The Case Of Henrietta Beauchanson” is © 2017 Jimmy Bernard
Art accompanying story is © 2017 Errow Collins