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Okay, so all of your campfire stories have been pretty good. But now, I am about to knock your socks off with a true story. Hold onto your marshmallows.

My story is called “Backyard Party.”


We were the first to arrive. Lisa had already ordered a couple of pizzas and laid out some snacks. It looked less like a study session than a party, but I was excited about that. I had expected to see her parents there, but they had left for a bit on a date night to give Lisa some time to hang out. Most of us were still in our early 20s, so it was a nice gesture to the study group.

Lisa gave us a tour of the house and the property; it was a pretty ideal spot. It wasn’t overly large as nice two-story houses go, but it sat in a two-acre clearing practically carved from the woods. It was surreal to see a wall of trees that cut so clearly against the manicured lawn, and the trees were packed tightly enough that it made me a little uneasy.

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After the tour, Lisa had Ken and I set up the firepit, and while that was happening, Jason and Anja arrived. We all took a seat outside with our textbooks we’d dragged from the trunks of our cars and started studying. The pizza arrived shortly into that, with Kerri arriving after.

The later afternoon was mostly uneventful, and as the light outside began to die down, we opted to quit studying and just hang out around the firepit. Soon enough, night fell, and we were pretty happy working through a case of beer Jason had brought.

Throughout the night, I kept looking across the yard. The tree line at the rear of the house was about 50 or 60 feet away. Eventually, everyone noticed my attention was elsewhere, and Lisa mentioned she hadn’t gotten used to the trees either, having been raised in the city. She said on windy nights that the woods seemed to sway.

As though to lend color to her story, the wind picked up, and in our silence, we heard the trees of the woods sway behind us. We all burst into nervous laughter at the timing of it.

What we heard next almost made me piss myself.

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As our laughter faded, we noticed distant laughter coming from the woods. We were quiet and listened to it die out.

Ken, as a joke, yelled out to the trees, “havin’ a laugh, mate,” in his fake-British accent.

We waited for a reply, and just as we collectively shrugged off the sounds as an echo, we noticed a man emerge from the woods, shirtless and shoeless, with a stringy beard and long hair.

Lisa asked the man who he was and if he needed help. He said nothing, staring at us.

By now, Anja and Kerri had risen from the seats around the firepit and backed toward the sliding glass door. Ken and Jason stood up and stepped toward the stranger a few feet from the pit. I followed not of an inclination toward bravery but because I was probably expected to.

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The stranger didn’t move. He stood there, staring at Lisa. Even given the distance from us, we could see his gaze was on her, even as she got up and made her way to the screen door. It was all in the head tilts.

Lisa called us inside with the girls, and we followed, Ken quickly smothering the fire with the metal lid. Inside she called her parents and told them what was going on. They were a couple of towns over. They would be back within an hour and a half. They told her to call the police.

Lisa, Kerri, Jason, and Anja went to each window, drawing the shutters, as Lisa made her call. Ken and I stood at the glass door, and, without saying a word, Ken shut off the lights in the kitchen. The darkness made me nervous. But, it allowed us to look into the backyard. Ken yelped as he saw the man standing at the firepit, about 10 feet from the screen door. I did the same thing when I noticed it, and within a few seconds, I made my way past the breakfast bar and pulled a larger knife from the block.

The man didn’t react to me coming back to the sliding door with a knife. He stood there next to the fire pit, staring into the house, searching for something with his eyes. As much as we could tell in the moonlight, his skin was dirty and pockmarked, and his pants, his only clothing, hung loosely off his thin hips.

Lisa appeared behind us, still on the phone with 911, and screamed when she saw him out the window. Her scream caught me off guard, and I dropped the knife. By the time I had reached down to pick it back up, the stranger had already moved from the firepit to a different spot around the house. I took a few steps back and sat at the kitchen table as Ken and Lisa darted to the windows to catch a glimpse of where he was going. I just sat in shock, listening to everyone say they had seen him walk past and Jason screaming that the stranger was tugging on the front door.

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After twenty minutes of confusion and sporadic sightings, we noticed flashes of blue and red against the trees on the side of the house, followed by a knock at the door. The cops arrived, and as we told them our story, they agreed to check around the area. We waited for them in the backyard, near the firepit, as they cast pale beams of light into the woods. One cop came around from the side of the house and asked which of us was the homeowner. 

Lisa answered. The cop asked her if she knew the house had crawlspace access, and Lisa admitted she didn’t but assumed there was due to a removable floor in one of the closets. The cop seemed annoyed by this and began to search the house’s base from outside. Sure enough, he found one, a wooden panel that he slid out of the way.

He flashed his light beneath the house and, content he saw nothing, conferred with the other officers that the coast was clear. The cops offered unhelpful advice to keep an eye out and left. We agreed as a group to stay with Lisa until her parents came home.

Within a half hour, we seemed to be okay. The stranger was still on our minds, but in one room with locked doors, we felt safe enough not to worry as much. I decided to use the restroom, and Jason volunteered to accompany me, as Lisa didn’t want anyone wandering the house alone.

Jason and I made our way to the guest bathroom on the first floor, and he waited outside while I did my business. Once done, he asked me to keep watch as he took a turn. I agreed and stood far from the door to give him some privacy.

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That is when I heard some shuffling in a closet. I kept my distance and was silent, my eyes locked on the door. I thought I saw it open slightly for a moment, but it may have just been nerves. I didn’t even hear Jason come out of the bathroom.

He touched my shoulder, and I felt my heart leap into my throat. I pointed at the door, and his eyes grew wide.

Just then, he yelled for everyone to come to the bathroom, and while he was yelling, I swore I heard the click of the closet door. When the others arrived, we made out way to the closet door, throwing it open, ready to fight.

The closet was empty, but Lisa shrieked when she saw that the wooden panel on the floor was open, the crawlspace exposed.


The participants of the 2022 summer fiction series at Haunted MTL hope that you have enjoyed this batch of original creations. If you have missed the previous installments, you can find them all linked below.

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David Davis is a writer, cartoonist, and educator in Southern California with an M.A. in literature and writing studies.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Jennifer Weigel

    August 25, 2022 at 8:28 am

    This was a good one, and that’s quite the study group you have going…

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Zombie Snails

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This time on Nightmarish Nature, we will look into zombie snails, because we were having so much with the Whore Snails recently. So this is a lot like the Freaky Fungus except that this time it’s a parasitic worm that is the cause of the horror… Leucochloridium paradoxum, the green-banded broodsac worm, forces snails to be a part of its nefarious plans to take over the world (well, really more just continue on keeping on in its strange and bizarre life cycle).

Hungry birds want nummins
Hungry birds want nummins

This Is What We Get for Eating Poop

The worm, which spends much of its life as a parasite in birds’ digestive systems, is part of a weird cycle that includes both birds and snails, though the snail end is much creepier. It starts when a snail ingests worm eggs in bird droppings. These eggs hatch into worm larvae that eventually turn the poor hosts into zombie snails! But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew...
Snails make questionable food choices, but I guess this comes from being where they are on the ecosystem clean up crew…

The worm larvae work their way up into the snails’ brains and take over, hijacking them on suicide missions to continue their own life cycle. These worm larvae eventually grow large and worm their way into the poor snail’s eye stalks, pulsing and throbbing therein to resemble maggots or other tasty treats.

Zombie Snails
Zombie Snails

Mind-Control

The worms use the zombie snails to get into their bird hosts by mind-controlling them into climbing out of the shady undergrowth where they will be easily spotted by bird predators which will feed on them, ingesting the eye stalks and continuing the worm’s life cycle as it gets into the bird’s digestive tract. The huge, bulging eye stalks are irresistible to birds looking to snatch maggots and other delicious delicacies. Eventually, after the worms are well ensconced in its bird hosts, the bird poops out more worm eggs for unsuspecting snails to ingest, completing the cycle.

Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.
Birds love their grubs and maggots and other nummins, even if they are just zombie snails.

You can watch this in action on Nat Geo Wild: World’s Deadliest here, if you dare. Warning, it’s a little gross but not near so much as some of the other topics we’ve covered. If you enjoyed this slimy segment of Nightmarish Nature, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting

Freaky Fungus

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Worrisome Wasps

Cannibalism

Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause

Komodo Dragons

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Original Creations

Snails a Whorl Whirl Whore World…

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So a friend and I made some artsy snails awhile back. Essentially this was in response to her granddaughter proclaiming that her favorite animals are whorl snails. My friend heard “whore snails” and was a bit perturbed that the child would use such a word so nonchalantly, whether or not she knew what it meant. But then again toddler-speak is like that sometimes… Anyway, it stuck.

So we made some whore snails, all glammed up and ready to go. We started with these flat metal snails and then painted and decorated them, to whore them up a bit. I figured this would be apropos after my recent Valentine’s Day posts and that the end results were horrifying enough to appear here.

My friend's whore whorl snail
My friend’s whore whorl snail

This is my friend’s creation. I especially like the David Bowie star and cherry bling to match her cherry red lipstick. The purple shell is a great color on her too. I think my friend went back and decorated her shell more after the fact, but I didn’t see the snail after those changes.

My whore snail
My whore snail

And here’s my whore snail. She’s a bit more of an ice queen with her deceptively lovey-dovey eyes and mouth full of poison darts, like the underwater snails do. I believe I called her a Hoar Whore Whorl Snail as when the discussion first came up I heard “hoar” and thought of hoarfrost. Hence the ice queen take…

And another friend joined us via Zoom just to visit and have fun making art together.

Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom
Another whore snail, drawn by our friend over Zoom

This little Zoomed in snail is kinda cute, like she’s out on the beach in her bikini… Mixed media on paper.

So if that wasn’t disturbing enough, check out my inappropriate Shrinky Dinks posted here before, or maybe this Eye Candy Peeps Easter basket, both taking some innocuous thing(s) turning into something… else…

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Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites. Her friends will remain anonymous for now…

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Original Creations

Have a Dystopian Girls on Film Valentine’s Day

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So it’s finally actually Valentine’s Day, and thus marks the final segment of our dysfunctional dystopian romance. So far, we’ve survived both Gen X and Krampusnacht, what else could possibly be in store? Girls on Film…

Valentine's Day card Girls on Film
Girls on Film Valentine’s Day card from Jennifer Weigel

Image description: Video camera umbrella shower succubus stares through the lens at the viewer, surrounded by eerie Cthulhoid horror embellishments with text.

Text reads: Happy Valentine’s Day; lipstick cherry all over the lens as she’s falling; give me shudders in a whisper; take me up ’til I’m shooting a star; (she’s more than a lady)

OK so this Valentine’s Day dystopia ends in a Duran Duran video, because of course it does. If the video doesn’t load properly, you can find it by following this link. Girls on Film.

Duran Duran official video

Here’s the camera eye succubus all by itself, for your viewing pleasure. Actually this is the original original image from an Unselfie performance art piece in the shower before I decided to forego the umbrella. Girls on Film.

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Unselfie performance art video still
Video still

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

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