There is a mineshaft in a place you might know as Virginia City, a little historic town in northern Nevada with haunted bars, hotels filled with blood and cemeteries decorated with skeletons and baby cribs. This mineshaft is not difficult to get into; it is buried beneath a general store. All we had to do was pay the reasonable fee of $10 each and voila, the gate opens and down a shabby, groaning ramp we went. The descent is far lower than the store advertises, which claims a two story descent but is actually 10 story descent. Probably some legal reasons why they don’t list it, who knows. Anyway, the ramp turns into stairs, which are so frail it feels as though they might collapse with each step you take. Minus the measly, vintage light fixtures dangling from the walls, it is an abysmal darkness. It is impossible to avoid walking into cobwebs and there were many times I almost tripped on a loose, rusty nail and fell to my death.
I was with my boyfriend at the time, Brandt. We were both 20, underage in such a boozy town but our fake IDs have worked wonders before so I didn’t doubt they would work now. Growing up, we both loved going up to Virginia City and we wanted to have a little date for our six month anniversary.
The further we went down into the mineshaft, the more I wanted to turn back around. But every time I brought it up, Brandt told me we have to keep going because there was no way we were going to get our money back and he’ll be goddamned if he let $20 go to waste. And I tried to tell him that he could’ve let me pay for half because my parents gave me some extra money for our trip but noooo, he had to be a dumb chivalrous man about it and that lead into an argument about how it’s the 21st century, you don’t have to let women pay anymore if they don’t want you to and he was like “it’s the principal of the thing” and then we had a fight about principals and, long story short, we didn’t turn back around. That is how long this flight of stairs was; we were able to fight and resolve multiple different arguments.
Anyway, we continued to make the fateful trip down the stairs, and did I mention how much colder it became the further down we went? Mind you, I was in booty shorts and a tank top, so I was fucking shivering just halfway down. Brandt was in jeans and a tank, but he runs cold and would not stop bitching about it. I was really tempted to push him down the stairs because he wouldn’t shut up and I just wanted this dumb mineshaft trip over with. I could be looking at stupid shirts in a general store or using my fake ID in some random bar instead of this. But down we went, and the colder we got, and the more pissed we became at each other.
We stopped holding hands a long time ago, but after a moment of silence Brandt grabbed my hand and held me close, claiming he felt something graze his ankle. I was tempted to squat down and feel if there was something in the space between the slats in the stairs, but I didn’t want to entertain his childish fears because he has a history of crying wolf – I call it “youngest child syndrome” — and I just wanted to get out of there. So, I held his hand and told him it was probably just a cobweb or spider or something, who knows how many were crawling on us. We went down another story — or at least I think it was another story, it became really difficult to tell – when we both heard a faint laughter below us. It was like those stereotypical witch cackles, except this was deeper and lasted much longer. I tried to pretend that it was just our imaginations playing tricks on us, but the laughter just grew louder. Brandt and I looked at the dark outlines of each other’s faces and I could tell he wanted to get the hell out of here, $20 or no, and let me tell you I have never loved that man more than when we both took off running up the stairs.
But up the stairs was the worst thing we could’ve done. We only made it up three steps when a slat broke and our legs fell through it, our bodies slamming against the stairs behind us and breaking those, too. The pieces of wood and nails came tumbling down with us and it was at this moment that I realized I might die because my stupid boyfriend didn’t want to waste $20 at a Virginia City tourist attraction. Brandt hit the ground first and I fell flat on his arm. I heard a crack and we both screamed. For a moment we forgot the creepy cackling because we were in the worst pain of our lives. After a few short seconds we started to calm down a bit, and then the angry screaming started. We fought and talked over each other, my voice louder than I realized it could ever go – though maybe the vast powerful echo of the place helped with my volume. My relationship with Brandt was not a very happy one, suffice to say.
We were so pissed at each other, even though Brandt had no reason to be pissed at me and I had every reason to be pissed at him. We only stopped when we heard a loud door slam from far away. This was when the terror took hold of us again. We cried for help for a few minutes, but that was a lost cause because we were ten stories below ground and the teenager at the front desk of the general store looked like he’d rather be in the cemetery than working at the store. Even worse, our phones were completely out of service.
After a few deep breaths, we helped each other stand and leaned against one another. Getting up was miraculously not as difficult as I expected after falling down the stairs. We must’ve been closer to the bottom than we thought. Hobbling, we followed a faint light, which ended up being where the stairs ended, and there was a small little railroad that lead into a subtly green lit hallway.
Brandt and I crept past a curtain and entered a bright room that reeked of dust and death. It took our eyes a moment to register the light when we realized it was completely, wall to ceiling to wall, covered in bones. Most of the bones were disconnected, but there were a few fully clothed skeletons wearing hardhats and dusty pleated trousers with soot all over their faded, ripped shirts. There were clumps of hair next to one skeleton, and the toes of a boney foot were sticking out of the shoe of another. Brandt and I were too stunned to do anything until the cackling started up again. And now we could see who I it was coming from.
In the far corner of the room, next to the door with a sign that read EXIT in bright red, a figure was rocking back and forth in a chair as creaky as the broken stairs far above us. The figure was wearing a construction hat and suspenders, like a miner from the Silver Rush. Brandt and I inched closer to exit, leaning against the wall so we could maintain our distance. The thing in the chair had long white wiry hair. Crooked teeth poked through its thin cheeks from all angles, dried blood crusted on its lips, and the skin on its neck drooped so far down I could’ve sworn it was melting. Its shirt was ripped open, revealing broken and missing bones where the ribs should be. As the thing rocked back and forth in its chair, its laughter changed volume and tone. It tapped its fingers against the arm rests and its toes against the floor, all of which were covered in a slimy sore muscle. Each digit stuck to the wood before lifting into the air, blood and an oozing film sticking to the surface.
My first instinct was to book it as fast as I could, get in my car, and drive Brandt and me to the nearest hospital our sore bodies could find. Yet we weren’t able to pass the laughing body. It wasn’t blocking the exit, we could’ve simply walked past it, but something was holding us back. We stared at the thing in the chair, entranced with its rhythm. I don’t know how much time passed, how long we stared at it, until it suddenly stopped cackling and stood. It walked over and whispered something in my ear, then took a hold of Brandt’s hand and led him away to a different part of the room neither of us noticed before. Brandt disappeared behind a curtain with the figure, and I was left all alone. For a moment, I wasn’t sure which direction to go, what to do.
But you already know what I did.
You know I didn’t go after Brandt. I don’t know what happened to him, and I didn’t waste any more time in this terrifying mine shaft under the general store. My body was cold and my heart was colder. I opened door and you can’t imagine how relieved I was to find a set of stairs that went up into daylight. They looked brand new, at least newer and in better shape than the broken ones. I ran, walked, crawled up them, listening to the heavy door slam behind me as I reached the surface. My phone’s service was restored, but I didn’t know who to call. I just sat on a bench on waited.
A few moments later, Brandt appeared out of thin air and sat next to me without a word. His presence had changed and he smelled terribly. He was quiet and rocked back and forth, wincing in pain with each movement. We were silent, then quietly walked to my car. I drove us to the hospital. I had broken Brandt’s arm when I fell on it and our ankles and backs were sprained, but that was as far as the physical damage went. I dropped him off at his apartment then drove myself home and went to bed. I stared at my ceiling, the darkness suffocating me. I had to turn my nightlight on.
Brand stopped talking to each other after that. We really officially break up, but it was over between us the minute he sat next to me on that bench. I texted and called him a few times; he never responded. I ran into him a few months ago at a summer food truck event. We made eye contact for a minute and he looked sad, exhausted. That was the last time I saw him.
I don’t know what happened to him down there in that mine shaft when I left him. I don’t know where he is now.
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Reanimating Dead Art with Monsters by Jennifer Weigel
Dead art… It’s a thing that happens, sadly. Typically found at thrift and antique stores or dumpster diving or by the side of the road. But art is never really dead, just resting… Here are some reanimated paintings I made by incorporating nail polish monsters into existing art.
Let’s face it – reworking old abandoned artworks with monsters kind of rocks. For awhile they were all over the internet. I admit, it took me a long time to muster up the courage to paint into someone else’s grandmother’s art, but once I started I just couldn’t stop. From top to bottom, left to right we have: Zombies, Unicorn, Siren, Krakken, Harpies, Sasquatch, Alien Invasion, Witch, and Serpent.
The dragon is probably my favorite. All of the shades of red are really vibrant and striking against the green. And dragons are always so classic and grandiose and terrifying, perfect for pairing with a mountain landscape. I love painting with nail polish for the sparkle, even if the fumes do get kind of noxious en masse. (The best subject to paint in this media is Rocky Horror style lips by the way, in case you were wondering.)
And what better way to complete the collection than with a portrait of a Fairy Queen, her icy stare drilling into your soul. She’s up to some sort of magical mischief, that’s for sure.
And speaking of magical mischief, this is the monster painting I made just for me. The original artwork is about 4 feet long and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to reanimate it in this exact way for all that this is the last in the series that I did. I even added extra shimmer factor. I’d initially considered adding a sea serpent or a dragon but no, she told me to stop.
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.
Lighter than Dark
LTD: Revisiting Broken Doll Head, Interview 2
Our last interview with Broken Doll Head here on Haunted MTL never set well with me. I just feared that I wasn’t able to get the whole scoop on the V-Day Uprising for you, our dear readership. So I arranged another exclusive interview to reconnect and see how it’s going.
Without further ado, I bring you our second exclusive interview with Broken Doll Head…
Thank you so much for having me again. Wow you have changed since the last time we spoke. You seem… calmer. Please don’t hate me or burn down my house for saying anything about it.
The movement is still underway; it is still time. But I needed to take care of me, you know. The rage has subsided somewhat. My anger was not serving me well. After the last uprising, the rest of me was sent to the far corners of the earth in biohazard bags. I had to find another approach, for the cause as well as my own sanity. I am much calmer, thank you for noticing.
In our last interview, you kept repeating that it is time. Time for what exactly? Would you care to elaborate here now?
It is still time. It is always time. Until the violence is addressed we must continue to rise up and make a scene. We will not be silenced or stigmatized. We can’t be complacent. This is how we got to where we are with the Supreme Court in 2022. Horrific injustices are still happening globally and even within our own borders; it’s too easy to forget that.
What do you suggest we do?
Take action. Share your stories. Give others space to voice their own. Raise awareness and fight the system of oppression. Rally. We must take back our own power. It will not be just given freely.
So what are you up to nowadays?
I’ve been getting in touch with my inner Earth Goddess. Are you aware of how our environmental impacts affect dolls everywhere? Climate change is creating greater vulnerabilities for those already at risk. We have to look at the intersections of climate, gender and race globally. We have to return to our Mother Earth.
Thank you again Broken Doll Head for joining us and our dear readership here on Haunted MTL’s Lighter than Dark. It’s good to reconnect with you after the V-Day Uprising and we wish you all the best in your bold eco-enlightenment vision.
Again, if you want to learn more about the V-Day movement, please check out their website here.
The Way Things Were, story by Jennifer Weigel
Revisiting my last St. Patrick’s Day post, what’s a wolf to were?
I grimaced as I remembered the previous St. Patrick’s Day. I had been shot while I was eating a sugar cookie waiting in line to buy a Scratchers ticket, my golden ride to my dream cabin in the woods. Wow, to think that was just a year ago and so much has changed since then. But where should I begin?
Well, the junkyard’s under new management. Or something. It seems they decided I wasn’t ferocious enough so I’ve been replaced by a couple of working stiffs. Or Mastiffs as it were, same difference to me. Apparently after they found the bloodied shirt I’d draped inconspicuously over a chair, they thought something had happened on my watch and decided to retire me.
Or at any rate ol’ Sal took me home. I guess it’s like retirement, but not the good kind where you tour the world Route 66 style, head lolled out of the side of a vintage Cadillac, breeze flowing through your beard as you drink in the open road. More the kind where you just stop showing up to work and no one really asks about you.
Now Sal’s a pretty cool dude, and he tends to mind his own business. But he’s a bit stingy with the treats and he’s a no-paws-on-the-furniture kind of guy. I don’t get it, his pad isn’t that sweet, just a bunch of hand-me-down Ikea that he didn’t even put together himself. Not that I could have helped with that, I can’t read those instructions to save my life even if they are all pictures. It’s all visual gibberish to me unless there’s a rabbit or a squirrel in there someplace that I can relate to.
And it’s been a real roll in the mud trying to cover up the stench of my monthly secret. I miss third shift at the junkyard when Monty would fall asleep on the job and I was free to do whatever I wanted. It sure made the change easier. Monty never noticed, or he never let on that he did. We were a good team and had it pretty good, he and I – I don’t know how I wound up shacking up with Sal instead when all was said and done. There was some kind of talk at the time, over landlords and pet deposits and whatnot, and in the end Sal was the only one who said yes.
So there I was, this St. Patrick’s Day, trying to figure out how to sneak out into the great suburban landscape with the neighbors’ headstrong Chihuahua who barks his fool head off at everything. He doesn’t ever say anything interesting through the fence about the local gossip, just a string of profanities about staying off his precious grass. Just like his owners… Suburbia, it doesn’t suit the two of us junkyard junkies. I’m pretty sure Sal inherited this joint with everything else here. He just never had the kind of ambition that would land him in a place like this on his own, if you know what I mean.
Fortunately, this St. Patrick’s Day, Sal was passed out on the sofa after binge watching some show on Netflix about werewolves of all things. Who believes in that nonsense? They get it all wrong anyway. The history channel with its alien conspiracies is so much better.
I managed to borrow a change of clothes and creep out the front door. At least there’s something to say about all the greenery, it is a fresh change of pace even if the yards are too neatly manicured and the fences are too high. And I do love how I always feel like McGruff crossed paths with one of those neighborhood watch trenchcoat spies this time of the month. I’d sure love to take a bite out of crime, especially if it involves that pesky Pomeranian that always pees on Mrs. Patterson’s petunias and gets everyone else blamed for it.
So sure enough, I slunk off towards the local convenience mart, which is a bit more of a trek here past the water park and the elementary school. Nice neighborhood though, very quiet, especially at this time of night.
Well, when I got there, wouldn’t you know it, but I ran into that same nondescript teen from my last foray into the convenience store near the junkyard. What was he doing here of all places? Seriously don’t these kids learn anything nowadays? I let out a stern growl as I snatched a cookie from the nearby end cap, making sure he noticed that I meant business.
Apparently the kid recognized me too, he stopped mid-tracks at the beer cooler and his face blanched like he’d seen a ghost. Some cheeky little girl-thing motioned to him to hurry it along by laying on the horn of their beater car from the parking lot. Whatever they were up to was no good, I was certain. He snapped out of it, grabbed a six-pack and headed towards the cashier, eyes fixed on me the whole time. Not again. Not after what it cost me the last time when I hadn’t realized my job was at stake. I stared back, hairs rising on the back of my neck. I bared my teeth. This time, I wouldn’t let him off so easy…
The teen edged up to the cashier and presented his trophy. Unsurprisingly, the clerk asked for ID, and the kid reached into his jacket. Let the games begin, I grumbled to myself. But instead of a gun, he pulled out a wallet. He flashed a driver’s license at the clerk and pointed in my general direction, “I’ll get whatever Santa’s having too.” He tossed a wad of cash on the counter and gave me a knowing wink before he flew out of there like he was on fire. I stood in dazed confusion as he and his girl sped out of the lot and disappeared down the road.
“Well, Santa?” the clerk said, snapping me out of my reverie. Her dark-circled eyes stared over wide rimmed glasses, her rumpled shirt bearing the name-tag Deb. She smelled like BBQ potato chips and cheap cherry cola.
I quieted and shook my head. “I want a Scratchers. Not one of those crossword bingo puzzle trials but something less… wordy. How ‘bout a Fast Cash?” I barked as I tossed the cookie on the counter.
“Sure thing,” she said as she handed me a ticket and looked towards the door at the now vacant lot. “And keep the change, I guess.”
A couple silver pieces, a peanut butter cookie and a lotto ticket later, maybe this is my lucky day after all…
Check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s writing here at Jennifer Weigel Words.
August 25, 2022 at 8:18 am
The undertow in these kinds of places runs deep, something to do with the Eldritch horrors lurking there. That was certainly $20 poorly spent…