Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Pulps: The Beheaded Bride

In another post I talked about The Pulps, and Ghost Stories one of the many magazine publications that were widely read in the early to mid 20th Century. 

Ghost Stories published reader letters in a section called ”The Meeting Place” it was one of their ongoing features. These letters by far are my favorite part of these magazines. They gave people the opportunity to share their true-life experiences with ghosts.

It is almost impossible to find these magazines today and if you are lucky enough to find one they are very expensive. So I will endeavor to share some of their unique content here. Below is a reader letter that was published in September of 1926.

The Beheaded Bride

Following my artistic nature this past summer I rented a small, somewhat isolated, furnished cottage, solely for the purpose of sketching the charming rural scenes that abound in the little village of Whitman, Massachusetts.

When I remarked upon the dust that covered the cottage’s furniture the real-estate man whom I’d hired reluctantly told me it had been vacant for some time. He volunteered no reason for this. 

I had not been there for more than an hour before I realized vaguely that something was wrong with the place. For some unknown reason it was shunned by all the locals. 

The milkman I hailed seemed loath to bring me my milk instead he stood upon the bottom step waiting for me to come after it. But the first real clue I had was when a fruit peddler point-blank refused to step foot into the yard.

“The place is haunted,” he shouted at me, from the gate. “Not for me.”

I laughed at what I felt were the childish superstitions of the villagers and retired to bed without a qualm. However about midnight I found myself suddenly wide awake, and listening. 

It seemed to me that a shriek had sounded through the quiet house. I put on a light a pair of slippers and lighted a candle—the electricity had not yet been connected, I made my way softly downstairs. 

All seemed right in the front of the house. Without fear, I made my way to the kitchen; how I would laugh at myself in the morning.

As I approached the back hall a strange, musty odor filled my nostrils, I involuntarily shrank back. Then, suddenly, my candle was extinguished as if by a gust of wind, although I was positive I had closed every window before retiring. 

By the light of the moon that shone in through open curtains, I beheld a fearsome sight.

There, lying in the shadows by the sink, I could plainly discern the huddled form of a woman. Her head lolled horribly sideways, and I could see that it had been nearly severed from her body. 

Her glazed, dead eyes seemed to be staring at something that filled her soul with horror. A shaft of moonlight illuminated the scene; I spotted a butcher’s cleaver on the counter by the sink it was stained with blood. I watched as this blood dripped to the floor forming a bright red pool.

Horrified beyond words, I stood there stupefied, rooted to the awful scene. Then the woman’s pallid lips moved, and one word, “Bill,” came from them, clear and distinct. 

I stood frozen to the spot as the scene in front of me faded away into nothingness. Fumbling for matches I relighted my candle, and on trembling knees I walked and stumbled back up the stairs to my bedroom bolting the door behind me with shaking fingers. I felt half paralyzed with shock.

The next morning, bright and early, I hastily packed my suitcase, and returned the key to the real-estate dealer without a word of explanation. I spotted his expression as I exited-- he looked at me askance, as if he knew my reason for departing. 

I made my way to the station. But before I left I quizzed the grizzly-beaded old stationmaster. I asked him in a round about way if he knew the details of the murder in Thurman’s Lane.

“Sure,” he replied, garrulously. “Everyone in Whitman knows about that. Bill Gentry, the butcher, killed his bride of three weeks with his butcher’s cleaver. He was stark crazy. She must have known it before she married him. 

He always did have strange spells, and being gassed in the World War just finished him. They didn’t hang him. They confined him to the state insane asylum for the rest of his life.”

I was glad when the train pulled out of the station, leaving the scene of that ghastly, gruesome event far, far behind me.

Muriel E. Eddy
39 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Providence, R.I.

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