Saturday, 11 October 2014

The Blackroot Man - The Slender Man

 [draft for a fictional story, typed by Robert Lester, inspired from a few myths from my home town.]

My Name is Richard, I was raised in the centre of England, I am a child of the eighties, and a person with some very interesting experiences with an entity you may imagine is purely fictional.  I have spent many years looking into paranormal stories since I had my early experiences, and it was experiences that came to me first, not the folklore that manifested the events I have witnessed.  And even if it were, what library would have had books on Slender, or slander man like creatures, in my city's public libraries or the school library in the late 80s and early 90s.

My childhood was a more or less normal life, I was smart, although not a person who could stay concentrated on my work, not too much of a dreamer, but a quiet student.  I used to walk through a small park, a wooded area not far from my home, it was nicer to walk by nature on the way home, well nicer than a busy main road, next to some private land, on the quicker route.  I would sometimes walk with a friend, although he was sometimes an odd character, speaking of strange beliefs he had, which I ignored, he spoke of Aliens, UFOs, and other stuff that he spiced up with tall tales. 

It was on of the days when he was not with me, as I had finished school later due to an after school activity, it was late in the year, the trees were bare, leaves across the cold ground, and I thought I would walk through the small woods even though it was starting to get a little bit dark with the oranges and pinks of the sky as the sun set.  It was this time that I noticed as I walked a shape to my right, a thing that was moving, a dark form, I turned, but nothing was there.  I ignored it and thought the cool breeze and swaying trees were playing a trick upon me.  the woods were only a few minutes to walk across, and since I was somewhat scared, I had a chill going from the top of my neck down my spine.  It was odd almost like the warmth you may feel of a person with their body near yours, but bitter cold, I walked as fast as I could, as soon as I was within 30 feet of the way out, a wide walk way between two houses, I started to run, and as soon as I was at the road which the pathway came to directly, I looked back.  The two houses placed with a gap of 8 feet between them, with the path that came through from the small wood, as directly before me at a quiet, yet not silent road, as I looked back I noticed nothing unusual, it was odd, the breeze as stronger in the woods than it was before or after I had come to it, and yet now it was utterly still. 
I dismissed it as a trick of the mind, I was scared, but I had no real Idea why.

Months passed, I only walked through the wood when with a friend, even my slightly quirky one, who seemed to not like going through the woods unless we walked quickly.  I was sceptical about his tall stories, yet I was curious, what with remembering my limited experience in the same place, could he have witnessed something?  on day I asked him, I said "what do you know about the woods?", he seemed surprised, or maybe confused, so I told him that "I think I saw a kind of ghost", he looked at me, in a very still way, and said "don't go there alone, ever".  He refused to say why, and we didn't speak the rest of the way home, it was a silence that was uneasy, and I need not say that we did not walk through the woods that day. 

about a month later, I had day off from school for the teachers to have a training day, I was young, but old enough that my mother let me meet local friends, I went for a walk by now it was spring, the trees were coming to life again, green leaves were on the trees, birds singing, I was going out the a larger wooded park that was farther from my home, but much more open.  I recall I had to pass the local woods to go there, I thought there's nothing too it, the warning from my friend who seemed to avoid me for the best part since I asked him about the woods.  I imagined that it was just me walking through after a long day that made me imagine it, or something, and the kid who was my strange friend was just a boy who spent too much time reading spooky stories or watching late night horror movies.  So I walked towards to wood, got to where the pathway is, I could see to the woods, it was fairly still, just as you can imagine on a quiet day, warm, a light breeze, sun high in the sky just a while before midday, so I swallowed my fear and walked in.  I recall no feelings, not chills, nothing, maybe five minutes passed, and I was through the woods.  Maybe my friend was just messing with me, and maybe it was in my head, so I continued to the park, content that there's no things that hide in the woods or just outside of my vision.

It was a nice day, I met a friend soon after I left the park, we chatted for a while at his while playing on his master system, a classic game console of that era, I spent much of the day away from home and it was now about five, in the early evening, and I was tired, after making my farewells I set out for home, going via the street near the woods, not going through it due to the direction I was travelling from.  I came to where the entrance was, the side nearer my home, between the houses, and looked down towards to woods, it was getting dim at the time, if not really dark.  It was at this point that I noticed a shape, it was mostly behind trees, like a side of a man's black coat, and at a distance, as soon as I noticed it it moved, as if even though I only noticed this distant form at about 20 yards distance, and it didn't seem to facing me, it moved as soon as I looked.  This freaked me out a bit, it made my nervous, and I was confused, was this a real person, was it a ghost, and why was it that it wasn't there before, before I could think of answers to the questions rushing in my head my fear got the best of me, I left quickly, rushed home.  When I got home, my Mom asked me if I was OK, she said I looked ill, and to be honest I was feeling a little off colour, after having my evening meal with my mother and sister I went to bad early with a very bad headache, it was an ache that seemed to ring in my ears, and make it impossible to rest, but after a few hours restlessness I got to sleep.
The next day I was feeling fine, I guess all I needed was some rest, odd that I only got ill after going near the woods on the way home, my mom came in, which was odd for her, and she told me it was after midday, I had been asleep for over 14 hours.  It didn't really matter if I over slept, it was Saturday, not a school day, and my mom was probably glad I was looking better after looking so pale the night before, I figured it should just stay away from the woods. 

I avoid those woods for nearly six months, I slowly forgot the experiences, and the strange warning from a friend, who had since moved away to another city district, I continued at to enjoy much of school, had a few bad times with bullies, but mostly it wasn't too bad.  It was only when walking from school, that I went my normal route, along the main road, the main road has a fenced off area of private land, it's wooded, and it's owned by the religious college that is housed in the grounds, and I felt like i wanted to look beyond the fence into the forest.  Have you ever felt so compelled to do something it is as if you have no will of your own, if you answered yes then you may understand what I mean, the rushing traffic seemed to have slowed, although not stopped, and I could see deep in the forest a man walking, his clothes were not clear, but they were dark, his face a pure white.  I ran, as this man seemed to know I was there as he slowly turned and vanished, although I was far away and near a main road with many cars passing, I did not feel safe, I got home locked the door and stayed in my room until my mother got home from picking up my little sister from school.  I was still shocked by the idea, and I even told my mom that "I think I saw a ghost", she was very open to the idea, although she didn't know if I had or not, and doubted it, I told her what I saw and she didn't try question it too much, I even drew what I saw to show her.  A week later I was told that I was going to a child councillor, my mother said it was to help me got on better at school, I kept quiet about you know what, and only went once, I think it was my mother thinking I was going nuts, soon she too would see something. 

In the mid winter, my mom had been looking after kids at an after school care group, so parents could pick them up later and not have not tailor their work around their children too much.  She would often get a lift from a friend or her boss, and sometimes walk, on this cold dry day she walked from the same direction as my school, along the same main road, and by the same private fenced off forest, she claimed she saw a black shape of a man, the traffic had dropped off to a very few cars, it was 8pm, so not unheard of.  A shape like a man walking slowly in the distance, headed towards her, but she paid little attention, the road had good street lights, as he was within 20 feet of my mother she looked away from the man as she walked, looking back after a split second he was gone, she looked around confused, she saw him, a man in dark clothes, and there was literally nowhere he could have gone, no gaps in the fence towards to private land, the traffic was busy enough that no one could have stopped so her could cross or give him a life, and there was no sign of him for hundreds of feet in ether direction, on this long, straight road.  It was days later that my mom spoke to me about it, she had a book on the table that she was reading, I had come from my grandma's, spending the day being given home made cup cakes, the book I would later learn was from the library, about ghosts and local folklore, she told me that she thinks she saw someone who vanished near where I had seen something.  I'll be honest, I was sceptical, she had kind of betrayed me when I told her, but she was totally serious about her experience. 

In we talked about ghosts a few times after that, and myths, my mother who had an interest in psychics seemed to think it was a ghost, I thought that must be it, and it would have remained if not for another experience just under a year later.

I had started my secondary school education, and had new friends, new uniforms, and I was dealing with it in a good way, I had another friend to walk home with, who had not gone to my previous school.  And it was good to travel a bit more, since I had to travel by bus for a while to get to and from school.  All had been well, all the talk about ghosts had been left at the back of my mind, although I would say ghosts existed if you asked me, even told a friend about my experience once, he just made a nervous joke about it, so not very helpful.  I was with my best friend, on the way back home, we got off the bus, we would walk down the main road, and get to our street, however, on this occasion, he wanted to go another route, through the woods.  I was warm in the woods, no wind, yet I felt a chill as soon as we were near, I was OK, perfect until my friend who had got ahead of me turned, as if to say something, but his face turned white as soon as he looked at me.  In that moments he ran as if in utter fear, he wouldn't stop as I ran and tried to tell him to slow down, he just kept running, even after the edge of the woods, until we were nearly him.  He turned, looked right at me, tears running down his shocked and now bright red face, he simply said "there was a man behind you", "a man with no face". 

My friend never walked even near those woods again, even by the main road, he would avoid the fenced off forested area, and I just couldn't get more information out of him for weeks.  He avoided me to some degree, rarely spoke to me, he would change direction in mid-step, I eventually got him to talk to me about what he saw, the "man" he saw, although hadn't seen it myself.  It the end of the school day, a gloomy, dry day, we had to travel home, it was only with the last part of the walk he felt he could talk about the man in the woods, he told me he had seen him before at a distance, and that since he had seen him at the corner of his eye more and more often, and that the last two days he hadn't seen him at all.  I found this odd, although I was very interested, we talked about our experiences, and he said he had a book that spoke of shadow people, which are often shadow like forms which seem to follow people, I thought it was a ghost, but this idea of other beings or entities interested me.  It was around this time I started reading with great interest paranormal magazines and books, stuff about aliens and UFOs mostly, ghosts and people who said they talked to the dead, and I eventually got my friend to lend me his book, it was folklore and ghosts stories, and not helpful.  There was a lead referring to the shadow people, children vanishing in forests, and old Scottish myths about faery kind and changelings, interesting though this was I felt this was not really getting near to the truth. 

My mother and I hadn't really talked about it much, although she was the one buying a few books for me on the paranormal, she told me she had found a few things out, it turned out she had a book on ghosts of the Midlands, a old and probably barely published book, she gave it to me, and said I should read this.  The book was a mixture of illustrations and notes, old fashioned cartoon like images of ghost horse men, notes about local sites where it is said to be seen, and about two thirds of the way into the book, there he was, an image, a suited man with a white face, and labelled as "The Blackroot Man", named after a small lake in the larger park that is not too far from my home.  The next thing that went through my mind as to ask my mother about it, she old me that she had been told, 20 years before, when she had asked my great-grandmother(her grandmother) about the same story, and was told about the missing children. 

My great-grandmother,was born in 1889, a poverty stricken youth, but had lived in the area of the lake for nearly all of her life, she had a friends, the other somewhat poor kids who played in the park and would even swim at blackroot lake, and play hide and seek in the woods.  She had informed my mother of her experience, and stories around the time, she had been hiding behind a tree from a boy call Samuel, who was a son of a priest, a good boy, and she had seen him running up the pathway, she quickly hide behind the tree, and though he must have seen her.  Minutes passed, she wondered where he was, he must have seen her, he was a bit far away, although he seemed to have noticed her, after a while she stepped out from behind the tree, and looked for him, maybe he had gotten lost in the woods.  she looked over the later and saw what looked like a man on the other side of the lake, he was wearing a black or dark grey suit, she couldn't make out his face, and he was very tall, and as she blinked he was gone, at this moment she was shocked as Samuel tagged her.  She, my great-grandmother, asked him where he was, where had he gone to, did he see the man, he claimed it had been moments, and to her it was much longer, Samuel seemed fine, as he had been before, but where had he gone for what felt like half an hour and who was the man.  She informed my mother of this story and added that she told her mother and she asked the priest, who was Samuel's father, and he wasn't sure, but he claimed other children had told him the same thing in recent months, my great-grandmother was told to not go into the woods and to stay near home, and not to ever go deep into the woods. 

The rest is a mixture of stories from around the same time, the early 20th century, when my great-grandmother was young, over the years a few children had vanished, one girl who she had known, another from her street, although this was over a decade and thought of as just children running away or something by the locals, it wasn't until a few years later that a rich families child vanished after he said he had seen a tall man in the woods that the lore became accepted.  however, he root of the ghost stories comes from somewhat wealthy men who would often go fishing, they would spend hours catching and releasing fish, back in the 1930s and 40s, and they would often see at the opposite side of the lake, at the tree line a shape like a man, a tall, dark man, some even claimed he was over seven feet tall, others claimed if you got close to him he would have an utterly blank face.  This was mostly around the small lake called Blackroot, soon people would refer to him as the Blackroot man, stories say that he was often seen near children, watching fishermen, and was characterised as a tall man with no face.  although the ghost stories were harmless fun, and distorted by different people, the true accounts lost, and was for a long time local ghost story, now lost to antiquity, and a few old book on local ghosts, but reports of him continued.  Throughout the early 20th century a few child children would vanished every two years, most never found, and in WW2 he was seem near bomb sites, and one person even claimed that when they tried to approach him to ask him why was here he passed out before getting within twenty feet of the man.  Mostly this kind of story died off after word war 2, people would be called mad to speak of such things, or at very least no one would both writing it down, and this was why my Great-Grandmother gave this book to my mother, so people do not forget. 

My mother said she had asked a few people about these stories over the years, and the only things that remain as barely remembered ghost tales, and it seems that even though some children said they saw the blackroot man that people ignored the maybe link, writing off the connection as invalid because the blackroot man was just a legend.  It turned out my mother had done some more serious research at the city library after she and I had had our experiences, and she found that this kind of thing happens elsewhere too, the same characteristics but different places and times.

[short fictional story, by Robert Lester .]

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