The Serpent in the Lake

Pal Rai Yuk

The Alutiiq are a group of Eskimo people native to the Southern coast of Alaska. Like all the indigenous inhabitants of this part of the world, the mythology and folklore of the Alutiiq is varied and complex, but only one of their legends concerns us today.

The Pâl-Raí-Yûk.

The Pâl-Raí-Yûk, also called the Tizheruk, is a long, serpentine creature that was rumoured to lurk in marshes and swamps, until it was hunted to near extinction. As the waters of Alaska cooled, those that remained are said to have moved outward and in to the warmer bays and lake areas.

In most descriptions the creature has long fins or spines upon its back, thick fur covering its body, and a pair of short horns on its head. It is often depicted as having six legs and three stomachs. Its length varies depending on the teller; some go so far as to venture that its head alone is seven feet long. Apparently it was such an efficient hunter, it could stalk a man on land and snatch him away without even a sound.

Depictions of this fearsome beast were painted on the bottom of kayaks to ward the creature off, and its likeness was also used on harpoons and other hunting tools as a symbol of strength.

To this day, the legend persists that it can be summoned by tapping on a pier or rapping on the bottom of a boat out on the water.

Modern sightings of the Pâl-Raí-Yûk are few and far between, and, unlike the Loch Ness Monster and its American cousin Champ, there exist no alleged photos or footage of the beast.

And yet, the legend persists.

MapLake

1st July 2001

Johnathan Fuchs is a ruddy-cheeked bear of a man, with the complexion of one who has spent most of his days out in the wilderness. He describes himself as a ‘man of leisure’, owing to the fact he inherited a large fortune as a child, and, by his own admission, he has never had to work a day in his life. He also cheerfully calls himself, in a thick Texan drawl, a ‘seeker of adventure’.

In March of 1964, he and a friend found themselves in a cabin on the south shore of Hasselborg Lake, Alaska.

I meet Mr Fuchs, oddly enough, in a grotty underground bar in Hamburg, and over a pint or two of strong German beer he recounts his tale.

“I was twenty five at the time, and my friend, Steve, he was, oh, let’s say twenty two. Yeah, that sounds about right. He was like me, a gentleman of independent means, a kindred spirit, and we’d been travelling around Alaska for about a week, more or less.”

“We’d chartered a small plane up to the lake, and we’d reserved a lovely picture of a cabin for a few days. The first day we hiked a trail in the forest, and we got back quite late. We had some dinner and cracked open a bottle of scotch.”

“The best scotch, of course.”

He grins over his beer.

“The next day we woke up with fuzzy heads, if you know what I mean, Doc? So we took the little boat that we’d rented along with the cabin out on to the lake to see if the fish were biting.”

“They weren’t, but it was still a nice day.”

“Now, Steve, he had this thing; he couldn’t sit still for longer than two minutes. He used to absent-mindedly tap his foot against things, and he was doing it that day on the side of the boat. It was a nervous twitch, I suppose.”

“You know, Doc, that’s the sort of thing that can start to get to a guy.”

“I told him to knock it off, and he did, but after half an hour or so he’d start again.”

“Three or four times this happened. Every time I asked him to stop, and every time he started again.”

“Anywho, after a few beers I decided to just let him get on with it.”

“We’d been out for a while, and we hadn’t caught a thing, so once the sun started to go down, we decided we’d give it another hour or thereabouts before we went back to the lodge.”

“Steve was still doing that damn tapping with his foot.”

“I’d stood up in the boat and was taking a whizz off the side, when I noticed that the tapping had stopped.”

“I heard Steve whisper my name, then again, but louder. I turned round to see what he wanted, and he was looking out over the lake, at this… ‘disturbance’ in the water.”

“Next I know, this… enormous… ‘thing’ reared itself up out of the blue.”

Thing? I ask him to elaborate.

“It was like a snake, but covered in fur, and with these stubby arms. Its head was about eight, nine feet above us, and I just knew that there had to be a lot more of it under the water.” 

“I think I might even have shit my pants at the sight of it. Damn thing looked like it had come straight out of Eskimo Hell itself.”

“Then it made this noise. Not like a roar, but more like a… a trumpet, sorta, booming sound, and then it just smashed down on to the boat, sending Steve and me both flying.”

“Luckily I had my life jacket on, and I’m a strong swimmer. Steve was too, so I thought he’d get back okay. But when I made it to the shore, there was no sign of him, or whatever that… that thing was. The lake was still, just bits of the boat floating about.”

“I got a torch from the lodge and spent the whole night looking for my friend, searching the banks, calling his name.”

Did you find him?

“No. I never saw Steve again.”

The next day, Mr Fuchs managed to make his way back to civilization and report what had happened to the authorities. A party was gathered together and returned to the lake the next day to search for his companion.

According to the lead ranger’s rather brief notes, the head of the party discovered what appeared to be a section of shed reptile skin at about noon. The piece of skin in question was far too large to belong to any of the local fauna.

At approximately four thirty p.m, a black mass was observed moving under the water and away from the shore by two members of the search party. It left a v-shaped wake as it went.  The pair could not identify this mass, although they concede it could possibly have been a large cutthroat trout.

At five p.m, the team took a short break to replenish their energies, resolving to continue looking for Mr Fuch’s missing colleague until nightfall.

However, the search was never resumed.

Just after 5.30pm that day, the Good Friday Earthquake struck.

All emergency services were immediately diverted.

A few days later, Mr Fuchs returned home to the United States. His friend was assumed lost in the earthquake, a fact that Mr Fuchs rather ashamedly tells me he did not dispute.

He assures me that, apart from the members of the Alaskan search party and a very expensive psychiatrist, he has never told anyone else of what happened that night on Lake Hasselborg.

Lake1

Leaving my personal opinions of Mr Fuchs’ behaviour to one side, is it possible that his companion fell victim to the Pâl-Raí-Yûk? The description would certainly seem to suggest so.

I could find no further reports of anything even vaguely similar showing itself in that particular area. But with Lake Hasselborg attracting more and more tourists every year, perhaps it is only a matter of time before the beast of Alutiiq legend rears its head once more.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Please forgive any misspellings on my behalf. I swear the good doctor’s handwriting gets worse the more of his files I read. And yes, he’s right, the guy mentioned in this file does seem to be a bit of a dick – C.R. 

He Who Has the Deer’s Antlers

Antlers2

7th October 2015

Jemma Harding is an entertaining woman, with striking red hair and the enviable ability to spin an interesting tale out of the most mundane of events. She is a journalist, and twenty years ago she was the European correspondent for a major British broadsheet.

Several weeks ago a colleague of mine asked her to get in touch with me, to share an incident that occurred to her in 1996, in the South-West region of France.

We meet in a riverside wine bar in Stratford-upon-Avon, away from the seemingly endless throng of tourists.

It takes some coaxing and a glass or two of red wine to prise the following account from her.

“I was travelling down to Bayonne, to meet my family. It was my brother’s birthday and they have a little châteaux down there. I decided to drive there, rather than fly. I thought as I was going to be spending a lot of time with my siblings and their kids over the next few days, it might not be the best idea to travel with them. You know what families are like. I mean, I love them, but a whole week in each other’s pockets? No thanks.”

“I stopped over in Bordeaux to visit a friend before setting out on the final leg of my journey. I’d done this trip before, but I’d never travelled to Bayonne on this route, so most of it was new to me.”

“Eventually I found myself on this forest road, about two lanes wide, and I hadn’t seen another car for miles. There were trees everywhere, as far as I could see on either side, all these different greens. It was really quite stunning.”

“Then I came across something very odd.”

“There was a little car stopped in front, longways and kind of half off the road. It’s doors were open and there was luggage scattered across the dirt.”

“But that wasn’t the strangest thing.”

“I slowed down a little as I got closer, and I saw there was a couple, a man and a woman, laying in the road. They were both still and facing away from me.”

I ask what she did next.

“I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew that I should stop and see if they were okay, but there was something off about the whole thing. It just didn’t look right. Every fibre in my body was telling me to just get out of there.”

“I saw that if I went off the road a little I could get around them without hitting them.”

“I manoeuvred past them as best I could, with all these alarm bells ringing in my head, then they were behind me, and I picked up speed to get some distance between us.”

“I took a look in the rear-view mirror and the couple had got up, and about a dozen or so of these scruffy looking kids had emerged from the trees nearby. They were all glaring at me.”

“But in the middle of them, towering over them, was this massive cloaked figure. It must have been about eight foot tall, and it had this weird round mask on, and what looked like deer antlers on its head.”

“That was it. I slammed my foot down on the accelerator and I was out of there.”

“When I got to Bayonne I stopped at the local police station and told two officers what I’d witnessed.”

“They took notes and smirked, muttering something about ‘l’homme qui possède des bois de cerf’.

“My family didn’t like the idea of me driving all that way on my own anyway, so I didn’t tell them what I’d seen. In fact, I’ve never mentioned it to anyone except you, and the other woman.”

I asked Ms Harding if she could draw a picture of the cloaked figure, which I have attached to this file.

L’homme qui possède les bois de cerf’ roughly translates to ‘the man who has the deer’s antlers’.

Antlers1

Ms Harding’s story does sound remarkably like a similar tale that did the rounds on the internet recently*, except that particular story takes place on a dirt road in the United States.

There is no mention of the masked man in the cloak.

Considering Ms Harding is a journalist, a respected one at that, along with the obvious distress she displayed whilst recounting her story and the reaction of the local constabulary to her plight, I believe her account has more than a whiff of credibility.

And yet, the fact one tale resembles the other so closely was enough to sow seeds of doubt in my mind.

I elected not to pursue this case further, and, I must admit, I let it slip from my thoughts.

Until recently.

FranceMap

12th July 2016

A few weeks ago, a letter from one Mrs Edith Robinson was forwarded on to me. In this letter, written in a cramped scrawl, the frail octogenarian details her family’s flight from Paris in 1940, under the shadow of the Nazi invasion.

I will quote the pertinent part below:

‘I had been ill with pneumonia and sent to a centre just outside Bordeaux to recover. Eventually, my mother and father came to collect me, so we could catch a boat back to England. The little Citroen we had was absolutely crammed full of our belongings from the flat in Paris. I was amazed how much stuff they’d managed to fit in there.’

‘My father had gained a laissez pass that allowed us to travel about unhindered, but the Germans were closing in. When we got to Bordeaux we found we’d missed the boat, but we were informed there was another leaving from Bayonne the next day.’

‘On the way there, a storm struck, setting fire to the forest we were heading through. A burning tree fell in front of us. My father managed to swerve around it, but as he did I saw some children come out of the woods and head towards us. They were dirty from soot and smoke. My father just carried on going. I was going to shout at him to stop but I saw his eyes in the rear view mirror.’

‘He looked terrified.’

‘I turned around in the seat and managed to get a glimpse out of the back window, through the stacks of boxes.’

‘There was a man in the road behind us, flanked by children and lit up by the fire. A tall man, in a cloak, with an oval mask and antlers on his head, like a stag.’

‘That’s why my father didn’t stop.’

‘We never spoke of that night.’

Is it possible what Mrs Robinson witnessed that night was the same person as Ms Harding? I dug out the journalist’s sketch and included it with a letter, thanking Mrs Robinson for her correspondence and asking her if if the subject of the sketch was the same individual she saw that harrowing evening in Bayonne.

A few days later I received a reply. It contained the sketch and a simple note in Mrs Robinson’s cramped handwriting.

‘That’s the chap.’

Maybe there is more to this ‘man who has the deer’s antlers’ after all.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

* I also recognised this story. I found it on here and Dr Gotobed is correct, apart from the location and the antlered figure, there are many similarities. To be honest, I don’t know quite what to make of this one – C.R. 

‘The Cannonball’

This is another one from Dr Gotobed’s journal, however there is not a lot of corroborating evidence for this particular entry. I will detail what little I could find at the bottom of this post – C.R. 

Boxing1

11th April 1974

Jason Ladejo is a troubled child, his mother a hazy memory and his father an unemployable drunk. Short and undernourished, bullied at school, Jason would call himself a cliché, if he had any idea what the word meant.

He is eleven years old when one push too many results in something inside the young Jason snapping and he beats the living snot out of his two older and much bigger assailants. He finds himself in the Headmaster’s office, seated in an uncomfortable plastic chair, looking down at his bloodied knuckles as his feet swing inches above the floor.

He doesn’t feel bad for what has happened, and he is not concerned about the bollocking he is about to receive. The only thing he is focused on is the sensation of adrenalin that moments ago pumped through his blood, driving his muscles and lighting a fire in his belly the likes of which he has never felt before.

He will spend years chasing that same fire.

#

Seventeen now, and Jason is much bigger. Still not tall, but strong. And quick. He has been training to box for the last six years, and he has a right hand like no other. His father is long gone, and the young Jason lives at the gym, cleaning the place in exchange for board. His coach, the man who has so kindly taken him in, can only predict great things for the lad, so much so that he affectionately names him ‘The Cannonball’. As he prepares for his first professional fight, Jason acts like he doesn’t care about his new moniker.

But he does.

He beams with pride when no one is around.

Inside, the fire burns low, biding its time, patient.

#

Five years later, Jason ‘Cannonball’ Ladejo is fighting for a shot at the title of middleweight champion of Great Britain. It is round five, and despite a spirited display, he has lost the crowd and been on the back foot since the second. His opponent is a tall fellow, cocky, with arms like tree trunks and a face only a mother could love.

A blow to the stomach doubles Jason over as two dozen cameras wink in the middle distance, capturing the moment. A glance to his left and Jason sees his coach grimace, the old man feeling the blow too. The cheer of the spectators baying for blood becomes a low thrum in Jason’s ears, tangling with the thud of his heartbeat and booming through his head.

And then it’s there.

The fire.

Jason hasn’t felt it in a while, but he recognises it, embraces it.

Before him, through a haze of spotlights, he sees his opponent playing to the crowd, one arm above his head and the other theatrically winding up a giant right hook.

The fire courses its way through Jason’s blood.

His adversary pulls the trigger and the punch is unleashed.

But it doesn’t matter.

The Cannonball is quicker.

Jason’s fist drives skywards, a perfect uppercut that connects with the other man’s chin, snapping his head back and almost lifting his feet from the canvas. The fire burns bright as Ladejo lines up another blow, but his opponent falls backwards, out for the count.

The crowd roars its approval as stars twinkle inside the arena.

Afterwards, there is a television camera and a microphone thrust into Jason’s face, an interview, slaps on the back and handshakes that fade from memory almost as soon as they are done. Talks of the next bout. In London. Something to do with being the mandatory challenger for the title.

The fire inside begins to dwindle once more.

#

There are more fights over the next few years, although none as tough as that last one in which the fire burned. He is ‘Cannonball Jay’ now, and even though he loses his shot at the title on a technicality, he wins all the others, and all without feeling the flame inside.

The old man who coached him is gone, replaced by a newer, younger version, a man whose head is filled with statistics and hypothetical scenarios.

As Jay becomes more successful, the training gets harder, but the nights get longer too. There are evenings out with new friends that start one day and finish several later. There is booze, white powder and women, all of which his ‘new friends’ source for him. A trip to Las Vegas ends with a split points decision in his favour, another shot at a challenge for the title, a two page spread in Ringside magazine, a lost weekend and a four day hangover. There is a girlfriend, a leggy model who drapes herself over souped-up cars for the titillation of spotty teenagers impressed by such things.

Jay’s new friends multiply, so too does their ‘generosity’.

As they do, the fire inside dwindles, the embers close to consuming themselves.

#

Jason Ladejo is nearly thirty years old now, living alone in a tiny flat on the outskirts of Sheffield city centre. The international travel, the title fights, the ‘new friends’, the booze and the white powder, all long gone. The leggy model is gone too, saying she is too young for a has-been and pretty enough to land herself a gonna-be. Jason has become a journeyman. Fighting for cash, he loses more than he wins; a cautionary tale to younger competitors, how to fuck it all up when you have everything you ever wanted and more. He now knows the word ‘cliché’, and he is aware that it applies to him.

He runs ten miles every morning and spends two hours hitting a punch-bag every night, telling himself it’s to keep in shape, but he knows really that he is looking for the fire. He fears it is long gone, that he will never experience it again, but still he pounds the streets every morning at dawn and thumps the bag at dusk.

There is a phone call from a promoter, a decent one, not the crooks and shysters he normally deals with these days. It transpires there is a new kid on the block, a rising star, much like Jason nearly a decade or so ago. The scheduled opponent has bailed, a fractured wrist, and ‘how would ‘The Cannonball’ like to step in?’

The purse is big, not as big as the glory days, but it rises with every round the fight goes on. Jason accepts, telling himself it’s just for the money.

It’s the first time in a long time that anyone has called him ‘The Cannonball’.

Inside his stomach, a tiny spark flares in the dark.

#

Round six, and Jason is taking a pounding. His opponent is some kid called the ‘Steel Something-Or-Other’, and he’s good, very good. The crowd is cheering every jab, every cross and hook that lands on Jason’s face and ribs. The taste of his own blood fills his mouth, and the flesh over and around one eye is swelling up, forcing it closed.

Nobody is cheering for him.

Another blow smashes across his chin and Jason stumbles and falls, his cheek hitting the floor, the smell of sweat and the canvas flooding his nostrils.

Cameras flash in the crowd. Voices roar as the referee stands over him, shouting the count.

Just lay back, says a voice in Jason’s mind. You’ve earned your money. It’s over.

The kid with the name Jason can’t quite remember is waving victoriously to the crowd.

Lay back and wait for the count.

The lights above the ring swim across his vision.

The referee reaches five.

Nearly there.

Six.

A feeling that Jason has not felt for a long time grows in his stomach. It courses through his  limbs and pulls him back to his feet as the referee reaches eight.

The kid looks surprised, but his guard is up quickly and he comes at Jason, confidence written all over his face, smelling an easy victory and a glorious knock out. He leads with a jab, hitting Jason’s forearms but setting up a one-two.

It doesn’t matter. The fire is lit.

Before the kid unleashes the second punch, Jason takes a step forward, sets his feet and slams his fist into his opponent’s face like a jackhammer. The kid’s nose erupts in a spray of red and his guard collapses, his hands falling uselessly to his sides as he stumbles backwards.

The fire inside Jason burns bright now, ablaze inside him. He moves forwards and lets loose another blow, a looping left handed bomb that explodes where what’s left of the kid’s nose used to be. The space in the ring is running out and the kid stumbles back against the ropes, his eyes open but fixed on a point only he can see.

Over the din of the crowd, Jason is aware of the sound of a bell ringing frantically somewhere in the distance. But the fire is an inferno now, drowning out all sound as he unleashes another monster right hook.

The punch that gave him his name.

The Cannonball.

It connects cleanly and Jason is aware of something in Steel Something-Or-Other’s neck snapping.

The kid drops like a stone. The crowd falls with him, into a hushed silence. Doctors and paramedics swarm into the ring as the fire burning bright inside Jason once more begins to fade.

It takes a moment for reality to sink in.

The kid is dead.

#

Jason heads home and drinks himself in to a stupor. He wakes the next afternoon on the sofa, a raging hangover having made acquaintance with the bruises on his face and body. Nearby, the light of an answering machine silently blinks, its tape holding thirty or so messages. He chases away two journalists from his door before sitting and waiting for the results of the enquiry as to how he was allowed to take another’s life in the name of sport. Several large bottles of vodka whisper sweet nothings as they keep him company.

And there is something else. A weight on his shoulders, so heavy it forces him into a contorted stoop.

#

Six months of visits to doctors, specialists and physiotherapists results only in baffled faces and endless prescriptions for painkillers. And still the weight grows heavier, the stoop more pronounced.

As a last resort, and on the recommendation of a drunken acquaintance, he visits a local so-called psychic. An old woman of gypsy stock, she tells Jason that the shade of the dead man from that fateful night sits upon his shoulders. It is the weight of this man’s life, all his potential, his unfulfilled hopes and dreams that were extinguished in the ring, that is responsible for compressing Jason’s once mighty frame.

He initially scoffs at this old woman with her crackpot ideas, but that night, Jason wakes and goes into the bathroom. Turning on the light, he sees the shape of his broken foe sitting astride his shoulders, his battered and bruised head lolling at an unnatural angle.

From that point on, this is all Jason sees whenever he looks in the mirror.

#

Three weeks later, Jason is dead, his life ended by a large amount of painkillers washed down with copious amounts of vodka.

A doctor rules the death an overdose. But there is one fact that troubles this man of medicine:

The lifeless body of Jason ‘Cannonball’ Ladejo, once contender for the title of British Middleweight Champion, ‘weighs the same as two men his size‘.

Dr Thomas Gotobed 

Boxing2

The only evidence with this particular entry is a torn out page from the May 1987 edition of ‘Ringside’ magazine. It is one half of the interview mentioned above. While there is no Wikipedia entry for Jason Ladejo (which in itself is not entirely damning), I did find an article in a local Sheffield newspaper about a young man named Bobby ‘Steel Hands’ Sheppard who died in the ring at the hands of an unknown opponent in 1992. I will continue to look into this, time permitting – C.R. 

On the Possible Mechanism of Poltergeist Activity

This is an excerpt from a much larger file. Sadly, a dozen or so of the pages are water damaged beyond repair and only the following section remains legible – C.R. 

Mechanism1

A key part of the varied palette of recorded phenomena associated with poltergeist activity is the manipulation of solid matter: a much-loved trinket disappearing, only to re-emerge sometime later in a place that had previously been searched thoroughly, a shower of stones apparently falling from the ceiling, a toy building brick thrown through the air by ostensibly invisible hands, mugs and other kitchenware traversing the surface of a table under their own steam.

I could go on.

Here I would like to propose a theory as to the possible mechanism of these phenomena.

First, a thought experiment.

Alan1

This cheerful fellow is Alan. Imagine, if you will, that Alan is a living person, like you and I, except for one crucial difference; Alan exists on this piece of paper in two dimensions, and two dimensions only. He perceives the world in terms of length and width, but he has no concept of height.

If we hover a finger over to the paper, a little to his left, he has no knowledge of it. If we place that finger down, he perceives a flesh-coloured line next to him.

Alan2

If we draw an unbroken line next to him, Alan cannot cross this line. He has no way to ‘step over’ it, so to speak.

Alan3

By drawing further lines around Alan, we can trap him in a square. His only way out is if we are kind enough to erase a segment of one line and create a door for him to come and go. So Alan is free to carry on with his two-dimensional life as he pleases.

And now we can really start to mess with his world.

Alan4

If we were to take an object, in this case a coin, and place it outside the door, Alan can see it. But if we pick up the coin and place it inside his small room, all Alan can see (remembering that he can only perceive in two dimensions) is the coin disappearing and then reappearing next to him.

If we were to take the coin off the paper and place it in our pocket, as far as Alan knows, that coin has vanished forever.

If we were to blow across Alan, slightly from above, he would see not our pursed lips, but only feel a breeze brush by him in the horizontal plane.

Now, let us extrapolate Alan’s world into three dimensions, bringing his reality into line with our own. What if there were beings that exist ‘above’ Alan and ourselves in a hypothetical fourth dimension? Following our little experiment through to its logical conclusion, would it not be possible for said beings to ‘pick up’ objects from our limited reality and place them in another location, all unperceived by ourselves? And what other little tricks could they play upon us, toying with us in the same way we have been toying with Alan, poking at our reality with hypothetical fingers.

But what purpose would this serve?

SymbolMechanism

I would like to propose another thought experiment. Consider, if you will, a colony of ants living by the side of a footpath. The various member of the colony all have their jobs, and for the most part will go about their business, unconcerned with and untroubled by the lives of the people that stroll by them every day.

But what if one afternoon a small child bends down and prods the ants with a stick? What would these tiny creatures make of such an occurrence? How would such an event fit into their frame of reference?

I am aware of the limitations of this comparison. Ants are not humans; our motivations, our fears and desires, even our very existence, to us appears considerably more complex. But what if there are things outside of our frame of reference, things that are as different from us as we are from insects?

Indeed, prod a line of ants with a stick and they will do their best to minimise the disruption and carry on with their business.

In my experience, most people, when confronted by something far out of their range of comprehension, tend to do the same.

 

From what I can gather, the next section goes on to detail the good doctor’s ideas as to why teenagers are more susceptible to being harassed by poltergeist phenomenon, and that’s about all I can glean from the ruined pages. It’s a real shame that more of this file hasn’t survived – C.R.