Elements of Horror #3: Haunted Objects


In honor of this wonderful annual season – being October, the month of Halloween, scary scares, frightful frights and ghoulish fun that will send waves of goosebumps honking in terror across your skin – I launched a new series of articles called Elements of Horror – in which I’ll unpack various characters or elements I used in some of my horror stories! This time, our topic is haunted and cursed objects!

In my books “Static” and “Life Signs“, I wrote about several cursed or haunted objects. First off, I’d better start this article by giving a brief explanation of what a cursed or haunted object is supposed to be!

[Incidentally, in order to see the rest of these articles in this series, click on the category name Elements of Horror!]

A haunted object is something which is haunted by – or has a spook or spirit or entity (“demon” or something darker) attachd to it – but which is smaller and more mobile than a place or building, something like a doll or some kind of historical artifact or a painting etc. The object may have been of importance to someone who died, and their essence is now attached to it after death. That is to say, wherever the object is moved to, the supernatural phenomena which contribute to its reputation for being haunted, will follow. It’s not to be taken for granted that the entity haunting the object is necessarily hostile, malicious or “evil”, as in the case of “Johnny”, the little boy ghost who appears to be attached to the football he was playing with when a truck rode him over and killed him back in the 1930’s! (“Static“). Johnny and his football will be seen again in the next as yet unnamed book in the Panic! series.

In “Static“, Johnny (and his football) were part of a collection of haunted items which belonged to a man who tried desperately to get rid of them! Due to a lot of unfortunate mishaps and failed attempts – the guy even gave them away for free – he was still stuck with the things as they kept on being returned! The nameless collector finally hit upon a solution – he placed them all together in a crate and sent them via a space courier service to a fake address on another planet on the other side of the Terran Empire – with a fake return address!

This might well have finally rid him of his unwanted collection – but what about the poor buggers flying the ship the crate was on? Space is a dark, lonely and empty place – and when things go bump in the night, it’s not always just expanding hull plates…

The other objects transported in the same unmarked crate include a haunted doll kept in a specially blessed glass case with a sign on it reading “Warning! Absolutely positively do not open!“, a baby doll that cries and its eyes light up without any batteries, and a terrifying haunted painting called “Hands and Feet” that causes stress for Dr. Fred Killian aboard the I.S.S. Mercury when a patient bursts into flames in bed in his sickbay!

As far as cursed objects are concerned, the horizon becomes a little hazy. Curses are by nature negative, malicious and not good for those who come by ownership of such items which are said to be cursed! A pretty good example of this is the Jug of Death in “Life Signs“, which causes people to die shortly after they come in contact with the ordinary-looking silver jug (just ask Sheriff Yackley).

The origins of the aptly named Jug of Death are rather murky, but suffice to say, the item was discovered on a brand new colony planet by employees of the terraforming company hired to get it into shape for its new residents to move in! The following is an extract from “Life Signs” introducing the item:

The Jug of Death was an ordinary-looking silver ornamental jug, just about the size of a quart. It had no markings, save for a few scuff marks and a myriad of small dents and chips it had sustained over its very long lifetime.

The object was uncovered by a couple of workers just over a year prior, while they were leveling and clearing land to be used to expand the atmo-processing plant just south of the main complex. The item was spotted by a worker and dug out by hand from the dry, lifeless Atooin soil. It looked like it had been tucked into an alcove in what turned out to be the buried remnants of a low stone wall, which had resembled some kind of foundation. The workers – who were well on the way to getting the job finished ahead of schedule, were keen on their pending bonuses – and so the last thing they wanted to do was stop while some lab-coats prodded around their construction site. Thus, the correct procedures when uncovering things of that nature hadn’t been followed, in that the Company’s small company of exo-anthropologists and other lab-coat-wearing geeks with a keen interest in such things was not notified, and the man who found the relic kept it quiet and hid it – presumably thinking it was a rather nice keepsake to take with him one day when he returned home again.

The uncovered alien foundations – which they never found out had belonged to an ancient temple – were destroyed by the earth-moving machinery – and since they were now gone, never investigated further. Anyway, by the end of the next day, the site lay beneath Vent Number 132, a towering hollow cylindrical chimney that began spewing water moisture into the planet’s air right on schedule. The workers collected their bonuses, and their cunning little dodge might never have come to light at all, except that death seemed to follow this antique silver jug – like a homing pigeon – well, homing.

The first death attributed to the jug was that of its finder, less than a day later. Greg Bindel, 45 years of age choked to death alone. Investigators concluded that he’d been chewing on a taco while doing naked aerobics, or so the story went. A couple of months later, a friend of the deceased who inherited all the dead man’s possessions, found the jug while going through them, and decided to keep it for himself. Again, the unfortunate new owner died within a day – this time of a rather messy accident involving a counter-top waste disposal unit. Deputies found Mitch Danken slumped over the kitchen counter in his small apartment, with what was left of his right arm stuck in the mechanism – his dead eyes fixed on the gleaming silver jug less than a few feet away from him. As though following a strange pattern, the mysterious silver jug was again passed on with Danken’s personal effects to its next new owner, who shortly afterwards followed the first two in a string of suspicious accidents that rapidly become the basis of Atooin’s growing new local urban legend!

The pattern of mysterious deaths relating to ownership of the jug continued, from owner to owner – with no discernible signs of foul play – until, just over a year later, the mysterious alien artifact reached its thirteenth owner… and even though someone – presumably one of its previous owners – had marked it with a paper tag tied to the handle, that read “BEWARE! THIS IS THE JUG OF DEATH!” – owner number thirteen thought it might be a good idea to auction it off that night at the Crazy Eight, the canteen that catered to workers at the atmo-processing plant! Even more unbelievably, someone actually paid good money cash up front, and bought it! There was a good deal of speculation and congratulations as owner number thirteen bought a round of drinks for the whole bar – and promptly didn’t die. Number thirteen congratulated herself and slept very soundly that night.

Just thirty hours later however, the Jug of Death’s fourteenth owner was found stone dead – snuffed out in a mind-boggling domestic accident in his bathtub inside own locked apartment – with no sign of foul play. The deputies were completely baffled, and to be honest – a little spooked. So far, the thirteenth owner of the Jug of Death had been the only person to have had ownership of the item without actually dying – at least, not yet. Sheriff Yackley was pretty sure Trucilla Gorny – the seller – felt pretty darn clever for having outwitted ‘the curse of the Jug of Death’.

At any rate, it was at this time that Sheriff Yackley eventually had had enough of this nonsense, and confiscated the artifact from the crime murder scene of death. Sam Yackley wasn’t really the superstitious type, but since none of his deputies would even touch the damn thing at the scene of death – not even the folks wearing the latex suits and gloves, he gripped it with a pair of barbecue tongs whilst repeating “T’ain’t mine!” aloud just in case, like a kind of mantra to ward off harm, and placed it carefully into a plastic evidence bag. Then he locked it securely away in the squad-room’s evidence locker – on the top back shelf, in an old cardboard cracker box marked “EMPTEE”.  And there it remained for a week. A month. Then three months.

Meanwhile, there were no further mysterious deaths on Atooin – accidental or otherwise, and nothing happened to Sheriff Sam Yackley either, which he attributed to not having actually touched the damn thing with his bare hands. But it couldn’t stay there, and he knew it. The idea that the curse might somehow find a way to latch onto him – or one of his deputies, bothered him! To tell the truth, it gave him night sweats just thinking about it! The evidence locker was a high-traffic area after all – and the possibility that one of his colleagues might remove it from there, or take it out to look at – resulting in more unexplained deaths about the place, was just appalling!

To make matters worse, Yackley’s fears were actually realized. One night, a deputy – keen to post a photo of himself holding the Jug of Death on the social media of the day – snuck into the evidence locker late after work. Security camera footage clearly showed him take the jug out of its box and set about taking selfie’s of himself while posing with it. After that, he carefully replaced the cursed object where he’d found it, and left. He didn’t get very far. Station personnel found his body the next morning at the bottom of the fire-escape stairs, tied into knots. The Jug of Death had claimed its fourteenth victim.

The effects of this curse don’t just end with death – as Stuart Flane, Captain of the Mercury discovers to his horror – but we’ll explore that aspect separately in future!

To read more about this curious alien artifact, click on the cover below to get the free ebook:

Further reading:

In Closing

That about covers it! I hope I’ve explained all this in a satisfactory manner!

Feel free to email or message me via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn if you have any comments or questions!

Until next time,

Cheers! 🙂

P.S.

If you’re reading this long after it was posted, click “Elements of Horror” to see a list of all the articles posted in this series!


TIP: If you want to know what Christina Engela writes, or who her focus group or target market is, please read here.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.

 

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