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Welcome to Tales of Terror

Saturday, 31 December 2016


Something is wrong with the computer. Its performance slows erratically, it crashes too often. Strange responses appear from ordinary requests. Files are corrupted, data is damaged.

A virus checker reveals nothing – the computer is not infected with any known virus. However, the corruption is certainly symptomatic of virus activity.

Then, of its own accord, things get better. Performance improves, the machine stops hanging. In fact, it almost seems as if it is performing better than usual. Everything is right again. Except...

The files are weird. Fragments, oddly named. They don’t execute, and when examined seem to be random masses of code, or occasionally, sheer meaningless text. Deleting the files does nothing – they just reappear. Careful checking reveals that the files are all modified while the computer is on - somehow it is creating them. And, while it first created lots of small files, it now produces fewer, larger files.

Eventually a single file appears: RUNME.EXE.

Running the program causes the screen to clear – and then an image forms. It’s a box, an old stone artefact about the size of an ordinary cardboard box that was recovered from a recent investigation. And yes, the problems with the computer started about the time the box was retrieved.

On the screen, the box begins to glow...


1 Millions of years ago, the serpent people realised they were losing their battles for control of Earth and made preparations to ensure their survival. They constructed subterranean hibernation chambers to wait out their enemies. The chambers were never reactivated ... although that may change shortly.

The box is a serpent people device, a control mechanism for their hibernation sites. It has successfully created an interface program between it and the computer, allowing for the appropriate instructions to be entered.

On the screen, the glowing box dissolves into a spinning map of the Earth – as it was millions of years ago. And dotted on the map are several brightly glowing dots: serpent people sites.

2 The box is a powerful old one computer. It can now be communicated with, via the interface it has constructed. It is undoubtedly malign.

3 The box is the egg of a virtual demon. As the image glows on the screen, the box itself (the real one, that is) glows brightly, then crumbles into pieces. The egg has hatched, the computer is now possessed by a mathematical demon.

The creature is quite evil, and gobbles up all the files on the computer – and demands more. (It doesn’t like duplicates, either.) It is cunning; deleting files doesn’t work and neither does switching off the computer.

But what does it want? And what does it do when it finds the Internet?

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

The Spider Man

He is their least favourite patient. Everybody, even arachnophiles, find the presence of so many spiders disturbing. They are everywhere in the barren room: on the floor, walls and ceiling. They infest his bed, scamper across his clothes, and stalk through his hair.

They are ignored by the patient, known to the staff of the Seaview Home for the Insane as ‘the spider-man’. He sits on his chair, head cocked to one side, staring blankly at nothing. He does not speak and needs to be hand-fed, not a popular task among the staff.

The spiders have defeated all attempts to shift them. Steely nerved cleaners used to periodically clean the room, but each time they were back within a week. Now they just don’t bother. Besides, the spider-man does not seem to mind.


1 Blown off course by a severe storm, the crew of a capsized tramp steamer found themselves cast on a pacific island inhabited by natives belonging to a spider cult.

In the months that followed, those that weren’t killed lost their minds. Eventually, the cult elected one of the crew to godhood, sacred for the rest of eternity. They cast him adrift in the lifeboat to take the word to the masses, quite unaware that his mind was utterly blank.

The man was picked up by a warship, pronounced insane, and committed to Seaview. There he has attracted the attention of the local spider population. He is their god, and they like being around him.

2 The spider-man is host to the Children of Anansi, huge spiders with horrible faces. In a nightmare, he stumbled across Anansi, the spider god, who happily took the opportunity to inject its young into a suitable host.

He awoke in screaming terror. If it was only a dream, why did he hurt so? Then he saw the neat puncture marks in his abdomen, and felt their presence. It shattered his mind.

Now the spiders are waiting for the joyous day when Anansi’s brood will hatch from his rich flesh. For beneath the spider-man’s tender skin they slowly mature, soon to hatch.

3 The spiders are all one species. The spider-man has been cross-breeding them. His listless, blank periods are interspersed with activity when he is permitted to go into the gardens and catch spiders for his room. There he is breeding a new species.

© Steve Hatherley

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

A Wolf at the Door

A doctor is contacted by Charlotte Langley who is having disturbing dreams at night and wishes the doctor to prescribe something to stop them.

Charlotte is twenty-three and rather attractive. She has had dreams ever since she was about thirteen. They have almost always been the same – blood, matted fur and a longing to run free through dark, damp forests. Charlotte has no idea where the dreams originate.

Then, about a week ago, the dreams started to intensify. They became stronger, more possessive. She has been waking in a dreadful fright every night since. Could the doctor do something about it?


1 Charlotte is a werewolf. She contracted the disease when she was bitten by an infected dog at thirteen. Since then, the disease has been slowly maturing. She will shortly develop the full symptoms and turn into a terrifying werewolf and murder several innocent people. Charlotte will have no memory of the incident.

The dreams themselves are an unpleasant prelude to the change.

Curing Charlotte would be a considerable accolade, if any of the doctor’s peers would believe it. A silver bullet will kill Charlotte, but can one be justified when Charlotte could be cured instead?

2 Charlotte was scratched by a werewolf, but hasn’t contracted lycanthropy. Instead, she has become psychically linked to the werewolf that wounded her. Her nightmares intensify each month and are at their worst when the werewolf kills. Her dreams contain fragments and clues that can be used to track and destroy the werewolf. Only then will she sleep soundly.

3 Charlotte is a werewolf, but only in the Dreamlands, beyond the wall of sleep. During the hours of the disease’s climax a terrible, unstoppable beast stalks the streets of Dylath-Leen. Silver is rare in Dylath-Leen and nobody has thought to waste it upon the beast.

Charlotte does not remember anything of the Dreamlands, just the terrible nightmares, which occur every month for three consecutive nights, as if by clockwork.

© Steve Hatherley

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Writing on the Wall

The symbols and half-letters scrawled messily on the wall are not from any recognisable language. They look like the drunken attempts of a lone vandal, and are not particularly remarkable. Except for one thing: they appear elsewhere. On lorries and trains, schools and churches. In the country, in town. On sheds and walls, windows and signs. Usually in paint, and once or twice in blood.


1 Each instance of the symbols is accompanied by a body. The cause of death is unknown – other than being dead, the victim is otherwise healthy.

The victims have been possessed by body thieves, spectral haunters who take control of their victims and discards them when they become bored. Possession is fatal to the victim, but in their last moments the victims leave clues to their tormentor. Unfortunately, the clues are written in the symbol language of the haunter and are not easy to decode.

2 The symbols are written by the Royal Order of the Third Man, a secretive society originally founded by Queen Victoria. The Order is dedicated to opposing the forces controlled by an entity it knows as the Bone Swallower. The Order’s oracles have recently foretold that the Bone Swallower will emerge at specific co-ordinates. The Order is using the symbols to weaken the Bone Swallower: the symbols face the appointed location, and are arranged at various distances from it. They can be marked on a map, and the co-ordinates determined.

Some symbols are decoys (including those on vehicles) to hide the Order’s intent. To most onlookers, the decoys look no different, but a practiced eye or ‘sensitive’ can tell one from another.

Some in the Order have concerns, however. They suspect that the Order has been infiltrated, and that the symbols, far from weakening the Bone Swallower, are instead bringing it into being.

3 The symbols (written by sleepwalkers) originate from a long-forgotten language. Eventually they are translated to form one word. ‘Rejoice.’ What does it mean? Is it a sign from God?

Then, a second word: ‘for.’ Then ‘He,’ followed by ‘is’ and ‘coming.’

‘Rejoice for He is coming.’ But who?

© Steve Hatherley

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


Abruptly she awakes. Something is burning, there is smoke in the air. The house is on fire!

Opening the bedroom door reveals and angry orange hell. The fire rages fiercely in the hall, the walls and floors are blazing and impassable.

With flames licking at the door, there appears to be only one way out of the house: through the bedroom window. Outside, the street it quiet, nobody has yet noticed that the house is burning merrily. There is nothing to climb down that is not already burning. The only option is to jump.

She leaps out, towards a cold, hard safety. Landing is a sudden shock, a searing pain, and unconsciousness.


1 She wakes up in hospital. There she is recovering from injuries sustained from having leapt from her bedroom window. Returning to the house, it is untouched.

The nightmare is the work of a protective spell in a forbidden book she is translating. Into one of the pages the author has worked a fiendish spell to prey on the fears of those who should not be reading the book.

Each time anyone studies that book, there is a chance that he will glance at that page, so triggering the spell. Next time anyone takes a flying leap from their bedroom window they might not be so lucky: they might be on the twentieth floor.

2 She ‘wakes’ to find himself in the Dreamlands. She has been summoned, ripped out of normal slumber to appear in the Dreamlands. Whether friendly allies or dangerous enemies have summoned the investigator is not yet known.

In the waking world, she appears to have fallen into a coma having leapt from her bedroom window for no apparent reason. She also has a broken ankle and is currently in hospital.

3 She sits bolt upright in bed. It is night, the bed covers are twisted and drenched in sweat. It was only a dream.

© Steve Hatherley

Saturday, 17 December 2016


It’s a finely crafted chest made of walnut, but of a slightly mean character with four rows of six drawers. The drawers are 1.5 inches square and 3 inches deep and each contains a small clay figure: homunculi, 24 of them.


1 The chest is an Advent calendar, a ghoulish present by a Dr Rant to his sister, for his nieces. The homunculi themselves are carved to look like little people, sleeping in their drawers. Dr Rant promised that his sister would never have to suffer vermin if she accepted his present. Dr Rant’s sister disliked the macabre advent calendar and hid it their roof space, where it was forgotten

Time passed, and the house changed hands, several times. The house developed a peculiar reputation: pets never thrived and would disappear, or grow ill, or die prematurely.

When the roof space was eventually opened as part of building work for an extension, the Advent calendar was found, in perfect condition. Around the chest were hundreds of tiny bones from rats, mice and pigeons

2 The homunculi are crudely fashioned, and made of a mixture of clay, dung and blood: they are golems.

The interior of the chest, behind the drawers, contains a piece of parchment covered in writing. The writing is Latin, and when translated describes instructions for controlling the golems. The golems’ orders must be written inside a pentagram in which one or more golems are placed. A splash of blood and a short incantation complete the instruction.

Once activated, the golems carry out the instruction to the letter – and become inactive the moment they complete their task.

3 Each of the homunculi are extraordinarily detailed, and uncomfortably lifelike. Each one is unique, and dressed in fine robes suitable for 17th century nobleman and women. They appear to be representations of real individuals. Most of them are broken, however, with their heads severed as if by a chisel or knife.

Each homunculus has an eyelet in the top of its head, so that with a length of yarn or thread they can be suspended as if in a grotesque mobile. Four of the homunculi even have ancient thread still attached.

If any of the remaining intact homunculi are suspended, then they swing and spin before settling down into a very specific direction. Every time they are moved, they again swing and spin, before returning to that same direction. It’s always the same direction, as if they are pointing towards something.

The homunculi were commissioned by Mr Gideon Stem, an occultist. The figures represent powerful supernatural individuals. The homunculi, magically tied to the individuals, always turned to face them, and Mr Stem used this property effectively. He tracked and destroyed many of the individuals before removing their heads. He did not finish his task before his enemies caught up with him.

© Steve Hatherley

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Unnatural Behaviour

It's nothing unusual at first. After all, everyone thinks they see movement from the corner of their eye, don't they? Although it doesn't usually happen quite so often. And, on reflection, it's always around the investigator's house, inside and out. Never further afield. Odd.

Then there are the birds. Lots of them - an unusually large number. Drawn by the beetles.

In fact, there do seem to be rather a lot of beetles. Always a common sight, they now seem to be everywhere, scampering in the yard and around the house. They hide behind jars, on shelves and in cupboards.

They get bolder. The investigator gets the feeling he is being watched - but there is nobody around. Nobody and nothing - except for one of the beetles. A big one, nearly an inch from antenna to tail, sitting on the windowsill. Motionless until the investigator moves - and then it turns to track his movements.

Pest control, doesn't work. Chemicals and pesticides leave hundreds of crispy little corpses, but there are always more.

A bird's painful screeches draws the investigator's attention. The bird, a thrush, flaps painfully in the yard. It seems to be covered in berries, or beads - or beetles, attacking en masse! Eventually the bird stops flapping, and the beetles swarm over the corpse in triumph.

Then the neighbour's dog goes missing . . .


1 It is not only their behaviour that has been altered. Many of the beetles are mutants. Most look perfectly normal, but a few are bloated and corpulent. Some even have seven legs.

Closer inspection shows that not only are the beetles mutated. Other insects look similarly affected - as is simple plant life and, eventually, birds and small mammals. Everything becomes more aggressive, more belligerent.

The mutation is caused by a massive build-up of underground toxins from a nearby government facility. Waste from dubious processes is dumped into fissures in the ground, away from environmentalists' eyes. Over a period of time, people fall ill and even die. Random acts of violence soar, from slavering dogs savaging young children to freeway slayings over minor traffic misdemeanours.

As things get worse, the facility keeps on pumping chemicals into the ground . . .

2 Poorly conducted investigations leave loose ends untied - and those loose ends are rarely pleased.

A sorcerer, warlock or witch has been overlooked in a recent case and is now taking revenge on the investigator. The investigator has been cursed with a plague of beetles, and before long he is suffering from rashes and bites - beetle bites.

Eventually, if no way is found to lift the curse, the beetles attack. Millions of beetles swarm over the investigator and smother him. They fill his mouth, crawl in his ears, his nose. He suffocates painfully under the foul black sea.

By morning, the beetles are gone.

3 The beetles have formed a hive-mind consciousness. This rough collective intelligence is the precursor to the great beetle race that the Great Race of Yith will eventually inhabit, millions of years in the future. But its origin starts here, and now.

The beetle consciousness, in this formative state and a long way from intelligence, is groping blindly, unable to make sense of much what it experiences. It learns slowly, but reacts to anything it perceives as a threat.

The Great Race is naturally very interested in the emergence of the beetle intelligence. Agents are in the area, watching from a distance. It is imperative that the organism survives. If the investigator moves against the intelligence - they will act. If eliminating the investigator looks to cause more problems than is worth, the agents move the hive-mind instead. The investigator wakes to discover that two whole days are missing from his memory - and the beetles have gone . . .

© Steve Hatherley