Saturday, October 31, 2009

Samhain Night Special

The story of Margaret Schilling has fascinated me for a good while now. I'd like to share it with you...

The Stain She Left Behind

According to some, especially when the Halloween specials come out of their mothballs, Athens, Ohio, is one of the most haunted places in the United States. Many of the spirits seem to inhabit the old mental health center, up on what is known today simply as The Ridges. Those old buildings have certainly seen their share of human tragedy. Most of the following story is true. And the rest? I leave that up to you, gentle readers, to decide.

According to legend, Margaret Schilling slipped out of her ward on December 1st, 1978. No one is sure what led the young woman to decide on a game of hide and seek on that cold, wintry Friday. At least, it’s been suggested that she was playing hide and seek with the staff. Perhaps something in her troubled mind urged her to seek refuge in the upper floors of an unused ward. Or maybe something very real drove her there. A rumor exists suggesting an affair between her and one of the male employees. If true, such a tale would certainly add to the tragedy of what happened to poor Margaret, but perhaps we should put such stories down to the prurient imaginations of others, romantically assuming the worst. Other stories claim poor Madge, who was supposedly deaf and mute, was unfortunately locked in and left behind when residents of her ward were moved elsewhere and the building closed. That story, however, has been proven thankfully untrue thanks to some clever folks checking the timelines of such events.

Getting back to our story, put yourself in our young lady’s place. It is quite possible, not being considered dangerous to yourself or others, that you’ve been given relative freedom to move around. One day, wandering aimlessly about, you notice the stairwell leading upwards to…what? Suddenly the urge to find out overtakes you and you begin climbing.

Looking down over the edge of the railing, you see employees moving about on the stairs beneath you. You worry that one of them might notice you and be angry at your curiosity. You finish darting quietly up the stairs. Slipping into a room, you rest against the wall to catch your breath before exploring the area. Maybe you even lock the door behind you, so anyone searching will think the area empty.

What’s that you say? How do I know it happened this way? Well, I don’t. But it could have happened something like that. Or perhaps a male at the hospital was pestering Margaret and she thought she’d found somewhere to hide. A place she could be safe from his uncomfortable attentions. Perhaps he had tried to force those attentions upon her recently enough that she was still flustered by his actions.

She obviously hadn’t thought things out if she’d been planning on hiding for any length of time. The ward she took refuge in was abandoned, so she didn’t need to worry about anyone finding her easily. However, it was also fairly unfurnished and, most importantly that cold December Friday, it was without a heat source other than some sunlight shining wanly in through the windows.

Whatever happened next, and whether or not she was a deaf-mute, Margaret found herself locked into the attic-level ward. Perhaps her medications wore off and she became too confused to find her way back down the stairs. The floor below her was uninhabited. The walls and floors are thick. (I’ve been there; the building is quite sturdy.) Even if she could make noise, she still wasn’t likely to be heard. Poor Margaret. Cold Margaret. She was dressed for inside, in her warm, cozy ward. Not for the chill, nearly outdoor conditions for a barren attic.

Meanwhile, while Marge was exploring the near-empty attic, her absence was noticed and the alarm was given. Search parties were formed, but they were unable to track the poor girl. Newspaper articles were run, asking if anyone had seen her. If they had any news at all of Margaret Schilling. Authorities probably followed up on several rumors. Unfortunately for Margaret, no one actually knew anything. If only someone had noticed the quiet girl slipping towards the stairwell, she’d have been found sooner.

Six long weeks would pass before a maintenance man would come across the chilling find of Margaret’s body. Even in the cold, she had begun to decompose. It was as though she’d known the end was near, for she’d lain down in the sunlight and waited to die. The official cause of death was listed as cardiac arrest, ostensibly brought on by the extreme cold. And to sensationalize the story further, some accounts of the legend say that she’d removed her clothing beforehand and had placed it carefully folded nearby.

Even though she’s long since been buried, Margaret Schilling is still up there on The Ridges, up in that attic. Etched into the cement floor is an outline of her body – a photonegative created by the passing of the sun as she lay there rotting in its meager warmth. Every attempt to remove the stain has failed. It is so distinct that it’s said you can make out the folds of her hair and the creases in her clothing - the latter detail putting paid to the story of her being found naked.

There are stories of her walking the halls and peering out the windows, a member of the ghostly community that resided at The Ridges. Perhaps she still waits for the help that didn’t come in time. Whatever the case, Margaret is still present in the attic above old Ward 20 – a permanent outline on the floor.

And really, who could blame her if she did walk the halls to this day?

So which parts of the story are true? Well, Margaret Schilling did indeed die in an unheated and unused part of the mental health facility. The stain on the floor is also very real, thanks to some interesting chemistry. The rest is a bit more uncertain. A friend asked his mother, who was working there at the time of Margaret's death, what happened. She said there were rumors of a possible murder and hints that Margaret might have been trading "favors" for cigarettes. One of the men working at the institution may have done away with her for some reason. Was she a death/mute? I honestly don't know. Given enough time, I might go do some research in newspapers of the time and see what else can be learned.

As mentioned earlier, Athens County, Ohio is considered quite haunted, although many of the stories need to be taken with a rather industrial grain of salt. And the other stories? Maybe not so much. If you'd like more, please just tell me so in a comment and I'll see what I can do.

Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

Thursday, October 29, 2009


I lied. Divine Visions didn't start last Friday. And it's not starting this Friday either. We'll aim for next Friday and let it carry Friday Fiction through November (hopefully) while I'm busy writing for NaNoWriMo. THIS Friday I'm going to share something written quite recently - last month, in fact - that's set here in Athens County. Not only is it set here, but it's also, at least partly, a true story.

Consider it my little treat for all of you. And if you like, and would like to hear more ghost stories here in Athens, just drop me a line in the comments and I'll see if I can't hook you up. Athens County is, by some accounts, one of the most haunted places in the world. Go figure....

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Friday Fiction: The Aeterna - Part 7 - The End

Divine Visions starts next Friday. It's probably the best fiction I've written in a while. Certainly the best I'd written at the time it was penned. I really hope you've enjoyed this one enough to look forward to Part 1 of the story of the mad cleric.


Stretching out his right hand towards Ethan, he nudged the protruding stake, sending fresh waves of pain coursing throughout her body and calming her weak struggles, uttering a satisfied chuckle when he heard her agonized moan. Ethan, sweat glistening upon his forehead, reached for the binding rings. The young man could see the panic in the woman's eyes. Perhaps Pernicies had been correct about gaining his freedom. Concentrating, he began working the bands off, moving with cautious precision. They had to be removed at exactly the same time or it wouldn't work. After witnessing the recent brutality, he didn't want to find out how failure would be rewarded.
Venia fought the engulfing panic and pain. Finally focusing the meditative techniques she had worked long to perfect, she banished the endless agony to some far corner, to be dealt with later. The mortal couldn't get that ring off or all be permanently lost. Gathering her remaining strength, she prepared to shove Pernicies forward. Timing her move for the last possible moment, she hoped to push his ring back upon is finger by the momentum of his fall. Either way, it would destroy the vital timing of their plan, probably allowing her band to fall free from her finger. With her band removed she would be free to deal with them in her true form, capable of draining Pernicies enough to subdue him for the time being. It might even save Thomas's life as well.
Ethan paused at the final joint on their fingers, taking a deep breath to steady himself for the last, crucial part. So intent was he upon his task that Pernicies look of alarm was entirely lost till too late. He crumpled into a heap, victim to the candlestick Thomas held unsteadily in his hand.
Venia threw her weight towards Pernicies shoulder's, overbalancing him and forcing him to collapse on top of Ethan. Tilting her hand down, the ring fell off, freeing her from the agony of her body. Pernicies paled at the anger emanating from her ethereal form. He felt the attack creep up from his shoulders into the base of his skull as Venia vented her rage, exploding his world into a collage of pain-induced colors. Screaming, he fell into merciful unconsciousness. She was far more merciful than he would have been. But then, that was her nature. Merciful grace.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Fiction: The Aeterna - Part 6

You know, I didn't realize there were so many possible cliffhanger moments in this thing. I just can't resist dragging it out longer, although I had hoped to do the ghost story for October; however, this way I'll have that for November when I'm being insane during NaNo.


Venia felt as though her essence were being ripped apart, reduced to subatomic particles, her neural network seared by the lightening rushing to every nerve ending. She heard screams of anguish, recognizing her own voice. In the background was the keening, fearful scream of Thomas: a mortal never meant to see this level of brutality. Her world collapsed into a kaleidoscope of anguish. While the pain would haunt her for centuries, given time, perhaps weeks, she would regenerate the physical damage. Pernicies grim, victorious grin told her that if he were correct, she wouldn't survive long enough for it to be a major concern.
"Now, Ethan." He beckoned to his mortal companion, unable to conceal the triumph evident in his voice. Meeting her eyes, he reached down for her right arm, holding it firmly anchored hand out, fingers exposed. "I thought of hacking off you hand for this next part, but it would probably be to much for that body of your's to bear, and I do so want you to witness your defeat.. Perhaps you'll survive long enough to see me devour your lover." He laughed as fear crossed her face for the first time in 4,000 years.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Saturday Fun

Hope you're enjoying the free fiction. Looking back over these old pieces shows me just how far my fiction writing has come. :-) I've got at least one local ghost story to share with you this month. Well, actually, it's a true story with ghostly elements. If I get time, I'm going to write somemore of them, but I'm also the Municipal Liason in our area for National Novel Writing Month as well as the advisor for my girls' school's writers club, who will be doing NaNoWriMo's Young Writers Program, both of which happen in November. Everything is gearing up for that right now.

We're off in a little bit to help a friend celebrate his birthday. Walking around checking out the shops in Nelsonville's Historic Square sounds like fun. It's an absolutely gorgeous day here in SE Ohio. It'll be lovely to be out in it.

But before we head out, I've got some blog goodness to share. Take a look below.

My sweet, online friend Tricia-Rennea has some printable Halloween goodies to download on her website. She's quite a talented illustrator, as well as a generous person. I'm always amazed at how much she offers free for the taking. Aren't the beakers wonderful? The little girl, science geek in my is in love. Links to the goodies are below the image. (Or click on her blog badge over to the right.)

Expressions Paperie is celebrating their 10th anniversary online with a $50 gift certificate give-away. They have some holiday cards that are both cute and whimsical. Head on over to find out how to enter.

Well, I think that's it. I honestly mean to blog more and hope that can happen as I get settled into my dual roles with NaNo. Did I say dual? Is there a word for a trio of roles? I forgot I'm supposed to write a novel next month as well.....

Hope you're enjoying the free fiction. Looking back over these old pieces shows me just how far my fiction writing has come. :-)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Fiction: The Aeterna - Part 5

Thomas began to reply when the front door swung inward, revealing Pernicies and a young man. Standing, he turned to the intruders. "What the...I think you've got the wrong apartment." Pernicies crossed the room in one stride; the blow knocking Thomas against the far wall and leaving him stunned for several minutes. Food for later, the he thought. Ethan stepped inside and closed the door, waiting for his role in the affair.
"Why don't you just give up now and get out of here?" Venia growled at her eternal enemy. What had the bastard cooked up this time around?
"Now, dear." Pernicies gave her a feral smile. "You know I just can't stay away from my eternal partner, the beauty who bound the beast." He stepped towards her, arms out in a placating gesture of embrace. She stepped back warily as he gave a toothy grin, beginning a deadly game of cat and mouse. Glancing at Thomas, her eyes begging his trust and forgiveness, she began inching towards an open window. Whatever Pernicies game was, he would follow her to continue it, leaving the mortal safe.
"I don't think so, lovely. Wouldn't want your boyfriend to miss seeing the party, now would we?" Without warning, Pernicies sprang forward, the stake now evident in his hand. Caught off guard, she moved to dodge his thrust, taking the wood left of center in the abdomen. "I thought about using a plain old hunting knife, but the stake seemed so much more...appropriate. Wouldn't you agree?"