January 17, 1923

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In all the years he has visited Cross, this man has only been photographed once.

He is a Reaper and one with whom Duncan Blood is well-familiar.

Each January, for as long as anyone can remember, this Reaper has walked out of Blood Farm and into Cross.

He has a smile for all he meets, and he smokes contently on his pipe. It is not unusual for him to stop and sit and smoke a spell, nor is it unusual for him to vanish into houses and streets as if searching for someone who needs him.

This man is a quiet Death.

There is nothing horrendous about his coming, and more often than not, he comes for the aged or the ill. Rarely does he leave with more than the single person he came for, although there have been times where he has left with two or three souls in tow.

Only once did he walk back to Duncan Blood’s home with more than what most would consider the Reaper’s fair share, and that was on January 17, 1923.

On that particular day, a group of young men and women raced into Cross in a pair of 1921, Ferris sedans. As the citizens of the town watched in fascinated horror, the first of the cars struck the Reaper, and the second ran over him.

Yet the Reaper was unharmed, and when he stood up, there was a look of disgust on his face.

Calmly, the Reaper relit his pipe, and as the flames touched the tobacco, the cars came to a sudden and quiet stop.

As the Reaper turned around and continued on his way, residents approached the cars, curious as to why they had stopped.

The answer, they discovered, was that all eight people were dead.

And each person’s body was mangled, as if they had been run over.

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January 16, 1909

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Herbert Timothy French was born wicked.

In 1903, his violent birth was the direct cause of his mother’s death three days later. His father, Timothy French, hired a wet-nurse to feed the infant, yet within a month she too was dead, this time from an infected cut caused by Herbert’s untrimmed nails.

Before he was four years of age, Herbert was responsible for the deaths of three other women and one older gentleman. The last was when Herbert tripped the older man and caused him to fall and smash his head open on the porch railing.

Timothy, however, doted on the boy, and believed the child could do no wrong – even when presented with evidence that he had.

Herbert was fond of lighting fires in the servants’ quarters; cooking cats alive; and shooting at neighboring children and dogs with his father’s squirrel rifle.

In 1908, Herbert’s father purchased an expensive toy car for him, one that Herbert was quite adept at propelling forward.

Soon after Herbert took the vehicle onto Hollis Road animals of various sizes began to be found dead there. All had been struck by something.

Herbert’s car, it was noted, often had blood and hair stuck to the front.

On January 16th, 1909, at 9:30 in the evening, there was a horrific crash in front of the boy’s house. When Timothy went outside with his servants, he discovered his son’s car, but not his son. The vehicle had struck a tree, and there was a great deal of blood upon it. But the boy’s body was never found.

On Hollis Road there is a dangerous stretch where animals and people have been killed by a hit and run driver.

Survivors report hearing the pleased laughter of a small child.

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January 15, 1939

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Virginia Brown was born in 1889 and by the time she was 16, she was wed to Patrick Harris. Their first child was born before she turned 17, and their last child – the eighth – was born on her 33rd birthday. Before, during, and after each pregnancy, Patrick beat her. The reason, he gave to friends and family, was that she needed it, more than any woman he had ever known.

Patrick, with the help of his wife and children, ran a small farm, which rarely did well. More often than not, the family would travel to various churches outside of Cross and beg for handouts. Virginia, in an attempt to feed her large family, became adept at crafting jellies out of any fruit, vegetable, or meat she could put her hands on. Her jellies were soon given to friends and fans, and Patrick built a roadside stand for her to sell her wares.

By 1933, Virginia was supporting the entire family with the sales of her jellies.

In 1934, Patrick vanished.

Many of the people in town felt it was from sheer embarrassment at having his wife provide for him. Others whispered it was because he had found a younger woman.

Regardless as to the reason why, Virginia was alone.

Over the years several of Patrick’s friends sought him out, but they vanished as well, and darker rumors spread about him. People, knowing the ways of Cross, suspected he was killing them off to remain in hiding. He had always been a violent man, and such drastic measures were possible.

On January 15th, 1939, the police stopped by the Brown farm to speak with Virginia about another missing man. Virginia, who had grown deaf over the years, was found in her kitchen, preparing the missing man’s brains to be jellied.

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January 13, 1939

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Shortly after the conclusion of the First World War, the three Barron brothers – Alpheus, Gunther, and Friedrich – sold their home in Cross. With the proceeds of their sale, the brothers purchased horses, saddles, weapons, ammunition, and all the requirements for an extended stay in some lawless place.

Yet the brothers only went so far as the Blood Farm, where they were greeted by Duncan Blood. On January 2nd, 1919, the three brothers disappeared into the forest.

The Barron brothers, being unwed and unengaged, were talked about, but soon forgotten in the grand scheme of a small town’s social memory. Occasionally, mention would be made, but more as a comment on the peculiarities of people than as any sort of concern for their well-being.

As the years passed, gunfire could be heard from Blood Farm during the small hours of the night.

This too, however, was hardly remarked upon.

The Blood family was strange, and that was an accepted fact.

On September 11th, 1938, a horrific thunderstorm shook Cross. Bolts of lightning ripped through the streets and streams were flooded.

After the storm, no more gunfire was heard from Blood Farm. Duncan still appeared in town on a regular basis, and he was still his normal, peculiar self.

On the morning of January 13th, 1939, three men were brought into town by Duncan, and they were deposited outside of what Mrs. Matheson’s boarding house.

The men registered as Alpheus, Gunther, and Friedrich Barron respectively. They were clad in cast-off clothing, and happy to take a room together in the basement. While Alpheus walked with a serious limp, both Gunther and Friedrich had horrific scars on their necks and could no longer speak.

Alpheus alone could speak, and when asked where they had been, he replied, “Fighting the damned.”

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January 10, 1904

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The world is a strange and wonderful place, a singular entity of curiosity and beauty, where the darkness beneath the light is far worse than anything we can imagine.

On January 9, 1903, Daniel Freedman – age 13 – left his home to visit the Hathaways several miles away.

When Daniel hadn’t returned home by supper, his father, Ezekiel, set out on a horse to see what was keeping his son. To his horror, Ezekiel discovered his son had never made it to the Hathaways. Search was started immediately, but the worsening weather forced the searchers back into their homes.

The weather broke two days later, and for a week, the town continued its search for Daniel, but no sign of him could be found.

Then, on January 10, 1904, an old man was seen walking along Gods’ Hollow. He was curiously equipped with a pistol, an old flintlock rifle, a knife, and a hatchet. His steps were sure-footed, and he moved with a disturbingly lupine grace.

When he reached the Freedmans’ home, he walked unerringly up to the door and rapped sharply upon it. Ezekiel answered it, opened his mouth to ask what the stranger wanted, then stumbled back in horror.

The stranger’s eyes were a green-flecked gray, the same color as Daniel’s.

The man, who was indeed Daniel, told his father that he had spent 42 years in another, odder version of Cross.

Daniel would not say how he had gotten there, or how he had returned, only that he couldn’t stay. He had come back, he said, to let them know he was alive.

When his mother asked why he had to leave, Daniel smiled and said softly, “Why, Mother, I’ve children and grandchildren of my own now.”

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January 8, 1931

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The Great Depression began with the crash of the New York Times Stock Exchange in October of 1929, and no place in the western world was left untouched by the occurrence.

This included the town of Cross, Massachusetts.

While the pain of the financial collapse was not felt as keenly in Cross as in other places, it was nonetheless felt.

Mr. Otto Jones, formerly of Idaho, moved to Cross in 1930 to live with his sister on her small farm. Otto was a kind and generous man, and an avid hunter. His ability find game kept not only himself and his sister supplied with meat, but some of their neighbors as well.

Like his sister, Otto was a stranger to the town, its customs, and the places one should not tread.

While he knew that Gods’ Hollow was not a place to trespass in, he did not consider hunting to be trespassing.

In January of 1931, Otto realized great flocks of Canadian geese would spend days in Gods’ Hollow. He knew that he could fire rounds quickly enough to bring down a fair few and that the meat from those birds would go a long way to helping some of the poorer families stretch out their dinners.

On January 7, Otto went to Gods’ Hollow and shot dozens of birds. That evening, he and his sister plucked and dressed them, then on January 8, they delivered them to their Church in Pepperell. The fresh meat was gratefully received, and the birds were distributed to those families in need.

The first person who ate of the flesh was the local pastor in Pepperell when he had a bit of it for his afternoon lunch.

He was dead by four o’clock.

By the time the church realized the meat was poisonous, 19 people had died.

Remorse claimed Otto, and he blew his brains out in Gods’ Hollow that same evening.

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January 7, 1911

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Like any New England town, Cross has its fair share of hills.

And, at one time or another, someone in Cross has decided that there is a fortune to be made in mining whatever might be buried in the hills.

Unlike other New England towns, this is a dangerous belief in Cross.

Early in 1910, a large hill on the western edge of Gods’ Hollow was identified as possibly holding a cache of precious metal. The metal was never named, but Eldric Maison purchased the rights to dig in the hill. His mining crews dug deep, but nothing was found.

Eldric, determined to make something out of nothing, ordered the digging to bear to the east, under Gods’ Hollow.

All the Cross residents refused, and Eldric was forced to hire from other towns, and from as far away as Boston. Yet as the new miners delved deeper and farther, they began to go missing.

There would be no sound, no violence.

Merely another miner vanished. Eventually, 8 of them disappeared.

None of them returned.

Finally, in an effort to show them that nothing was amiss in the tunnels, Eldric went down with them, and promptly vanished.

Duncan Blood, at the behest of Maison’s sister, donned an apparatus of his own design, and descended into the tunnels.

38 hours later, on January 7, 1911, Duncan returned. In a bag he carried the jaw bones of eight men, and the head of a ninth.

The head belonged to Eldric Maison.

“They hadn’t had time to eat their fill,” Duncan stated, and he would say no more about it.

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January 4, 1927

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Part of our sanitized folklore is the belief that the punishment fits the crime, and that there is – in the end – a sort of rough justice served out.

This has never been the case in Cross.

The town’s ways are the old ways, and the dangers within its borders rarely offer up a rational reason for their occurrences.

So it is with Anne Harper.

In 1927, Anne was a recently married woman of 22, and she and her husband were renting rooms from an elderly couple on Elm Street. The house in which they lived was a quaint, narrow, salt-box Victorian that was pleasant to look upon and to live within.

The elderly couple had inherited the home from the sister’s brother, and they had only been living in the building for three years. As part of the rent agreement, Anne assisted with the basic cleaning of the home. She did this willingly and with genuine joy as she and their landlords got along quite well.

On January 4, 1927, Anne and the landlady discovered a previously unknown hidden door beneath the staircase. The door, cunningly disguised behind a raised piece of paneling, opened onto a dark cupboard. Not surprisingly, the cupboard smelled of dust and slightly of mildew. Since Anne was far younger than her landlady, Anne volunteered to go into the cupboard to see what was within.

No sooner had Anne’s head entered the shadows than she let out a scream of pure terror.

Fear lent strength to the landlady’s old frame, and in less than five seconds she dragged Anne free of the cupboard and kicked the door closed.

A moment later, the door vanished, and Anne neither spoke nor made eye contact with anyone again.

She is currently in the State Sanitarium, looking at the ceiling with same vacant stare her photograph records.

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January 3, 1948

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Within the depths of the Cross Historical Society, there is a long, narrow room, filled with glass fronted cabinets. The room lacks a window, and only the members of the society know where the room itself is within the confines of the building.

Each member holds a copy of the key to lock the door from within the room, but only three hold keys to allow entry. One of them is Duncan Blood, for he was the first to request the room’s construction, and the specific cabinets it holds.

Within each cabinet, on glass shelves and illuminated by powerful lights, are creatures not quite living, not quite dead.

They are in a deep sleep, and they are old and ancient. Small, feral beasts with a taste for human flesh, and not quite of this world.

The animals have a taste for human flesh, and the Society members discovered that the creatures were unkillable, but they could be set to sleep, by the right person.

This right person, Duncan Blood discovered, was Antony Ciccolo.

Antony was the son of Angela Ciccolo, who had helped Duncan rid Cross of a violent and murderous fairy 40 years earlier.

So, on January 3, 1948, Antony made a small, glass-faced cabinet. He crafted the piece from hearts of ash, hand beaten iron hinges and leaded glass. When Antony helped Duncan place the screaming, writhing beast within the confines of the cabinet and closed the door, the creature sank to the bottom in an immediate and thorough sleep.

For the next 19 years, Antony continued to work on the cabinets, until the room was filled with them. When asked, only months before his death at the age of 93, what his finest piece of work was, Antony, smiled and said, “Nothing you will ever see.”

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January 2, 1923

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Time is fluid.

Not only is it fluid, but it is a river, from which a person – or persons – might emerge at any given point, either voluntarily or involuntarily.

In 1923, Samuel Hitchcock was expecting his brother James and James’ family to arrive sometime during the morning of January 1. When his brother didn’t appear as scheduled, Samuel didn’t worry.

James’ family consisted of his wife, Caroline, and their three young children, all boys, and they were traveling from Worcester, Massachusetts, a fact which could lead to unplanned for delays.

Samuel did begin to worry when there was no word from James, and no sign of the family either. Inquiries were made on his behalf by the Worcester Police Department, but James’ home was empty, and neighbors reported that the family had left early on the first, as planned.

At dawn on January 2, 1923, Samuel set out to follow the route his brother normally took to and from Cross. The route led down past Duncan Blood’s farm and cut through the wide, unclaimed expanse known as Gods’ Hollow.

It was there that Samuel found James and his family, or rather, what remained of them.

They had been stripped bare and hacked to pieces, their clothing and belongings piled haphazardly nearly a quarter of a mile from the bodies. Hoofprints were visible in the frost-heaved ground, and among James’ possessions was the new camera Samuel had sent him as a Christmas present.

Later, when the film was developed, the last image was not of James’ family, but of a group of riders charging across Gods’ Hollow.

Riders with their sabers raised.

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