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 9, 1924

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During the Spanish Influenza Epidemic of 1919, Cross isolated itself from the rest of New England. This was done to stop the disease from laying waste to the town, and in this Cross was successful.

One resident saw the epidemic as an opportunity to sate masochistic tendencies.

Mrs. Lucille Racine was a quiet, polite woman who enjoyed the being a member of the ladies’ auxiliary and sitting with the sick and dying.

Little did her neighbors know how much she enjoyed sitting with the ill.

After the worst of the epidemic passed in 1920, Lucille was seen to have numerous transients working on the old barn on her property. She was, according to Lucille, offering the men viable employment opportunities, which they gladly accepted.

On January 7, 1924, Lucille died suddenly at the library, and it was left to the town to go to her home and see what could be done about the property and the two cats she owned.

On the morning of January 9, several men traveled to Lucille’s property and inspected the home. The structure was sound, but no sign of a will could be found. The men recalled the repairs to the barn and went to search it for paperwork.

When the men entered the barn, they were surprised to find a small antechamber equipped with a nurse’s uniform and a gasmask. A sliding panel was set in the chamber’s interior door, and before anyone stepped in, the panel was moved to reveal a glass pane, and the men saw what Lucille Racine had hidden from the world.

Ten beds were arranged in the room beyond the glass, and there were two men in each bed, set head to foot, and chained in place. Later examination would show all men were sick with influenza.

None of them survived.

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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 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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December 30, 1862

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The lands belonging to Duncan Blood are perhaps the most dangerous in all Cross.

Since 1628, and the chartering of the town by Ezekiel Blood, Duncan’s father, the property known as Blood Farm has always been a strange and violent place.

Few know how old Duncan is, or how many dark creatures live in the confines of his land. Locals know that Blood Farm is littered with corpses, and children are warned at a young age not to trespass on Duncan’s property.

But while the townsfolk know, and while Duncan goes to great efforts to maintain a fence and posted signs warning trespassers away, there are always those who will seek to gain entrance to places they should not.

Perhaps the worst year regarding trespassers occurred in 1862, shortly after Duncan traveled with the Federal army to do battle against the Confederate States. He was not there to keep the borders of his property safe, and so people from other towns came in to see if the stories of Blood Farm were true.

Many of them learned the stories were nothing but true.

By the end of 1862, the townspeople of Cross took it upon themselves to patrol the borders of Blood Farm. Strangers had been seen entering the town, but never leaving.

On December 30, 1862, a photographer – guarded by men and women armed with rifles and swords – discovered and documented the remains of 74 individuals. But these were only the victims they could find on the edges of the property. No one dared to go in any further.

Patrols were kept up until Duncan returned in 1865.

 

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December 28, 1913

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     Only a handful of times in Cross’ long history has Death sent his hearse into the town to gather up those who have missed their appointment, either through happenstance or machinations.

     But, as the citizens of Cross know, there is no escaping Death, not even when you have hidden yourself away in your home.

     The last time Death’s hearse made an appearance in Cross it was December 28, 1913, and the horses drawing the hearse were clad in the black finery of a Romanian funeral procession.

     The residents of Norwich Street could hear the hooves long before they saw the hearse. Each iron horseshoe rang out on the street, and every home that recognized the sound closed its windows and bolted the doors. The families within the buildings squirreled themselves away in basements and cellars, and they waited for the horses to stop.

     The hearse finally stopped at the home of Milton Surrey, a man who had bragged for years about his ability to remain hidden from Death’s long and piercing gaze. Death, though, had finally gone through the back accounts, and realized some folk, such as Milton, were missing.

     Within minutes of the hearse’s arrival at Milton’s home, his neighbors could heard him scream and beg as he was dragged from his cellar, out his front door, and down to the street. They heard him placed in the coffin, and the ringing of the casket-maker’s hammer filled the late December air.

     And as the horses’ hooves took up their steady, methodical beat upon the road, Milton’s former neighbors and friends continued to hear his muffled screams.

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December 25, 1940

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     On December 25, 1940, during a heavy snowfall. At Farley Farm on South Road, the entire Farley family – consisting of both parents, all six children, and both sets of grandparents – were ill. Duncan Blood and young Doctor Charlene Williams stopped by the home to administer to the sick. During the day, Dr. Williams left to obtain some fresh soup, and on her return, she saw a horse in the yard. She tried to approach the home, but could not get any closer, no matter how long she walked, nor in which direction she tried to go.

     Finally, frustrated, she returned to town and found a member of the police who agreed to accompany her.

     In the officer’s patrol car, they experienced the same difficulty she had on foot. No matter how fast the car drove, it could not draw any nearer. At last, with his car nearly out of fuel, the officer had been forced to return to Cross.

     Close to midnight, the officer, one of his colleagues, and Dr. Williams again made an attempt. As they traveled along South Road, they passed a small boy, bundled against the snow and riding a horse. He waved cheerfully at them as they steered around him, and Dr. Williams returned the wave.

     When they neared the house, they were surprised to see discover that they could continue directly toward it. It was then that Dr. Williams noticed that the horse was gone and that Duncan Blood stood outside.

     The house burst into flames as the officers and Dr. Williams climbed out of the patrol car. Duncan stopped the three of them from racing into the spreading inferno.

     “They’re dead,” Duncan explained. “They have been since the boy arrived. He gave them the day, you see. One last Christmas.”

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December 24, 1914

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     The holidays, it is said, are a time for miracles.

     For wounded German troops returning from the Eastern Front during the First World War, such a miracle occurred on the morning of December 24, 1914.

     At 7:37 am, immediately after the departure of the northbound Boston & Maine commuter train, a strange locomotive rumbled into the Cross station. As amazed residents watched, the tracks shifted to adjust to the new train’s gauge, and the engine came to a staggering halt.

     When the doors opened, surprised German soldiers and nurses stepped out onto the platform.

     Seeing the desperate need of the troops, the Cross citizenry sprang into action. Homes were opened to the wounded, and operating theaters were set up in the train station, town hall, and in the First Congregationalist Church.

     By the time evening fell, not a single soldier had died.

     As the Germans were being cared for and fed, welcomed into homes to celebrate Christmas, a young German officer stood beside Duncan Blood. Matthew Dube, one of the train station’s porters, paused at the ticket counter, exhausted from the madness of the day. As he leaned against the marble, he heard Duncan murmur something unintelligible, and the German officer nodded.

     “I’m not for either side, despite what they say from their pulpits,” the officer said in perfect English. “I am quite content to let them sort it out by themselves. Everything works out in the end. It always does.”

     Matthew watched as the officer shook Duncan’s hand, turned, and went back to the platform. When the officer stepped onto the train, all its doors closed, and it faded from view.

 

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