The Resurrectionist Part One
By: Zach Ellenberger

The tale for which I am about to tell is often merited as nothing more than petty urban legends. Most local townsfolk accustomed to the story of poor Edmund Raye are quick to discredit such tall tales of what they would consider delusional grandeur. It exists today as nothing more than a mere ghost story to frighten children. But for those contemporaries of Mr. Raye in the small town of Barrington, Pennsylvania, the tale of his horrific fate was far too real. Despite what speculation may arise in direct conflict with one's resolve to the truth of such matters, the circumstances surrounding the peculiar Edmund Raye remain a mystery. Those who do well to exercise common sense know there was indeed something unconscionable at the heart of Barrington.

Dark were the days of yore for the small town nestled deep in the ancient mountains of Appalachia where superstitions ran rampant. Rumors abound that the town of Barrington had been casted in darkness since the early days of the country's founding contributed to a curse brought upon by natives who had been driven from their homes. Shadowed by the outbreak of cholera in the 1850's, the town had become isolated and cut off from the rest of society. The few travelers who occasionally passed through the grim town kept their visits brief and often whispered of evil creatures lurking in the deepest corners of the surrounding forests. The locals grew intimate with the cold grip of death through disease and the alleged hauntings of forest spirits like the Wendigo, a flesh-eating monster of native myth. Though many believed the disappearance of several children to be the work of evil forces, Edmund did not partake in such rumors and hysteria.

Edmund was a graveyard watchman at the Lord's Haven Parish. An old hermit, Edmund grew up in Barrington spending much of his childhood in the silent cemetery where he claimed he could commune with the dead. Edmund's farcical assertions drew much scrutiny from the townsfolk as well as resentment from his own family. The cause of his parents' deaths was a mystery in and of itself to which the town speculated young Edmund as the cause, suspecting the boy to have brought a curse upon his parents from his frequent visits to the graveyard. With no other family willing to care for him, the church took the boy under its wing and raised him, giving him access to the graveyard at any time of the day. Seeing the boy's affinity to spend his time with the dead, the parishioner offered him a job as the cemetery watchman once Edmund came of age to which he gladly accepted. Edmund remained in that role ever since.

Edmund kept to himself as he grew older into adulthood, eventually reaching a ripe old age when cholera reared its ugly face in Barrington killing half the town's population. Edmund's tale began shortly after the outbreak. It was during the harvest of 1855 with the death of Mayor George Caulfield's fifteen-year-old daughter, Annie Mae Caulfield. The cause of death, as declared by Dr. Newton Penn of the local medical institute, was another case of cholera. Her death had struck the town heavily as it was the first case of cholera in six months since the outbreak struck. In the early morning of a grey autumn day, a collective of townsfolk gathered in the Lord's Haven cemetery to pay their respects and lay the young and beautiful Annie Mae to eternal rest. Edmund was present as part of his duties as cemetery watchman to lower the casket and fill the burial plot. The Caulfields were reluctant to accept their daughter's death, the fairest maiden throughout the town. Although Dr. Penn had declared the young girl dead, Mayor Caulfield and his wife, Cynthia, clung to every thread of hope that it wasn't true. At the behest of his distraught wife, George arranged for Annie Mae to be buried in a safety coffin fitted with a bell. That way, if there was any chance that Annie Mae still lived, she could signal them. George, wanting nothing more than to console his wife, obliged her despite the doctor's best efforts to convince them otherwise.

"I cannot imagine the pain you are enduring in these difficult times," Dr. Penn empathized at her burial. "I understand that it takes time to accept such hard truths and let go, but you must take solace in knowing that she is in the hands of God. If there's anything you need, please don't hesitate to ask."

Dr. Penn was a cordial man indeed in the face of sorrow. He was tall and handsome, a desirable bachelor to the available women of Barrington. He was well respected around town as well as in the medical field for his work in the prognosis of diseases. Yet, the man paraded around town as if the threat of death had no consequence for him. Before he left the cemetery, he approached Edmund speaking to him quietly out of earshot of the Caulfields.

"Tonight, at the stroke of midnight."

Edmund nodded silently and returned to his duties. The Parishioner, Father Campbell, gave a final blessing over the body then offered his condolences to Mr. And Mrs. Caulfield before returning to the confines of the parish. George and Cynthia remained at the side of Annie Mae's grave until Edmund finished lowering the coffin. They spoke their final farewells and departed the cemetery to begin their life without their beloved daughter.

The midnight hour was fast approaching and a heavy fog fell over the cemetery grounds that night. The silence was palpable. As Edmund waited for the stroke of midnight per Dr. Penn's instructions, he decided to patrol the yard to ensure everything was in order. Edmund walked amongst the tombstones as he did time and time before. With his nightly perusal of the grounds, he came to memorize the names of all that lay within the confines of the cemetery. Though dead they may have been, they were still very much alive in Edmund's mind. He would carry on conversations with nothing but the tombstones to help pass the time. It was a most remarkable thing, he thought to himself — this fascination with the finality of death. One's greatest folly was the refusal to accept death as part of life. For Edmund, there was no greater companionship than humans' dance with death, for the dead did not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living.

As he wandered deeper into the dark of night, his senses had been awoken by a strange noise carrying upon the air. He stopped and perked his ears. What he heard in that moment was undeniably the sound of voices echoing in the distance.

"Have I been so pensive to have lost track of the time?" he thought aloud, assuming Dr. Penn had arrived and found his way into the cemetery. But, it occurred to Edmund that he could not pinpoint the source of the voices as they seemed to have encircled about him like the wind. He turned and started for the gate of the cemetery when the voices began to grow louder. As they grew louder, Edmund could feel his heart begin to pulse heavily, filling him with anxiety. It became clear that the voices were not of this world, for they chanted in unison speaking a language unbeknownst to Edmund that instilled such fear in him he refused to press on. He stopped dead in his tracks. With his lantern in hand, he turned about in place searching for the voices which now seemed so near to him. In his frenzied state, his eye caught a glimpse of a silhouette lurking on the edge of the darkness. The figure glided in and out of eyesight draped in a pale white dress. Edmund felt a chill reach up his spine. He began to shake uncontrollably as the still of the midnight air crept over him like a shroud.

Suddenly, the strike of a bell rang out startling Edmund right out of his skin. It was not the bell to which Edmund was expecting — having been waiting for the church bell to toll for the midnight hour — but the echo of a grave's bell! Someone had been buried alive! Edmund hurried off in the direction of the bell's ring. With his lantern outstretched, he searched desperately among the tombstones for the source of the ring. For a moment, the ringing paused. Edmund listened intently.

"I hear you! I hear you! Where are you?"

After a brief moment of silence, the ringing continued. Edmund took off once more. He was almost upon the source when the ringing stopped once again. Before him stood the very grave that he dug earlier that day. It was the grave of young Annie Mae Caulfield. Holding up his lantern to the tombstone, he could see the bell swaying softly back and forth, as if it had just been ringing!

It was then that he felt a hand grab his shoulder out of nowhere. Edmund shrieked and, wrenching his shoulder free, fell to the ground losing grasp of his lantern. He crawled away in terror. Working up the courage, he looked back and there stood Dr. Penn with two of his handlers, known only as Vincent and Malcolm. Dr. Penn bore a look of confusion while Edmund squirmed on the ground steeped in his own bewilderment.

"By God, what has gotten into you, Edmund? What is going on?"

"She is alive!"

"Who?"

"Annie Mae! She is alive! Her bell was ringing." The doctor tried to calm Edmund down, but he was far too hysterical.

"There's no bell ringing, Edmund. Surely, you must be imagining things."

"By God, I tell you that it was ringing. I was waiting for you when I heard it. Did you not hear it? She lives!"

The three men stared at Edmund suspiciously. The two handlers with Dr. Penn, who had already been equipped with shovels, began digging. They tore through the dirt with all haste as Edmund and Dr. Penn watched anxiously when they finally had struck the wood of the coffin's lid. Edmund feared it was too late for the poor girl and that she had suffocated while waiting for her rescue. The two men pried open the coffin lid.

Alas, to everyone's surprise and confusion, the coffin was empty! No trace of young Annie Mae's remains. Edmund let out a haunting shrill as he stumbled back. Could the figure he potentially saw earlier have been that of Annie Mae?

Dr. Penn did not seem convinced by Edmund's claim. His confusion turned to anger which he directed at Edmund.

"Do you take me for a fool, Raye? I've been paying you good money for a year now to exhume the bodies here for my medical research. I told you earlier today that I am in need of this body for further studies and now, by some miraculous act of God, she turns up missing. Did you really think I would not find this suspicious? I will not be undermined by the likes of you, Raye!"

"The same soil lay at your feet as mine. You saw yourself, that ground remained unbroken since I last filled it earlier this day. How could I have possibly removed the body beforehand? And whom do you reckon would I have sold it to other than you?"

Edmund pleaded with the doctor, insisting that Dr. Penn believe his story.

"Well Raye, it couldn't have just stood up and walked out of the graveyard. You have until tomorrow night to produce the body, or you can be certain our deal is off! Then I'll have a mind to claim you for my research."

Dr. Penn stormed off with his two handlers leaving Edmund to refill the grave by himself. Edmund remained on the ground watching Dr. Penn disappear into the heavy fog. For the first time in his life, Edmund felt fear in being left alone in the graveyard.

Edmund sat inside the watchman's shack within the cemetery grounds trying to calm himself with a flask full of potato brandy. There was to be no sleep for Edmund Raye that fateful night. A few hours had passed since his alleged witnessing of ghostly apparitions. Edmund replayed the moment over and over again in his head — the coffin lid opening to reveal no body inside. What could have possibly happened to Annie Mae's body? Edmund was the only soul in the cemetery since Annie Mae's burial, so it could not have been possible for someone to have removed it without Edmund's knowledge. He had hoped the brandy would wake him up from this dreadful nightmare. Much to his dismay, it only made the ordeal more real. Edmund contemplated the circumstances: If word had gotten out among the town that Annie Mae's body had gone missing, they would have rightfully blamed Edmund and it would surely have led to Edmund's hanging. Edmund did not have much reason to suspect Dr. Penn would say anything, for it would only lead to his own demise as well. However, Edmund could not speak to the legitimacy and motives of Dr. Penn's two handlers, Victor and Malcolm. What if they had plans to extort both Edmund and Dr. Penn for their own gain? What if they were the ones who stole Annie Mae's body? But how? Edmund's mind continued to race with consequence. Growing even more anxious, he swigged more brandy.

Edmund sat in silence waiting restlessly for the break of dawn while the wind howled in the distance. The night had grown uncomfortably calm for Edmund. He spoke softly to himself to help shake his own discomfort.

"A despicable night, indeed. I must resolve myself of this absurdity and make amends with my sanity. What nonsense have I let myself succumb to? The dead do not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living. Come the dawn, I shall be vindicated." It was no sooner he finished his thought when he began to hear the voices upon the air slowly begin to chant. Edmund tensed up and perked his ears toward the night. This time, the chanting was accompanied by the faint laughter of a child. Peering out of the shack, Edmund held up his lantern and gazed out into the dark of night dimly lit by the light of the moon. Suddenly, on the edge of his periphery through the thick fog appeared the whitened silhouette Edmund saw earlier that night. His heart began to race at the sight, but tempered himself with invigorating words.

"There it appears again, the elusive wretch; a prank, I would conclude, and nothing more. And yet why does it choose to torment me on this night of all nights? What kind of hell has embraced this place? I must embolden myself and prove that my sanity still reigns supreme. The dead do not trouble themselves with the concerns of the living. Come the dawn, I shall be vindicated!"

Edmund stepped out once more into the night in pursuit of the silhouette, determined to prove once and for all that his imagination had no authority over his reality. He moved quickly in the direction of the apparition, convinced of his own misguided sanity. But, for as much ground as he covered, the figure managed to stay the same distance from Edmund, just upon the edge of his sight. Edmund felt his frustration begin to get the better of him as he picked up speed. The quicker he moved, the louder the chanting voices grew. Eventually, the chanting gradually drowned out the child's laughter, distorting it to the point of resembling blood-curdling screams. Edmund's frustration turned to fear as he felt the voices growing closer as if they were creeping up on him. He stopped dead in his path to catch his breath when he looked down and took notice of one of the tombstones near his feet. The tombstone was completely blank. This perturbed Edmund for he knew with great certainty that there was not a single tombstone in the cemetery without a name and date of departure. He looked closely at the tombstone rubbing his fingers along it. Sure enough, no etchings had ever grazed the surface of this tombstone. He looked at the tombstones to the right and to the left; both of them were blank as well. It was at this moment Edmund realized that the apparition faded out of sight. But, what was more concerning to him was that all the tombstones were now blank. In realizing this, he felt the ground begin to shudder at his feet and a loud crash filled the night like the sound of thunder. It was an unnatural roar as if it came from the very depths of Hell. Then, after a moment of silence, the jingle of a bell began ringing out once more in the dead of night. There was no mistaking it; it was the very same bell he heard only hours earlier!

He hurried after the bell once more. Rushing through the dark with nothing but his lantern, the chanting turned to hisses like snakes closing in from all around. He arrived at the tomb of young Annie Mae Caulfield. A single beam of moonlight broke through the foggy dark illuminating the ground around her grave. The earth had been churned up and the coffin protruded from beneath. It had not been the work of a shovel, but rather seemed as if the coffin was forced out of the ground by the Earth itself. Edmund could see that the lid of the coffin was once again removed and no body lingered within.

That was all that Edmund could tolerate. He had been pushed far beyond his wits and chose to rid himself of such delusions.

To Be Continued…

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