A Scary New York Folktale
Excerpted from Spooky New York
retold by S.E. Schlosser
She was nervous when her husband said they were to stay in the abandoned house, for it contained the corpse of the hermit who once lived there, enshrined in a coffin in the loft. It was an old custom and one no longer popular among the Iroquois people, but the hermit had insisted upon it before his death. There was good hunting in this place, her man had declared, and so they moved in and she unpacked their few belongings in the front room, refusing to go up into the loft where the hermit’s body lay.
When her husband left to hunt, she immediately put her daughter in the sling on her back and went to look for roots and berries, staying away until her husband returned with the meat. As she prepared the evening meal for them, her husband, tired from his hunting, climbed up into the loft to rest.
The hut soon filled with the delicious smell of roasting meat. She was sorting through the berries when she heard a muffled cry and the crunch of breaking bones. As she stared upward, frozen in horror, blood started to drip from the rafters.
She crept silently to the far corner of the room where she could see up into the loft. A skeleton with glowing red eye sockets was feasting on the body of her husband. Its teeth and chin covered with blood,.
Her daughter stirred restlessly at her back, and she knew that she had to get away immediately.
“I am going to run down to the stream to fetch water for the broth,” she called toward the loft. “I will be right back.” She took the pail and walked toward the stream, trying to appear normal. As soon as she was out of sight among the trees, she started to run as fast as she could. She heard a terrible howl from the direction of the house as the creature heard them escaping and started to pursue. The young mother stumbled desperately through the woods, the creature’s howls growing closer as it pursued them. Her little daughter wailed in fright at her back as she fled in terror, sobbing and was almost without hope The monster was gaining on her.
In a last act of despair, she shouted the Iroquois distress cry, hoping someone would be near enough to hear it. Her call was taken up and answered by the warriors from the village. She could hear the creature breathing behind her as she sprinted to the trees at the edge of the village. Here, her strength failed her, and she collapsed to the ground,
Just before the monster could pounce on them, a party of warriors burst through the gates of the village chasing the skeleton away. They swung their torches wide, and the skeleton retreated farther into the woods. The warriors chased the creature back to the hermit’s house, and set fire to the cabin. As the flames encompassed the house, a terrible howling and roaring came from the loft, and the vampire hermit fled into the woods in the form of a rabbit, never again to plague the young woman or her daughter.
Excerpted from Spooky New York retold by S.E. Schlosser