Friday, February 20, 2015
The Beast of Bald Mountain
However, this day the surprise was somewhat unsettling.
A new neighbor, who had just moved into a cabin down in the valley, introduced himself as Carl Janus. Russell was taken aback by the man's rude appearance: a wild mane of dark, untamed hair framed a ferocious countenance of piercing eyes and a powerful jaw swathed in a bushy black beard; his canines were pronounced to an unsettling degree; and the man's hands were comprised of haggard digits, terminating in claw-like nails.
In all, the man was more beast than anything--or at least it seemed to Russell.
After bidding farewell to the unkempt stranger, the writer was left with many puzzling questions. However, he needed only to wait a week to get some of the answers.
Another neighbor, Sol Pritchard came by to chat about something that had just happened. The son of another local man, Tom Westerfield, had been walking across a field when a large dog or wolf had attacked the boy, tearing him to pieces.
It was then that the image of Carl Janus came unbidden to Russell's mind. A wolf, he though. That's what Janus looked like.
Over the next few weeks, four more men were attacked by the local predator. None of the locals could manage to track the beast. It seemed to manifest from the ether, attack, and then disappear whence it came.
One night Russell's neighbor Sol was driving his wagon home from business in town, tracing the sinuous route up Bald Mountain, when suddenly his horse reared up and to Sol's horror he spied the beast. The animal burst from roadside, launching itself in Sol's direction. Thinking quickly, the old man grabbed his pitchfork and jammed it into the body of the descending monster. The dog or wolf--or whatever it was--let out a terrible cry of pain. Without so much as a glance back, Sol drove his horse swiftly from the scene.
The next day, after telling locals of his harrowing ordeal, a group of men went out to the spot where Sol had stabbed the beast. But no animal lay dead. There was only the bloody pitchfork tossed aside like garbage.
The locals never did find the creature, but the attacks ceased. Perhaps Sol managed to inflict a mortal wound upon the animal, which limped off into the brush to die somewhere remote.
That's what happened, the locals will say.
But Maurice Russell and Sol Pritchard have a different thought on the matter. Some nights after the attack, the pair arrived at Carl Janus' cabin in the valley. They knocked on the door, but no one answered. Since the door wasn't locked, the men decided to poke their heads inside. There, laying on the bed, was the body of Carl Janus. His shirt front was stained with blood.
Gingerly, the men unbuttoned the shirt and gasped when they discovered three deep, pitchfork-like wounds in the man's abdomen.
*I believe this is the same author of a notable--if forgotten--collection of folk tales entitled "As Told To Burmese Children"