Ichor Falls

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The Damp Lady

by on Dec.29, 2008, under Submitted

Once upon a time, you brat, there was a spoiled little prince who wouldn’t eat his dinner if he didn’t want to, and nobody could make him because he was a prince.

And one day, there was fish for dinner and the fish on the prince’s plate was green and purple, and the prince wouldn’t eat it because he said it looked nasty. But that night the prince woke up screaming, saying he dreamed that a huge green and purple fish stood over his bed and said “You’ll have me, brat, one way or another!”

And every year, on the anniversary of not eating his fish, he dreamed the same terrible dream. One day when he was king, he came home from holiday with his sweetheart, and said he was going to marry her. She was very beautiful but her skin and hair were always damp and she had big eyes that didn’t blink, and she wore green and purple all the time. And the king married her.

And the night after they married there was a terrible scream from the royal bedroom, and they found the king lying in the big royal bed completely mad, and the damp lady was nowhere to be seen but on the pillow beside the king was a little green and purple fish! And the king was mad for the rest of his life, and if you don’t eat your greens now, you little creep! The Damp Lady will come and turn you mad too! No, it would not be more fun than spinach!

(Reprinted with permission from “Ethylor Voices: Effects of phenolic toxicity on the folkloric imagination in Ichor Falls, Mason County.” Hiram Whipporwill, Miskatonic University Press 2007.)

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Playing Possum

by on Nov.04, 2008, under Submitted

Ichor Falls Police Department archives, exact date unknown
Preceding documents indicate report was taken around December 1944

We lost Billy just over five months ago, now, and -

No, no, that was the name of our dog. Our children are long since grown and moved away. One to the Coast, then two to the War, you know how that goes. Good boys all.

As I was saying, it’s usually so quiet out here at the edge of town, is why Wallace and I bought this property when we wanted to start a family, and that was just fine. Just fine. He worked at the mill until they got bought and after that it was every day at the factory, steady income. Oh, some times were difficult, especially around winter, but we had lived through the Dark Years so you have to keep it all in perspective.

Now we got Billy, oh, around when the Pope passed away, and that Indian man stopped eating, bless him. So not that long ago. Very important to have a dog this close to the woods, Wallace would say, and I think it helped to have someone around the house to take care of besides us, with the boys grown up.

Billy liked to guard the house after dark, I suppose you would call it, but he was very excitable, always barking and whining at the door even though nobody lives near. Wallace would humor him and let him run outside and back in, but it never did any harm. Well, until one night when Billy didn’t come back. I was worried but Wallace said, “no, it’s fine, he’s just got to run around a bit,” so we set out his food by the door and went to bed.

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The Stillwood King

by on Nov.03, 2008, under By Kris Straub

In 1806, settler Elijah Brown became lost for two days in what would later be named the Stillwood Forest, a deceptively-small wooded area southwest of Ichor Falls proper. When he returned to the town, Brown was gaunt, dehydrated and starving to the point of near death, and insisted that he was lost not for two days but nine. He also had carefully kept journal entries with the rise and set of the sun, and indeed he had made nine of them. Exhaustion and confusion clearly played a factor in augmenting Brown’s story — and of course, after a hard winter, there’s no record of how dehydrated and starved Brown may have been before getting lost.

Later expeditions into the Stillwood showed that the forest floor is incredibly thick with vegetation, with tall, rail-thin trees making most passage exceedingly difficult. Add to this three similarly-curving creeks and streams flowing off the Erytheia, the natural sound-dampening of the trees, and foliage sometimes so thick that it blocks the sky, and you have a recipe for losing one’s way quite easily.

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Study Habits

by on Nov.03, 2008, under Submitted

*ding ding* “The library will be closing in fifteen minutes.”

We call that the “nerd bell,” but it’s not derogatory. Or at least it’s only a little self-deprecating. Most students here don’t stay up until midnight… not to study, anyway. There isn’t much else to do in a small town, though, so the library stays open until 12:15 and every night, I end up reading here until the bell rings and the doors close. This common room is nice for relaxing, isn’t it? Haven’t seen you here before.

Oh, if you want to get real work done, not just chatting and reading novels, make sure you claim a spot in the building. People are creatures of habit, right, so it’s an unspoken custom here that students find spots and stick to them.

The first week of school I actually found this little study niche, framed by the government document section, that no one else uses. It isn’t near either of the computer labs, so the area doesn’t see much foot traffic, and I don’t have to worry about anyone crunching chips or listening to a Walkman set so loud the music bleeds out.

Sure, the heating vent right overhead can be a little noisy now that it’s winter, and the shelves close to both sides of this desk mean you have to squeeze by sideways to sit down, but it has a heavy, padded oak chair that’s really comfortable. I have no idea how long ago someone bothered to carry it down here, but it’s not going anywhere. (They probably stole it from the Provost’s office, anyway.)

There’s also a big oil painting of Edwin Cuthbert, from 1810, that dominates the wall right behind the chair. I guess that could be unsettling to people, since it’s about life-sized, or maybe a little larger than life. I used to think of old Cuthbert as my study partner, since he’s reading over my shoulder as I work.

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The Locksmith

by on Nov.02, 2008, under Submitted

It seems, nowadays, that Ichor Falls is a town stricken by plague. Certainly the atmosphere — the thick fog, the ever-barren trees — these things lend themselves well to horror stories. But now, with the unexplained deaths… the local stations would have you believe it’s the act of some sociopath, that the police are “breaking the case wide open.” It’s far from the truth. If you asked me, I’d say it was The Locksmith, but most Ichor Falls residents are too young to know of that horrible event — I myself am too young, in case you thought that was the wind-up to some fanciful tale. But I’ve always been fascinated by this town’s history — morbid curiosity, I guess — and have taken a look at some rather ancient correspondence tucked away in the town hall archives.

Here’s the history lesson.

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Interested Buyer

by on Nov.02, 2008, under Submitted

I stood in the driveway as I watched my client, Arthur Acton, walk towards me in a smart business suit. The man said he wanted to live in one of the town’s more rustic residences, not in any of the new developments. He chose this as the first house he wanted to visit; it has been on my roster for as long as I’ve shown houses in this town. I tried to steer him towards others, but he was adamant about the place.

“People don’t usually ask to see this house, Mr. Acton. They don’t like the fact that the entire family died just after the Ethylor summer from brain cancer.”

“Then it would be very beneficial to you if I take this place off your hands,” Mr. Acton said as he put his hands into his pockets and smiled. Even though I knew he was right, I still wasn’t comfortable with the idea of someone living here.

“All righty,” I said as I fumbled with my key ring until I found the correct one. The door unlocked with a barely audible click and the door drifted inwards. The mist that clung to the town hadn’t been kind to this house over the years. The faded wallpaper was peeling in more places than not, and from the sounds of the scratching in the walls, a nest of rats had taken up residence. Even the floorboards seemed to be warped from the moisture. I’d lost countless parties at this point — I was sure he was going to walk out on me, but I turned to see him practically beaming.

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The Pull

by on Nov.02, 2008, under Submitted

My cat was the first to notice.

I mean, of course I’ve heard that animals are more sensitive to things of this nature. But I was never entirely sure. Until Muffin started acting up.

It was semi-normal in the beginning. Muffin would run around the house at random, like cats do. And there were times where she would stop, like dead stop, and stare at corners of the room. Usually the top, up where the roof and the walls meet. I never thought much of it, assuming she was staring at a bug or a cobweb or something.

The house was a bit larger than I needed, since it was just Muffin and I, but the price was unbeatable. Ichor Falls wasn’t my first choice for a new home, but I wanted to be out of the way so that I could focus on my work. I was redrafting my screenplay to seal a contract with a major motion picture company and I couldn’t afford to be disturbed. Really, I only used two or three rooms and it was a five-bedroom affair, so there was a lot of empty space left over.

I had set up furniture in all of the rooms, since I wanted the place to be hospitable in case I ever had company. I spent most of my personal time in my chosen bedroom, the living room, or the den, which I had set up with my computer equipment and turned into a workspace.

It was there that I first encountered it.

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Curious Little Thing

by on Oct.31, 2008, under By Kris Straub

I have an odd habit a friend recently picked up on, a habit I developed about a year ago. He noticed that when I enter a room, any room, and shut the door, I turn my face away from it and close my eyes until I hear the lock click. Only after the door is fully closed will I open them. He gave me a hard time about it until I told him where it started.

I work for a water-seal company in St. Paul. We produce sealant for exposed wood — decks, boats, that kind of thing. You hear about sealant being a dirty word in the Ashland-Ichor Falls-Ironton area, but not all those companies were part of the infamous “Ethylor summer” that wiped out the local economy in the ’50s. I got sent to an industrial park outside of Ichor Falls on business.

I checked into this dismal hotel, the Hotel Umbra, that looked like the decor hadn’t been changed since 1930. The lobby wallpaper had gone yellow from decades of cigarette smoke, and everything had a fine layer of dust, including the old man behind the front desk. I hoped that the room would be in better shape. Mine was on the fourth floor.

Being an old place, the hotel had a rickety cable elevator, the kind with the double sets of doors: one of those flexing metal gates, and a solid outer pair of doors. I shut the gate and latched it, and pressed the tiny black button for my floor.

Just as the outer elevator doors were about to close, I was startled by the face of a young woman rushing at the gap between them. She was too late; the doors shut, and after a moment the elevator ascended.

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Former Falls Official Sheds Light On Disappearances (Clayton News and Observer, April 30, 1993)

by on Oct.30, 2008, under Submitted

He still speaks with authority, though his voice is shot through with old hurts. The fluorescent lights in the common room of Sweetbrook Hospital’s psychiatric wing etch the elderly man’s face in stark lines.

“That town? That whole place? Poison.”

He smokes his cigarettes with stained fingers that shake just a little. He looks over his shoulder as if expecting an attack.

Thomas “Tommy” Dalton was town manager of the ghost hamlet of Ichor Falls for between 1972 and 1979, a time of great tumult for the tiny coal town. “Folk started getting sick, horrible sick. Passing blood, coughing blood… and the poor, poor babbies what were born,” Dalton said, trailing off.

The mysterious illnesses were only the culmination of the problems facing Ichor Falls residents. The place was in the midst of an economic downward spiral that was dramatic even by Appalachian standards, drug use was rampant, and there seemed to be a missing child epidemic there. But even that, according to Dalton, wasn’t the worst of it.

“People done things there, you know? Done things they ought not have done. Made the wrong kinds of deals.” I asked him if he meant the New Elysium Group, who is ramping up negotiations to redevelop the community. Dalton seemed to be searching for the right words, but settled on “Worse.”

Federal investigation into alleged conspiracies centered in the town, involving drugs, prostitution, human trafficking, and multiple killings all came up with nothing; on the surface, Ichor Falls is the ideal quaint mountain town, exuding charm and history, and welcoming new residents and tourists alike.

Ask Tommy Dalton, however, and you’ll get a much different answer.

I did ask him just that — I asked him what he thought about the renewal of the town. He began to weep, then to moan. “The town’s poison,” he raved, as one orderly rushed over with a syringe full of sedative and another hustled me out. “Poison, and every man woman and child who moves there will die screaming!”

New Elysium corporate spokespersons were contacted in connection with the development of this article, but refused to comment, other than to say via press release “Ichor Falls will be the scene of what we call The Great Renewal, and we want as many people as possible to come take part!”

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Excerpts from A Room at Cedarspring

by on Aug.06, 2008, under By Kris Straub

“A Room at Cedarspring” (2008) is a locally-produced documentary by West Virginia filmmaker Warren Jeffs.

Cedarspring at the Falls, a gated community in the Elysia district, was completed in 2006. A sprawling confluence of townhouse, apartment and loft living, Cedarspring occupies one of the more scenic regions in or near the Ichor Falls area, nestled in the grasslands beside the falls themselves.

The community is made up of 80 townhomes, 50 lofts and 50 single-bedroom apartments, with the kind of aesthetic logic that puts ivy on the ten-foot-high brick wall that surrounds the complex — evoking Old World with none of that hard-to-sell history; beauty that draws you in without letting you past the front gate.

It’s a way to clamp a pleasant lid down on the less-savory aspects of the town. Despite the last decade of development and the boost to tourism, Ichor Falls is still rooted firmly in the American mind as a ghost town, a curiosity of a bygone age — if it’s in the American mind at all. The New Elysium Group, since its acquisitions in the 1980s, has invested a lot in a town comeback, but instead of a respectful merging of Ichor Falls history with a newly-planned future, New Elysium bulldozed the old; or, when required by West Virginia law, simply built around it.

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