Local Legends

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These snippets of folklore may or may not have a grain of truth to them. Some may be nothing more than rumours and hoaxes; others might be horrifyingly real.



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Also called the Coughing Ghosts, the Coughers are supposedly the descendants or spirits of tuberculosis sufferers who lived in the caves beneath Witiko Falls and became lost or cut off from those in the main grotto. Supposedly, spelunkers have heard the Coughers wandering about the dark caverns, and occasionally found signs of their presence, such as clothing, gnawed bones, tools, or carven marks. What, exactly, the Coughers are supposed to have eaten over the long decades between their disappearance and the present day has never been adequately explained, although cryptozoological enthusiasts point out that several entrances to the caves have been found, suggesting that the Coughers emerge from the depths to hunt wild animals – although why, then, they didn’t rejoin civilization remains equally unclear. Paranormal theorists prefer to posit that the Coughers became ghosts haunting the caves, preying on those who explore too deeply into the tunnels. Whether troglodytic degenerates or disembodied phantoms, the Coughers are said to be heralded by the sound of their rasping, consumptive hacking and spluttering.



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Persistent local legend tell of the Coyote Child, reputedly raised by coyotes in the woods around Witiko Falls. There are contradictory accounts of this figure’s origins, but most believe her to be the daughter of an escaped inmate from Whispering Cedars, the psychiatric hospital in town, usually identified as Patricia Brantlinger or Theresa Beville, depending on the teller. The story goes that the pregnant inmate wandered away into the woods and gave birth in the wilderness, dying in childbirth. The coyotes smelled the woman’s body and the blood from the birth and came sniffing around the corpse. They consumed the dead mother but, for reasons unknown, spared her infant child and raised her as one of their own.

This all took place in the middle of the twentieth century, somewhere in the late thirties or early forties (again, details vary). Sightings of the girl were common through the mid-twentieth century, usually hunting with coyotes, crouched on all fours. She has never been seen inside the town itself, and none have spoken to her. Police searches have turned up nothing. Occasional sightings continued, and the Coyote Child is still sometimes seen; though by now she should be an old woman in her seventies or eighties, she is still described as resembling a young girl of perhaps ten or twelve. Native Americans on the nearby Reserve believe she is a skin-walker and an evil spirit. She has often been interpreted as an omen, her appearance foreshadowing violence to come.


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The creature known as the Gray Devil is a gigantic North American opossum, possibly a mutant, that lurks in the woods around Witiko Falls, at least according to cryptozoologists and some conspiracy theorists. Though native to the eastern half of the continent, opossums are not unknown along the Pacific west coast and can be found as far north as British Columbia, but are rarely seen in Montana or Idaho, leading theorists to suggest that the Gray Devil is an escaped pet, a prehistoric creature that has survived the long centuries against all odds, or perhaps a government experiment gone wrong. The Native American inhabitants of the nearby reserve believe it to be a trickster spirit.

Whatever its origins, the Gray Devil – and, occasionally, its supposed young – has been glimpsed by a number of hikers and wilderness enthusiasts, often hanging from the upper boughs of a particularly thick-branched tree. Reports vary as to the beast’s size: some claim it’s about the size of a large dog, while others insist it’s bear-sized. Most accounts suggest the creature is interested primarily in scavenging; it has been sighted digging through trash and also attempting to exhume recently buried bodies at the Mountain Shadow Cemetery, though some also claim that the Gray Devil ate their pets. Some theorists speculate that the smell of the giant opossum is the reason for erratic animal activity within Witiko Falls. Its lair is popularly believed to be found somewhere within the caves below the town.


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As relayed by Wilson Perry, Witiko Falls High School senior, to Kurt Crawford:

“The way it goes, Herod’s parents were hardcore bible thumpers. I mean hardcore. Most people in Witiko Falls are Lutherans. But there are Lutherans, and then there’s crazy Hansen Lutherans. Story goes closer to fundamentalist Catholics than anything else. The Hansens were the family who were the first ones to arrive on Sunday and would sit through both services. Gave all their money to the church. Supposedly the pastor tried giving some of their money back to take better care of themselves–or something worded a bit more, uh, subtle-like or something. But of course, they refused."

“There were the other tales, too, sure. Stories about Herod getting beat and everything else you’d think of from horror movies with big, evil religious parents–except that his parents died, and Herod didn’t have anything to do with it. It was actually a carbon monoxide leak or something like that in their house, and Herod was away at church camp of all places. He was fifteen, or something like that, and became a ward of the state after that, but that didn’t really mean anything since some of the older members of the church took it upon themselves to do the good Christian thing, and took care of him, so he wouldn’t go off to a state orphanage.”

“As you might have guessed, they probably should have let him go. The way it goes, Herod didn’t talk after his parents died. Supposedly, he barely even talked as a kid in the first place–probably got beat for being evil or something. But after they passed away, he never talked: not a word. Almost two years without saying so much as a sentence. So the guy doesn’t talk for about two years, and then the story goes a revivalist comes to town. Tents and cookies and lemonade. And they talk with a southern twang, no matter how close to Canada we are. The preacher comes out shouting fire and brimstone, and most of the people sorta, you know, act polite, not really listening in true Witiko Falls passive-aggressive fashion.”

“But Herod, Herod stands up, hands raised to the sky like he hears and feels something the others don’t. Then, the choir starts singing. After that, well, after that, Herod started talking again, ‘Lord be praised’ or some shit, but not talking. Mumbling, sort of singing. All he would say were words from the song, over and over and over and over again. He’d go to school and do all the things he’d usually did, but he wouldn’t answer any questions or say anything that wasn’t singing that song.”

“At first, his teachers were just happy that he was saying anything, but then, how much of that shit can you listen to before it starts creeping you out. And depending on what version of the song you hear, there are multiple verses, but most say the same sorts of places. ‘Kneel to the rock, please hide them. Kneel to the river, please stop flowing. Kneel to the mount, please uncover. Kneel to the Lord, please forgive me. Kneel to the Devil, he was laughing’.”

“See, freaky Herod, he believed that song. When he heard it, he heard something that other people didn’t. He… he heard a plan, I guess. See kids in shit-holes like here, especially before cable TV, they do all kinds of things to pass the time. If it isn’t trying to score weed or beer from their parents or older siblings, it’s making up some fucking fool game. Like the Glutton. Well, this game, the Sinner’s Song, it came straight from the story–at least the story as far as any of the kids knew it. The rules are simple enough. Wait till midnight. Of course. And then you gotta walk out into the woods without a flashlight. All you’re supposed to carry with you is a lighter."

“As far as the story and the game are concerned, they found Herod’s adoptive mom. She was a town council treasurer. They found her body on the far side of a boulder. She’d been beaten to death, and he’d tried to shove her under the boulder. He supposedly broke her in half trying to do it. Speaking of which, the game is all about retracing foot-steps, so first you need to go to the boulder, kneel down, and say the line straight from the song, just like Herod would have done: ‘Please hide them’. The river’s next. It’s only a hundred yards away. You wouldn’t know it unless you’re damned near standing near it. Something about the close-grown woods buffering out the sound or some shit.”

“Now as far as young Herod is concerned, they found his adoptive dad in the river. Or, well, over it. He had been gutted and slung from a tree that hung over the edge of the water. They say the blood was still dripping into the water when they found him. For the game, you need to wade out into the water, just a few steps. Dropping to your knees isn’t necessary, as you’d end up getting your pants soaked–and where’s the fun in that. Then you say the next part: ‘Please stop flowing’.”

“It’s at this point, that something must have gone off script. Because when his Sunday School teacher went missing, she was never found. The assumption is that she was buried somewhere out in the woods. But there wasn’t any specific place found in the song. The only reference is a mount–which is none too freaking helpful in these parts. Cops looked for weeks or months, but came up with squat. Her body was never found, even though there was evidence all over the house that there was a struggle, and they found plenty of Herod’s fingerprints there–in places a nice, casual visitor didn’t have any place being. Not very church-like, if you know what I’m saying.”

“For that part of the game, you just need to walk out into the woods, just a little farther, away from the river. Away from the boulder. Just far enough that you can’t see any lights of the town. It only takes a couple of minutes, then you drop to your knees, and then you do your best to imagine that poor woman’s grave right in front of you. And you say it, ‘Please uncover’.”

“They finally tracked him down to what was hardly anything more than a sunk foundation of a church, just north of town, deeper in the woods. It probably hasn’t been a church for a hundred years, but everybody knows what it is, and as far as I know, it’s still there to this day. One you get there, you guessed it, drop down to your knees like it’s a good time to start praying. The stones are still blackened where he poured the gasoline on him before lighting the match. Supposedly he was still singing as he burned.”

“I’m a sinner, please forgive me.”
“I’m a sinner, please forgive me.”
“Please forgive me.”

“At any point up till now, you could quit. Go home and lie and say you did it, and all that. But if you kneel in that church, and you say those words, you have _to see it through. If you say, ‘please forgive me’, and there isn’t any noise?–then God has forgiven you. Then, and only then_, can you light the lighter you brought with you, and start up a candle or lantern or whatever that should have been left there before you set out at midnight."

“However, here’s the kick in the teeth–if you hear a noise, that means God isn’t protecting you, and questions your faith, and you cannot light that lighter. In that case, you gotta wait until the sun comes up and then walk home. Don’t fucking leave the outline of the building no matter what you hear. If you light the lighter, the devil himself will be there, and he’ll be laughing at how dumb-fuck-ass you are for playing the game as he drags you to hell.”

“So that’s Herod Hansen and the Sinner’s Song, least as I heard it. What about you, Kurt? You farm-boys have any weird games like cow-tipping or bull-milking? Or you know, we could talk about something else, like, your sister’s bra size…”


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While Witiko Falls wasn’t truly settled until the early 1880s, the area did play host to a few settlers before that time, generally trappers and fur-traders, followed by gold miners in subsequent years. One such individual was the woodsman, Andrew Fairbairn, and his wife, Judith Fairbairn, who settled in the region in 1864 in the cabin which is now known as Fairbairn Cottage or simply “the Cottage.” Scottish of blood, Andrew was known to carry with him a number of heirlooms, which he kept in a chest of black wood in the cabin. A trapper and hunter, Andrew strove to make ends meet as best he could, but often the pair found themselves hovering near destitution. Judith would become agitated at such times and pressured her husband to move back east, which would enrage Andrew. He took to employing a cruel method of punishment for his wife’s “shrewish” tongue, using one of the heirlooms taken from his ancestral chest: a scold’s bridle, used in Scotland well into the eighteenth-century as a punishment for “scolds,” or women who spoke out of turn. He placed the macabre iron contraption over his wife’s head and would force her to wear it for hours at a time. The muzzle was extremely painful, as spikes in the bridle would hurt the wearer’s tongue if they moved it or tried to speak.

Reputedly, during a particularly long spell of wearing the bridle, Judith decided to enact a plan of revenge. Using hemlock she’d painstakingly grown in the Cottage’s garden she poisoned her husband’s dinner, paralyzing him but keeping him alert and awake. She then calmly cut off his tongue and stuffed it down his throat, then sewed his lips shut, permanently silencing him; he choked on his own tongue and died. Rumour has that the murder would have gone undiscovered had a lost traveller not come across Judith chopping up the body for burial with her husband’s own axe. The traveller carried a revolver, to be used against wild beasts or others who might menace him; Judith, discovered, came at him with the axe but was shot and killed. According to the traveller her mind had snapped and she was still wearing the scold’s bridle at the time of her death. To this day, sightings of Judith’s ghost have been reported by those walking the woods near Fairbairn Cottage. Her apparition, known as the Scold, has since become a local bogeywoman, said to prey exclusively on men who abuse their wives or girlfriends; such individuals are said to turn up dead, sometimes in the woods but often in their own beds, with their tongues cut out and their lips stitched shut, killed in the same manner as Andrew Fairbairn.

There are several variations of the Scold legend. In some Andrew uses a regular dog muzzle to silence his wife, tying her up like a beast. In others, Judith Fairbairn is also a witch.


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The Sin Bone Glutton is a spray-painted illustration in Saint Enoch’s Towers that many of the local children fear and offer spray-painted confessions to avert “his” hunger. The atavistic painting depicts a spray-painted grinning skull with a swollen gut and black pits for eyes that stare at passersby with naked avarice.


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The government employees stationed at ROSEWATER are rarely seen in uniform, but common belief holds that they live undercover within the town, mingling with the locals, hiding in plain sight. Many theories proliferate as to the identities and motivations of the Spooks, though such theories are more often discussed by conspiracy theorists than they are by locals. Some believe the Spooks are members of some “rogue agency” or classified intelligence service within the U.S. Government, others that the Spooks aren’t federal agents at all but extraterrestrial shapeshifters masquerading as humans. Whatever the case, the belief that the Spooks live amongst regular townsfolk in Witiko Falls is widespread and half-jokingly acknowledged by the locals, who often cheerily chastise those spouting “wild talk,” warning them that the “walls have ears” and insinuating that government agents are always listening in. Naturally, local legend holds that the Spooks have the ability to erase or otherwise modify the memories of those who might have “made” them.

Local Legends

Witiko Falls: Disillusion Parasomniac Calder_R