Old, Scary Folktales

Storytelling was a big thing when I was a kid. The internet was just getting started back in the early 1990s and generally it was used for research more than entertainment like it is today. I remember gathering a handful of friends in a rarely empty band room and exchanging scary stories together. It became a game of successfully creeping your friends out, and so each story upped the stakes.

My elementary school even brought in a professional storyteller to share scary stories with us once. How cool is that? I don’t even know if professional storytellers even exist anymore! She sat in our stoic school library in a rocking chair, an old woman in her element as we sat down on the floor around her.

She told us old folktales, stories that are pretty hard to find these days. Living in the South in the U.S., you get to hear all kinds of interesting, terrifying stories. This is one that used to creep me out, and usually got a shudder out of my friends. I’ve taken massive creative liberties with it of course, since the original is fairly sparse. It’s sometimes referred to as The Keyhole, and there are countless retellings of it. I’m happy to add mine to the pile.

If you want to read more scary stories, Creepy Campfire Quarterly Volume 1 came out today!


The light drizzle turned into a downpour as I navigated my way through the poorly marked Georgia back roads. I cursed my grimy windshield as I barely turned in time to avoid plunging into a deep, muddy ditch. I knew I had to find a place to stop. I still had an hour before I reached my aunt’s house, and it was well past midnight. The rain was slowing me down and my exhaustion was catching up with me.

I grinned as the dimly lit motel sign came into view. It stood like a barely readable beacon amid the sheets of rain that fell from the dark skies. There was only one other car parked as I pulled in, and the parking lot was a muddy mess, but I hoped that the rooms were at least clean. I made a dash for the front door and braced myself as my shoes skid on the linoleum floor.

A curious receptionist poked his head around the corner, “Coming down pretty hard out there, isn’t it?”

I gave a nervous grin and shook out my hair. “Sure is. You have a room available?”

The man nodded and took my info down. He didn’t use a computer, just a large pad of paper that might have been used for drafting. He pulled an old fashioned key off the back wall marked 112 and handed it to me. I noticed he had skipped the one marked 111 and thought of the car parked outside.

“I guess I’m not the only person trying to get out of the rain tonight, am I?”

He gave a small smile but didn’t answer. “Your room is on the next floor up, the first room to your left.”

I nodded, figuring he was probably a bit tired himself considering the time, and went up to the next floor. I knew the building was older since they used heavy keys instead of the cards used by more upscale places. The steps were shorter too, which isn’t unusual in older buildings. I did have to take my heels off though as I padded up the stairs.

The carpet was ugly, but not terrible. It just looked dated, much like the cold key I held in my hand. As I made my way to my room, I passed room 111, where the other person was staying. I could see light from the old-fashioned keyhole, so I knew the person much be awake. I recalled the receptionist’s odd behavior and wondered what would keep someone up at this hour with the weather so terrible outside.

Regardless I entered my room and peeled off my wet clothes. The place was old but clean, and I stretched out on the bed, thinking to relax for just a moment. Instead I fell asleep.

When I awoke, the rain was coming down even harder outside. I could hear it beating against the window, but I could also hear a siren just above it. I was worried that someone had gotten injured, and in a sleepy haze, I crept to the window and peeked out the curtain. The parking lot was a flooded mess, but I saw no ambulance or any cause for the siren I heard wailing over the rain.

That’s when my sleepy brain realized that it wasn’t a siren, but a wail I heard. Someone was crying their heart out.

I pulled on my clothes from the day before, still cold and damp, and I went out into the hallway, intent on notifying the receptionist downstairs. That’s when I realized the wailing was coming from the room across the hall, room 111.

I gave a quick knock at the door, “Excuse me, but is everything alright?” The wailing turned into sniffling inside. I knocked again, “I could hear you from my room and wanted to make sure you were okay.”

Noticing that there was still a light emerging from the keyhole, I crouched down and peeked through. The room was very similar to mine, but faced the back of the motel. The curtains were thrown back and a woman sat on the end of the bed, her long black hair just sweeping along the bedspread. She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. I knocked again, peeking down to the keyhole, but the woman didn’t move.


With a sigh, I went back to my room. This time I got ready for bed properly, then climbed under the covers. The room felt colder, and I worried for the sad woman in the next room. A thunderclap arched its way across the sky and the room flared with lightning. Somehow I found sleep again.

Morning came with the sun. The parking lot outside was still flooded, but it was dry enough to drive on. I stepped out into the hallway, and spotted the closed door to room 111. Concerned, I crouched down and peeked through the keyhole. I was hoping the poor woman hadn’t stayed awake all night. Instead of the room however, all I saw was bright red. She must have covered it up with a piece of clothing to keep anyone from spying on her. Still I couldn’t prevent a shudder from going through me, and forgetting to remove my heels, I almost tripped down the stairs.

The receptionist this morning was a smiling blonde woman. “Everything alright?” She asked with her thick accent.

“Yes, but I was wondering about the woman in room 111. I heard her crying last night and…”

The woman’s smile faded. “Are you sure it was that room?”

“Yes, I even saw her through the peephole last night. She seemed very upset.”

She pursed her lips and looked away from me as the words stumbled out. “That’s not possible. We never lend that room out. A woman killed herself in there, we call her the black-haired lady. Three housekeepers have tried to clean it, and all of them have run out screaming about her angry, red eyes.”

Drabble: The Blue Ticket

We stand in line waiting our turn. There are only a few people in front of me with a long snaking trail still behind me. The woman passing out tickets only had a sliver of them left and I worry that I won’t get one in time. One, two, three, the tickets disappear and the sliver grows smaller. When I reach the table, and the final blue ticket is placed in my hand, I’m giddy with relief.

I step aside and hear cries of pain and outrage behind me, but I clutch that ticket to my chest and don’t turn back. With one hand on my suitcase I head to the tunnel. I pass by a child crying on the floor, a glaring old woman grinding her teeth, and two armored guards with guns on their hips. Still I don’t turn back. I don’t want to see the ones left behind or their desperation.

When I exit the tunnel, I gasp. The ship nearly fills the sky. Families cry and hug one another here in the fenced in yard, in stark contrast to the tension outside. When the ground trembles beneath our feet, a frightened hush falls over us. We might be safe soon, but the others won’t be. I allow myself to turn and see the long snaking chain of people. From here I can’t see the fear and hatred in their eyes, but I know it’s there. I can’t blame them.

As another tremor shakes the ground, I know none of those people will make it off this ruined planet in time. Regardless of what ships are scheduled to come, regardless of the promises that were made, this will be the final ship to leave.

I almost return my ticket and let someone else take my place.


Prompt: The Participants

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Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less. Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.

Drabble: The Smartly Dressed Intern

My glass of whiskey shatters on the floor as I feel the pressure around my throat. I’m pulled back in my office chair and out of the corner of my eye I see a flash of blond hair and red lipstick. It’s Julia, the intern we just hired with the warm smile and fashionable dresses. Her resume was excellent, I should have questioned what made her want to apply. I should have questioned how she could afford such lovely outfits too.

I’m seeing stars now and there’s pain building in my skull. I don’t have much time before I black out. The gun in the drawer is too obvious, so I fall forward over my desk in a pretend coughing fit to reach for the bottle at my feet. Julia struggles to keep her grip tight on the rope. The office chair is tall and she has to step around it to get close enough. She’s determined though, just like I am.

I slip my fingers around the neck of the bottle and sit back in the chair again, locking her hands behind me momentarily. It gives me just enough time to bash the whiskey bottle against her skull. Blood mingles with glass fragments as she wavers, then collapses to the floor. She might be dead, but I’m in no hurry to check.

I pull off the garrote, gasping, panting, and coughing out the pain. In my hands is the bright red necktie Julia had worn with her smart polka dot dress. If she wasn’t working alone, then there would be others. Despite a pounding skull I check out Julia. She’s pouring blood all over the dingy carpet, but she’s alive. I know she’ll need to be questioned, but still, I wish I’d swung harder.

Prompt: Bold Necktie

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Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less. Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.

Drabble: The Ring Finger

It came skulking to the window late one night, a creature unlike any that I have seen. It was too large to be a dog, too hairy to be a wolf, and yet it crouched in a most human manner. It dragged its black claws down the length of the window, sending a shiver down my spine. We stared at each other for several moments while the wind outside beat against the walls of the house.It stood on its hind legs and with a howl that no creature ought to be able to make, it pushed that window down as though it was tissue paper. I stood up then, stumbling over my chair in my haste and wishing my cell phone was charged. I rushed to the hall, slammed the door behind me, and pressed an ear to the door.Silence. Was I mad? Had I imagined the creature that had smashed its way into my study? Minutes passed before I built up the courage to open that door, wincing as it creaked on its hinges; I hadn’t opened it an inch before the beast’s claws came through. It tore down the door with its eyes boring into mine. They were human eyes, familiar eyes.

“My God…” I grunted as the beast pushed me up against the wall. “Anna, is that you?”

It grimaced at me with pointed teeth, perhaps its own cruel smile. It glanced at my ring finger, barren of the wedding ring now that we were divorced, then snarled with renewed hatred.

“Honey…” I whispered. “Baby, please?”

Of all my ex-wives, Anna was the last I would have expected to kill me. I tried to laugh as she sank her fangs into my throat, but she wouldn’t even allow that luxury.

Prompt: Similar to A

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Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less. Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.

Drabble: Captain, My Captain

Prompt: Discontent

Foam sprays up the belly of the ship as angry clouds move inward. This voyage was full of bad omens; Joe nearly fell from the crow’s nest, a barrel of grain was full of maggots, and then there’s the Captain to consider. With her fiery hair and great red coat, she could outmatch anyone on the ship with her blade.

She thinks we’ll find the Darkness Dweller within those clouds, that shadow creature that lurks into our homes and saps our kinsmen dry. She says it’s responsible for the storm that’s sent our way, for the tumultuous waves, and starless skies each night. I say she’s bit with madness; though we all know the best Captains are.

The rains come in heavy and within minutes I’m soaked through to my bones. My hands are raw as I double and triple check the knots on deck; the water in my eyes makes it hard to see.

“It’s here!” She calls out like a shrieking banshee. Her red hair is bright against the dark clouds above and she’s smiling. Madness indeed.

She’s barely said the words when I see the shadows slink their way across the deck, like the feelers of an octopus, but harder to see. I call out to Old Finny, but he can’t hear me over the heavy rain. Then the shadow touches his boot and shoots up his good leg. He grabs at his thigh with a shriek, but the shadow has him. Before it can reach his head, the Captain is upon him. She thrusts her blade through Finny’s boot, and somehow the shadow too. Blood pours out and Finny screams, but the shadow retreats.

“Get him below,” she says and I obey. She may be a mad banshee, but she’s also one hell of a Captain.

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Originally posted on Typetrigger. Fiction in 300 words or less. Please pardon typos or grammatical errors. See sidebar for copyright information.