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Hi, listeners, Kate here with an exclusive clip from Parks Network's newest original series called Haunted Places Ghost Stories, hosted by Alistair Murden Ghost Stories features chilling tales of tragic endings, lingering spirits and other worldly vengeance. Settle in every Thursday for a new retelling of stone-Cold classics and startling inventions of true horror and now a condemned murderer's final wish and the lengths he'd go to fulfill it. Enjoy this exclusive clip from our first episode featuring The Kitbag by Algernon Blackwood.
The following episode contains descriptions of gore and psychological horror. We advise extreme caution for children under 13.
Here is an excerpt from the short story, The Kitbag by Algernon Blackwood. It is difficult to say exactly at what point fear begins when the causes of that fear are not plainly before the eyes. Impressions gather on the surface of the mind, filmed by film as ice gathers upon the surface of still water, but often so lightly that they claim no definite recognition from the consciousness. Then a point is reached where the accumulated impressions become a definite emotion and the mind realizes that something has happened.
Hi, everyone, I'm Alastair Murden, and this is the newest Spotify original from podcast Haunted Places, Ghost Stories Assister series to podcast Haunted Places. Ghost stories have arisen from every century and every corner of the world, from the streets of Victorian Whitechapel to the swamps of Bangladesh with a seated around a campfire or curled up with a pair of headphones. We return to them time and again to feel our skin crawl and our hearts race. Each week, Ghost Stories reimagines a chilling paranormal tale from one of history's most sinister storytellers told like you've never heard them before.
You can find episodes of this and other Spotify originals from podcast for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts. Today's story comes from the early 20th century English author Algernon Blackwood. It captures the mounting dread one feels at the cusp of a paranormal encounter. When the shadow stands at the corner of our vision, when we can still pray that it's just a figment of our imagination before we look and see the truth that we are not alone. My name is Johnson, and the story I'm about to tell you recounts the worst evening of my 26 years.
Ironically, the few friends I have discussed it with maintain that nothing happened that night. Save for a luggage mishap. I hope to convince you otherwise. Not guilty. That was how it began with the verdict read aloud to the crowded courtroom on a dark afternoon in December. I sprang to my feet, already grinning with relief. I was very glad to hear it, though not for the same reason as my client, the accused man such a short distance down the table, wearing an inscrutable expression.
He had pale alabaster skin, coarse black hair scraped across a high forehead and dark eyes set a bit too deep into his skull. But far worse than the face of John TURC was the crimes he was accused of as the private secretary for the defense. I had been in the courtroom for every day of the proceedings. I had listened for 10 days as the gentleman for the prosecution described his crimes in detail, how he dismembered his poor victim with no sign of remorse and then crammed her with lime into ironically, John Turk's wickedness made our jobs that much easier.
It was clear to everyone that he was guilty. His only chance of escaping the gallows was a plea of insanity. Personally, I would have been happy to see him hang even though my firm was representing him, but I was far less interested in the verdict than the next words out of the chief justice's mouth.
Court adjourned in no time at all. I was hurrying across the thoroughfare toward the offices of my employer to deliver the news. There was a chill in the air and a soft snow had begun to fall. This only serve to brighten my spirits further reminding me of the holiday that awaited. This time tomorrow I would be gliding through the Alps with a set of firm skis beneath my feet. My employer, Mr. Wilbraham, was seated behind his giant barista's desk, perusing the file for our next case.
He didn't look up as I entered and received the verdict with little more than a nod. Under different circumstances, I would have been put out by his lack of interest, considering that I had just devoted many sleepless nights to his case. But I attributed his lack of enthusiasm to the fact that, like the rest of us, he would have enjoyed seeing his clients hang wrapped the thing up just in time, Wilbraham said, finally putting down his quill.
You're getting away for Christmas, aren't you? The Alps, was it? That's right, I told him. There is one thing I wanted to ask you. Would you mind lending me one of your kit bags? I didn't have time to pick one up and I leave before the shops open. I'll have Henry send one over tonight, he said before I could finish then. Now get out of here before I find more work for you to do.
I had a quick dinner at the club and caught the underground back to Bloomsbury. I'd been renting a floor in an old house there, a rather cheerless place with big, drafty rooms. When I arrived, there were only a few lights on in the windows and they stared at me like eyes set in deep, dark sockets. My landlady, Mrs. Monks', was waiting for me in the hallway. She was shielding a candle with one hand and had clearly been enjoying a nightcap.
This come by a man from Mr. Wilbraham, sir, she said, and pointed to the kitbag on the landing. It was one of those large canvas duffel bags with a brass handle and padlock. I was a bit surprised at the sight of it, for it was quite lumpy and threadbare for the luggage of a London barrister. But it was exceptionally large and looked like it would suit my purposes quite nicely. I took the bag and continued upward. The floor directly beneath mine was vacant, which was nice as it allowed me to work late into the night without fear of waking any neighbors.
As I passed it on the stairwell, my eyes glided down the hallway. It was bare save for the shadows and a few wires for picture frames still protruding from the wall. At last I reached my own floor. The landing led directly into a short hallway with the door to my bedroom at one end and an open seating area at the other. Further on, there was a very small kitchen with little more than a sink and stove. It was admittedly a bit drab.
The floors creaked, the walls were a dingy shade of yellow, and the electric lighting was unreliable. But I had done my best to furnish it tastefully and bring some feeling of life to the place. I opened the door to my bedroom without looking and tossed the kitbag onto the floor beside my bed, then continued on to the kitchen to put on the kettle. By this point, the snow had become a heavy rain and the wind howled and rattled the window panes.
As I stared out the window in the rain, I found my mind drifting back to the trial. I pictured the face of John TURC brow furrowed, unreadable. Had he warned the same inscrutable expression when he chopped his victim to pieces, I shivered, suddenly, shaking myself from the dark thoughts. The trial was behind me, and I would soon be far from the drab, wet, grey of London.
I hummed a Christmas melody as I packed, taking no great care in what I was doing, the size of the bag meant that I could pack as much as I liked without worry. I stuffed in my coat, cap, boots and skates without much thought. I remembered that my gloves were on the mantel over the fireplace and was on my way to fetch them when I heard the sound of someone coming up the stairs. I stopped what I was doing to listen to the footsteps.
It was not uncommon to hear such sounds in a house full of lodgers, but I knew the floor below me to be unoccupied. I thought for a moment that it must be Mrs. Monks' bringing up the last post. But the steps were too heavy, despite a clear attempt to dampen themselves. Perhaps one of my downstairs neighbors had missed their floor by mistake, I thought. Sure enough, the footsteps stopped on the floor directly below mine. I stood there on the landing, waiting patiently for the visitor to retreat.
But I did not hear another sound. A shrill scream sounded behind me, and I spun around to see steam rising from the kitchen, the kettle was ready. I chuckled to myself, wondering at my foolishness how I must have looked, standing at the banister and eavesdropping on the house like an old governess. I went to prepare my coffee and then returned to the bedroom to finish packing. The kit bag was two thirds full by this point and stood up right beside the bed like a sack of flour.
As I glanced at it in the dim light, the strangest impression came over me. The top of the bag was drooped over in such a way that the folds and shadows of the canvas took on the distinct impression of a human face.
A crease formed, a mouth, a lump served as the nose, and the brass rings stood in for eyes. On another night, I would have brushed off the impression without much thought, for who has not seen Spectre's or haunting visages in the not of a hollow tree or the pattern of a carpet. The human mind is a treacherous thing, and when the wind howls at the proper pitch and the lights are dimmed, it will make ghosts out of whatever banal materials it has at its disposal.
But my own mind had more to work with, and most, it seemed, for the face in the bag was not just any face, but the one I was most determined to forget. From the flat four head to the cold button eyes and sharp nose. There was no mistaking that I was staring into the face of my client, the murderer, John Terk. What did I do? Faced with such an inexplicable fright, I laughed. I'm not sure if it was from the absurdity of what I had seen or from a desire to prove that I was not afraid in the slightest.
I walked out onto the landing where the light was a bit stronger and looked back into the bedroom. From this angle, I could see no eyes or mouth, but only a shabby old bag standing beside the bed.
The face had stared not from the canvas, but from my own imagination. The house creaked noisily below me. There was someone on the stairwell again determined to see who it was. I darted to the banister and looked down, but the stairwell was entirely empty. I felt deeply unsettled. Part of me wanted to ignore it and go back to my packing, but I was sure that I had heard someone moving about down there. After a moment's hesitation, I hurried down the stairs to the floor below.
The dim light of my own apartment was nothing compared to the darkness that awaited me. The layout was unfamiliar, a long hallway leading to three bedrooms. I opened the door to each one slowly, but found no one. It was unfurnished as I'd expected. There were not even curtains to hide behind, but my eyes lingered over every corner and shadow, my ears strained for any sound of the patter I'd heard before. But there was nothing but the wind howling angrily outside.
I returned to the stairwell and called down to Mrs. Monks', asking if she had been up looking for me. There was no response. The house was asleep, defeated. I headed back up. This holiday can't come soon enough, I muttered to myself as I climbed the stairs, a curious feeling of dread had settled over me that I could not seem to dismiss by envisioning white slopes. I was halfway up when my breath caught in my throat out of the corner of my eye.
I had seen the distinct outline of a figure at the top of the stairs. Someone had just entered my apartment. To hear what happens next and experience more tales of terror, follow haunted places, ghost stories free on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.