The children of this story are not ordinary children. You see, these remarkable children I speak of are unique and bear the distinctive eyes of darkness and mystery, with an ebony film of terror over them. The legend of these children originated, upon one memorable day of autumn in the year 1816, within the sea port of Salem, Massachusetts, in Essex County.
Several months before, an eerie and unseasonable phenomenon in New England had tormented the area. It had snowed 6 inches in June, and the months afterwards of that year had a hard frost. The temperature dropped, as low as 40 degrees in July and August. Crop failures had a huge impact on the region causing a hoarding and big price increases, for agricultural commodities. Squashes, beans, cucumbers were effected tremendously.
People were starving to death, and imploring for divine intervention; whilst others were confabulating that it was the malicious act and ensample of an inimical Satan that led them into an absorptive aberration. The times were desperate and desolate, as a veil of implacable doom preponderated, the righteous and heritable minds of Salem, within disturbance and apprehension.
Consequently, an extrasensory activity had triggered the precipitous sequence of a disappearance that had unsettled Salem, with the auspicious signs of trepidation, unbelief and bruits. It all began suddenly, with the unusual disappearance of three young girls, who were the daughters of a farmer by the name of Jeremiah Harwood.
My name is Joseph Murdock, a Bostonian by birth, and a magistrate by trade. I was sent to Salem to investigate the strange disappearance and question the few witnesses present. There was a certain Englishman, who had been arrested on suspicion of the disappearance of the three young lasses and was the prime suspect. His name was Nathaniel Taggart, a privateer by occupation.
Once I had arrived in carriage at Salem, I took lodging at one of the inns near the port. Verily, the tumultuous sounds of the port manifested, in the drunkard sailors and rogues of amplitude, who caroused the area and brabbled in rixations. It had been not more than a year, since the ending of The War of 1812.
It was the first time I had visited Salem and knew only the tralaticious lore of the history of the town aforehand, and its infandous attachment to the ungood spells of witchcraft eloigned. Although this was never really proven, it was always embedded in the following generations that had succeeded afterwards.
At the cell where the defendant was held prisoner in solitary confinement, I spoke to the privateer. It was extremely cold and damp, inside the chamber that the defendant was immured, as he awaited trial. He was dressed in the traditional garments of an inmate of that period. However, his appearance was quite disheveled as it was apparent that the time incarcerated had altered his guise. His countenance was gaunt, and his hazel eyes were full of fear and anxiety. His curly brownish hair was long and shabby. His beard and mustache as well were shabby and not trimmed. His demeanor at first was demure and resigned; but I would sense this need of urgency in him to tell his version of events to me.
"Mr. Nathaniel Taggart, I presume?" I had asked in syntomy.
"Yes, 'tis my name sir, but who are you, if I may ask so eagerly?" He inquired as he rose to his feet.
"Good! My name is Joseph Murdock of Boston Mr. Taggart. I am the magistrate in charge of your case. I have come today to take deposition of your testimony, so that I can understand your case better."
"By Jove, you must believe me, when I tell you my lord that I am innocent of these nonsensical and unfounded accusations that mistided. I do not know the exact reason why I have been accused and put in retention, except that I am a privateer and an Englishman from Stafford, England."
"I am a man of the law and inference Mr. Taggart, and my commitment is to uphold my civil duty to the communities I serve. This takes precedence, above all and is intrinsic to my final decisions. Inductive reasoning Mr. Taggart is the logic we attribute to our implicit ratiocination in law," I replied.
"Yes, I understand, and you have thus eloquently explained yourself my lord, but I am an unassuming man of virtue. Certainly, you can give me an advisory opinion that could guide my thoughts effectively," he responded.
"That I shall not doubt, but nevertheless, I did not come here to put you on trial, and I cannot give you much counsel, except to tell the truth. Instead, I came to hear your account, for I strongly believe in judicial impartiality and not irregulous suppositions. Whether or not these accusations are incontrovertible or not, it is for the court to determine that Mr. Taggart."
"Indeed, you must believe me my lord!" He implored.
"Peradventure! But words can be pure placitory things to be acknowledged or elided. Now then, let us begin in earnest, with this deposition. Please, if you can relate Mr. Taggart, where were you on the day of October 6 of the year of 1816?" I had spoken retrospectively.
He proceeded to relate his account and answered my questioning, "I began the day as usual, at the harbour near the ships that dock, when I was given permission to spend time in Salem, along with my other crew members. I must admit I spent the day in the local pubs and with women, and they can attest to my whereabouts my lord."
"Were you carousing at around 5 o'clock in the evening, when then supposedly the young three Harwood girls went missing?" I had asked him directly.
He hesitated for a moment, as if to ponder that question, before he timorously replied, "I shall be very sincere with you my lord, I had my good beers by the flagon, but that was in the late afternoon. This much I say through my admission willingly."
I had to be apprised with no indubitable aplomb but exactitude. "I need to know the precise time Mr. Taggart, for that is a portentous piece of information to compute. It would prove or disprove your possible disposability. You state that you were inebriated, with your crew members. Perhaps, I can interrogate these individuals. Perhaps, this might be the silver lining. But, if they were in an undesirable insobriety as you were, then their declarations shall be truly voided of any pertinent validity. As for the women, am I correct to assume without abashment that these young ladies were prostitutes, and not seemly young ladies of propriety or befitting accompaniment?"
This time he was straightforward with his response, "I believe so my lord, but I shall repeat that I am innocent; and I was nowhere near the vicinity of where those young girls disappeared. This I affirm my lord, with honesty. I don't remember everything that betided, but I am no criminal or murderer."
He had paused before he remembered something that he had forgotten, and that was a very peculiar detail. "Good God I remember now, I was walking passed a refurbished colonial mansion."
"A colonial mansion you say? Give me to the best of your ability, an accurate description of this mansion."
He began to describe the mansion as he remembered the details, "It was a two-storey house, with a projecting front porch and a massive central chimney. Four casement windows, parlour and bed chambre above, and had an overhang with carved pendants. It had a three-gabled garret, wood paneling, sash windows, beams and mortises of the gables. The mansion was abutting a type of shrub or arbutus. But there is one thing I recall plainly there was a lady in the house. I clearly remember passing the embouchure."
"Do you know the name of the river, Mr. Taggart?" I inquired.
"Not quite it was close to the site of an old Native American village I was informed," he replied.
"It was probably the Naumkeag River," I said sententiously.
"I remember now, there were three young girls, who were in the hill outside by the mansion. Their eyes, yes, their eyes were black, completely black," he confessed.
"Black eyes, what do you mean by that? And what hill do you speak of?"
"Oh, you must think me mad, when I tell you that they were not human eyes, but devilish eyes of the fiend."
"Devilish eyes of the fiend you say. Surely, you must have mistaken their eyes. Are you certain, you did not confuse the children, with deer or some other animal of the region?" I asked him.
He nodded his head slowly, and answered tentatively, "No, I am certain of what I saw my lord. They were demons or witches."
"We can discuss the issue of the black-eyed children later, but for now let us continue. What happened next? What did you do afterwards?"
"I remember only following the children, into the hurst, as a balmy breeze had become windy. The strange lady of the mansion began to follow me. When I confronted her it was not her standing but instead, a farmer. She was a bloody witch! I tell you my lord that these parts are full of many tales of witches and demons, to conjure together."
"A witch you say? Can you describe the strange lady? Was she old or young? Was she tall or short? Was she light-skinned or dark-skin?" I continued the questioning.
"She was in her forties or so, and of medium stature. She was light-skinned also. This is all vaguely what I recall my lord," he replied.
This inextricable and heteroclite mystery and tale of witchcraft were starting to intrigue me and to alert my incipient percipience, with this uncouth tralation. I had finished with my questions, and told Mr. Taggart that I would soon return. I gave him my word that I would thoroughly investigate his claim and account. He was thankful for my visit and resolution. However, he was also very mindful of the dire consequences and limited recourses that were available.
The fact that he was in a bacchanalian state was not overtly propitious, but it was not tantamount to an admission of guilt. Indeed, he could have been inveigling me from the start, and this was all perhaps a ruse. If I could foresee the outcome, my sight would be endued with a far greater sharpness and additament then.
Yet, it had not been sufficient enough to condemn him, since there was only inconsequential evidence discovered in the form of a torn sleeve of one of the missing girls, and the accusation by the father, who saw Mr. Taggart near the vicinity of their disappearance. The declarations of a merchant by the name of Matthew Winthrop and a clockmaker, with the name of Benjamin Robbins were not substantial proof still, since neither saw the abduction or murders of the missing girls.
As for the claim of the black-eyed children and the nexus to witchcraft, these things exacerbated the situation. And this was exceedingly irreconcilable to my corrigible logic and apperception. Nevertheless, I had persisted in my endeavor to solve this incommoding case of mystery that was in flux. I could not renege or allow any unnecessary interference by anyone to ingratiate, barring any sudden revelation. This was imperative to the case, and I had an urgency to speak to the crew members and prostitutes mentioned, by Mr. Taggart.
I located only three, a Scotsman, a former Negro slave, and a Mohawk Indian. I spoke as well to the prostitutes chambering, and in the end they had corroborated Mr. Taggart's story. Next I visited Mr. Harwood, the father of the missing girls, as well as the other witnesses of the accuser. I needed their hodiernal declarations forthwith. It was apparent that their words would be vital and endeitic to the case, but I was uncertain, if I was to expect an accurate averment or an extemporaneous aphorism.
When I arrived at the house of Mr. Harwood, he was outside lamenting the loss of his unproductive crops. Indeed, his fields were barren and drear, as the frigid cold and frost previously had ruined a seemingly prosperous production and foison. It had effected more importantly, his livelihood. Perhaps it was not wise or the opportune moment to impose with my questions, but it was my duty to continue the investigation and resolve the mystery that bound the town with its haunting lore.
Thus, I proceeded with my questions. I introduced myself as the magistrate from Boston assigned to the case of his missing daughters. When asked to give me his account and description of the culprit, he was vividly miffed but vague in his narrative. I was not confident that he was precise or equivocating. But if so, for what purpose was this to ultimately effectuate? He was very firm in his conviction that the privateer was culpable and should be convicted and hanged. This he kept on repeating assuredly, with his every articulation expressed. It was not my pressing obligation to convince otherwise, only to confirm the details and evidence presented to me.
After further consultation I had departed his farm. Next I spoke to Mr. Winthrop and Mr. Robbins, and surprisingly they were ambiguous in their laconic accounts and affirmations. It would appear they were not keen in divulging much information, except what was explained to the first local magistrate, by the name of Ezekiel Goldsmith, who for some unknown circumstance disappeared. The plot of the mystery thickened. However, nothing would prepare me, for what transpired next.
Three days had passed, and upon the following morning when awakening, my prior and peculiar premonition became a contretemps, as I had walked toward the mysterious hill Mr. Taggart had made reference to. When I had reached the hillside known as the infamous Gallows, where the public hangings of the Salem witch trials occurred, I found Mr. Winthrop the merchant hanging dead from a nearby oak tree. An unkindness of darkled ravens had been feasting on his rotten dead flesh. What was ghastlier was the fact that his eyes were entirely plucked from his sockets. It was a horrible sight to witness in person truly.
Immediately, I thought of the privateer, who was accused for the disappearance of the Harwood girls. He would be the first to be reproached. But then my logic overcame my momentary lapse and remembered that supposedly, he was detained. What if he had escaped and had absconded. The incredulity within me was lingering, as an invariable concern.
Once at the jail and chamber of Mr. Taggart, I would be informed by the attendant that Mr. Taggart was dead in his cell. When I entered the chamber, I saw the privateer stone dead on the floor, and as with Mr. Winthrop the merchant, his eyes were plucked out. His face was totally cadaverous and his body rigid, as this mystery was unraveling by the minute. It was now obvious to me that someone wanted Mr. Taggart and Mr. Winthrop dead, and as well Mr. Robbins the clockmaker and Mr. Harwood.
Swiftly, I headed toward their homes, and just as the others they were dead. The question was who killed them? The horrid plucking of the eyes was manifest. It was a deplorable occurrence, and a visible sign of sudden eeriness and foreboding. My instinct was indicating that perhaps the key in solving this case was to return to the ancient colonial mansion.
Thus, I took a carriage through the weary tract that led to the arresting mansion. There at the mansion, I stared at the towering façade, as I did not enter. Often it is said that the inscrutable and visible eye of a human is susceptible, when it fails to discern the veritable presence of the preternatural beings that are existent and inhabit the populous world we call earth.
Consequently, we make the frequent assumption that which we cannot merely recognise or expound that presupposition, without a general pre-conclusion that the supernatural are nothing more than a whimsical creation of fictional fables and notional myths. However, the noticeable beings mentioned were not those that were fabricated, by the variance of imagination instead, by the veracity that bears only the purport of that certain actuality.
I had gone into the town of Salem to investigate more this bizarre tale of witchcraft that was synonymous, with the history of the town. I was aware of its lore and as well the auto-da-fé of the Spanish Inquisition.
When I arrived at the local museum, I spoke to the curator, who proceeded to allow me to read several books on the matter. There was one book that chronicled the event efficaciously, and arrested my fascination. In the report there was mention of the following.
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692, and May 1693. The trials had resulted in the executions of twenty people, fourteen of them women, and all but one by hanging. Five others (including two infant children) had died in the prison. Twelve other women previously were executed in Massachusetts and Connecticut during the 17th century. Despite being generally known as the Salem Witch Trials, the preliminary hearings in 1692 were conducted in several towns: Salem Village (now Danvers), Salem Town, Ipswich, and Andover. The most infamous trials were conducted by the Court of Oyer and Terminer in 1692 in Salem Town.
I was intrigued by the writings of Joseph Glanvill, who claimed that he could prove the existence of witches and ghosts of the supernatural realm. Glanvill had written about the denial of the bodily resurrection and the supernatural spirits. In his treatise, Glanvill claimed that ingenious men should believe in witches and apparitions; if they doubted the reality of spirits, they not only would deny daemons, but also the almighty God. Glanvill wanted to prove that the supernatural could not be denied; those who did deny apparitions were considered heretics for it also disproved their beliefs in angels. Glanvill sought to prove as well that demons were alive. I had discovered that the old colonial mansion had belonged to a prosperous family, who was related to a Mrs. Sara Osborne; one of the first accused of witchcraft in the Salem Witch trials. Mrs. Osborne had been born Sarah Warren, and she married a prominent man by the name of Robert Prince. He was the brother of a woman who married into the prominent Putnam family. She moved with her husband to Salem Village in 1662, where the couple had two sons and a daughter: Joseph, James, and Elizabeth. Robert Prince died in 1674. Was she the mysterious woman or ghost that the privateer had witnessed? Good God, what if this was true in the end?
I left the museum forthwith pondering this shocking revelation, as a blurry fog had started to overlap Salem. It had commenced from the port and had extended. But as I left the museum, I perceived an unidentified stranger was following me, from a reasonable distance. At first, the stranger who appeared to be a man, had casually began to trail my steps taken. Perhaps it was a bit of overreaction on my part, nevertheless, the sequence did make me feel very uncomfortable. It was uncomfortable enough to cause me to glance several times during the episode.
Thus, I proceeded to deceive the stranger who was following me, by taking another course out of the town. However, he had continued to follow me, and it was extremely obvious that he was watching me. For a moment I stopped and pondered the option of confronting this anonymous individual, but then I thought it would not be wise to accuse someone for nothing more than sharing the same path. The plot of the mystery thickened, with this bizarre occurrence. Maybe I was foolish and was hasty in my reaction, and I scurried to the woods to evade his presence. Yet, he continued to follow me, causing me to walk even faster to the forest ahead.
Next, I headed toward the hillside called the Gallows, as the wind began to bustle in an abrupt stir and momentum. The stranger was finally gone and was not following me any more. The piles of tawny and deciduous leaves had begun to crackle and heave, beneath the bustling ramages.
It was then amid that setting that I saw there standing, the presence of the three missing girls. As I got closer they vanished, but as I started to walk backwards, I turned around, and there they were the ebony-eyed children of Salem. The black film of darkness peered at me, with a fixed stare of admonitory bane, as they stood standing before me. For a full minute they gazed into my eyes, with a commanding dominion. Then as quickly as they emerged they had disappeared into the mist, above the leaves that soughed or susurrated. They whispered the only words that were audible to my clear audition. This, I remembered quite vividly.
"Those who are dead were responsible, for our deaths."
An obstreperous shriek I heard, as the sound of their voices reverberated. For several minutes my ears were deafened and silent. My eyes began to bleed as I felt the pupils in my eyes were about to burst, as I saw the ghosts of the hanged victims of the Salem witch trials on the hill known as the Gallows pass me by. I put my hands on my ears and closed my eyes, as I screamed. When I opened my eyes, they were gone as I had alluded to. I felt a frisson and was in awe of what happened, and my body was still in that immovable trance. I was awakened by the unkindness of the ravens that were flying pass me. I put my hands up to protect me, but as rapid as they passed, they flew away. And the blurry fog ere was now gone, as flakes of snow fell on the ground.
As for the mystery, only I knew the veracity of the tale. The three Harwood girls were never found, and I discovered afterwards that they were killed, by their father that caitiff.
As for the clockmaker and merchant, they were killed for keeping the secret hidden. The privateer was killed I learned, for allowing the culprits to commit their barbaric act of killing and not reporting them. Thus, he was an accomplice to the murders. Albeit he did not commit the crime. He would be betrayed for his loyalty and be chosen as the scapegoat to bewray, from this discreet contesseration. There was a distinct nexus that attached them to each other as they coalesced, and that was that they were all noteworthy Freemasons. It appeared that their indivisible loyalty to the hermetic brotherhood and upholding the secrets of the Freemasonry was apparent in the manner, how they handled their private affairs.
There were symbols found in the lorn mansion, and they appeared to be an appendage to those affairs and teloses that the Freemasons would share at the mansion, with their meetings in seclusion. The most telling object found was a carving in the wall of a square and compass that had the letter "G" personifying the Freemasons. The two things I could not prove or solve, was the identity of the mysterious woman from the mansion and the ebony-eyed children of Salem. It was probable that she never existed truly and was a mere phantom, and the children were wandering spirits too. But I often thought of the forbidding entoptic images that must have been seen, through those piercing eyes of the children. I had returned to Boston, as I reported the case in the lengthy documentation I wrote.
Naturally, I made no mention of witchcraft. What was written you ask? The missing bodies of the girls were never found. The murders were reported, and the girls were declared decedents. This act had brought some measure of closure to the case. However, I did not report the peculiar haunting nature of the ebony eyes of the children, and they were omitted from the report non-essentially.