Past Stories: 2012
Masked Ball & Patient 13
Kingsbury Manor -Masked Ball
Story by John P Cleary
With the deaths of his wife and daughters quite literally haunting him, Jonathan Kingsbury understandably closed himself away from the world. If only the world had been content to let him hide away forever in Kingsbury Manor, the horrible night of Oct. 31, 1890 might never have happened.
But the world came, again and again, banging against his door. As his wealth grew, even though his son, Jack, took over most of the day-to-day operation of his interests, Jonathan could not escape entirely into the dark rooms where he nursed his grief and bitterness. Although, in his neglect, the manor around him began to decay and crumble, Kingsbury’s fortune was well known… and sought out by those who might make use of it.
It became routine for people to show up before the manor’s great entrance, hat in hand, to ask for money. They were all refused. Corning businessmen seeking his capital for their projects were summarily rejected. When a week of heavy rains caused the Chemung River to spill over its banks in 1877, displacing several families, Kingsbury refused to contribute to the collection taken for their recovery. He did not donate a single penny to the construction of the new, modern asylum erected on an adjoining property, even though the building was named in his honor in hopes of drawing his financial support.
The ordinary people who asked for his assistance got nowhere, either. Orphans and widows, beggars and the sick, none of them ever received so much as a kind word from Kingsbury. Indeed, he took a perverse pleasure in chasing them away from his door, hurling curses and waving his cane.
Still they came, always asking, always begging, intruding on his sacred, twisted solitude.
One afternoon, after having rudely ejected the newly installed pastor of the local Catholic church from the manor for the temerity of asking for a contribution to the mission fund, Jonathan sat, fuming, in his library. “I would do anything to keep these simpering strangers from bothering me. I would see them all in Hell…”
And then a dark thought crossed his dark mind.
*It came as a great shock when a letter from Jonathan Kingsbury arrived at the office of Mr. J.P. Frank, president of the First Corning Bank and Trust. Kingsbury had an enormous fortune deposited with the bank, and so correspondence from Kingsbury Manor was not uncommon. But it was rare, in fact, probably unique, for Jonathan himself to write to the banker in his own hand. The contents of the letter were even more peculiar, given Kingsbury’s reputation.
In the note, Kingsbury instructed Frank to organize a charity ball, a masquerade, to be held on Halloween, at Kingsbury Manor. All the leading businessmen of Corning and the surrounding areas, the chief civic and religious leaders, the large landholders and most prosperous of the farmers, were all to be invited to the manor for a grand affair. Kingsbury would pay all expenses for the event, and in exchange, each guest would be expected to contribute to a new fund, the Kingsbury Charity Trust, which Frank would manage, and which, according to the letter, would be used to help the less fortunate and support worthy projects for the common good.
The news spread quickly, and the whole region was abuzz with talk of Kingsbury’s dramatic change of heart. Not only was the bitter man suddenly interested in helping others, but the great manor itself would be opened up to visitors for the first time in decades. The invitations poured out, and most were accepted, as much for the chance to get a peek inside the manor and at its surly master as for the chance to contribute to the charitable fund.
Under Kingsbury’s command, Frank directed the hiring of additional cooks and servants, hired a chamber orchestra and sent a small army of cleaners to the manor to prepare its ball room for the event. Although the expense was just a small one compared to Kingsbury’s fortune, Frank marveled that the old man was spending anything at all. He almost never did.
*On Halloween, the guests arrived at the manor, all fantastically costumed. Kingsbury himself greeted them at the front door, dressed spectacularly in new formal clothes and a simple mask. As had been instructed, each guest passed Jonathan an envelope with his or her contribution to the charity fund. Frank saw the growing pile of envelopes and knew, whatever Kingsbury had invested in the party was being returned tenfold in contributions to the fund.
As the last guests were ushered into the ballroom, and as the musicians began to play, Kingsbury gazed upon them. Beneath his mask, his face was twisted in a disgusted sneer. Here they all were, he thought, all those vultures who preyed, not just on his money, but on his attention, for so long. He gathered up their donations into a large chest and locked it. He slipped the key into his pocket.
No one noticed as he closed the ballroom doors. Nobody noticed as he locked them, too, just as he had already locked the side doors. If any noticed a slight whiff of smoke, they said nothing, perhaps attributing it to the preparations of the magnificent feast that awaited them after the midnight unmasking.
Nobody said anything at all about the smoke, in fact, until it became clear the ballroom was ablaze. By then, it was too late, and by then, Kingsbury was back in his library, safe on the other side of the manor, counting the contributions to his new charitable fund…
Story by John P Cleary
Dr. Heinrich Keller sat behind his desk in utter horror. Patient 13 was coming…
When Keller took over as director of the Kingsbury Home for the Criminally Insane, he prided himself of eliminating many of the old symbols of torture and restraint associated with asylums. To Dr. Keller, who had been trained in Germany by the leading experts in the evolving science of psychology, the poor souls imprisoned at the Kingsbury Home were in need of treatment, not punishment.
So he did away with the chains and shackles. He dismantled the dreadful “laboratory table,” to which the previous director, a sour Englishman named Clarke, had bound patients for his sadistic experiments. He even dismissed Clarke’s hulking lead orderly, Otto Orlock, a brutal man Keller suspected of abusing patients for his own amusement.
Yes, Keller went far in creating a new atmosphere at the Kingsbury Home. Instead of a warden, he was a healer, attempting, through careful listening to his patients, exploring the basis of their illness, experimenting with powerful new drugs, to change their behavior, help them grope ever closer to sanity. The Kingsbury Home went from a dark place where screams echoed into the night into a quiet place of rest.
And then Patient 13 arrived.
Nobody, not even himself, in his more lucid moments, knew his name. He was found in an isolated forest cabin, surrounded by – and covered in – the gore of a brutal murder. An entire family hacked and slashed to pieces. Patient 13, apparently horrified by what he had done, was huddled in a corner, a bloody axe and dripping knife in his hands.
Keller took the usual precautions with him, placing him in a secure cell, keeping dangerous objects away. It seemed completely unnecessary. Patient 13 was as peaceful and placid as a child. At first, that is.
The young man could remember none of what had happened in the cabin. He was obviously a man of good education and upbringing, but could not say where he had lived, how he had come to the cabin, or what he had done there.
Still, he seemed gentle, calm, well in control of himself, and after a few days of careful observation, Keller decided to bring him, with close supervision, out of his cell and into the common areas of the asylum.
It was a mistake. As the patients filed into the little chapel for the morning service, a change overcame Patient 13. His face became distorted, ugly, raging. He took on the pallor of a corpse, and a foul smell emanated from him. Screaming obscenities and gibberish, he launched himself at the chaplain. Before the orderlies could drag him away, the old man was beaten bloody by the savage assault.
To Keller’s horror, Patient 13’s strength had grown immeasurably. He tossed the strongest men aside like they were children. It took six men to carry him back to his cell, and even then he battered down the door with his bare hands. Reluctantly, Keller opened the locked closet where he kept the last of the restraints and had Patient 13 bound and chained to a wall. He even sent for Orlock, the only man whose strength approached that of the raving madman.
But not even the chains could hold him. With a piercing howl, the man burst his bonds and jerked the heavy iron ring right out of the stone wall. The orderlies who flung themselves at him were battered aside. Patient 13 stalked down the hallways, dispatching everyone in his path. Sparked by the rage and confusion, other patients had scattered into the night, unleashing who knew what hell on the unsuspecting countryside.
Orlock arrived, but fared no better. Fueled by some inhuman power, Patient 13 blasted the giant right through a wall. And now…
And now he was coming, dragging his chains behind him, clanking up the stairs to Keller’s office. The locked door would provide no protection, he knew. Shaking, the doctor filled a syringe with triple the usual dosage of his most powerful sedative and waited.
Waited for Patient 13…