Halloween: The Legend of Old Man Jack

Carol Roach By Carol Roach, 25th Oct 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Fictional Narrative

Here is a short story I wrote for a Halloween story contest I featured in my e-zine Storytime Tapestry.

The Perlman Estate

We were just kids, what did we know? It was Halloween; we wanted to have some fun. Johnny got the idea to go to the old Pelman farm.

"No", I said, Johnny we are not allowed on his estate. Remember how he chased Bruce and Perry last year with a shotgun? Perry broke his leg and was off from school for three whole weeks."

"Bull crap, Perry tripped on his own shoelaces. The old man wasn't even on the property at the time. They just made up that story so that they wouldn't get laughed at." Johnny responded.

"It's private property!"

"You're afraid of an old man with a peg leg, aren't you? Chicken, Chicken, Lulu is a Chicken..."

"Okay, already, but you owe me the bag of candy I would have gotten tonight at Mary Donner's party."

"Oh so you're not a chicken, you're a sissy. Sissy, Sissy, Lulu is a Sissy..."

"You better quit while you're ahead Johnny, cause I swear you will be making this trip alone."

The Creepy Trees

We had planned to get there before dark. Even though Johnny pulled a macho man image I knew he wasn't as brave as all that. However, I couldn't keep up. Johnny had long legs that moved a lot faster than my short stumpy ones. His six feet of brawn and muscle, loomed over my five foot one inch rather chubby torso.

"Hurry up already, it is almost dark and we still have a mile to go."

"I can't my feet hurt."

"Why didn't you wear your sneakers anyhow, why'd ya have to wear those girlie shoes?"

"Look, Johnny now is not the time to bawl me out; I am limping already. Gimme a break!"

Johnny gave me one disgusted look and forged on ahead without even saying a word. I knew I was not going to get any sympathy from him that night.

I don't know how I did it, but I managed to keep up. I was still limping and my feet hurt. I wasn't used to walking three miles at a time. I prided myself on being the first kid at Westgate High school, to set foot in the new school bus, and I was the kid who lived the closest to the school.

Johnny never took the bus since it began its operation the year before. He preferred to walk the two and a half miles to school and back. He was the 11th grade jock and the school's star football player.

I wasn't used to walking anywhere - I wasn't chubby for nothing; I hated exercise. I was the 10th grade captain of the debate team and his overweight little sister. I idolized my big brother, and I would do anything, I mean anything for him. Despite the dismal picture I portray of him in this narrative, he would do anything for me as well.

When we finally arrived at our destination, Johnny tried to jimmy the rusty chain on the cast iron gate to the estate; however, it wouldn't budge. I don't think he expected it to be locked. Old man Pelman must have put on a new chain after the fiasco with Bruce and Perry last year.

"What are we going to do now?" I said.

"You are going to have to climb the gate," Johnny responded.

"You got to be kiddin, you know damn well I can't climb!" I was furious. "Why did you have to drag me here anyway, you know I wanted to go to Mary's party - like all of my friends!" I know Mary's crowd is too young for you, but you could have gone out with Bruce and Perry and did something with them."

I didn't expect an answer, I knew the answer already. My big brother took me out for Halloween every year since I was five years old. It was just him and me. We were just two little kids going out alone and it never changed as we grew up. We never missed a Halloween together.

"I'll go around the back and see if I can find a hole in the fence and you can slide through. Wait for me here," Johnny demanded.

It had grown dark, and I felt a chill in the air. I was afraid. Oh, I was brave as long as my big brother was beside me to protect me, but now I was alone waiting for him to come back.

God, those minutes away from him put sheer terror into my heart. I heard the big willow tree swaying in the background. I swore I heard it laughing at me and then I thought; a laughing willow tree, what is wrong with me, wake up Lulu, are you losing your mind? I wouldn't tell Johnny when he got back. He already called me a chicken and a sissy once tonight; I wasn't going to give him the opportunity to call me crazy as well.

Something just wasn't right. I could feel it in my bones; that horrible laughter was becoming hideous. I put my hands over my ears to block out the swaying of the willow tree.

Old Man Jack

Johnny came back for me at that moment. He had found a way through the back of the estate. All I had to do was climb over the part of the gate that had fallen down; most likely after the last big storm we had a month or so ago.

I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you why we were at the Pelman estate in the first place.

You see, Jack Pelman was the town miser. He had money; loads of it. Rumour had it that he was a millionaire, but his estate was in shambles. If you didn't know any better you would think that it was abandoned years ago. Yet, it wasn't always that way.

Jack Pelman was the town realtor; he and his wife ran the only office in town. We live in a small town in upstate New York, and everyone knew that Jack Pelman owned property in New York City. He had prime property in Manhattan which he rented out. Jack and his wife bought the estate on the outskirts of our town to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big apple; whenever they could get away for a retreat. They also owned a Manhattan penthouse apartment for when they worked in the city.

My parents told us that the estate was beautiful in those early years and they could understand why the Pelmans' wanted it. The house had 14 bedrooms, a big ball room, an indoor swimming pool and a private lake. The Pelman's had a lush rose garden in the front of the house and an apple orchard towards the back of the mansion. They were three miles from the outskirts of town and the town was prohibited from expanding any further.

When you have that kind of money I imagine you can get the town counselors to do anything you want. Since the town could not expand, we lost quite a few of the original families as time went on. But no one would petition to have Jack Pelman's property confined to the actual estate. He was now refusing to give access to three miles of roadside outside of its boundaries. No one challenged the great Jack Pelman.

I am saying the great Jack Pelman, but to tell you the truth, I didn't know him. I never met him. People say he was a big, menacing man and he had the grin of the devil himself. No one dared to cross Jack Pelman. If he wanted three miles of undeveloped land to hide his estate, he would have it.

Now they say that his wife, Victoria De Bonneville Pelman was a beautiful genteel southern belle. Such a gracious lady to be married to such a brute, but oh well, who am I to question love?

The year before Johnny was born the Pelmans' were involved in a car accident. The town people said it was no accident. It happened in New York City. They say that someone had tampered with the brakes on Jack's favourite car, his Delorean. In those days Pelman was said to rub noses with Delorean himself. He had the first car off the assembly line in the great old USA. Some say the car was a death trap, but to this day others say that the brakes were deliberately tampered with.

Either way, the end result was that Victoria and Jack Pelman went out riding on a Sunday afternoon and something happened of which they would not talk about. Because of their notoriety, Jack was able to keep it hush, hush, and out of the papers. What he couldn't hide was the fact that he was injured. He lost a leg. His wife suffered a small concussion but otherwise she was okay.

The Pelmans' decided that because of his injury it was time for Jack to retire. They sold their business and their home in Manhattan and planted themselves permanently on their 50-acre-estate. At least that was the official version.

Of course the townsfolk had another tale to tell. They believed that Jack Pelman got himself into some serious trouble in New York City and had crossed the wrong shall we say kingpin? Jack knew that he was meant to die in that accident that day and he got out of the city as fast as he could; never once looking back.

Now I know that all small towns have their legends and their folk demons, and Jack Pelman was ours. He was a nasty old man by the time Johnny was born. But, I truly believe he loved his Victoria. Why wouldn't he? She was much younger. I guess she may have been about 35 at the time and he had to be at least 58; sixteen years ago. She doted on him hand and foot. She used to call him her big pooh bear; well she got the bear part right; though he was more like a ferocious grizzly bear to everyone else. He used to call her his delicate flower.

Delicate she must have been because six years later, the year I went on my very first Halloween, that very day, Victoria De Bonneville Pelman died of pulmonary pneumonia and all the money in the world couldn't save her.

No one saw Jack Pelman after that. He remained on his estate. He had provisions delivered to him and he became crazier every second. It was so bad that the delivery men said they never saw him. They had explicit instructions to leave the provisions at the gates, whether they were perishables or not. They could get nowhere near the house. At that vantage point they couldn't even see the mansion, the weeds were so high in the main gardens that they blocked the view. The delivery men were instructed not to stay for collection of payment; a check always arrived the next day in the mail.

Tormenting old Man Jack

On the first anniversary of Victoria's death, Russel Packer's son claimed that while he was on his way out to a Halloween barn dance, he met up with old man Pelman. He found him on the main road. Jack was incoherent, and totally oblivious to his surroundings. But what was more astounding was that he was running around in circles in the middle of the road outside of his estate, and naked as the day he was born.

Every Halloween since then the young boys of the town have made it a sport to go up to the Pelman Estate and see what Old man Jack, now 74 years of age, was doing. Some years they were more rowdy than others, throwing rotten eggs in his windows or smearing manure on the door. I can't blame the poor old man for getting tired of their shenanigans.

Each year the stories became more wild and crazy, like the year they claimed they found him up in one of his trees covered in chicken feathers and strumming his old guitar. Last year the stories took a sinister turn when Bruce and Perry claimed he came after them with a shotgun.

Johnny never believed the story for a second. He claimed Perry just needed to save face. But this year he was determined to find out if there was any truth to the legend of Old Man Jack, and unfortunately he was determined that I was going to find out with him.

There you have it, Johnny believed that his two best friends were making the story up and they wouldn't tell him the truth because he didn't go with them that night. He went out trick-or-treating with me. They never could understand the bond that we shared. Nevertheless, since he felt he wasn't going to get the truth out of those guys, he was determined he was going to find out for himself, and of course I was going to find out with him. Only I was scared to death.

The Trees Were Dying

A year had passed and we are back to the gate and I am walking to the far end of the estate on the outside, while Johnny is following from the inside. It was a good thing that I could see through the gate in order to watch his every move. I already started to get goose bumps.

I couldn't tell Johnny, he would laugh at me when I told him I heard the willow tree laughing. He would think that I have flipped out completely. He would tease me forever after this. I had to pretend that I was brave.

I climbed over the fence, but clumsy me, I scraped my knee and it started to bleed. Great I thought, not only am I limping and in pain but I am bleeding as well. What more could possibly happen to me tonight!

Johnny actually showed compassion for me, he saw the bleeding and wrapped my wound in the white bandana that he had been wearing around his head. My brother, my protector, he might tease me, but he was always there for me when I needed him the most.

We started walking through the overgrown weeds and I was having difficulty steadying myself. Johnny took my hand and we forged ahead. To the left of us, we could see the lake, and we could see the apple orchard which was straight ahead. But to get to the mansion itself we would have to make a turn to the right of the apple orchard which would lead us deeper into the interior of the estate; at least what was left of it.

I know it was dark and all, but I really thought the orchard was bigger than that. It looked like a cluster of about seven or eight trees. But then again, the trees may have died like everything else on this creepy old estate.

Each time our feet hit the grass and weeds, we could hear the crunching sound they made on the ground. It seemed the weeds never ended. I was wondering if I was ever going to make it to the mansion.

Old Jack was home, we could see the lights were turned on in every room of the house. How Johnny was going to get to the mansion without being seen was a mystery to me, but I was too afraid to ask what kind of plan he had. I was afraid to hear the answer.

Victoria Never keeps her pooh bear waiting

Crunch, crunch, we moved on. Crunch, crunch... crunch. The rhythm was broken. We stopped then heard nothing. Crunch, crunch we moved on. Then crunch, crunch...crunch.

Johnny squeezed my hand, "did you hear that?" he whispered. I was too afraid to speak. However, I must have made some low guttural sound; we both knew we were being followed. Johnny let go of my hand and whispered, "When I give you the signal like this," making a gesture with his hand, "I want you to run towards the trees. Lulu you have to listen to me do you understand?" I nodded to show that I understood.

Johnny stopped walking and positioned himself directly in front of me, hiding me from view. He yelled out, "Is that you Old Man Jack, why are you following us? We are not going to do you any harm. We are just walking in the grass. We will leave right now if you tell us to."

This was the first time I ever heard fear in my brother's voice. He was always my big brother, and my protector. I thought that he was fearless.

Suddenly this wild old man jumped out of some weeds that were as tall as small trees. It was so dark, that we had not realized how close he was. Something was flashing in his hand. It was the blade of an axe. He was yelling and laughing.

That was the hideous laugh; the laugh I heard at the Iron Gate; the laugh I thought was the swaying of the trees! There he was, Old Man Jack. I saw him for the very first time that Halloween evening while peeking out from behind my brother's broad shoulders.

My heart was beating so fast I could feel it thumping in my chest and beating in my ears. I couldn't get that horrible laugh out of my head. Johnny must have given me the signal, but I was too paralyzed to move. That hideous laughter was holding me in some kind of trance.

Johnny broke the spell by yelling, "Run Lulu, run."

I took off more limping than running and headed towards the orchard as I was instructed to do. I wasn't going to look back, but I heard the old man mimicking Johnny and chanting, "Run, Lulu, run, run, Lulu, run."

I couldn't help myself, I had to look back. I screamed when I realized that Johnny had not budged an inch since he told me to run. Old man Jack was caught up to him now and he was still swinging that axe.

When I screamed it caught Jack's attention and he turned in my direction. It was the first time he got to see my face, which was now lit up by the reflection of his house windows.

Jack stared at me, reflecting upon the situation in front of him.. Only then did he put down his axe. He stopped his tormenting mimicry of my name. He muttered in a somewhat broken voice, "Victoria, my delicate flower, you have come home to me. Victoria, I have missed you so much." He started moving towards me, and Johnny jumped into the way.

When Jack saw Johnny he lifted the axe again and was close enough to cut my brother's head off.

Johnny wanted to save me but I had to save him. I don't know why, I don't know how, but I heard myself saying, "Pooh bear, I am home now, it is alright. Put the axe down."

Old Jack put the axe down like an obedient child.

"Come to me, my delicate flower," he begged. By now he had forgotten about Johnny again.

I knew Johnny and I were safe now. I walked with Old man Jack back to the mansion while Johnny cautiously walked behind us. I bravely walked into the mansion with Jack while I motioned to Johnny to telephone the police.

I sat with Jack, while the ambulance came. Johnny met them at the door to tell them what had just happened. I told Old man Jack that the nice men were preparing him for bed when in fact they were putting him in a straight jacket. I rode in the ambulance to calm him down by telling him we were going for a nice little ride in the country just like always. Then Johnny and I waited until he was admitted.

Oh what a night. However, I must end this tale now as Old Man Jack is expecting us at the sanatorium. Three years have passed and it is Halloween again, and it is time for our annual visit. Victoria never keeps her pooh bear waiting!

All photos taken from the public domain

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Apple Orchard, Halloween, Halloween Story, Old Mansion, Pooh Bear, Rumors, Scary Story, Tall Tales

Meet the author

author avatar Carol Roach
Retired therapist and author of two books, freelance writer, newsletter editor, and blogger. I write, health, mental health, women's issues, animal , celebrity, history, and SEO articles.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, this is an excellent Halloween story. You had me on pins and needles when Old Man Jack had the Axe. I was sure the kids were history. Thank you so much for sharing such a spooky story.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, I shared this on facebook. Now that it's Halloween week I think everyone will love it!

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author avatar Carol Roach
27th Oct 2015 (#)

thanks so much hon I think this is one of the best stories I have ever written

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, I think you may be right because this story is awesome. A friend of mine just read it on facebook and loved it. I think I will share it on twitter too!

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

I just shared it on Twitter so my friends there can read it. It's the perfect Halloween story. Now I think I shall share it on TSU!

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author avatar Carol Roach
27th Oct 2015 (#)

thank you so much you are so sweet, I don't know why I didn't get a star for this one. it is rather disappointing, It one of my favorite short stories and it won my contest lol

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

I think it's really good and I know for a fact that 4 people have already read it on TSU. It is perfect for Halloween.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, I just shared another article on Twitter from a friend and I checked your article and so far 11 people have read it. I think your story is spooky and a touch scary and you should do well at this time of year. Happy Halloween to you!

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author avatar Carol Roach
27th Oct 2015 (#)

thanks again Nancy, we I wrote it was not sure I could write anything scary, so I tried to build up a lot of suspense. I had no idea what I was going to write, I just began to type and didn't stop until it was done.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, you did a wonderful job on suspense. I really think this story was meant to be. I hope everyone enjoys it. It's now on Twitter and facebook so the people I know will read it. I think you have really outdone yourself with this story.

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author avatar Carol Roach
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Yes I was working on suspense and description as I was writing my book Angels Watching Over Me. By the way I never finished putting it up here, I guess people forgot about it by now

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author avatar Don Crawford
27th Oct 2015 (#)

Carol, this is the first time I've read you, and am delighted to know you are such a wonderful storyteller. P.S. I have a book out on CreateSpace, titled, The Sage Institute, if you're interested. You also should have a couple of articles I sent you a long time ago, but perhaps do not have any longer. Let me know and I can send you something else. As ever. Don Crawford

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
29th Oct 2015 (#)

Interesting post

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