THE STRANGE ORMONDS (1833) – By Leitch Ritchie
The reader is informed right off the top that the Ormond family (no, not the same Ormonds who are beloved by all of us bad movie fans) lived in the north of England and were objects of mingled fear, suspicion, derision and horror. The story is narrated in the first person and the author pretends that he is concealing some info to protect the innocent. An unnamed doctor from an unnamed town was called in to attend the oldest living Ormond in his last days.
The doctor took his daughter with him to witness the death of one head of the Ormond family and the accession of another. The huge mansion of the Ormonds was as odd as the family itself. The building seemed to be composed mostly of additions added on during different decades – even centuries – and if not for the obvious wealth of the family would have been deemed ramshackle.
The sitting head of the family had always attended masses at the nearby church so no suspicions of witchcraft or such were harbored against the Ormonds. But there were always such strange circumstances surrounding the family – their seclusion, the odd sounds to be heard emanating from the ancestral home some nights, the reports of strange creatures dwelling in the black waters of the estate’s small lake, called the Devil’s Well .
The most peculiar thing was that every sixty years the head of the Ormond family – whether male or female – would die at age sixty. They would always seem to be in general good health until hitting their late fifties, at which time their physical decline accelerated. Many in the area wondered if this brilliant new doctor that had been called in would be able to accomplish the seemingly impossible and prolong the life of an Ormond past the age of sixty.
The regulation creepy household staff hang around waiting for the oldest Ormond to die while periodically regaling the doctor and his daughter with vague references to the family’s enigmatic past. SPOILERS: I won’t reveal all, but there are multiple deaths, and the daughter’s curiousity reveals that the mansion’s “additions” began in the far-distant past and there is a virtual prehistoric hut at the home’s very center.
At one point the consciousness or spirit or life force or whatever of the oldest Ormond retreats into the black waters of the Devil’s Well. The overall gist of the various revelations at the end of the story seems to be that the Ormonds are the oldest humanoids on the planet and – in an eerily prescient bit – first emerged from the black waters of their estate’s lake countless millenia ago.
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