Another neglected American horror legend from Balladeer’s Blog to help celebrate Halloween Month.
THE DARK WOODSMAN
Around two hundred years ago in the forest outside Brighton, MA stalked the Dark Woodsman. Big and brawny and garbed in the clothing of the era, he was a supernatural figure condemned by Heaven to labor eternally at the cutting down of the seemingly endless woodland of New England. Alone the damned figure would chop down a tree per night, carry it off to some hidden woodmill then whittle and craft the timber.
All implements made from the trees of the Dark Woodsman were used for evil. From his wood slave ships were made, spears and arrows for Native American tribes at war were crafted, clubs for bludgeoning victims were fashioned and devices for every other possible evil came from the vile figure’s workshop.
Another use for the trees reaped by the Dark Woodsman was known at first only to practitioners of witchcraft, then spread through the clients of witches. If one wanted to eliminate an enemy one had only to go at Midnight to the forest outside Brighton and carve that enemy’s name into one of the trees.
Along would come the Dark Woodsman and – spotting the written name – would make that particular tree the target of his axe that same night. As the tree fell the life would leave the victim whose name had been carved upon it.
One night around Midnight Tom Walker was stumbling home after being with a young lady not his wife. He saw a shadowy figure carving a name into the bark of a tree. The figure fled after completing their task and the curious Tom ventured over to the tree, held his lantern up and saw the name of Deacon Peabody written there.
Suddenly aware that he was not alone, Tom Walker whirled around and saw the hulking figure of the Dark Woodsman approaching. Tom knew the legend of how the Dark Woodsman labored unceasingly at cutting down the trees of New England and fashioning the implements of evil from them, but he had never heard tales regarding the carving of names in trees for the vile figure’s reading pleasure.
At first Tom couldn’t speak because he was so overawed at being in the presence of a figure whose very existence he had often scoffed at. The Dark Woodsman paid him no mind and set about his work at once, chopping away at the tree with Deacon Peabody’s name on it.
Presently Tom Walker found his voice and asked the Dark Woodsman if he could speak. The tall, muscular figure answered in the affirmative. Tom, beginning to realize he must not be in any danger from the axe-wielding man-monster, inquired about the practice of carving a name into a tree felled by his instrument.
Since the Dark Woodsman was damned himself he was spitefully happy to light a pathway for any others who might be sinful enough to bring their own Hell upon them. He shrugged, laughed and told Tom Walker in full detail the particulars of the ritual he had asked about.
Tom’s mind immediately filled with the idea of how he and his young lady love could make a future together if only his wife was no longer among the living. Walker thanked the Dark Woodsman who merely laughed again and resumed his task.
It took four more nights for Tom Walker to work up the nerve to venture into the forest outside Brighton at Midnight and carve his wife’s name into a tree. He lingered, staring at his handiwork as if giving himself a chance to scratch out his wife’s name before the Dark Woodsman could arrive.
The pretty face of his young lady friend appeared in his mind’s eye and drove such thoughts away. With a smile forming on his lips Walker turned away from the tree and started at the sight of the Dark Woodsman standing before him once again.
The supernatural figure grinned an evil grin and stated he had just about given up hope that Tom Walker would enact the plan he obviously had on his mind four evenings ago. Not wishing to talk any longer Tom ran off for home.
When morning arrived Tom’s wife could not be awakened. She had died overnight. Walker put up the expected facade of grief from a widower but secretly visited his young woman more often on the side, promising her they would be married as soon as a proper period of mourning had passed.
Tom Walker was old and was not foolish enough to believe his young vixen had chosen to sin with him over any sort of manly charms the grey-haired figure possessed. No, he realized it was his money alone that attracted her but he cared little.
As months passed by Tom Walker made sure to cement his preeminence in New England commerce by visiting the forest on more than a few Midnights and carving the names of business rivals upon trees for the Dark Woodsman.
Jealousy reared its head with Tom as he became more and more suspicious of smiles and exchanged greetings between his young lady and a young former soldier now resident in Brighton. After a few weeks of contemplating his own frail body and wrinkled face compared with the young, strong body and handsome face of the newcomer, Walker became convinced his lover’s heart was wavering in its choice of future husbands.
Tom Walker resolved to take no chances. That night at Midnight he was in the forest with the intention of carving the young former soldier’s name on a tree and being rid of his romantic rival by morning. Tom was shocked to see the young man himself under a tree in the moonlight, working away at the bark with a knife.
The former soldier heard Tom approaching from behind and whirled around. With a half-smile on his lips the youth ran off, saying nothing. His heart sinking, the elderly villain held up his lantern and in its light saw the name he was all but convinced he would find: Tom Walker.
In a panic, Tom caught sight of the Dark Woodsman approaching. Nothing he could do would efface his name from the tree before him. Fairly frothing at the mouth in terror Tom Walker attacked the Dark Woodsman with his knife.
Again and again he stabbed the Woodsman, who merely grinned, then laughed out loud when he saw the name carved into the tree. Tom threw himself at the Dark Woodsman in a sheer animal frenzy of self-preservation, but to no avail. The supernatural figure shrugged off the old man’s attacks with little effort and began swinging his axe.
In the morning Tom Walker’s dead body was found lying in the forest outside Brighton but nearly nobody in the town had any idea why the wealthy businessman had been out and about in the overnight hours so far from his comfortable home.
The only two figures who did know said nothing, but were married to each other soon after. +++
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6 responses to “THE DARK WOODSMAN”
This was interesting. Especially the ida of the black woodsman’s stuff being used for war and slavery and stuff.
Thank you very much! I agree!
Nice fleshing out of this old story.
Very dark. Like an episode of a horror show.
I know what you mean.