Cursed dolls and cursed land

Here we are at Week 13 of the More Odds than Ends writing prompts. My prompt for the second week in a row came from Leigh Kimmel. And the prompt I submitted went to Kat Ross. My prompt: Warning that certain ground is sacred or accursed; that a house or city must not be built upon it—or must be abandoned or destroyed if built, under penalty of catastrophe. This struck me as something Jack, the free-lance curse breaker, might run across. In fact, one of his clients just might have given him this puzzle to solve.


Walking carefully across the neglected yard, Jack surveyed the clearly abandoned house. Toys lay on the front porch as if they had been dropped in the middle of play. An Adirondack rocking chair shifted slightly. The front door was closed, but the screen door swung lazily back and forth in the slight breeze. Captain whined and leaned into Jack’s leg his tail firmly pressed between his back legs. Jack glanced down at Captain’s whine and stopped, surveying the empty house.

“What is it boy? What are you getting?” Jack whispered to the big German shepherd.

Captain whined again and crouched down. Jack leaned down and keeping his eyes on the house released the leash clip. If anything happened, he figured Captain would make it back home and Monica would bring help.

He slowly straightened up and studied the house. It seemed empty, but something wasn’t quite right. There was a heavy, watchful feeling about it. He was exceedingly happy he had decided to investigate in the bright light of midday. He just had a feeling that any other time with little to no sunlight would be treacherous.

“Come on, boy,” he said to Captain and made his way back down the walkway and through the little gate at the sidewalk. The dog followed right on his heels. Stepping through the gate he carefully closed and latched it before looking up at the house again. Standing on the sidewalk he felt better, and Captain was no longer whining, but his tail was still down, and his eyes never left the little house.

Reaching a decision, Jack crossed the street. Only then did he raise his camera to his eye and focus its lens on the house. The camera had surprised him the other day with its ability to show things that the unaided human eye could not. He made sure he took several shots of the house, zooming in and with a wider angle. He put the camera back in his bag without looking at the digital images. Clipping the leash back on Captain, he turned and walked to the end of the block where he had left his car. Time to go home and do some research on the house.

Back in his office, Jack pulled the camera out of his bag and plugged it in to his computer to download the photos. Captain whined once and retreated into the main part of the house. Jack could hear Monica talking to the dog in a soothing tone and the sound of kibble pouring into the metal bowl. He turned back to the computer, took a deep breath and opened the first photo.

Staring at the picture, Jack’s jaw dropped. The yard and the front porch of the house showed at least ten shades wandering about. Not only was the house haunted, it was filled with ghosts. Monica came up behind him.

“What the hell? Where is that?” She stared at the photo on the screen.

“It’s that house on 47th; the one that’s been empty for about a year. That guy cursed in the troll doll, Geoffrey, wrote down that address for me, but he didn’t want to say anything about it. I don’t know why there are so many shades there, but I guess I’ll find out.” Jack looked up at his wife. “This is getting uglier.”

“No kidding. Please be careful.” She gave him a brief kiss on the top of his head and went back into the kitchen.

Jack pulled up his browser window and typed in the address of the house. “Holy shit,” he muttered when the search results came up. “That explains it.”

The first link on the search page was a two-year old news story on the developer who was building a house on a lot that was long thought to be cursed. According to the news story, someone had once tried to build a house on that lot over a seventy years ago. That family had been gruesomely murdered one night, but no culprit had ever been found. No one had wanted to buy the house after that, and the original house had fallen into disrepair and rumors it was haunted had followed. The story around the house grew to the point where people said it had been cursed even before the first house was build, but nobody knew why. Eventually, the city had torn down what was left of the house, and the lot had remained empty until two years ago when the developer in question had decided that weird local stories were causing a perfectly good piece of property to go to waste. He’d bought the lot from the city for a song (they didn’t want it either), ignored all the warnings from the locals and built his house. A year later, he and his family had fled in terror.

Jack raked his hands through his hair. Somehow this was connected to curses he had been breaking recently. But he was at a loss to explain it.

He shut down the computer, saving the photos to a separate thumb drive and detaching that drive from his computer. No point in risking anything. He carefully closed his office door and walked into the kitchen where Monica was making dinner.

“Crap.” He sat down and put his head in his hands. “That house was cursed, and it’s haunted. Now I just have to figure out the connection between it and the dolls. Why did Geoffrey give me that address and why wouldn’t he say anything about it?” He groaned.

Monica pulled a beer out of the refrigerator, opened it and set the bottle in front of him.

“Have a drink, we’ll eat dinner and then work on this puzzle.”

“Thanks. You’re the best,” Jack sighed.


I really have to write this whole story. There are missing bits between what is serialized here. I’ve got a series idea for this…percolating, percolating…

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Old Books

My Week 12 prompt came from Leigh Kimmel: Peculiar odour of a book of childhood induces repetition of childhood fancy. My prompt went to Fiona Grey. Once again I have been working on getting my classes up (mostly) on line. We start back up again tomorrow. I was looking over the prompt assignments and thinking about mine when this just hit me. I didn’t even have a book in mind when I started and the title of this one just jumped out at me. For your reading pleasure (I hope), I give you…

Old Books

I was going through all the books in my parents’ place. Our whole family were readers and my parents were the ones who started my brother and I down that path. But my God did my folks have a lot of books!

I paused as I walked into the guest room. One wall held three tall bookshelves filled to overflowing. There were books stacked on top of books, books stacked on top of the bookshelves, books piled on the floor next to the bookshelves. This used to be my room and many of the books were from my childhood. The books on the floor were my dad’s that he’d obviously piled there for lack of space anywhere else. I grabbed a box and walked over to the nearest bookshelf. Yep. These were all my books. This was going to take a while.

I started on the very top of the shelf so that those books balanced up there wouldn’t fall off. Those were Dad’s. I briefly glanced over the spines – history, archaeology, physics, transportation – Dad had eclectic interests.

The top shelf held books from my early childhood, Mother Goose, Beatrix Potter, and others. There was also a strange but fun thing called The Space Child’s Mother Goose which my Dad had given me when I was little. I was definitely keeping that one. I sat down on the chair with the book and opened it up. Immediately I was hit by that smell. For some reason the book had always had an odd, not bad, but odd, smell.

As I read through the verses I was transported back to my earliest memories. My Dad reading the silly verses in the book which were all based on Mother Goose rhymes but with the giddy feeling that humans were just a year away from exploring the stars. I wanted to go meet Little Miss Muffett who’s force field around the tuffett kept the spider away. I was fascinated by Bo-Peep’s lost sheep meeting in parallel space “preceding their leaders behind them.”

“Um…” a voice came from the doorway. I looked up to see my brother standing there. “We need to finish this…what are you looking at?”

I held up the book and he broke out into a big grin. “I remember that book! You’re keeping it, right?”

“Oh, hell yeah. Do you mind if I keep it?” I really wanted to have that book near me again, but it was a part of both of our childhoods.

“Sure. It was yours really. I can always hunt around to see if I can find another copy.”

I smiled. “I’ll let you read it when you come visit.” I put the book down in the box that was going back to my house.


*It’s a real book, The Space Child’s Mother Goose by Fredrick Winsor and illustrated by Marian Parry, Simon & Schuster, 1958. I absolutely love it.

Image by Mystic Art Design from Pixabay

Cursed Dolls

For the Week 11 prompt I received the following from Cedar Sanderson: You have a new camera. When you look at the photos you took that day, you see the lens captured more than you intended. My prompt went to nother Mike. It’s been a seriously busy week as the university is transitioning to online teaching and that means I have to get everything into a digital format, uploaded and ready to go. Along with making sure all the technology is working (alas no virtual Zoom backgrounds for me…guess I’ll have to clean up the office behind my desk). This is short, but adds to my cursed doll universe which is still deciding where it wants to go and what it wants to be when it grows up.


Jack sighed and looked down at the latest dog with a doll sitting outside his office door. His office was in his home but had its own entrance at the side of the house. As a freelance curse-breaker, he was grateful for the ability to work from home. Beyond the 10 second commute, it allowed his clients some privacy when they visited as they didn’t have to walk through any offices or other public areas to see him.

Lately though, a string of dogs bringing in dolls which turned out to be cursed magic-workers had him on edge. The initial pattern was the same every time. A small tapping or knocking at either the front door or the office door, a dog, and a doll with a note. The last doll was the first one to identify who had cursed her and that had shockingly ended her life. Her German Shepherd, Captain, had come to live with Jack and his wife Monica after that tragedy and Jack was now fully committed to discovering just what the hell was going on.

This time, it was a Corgi standing behind an oversized troll doll. Captain trotted up behind Jack and sniffed noses with the Corgi. Both tails wagged briefly before the Corgi looked back up at Jack and whined. Jack sighed again, gently picked up the doll and stepped back to let the Corgi into the office. An idea struck him, and he grabbed his camera off his desk. He had just purchased it a few days ago intending to expand on his gardening photography. I should take before and after photos of the dolls and dogs and see if there’s a pattern there.

He set the doll down on the floor next to the Corgi. “I’m going to take a picture so that there’s a record of your arrival. You’re the fourth one in about two weeks, and I want to see if I can figure out the pattern, OK?” He didn’t expect an answer from the doll, but the dog gave a small yip which he took as permission.

“OK, boy. Sit. Excellent. Good boy!” The Corgi lay down next to the doll and Jack got down on the floor to take his shot.

Climbing back to his feet, he checked the digital screen for the picture. His jaw dropped, and he thumbed the zoom feature to get a closer look.

“Holy crap!” He stared at the now enlarged photo. The outline of a man could be seen encased inside the troll doll. It looked almost like an x-ray. What the…??

He turned the camera over again and stared at it. It looked like an ordinary digital camera. What the hell was going on?


Image by Busink29 from Pixabay

Don’t Panic!

Are you panicked about coronavirus yet? Why not?? You should and you shouldn’t. It’s getting more difficult to decide what is overblown panic and what is realistic precautionary information. Should you <b>plan</b> on being quarantined? What if you have to? How do you plan for that? The whole situation is scary, uncertain, and seemingly constantly changing. But, I think with the most recent announcements by the president, namely the collaboration between the private sector and the feds to distribute and conduct the testing for COVID-19 will give us more realistic numbers, and give the number crunchers and those who have to respond to the numbers, far more accurate information. The key to damping down the panic is accurate information and we haven’t had much of that since before China announced that this virus. My plea to everybody is please don’t panic.

It’s a very weird dynamic, I must admit. On FB, I’ve seen a lot of my friends insisting that either we’re so complacent that we will all be dead by Easter and the world will end. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who are absolutely certain that the whole thing is a hoax, or at least so completely overblown that anybody saying it’s a bad flu should be ashamed of themselves. My take is that rational people recognize it’s somewhere in-between, but I will say I lean toward the it’s not really as bad as we’re being told it is by the media. Remember, the media, no matter how sophisticated they like to portray themselves as, are governed by the mantra “if it bleeds, it leads.” In other words, they <b>like</b> the sensational, emotion-inducing headlines. Dramatic pictures of empty store shelves, long checkout lines, etc. These all contribute to that feeling that society is thisclose to collapsing. And they’re gonna be with you every step of the way through that collapse.

My university has gone all on line for classes as of yesterday in response to some of this fear-mongering. We have a week to gear up and become functional in an on line environment. I understand why the decision was made. And, honestly, I’m looking forward to the increased flexibility in my days. But, at the same time, I think that it was something of an overreaction. It came in response to the cancellation of the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NCAA seasons. It’s as if the president and board of trustees said, “Oh, crap. If the NBA is shutting down, we should too.” I mean, between Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night, everything changed dramatically. I’m just happy I’m not in administration and dealing with the logistics of all of this. Now, I just have to record my lectures.

But seriously. It’s a bit surreal. I went out for a long walk this afternoon. There were a lot of people out. Groups of friends, couples, individuals like me. All kinds of people out, living their lives, out and about. Not isolated, not quietly staying inside and avoiding all human contact. The world keeps going, and life goes on. Compare that to the grocery store this morning. Insanely long lines, carts piled high with 10s of things, panic-buying all the things. There was no meat, no frozen anything, and of course, no TP (what the hell is up with that anyway??) But the contrast was telling. Me, I’m going with continuing on with life and not giving in to panic.

Seriously. STOP PANICKING! That is what’s causing so many of the problems. Just stop. We’re not being confined to our homes, we’re not going to lose power or water. Do your usual grocery shopping. Buy your usual amount of TP. Go for a walk. Play with your kids in the park. And, for my students, do your class work. Me, I’m going to keep putting my classes on line, and post reminders to myself to check in with them from time to time (kidding…I’ll be there on line, every day).

OK, so this was a bit of a rambling post. But, please don’t panic. We’ll be fine. Testing is increasing. Trump has done the right thing in partnering with the private sector to get tests out and available to everybody. (I know that a number of my friends will screech at that comment, but it’s true. This is the right thing to do. Try not to let your hatred for the man cloud your judgment on actions taken.)

Take care, stay healthy, wash your hands, and avoid panic.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Forensic Magic

Another week, another prompt from More Odds Than Ends. My week 10 prompt: Forensic analysis revealed… came from Fiona Grey Writes. It’s a continuation of my cursed dolls series that seems to be writing itself here on the blog.

Forensic Magic

Jack sighed and looked down at his porch. This was the third time in two weeks. Yet another dog carrying yet another doll had showed up on his doorstep. What the hell is going on? This is way more than one cranky witch.

The dog, a big German Shepherd this time, gave a small bark that turned into a whine. Jack let the dog sniff his hand before bending all the way down to pick up the doll.

“I know, buddy. I know. Come on inside and let’s see what we got.”

“Monica!” he yelled up the staircase. “I got another one! Can you feed the dog, please?”

He heard Monica running down from the second floor. “What the hell is going on? This is, what? The third one? That is not normal.”

In the kitchen, Jack made sure the dog got water while Monica dug out their remaining dog food. Their own dog had died about six months earlier and they had never gotten around to donating all the leftover food. Good thing, too. If this keeps up, we’ll need to actually buy more.

Jack looked for a note on the doll. The first two had managed to write a note with a short description of what had happened to them. Neither of them had managed to tell him who, exactly, had cursed them and shoved their spirit into a doll, and the first one, Renee Detweiler, had said that she couldn’t tell him. There had been spark of fear in her eyes and he had let the matter drop. Now, though…now, he was going to have to find her and get some information. This was too strange of a pattern to let it slide.

He found a small scrap of paper stuck in a pocket on the apron the doll was wearing. This doll looked a little bit like that famous ragdoll with the red hair. At least the apron had real pockets. He pulled the note out and unfolded the tiny piece of paper.


My name is Susan Blackwell. As you can probably tell, I’ve been cursed into this doll. I’ve been told you can help me. The woman who did it is named Camilia Sharpe. She works with another woman, Armina Grove. They’re doing this to anybody who they feel is in their way. Even if you cannot get me out of this doll and back into my own form, please alert the Witches Council. Whatever it is, can’t be good. Oh, my dog is called Captain. Please take care of him.

Jack stared at the piece of paper. Great. His name was being bandied about among one group of witches or magic users who were getting on the wrong side of at least two witches who were then turning everybody into dolls.

“Monica, honey, I think this is going to get very weird and possibly very bad before it’s all over. Make sure you strengthen the wards around the house and yard as soon as possible. Like after you feed the dog. Oh, and his name’s Captain.” He looked up at his wife. Monica turned from feed Captain and stared at Jack.

“OK. I just did that a couple weeks ago, but I’ll double check. What’s going on?”

Jack nodded toward the doll. “This one, Susan Blackwell, named names and apparently my name is being passed around as a good curse-breaker. I mean I’m flattered, but still…” he trailed off.

“That will bring us some unwanted, probably nasty attention.” Monica finished for him.

“Yeah. OK, let’s get going.”

Jack took the doll and the dog into the living room. He grabbed a piece of paper and a small pencil and set them and the doll on the coffee table.

“I’m going to leave you here and go back into the kitchen. Please write down as much as you remember about the curse used on you and then send Captain in to get me. This way, I’ll be able to more quickly and easily break the curse.” He nodded to the doll, gave Captain a scratch on the ears, and went back into the kitchen. He considered pouring himself a stiff drink, but settled for sparkling water. I can drink after I break this curse. I’ll probably need it. He sighed and sat down at the table to wait for Captain.

Not two minutes after sitting down, Jack heard a sharp sound, like a shot almost, followed by frenzied barking coming from the living room. He dashed in to find the doll broken in half and Captain barking madly at a spot just behind the doll.

“OK, OK. Calm down, boy. Captain. Shhh.” Jack tried to quiet the dog and simultaneously assess the doll. In fact, this was likely fatal. Shit.

Monica came running in from the back yard at that point. “What happened? I just finished checking and reinforcing…oh, shit.” She said when she saw the doll.

“Yeah. I’m taking the doll and Captain and going to visit Rob. He’ll be able to tell me what happened.”

“OK. Please be careful. It’s possible that whoever detonated that spell, knew she was coming here.” Monica’s tone was worried, but she gave him a quick hug and carefully picked up the two halves of the doll and put them together in a small, decorative basket. Jack headed out the door with the basket, followed by Captain.

An hour later, Rob came back into the small foyer of the ME’s lab. His face was grim.

“Jack, I’m sorry. My forensic analysis shows that there is no animating spirit in this doll. The spell was designed to trigger when she was in your house. I don’t think it was meant to hurt you or Monica, though.”

Jack stared at him. “Shit. Now, it’s murder by witches. I’ll have to get a hold of the Witches Council.”

Rob nodded slowly.

Jack looked down at Captain, sitting next to his chair, and rubbed his head. “Well, boy. I guess your new home is with us. I’m really sorry.”

Captain whined and leaned against Jack’s leg.


Thanks for reading! And, please do check out More Odds Than Ends for a good group of writers and some fun prompts.

Image by Emmanuel Lefebvre from Pixabay