Life Among the Savages by Shirley Jackson


  “Hi, Barry,” said Jannie.

  “Hi, Barry,” said Sally. “Is this your foot?”

  “I suppose it’ll cry a lot?” Laurie asked his father, man to man.

  His father shrugged. “Not much else it can do,” he pointed out.

  “I remember Jannie cried all the time,” Laurie went on.

  “I did not,” Jannie said. “You were the one cried all the time.”

  “Did you get it at the hospital?” Sally asked. She moved Barry’s foot up and down and he curled his toes.

  “Yes,” I said.

  “Why didn’t you take me?” Sally asked.

  “I took you the last time,” I said.

  “What did you say its name was?” Sally asked.

  “Barry,” I said.

  “Barry?”

  “Barry.”

  “Where did you get it?”

  “Well,” Laurie said. He sighed and stretched. “Better take a look at those Greek tetradrachms,” he said.

  “Right,” said his father, rising.

  “Jannie, you go find that hairbrush,” I said.

  Laurie, on his way out of the room, stopped next to me and hesitated, obviously trying to think of something congratulatory to say. “I guess it will be nice for you, though,” he said at last. “Something to keep you busy now we’re all grown up.”

  Appendix: Handbill

  Some Poltergeist Incidents in the Residence of S.E.H., Esquire

  With a Moft Interefting Difcuffion of the Probable Refults of fuch Difturbances in the Dwelling of a Gentleman.

  Mr. H. depofing, That, Having lived upon this houfe for more than feven years together, he has until recent months feen no evidence of fupernatural poffeffion, Until, within the months just paft, when his houfe has become feemingly a meeting-place, or neft, for demonic fpirits;

  That, for the fpace of more than three nights together, his family has been difturbed by the founds of a great running, or ftamping, which, going on above half an Hour at a time, has caufed the greateft Apprehenfion among them;

  That his Wife, a Female of nervous difpofition and eafily excited, almost into Frenzies by Supernatural Manifeftations, has at feveral feparate times been troubled by the Night Mares, as of a Perfonage whifpering into her Ear fecrets of Horror;

  That, having as was her cuftom the daily fpoons in her hand and fetting them one by one into the Beaufet, fhe has had at different times one fpoon or another taken forcibly from her hand and on one ocafion this fpoon was afterward hurled, or thrown, violently at her Head;

  That, fince thefe manifeftations, a cabinet door belonging to a Televifion fet, will neither ftay clofed nor fuffer itfelf to be latched, although four feparate Carpenters endeavored to perfuade it fhut with their Hammars and a Mr. Feeley, a gentleman, being newly come into the houfe, did ftrike it moft violently with his foot;

  That Mifter H.’s fon, a child of fome eight or ten years, doth fo conftruct nightly with his leffon-books a Barrier, or Wall, againft the doorway of his nurfery, in order, as he fays, to keep out the goblins, and he doth, befides this, fay that he hath feen feveral times a Wolf, or other large black animal, upon the Roof outfide his Window;

  That at night recently, this Manifeftation did take up a Knife, or Dirque, which Mifter H. doth always keep by him left footpads come upon him fuddenly and unawares, and dafh’d it fo wildly againft the wall that it like to have broke into a thoufand pieces;

  That for the fpace of fome feven nights running, there hath been in this houfe the found of drums, of laughing, of ftomping, and crafhing of objects, not to be accounted for even by the feveral children of Mifter H., and more, perhaps faith Mr. H., than could even be performed by his children without guefts or other children in company;

  Thefe things, attefted to by Mr. H. and his family, have been feen and witneffed by many other perfons who have vifited Mr. H.’s houfe to obferve them, and by the aforefaid Feeley, gentleman, and all fuch perfons agree that the houfe is poffeffed by a Poltergeift, or Evil Spirit, which has in its Intent the moft Malicious Amufement at the expenfe of thofe dwellers in the Houfe;

  That Mifter H.’s Landlord, a man of fome means, refufes either to have the houfe Exorcifed or to allow Mifter H. to Loofe his Leafe, and that therefore Mifter H.’s only Recourfe, as he fays, is to open his Houfe to Vifitors at a Penny a View, fince, as he fays, it is already become fo full of Company at beft that he may as well Charge.

  * See Appendix.

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  Shirley Jackson, Life Among the Savages

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