A Horror Story (true)
We’re all familiar with that feeling--that creepy feeling of the mysterious unknown.
Well, this is that place. Right here.
I’m standing in John’s house in the kitchen.
It’s murky inside this old place. Outside it looked ready to crumble. Flaky lead paint from back in the day when it was okay to live with poison peeled away from rotting wood.
John told me his mom might be asleep somewhere. (Somewhere?)
Stale tobacco smoke hung everywhere on dirty curtains, in the air. It was like that in my grandmother’s house. I guess really old people just lived with it like it was nothing.
Smoke, lead paint, backed up sinks and rust in the bath water?
Yeah. Just another day in paradise.
I had asked John if I could have a drink of water and he’d told me to grab a glass and help myself.
One look at the filth in that sink turned my stomach. I pretended to wash out an impossibly greasy glass and drink. I should have made a remark. I didn’t. (That’s on me.)
Every part of the house (so far) is dim and only daylight from outside stabs through worn rips in old window shades. I can sort of see outlines of stacks of dirty dishes. The smell--just awful. I’m quickly revising my opinion of John Faris as a person of character and good breeding.
Why did he say we were here? Oh, yeah. He needed to find his coin collection and see if he could get anything for it.
An unsettling sound crawled up the back of my neck and into my ears. Background noise--a kind of rustling of (leaves?) something made of paper? I focused my attention intensely. My eyes gradually adjust to the darkness.
What the hell is this scraping or clawing on paper?
There’s movement. Dear God!
The room--that’s what’s moving!
The outline of--of everything is moving--that’s it--the room is ALIVE with cockroaches! Roaches are everywhere, the dirty sink dishes, the dining table, the floors and especially the wallpaper. The sound is roaches EATING the wallpaper!
I made some excuse and got out of the house as quickly as I could manage without running like a madman.
I waited in the fresh air and sunlight.
My heart was pounding like I’d seen a murder or a ghost.
John and I worked together as employment counselors at ABC EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, a privately owned business run by Vaard Miller and his flamboyant wife, Margaret.
Vaard and Margaret were on hard times, having once owned twenty operating offices in Ft. Worth and Dallas. Now, it was all piddling away one by one. Vaard was rail thin, a heavy boozer, wore old expensive suits with cigarette burned holes and Margaret dressed like she’d come from an audition for Norma Desmond.
Margaret was in love with my friend John--or so he claimed.
It made me flinch when he said it so matter-of-fact. I thought he joked. He was glowing with pride.
Our location was the very last remaining office owned by Vaard and Margaret. Margaret kept it open because John worked there.
The Millers pretended nothing was wrong but we all could smell it: desperation and panic. Like most awful things, it was only a matter of time.
The day I was hired, John took me under his wing and truly made a strong impression on me in his calm, clearly knowledgeable narratives about his life and non-stop success.
We became--or so I thought--friends.
We’d go out for a drink and he’d tell me how easy it was for him to pick up beautiful women and get them to do...things. He was smooth, understated, and it didn’t sound like bragging. My eyes were wide as he told story after story of conquests. Then, he spoke about his investments and rent houses along the Rio Grande. Next, he regaled me with tales of his previous career as a professional magician; how he was invited to the Magic Castle by some famous super magician, Dai Vernon, who became his mentor.
I’d never met anybody so well-traveled, fascinating, and willing to tell all.
I had asked why he chose a boring job as an employment counselor?
He paused and explained he found it was the best profession for meeting women and winked.
It was several months before I discovered John had a wife from Mexico and two kids, a boy and girl. Scotty and Little Maria. I was shocked--he’d never spoken of them before.
One day his family appeared at the office and he became uncharacteristically flustered as he rushed them outside and began fast-talking about something which appeared pretty urgent. However...
When he had returned he acted as though it was nothing at all.
After work he explained his wife was in Texas illegally and he didn’t want to talk about it.
I was puzzled. Then doubting. Finally, suspicious. I let it drop. What’s the old saying? Live and let live?
But now--today--we’re at his mother’s house in Weatherford, west of Ft. Worth, and this peculiar friend with all the success and investments has revealed that he lets him mom live in squalor--an unhealthy dump crawling with cockroaches!
After another fifteen minutes, he emerges with a plastered smile and an endless story of excuses. I listened and nodded.
It was pretty obvious to me. He’s a pathological liar!
Like that peeling paint on his mom's house, my fine opinion of John Faris peeled away before my eyes with each new lie.
This was, of course, told from the POV of when it happened.
I was 24 years old, a cult member in a religious group and John Faris is my first “worldly” friend since I got out of prison on parole. John--my mentor--is NOT at all what he had seemed. What a betrayal and disappointment! I questioned my own 'good judgment'. What was wrong with me??
I gradually withdrew from his “friendship” after that and the ABC Employment office soon closed.
Some 12 years later, I ran into John again quite by accident. I was walking into a store as he walked out. He burst into a big smile and asked how I was.
He called me Ted.
We made small talk and he instantly unfurled a tale of having worked on the Princess Cruise lines as a magician for the last few years earning $50K a month.
I asked if he meant, “a year”. No. He got lots of tips on the side.
From the lonely old ladies.
Magic John wanted to go out for a drink and catch up. I lied and made an excuse and we parted company for the last time.
I learned some things from the last conversation with John Faris. For one thing, his real name was John Day.
His wife had divorced him after she caught him cheating.
He turned her in to the authorities and she ended up in Mexico. His kids? He hadn’t seen them in years. He only spoke sadly of missing Scotty--not a word about his daughter, little Maria.
What an awful person I had known and called my friend!
That incident made me very very cautious from that point forward.
I became cynical, I guess you could say.
I believe nothing I hear and half what I see.
Can you blame me?
This is a true Horror story. It is a story of me losing my innocence about others. You'd think prison would have done that, right? Almost--but no. It was Magic John the Sociopath who destroyed my naive trust.
I wonder if he's still out there lurking, lying, haunting people's lives...a genuine Boogeyman?