By Dave Zeltserman
|The prolific Dave Zeltserman.|
Two years ago I was doing a book reading for Monster at a Newton, Massachusetts bookstore, and a kid who had sat in rapt attendance approached me afterwards. The kid had his hair dyed bright green, and his all-black Goth attire made his pale face look almost ghostly. His name turned out to be Curt Tucker. He was 14, had aspirations to be a writer, and shared my love of H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales. For four months following the reading, Curt and I traded emails where I attempted to do the mentoring thing and offer encouragement to a very young and fledgling author, and as often happens in situations like this the emails from Curt tailed off. Then 9 months later he surprised me by showing up at my door to hand me a package. He seemed scared and didn’t much want to talk, only asking me to read what was inside the package and to see if I could get it published, telling me that it was important that I do so. Before I could ask him anything else, he was on his bike, peddling away. It was all very odd. While I was curious about this encounter, I was in the middle of writing a new horror novel that I was deeply into, and so all I did was give the contents of the package a quick cursory look, saw that it was some sort of journal, and stuck it in a pile of things to read. It wasn’t until five months later that I picked it up again and gave it a thorough reading. At that time the name on the journal, Henry Dudlow, seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t place where I’d heard it before. As I read more of the journal, I remembered. About a month or so before Curt had delivered the package, a story had broken about a grisly murder outside of Boston that a 15 year-old Newton kid named Henry Dudlow was suspected of committing. The story, though, quickly died after that one day with no follow up stories, and like a lot of other people I’d forgotten about it. Here’s the strange thing about it: I could swear that this is all true—that I saw the story on at least two Boston newspaper websites—but when I tried searching these newspaper websites, there was nothing. The story has been scrubbed clean, unless I was somehow imagining it.
Here’s where the story gets odder. Any record of Henry Dudlow also appeared to be scrubbed clean. I tracked down his parents, and they insisted they never had a child named Henry or otherwise, but there was something very off in their expressions when they made their claims. After my short and bizarre meeting with them, I tracked Curt down again, and he was now insisting he never gave me anything, but he also seemed badly frightened as he did so.
|"readers will fully believe |
in both the madness and the greatness
of his tragic young hero"
I still couldn’t claim the journal was legit—even if Henry Dudlow wrote it, it could still be a hoax or delusional fantasies—but I couldn’t shake the thought that it could be real and for the sake of the world it needed to be out there. For that reason I took it to my publisher and begged them to publish it. I wanted them to attribute the novel to Henry, but since they couldn’t find any record of him ever existing, for legal reasons they’d only publish it as a fictional novel with me as the author. While I felt a bit funny about those terms, getting Henry’s journal out into the world seemed too important not to agree. I just have to pray that this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax. I think we all have to pray for that.