The Strange Grave of Mikey Dunbar

By Jeremy John

The Strange Grave of Mikey Dunbar
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A creepy collection of spooky short stories perfect for reading out loud any time you want the fun of a good fright.

Boo! See, scared you already. This collection of short, spooky stories is perfect for reading out loud on Halloween night, at a sleepover, or around the campfire. ... Read more


Overview

A creepy collection of spooky short stories perfect for reading out loud any time you want the fun of a good fright.

Boo! See, scared you already. This collection of short, spooky stories is perfect for reading out loud on Halloween night, at a sleepover, or around the campfire. Jeremy John takes you on a frightening trip to the past, where Wild West criminals meet the hangman and brave knights battle monsters in the forest, through to today, where young vampires find victims through dating apps and spirits possess smart speakers.

Turn out the lights, grab a flashlight, hide under the blankets, and enjoy the fun frights of ghosts who feed on trick-or-treating kids, a pumpkin patch that hides a terrible secret, and who — or what — is buried in the grave of Mikey Dunbar.

Jeremy John

Jeremy John is currently ranked as the sixty-second most famous person from Brantford, Ontario. (Look it up. There are a lot.) He is the author of Robert’s Hill (or The Time I Pooped My Snowsuit) and Other Christmas Stories. Jeremy lives with his wife, kids, and a dog he pretends not to like in Sudbury, Ontario.

Excerpt

The Hangman
Hangman’s Hill was just outside of town. A large grass-covered hill where a lone tree stood in the centre.
That is the only marker that signifies it as Hangman’s Hill. There is no sign, but everyone in the nearby town knows the name. Hangman’s Hill is where you were buried after you were hanged. Since only the worst criminals were sentenced to be hanged, they could not be buried in the church cemetery. Instead, they went to Hangman’s Hill. There you would find no crosses or gravestones, just unmarked graves. No person ever visited the hill except for the hangman. At least, no living person.
He was the opposite of what most people expected in a hangman. He was educated, having formal training in math, physics, anatomy, and biology. He may have been the most educated man in town. He was distinguished. He wore store-bought clothes and shining, buckled shoes. He never drank, smoked, or chewed tobacco and always attended church on Sunday. Plus, he was rich.
As the town’s hangman, he was on the government’s payroll. The hangman received a handsome packet of cash each week from the mayor. So he never had to worry about whether his crops would sell or fear losing his farm if there was a drought.
Also, his unique role meant he paid no taxes and was given a large plot of land when he moved to town. The reasoning being that no one would want to sell land to a hangman and the tax collector would refuse to visit a man who killed people for a living. Plus, since the role of executioner didn’t require constant work, he was able to keep several jobs on the side. He worked a small farm that included a few crops, a dozen or so head of cattle, and he even employed a few farmhands to care for his land. Plus, with his education, he often worked as a backup to the town doctor. Many people were uncomfortable with the idea of being treated by the hangman and would avoid going to see him. But others went to him specifically because he was the hangman. Since the hangman lived a quiet life and his house was well outside of town, it made him the perfect doctor when townspeople were afflicted with something embarrassing. If a cowpoke or ranch hand went to the saloon and woke up the next morning with a hangover, a broken nose, or something else that they didn’t want people gossiping about, they would choose to see the hangman over the doctor. There was less chance of the news of the medical predicament getting back to their boss or preacher, or worse, their wife. Despite his wealth, education, and good graces, the hangman was shunned by most people in town.
He sat alone each Sunday in church. He ate alone at restaurants. No one ever asked him to attend the dances. Whenever he went into town to do his shopping, he’d quickly find he had the store to himself. He’d walk into the tailor’s or the general store and all conversation would stop. Mothers would shoo their children out the door with whispered orders not to stare. Men would make excuses to the shopkeeper about needing to come back later. Inevitably, within seconds of entering the store, the hangman would find he suddenly had the shopkeeper’s undivided attention. The hangman would notice the children’s stares and the hasty departures with little concern. If anything, it made shopping easier. If he walked into the apothecary to find a line up, it would quickly shrink as each of the people in line in front of him decided they needed to be somewhere else, anywhere else, at that exact moment. That part never bothered him. It was the end of the transactions that made him feel alone. As was the custom, the shopkeepers in town should be sure to shake your hand and ask you to come back before you left the store. But everyone was reluctant to shake the hangman’s hand. And it wasn’t just shopkeepers. The sheriff, the judge, the mayor, people who knew him very well, even the workers on his own ranch refused to shake his hand. There was the belief that the hangman could measure you for a noose just by shaking your hand. People thought that each time the hangman shook your hand he was judging your height and weight, then remembering that info, in case he ever had to take you out to Hangman’s Hill.
In order to do his job properly, the hangman needed to know your exact weight and height. This is why his education was so important to his job. Knowing your height and weight meant that the hangman could then properly perform your execution. All his calculations needed to be exact. If he was to write it out on a chalkboard, it would be the force of the drop minus the mass times the acceleration of gravity on a stationary object. But in practice, all that mattered was that if he did everything right, justice would be served. The proper length of rope, the proper drop speed, with the perfect knot meant that the criminal would fall to the end of the rope and die instantly.
With the correct length of rope, the condemned person would fall to the end of the rope and stop perfectly in place. If the rope length was calculated correctly, the body would be immobilized, hanging perfectly still at the end of the line. No swinging or spinning — in the executioner’s world it was called a “hangman’s drop. ”
If the drop speed was correct, the criminal’s neck would break and their life would end in an instant. If the body reached the exact right speed at the exact moment that rope ended, there would be a single small but distinct cracking sound from the base of the convict’s neck, just above the shoulders.
If the knot was tied correctly, it would tighten in an instant. Staying where it was set, between the sixth and seventh bones in the criminal’s neck. If the knot was perfect, it would crush those two neck bones like eggshells.
Doing everything right meant the punishment was quick and painless. If the hangman did his job correctly, then justice would be served. Doing any of these things incorrectly meant torture and cruelty.
If the knot was tied or positioned incorrectly, the noose could slip up to the throat and tighten too late. That would mean that the criminal was not killed quickly. Instead, they may be left to suffocate at the end of the rope. A cruelty that could leave them twitching and gasping for twenty minutes or more.
If the drop speed was wrong for the height and weight of the criminal, they could swing at the end of the rope. Instead of dropping and falling inert at the end of the rope, the body would whip around the gallows, banging into the supports and swinging toward the gathered witnesses. While the effect was still lethal, it was not desired. The hangman wanted the witnesses to leave knowing that justice was done. It was to be solemn and dignified, to have the convicted flopping at the end of the noose was not what he wanted.
If the rope was too long, the convict would fall too far, and the end would be violent and gruesome. If the convicted person fell for just a fraction of a second too long, the hangman risked decapitating the convict. Like the whip of a buggy driver, the snap at the end of the rope could build up enough momentum to pull the criminal’s head off. To the horror of those gathered to witness the hanging. Granted, all hangings had the same result: strangulation or decapitation, the convicted criminal died either way. However, the goal was civilized justice, not a barbaric spectacle. The townsfolk, sheriff, deputies, the judge, and lawyers would be at the hanging to witness the event.
Granted, all hangings had the same result: strangulation or decapitation, the convicted criminal died either
way. However, the goal was civilized justice, not a barbaric spectacle. The townsfolk, sheriff, deputies, the judge, and lawyers would be at the hanging to witness the event. But often there would also be family members of the condemned person there as well. The hangman always believed that those people had suffered as well, not only did they have a criminal in the family, but they also had to endure a public trial. Those folks deserved a solemn administration of justice.
A botched execution could also cause very serious issues for the town. If the state courts heard that a convict was strangled on the gallows, or worse, decapitated, the hangman would be removed. Since there were few people in that line of work, if a town lost its hangman, they were most likely gone forever. No one wanted that. The hangman was a deterrent. His presence kept crimes, serious crimes, to a minimum. For things like fighting or petty theft or being drunk in public, the local sheriff had his ways to deal with those types of criminals. Those people would learn their lesson with a broken nose, a small fine, or a night in the county jail. But when there was a serious crime, the courthouse was opened to the public and the hangman built a gallows where everyone could see it.
The hangman only worked a few times a year, but when he did his work needed to be public and legal. The letter of the law had to be followed in every detail from arrest to trial to execution or absolution. The hangman’s work also needed to be public in order to prevent the next crime. The community needed to witness that justice had been done and understand that if they broke the law, the same fate would wait for them.
That is exactly what happened when Martin Breslow was arrested for murder.

Reviews

This guy scares me.

I can't wait to share these stories with my kids. Jeremy John has the perfect stories for a frightening good time. A fun spooky read, like Goosebumps meets the Treehouse of Horror.

Jeremy John is a master of putting himself into the mindset of a kid and capturing the magic and mystery of a good scary tale. This collection of short stories is easy to read and best read in the dark with a flashlight.

A fun read for all ages. And a little off the hinge in all the right places.

Dark and whimsical with plenty of wickedly unexpected twists that will most certainly stop your heart and delight even the more experienced fans of horror literature.

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