While murderous doctors are certainly a common archetype used in both past and contemporary horror stories, few compare to the actually events that took place in the early 1900s in a small English town called Willard. A direct descendent of the city’s founders, which was established sometime during the late 1500s, Dr. Theodore Willard was the town physician and medical expert. In fact, his surgical expertise was known far and wide, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to travel long distances in order to receive his care. However, in the summer of 1917, Dr. Willard’s hospital was burnt to the ground (the cause of the fire was never determined), and what responders found in the debris was nothing short of horrifying: strange writings, bizarre torture devices, and countless bodies (in various states of hideous disrepair). While little is known about the specifics of Dr. Willard’s misdeeds, hints of his atrocities were left in a small personal journal recovered from the site of the fire. The following are excerpts from the journal of Dr. Willard himself:
February 17, 1889
“Sadism is as old as man itself. Somewhere along the line, while our monkey ancestors were scrambling up the rungs of the evolutionary ladder, it became adaptive—no, preferable—to delight in the pain of others. So no, I feel no shame in being the recipient of such a formidable (not to mention enjoyable) psychological gift. Nor has any member of my family for that matter, not in all the years that they drew breath, or robbed others of their own. It reflects a wonderful kind of efficiency If you think about it: all that pain, all those agonizing screams—they would just go to waste without people like me, disappear into the ether like fumes into the sky. Yes, of course, I evoke the anguish, but such is the nature of all living things: for one to live, sometimes others must die (but hopefully not too fast; dying is a regrettable side effect of experiencing so much pain, I would do away with death altogether if nature permitted).”
June 12, 1897
“Something peculiar happened today, something wonderfully peculiar. I was experimenting with one of my new methods on Ms. Johansson today—a lovely woman who has delivered me hours of uninterrupted fun—and when she cried out I noticed something different about it. Yes, stimulating the sciatic nerve directly with extreme heat is bound to summon a couple of unique wails, but once I began to remove Ms. Johansson’s fingernails…well, I could swear I heard something else in those screams. A voice, a terribly wonderful voice, speaking through the shrieks somehow. Speaking to me! It was so bloody wonderful! I’m usually not one to give into fanciful delusions, no matter how delectable they may seem (in my line of work it pays to be meticulous and careful, falling prey to whimsy can quickly spell one’s undoing), but this certainly merits further investigation. Sadly, poor Ms. Johansson won’t be joining me on the exciting journey she helped begin, as I’m afraid she has given all that she can give. I’ll burn what’s left of her in the crematorium tomorrow.”
June 15, 1897
“Oh what a joyous, joyous day! I’m so excited I can barely write this, but I must! I MUST! If for no other reason than to re-visit these pages again and bask in their wonderful meaning! After days of trying, days of pain stricken screams and endlessly red floors, I have done it! But I must calm myself! I have to record these moments just right, lest the words not paint as vivid a picture the next time I read them.
It wasn’t until I found the Brinkmires, a family I found living in the back alleys of London, that I was able to summon the voice again. I promised the whole bunch of them, a family of six, a place to stay. The only catch was that they let me run a couple basic medical tests on them (it always amazes me how desperate poverty makes people). Of course, next thing they knew they were strapped tight to a series of my steel tables, each family member directly adjacent to the other so that they might see the twisting faces of those they love (pain is as much psychological as it is physical, after all). Oh, how beautiful they looked: a fleshy circuit of interconnected anguish where each one’s wails set off the next, looping over and over, hour after hour. Their shrieks were nothing less than a symphony, a carefully orchestrated aria of fear, pain, and utter desperation. And I was its conductor, desperately hoping to evoke the response of a very particular audience. And I did! Through the cacophony of so many howling lungs came a voice crafted from the purest agony, a horrific yet oddly saccharine tone steeped in a hurricane of bloodcurdling screams. My god, to hear it brought me to my knees! It was a voice made from a thousand screams, all calling my name! Oh, and what things it had to say, such wonderful things! It told me secrets of the most delicious and tantalizing kind! There is no time to waste, no time at all! I have new patients coming, and a new era of pain to let spill into this world.”
October 24, 1899
“I now sleep to songs of saws and rusty machinations—lullabies for the sadist. But ‘sadist’ is such a primitive estimation of what I am now, isn’t it? I no longer seek pain for its mere enjoyment; I seek it for its sustenance, its oh-so-sweet flavor that dances along my taste buds at the faintest sense of another’s discomfort. I haven’t eaten real food in months, and yet I am fat with the spoils of torture. My palate has become a delicate aficionado of only the finest cuisines of pain, none that traditional techniques could ever tease out. No, these flavors can only be appreciated by those who have gone beyond the threshold, to that magnificent sphere of screams, where the Pain Eaters (that’s what I call them) dwell. It is they who have blessed me; they who have whispered to me the formulas of cruelty; they who have shared with me the great and terrible miracles of their prized pain engineering—the ‘Tortuaries.’ Where once there were walls of white, now there are rusted halls, rooms and pits fitted with the most nightmarish of machines; vats of strange green acid housing scores of screaming visitors; red hot Iron Maidens teeming with bizarre hooks and teeth; gigantic drills that burrow into the secreted spaces of man’s most elusive pain centers; but the miracle of this feat of black engineering is not its capacity to kill, but its capacity to keep its victims alive! I have fed from those who should have died a hundred times over, each time their pain more succulent than the last!”
September 29, 1909
“I think I’ve found a fitting protégé. Not only do I no longer have a capacity to feel pain, but I’ve a sense of those who find its infliction as enticing as I do. He’s a rather portly young fellow, but his knack for conjuring screams is uncanny! He was a natural from the start! It took only a few months for the Pain Eaters to introduce themselves, but when they did the man didn’t hesitate one bit, not one bit! Ever since, we’ve both delighted upon the screams of the infirmed. HAHAHA! I dare say the young chap has gotten even fatter since he lost his taste for earthly foods—his gluttony applies to pain even more than it does to pies!”
March 22, 1917:
“My understudy has finally journeyed out on his own, leaving me, yet again, to my own devices. It’s a comforting feeling really, as we both seem to be the solitary type. Besides, I’ve little tolerance for those for who would attempt to pilfer my spoils, and Neeman, I’m afraid to say, was quite the glut.
I let my most recent prisoner, Gregory, escape yesterday (at least that’s what I let him think)—the pain is so much more agreeable when it’s been spiced with hope. But it was that same hope that got me thinking about my own aspirations. I dream of one day entering that screaming abyss and seeing its many wonders: the ‘Angels of Mercy’; the infamous ‘Isle of Fatted Calves’; and the ‘Great Hall of Pain,’ itself. Oh, how I would give anything to walk through the ‘Pastures of Broken Hope,’ or perhaps peruse the legendary ‘Libraries of Agony,’ with their burning books and flesh-seared pages. My goodness, how I dream of that day! I keep telling myself ‘someday, Theodore, someday.’ I hope that ‘someday’ comes soon.”