The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder

My Dear Young Doctor,

I’m writing to you in response to the recent missive that you sent regarding the pursuit of your medical internship under my tutelage. I am gratified to know that you have found my researches in the field of cryptopathology so interesting. In truth, the study of the rarest and most unusual of diseases is a field of medicine that has few rivals in providing one with a highly gratifying and engrossing range of subjects. That being said, I must also warn you, that I have found this field to one of the most dangerous of all fields of medicine.

When I say dangerous, I not only mean in terms of coming into contact with infectious and incurable ailments. The types of dangers that can be encountered in this field are of a type that no other field of medicine tends to encounter. As an example of what I mean by this claim, please allow me to recount for you a rather horrific bit of field research I embarked upon several years ago.

You may find the story that I am going to relate somewhat beyond credibility. You may even question my sanity. However, I must insist that these events took place as I am going to describe them. If you truly wish to study under me, then you must be prepared to accept the things I tell you, no matter how bizarre they may be. Due to the dangers inherent in this field, any doubts you may at some point come to harbor regarding my veracity could result in mistakes that could cost the life of your patient, or even yourself.

The dreadful research excursion was in regards to a malady known as “The Jumping Frenchman of Maine” disease. I’m sure that you would agree with me in thinking that the name of this disease is one of the oddest in the medical books. However, I can attest to the fact that this is, indeed, a real disorder. If you doubt it, please feel free to avail yourself of the resources of your nearest medical library. You may have to dig a little, but you will find that this truly is a condition recognized by medical science.

This peculiar condition is generally thought to be related to Tourettes syndrome. Its victims tend to react violently to any type of surprise. Generally, they will show signs of exaggerated fear. They will typically scream, flail their arms, and, of course, jump when anyone approaches them closely without the victim’s knowledge. Of course, unafflicted individuals when startled often display this type of reaction. The difference is the degree of reaction shown by the sufferers of this condition. The startlement reaction is grossly magnified.

As the disease is common in a region of northwestern Maine that is extremely remote and isolated, it is commonly thought to be the result of inbreeding, although no studies have actually been conducted to verify this hypothesis. In fact, this is one of the questions regarding this disease that I set out to investigate myself.

As I traveled into the region, I found, to my surprise, that it is so remote that there are no public roads. All of the roads in the region are private roads that are owned by the logging company that controls that vast region. I was forced to pay a toll to travel to the town where I wished to conduct my researches. Actually, it was almost more of an overgrown logging camp than a real town. All of the people there were loggers that were working under contract for the landowner and the logging company effectively controlled all the commerce in the town.

Nevertheless, I was able to find a small building for rent that I could use as a base of operations. The town had extremely limited access to medical services, so while I was there I also attended to several people for a variety of maladies of a common sort. My interaction with the populace was somewhat hampered by a language gap. The mother tongue of that region appeared to be French. The inhabitants generally also spoke some English, but it was halting at best. My own command of the French language is somewhat limited, but by and large I managed to communicate well enough to be able to treat my patients.

Unfortunately, when it came to my research work, it seemed that the communication gap was somewhat of a chasm. I almost got the impression that the men I spoke with were trying to use language that they thought I would have difficulty understanding. It was almost as if they were trying to confuse me because they did not want to answer questions regarding the condition.

I was able to witness firsthand the symptoms of the condition while I was there. The men did indeed react with an extreme over exaggeration of fright whenever they were surprised. It somewhat reminded me of “shell shock”. However, when I enquired if any of the men had fought in the Great War I found that none of them had. It appeared that any young men that left the area to go into the armed forces tended not to return to the region when they got out. Apparently, the young men tended to feel that the service had offered them a chance to get out of the area once and for all. They tended to settle in other areas after the war.

I was also able to trace the genealogy of a group of the victims of the disorder. To my surprise, it did not seem to travel along any discernable branches of local family trees. In fact, the data I collected tended to indicate that the disease’s prevalence tended more to be affected by the areas of the woods the men had harvested. Thus, I came to the conclusion that there must be an environmental factor at work.

Perhaps the afflicted had come into contact with some sort of fungus or plant that contained a neurotoxin. Or perhaps the disease was delivered by some manner of insectile vector. I realized that I was going to have to accompany the men out into the logging areas and test the local flora and fauna.

To my surprise, the loggers were extremely hostile to the idea of my accompanying them out into the wilderness. They seemed to believe that my presence would somehow increase their danger as they worked out there. I was finally forced to pay a group of them a sizable sum to act as guides for me.

So, early one spring morning we set off on a logging expedition. We traveled fairly deeply into the woods. As we went I noticed that the men kept their shotguns and axes handy and watched the surrounding countryside carefully. I asked if there was much danger from mountain lions or bears, but the men answered that they were more worried about some black goat. I had never heard of people being attacked by wild goats, so I assumed that I must have mistranslated their meaning. Still, I found myself being a bit warier than usually.

Eventually, we reached the site where the work was to be done. For several days the men harvested lumber while I took samples of plants, fungus, and insects. During this whole period, the men continued to be extremely wary. Often times I heard them firing at what appeared to be large creatures in the distance.

Then, one morning, from off in the distance where a group was working, came a chorus of terrible screaming. I assumed that there must have been an accident and quickly ran towards the area to offer what medical assistance I could.

I was shocked when several of the men grabbed me and started to propel me in the opposite direction. With cries of “Allez! Allez!” and “Vite!” the majority of the group was running away from the area. Some of them were firing wildly back over their shoulders.

I was beginning to think that it was a case of mass hysteria until we got back to the trucks. The men hurriedly got the trucks maneuvered back towards the town and began hurtling down the crude forest roads at break neck speed. I ended up in the back of one of the trucks and thus was able to finally get a good look at that which seemed to have frightened the men so much.

As wildly improbable as it may sound, I would swear that what I saw seemed to be some relative of an octopus or squid, high up in the treetops! It was a truly hideous creature. It seemed to have innumerable tentacles, many more than eight. And, from my vantage point, I thought that I discerned that most of the tentacles appeared to end in huge, wicked-looking talons. As it leapt and swung through the treetops it was giving mouth to wild, ululating howls which seemed to cause my back muscles to nearly spasm in fear whenever they reached my ears. I cannot be sure, but I thought that the creature seemed to have a large quantity of eyes and fanged mouths distributed randomly about its central section.

Thanks to the high speed driving and a flurry of gunfire the men sent in the thing’s direction, the creature apparently eventually decided not to engage in further pursuit.

As we continued to flee back towards camp, I happened to spot yet another creature unlike anything I had ever before encountered. In the woods, not to far from the road, we passed what appeared to be a creature with four incredibly long legs. The creature would have easily been as tall as an elephant at its full height, but its bizarre posture resulted in its body being much closer to the ground. Its body seemed to sort of hang downward from the tops of its legs in a truly weird fashion. I cannot be sure, but it appeared that this dangling torso portion of the creature had arms on it. This would be very strange because this would have meant that the creature had six limbs, rather than the normal four that most mammals have. As near as I could tell, the creature appeared to be mammalian, as it was covered in a patchy fur coat.

When we had once again reached the town, I attempted to question my companions regarding the things we had seen. Strangely enough, they seemed to be trying to tell me that the two creatures were related, despite the fact that they looked nothing alike. They even insisted the creatures had the same mother!

I began to believe that having to work in a wilderness inhabited by such fearsome and obviously deadly creatures was affecting the mens’ sanity. I began to believe that the malady I had come to investigate might actually be a manifestation of the extreme stress.

Being a man of science, I very much desired to learn more about these heretofore unknown species. The loggers insisted that these things were not really species at all. The told me they were unique creatures that were birthed by some horrible thing deep in the woods.

Being familiar with the concept of mutation, I did not entirely dismiss what the men were telling me. I wondered if there was some sort of extremely potent mutagenic substance out there that was causing these apparent freaks of nature to haunt these lands.

The next day, I was surprised to see several carloads of other outsiders arrive. They were a strange assortment of people. Some appeared to be city dwellers and some appeared to be hill people, with a bit of other sorts thrown in for variety. One thing they all had in common however, was a strange degenerate and evil look to them.

When I asked the loggers about the newcomers, the loggers told me that they were the spring and fall “campers”. Apparently, this same type of folk tended to come to the area both around Mays Eve and Halloween.

When I heard that they were campers I told the loggers that we must warn them about the dangerous creatures that were in the area. The loggers seemed to think that the idea of trying to warn these people was rather humorous. They told me that the people were well aware of the dangers and that I would be wise to keep far away from them. They told me that these “campers” might try to harm me if they realized that I was an outsider who was doing research in the area.

I was torn between following the advice of the loggers or pursuing what seemed like the more civil course of action. I was especially concerned due to the fact that some of the “campers” had very young children or babies with them. I must also note that, these young children did not seem to be well cared for by the newcomers. They were treated almost more as if they were prisoners than offspring.

Unfortunately, my conscience got the better of me. When, at one point, I found myself near one of the less degenerate appearing groups, I remarked that I had heard that they were planning on camping in the woods. I told them that I had recently been out in the countryside and had encountered some odd creatures that seemed to be extremely dangerous. I warned them that they should reconsider bringing small children into the forest.

They seemed quite concerned over what I told them. They even said that they would take my warning into consideration and may move onto a different area for their vacationing. They were also extremely interested in the fact that I was a medical researcher and that I was conducting studies in the area. Their response was heartening and I felt relieved that the loggers’ advice appeared to be on the paranoid side.

That evening, after dinner, someone knocked on the door to my cabin. When I answered, I found that the visitors were a rather subhuman appearing group of country folk. They told me that their child had taken ill and asked if I could help them. The child that they bore was unconscious and appeared to be gripped by some sort of fever. I allowed them inside and began to examine the child.

One thing that I found odd, right from the onset of the examination, was that the child did not seem to bear any of the degenerative features by which his supposed family was marked. In fact, the child bore little resemblance of any sort to any of the group. As I continued my examination, I began to find symptoms that the child had somehow gotten a dose of some sort of poisonous substance. The dose did not appear to be lethal, merely temporarily debilitating. I was just starting to ask the family how the child could have accidentally come by such a substance when I felt a sharp blow to the back of my head.

I awoke sometime later, bound, gagged, and blindfolded. It seemed that I was locked in the trunk of a vehicle that was making its way down a very rough road, undoubtedly one of the logging trails that led out into the wilderness.

We traveled some distance and I had a great deal of difficulty preventing myself from vomiting during the ordeal. The blow to the back of my skull had left me with an awful nausea and the movement of the car increased the discomfort. I knew I had to fight the urge to vomit due to the fact that I would surely choke to death due to the gag in my mouth. Luckily, it is very cold at that time of year in northwest Maine. The cold helped keep down the nausea somewhat. If we had been in a more temperate climate I would surely have died.

Eventually, the car seemed to have reached a point where it was no longer possible to drive in the direction in which its owners wished to travel. The “campers” unloaded all their gear from the car, including me. They then set out hiking into the forest. I remained mostly bound, with my legs tied loosely enough together to allow me to walk, but not to run.

I was unable to see due to the blindfold, but one of the people guided me by means of a short bit of rope tied around my neck. Unfortunately, the fellow seemed to be rather sadistic and thought that guiding me into large branches or sharp thorns was extremely entertaining.

The group spoke English, but refused to answer any question I asked, instead replying by striking me with large sticks if I dared to say anything. In their conversations, it appeared that I was being referred to as a “sacrifice”. This, of course, did nothing to improve my spirits.

As we traveled, my blindfold slipped a bit, allowing me a limited view of my surroundings. Thus, I was able to see how the group dealt with several encounters we had with a variety of strange, apparently mutated creatures. It seemed that the “campers” all carried disk-like stones that had some sort of symbol engraved on them. When one of the creatures came towards the group, the “campers” would brandish the stones at the beast. Along with this action they would give forth a strange sort of howling chant that went something like, “IA! IA! Shub-niggurath!! IA! IA! Cthulhu!! Fhtagn! Fhtagn!”. Oddly enough, most of the creatures would shy away at that point. There were a couple that needed the added encouragement of a shotgun blast or two. There was even one of extreme size at which the group lobbed a stick of dynamite. At any rate, they seemed to know how to deal with the monsters.

Eventually, we reached a gap in some mountains that seemed to have blocked by a recent landslide. The group discussed the problem a bit and decided to use some of the dynamite to blast the impediment out of their way. This turned out to be a bit of good luck for me. When the blast occurred, we where hit by some falling stones. No one was injured, but I found that an especially sharp fragment of a stone had fallen right next to my bound hands. I was able to grasp the stone and hide it up my sleeve without any of the degenerate hill-folk noticing.

As we continued our trek, I was able to occasionally work at the rope securing my wrists with the sharp edge of the rock. Gradually sawing it apart.

I had not quite managed to cut the rope all the way through when we came upon a very strange cave mouth. It appeared that the mouth of the cave had been carved by rather skilled artists. It was surrounded by ornate stonework of an odd and rather disgusting type. It seemed to twist and turn in impossible ways. It also had a wide variety of glyphs and sigils carved into it. I found myself experiencing peculiar feelings of weakness, fear, or nausea whenever my gaze touched one of these symbols. One thing that struck me as especially odd was the apparent age of the stonework. I would have sworn it was thousands of years old. However, at that point in history, there wouldn’t have been anyone living in this area that did that type of stonework. I can’t imagine who did the carving.

At this point, the group abandoned most of their hiking gear near the cave mouth. They built a campfire, into which they tossed some strange powders and crushed plants. As nasty, fetid fumes began to rise from the fire, they began to chant. They then took a surprising assortment of what appeared to be ceremonial robes and tools out of their packs and began to outfit themselves with the items. I happened to note that one of the bags that they had tossed aside was one that contained a supply of TNT that they had made use of earlier.

Once the “campers” had properly adorned themselves, we started off down into the cavern. As they dragged me along, I was surprised to find that the cavern’s floor had been carved into a long flight of stairs that appeared to lead deep into the earth. There was a horrible stench that was coming up the staircase, but the group didn’t seem to be affected by it. We began to descend into the gloom.

I’m not sure how far down we went. I didn’t bother to count the stairs due to the fact I was more concerned with concentrating on cutting through the last of the rope binding my arms.

Just as I felt the last strands of rope give way around my wrists, we seemed to reach the bottom of the stairs. In the light of the torches the group carried, I was able to make out a bizarre and horrific scene. We were in a huge cavern, the far side being completely hidden in the stygian darkness. Immediately before us sat some sort of large altar that was carved with all sorts of sigils and stained with what appeared to be dried blood.

Beyond the altar, the floor of the cavern dropped a little. Thereafter, as far as I could see, the entire floor was covered by some sort of pulsating, black, fleshly substance. I couldn’t make out its exact details too well, due to the poor lighting and the blindfold. However, it appeared that the substance seemed to have random mouth-like and eye-like features randomly distributed across its slimy surface. It was obviously the source of the hideous stench.

To my horror, I thought I saw an aperture open in the surface and something squeeze and wriggle out of it. I couldn’t see exactly what the thing that emerged looked like, but it appeared to be covered in some sort of fleshy sack like thing that it broke out of and then devoured. It then disappeared off into the gloom of the cavern, slithering quickly through the slime of the surface that covered the floor.

The “campers” had started performing some sort of ritual. They seemed to be chanting something about a “dark goat of the woods” and imploring something called “the black mother with a thousand young” to lend them some power for their “rites”. While they were occupied this way, I quickly managed to saw through the rope around my legs. I then slipped away as quietly as I could back up the stairs.

Suddenly, one of the ritualists seemed to notice the absence of their “sacrifice”. They began screaming out some sort of unholy incantation and the black slimy substance seemed to somehow respond to them. Suddenly, it many apertures started to open in the surface and all manner of hideous monstrosities began to be squeezed forth from them. These things then began to slither, or hop, or waddle towards me up the stairs, waving all manner of tentacles and limbs and pseudopods as they came. In utter horror I began to race up the stairs.

My flight up that incredibly long staircase is one long blur of horror and darkness to me now, but somehow I managed to emerge from the cave mouth ahead of the horrible, squealing, gibbering mass of insanity that pursued me. When I reached the top, I quickly grabbed the pack that I knew contained the explosives, took out the top stick of dynamite, lit its fused in the embers of their campfire, stuck it back in the bag, and threw it down the stairs.

Seconds later there was a thunderous explosion and a huge cloud of dust came bursting out of the cave mouth. The bag of high explosives must have caused a large section of the stairway to collapse. Although I was probably safe from my pursuers at this point, I still was so panicked that I fled headlong into the wilderness.

I must have wandered for several days in the forested mountains of the area. Finally, by following a flowing body of water, I happened upon a human settlement. I was extremely fortunate that I somehow managed to avoid coming into contact with any of the dangerous, infernal beasts that were in that area. Still, I was a mass of bruised and torn flesh by the time I collapsed just inside the edge of that town.

The locals nursed me back to health and took be back to the town where my vehicle and equipment was located. I quickly packed up my belongings and prepared to quit that area permanently.

Before I left, one of the loggers I had talked to extensively earlier warned me that the things I had seen were extremely dangerous. He claimed that there were people in the world that would make sure I died a quick and painful death if I started trying to publish anything I had seen. He swore that he had seen it happen to others.

By and large, I took the loggers advice. I have not attempted to publish any of my findings. I have also greatly limited the number of people to which I have related the story. This is not only due to the logger’s warning, but also due to the fact that the tale is so fantastic that most people would think I was going mad when I related it to them.

However, since you wish to enter a close working relationship with me, I thought it would be prudent to let you know what you are getting yourself into. Moreover, I fervently hope that the explosives managed to permanently seal all the members of that hideous cult permanently in that hellish cave. I have, so far, not had any encounters with anyone that appeared to be connected with them, so I have some reason to believe that is the case. Please let me know if my story has changed your mind regarding the internship, Dr. Marsh. I look forward to your correspondence.

Sincerely, Dr. Otto Gelman


One Response to “The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine Disorder”

  1. Mat Wrote:

    i think you’ve gon mad,… aliens in a cave…followers?
    then y wasnt it on the news huh? i belive, however, to the jumping frenchmen disorder, but wat does that have to do with the aliens in a cave????

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