I've been dreading this moment, but it's about time I come clean and tell the truth about THE BOY WHO KILLED DEMONS.
Two and a half 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.
At this point I wasn’t sure what to believe. I had this journal written by Henry Dudlow, except Henry supposedly never existed, and the kid who delivered the journal to me seemed almost desperate in his claims of not having done so. Was this a hoax or something else? I knew the journal physically existed—my wife and others verified it—so I wasn’t delusional about its existence. All in all I felt uneasy about the whole thing, and I had to keep digging into it. For several weeks I came up empty, and I started questioning my own sanity. If Henry Dudlow truly never existed, yet I vividly remembered that murder story breaking and now had in my possession what was supposed to be his journal, was it possible that I wrote the journal myself without ever realizing it, and fantasized all the rest of it? I wasn’t quite sure what to think until I found Sally Freeman. When I asked her about Henry I could see for a brief moment that she was going to deny his existence like everyone else had, but then tears welled up in her eyes, and rather grim-faced and defiantly she told me that Henry was real. “His journal is real,” she insisted, “don’t believe what they’re telling you.” I hadn’t told Sally about the journal, and fortunately I recorded her conversation, which allowed my wife to verify it, so at least I proved I wasn’t insane. At least I knew that much. But I was still left with the question whether the journal was real or a hoax. Shortly after meeting with Sally, something happened to tilt this answer more toward the former. While the same people (or demons??) who cleansed any record of Henry ever existing attempted to do the same with Henry’s neighbor, Mr. Hanley, they made one mistake. They forgot about the same newspaper photo that freaked Henry out so much—the one with Hanley in the background carrying a large bulky package wrapped in white butcher’s paper—and I now have it!
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.
(Note. This shameful confession was earlier published on Tony Black's Pulp Pusher website)