Alexander Marsters

Alexander Lavalle Marsters was born in 1835. His father, a reverend, married his mother when she was just 13. She was a timid, rather homely girl who came from a well-to-do family; they were happy to marry off their awkward daughter as it had been assumed that she would become a spinster, never marrying and remaining a burden to her family. The marriage brought Alexander's father great wealth.

The Marsters family was well-respected in their community. They resided in the large, dark parsonage at the rear of the church. Reverend Marsters was a stern, serious man; Mrs. Marsters was an extremely quiet, solemn woman. Little Alexander was raised in a very strict environment; often, the whole family would rise before the sun to kneel at the chapel's altar and recite their first of their many daily prayers. Alexander was sent to boarding school as soon as he was old enough; his father wanted him to excel academically and would become very upset if the boy did not perform above and beyond his expectations. Often, the repercussions for theses failures included hours of prayer and even a whipping with a leather strap. Alexander became an intensely taciturn, grave young man. He had no hobbies, he did not woo any of the local girls, he had no friends; all of his time was devoted to prayer and study.

When he was just 16, his mother became very ill with a fever. Doctors were brought in to treat her, but to no avail; she died of the mysterious malady within the month. Soon after, his father succumbed to the same symptoms. He lingered longer than his wife, but the illness resulted in the loss of his life as well. At 16, Alexander was a very wealthy young man. Because of his impressive schooling and extremely mature self-disposition, he seemed much older than his years. He took over the Marsters household without hesitation.

It was widely assumed that he would take over his father's post at the church when he was old enough. However, that was apparently not in his plans. He found a replacement, a young reverend from a neighboring village, and arranged for him to move into the parsonage and fill the vacancy. Then, young Alexander moved into a spartan, rambling wooden house on the outskirts of town and went about building up his family's fortune.

The young man showed an incredible aptitude for business dealings. His shrewd mind and quiet, iron resolution brought him much success in the business world, and soon, he had impressively increased his inheritance. He was incredibly wealthy. Still, he spent all of his time in the serious pursuits of business. He was stern and silent man who lived all alone, and while he was respected, he was not well-known or well-liked by anyone. In 1872, he methodically began to search for a plot of land on which to build his future family's estate. He purchased the land on and around the infamous Shroud Hill in 1873, and began construction of what would become the Marsters House.

When  he decided to marry in 1876, at 41 years of age, many were surprised; it had begun to seem as if he would remain a hermitted bachelor forever. It was assumed that he would choose a bride from amongst the village girls. Instead, he traveled to a convent in a nearby parish to make arrangements to find a bride. This was not an unusual practice in these days; often, poor and orphaned young girls would end up in convents, having no other prospects in the world. Some bachelors looking to find a future wife who was pious, proper and respectful would turn to the sisters at the convents to help them set up an engagement with an eligible girl. Since these young ladies had no other options in life beyond the sisterhood, this was often considered a good opportunity for the girls who were lucky enough to be chosen as future brides. At the convent, Alexander was introduced to the young LilyAnne La Morte. At 16, LilyAnne had resided at the convent most of her life. She was orphaned at age 2, when her parents were murdered under mysterious circumstances. The La Morte murders were the center of swirling rumors of occult activity and demon worship, and the young girl was whisked away to the convent, in a neighboring village, in hopes that she could be shielded from the air of disgrace clouding her family name. Indeed, the child was too young to remember anything that happened that night. It had been assumed that she would stay on at the convent and eventually join the sisterhood. The offer of marriage from wealthy Alexander Marsters was seen as an excellent opportunity for the girl. The engagement was set; a year later, the two were married in a simple ceremony at the convent, then headed off to their new home high atop Shroud Hill.

Trouble began almost as soon as the couple moved into their new home. LilyAnne began to sleepwalk and to have nightmares. Doctors were brought in, but the cause could not be determined. She became pregnant and in 1878, their daughter Drusilla was born. Because of her unbalanced state, the care of the child was given over to a succession of nannies which Alexander employed. Her mental condition gradually deteriorated. Soon, she was confined to the house. She refused to have anything to do with the child, so Alexander supervised the arrangements for her care with the same calculated precision as if he was handing one of his business transactions. However, he had a difficult time keeping nannies for little Drusilla; she was a quiet, well-behaved baby, yet she seemed to have an unnerving effect on most people. As she grew older, Alexander feared that her strange disposition and silent demeanor was a warning sign that she had inherited her mother's madness. He had her intelligence and mental skills tested, and they were found to be above normal. The girl was quite bright, if withdrawn. The strangeness of his child and the madness of his wife were handled with the same efficient, taciturn manner Alexander was known for. He hired staff to take care of his wife and his child, and he ruled his household with an iron resolve.

In fact, he was not very well-liked among the household workers. Although their wages were well paid, they all bristled at his subservient treatment and superior attitude toward them. He had a cold, aloof manner and he was stubbornly persistent about all of his instructions being carried out to the letter. He did not tolerate failure.

His icy demeanor spread to his family as well. Although he made sure his wife and daughter were well taken care of, he was as distant toward them as he was to the staff. Many nights, he went into the drawing room with one of his great, dusty volumes of books, and latch the door behind him. Sometimes, he would spend the entire night inside the room, poring over text by firelight. The servants whispered that he was reading books of dark magic, or some other sort of malevolent tomes.

When his wife LilyAnne died a gruesome and mysterious death in 1882, Alexander dealt with the event as he dealt with most things- efficiently and expertly. After a brief and simple ceremony, he had LilyAnne's body interred in the family burial ground out behind the house. Neither Alexander or his daughter showed any emotion at the funeral; both stood silently gazing as LilyAnne's casket was lowered into the ground.

In 1885, Alexander lost his only child, Drusilla, when she was poisoned during a tea party by the Marsters new cook. The girl was interred in the family burial ground along with her mother. After this tragedy, Alexander dismissed most of the house's staff, keeping on only a small skeleton crew who came up to the house only a few times a week. He spent all of his time in mysterious solitude, speaking to no one. He didn't even go into the village anymore- he had a deliveryman bring up any supplies that were needed on a weekly basis.

Rumors about the house up on Shroud Hill ran rampant. Those who actually saw Alexander during those years say he was beginning to lose his mind; his hair and beard grew long and unkempt, his suits became tattered and faded. He was often seem mumbling incoherently in strange foreign languages to himself, sometimes poring over huge, ancient, dusty volumes of books in the drawing room. Some pitied the man; they said that he was desperately trying to find a way to stop the evil that had pervaded his household and his family for years, an evil that he himself  had awakened when he ignored the local's warnings and disturbed the darkness that dwelled on Shroud Hill. Others feared him; claiming that he had invoked these malignant powers purposefully, by building his home right on the source of great evil, and hand-picking his bride because of her dark family history. No one knows for sure what his agendas were, and no one ever would. It was all open to suggestion and speculation.

In the beginning of 1888, Alexander hired a crew to come up on the hill and start construction on a large crypt. He had very specific designs for the crypt, which was rumored to be for himself. He wanted it to be built up right against the hillside around the back of the hill, a distance apart from the other graves. He ordered the walls to be constructed twice as thick as usual, and heavily reinforced. Some of the workers that labored on the crypt claimed that there had been an opening in the hill that appeared to lead into a large, dark chamber. They said that the crypt was built in essence to cover this hole. There were also those who claimed that a hidden passage into this chamber was built into the crypt itself, but there is no evidence that any of this was more than local legend.

On November 13th, 1888, a deliveryman went up to the Marsters House to make a large delivery and collect payment. When there was no answer to his repeated knocks on the door, he went back down to the village to summon help. A group of men from the town went back up to the house and began a search of the property. Alexander was nowhere to be found. On the third day of the search, one of the men leaned against a bookcase in the drawing room, and a large portion of the wall opened up, revealing a dark passage beyond. Inside the passage, they found the skeletal remains of Alexander Marsters, hanging by the neck. It seemed to be a suicide, even though the body was found hanging several feet off of the floor with no chair, box, stool, ladder, or anything else nearby. The house had been barred from the inside; rescuers had to break a window to gain entry to the house. And, a bizarre note was found on Alexander's desk in the drawing room, in his handwriting. It said, simply, "astra non mentiuntur, sed astrologi bene mentiuntur da astris," which is Latin, translating to, "The stars never lie, but the astrologers lie about the stars." It was signed in his name.

The most bizarre aspect of the case was the extremely decomposed condition of the body. A worker had spoken to Alexander on November 11th, just two days before the search began. And the body was found in an underground cavern, in November- the conditions inside the frigid stone walls were nearly like a refrigerator. Logically, these conditions should have preserved the remains even longer than usual. Yet, the remains were skeletal, as if the body had been there for years, not just days. The cause remained a mystery. Due to the anomaly, no time of death could properly be ascertained.

The case was finally concluded to be a suicide. The coroner pointed to the fact that Alexander had ordered the construction of his own crypt, as well as left behind a cryptic note, just before the death. There was also no evidence of anyone else being there at the time of death, in fact, the place had been locked tightly from the inside. When paired with the deaths of his wife and child, as well as all the other tragic occurrences on Shroud Hill, the official consensus was that Alexander Marsters had taken his own life sometime around November 11th-12th. His body was entombed in the crypt, per his instructions. No ceremony was held for his funeral, and it was attended by no one other than the gravediggers whose job it was to entomb the body. Afterwards, the house was sealed up and remained that way for many years; desolate, dark, and lonely up on the hilltop.

Some locals say that the tormented spirit of Alexander Marsters remains trapped inside his crypt, which he built over the entrance to the catacombs in a last desperate act to stop the evil from escaping Shroud Hill. Others have darker theories; they say that Alexander used dark magic to make himself immortal, and that he had a hidden passage to the catacombs created in the crypt so that he could continue his quest for malevolent power even after his death. However, his bones ended up trapped in the crypt, and he can still be heard trying to scratch his way out on some dark, lonely nights. It's said that he will try to trick passerby to let him out of the crypt with whispers for help from inside.

 

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