Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren’t is a new series that explores modern urban legends, bringing you a new tale each week.
What is it about creature features that fire the imagination? Keep your fancy technology, your haunting soundtrack, your stunning special effects; what we come back to time and time again is the idea of the monster hiding under the bed, or lurking in the closet, waiting until we are at our most vulnerable to strike. The unseen is more effective than the seen for the simple reason that the unknown is scary. Then, when you finally DO get a first glimpse at the creature you thought couldn’t exist, it’s all the more chilling. This week, let’s visit a creature I like to call:
Very little is known about the entity known as the Rake. Contemporary interest in this strange being dates to 2003, when the following was reported:
“During the summer of 2003, events in the northeastern United States involving a strange, humanlike creature sparked brief local media interest before an apparent blackout was enacted. Little or no information was left intact, as most online and written accounts of the creature were mysteriously destroyed.
Primarily focused in rural New York state, self proclaimed witnesses told stories of their enounters with a creature of unkown origin. Emotions ranged from extremely traumatic levels of fright and discomfort, to an almost childlike sense of playfulness and curiosity. While their published versions are no longer on record, the memories remained powerful. Several of the involved parties began looking for answers that year.”
The first documented instance of him– if such a word can be used in reference to him– that survived this unexplained informational purge goes back to 1691, in which an English mariner’s log states the following: “He came to me in my sleep. From the foot of my bed I felt a sensation. He took everything. We must return to England. We shall not return here again at the request of the Rake.” We don’t know where the mariner had been, but clearly the Rake had been there when his ship arrived; no doubt the Rake will be there still. In 1880, he appeared again in the journal of a Spaniard. Translated into English, the entry reads: “I have experience the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I have experienced the greatest terror. I see his eyes when I close mine. They are hollow. Black. They saw me and pierced me. His wet hand. I will not sleep. His voice (unintelligible text).” Then, in a suicide note written in 1964: “As I prepare to take my life, I feel it necessary to assuage any guilt or pain I have introduced through this act. It is not the fault of anyone other than him. For once I awoke and felt his presence. And once I awoke and saw his form. Once again I awoke and heard his voice, and looked into his eyes. I cannot sleep without fear of what I might next awake to experience. I cannot ever wake. Goodbye.” Found in the same box as the suicide note were two empty envelopes addressed to a William and a Rose, and one loose letter without an envelope. The letter reads: “Dearest Linnie, I have prayed for you. He spoke your name.” It is unknown what happened to William, Rose, or Linnie– especially Linnie, whom the writer implied would be the Rake’s next victim. [tagbox tag="Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren't"]
What is the Rake? No one really knows. He appears to look like some kind of man/dog hybrid, having been described in one account as “a naked man or a large hairless dog.” Furthermore, he has been noted for his unnatural body position, which appears twisted and distorted, “as if it had been hit by a car or something.” An artist’s rendering depicts him as follows:
Then there is the matter of his name. Beyond its common use as a word for a gardening implement, a rake is defined as “an immoral or dissolute person; a libertine.” In this sense, the word is probably best known in relation to 18th century English printmaker and cartoonist William Hogarth’s eight-painting series A Rake’s Progress, which illustrates the transformation of a moral, upstanding young man into depravity, with the series’ young subject ending up insane and incarcerated in Bedlam. Furthermore, “rake” is truncation of “rakehell;” its definition is the same, but the additional syllable is odd enough to give a person pause.
It is clear that the Rake attacks at night, though it is less clear whether he attacks in the corporeal world, in his victim’s dreams, or in a combination of both. Photographic evidence of the Rake does exist, however, leading to the belief that he is at least somewhat corporeal:
The tales are more terrifying than the images, though. The research begun after the 2003 events culminated in the gathering of every shred of evidence available about the Rake in 2006; but the story that perhaps hits home the most comes from the events that sparked the beginnings of the whole project. A witness recalled the following:
After returning home from a family 4th of July trip to Niagra Falls in 2003, the witness and her husband awoke at roughly 4am to find something sitting at the foot of their bed: the man/dog hybrid described above. Initially, the witness was not afraid; rather, she was concerned about the creature’s state and wondered whether they were supposed to help him. It was only when the creature scrambled up the bed, then out the door towards the children’s rooms that the witness realized that the creature was not benign. Running out of there room and into the hall, the witness and her husband flicked on the hall lights, only to see the creature covered in blood and standing above their daughter Clara. The creature ran down the stairs, while the witness and her husband ran to their daughter. She said only four words: “He is the Rake.”
Those were the last four words she ever spoke. As the witness’ husband rushed to get Clara to the hospital, he lost control of the vehicle and drove into a lake. Neither Clara nor the husband survived.
What caused the husband to lose control of the car? Merely careless driving due to the urgency of the situation? Or was the Rake somehow involved?
After these tragic events, the witness attempted to put her and her son’s lives back together, eventually leading her to research as much as she could about the creature that changed her life forever. She found other survivors with similar stories, and she began recording audio as she slept. At first, the recordings yielded nothing; but during the third week, she says she heard something different: “What I found was a shrill voice. It was the Rake. I can’t listen to it long enough to even begin to transcribe it. I haven’t let anyone listen to it yet. All I know is that I’ve heard it before, and I now believe that it spoke when it was sitting in front of my husband. I don’t remember hearing anything at the time, but for some reason, the voice on the recorder immediately brings me back to that moment.” [tagbox tag="Creepy Things That Seem Real But Aren't"]
Her tale remains unresolved. “I have not seen the Rake since he ruined my life,” she says, “but I know that he has been in my room while I slept. I know and fear that one night I’ll wake up to see him staring at me.”
Sufficiently disturbed? Don’t be; as with all the others, the Rake isn’t real. Like Slender Man, he’s a creation of the bloody-minded users of the Something Awful forums. All the above-mentioned stories are quoted by user Clockspider in the same thread that Slender Man first appeared in; rumblings have suggested that the Rake had been created prior to Slender Man, but I have been unable to find an original post (if such a thing exists). Furthermore, an ARG that draws heavily on the style of the Marble Hornets Project also exists, known as the EverymanHYBRID, so if you really want to scare the pants off yourself, check it out.
Though I’d still be careful at night if I were you.