All Good Things Must End
Feuds between neighbors are nothing new. Usually, they end with the participants giving each other a wide berth for the duration of the time they are forced to live on the same street. Every once in a while, however, one side is so vindictive that their anger can never be appeased. This is the story of one such family who was well and truly the neighbors from Hell.
Greg Stevens* had grown up in what was, for a time, an idyllic environment. His family, which consisted of his parents and four brothers, lived high in the mountains of West Virginia. This is actually how I came by this unique tale. As it happened, Greg had attended school with one of my cousins, who ended up putting him in touch with me. It is a small world, indeed.
At any rate, Greg spent much of his youth enjoying the outdoors regardless of the season. He and his siblings did all of the things that country boys do. If they weren't hunting or fishing, they were playing in the nearby streams. For them, life was as good as it gets.
All that changed when a new neighbor moved into their remote slice of paradise. It was June of 1977. The date is burned into Greg's memory. He was fourteen years old, and the world he had known up till then was about to become a distant memory.
There were only six or seven houses in the entire area, each one separated by a good bit of land. It was a close-knit community where people treated one another like family. If a resident saw that someone needed help mending a fence or repairing a roof, they wouldn't hesitate to lend a hand without being asked. That is, after all, what good neighbors do.
The new arrivals were different right from the start. Greg recalls that he and his family were in the middle of eating dinner one evening when their meal was interrupted by the sound of someone banging on the front door. His father excused himself from the table and went to greet the unexpected company.
The rest of the family couldn't hear exactly what was being said, but they could tell that whoever was on the porch was angry. After a few minutes, they were rejoined by Greg's visibly shaken father.
When one of the boys asked who was at the door, their father told him that it was the fellow who had moved into the house across the way. The man had claimed that someone had been rummaging around on his back porch and had helped themselves to his tools. He then came right out and accused Greg and his brothers of having been the thieves.
Their father had assured the irate neighbor that his sons would never steal anything and certainly not tools from the house next door. The man hadn't believed a word of it. He laid into Greg's father, warning him that if he ever caught the boys on his property, he would make them wish they had never been born.
The way the man had spoken that day, not just the horrible things he said, but the way he said them, had both angered and disturbed Greg's father. It was clear to him that the man was unstable, if not downright dangerous. Knowing this, he told his sons to never, under any circumstances, go near the neighbor's house. They agreed, and the matter was settled, or so they thought.
It was obvious from that point on that trouble had moved into what had once been their haven. They learned that the man who had come knocking on their door was married and had sons of his own, though Greg doesn't know how many since they never socialized with anyone else in the area.
If the newcomers had simply been anti-social, there would never have been any issues, but they were also malcontents. They seemed to take issue with everyone and everything. If a dog barked, they would be pounding on the door to complain. If children made too much noise when they were playing, one of the new neighbors would come running after them, threatening to shut them up if they didn't get back inside.
The carefree days that Greg and his brothers had always cherished were over. They didn't dare venture outside for fear of being chased back into the house by an angry man wielding a stick, rock, pellet gun or whatever he happened to have at his disposal at the time.
They could no longer spend their days hunting and fishing. The new neighbors had laid claim to all of the local fishing holes. Greg and his siblings were afraid that if they attempted to go hunting, they would be shot 'accidentally' by one of the lawless clan who seemed to have no regard for those around them.
The unwarranted hostility wasn't the only thing that had set the people next door apart. They exhibited some other bizarre behaviors that soon made them the talk of the town. For one thing, they were most active after the sun went down. Greg remembers seeing them outside dancing around a fire barrel on more nights than he can count.
He recalls watching them as they sang and chanted while flailing their arms in the air. He and his brothers would sit at the window and laugh at how silly they looked, prancing around in the firelight.
Another thing that made people sit up and take notice was the fact that they almost never left their property. No one seemed to work, leaving many to wonder how they could afford to live. They owned several cars but didn't appear to be rich by any means.
A superficial aspect that was impossible to miss was that, although the family patriarch was someone whose looks were as off-putting as his personality, his wife was strikingly attractive. Unfortunately, her beauty was only skin-deep. Much like her husband, she seemed always to be looking for a fight.
Greg's family, along with just about everyone else in the small mountain community, did their best to avoid their surly neighbors. They didn't like it, but it seemed to be the only way to keep the peace. Life carried on in this manner for years until one tragic day when an accident would unleash a vengefulness that Greg thought only existed in the darkest of fairy tales. It began with, of all things, a driving lesson.
No Turning Back
One of Greg's brothers was about to turn sixteen, so their father had taken him out on the dirt road that ran between their house and that of the neighborhood bullies to prepare him for his driver's test. It was something they had been doing for weeks without a hitch. Greg's father was always careful to make sure they stayed away from the property line in an attempt to avoid a confrontation.
On this day, they were on the road, perfectly within the boundaries. Under his father's supervision, Greg's brother had put the car in reverse and started to back up when they heard a thud. His father had immediately told him to put the car in park while he went to see what they had hit.
To his horror, Greg's father found one of the neighbor's sons lying on the road behind the vehicle. He was conscious and seemingly unharmed, but his piercing screams gave the impression that he was mortally wounded.
Greg was in the yard at the time and swears to this day that the boy, who looked to be around eleven or so, had come out of nowhere and purposely hit the rear-end of the car before dropping to the ground.
The child's only noticeable injury was a small scrape on his leg that had not even broken the skin. All the same, he continued to wail as Greg's father offered to take him to the hospital.
The commotion soon roused all those in earshot, including the boy's father, who came charging out of the house like an angry bull. When he reached the scene, rather than tending to his son, he stormed up to Greg's father and butted him in the chest. He then proceeded to yell at the pair he held responsible for the incident, threatening to sue them for everything they were worth.
Greg's father had finally reached his breaking point. Anyone in their right mind could see that it had been an accident, plain and simple. He called the man's bluff, informing him that they would let the sheriff settle the matter. The neighbor's face was red and his eyes blazing as he warned Greg's father that if he called the law, it would be the last thing he ever did.
Realizing that they were getting nowhere, Greg's father got back in the car and told his son to do the same. As they were pulling away, he told the man to send him the medical bills. They could hear him yelling obscenities as they headed for the safety of home.
That harrowing event proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Although no medical bills ever arrived, Greg and his family came to a consensus; they would sell their home and get out before the situation escalated any further.
The stress and uncertainty that had been building for years had become too much to bear. Thanks to the people next door, they had come to hate the place they had once loved. They knew that their only hope of finding peace would be to move far away from the neighbors who had turned their lives into a waking nightmare.
And Then There Was One
Their house sold relatively quickly, due in part to the fact that it was listed at well below the fair market value. Greg's parents hadn't been looking to make a profit. The safety of their family was their only concern. They knew that no amount of money would bring back one of their boys if the neighbor ever decided to act on his endless threats.
On the day the moving vans arrived to help pack up the family's possessions, they would receive one last visit from the man who had, effectively, driven them from their home. As Greg's father was lifting boxes onto a truck, the neighbor, who up till then had only shown hostility, walked over and stretched out his hand. Greg, who was also helping to load boxes at the time, witnessed the interaction, as did his brothers.
The gesture was too little too late, but for reasons he will never understand, Greg says that his father shook the man's hand. As he did so, the neighbor pulled him close and whispered that he wanted to give him something to remember him by. With that, he laid a curse, not only on Greg's existing family, but on the generations yet to come.
He muttered that he would see to it that none of them, from that moment on, would live past the age of twenty-one. After the man finished his spiel, a smile spread across his face as he released his grip on Greg's father's hand and retreated to his own property.
The neighbor spent the rest of the day standing in his yard, watching the activities taking place across the way. Greg recalls that he was still there at nightfall when they drove away for the last time. He had not stopped smiling all day.
Even though he hadn't mentioned it to his father, Greg had heard the man's ominous threats. He didn't believe in curses and was pretty sure that his father didn't either.
At the time, he had dismissed the rant as one last jab from someone who got pleasure out of intimidating others. Greg forgot all about it for a while, that is, until about a year and a half later when his brother David died a few days shy of his twenty-first birthday.
David was an insulin-dependent diabetic who required two shots a day in order to maintain his levels. He had always been carefully monitored and had no other known health issues. That was why it had come as such a shock to the family when he had suddenly taken ill the night before his passing.
For reasons that remain unclear to Greg, David's heart had failed. Soon after his arrival at the hospital, his organs had begun to shut down, one after another. The family he left behind was devastated. Just when they were beginning their lives anew, their world had come crashing down.
Greg made no connection at the time with the curse that the neighbor had placed on the family. Why would he? It was nonsense, or so he believed.
Eight months after David's death, Greg's brother Gary was killed, along with his best friend, in an automobile accident. It was later determined that theirs had been the only vehicle involved. For reasons only they would know, their car had left the roadway and careened into a tree as they were on their way home from soccer practice.
Two deaths in less than a year rocked the family to its foundation. To say that they were crippled by grief would be an understatement. Greg's father was no longer able to work. His mental state had deteriorated to such an extent that he could barely dress. The smallest task had become too much for him. Losing his sons had left him irreparably broken.
The merciless hand of fate wasn't finished with them yet. Greg's brother Ryan would also die in a car crash under suspicious circumstances. Witnesses reported seeing an unknown vehicle that night that had been blinding drivers with its headlights and then trying to force them off the road. An investigation revealed that Ryan's car had exited the pavement and hurtled over an embankment, resulting in his death at the age of nineteen.
Greg's father died of a massive stroke shortly after losing his third son. Several months later, his only remaining sibling, nineteen-year-old Curtis, took his own life. Always the most sensitive of the boys, the string of deaths and hardships the family had suffered over the years had been more than he could handle. Greg hadn't realized how dire the situation was until his brother's body was found in the woods, his hunting rifle by his side.
Although logic told him that curses weren't real, Greg began to wonder if the neighbor had somehow instigated the decimation of his family. All of his brothers were now gone, not one of them having lived past the age of twenty-one.
Greg knew that it could all have been a macabre coincidence, but the odds of that being the case seemed astronomical. He found it hard to accept that four boys, all from the same family, would die so young in such a relatively short span of time.
In addition to the loss of his brothers, his father had seemed to change almost overnight following the neighbor's condemnation. This man, whom Greg had always thought capable of moving mountains, had become a shell of his former self as everything he held dear was taken from him. In the end, only Greg and his mother managed to escape the curse.
Greg reached twenty-one without incident. He had outlived the curse but wasn't sure why. The only explanation he could come up with was that, on one occasion, he had helped the neighbor bring in his animals as a storm approached. The man had been almost civil that day and had even thanked Greg for his efforts. It was the only time members of the two families had interacted without a harsh word being spoken.
Even today, Greg wonders if the fire rituals taking place at the house across the road had anything to do with the bad luck that had befallen his family. As implausible as it may be, he has come to believe that the neighbors possessed some sort of power that came from a place not many dare to venture. He could never be sure, but there was always something sinister about the neighbors that went far beyond mere hatefulness.
Since there is no way of knowing the truth, we can only speculate as to what really caused this tragic chain of events. Maybe the man's last-minute threat and the series of deaths that followed were a bizarre coincidence. Wherever the answer lies, the only remaining Stevens male has decided to err on the side of caution.
Greg is now fifty-three years old. He has been married twice and has led a life that most would envy. He is a successful entrepreneur, owns a beautiful home, and has traveled the world. The one thing he has not allowed himself to have is children. He decided long ago that if a curse does exist, it will die with him.
For Greg, carrying on the family name is out of the question. He doesn't want to run the risk of bringing children into the world only to have them taken away before they reach adulthood.
Some may find the notion ridiculous, but Greg has never forgotten the neighbor's words or the devastation they brought. He will also never forget the grin the man had worn as he watched them drive away. It had been one of the utmost satisfaction as if he knew, even then, that he had won.
*Some names have been altered in order to protect the privacy of those involved.
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on January 10, 2021:
This is really a tragic tale. Though it has nothing to do with the curse as I believe.