“Clear your mind. Focus your thoughts only on that which concerns you. Now ask your question,” said the Tarot Reader in a dark room, heavy with old velvet drapes, intricately carved furniture, dull wood paneling, and scuffed floorboards. Only a few lamps provided a meager glow of light in the starved darkness of the gloomy room.

Freddy, a young man in his twenties was evidently nervous. His fingers were fidgety and his leg bounced in rapid-fire bursts. It was 1882 and Freddy was dressed in slightly tattered clothes. His leather shoes were heavily worn, as was his hat and fingerless gloves. He used his fingers to rub off some dirt on his cheek.

“Do demons exist?” blurted Freddy. “I, I think they do. But I hope not. I just need to – want to be able to fight off demons, if they’re real of course. How do I fight them off?”

The Reader looked concerned. “I’m not qualified to offer advice on the existence of demons, nor can I help you with methods to stay them. Let us see what the Tarot has to say.” The Reader spread the cards face down on the table. “Choose your card.”

Freddy, his hands shaking, drew the Seven of Wands reversed. He sat silent, waiting to hear the guidance from the Reader and the card.

“The Seven of Wands,” stated the Reader plainly. “The card says you have courage – courage that is needed to thwart your adversaries and resist those you battle. But be forewarned. The card is reversed. Indecision can be detrimental.”

The Reader continued: “Do not engage a demon, whatever you do. It cannot end well.”

The darkness and mist outside was even more enveloping when Freddy left the Tarot Reader. He walked briskly through the city blocks, periodically looking back to see if he was being followed. He arrived at the back stage door of the old Boston Theatre. After knocking, the door opened and he was greeted by the stage manager. “You’re late,” said the man at the door.

“Sorry Sir,” said Freddy. “It will not happen again.”

Freddy joined three others backstage in the old, dusty theater. They were wiping down painted backdrops before packing them in crates for delivery to New York.

The Boston Theatre just closed its opera production of Faust by Charles Gounod. The set was transferring to the new Metropolitan Opera House in New York, which will be premiering Faust in 1883 with Mme. Christine Nilsson singing the lead role of Marguerite.

Most of the backdrops had already been packed, except for the church interior set. Painted on the screens was a dark, gloomy transept featuring a dim stained glass window of the crucifixion. In the shadows were images of demons – dark, wispy, mischievous, present. They each had redish, yellowish eyes. Freddy winced when he saw the legion.

Just then the back stage manager popped in and pointed to the the men working with Freddy, and said: “I need you three to help with the town square set. They’re not fitting their crates. Freddy, you stay and finish wiping down these backdrops.” With that, Freddy was left alone with the grim transept scene and its demons. He took a few rags and began wiping off dust that had accumulated on the oil-based painted screens.

After a short amount of time, he completed wiping down the the church transept scene, but not the individual demons. Frustrated of his fear, he said out loud, “I will complete this.”

He wiped down the dust covering the first demon image and moved to the next. In a few minutes he was at the last demon. He looked back at the others and for a split second saw their eyes fixed in his direction. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, opened them and looked. The demon eyes looked ‘correct’ once again. As he leaned in to wipe clean the last demon, he felt something cold yet sharp touch on his back. Freddy leapt backwards away from the backdrop.

He looked back and stared at the painted screen. The transept was there. The stained glass image of the crucifixion was there. But the legion of demons – they were gone! He was rigid with fright and knew not what to do.

The other crew came back to find the transept backdrop all clean and ready to pack. Freddy was nowhere to be seen, so they assumed that he left for the night after having completed his work.

It is now a year later. We are watching the fourth act of Faust on this premier evening performance at the new Metropolitan Opera House. The audience is mesmerized as they watch Mme. Nilsson sing Marguerite’s desperate aria begging God for pity and forgiveness. She is kneeling upstage beneath the stained glass image within the church set.

As she sang, her eye caught a young man’s face painted alongside demons which held him, restrained him. His expression was that of pure terror. She looked away toward the audience, then glanced back. The image of the man was gone.

The Reader again expressed concern regarding Freddy’s question. She added: “Be brave and persevere. Do not show weakness. Do not give in to fear. You must act quickly and with no hesitation, or else…”


This is Dante P Ramon, your host and author of The Dark Reading, scary stories inspired by Tarot cards. I invite you to listen to our podcast regularly, and visit us on the web at TheDarkReading.com.

I just picked the Death card, so good night for now.


Season 1 Episode 6

©2020 The Dark Reading. All Rights Reserved.

All third party marks are the property of their respective owners. Image credit: Tarot, Julie Paschkis.


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