's 2013 Horror Write-off:

" Langley Expedition "

Submitted by Rahkshasaran

[Undated Clipping From a Magazine]

Little is known about the fate of the Langley expedition. The itinerary and all extant materials are of course available to the general public. They tell of Sir Howard Langley’s entrance into a partnership with prominent Dutch archeologists Nils Petersen and Janek Raske, funding an expedition into what is modern-day Arbil. The subtext provided tells us that Sir Howard was another of the time’s gentleman-explorers, he had no doctorate in any of the sciences, just an inborn curiosity and the wealth to introduce it to the world. Both Raske and Petersen were respected in their fields, Raske’s paper on Anthropaleontology still holds a treasured place in the University of Amsterdam’s library. They also brought the advantage of years of field experience and a bevy of graduate students to supply labor. The expedition was kitted out with the latest gear, and there were several experienced mountaineers in the company. The expedition, for all intents and purposes, looked to be no different than any other.

The diary of one Anton Schuld supplies the second part of the expedition’s narrative. Schuld traveled with the crew all the way to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, where a sudden onset of fever caused him to turn back for the last trading post. He sent his traveling journal to his mother shortly before expiring, detailing numerous roadblocks to the expedition, not the least of which was Langley’s lack of foresight in hiring any native speakers. In addition to the heavy equipment the crew was forced to carry, Langley often bought large amounts of food that spoiled before they reached the next outpost. The locals, while not hostile, were taciturn and unfriendly folk. They would frequently give circuitous directions, further hampering travel. By the time Schuld left the party, the crew was already beginning the rumblings of mutiny.

The last piece of evidence comes from Mehmed, 91, who as a young man was hired as a bearer for the expedition’s trek into the mountains. Mehmed, along with six of his male cousins, traveled with the Europeans to their final destination and made camp in a large cliffside area. Langley became excited by the sight of several square pits, indicative that the area had once been a village. Within a month, the team had dug up a number of treasures; jewelry, potsherds, bronze tools and ceremonial items. The mood was high and all traces of rebellion seemed gone.

Among the equipment lugged throughout the expedition was a cylinder phonograph and several rolls of Bach, which Langley had an affection for. An unnamed member of the crew was playing around with one of the found objects, a cylinder carved out of pure Lapis, and decided to jury-rig it to the cylinder seat. To his great astonishment, the young man said he could hear speech emanating from the bell. Several crew members posited that it was in Akkadian, and that they could make out several words such as “mouth,” “world,” and “hurt.” Mehmed and his cousins grew uneasy, already witness to the crew’s wasteful treatment of food and their cavalier disregard of local weather patterns.

Other cylinders were found and put to the test, producing what Mehmed heard only as incomprehensible noise, but the crew felt was truly secret messages from precursors. They dug faster and without caution, unearthing not only the usual artifacts but objects of unknown make which disturbed the bearers. Mehmed describes them as seeming alive and expressed his surprise that they did not find a single bone in the dig, animal or human.

Then they struck gold.

Mehmed said that the Europeans called it “the burial well,” a circular depression twelve feet in diameter. The circle was lower than the land around it by one inch, and seemed unusually damp. It was covered by an inch of topsoil, then a layer of loose rock, then a mat of rushes. Beneath that was a layer of clay that rang hollow when struck. Langley seemed beside himself with excitement, the archaeologists even more so. Then Mehmed woke up one morning to find his dead grandfather sitting on his pillow.

He describes the vision as having “eyes like stones,” indicating some kind of primitive burial custom. His grandfather spoke with a metallic inflection, asking Mehmed to be kind to his grandfather and carry him to water. Mehmed, thinking it a dream, replied that there was no water nearby. His grandfather repeated his request and gestured impatiently to the center of the site. Mehmed said that he turned to look where his grandfather was pointing, and when he turned back the old man was gone. His cousins had similar experiences and were more than ready to flee back home, but Langley had also brought a ready supply of guns. Two of the cousins were shot dead, but the rest fled on foot and made it to the exit of the valley. His village debated whether to send a judicial envoy to the dig, but it was unanimously decided to leave the Europeans to their own devices.

Mehmed’s account ends there.

No attempts to re-discover the site have yielded fruit, and any further sightings of the crew must be taken as hearsay. The notion that a civilization would foresee a particular piece of technology and create accessories for it is downright absurd, as is the notion that the Langley expedition succumbed to anything other than natural causes. The “Dancing Shadows” historical site near Shaqlawa is merely an example of Pre-Sumerian pictoglyphs, the perception that some of the “shadows” appear to be wearing pith helmets is simply a case of optical illusion.