Memphis Fast Fiction Home
Jamie Elkington

The fog pressed in on them, turning the open channel of the river into a claustrophobic nightmare.

The crew of the steamboat Mermaid were gathered on deck, peering out into the mist, straining eyes and ears for any sign of the shore.

“Lord, sir, I ain’t never seen it this thick before.” Said the boatswain, crouching to his captain’s side.

“Hush up.” The captain ordered. “Keep sharp, mister. We’ll make it through.”

The sloshing of the paddlewheel in the black water carried on until one of the crewmen yelled out, “There! In the water!”

Before them, eerie orange light sprouted from the water. Something was afire on the river.

“A wreck!” Came a voice in the darkness.

“Pikes to front! Clear a path!” Shouted the captain. A half dozen men scrambled forward, hoisting large pikes to guard front of the ship from flotsam.

A piece of smoldering wreckage floated past their port side. It was a broken piece of a boat hull, and there was something stenciled on the side.

As it drew closer, tongues of flame illuminated the lettering.

Mermaid, it read.

“Sir,” said the boatswain, a tremble in his voice. “I…I don’t think we made it through.”

Memphis Note
Memphis was one of the most important ports on the Mississippi River, and its harbor was always full of boats. But, travel on the river wasn’t safe. The average lifespan of a riverboat was five years, and they were lucky to make it that long. It is estimated that there are hundreds of lost wrecks between Memphis and Saint Louis. I imagine if ghost walked on water, that stretch of the river would be amongst the most haunted in the world.

Scout Anglin

The ghost light stood alone on stage, casting its pale white light out into the emptiness of the Orpheum Theatre. We sat up in the darkened mezzanine, where the light barely reached, passing a pint of whiskey between the two of us and finishing a bag of cold popcorn.

“Mike, any chance you want to tell me what we’re doing up here?” I took a swig from the bottle and handed it back to him. “It’s been a long day of set up and rehearsal, and I’d like to get some sleep.”

“Shhh shhh shhh. Look down.” He craned his neck out and pointed his finger down to the orchestra seating below us.

As if on cue, a girl in her late teens stood up from her seat with an echoing giggle. There was an unearthly glow about her as she began to dance in the aisles.

“That one of the chorus girls?” I asked, uncertain of what I was seeing.

“That’s Mary. The theatre’s ghost. She’s been around forever.”

“That’s absolutely mad, Mike.”

“I know.” He looked over at me, a wild glint in his eye. “I want you to find a way to work her into the show.”

Memphis Note
In the Orpheum, seat C-5 can sometimes be a little colder than any other seat in the building. That’s because it belongs to the Orpheum’s ghost, Mary. Supposedly she’s the ghost of a young girl that died in a car accident in front of the theatre. She’s been known to open doors, play the organ, and give people the shivers as she passes through the audience.

Laura Jean Hocking

Class got out late. The sun’s setting, and twilight is taking hold of Overton park.

Coming down the steps of Rust Hall, I notice a girl sitting on a bench, crying softly. Her hair’s done up, and her cobalt blue dress is vintage. I figure she must be a student like me, but no one seems to notice her.

I walk over and ask if she’s alright.

She looks up at me, tears streaking her makeup, but still hauntingly beautiful beneath it.

“You look like someone nice.” She says, her drawl thick. “Like someone that that would walk a girl to the bus station.”

Smiling, I tell her that I’m just that kind of someone. As we walk, she clutches her arms to her stomach. Thinking she’s cold, I offer my jacket. Politely, she says no.

When we reach the edge of the park, she stops suddenly.

“Thank you” I hear her say.

Holding up her hand to wave me good-bye, I see the razor slashes and blood stains on her stomach. Then I start to see through her as begins to disappear.

“I knew you looked like some one nice.” I hear her say as she vanishes completely.

Memphis Note
osedly, Overton Park is haunted by the body of a girl from the 1960s that was found stabbed to death and floating in the lake. She is known to ask people for help, but vanishes when they try.

Blake Palmer

Bobby Jenkins was a precocious kid. He was reading years ahead of his grade level, dressing himself, keeping his room clean, but his feet still didn’t touch the floor as he sat at the kitchen table, eating the oatmeal he’d prepared.

“Hello.” Said the pale girl sitting opposite of him.

He looked up and waved. He didn’t talk with his mouth full.


Bobby nodded. “Arbitrary grab from the cabinet.” He’d learned that word this week.

“Your house is nicer than what we had. Before the Yellow Fever took all us.”

Frowning, Bobby scolded her. “I told you, if you’ve got to stop talking like that if you’re going to keep coming around.”

Tears welled up in here eyes. “I know. I just miss my family.”

“You could go to them,” Bobby nudged, gently.

“But I’m scared! Scared to leave my home. Even if it is your home now.”

His mom walked into the kitchen, still putting on her ear rings. “Who are you talkin’ to, kiddo?”

Bobby looked up. The chair across from him was empty.


His mother looked at him curiously for a moment, the mussed his hair.

“C’mon, time to get to school.” She said.

Memphis Note
The Yellow Fever epidemic dotted the city with graves, both hidden and marked, single and mass. It is inescapable that was as time wears on, something will get put atop them. And when that happens, who knows what gets stirred up.

Scout Anglin

“Pst. Hey, buddy! Over here!”

I jerked up right, eyes wide, sweat pitting my coveralls. I thumbed off the vacuum cleaner and listened in the darkness.

That had to have been my mind playing tricks on me, the Pink Palace had been closed for hours. The security guards swept through before maintenance went to work, no way there was still some one in here.

But there it was again. “Over here!”

The words were coming from the shrunken head.

Its dried, leathery eyes were open, as were its lips in a distended grin.

“Hey! He catches on…finally.”

I stepped over to the stand the head rested on, scared out of my mind, but also a little fascinated.

“You’re not supposed to be talking to me. You’re not supposed to be talking at all! You don’t have a tongue!”

It frowned at me.

“What do you want?”

“I want what every desiccated head wants.”

“…Brains?” I took a step back.

“Brains? What? No! Where the hell did you get brains? Space ice cream! They’ve got some down in the gift shop! Bring it to me and I’ll grant you a wish or something.”

Turns out, shrunken heads can’t grant wishes.

Memphis Note
One of the most infamous and awesome treasures of the Pink Palace Museum is their shrunken head. A real shrunken head, mind you. It has a goatee. At some point, the museum stashed it way, probably for reasons very similar to what I’ve laid out in the story above. I think it is back out on display now, though. Ready to scare an entirely new generation of children.