The time is right for another installment of Mysterious Monday. We semi-regularly publish these short, creepy, and weird story hooks for readers to use as inspirational seeds. If you enjoy reading these or put any of them to use in your own game, let us know in the comments below. Following each narrative hook, several bulleted prompts are provided to help get your creative juices flowing.
Taken In, Turned Out
Thomas Livingston was an ordinary man, living an ordinary life, working as an accountant for a large English firm. Sixteen years ago, his life changed when the thirty-eight-year-old had a chance encounter with a Turkish man named Kyle Eaton. Over a pint at the local pub, the two men got acquainted. Thomas was quickly taken in by Kyle’s personality and apparent successes in life. Kyle quickly picked up on this and lured Thomas into the “Catalyst,” a self-help program that he claimed was the reason for his success.
Thomas never completed the “Catalyst” program. After some questionable teachings and practices, he became disillusioned with the program and began receiving threats when the others learned of his disillusionment. Fearing for his life, he dropped out and went into hiding. Fifteen years later, he finds himself arrested for the murders of six persons, four young men in their 20s and 30s, one nineteen year woman, and one middle-aged militant transphobic woman of some prominence. The murders echo some of the strange practices of the program. Thomas has no recollection of the murders and adamantly protests his innocents even though the evidence speaks otherwise.
- What are the real goals of the Catalyst Self-help program?
- Who is Kyle Eaton? What is his role in the Catalyst?
- Who are the murder victims? Are they merely bystanders in the cloak and dagger relationship Thomas has with the Catalyst?
- What are victims’ connections to Kyle Eaton, Thomas Livingston, and the Catalyst?
Sarah works behind the cash register of the local drug store located on Main Street. Every Monday morning, just as the shops on the street open their doors, the ever-revolving apprentice for the bookbinders a few doors down enters and makes his weekly purchase of skin moisturizer. Mr. Charles, the bookbinder, must be difficult to work for. Every month or so, he gets a new apprentice, and each one always purchases large quantities of skin moisturizer at the beginning of the week. One day Sarah inquired of the current apprentice who had a nasty scar running down his arm from a farming accident if skin moisturizer was part of the bookbinding process. With a chuckle, Hank, the current apprentice, explained that the chemicals and processes used in bookbinding dry out the skin. Not only the hands but the whole body as taught by Mr. Charles. Copious amounts must be applied daily, and Mr. Charles is a stickler about it. Sarah noticed the young man’s skin is indeed well moisturized and thought nothing else of it. Several months
later and a few more apprentices later, passing the book binder’s shop as she was heading home at the end of the day, in the door was a sign for a new apprentice, which wasn’t a surprise. But on display in the shop’s picture window was a book covered in leather with a familiar marking running across the front. The marking resembled the scar on Hank’s arm.
- Is what Hank told Sarah true, or is there another reason for Mr. Charles’s insistence on well-moisturized skin?
- Why is there so much turnover at his shop?
- What happened to Hank and the other apprentices before him?
- Why does the book have a mark similar to Hank’s scar?
Fall From Grace
Child actor Danny Wayne was famous for his leading role in a hit series for tweens and teens on a popular television network in the 1990s. Like many of his peers, his stardom did not continue into adulthood, and he transitioned from television to tabloid star and then to social media trainwreck. By 2015, he was living on the streets of New York—homeless and addicted to meth.
Danny Wayne, wanting to desperately improve his situation, was an easy mark for the unsavory types that prowl the streets. Coerced into petty crime to feed his habits, Danny would pickpockets, break into cars, or do any other odd jobs he was ordered to do. It was one of these “other” odd jobs in which Danny encountered the deplorable conditions of the Sea Shanty Inn. The “Shanty,” as it is known, is such a wretched place; neither sex workers nor drug addicts want to spend any time there.
No one is quite sure who or what entity owns the Shanty. It has always been known as a place of squalor and nastiness. If you canvas those that call the streets home, they can tell you countless stories of something that was supposed to have happened at the Shanty, sometime in the past—though never firsthand knowledge. As a result of a rash of disappearances of drug addicts and sex workers, the latest rumor floating around is that a government agency, you know the black ops kind, is conducting experiments there.
Danny Wayne’s employer, concerned that a cash shortage might result from the recent thinning of the regulars, sends him to have a look at the Shanty to see if the latest rumor he picked up on is even partially true. Emboldened by a small hit of meth, Danny enters the Shanty. The reception area is surprisingly well-appointed and brightly lit, but there is a smell that lingers. A young woman in her late twenties greets Danny, “Welcome to the Sea Shanty Inn, the only nautical-themed inn in all of New York. How can I help you, Mr. Wayne?” Forty-five minutes later, he exits, his behavior erratic, and his state of mind is more questionable than usual.
- Who does Danny Wayne work for? What kind of “odd jobs” does he do for this person or organization?
- Aside from the rumors, why is the Sea Shanty Inn considered such a wretched place?
- Are any of the rumors about true Sea Shanty Inn?
- What did Danny witness in those forty-five minutes at the Shanty? Was it strange experiments or perhaps something more benign but equally as disturbing?
~ Modoc & Stephen Pennisi
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