Short Story: The Brook Beneath the Willow Tree

CopingMy most recently published short story is rather an unusual one for me. It isn’t speculative fiction. It isn’t even a horror story in the way most people understand the horror genre. But it’s my idea of a horror story, being that it’s based in fact. People actually did suffer these horrors.

Several years ago I watched the news documentary that earned Geraldo Rivera a well-deserved Peabody Award. He and a cameraman slipped into a place called Willowbrook State School. The results of their investigation was called Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace. You can see a preview of it here. A few years later I read about how hundreds of unmarked graves were being dug up at Willowbrook,  though authorities had no way of actually putting names to the dead.

Who were these people who died so forgotten? And how did they die so forgotten? My short story, The Brook Beneath the Willow Tree, is the possible perspective of one of them. And it’s the only thing I’ve ever written that made me cry as I was writing it.

I’m sure after this introduction you want to rush out and purchase it. Right? Well, probably not. It is a very sad story. But if you don’t mind the brutal, horrific truth, the story is available in COPING: A Not One of Us Special Publication. This magazine specializes in presenting the voices of those who have been shunned by society, and so is a perfect home for my short story. The issue contains art, fiction, and poetry. 

You can purchase a copy of COPING for $3.50 by contacting john@not-one-of-us

Willowbrook State School was not the only institution like this. They were all across the country. The polio vaccine was tested on the disabled residents of Letchworth Village, considered a model institution in its time. The following video is a visit to its overgrown graveyard. Maybe the boy in my story is buried here. I hope so. It’s a lovely place, even if the graves do have numbers instead of names.


About Diane Dooley

Writer, Mother, Geek
This entry was posted in Horror and Dark Fantasy, The Writing Life and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Short Story: The Brook Beneath the Willow Tree

  1. Good for you for giving them a voice.
    It’s criminal that the school wasn’t even closed until the 1980s.

  2. Linnea says:

    What a pitiful sight. And so many dead. It’s disheartening to see what mankind does with its own children. To see them finally recognized with their names recorded doesn’t alter the terrible sadness one feels when viewing all those untended graves. Thank you for giving those poor souls a platform for remembrance.

  3. Dale Long says:

    I’m with you, Diane, there horror in these old schools and institutions is the thing of nightmares. I’m drawn to these old buildings like the ones on Oak Island. The voices that whisper in the dark corners when no one is around, need to be heard.
    Horror, contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, is not just psychopaths dismembering people. It is a many faceted thing and encompass more than just gore. It is sensuous.
    Sounds like a story I’d like.

  4. The thought that something like this happened in real, makes it much scarier than any of the horror flicks that have stumbled along in recent years.
    I am looking forward to read this.

    I’ve also written a sort of hrrific short story on childhood. It is loosely based on real incident.
    I’d like to know your thoughts on it:

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