Campfire Story

The ‘Curse of Tom Zombie’ Campfire Story

This, legend within a legend, is based on a short poem written by Toby Ten, an African American Poet who died in 1848. This short verse explains the supposed workings of the curse:

The words ‘Tom Zombie’ from one,
Is just a little bit of fun,

The words ‘Tom Zombie’ from two,
Delivers a clue,

The words ‘Tom Zombie’ from three,
Well that sets hell free.


The latest incarnation of this legend is built into the following story based on an account that has passed from memory. It is said to have occurred in the general vicinity of St. Thomas.

It wasn’t long ago that the curse of Tom Zombie showed itself in an unexpected way. Some say it’s because the Trimeric Bell, the source of Tom Zombie’s power, sensed its time was once again at hand, even berneath tons of pressing dirt. Whatever the reason it came to pass that around a campfire one night, a group of teenagers sat laughing and joking. Surrounded by maples, oak, pine and populars and camped next to a meadow and a crystaline stream they felt at ease. Of course they had all heard of the Legend of Tom Zombie, but, like so many before them they didn’t believe it. One of the boys, a tall blond lad named Steve, even went so far as to say it was a bunch of bull. The other kids laughed.

“Sure its bull, but what is the legend?” asked Josh, Steve’s younger brother and the butt of a lot of jokes within the group.

“Simple really,” Steve replied, looking to all of them with wide eyes and then a wider smile, as if recognizing an opportunity. “The story goes that if three people each say Tom Zombie right in a row Tom Zombie will get them.” Everyone was quiet, “So, who’s going to say it first?” Steve followed.

Rustling leaves, whistling wind, no one said a word.  John, Steve’s best friend and someone who had been smiling the whole time, suddenly said, “Tom Zombie.”

Steve laughed as he drank a big gulp from his cup and then half belched the words, “Tom Zombie!” His voice echoed through the valleys surrounding their little perch near a hill top. In the distance a bell started ringing ever so quietly. It lasted only a few seconds.

Janet and Sally, the only two girls in the group looked near tears. 

“Stop it Steve!” Sally crowed, slapping his arm, “I heard a bell!”

“Me too, this is getting creepy!” said Janet.

Randal, the real clown of the group was the natural person to follow the pair and even he looked worried. Josh stared out into the tree line; orange slivers of light dancing around the brush from their fire. If something was out there, no one would be able to see it, and with all of them laughing and talking, no one would hear anything either, least not until it was too late. 

“Please no one say it,” squeaked Josh, now huddling deep under his blanket so that only his eyes and nose were visible. He knew the instant he said it that it would have the opposite effect.

“C’mon Randal say it!” John crowed half laughing “Or are you scared too?”  he said this last part as a mother might console a child. Randal, John knew, had his pride and little else.

Randal looked up to the stars, “Fine,” he said then bellowed, “Tom Zombie!” 

Everyone and everything went dead quiet. 

The wind stopped, the forest seemed devoid of sound, not even insects of birds. Only the crackling fire kept the night time silence from engulfing them. 

After long fearful moments Steve finally started to laugh.

“You guys are such pansies!” he said smirking. 

The tension broke and the group followed in kind. John and Randal clapped their hands together; Steve gave Randal a friendly slap on the cheek as Randal smiled and nodded. Josh poked his little head out from his blanket, even the girls began to chuckle nervously.
“It’s just a silly story,” Steve said and they all began to relax. It didn’t take long for the group to forget what they had done and begin talking of other less consequential things. 
What they couldn’t know, because the knowledge had been lost in legend, was that, though it was true that Tom Zombie couldn’t awaken to sow his wraith upon them, the nearest dead to where they sat could and people had been living and dying in these parts for many years. 
In fact, mere months before, a cabin just over the next hill from where they camped, had burned to the ground, unknown and unseen by anyone.  Most of the poor family who had lived there had been burned to ash, but two, a mother and her teenage son, had made it out only to die in the leaves and mud outside. Their bones and rotting flesh had all but been taken by hungry animals and carrion worms. Enough remained however to hear the ringing of the bell and the call back to the land of the living.

The kids laughed around their fire, whimsical in their disregard for the evil they had released. It was Steve who heard the shambling first; mixed with the wind and the crackling fire.  When he said “Quiet!” to the group they thought it another joke and just laughed louder. Then they all heard a stick CRACK from the dark and a hollow GROAN mixed in with a stiff and suddenly cold wind.

Steve was about to blame Randal, but sure enough Randal was still sitting just behind him; his eyes wide and his skin pale like snow. They all realized quickly that all of them still sat around there fire, terrified, but accounted for. Then who was out there?

Of the six who went camping that night only two ever returned: Sally and Janet. Steve, John, Randal and Steve’s little brother Josh, never came home. 

The horror of the surviving two was unparalleled and neither girl ever recovered. Their story was buried by gossip and excuse; just kids traumatized by a serial murderer or a freak animal attack. But the bodies of the four lost kids were never found and for years rumors persisted.

It’s said that the parents of the two brothers who were lost that night had themselves buried up on that hill upon death, waiting for their children to return, or perhaps, for some other group of three to be foolish enough to not believe in the curse of Tom Zombie. 

The Legend of Tom Zombie

They say that Tom is cursed by love,
That he can`t see the veil,
They say the dead hear him standing above,
And from encrusted crypts they rail,
(An excerpt from a British infantry marching manual dated 1812)