Written by Darwyn Parker
Transcribed by Andrenn Jones
Business enterprise is often believed to be the heart of the American dream. You have an idea, you make a business out of it and get rich doing what you love. That's what they sell in the political ads and newspaper articles, anyway. Ambition is the core principle of being an entrepreneur. There have been few businessmen with quite as big a spirit as Dario Del'Otto. Dario moved to America shortly before World War 2 had begun. When his family was small, him, his wife and their first son Franco. They escaped Italy shortly before the madness had taken over Europe.
Dario worked hard for many years in California, earning money at several dead-end jobs. Scraping what cash he could save for his American dream. All while having three more children to care for along the way. In early February of 1950, Dario moved his family from California up to Serling, Oregon. He took all the money he had saved and began to build his dream: The Old Oak Hotel. Serling's first hotel, as the town had yet to expand enough to attract many tourists. Dario felt the town deserved something grand to help travelers see the beauty of Serling.
His vision was a majestic hotel that sat at the far end of the town, surrounded by old oak trees. Tucked right next to the river for a gorgeous view. It had a vibrant and warm entrance, it's arches holding up the sign as they welcomed you to your new home away from home. Inside the lobby was warm, smooth stone floor leading to a large fire place not far from the front desk. A small welcome area full of books about the local area was set up for anyone who had to wait. After the lobby the sprawling hallways were revealed to you, lines of rooms marked with bright shining gold numbers to indicate which was yours.
Along the walls were patterns of trees to occupy your eyes until you found your room. Each room was carefully assembled by Dario to be as comforting as possible as soon as you stepped in. Colors of Autumn adorned the walls, splashes of orange and yellow. All converging into a beautiful pattern along the ceiling. Large, plush beds awaited you. Not far from them was a balcony looking out into the woods or, if you were on the left wing, the river which always shines beautifully in the moonlight. A large desk for one to work at was not far from balcony. Spacious closets for all your travel bags and clothes. It was a lavish getaway in the heart of the forest.
After months of hard work, with his own two hands, Dario completed the Old Oak Hotel. While the Oak made sense, as the hotel looked more like a log cabin surrounded by the same type of trees that built it, no one understood why he put "Old" in the name of a new hotel. He would grin at them and say "Because even a place can have an old soul."
That was the kind of man Dario was. He did what he liked and never really worried too much about what anyone else would think. June, 6th 1950 was the official opening of the hotel. There was a huge party that the entire town had been invited to. Held inside the ballroom he built with his own hands, Dario welcomed the people of Serling to his business with open arms. Live music and delicious food filled everyone with excitement over the new Hotel, getting people talking and suggesting it to all their family members next time they would stay.
In that early year after opening, business was doing well. The Old Oak was a hotel founded on principles of giving their guests a warm, welcoming experience while they stayed and word of mouth had been helping exponentially. Up until that point, Serling was somewhat stagnant as far as business was concerned. After the hotel opened it began to rekindle the American Dream in many other members of the community. Several businesses opened up that helped nurture a more positive travel destination for anyone driving through. Many believe that if not for the Old Oak Hotel, Serling would still be twice as small as it is today.
It was around late December of 1950 that the vision of Dario's American Dream began to sour and twist into a nightmare. On the eve of December 30th, a man checked into the Old Oak Hotel who would forever change the future of the Del'Otto family. He was described by many of the staff as tall, just a little under 6 foot 5. He always wore heavy clothing, making it difficult to discern the type of body frame beneath his garments. He had broad shoulders, like a football players. Sitting atop them was a bald head, mostly concealed in the shadow of the large dust-caked old hat. His face was rather plane, worn looking as if he'd seen much in his time. He had cold, piercing eyes and always had a large grin on his face.
"Good evening." He spoke in a deep, confident voice when he greeted Franco at the front desk. His grin never left his lips even after the introductions. Franco later mentioned feeling ill just staring at the man. As if something about the air around him was unnatural enough to start making him feel unwell. He took his time slowly writing his name and information down in the guest book. Making Franco's sickened feeling worsen by the minute. By the time the guest took his key and left, Franco was near vomiting and left for the rest of the day. Franco and the rest of the staff never told his father about the strange feeling the guest gave him until after he left
His first name he checked in under was Charles Ratheway. For the week that he was checked into the hotel he never left. He stayed in his room, ordering room service once in the morning and once at night. He never said a word to the staff. He would merely pay them for their service, take his food and have them remove the plates and silverware from his last meal. Each staff member who delivered him food would later admit to the same sickening feeling when near him. Though they were exposed to him far less than Franco had been. Franco remained ill and in bed at home for the entire week.
January 6th, 1951 the guest checks out early in the morning, 3 full hours before check-out and before most of the guests have awoken. That morning as the guests awoke, terrible memories that had seemingly been repressed began to resurface. The front desk was swarmed by several furious, confused and frightened families recounting the horror that occurred in their rooms.
A young woman recounted through her tears about waking up late one evening, shortly before 3 AM. She found a man in her room, described like the strange guest, only his heavy clothes were all gone. His skin was loosely draped over his body, blood leaking from some corners. Barely fitting to his frame.
He approached her bed, then laid beside her. Casually he began to start a conversation. Recollecting things about her past no one else could have known. About her mother's recent death and other tales she never shared with anyone else. He never touched her the entire time, simply carrying on the strange morbid conversation. She remained paralyzed for the entire hour that he continued to speak. As it reached the end, he began to speak of her own upcoming death. He went into grotesque detail about the way her head would be severed and roll down a hill, into oncoming traffic to leave a rather awful mess. He left shortly after this, and she instantly fell back asleep and forgot it even happened, until the guest was gone.
There were similar stories from all eight guests who brought their stories forward. It was after this that everything began to slowly crumble around Dario and his family. The Old Oak's reputation went from sparkling and bright to darkened overnight. Suddenly it didn't feel like a safe place for the family to stay. If this strange intruder could so easily break in and torment guests then who else could get in? What other dangers could come for them in the night?
Dario fought hard to keep the tide from turning against him and keep the hotel afloat. He reported the guest to the police right away only for them to return to him with an awful revelation: Charles Ratheway was dead, and he had been dead shortly before he checked into the hotel. Mr. Ratheway was found skinned in his apartment down in Portland shortly before the guest had checked out. He'd been dead for the entire week and the medical examiner had difficulty placing the cause of death. While he had been skinned, he'd also been shot, stabbed, badly burnt and had several strange holes along his abdomen, unrecognized markings surrounding them.
Even through that horrible event, the hotel persevered. Dario worked overtime so he could start hiring some better security around the hotel. He enlisted his first three sons, Franco, Johnathan and Alexander to help keep an eye out as well. For a few years things were going well and it seemed the damage had been repaired from the strange guest. It was then, July 3rd, 1955 that he checked in once again. He arrived late in the evening, while Dario and his sons were patrolling the hotel as security. Francesca, Franco's then girlfriend and future wife, was the employee who checked him in that evening.
She checked him in and felt a strange dizzying feeling, similar to vertigo at times whenever she looked at him for too long. His appearance was slightly different as well. A similar body frame, tall, lean this time and hidden away in heavy clothing. She described the same piercing dark eyes as Franco recalled, but his head was different, short dark hair with a few stray locks pooling around the side of his lean face. He looked almost vermin-like this time with a slender long nose and dark circles around his eyes. Even with such a lean face he still had a massive grin.
He checked in with the name Max Hardy and once more he stayed an entire week in his room. Ordering only one meal a day this time, early in the morning and never again for the rest of the day. This time whenever staff delivered the food, they mentioned the same vertigo affect as what Francesca experienced.
After the week came and went, the guest checked out early in the morning once more and vanished without a word to the staff. Several guests made their way to the front desk, describing different horror stories this time. Dario's heart sank as an older couple spoke of the intruder. A tall, lean man with a face just like how Francesca described. His skin was described as leathery, almost like an outfit instead of real skin. He stood at the foot of their beds until they both awoke to the sound of him humming a lullaby.
Though they were terrified, the same paralysis that had affected every other guest who encountered this man was holding them still. He sang several songs, many of them with different voices. Always soft, sweet and warm like a young mother's voice as she sings to her baby. As the man sang, he slowly sunk his long, twig-like fingers into his abdomen. He tore the flesh around his stomach away, carefully ripping his skin apart and exposing the round red sack in his belly. He never stopped singing, sounding so happy as he eviscerated himself. He held up his stomach for the couple to see. The old woman could see something crawling around inside of it already.
As the intruder ceased singing, he shushed the couple quietly and set his stomach on the bed at their feet. They stared in horror, waiting for whatever had been resting inside it to appear. Two small clawed hands ripped their way free of the bloated stomach. A creature that the couple argued over describing was now free and staring hungrily at them. The husband insisted it looked like a small ape, feral with big glowing eyes. While his wife adamantly refuted that and said it was like a cat with soft, sunken eyes that were red but did not glow. They both agreed it was covered in hair and had claws, but neither agreed with the others description all through their complaint to Dario.
After the small creature was free, it climbed atop the old woman's chest. It leaned into her ear and whispered it's name, then left one deep cut along her chest before vanishing. She was in tears by the time she finished her half of the story. She said that it was her unborn baby. The one her husband could never give her that she wanted so badly. It was the son she wanted to name Elijah. She realized that all the lullabies the man sang were all ones she had planned to sing to her first child to get him to sleep. How he could have known all her favorite tunes and to conceive such a nightmarish avatar for the child she never had, she didn't know but she made it clear she blamed Dario and his family for their failure to keep them safe. She had a scar right where she recalled the creature slashing her.
It was after the second visit that things really began to fall apart of the Del'Otto family. Dario had an incredible spirit but one could only fight the tide so long after two cases of this strange intruder, the reputation of the hotel was forever stained. Each guest had a horrifying story of the intruder tormenting them with grotesque imagery and using their old fears and lost desires against them. One guest described watching his high school sweetheart appear before him, then slowly devoured from the inside out by bugs and snakes and other horrible creatures eating away at her until there was nothing, not even a skeleton.
Dario never gave up on the hotel but the rest of Serling already had. In the short five years the hotel had been around, business was already starting to boom in Serling and grow in new ways. Another hotel opened up and with it's first real competition, the Old Oak had an even harder time surviving. Dario was unable to fight public opinion of the hotel though he tried his damnedest to get the community behind him again. He tried another huge party, but none of the townsfolk came and it ended up being a drain on their funds.
In early 1961, Dario began to try and revamp the Old Oak's image and put himself severely in debt remodeling the hotel. His wife begged him not to do it, to give up on the hotel as it was becoming a massive burden on their family. With so few guests staying at the Old Oak, any non-related staff had be let go. It was up to Dario and his entire family to run the hotel and while he had 6 children by now and his brothers had moved out to assist, they were still understaffed. Most family members took on
three to four jobs to try and keep things running smoothly. Through the renovation their workload was doubled as Dario couldn't afford to have anyone assist him with the build other than his family members.
Dario's health was starting to wane as the remodeling began. Another reason his wife begged him not to go through with it. But it was too late by then, the loan had been taken out and the supplies purchased. Even though he was getting weaker every day, he worked his heart out to try and save his dream. It took 4 months longer than he estimated and he'd gone fairly over budget but by 1962 the renovations were complete. Dario was sure this would save his business and his family. They had a grand re-opening and for a moment, it seemed like it may have worked. It had been long enough since the last incident that most of the community was willing to try and give the new and improved Oak Inne a try.
A day after the hotel's re-opening, February 20th, 1962, the guest checked in for the third time. His third name he checked in under was Alec Moore. This was another dead man's name, as Alec Moore had died the day he checked in to the Oak Inne. Dario's youngest son, Franklin, checked the guest in this time. Franklin described a somewhat different body frame this time. He was tall once more but this time had slim shoulders and small hands. He looked pale and sickly, like a man who knew
his time was coming to an end. He wore the same heavy clothes and dusty old hat with the familiar piercing eyes and wide grin on his pale lips.
Franklin was the only staff member to ever see the strange guest. He described neither a feeling of sickness or vertigo when in his presence, but rather an incredible sadness. A powerful depression swept him and by the time the guest took his key and was on his way, Franklin was in tears. Upset for the rest of the night and never certain why.
His third time staying, the guest never ordered room service and never left his room. Dario had noticed that a guest was checked in he hadn't seen around yet. It was a couple of days later when he asked Franklin if he had seen the guest after checking him in. Franklin said he never saw the guest after checking him in and none of the other staff members could recall seeing him either. Dario was terrified that the strange man who had haunted them in the past had returned, but he didn't want
to jump to conclusions and kick a man out on the street with no evidence. So he called about Alec Moore and it was then he discoverd another dead skinless man had checked into his hotel.
Dario was furious and stormed up to the room with his sons, planning to beat the intruder black and blue for all the trouble he'd caused their family. When they arrive at the room he stayed in, Room 25, it was completely empty. There was no sign that anyone had stayed in the room for days. There was a thin layer of dust and the bed looked perfectly made. They tore the room apart looking for some evidence of the intruder, but there was nothing to find. Dario felt he was going mad and began to babble about being cursed. Franco took his father home that evening to help him get some rest.
After that night they searched the room, guests began to complain about an intruder once more. These stories were worse than anything Dario had heard before. A middle-aged gentleman told the story of how the intruder appeared in his room, his skin described as looking slimey and wet. More like a diver's wet suit than actual skin. A strange dark green substance pooled around at his feet and dripped off of him while he spoke. The intruder spoke about all the fun ways to make one suffer. Detailing various forms of torture it liked to indulge in. He then raised his hand to demonstrate his favorite form of torture.
He grabbed his index finger and slowly, very slowly, pulled it backward. He took his time, savoring the loud crackling sound as the bone began to slowly snap. As he pulled it farther back, the guest could hear the distinct sound of muscle tearing and saw skin splitting open along the fear as it was fully pulled back. Instead screaming in pain, the intruder simply laughed while he then continued to pull back the rest of his fingers, each one taking longer than the last.
After telling his story, the guest was shaking and sobbing as he confessed that this had been his greatest fear as a boy. How all of his older brothers would hold him down and pull back his fingers until he cried Uncle. How he would go to sleep at night, having nightmares of them pulling the fingers back all the way and having to see and hear exactly what the intruder showed him.
A weak older woman, sickly and barely able to stand with her cane, told her story through hacking coughs and wheezing. She had been feeling fine when she checked in the night before. Now she felt as if all her energy was gone and her muscles had been sapped of what strength they had left. Her story of the intruder began late in the evening as she saw the slime-covered man in the corner of her eye hiding behind the curtains. He approached her silently then raised a pillow over her head, bringing it down and smothering her. He would smother her, give her barely half a second to catch some breathe, then strangle the air away again.
This went on for what must have been an hour, her body constantly thrashing and desperately attempting to get him off. Scratching at his skin, tearing some of it off which only terrified her further. The viscous slime poured out of the wound she made all over her hands making them slippery. After the hour passed, he finally removed the pillow. She was left dazed, her lungs aching for more air when she finally took a full breathe. As soon as her vision cleared, the intruder was gone.
One young couple, recently married and staying at the hotel for their
honeymoon, recounted their story to Dario. They were awoken by the
strange man as he began to play with 2 grotesque meat puppets that
resembled them. With a clear patch of hair taken from her head on the
wife doll. Each puppet would reveal a horrible secret about the spouse
they represented. Revealing when the husband had cheated on her, when
the wife had stolen from him, each little secret had the puppets tear
other apart bit by bit until they were in scraps at the feet of their bed.
Other guests gave partial bits of information, clearly not wanting to share whatever deep seeded childhood fears the entity had awoken inside of them. Dario was heart broken and now was starting to fall apart himself. The Serling PD believed that Dario himself may be the intruder, wearing various disguises after breaking into people's rooms. He was kept under close watch by the police for several years. Having police cars not far from the Hotel only worsened an already ruined reputation for the Oak Inne.
In late 1968, Dario's health had reached an all time low and his doctor diagnosed that he had a few years left to live, if he was lucky. His heart was failing him. His family almost refused to believe the news at first. Many of them thought Dario had the heart of a lion, a powerful machine that never needed repair. His heart was failing him though and with his time short, he decided it was time to give up on his dream. Dario begged his oldest, Franco, to take over the business of the hotel. The Oak Inne wasn't doing well, with a captain who wasn't all there in the head, the ship was in rocky waters.
Reluctantly, Franco agreed to take over the business from his parents. His father and mother moved back to California where he spent the last few years of his life in what little happiness he could find left in it. Dario Del'Ottoe died on March 22nd, 1971. Little information was available on Dario after he left Serling and Franco only held onto the hotel until his father's death. Not even a full week after his passing, Franco sold the hotel and moved out of Serling with his wife and children. Shortly after it's purchase, the Hotel was remodeled into a much cheaper motel.
The Oak Inne is scheduled to be demolished in a few days from when I write this. It never apparently ever made much money back for the owner and the land has been sold to be turned into a parking lot. I visited the Oak Inne a few times when visiting Serling. It was an all right place to settle down for a night or two. None of the charm from when Dario had ran the place remained though. It was a sad, hollow shell of it's former glory that I heard so much about when I was younger. Before the Oak Inne is destroyed and forgotten, I sought out and will be interviewing Franco Del'Otto to see what he can tell me about the hotel and his father's final days.
________________August 5th, 1984.
After having a lengthy conversation with Franco, recorded on tape, transcribed onto the page word per word what he told me. I feel this is a vital part of the investigation before I wrap up this file. Now here, in Franco's own words, are his father's last few days.
Franco had a nervous look on his face as he began to relive the story for me. "My old man was never happy down in California. It was too bright, he would say, it only reminded him of the dark they ran from. He was ashamed of himself for giving up on the Old Oak. He felt like he abandoned one of his own children. He knew damn well I wasn't ready for the responsibility of taking over a huge burden like the Old Oak. I did my best to keep the place from imploding, but it was a sinking ship when I took over. I was mostly just plugging holes and waiting until the sharks got me. I figured this would be my burden to carry for the rest of my life.
I get a call one day at the hotel, on my private line for my room. My wife and children were living there with me for the time. We couldn't afford a place of our own so we made the hotel our home. When my mom called I could tell something was wrong just by the way she was speaking. Her voice cracked and she had a hard time saying the words. Dad was dying and she wanted everyone down there immediately. Not an easy feat, closing down a whole hotel for even a few days. We somehow
got it locked down in time to get there before he passed. I arrived the last, everyone else had been there for a full day before me.
He didn't talk much during those last couple of days. Mostly he just stared out the window, at nature, mumbling to himself about missing the big trees. He never talked to us until the night before he died. He asked everyone to give me and him a moment alone. After we had the room clear, just us, he grabbed my wrist and told me I had to get rid of the hotel. I stared at him in confusion. He'd begged me to take the place from him so he could retire. Why all of a sudden didn't he want me getting rid of it?
He explained, as best as his drug addled brain could. He confessed that he knew the source of our failure, the Demon that had been haunting the hotel and destroyed it. He says it was a creature his father had dealt with it in his time. He had bargained good fortune for 100 years for his family, and in 1950, the bargain had come to an end. The demon had paid his due and now was collecting in the form of our pain and sorrow. He did the twisted things in the night to make our greatest achievement into our greatest shame.
He spoke with such vigor and clarity, unlike how I'd heard him speak in well over a year. His talking was usually distant and half rambling and mumbled under his breathe. But he spoke with power behind his words as if he knew it was the most important thing he could tell me. He insisted that I not tell any of the other family members. That the curse may die with him, if we are lucky. He would pay the price for his father's sins, gladly, if his children would be safe. I told him we were safe, everything was fine. I was just trying to comfort him but he was so terrified for us.
After trying to get him to talk about something else, he grew quiet again and had nothing more to say for the rest of the night. To anyone. After that he passed the next morning in his sleep. The doctors say it was peaceful, but he was clutching his chest so tightly. His face looked in pain. But we believed them because we wanted the cold comfort that he did not die in pain. After he passed, I found a seller for the hotel. My mother was furious with me but I insisted it was what father wanted. She still hasn't spoken to me since that day.
Sometimes I'm not sure if what haunted our Hotel was a man or a demon. I think about if he was just some man, some twisted individual who killed people, stole their identities then was just having some sick fun with our guests. It's hard to imagine anyone could be as depraved as that. As strange as it sounds, it feels more plausible he was a demon. Something from another world, taking his pound of flesh for deals long sealed.
I haven't seen him in decades, but I still think about him late at night. When the house gets quiet and I can hear everything. I listen for him, keep an eye out and make sure he's not in my room. I feel so ridiculous for looking over my shoulder all the time. But it's hard not to wonder about what could be behind me, waiting in the shadows.
I was certain that whatever curse destroyed the Old Oak was gone when my father passed. I never saw the man again myself, except for in my nightmares. However my youngest daughter has been drawing a strange, tall figure with piercing eyes and a wide smile often. I tell myself it's a coincidence, but I rarely believe it."
After my interview with Franco, I have come to conclude that the strange guest of the Old Oak Hotel may very well have been a demon. Dario said his father made a dark deal and I can't help but wonder if something in the heart of this town calls to the darkness beyond our world. I found several demons that could have been the ones Dario's father summoned. Far too many to try and pair down to even a few. I fear the strange guest may never have a true name.
This morning the Oake Inne motel was torn down. I watched as a piece of Serling's history was ripped to nothing but bricks and dust. I had no sentimental attachment to the place in my childhood. Only after learning of it's story and the tragedy that befell it's maker did I understand and care that we were losing it. Now it will be forgotten, like so many other bad memories in this town.
As the final piece of brick came down and the bulldozers cleared what little remained of Dario's dream, I saw a man in the distance. He was tall, with broad shoulders and heavy clothes. Atop his head was a large, dusty old hat and looking at me through the rubble were his two piercing eyes. He smiled wide at me and tipped his hat before walking away. I watched in shock, tempted to run after him. As I was about to give chase, I saw he was already gone. The Old Oak's strange guest paying one final visit to the dream he destroyed.
-Darwyn Parker, August 7th, 1984