The Elixir of Life is a scary story about the legend of Doc Benton and his scientific search for a way to live forever. And who wouldn’t want to live forever, right?
In New Hampshire, for nearly two hundred years, a strangely agile, black caped figure with long white hair has been spotted occasionally around Mount Moosilauke in the White Mountains. Most people agree it is all that remains of Doctor Thomas Benton.
Doc Benton was born in New Hampshire in the middle of the 18th century. He was a bright student, but his family was poor. In need of a doctor, the town raised money to send him to medical school in Germany on the condition that he would return when he was finished.
At Medical school, Doc Benton was taught by a Professor Stockmayer, an eccentric German doctor who was searching for the secret to eternal life. Dr. Stockmayer became a kind of mentor to Benton, leaving Benton an old trunk full of his discoveries and his instruments after his death. When Benton was done with school, he followed through on his promise to return to his hometown.
But when Doc Benton arrived in New Hampshire, he was horrified to discover that his parents had died while he was away studying. The shock of his parents’ death changed the young doctor. He began to behave in a bizarre manner and refused to speak to any of the townspeople. It transformed him into a hermit. He lost all interest in his medical practice and took to the woods, where he set up a laboratory in a deserted shack.
There he opened a trunk that had been given to him by Professor Stockmeyer, one of his teachers at the German medical school. In life Professor Stockmeyer had been shunned by his colleagues because of his research into the forbidden secrets of eternal youth. Now Doc Benton shunned his community to continue those same unholy experiments. Living like a hermit, he made only occasional forays into town for supplies.
Eventually, a series of animal deaths startled the residents of the area. A cow was discovered dead in a barn. Lifeless horses were found in their stalls. Bloated sheep dotted the green hillside like balls of snow. There seemed to be no reason for these mysterious deaths, but there was one strange detail that linked them all. Each animal had a fresh wound behind its left ear – a red swelling with a white pinprick in the center.
It wasn’t long before people began suffering a similar fate. First, a corpse vanished from the back of an undertaker’s wagon. When it was later discovered discarded in some bushes near Warren, there was a second corpse beside it. Each had a wound behind its left ear.
Gossip began to spread around the town and some people were pointing their fingers at Doc Benton. A small group of citizens ventured up to Doc Benton’s cabin to see if he knew anything about the discarded bodies, but they found his cabin abandoned. Had he gone missing too? A search party combed the hillside, but they could find no trace of him. He seemed to have vanished.
However, in the months that followed, hunters and hikers claimed they had seen him in some wooded part of the thirty-square-mile Moosilauke area. He was always said to be wearing a black cape, moving rapidly, with a long white hair flowing out behind him.
In November 1825, a Benton woman heard her daughter scream. She looked up from her laundry to see a black-caped figure carrying her little girl into the woods. The woman’s husband rushed off in pursuit and his neighbors joined the chase. They followed the footprints to Little Tunnel Ravine, a box canyon from which there could be no escape. Yet weirdly, the footprints ended abruptly.
Suddenly, the bewildered men heard laughter echoing around the rocks. It seemed to be coming from overhead. Looking up, they recognized the dark, decaying figure of Doc Benton. He was standing on an outcropping, holding the struggling girl. When her father begged the cloaked figure to return his daughter, Doc Benton happily obliged. He hurled the screaming child off the cliff and the men watched in horror as she fell to her death on the canyon floor.
Sightings of the demonic doctor continued for years afterwards. In 1860, two loggers vanished from the mountaintop. One was found dead, bearing the odd wound behind his ear. The other was never found.
In 1901, Mr. Tomaso, a brakeman on a logging railroad, was found dead beside the track. He hadn’t fallen from the train; the only mark on him was that peculiar wound behind his left ear.
In recent years, hikers on the Moosilauke slopes have continued to report seeing a mysterious caped figure in the woods. Is it Doc Benton? One person catches a glimpse of his skeletal face disappearing behind a tree. Others spot a wrinkled hand or pant leg moving quickly out of sight.
In the 1970s, a Dartmouth student took a solo hike in Jobidunk Ravine. When he didn’t return, searchers went out. They found him easily enough, but he was in a bad way, wandering aimlessly with a glazed look on his face. His friends realized he was in shock. Rescuers transported him to the hospital in Hanover.
Though he recovered from the cuts, bruises, and a fractured skull, he was curiously vague about what had happened to him. Eventually the story came out: He told one of his friends that while he was climbing on a ledge, a hand shot out through an opening in the rocks and shoved him!
In 2002, another student had a near run-in with the doctor. On a solo hike close to the summit of Moosilauke, he found the print of an old-style boot in the mud of an unused trail. It was in a place where there had been no tracks fifteen minutes earlier.
Many people believe that Doc Benton, or whatever he has become, still stalks the slopes of New Hampshire’s Mount Moosilauke. Pets, livestock, and people still disappear on the mountain’s rocky slopes. But they say Doc Benton isn’t looking for the secret of eternal life anymore. He’s already found that. Nowadays, they say, he’s just looking for a way to die.