Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Kolchak Files OSR: The Zombie

The Nightstalker was a great resource for horror detective gaming. Fun, not overly complicated, and always moving forward. The plots did not sit idle, a lot was needed to be done in the 50 minutes of each episode, just like a good game. Lots of clues, lots of clue sources, research, a few minor encounters before the main monster brawl. Perfect game rhythm. 

In the second episode of The Kolchak: the Nightstalker series (1974) Kolchak encounters a zombie, an undead automaton raised by voodoo magic to avenge its own death.

"Popular folklore would have us believe that there exists in the underworld ruthless men who fear nothing. This story should debunk that myth."

The story opens at night, August 14 at 2 a.m. in a seeding part of town.  Inside of a shipping container is a secret counting house of the Benjamin Sposato crime family. The doors are barred from the inside with a stout wooden board as Al Berg, Sposato's incompetent brother in law, is leading a group of mobsters counting and preparing money from their rackets. Among them is Willie Pike, former boxer. A loud pounding on the door begins, shaking the container and cracking the door bar. The mobsters run around in a panic collecting money and shredding documents as the door flies open and a shadowy figure climbs in. The mobsters open fire but the figures fling them aside, grabbing Pike above its and breaking his back. Berg escapes in the confusion. Thus begins the terror of the Zombie.

Kolchak is at the INS office as his boss, Tony, begins to butter him up for an assignment. Kolchak resists until Tony mentions his resources tell him it's am exclusive: a raid on a syndicate (mob) burial ground, a full raid involving tactical units. Kolchak takes the bait and Tony throws in the catch: Monique Marmelstein, niece of NY INS exec Abe "the Smiling Cobra" Marmelstein. The plump Monique is young, inexperience, brusque, and way to eager. Kolchak finally gives in and she goes with him in his yellow '66 Ford Mustang.

"Captain Leo Winwood and I had a relationship that was long and bloody, like the Crusades, only without the chivalry."

The duo arrive at the raid site, Apple Farms and Cider Works a front run by mobsters James and Perry Russo. They arrive in the midst of firefight as the police Captain Leo Winwood, a serious not fan of Kolchak's, has given the order to attack when fired up by the Russos. Monique puts herself in danger trying to take pics prompting Kolchak to trick her into and locking the car trunk. He then exchanges a few barbs with Winwood as the shooting subsides. The mobsters have been killed. Entering the bullet riddled farmhouse Captain Winwood comes out and bars reporters from entering to take pictures. Seeking more information Kolchak goes to visit a contact at the morgue.

Gordy "the Goul" Spangler runs a death lottery from the morgue, forcing Kolchak to buy. Kolchak then pays for info on the Russo's bodies.. Gordy acknowledges that they are here and mentions WIllie Pike from two nights prior, showing Kolchak x-rays that refute the official police report of death by 'severe blows'. He also reveals (after trying to get more cash out of the broke Kolchak) that a third body, a large black man was at the Russo scene as well. Gordy reveals the body was there last week, dead of six .44 mag  slugs, and there was chicken blood in the ears this time. They are interrupted as Tony calls a distracted Kolchak to apologize to Monique but Kolchak is busy listening to Gordy and hangs up as soon as Gordy promises to get info on who the black man was and where he was buried. He then runs off to an official police briefing.

Kolchak and Captain Winwood verbally duel as Kolchak demands to know about broken backs and about the third body at the Russo farm. Winwood deflects the questions only answering basic questions about the third corpse and abruptly ends the briefing as Kolchak brushes off the attempts of other reporters for info.

A phone call from Gordy leads Kolchak to the black man's second burial at St. Lucie's cemetery as city expense. This is confirmed by an older cemetary worker who thinks they are burying bodies on atop the other. Captain WInwood shows up to watch the burial and encounters Kolchak who throws more questions at Winwood who not so subtlety threatens to break his arms if he doesn't get lost.

A trip back to Gordy's (and another unwanted death lottery ticket) reveals the black man was one Francois Edmonds, a young bookie apparently hit by the Syndicate. Gordy theorizes that Edmond's was almost caught as a bookie and swallowed bookie receipts and the Russo's dug him up for 'exploratory surgery.' Kolchak immediately dismisses this as Gordy reveals there's been problems between the black numbers operators on the south side and the syndicate.

Kolchak tries to place a bet and get info on the south side but none of the bookies will do it. He poses as a former customer of Francois Edmonds and he is told to get a 'lucky' number at a voodoo shop, Le Bocor. There he meets the aged Uncle Filemon who will give him a lucky number for eleven dollars. He pours out a bowl of bones and other items and asks Kolchak about his dreams to find his lucky number. Kolchak tells him he dreamt about Francois Edmonds and Uncle FIlemon states that it must have been a bad dream. Kolchak is them spooked by a chicken in back of the shop as Sweetstick Weldon and his men enter the shop. He is a major black numbers boss and remembers Kolchak as writing a piece on him referring to him as ' an all around civic headache' and Kolchak denies this (that was my brother Marshal!) Kolchak's snooping has alerted Sweetstick and Kolchak doesn't seem to take the hint too shut up about Francois Edmonds as Sweetstick's right hand man Poppy gut punches him and throws him into the street. Later that night Al Berg is killed in an alleyway, back broken in the air. This prompts a meeting between the syndicate head and the numbers operators.

Kolchak hits up another of his contacts, the Monk, and gets the location of the meeting, a midtown garage owned by Benjamin Sposato. At 8.21 p.m. Sweetstick arrives with his men in a purple pimp cadilac to meet with Sposato and his men. Insults and threats are exchanged as Kolchak tapes the exchange in secret. The meeting ends unresolved and Kolchak fumbles with his recording, causing to to make noise as it rewinds. He is caught and brought to Sposato's limo. Sposato remembers Kolchak as the one who crashed his daughter's Barabar's wedding (no no that was my brother Sydney!) Sposato remembers Kolchak's 'two dollar hat' and is going to have Kolchak hurt badly or killed by Carl saves himself by telling them he knows that Francois Edmonds is killing his men. They know he's buried in St. Lucie's but Kolchak swears he's not there now.

Sposato and his men, including his right hand man Victor Friese, drag Kolchak to the grave and make him dig it up. It is empty and they mobsters begin to panic and argue as Friese did the killing of Edmonds but Sposato denies giving the order as they begin to believe Kolchak's assertion that anyone connected with Edmonds' death is being killed. Loud footsteps are heard and the zombie enters the scene. Sposato's men try to shoot the zombie but he batters then aside and ignores their bullets. Friese tries to run but trips over the grave dirt. The zombie picks him up, breaks his back, and leaves. The police arrive soon. The Sposato's have fled, leaving Friese's corpse, and Carl is still sitting in the grave, waiting on the cops.

"I saw Victor Friese get his back snapped! I heard it crunch!! ...and the man who did it was dead - dead - and had been dead for over two weeks!"

Kolchak is being held in Captain Winwood's office as a disheveled Tony Vincenzo arrives to bail him out wanting to know what Carl has done this time. Winwood lists:  grave desecration, suspected theft of corpse,  various health law violations, and setting next to a fresh body. When allowed to speak (he had been threated with a year in jail if he said anything) Kolchak raves about seeing Edmonds' walking corpse , the spine breaking murder, voodoo, chickenblood, and corn kernels. Kolchak is booted out into Vincenzo's custody.

Another trip to the monk reveals the name and location of Edmonds grandmother: Mamalois Edmonds, an old colorful Haitian lady.  Kolchak shows up at her door and she calls him in by name before he can knock. He questions her about where Francois' body is ( she claimed it was burned as a family custom), why she's called mamalois as he's heard of a papalois, a voodoo magician (she claims it's because she can cure little sicknesses with potions, etc). She asks Kolchak if he has any aches and he reveals a back problem. She mixes up a 'little medicine' of rum but Kolchak refuses to drink and flees the house to her taunt of 'you're crazy sonny!' Feeling slightly ill he spies a dead chicken in her trash and investigates. Doing this he sees her come outside with what looks like a mini-coffin, grab a chicken from a roost, and go into her garage, painted with a voodoo sign and a dead chicken hanging at the door. The garage is filled with voodoo paraphernalia including dead chickens, skulls, black candles, a cross with a tooth necklace, etc. On the alter are several mini-coffins with names painted on them in blood. Mamalois turns on a record of voodoo drums and starts with a ritual. Kolchak sneaks into the loft of the garage and, through a gap in the ceiling, begins taking pictures. He is horrified to see his name being painted on the new coffin, next to one with Captain Winwood's name. He heads back to the INS office to do some serious voodoo book research and write a zombie article.

"You oughta commit this to memory. You oughta really bone up on this, Captain. Especially the part on how to kill a zombie. What's the matter? You can't read? Well, I'll tell you how. You instruct all of your men that go out looking for this zombie to look in places of the dead- in graveyards, in cemeteries, in mortuaries or whatever. Each one of them has to be equipped with the following items- white candles, matches, salt and needle and thread. Now, after you catch the zombie, you pour the salt into his mouth. Then with the needle and thread, you sew the lips very tightly together." 

 "What do you do with it then, Kolchak? Cook the guy? Baste him with butter?" 

"No, you light the candles around him. So far, this zombie has only killed people who were connected to his murder. That's why its so important, Captain, for you to find out how to kill him. "

"And what's that crack supposed to mean?" 

"You see that little knickknack there, Captain? That is your coffin. And spelled in blood, chicken blood, on the top of it, is your name, Winwood. W- I-N-W-O-O-D. What it really spells, Captain, is not only are you a crooked cop, you're also a murderous one. How long have you been on Sposato's payroll, huh?"

Captain Winwood barges into INS to shut Kolchak down for good even threatening Tony with a number of fire hazard violations. Kolchak is not intimidated and tells the Captain how to find a zombie by looking in places of the dead and how to kill a zombie with the ritual of pouring salt in its mouth while resting, sewing its lips very tightly together, and then lighting white candles around the corpse while showing to Tony and Winwood the items he is raving about.
He then shows the pair the pictures with the voodoo coffins and names and outright accuses Winwood of being on Sposato's payroll and participating in Edmonds murder. Furious Winwood storms off with Kolchak badgering him to the stairway. Kolchak then tries to ditch Monique and heads out to Zachary's a nightclub where Sposato's girlfriend is singing in hopes the zombie will show up. It does killing a number of Sposato's men and breaking his back like the others. Carl shows up and begins snapping pictures soon followed by Monique who goes into complete shock from the carnage. Carl gently puts her in a cab bound for Brooklyn.

He then looks across the street and sees the zombie get on a city bus (yes you read that correctly.)   Kolchak gets his paper bag of zombie slaying gear and jumps on the back of the bus. The zombie soon gets off at an old wrecking yard: Moore Auto Graveyard.

Following it in Kolchak makes his way into the scrap yard amid stacks of rusting junk car, tripping over hubcaps and making a lot of noise at one point. Soon he finds it lying in the back of a wrecked hearse in a pile of cars. He onto the pile and warily takes a few pictures through the broken windows before climbing into the tight space in the back of the hearse and over the body to do the ritual to de-animate the corpse. He prepares by lighting a few candles, laying the sewing kit on zombie's chest, and begins to pour salt into the corpses mouth. He begins to shake and sweat as his nerves slowly begin cracking (one of the creepiest scenes IMHO in tv history) as he takes the needs and prepares to sew the mouth. As he's doing this Mamalois is working a ritual for the zombie to find and kill Kolchak. As he is about to pierce the lip with needle the zombie opens its eyes and looks about.
Carl's nerve shatters as Kolchak freaks out and runs. The zombie slides out of the hearse and swiftly pursues Kolchak over the car piles,  almost catching him. Kolchak manages to get the zombie to run into a looped cable from a crane, hanging itself in the air as he prepares three lit white candles on a hubcap beneath it. The corpse de-animates as the candles shake and blow out one by one. Carl's camera was smashed in the pursuit and he loses any evidence he might have had. Again.

"Item- Mamalois Edmonds was deported to her native country only one day after the events of the junkyard. Item- Captain Leo Winwood was relieved of duty for "reasons of health. '" Item- Francois Edmonds, the deceased, was buried a third time at public expense. A third time. However, this time rock salt was poured in his mouth, and his lips were sewn shut. City officials will deny this, but you can see it for yourself, if- if-you'd care to venture out to St. Lucy's Cemetery and exhume the corpse. Be my guest. If you've got the nerve."

Revenge Zombie
Hd: 3
Hp: 19
Ac: 12
Hit: +3
Save: 15
A corpse raised by a bokor or practitioner of voodoo magic for the purpose of taking violent revenge for some wrong, usually revenge for murder. The corpse is raised up with a ritual of awakening by the bokor and sent to kill those targeted, one victim at a time.

The revenge zombie is of course undead and has the standard zombie undead traits such as immunity to sleep and charm spells, etc. This type of zombie is as fast as a normal human being and moves at the standard human movement rate; they roll initiative normally. The revenge zombie takes half damage from piercing and blunt damage.

The revenge zombie's primary attack is to pummel with its fists for 1d6 damage. If the attack roll hits by 5 or more points the revenge zombie grabs its victim over its head instead of doing pummeling damage and begins to break the victim's back for an automatic 1d8 damage each round. The victim can try to escape the grip in the next round by making a Saving Throw with a -4 penalty due to the zombie's strength.

It must reast in a place of the dead such as mortuaries, graveyards, cemetaries, etc. The revenge zombie will go dormant until revived by the bokor controlling it. While dormant any hp damage done will be 'healed' after eight hours. Even if a revenge zombie is burned, dismembered, or even blown apart it can 'heal' if the remains are placed in a place of the dead. If the corpse is missing parts they can be replaced, stitched on the corpse from another corpse by the bokor. It continues to slowly rot as time passes. This will not affect its statistics, it only makes it look more horrific as it becomes mottled and bloated.

Once the ritual of awakening is started the zombie is animated and unerringly makes its way to the person it is aimed at. It will attack until it is destroyed or its target is dead. Once the target is killed it returns to its resting place to lie dormant and await the next ritual call.

But how did it get on the bus and how did no one on the bus notice?
That's always been a bit of fun fan speculation over the years. Were the seedier folks of Chicago that oblivious in 1974? Did they mind their own business that much?

My own theory is that Mamalois was watching over the zombie as it was animated. When Kolchak destroys it she was seen intensely concentrating and crying out in pain when it de-animated. Perhaps she must upkeep the ritual during the entire animation and she can cast other rituals through this contact such as a glamour to make it appear alive except by those she wished to see it, namely its victims and their allies. Perhaps she could slightly control the zombie's actions? Perhaps she had money in its pockets for bus fare? Ultimately it doesn't matter, just make something up. The unusual and absurd are normal in the Kolchak life.


  1. Love me some Kolchak! I've robbed many a plotline to use as an adventure scenario for C.O.C. VERY cool of you to write this up!

  2. Thank you. Yeah I've ripped off Kolchak over the years lol. I plan on taking my time with this one hopefully I'll be done with it within a year.