Halloween - 1979 by Lloyd A. Green
(As published in Sanitarium Magazine, Vol. 27)
THE LONG DRIVE HAD BEEN A BIT UNSETTLING for Dyllon. He shifted to the left in the driver’s seat, but couldn’t find a comfortable spot. The late night fog persisted in following them no matter which way their vehicle turned. As the group headed towards the 13th Street exit on Interstate 70, Dyllon realized that they had been driving for nearly an hour. By his estimates, they should have been there by now.
“Are you tired?” Kelly asked from the seat next to him. “You seem restless.”
“No, I’m fine,” he quickly responded to his wife. “I’m too scared to be tired.”
Kelly smiled at him sweetly, shook her head and turned around to continue her conversation with her friend in the backseat. It was Halloween night and Kelly’s friend Millie had recommended that the best way to celebrate
would be to take a trip to a particular house of horrors in downtown Kansas City. She had visited the place last week with some other friends of hers and she couldn’t stop talking about it. Millie had insisted on this outing and she wasn’t taking no for an answer.
Prior to tonight, Dyllon had not met Millie or her overly talkative husband, Willis, who occupied the remaining seat in the rear. Regardless of how Dyllon felt about meeting new people, the chance to visit one of the city’s set-up haunted houses sounded like the perfect way to spend this special evening.
But there was something about Millie’s husband that did not sit well with Dyllon. The guy seemed pretty quiet at first, but then for the longest while, all he could do was talk about adding structural additions to his home. Couldn’t he tell that no one else was really interested?
Attempting to be open minded, Dyllon decided to start a new topic of conversation.
“This Halloween seems to be a particularly gloomy one. We could make better time if it wasn’t for this fog.”
“I kind of like it this way,” Willis replied. “It helps add atmosphere to the night. The fog supplies the extra texture to place everyone in the mood for a good scare.”
“A bunch of people in scary masks and crazy costumes tends to get boring year after year though,” Dyllon said.
“It wasn’t always like that,” Willis said. “I mean. That’s not the way it started out.”
“What do you mean?” Kelly said sounding curious.
“Well, if you really want to know,” Willis replied. “The celebration we call Halloween started back around the 5th century B.C in Ireland. On the nights of October 31st and November 1st, Druid priests would start bonfires and others would gather to honor the sun god for the past summer’s fruitful harvest. They would call this time Samhain, which was seen as the time when the door to the Otherworld would open and spirits could enter our world. Folks would even extinguish the fires in their homes to make the area cold and uncomfortable. This was in the hope of scaring away clandestine spirits. Back then, the night of the 31st was called All Hallow’s Eve.”
“Sorry that I asked,” Kelly said as she turned her attention away from Willis in the backseat.
Kelly glanced at Millie who was staring at her husband during his tirade. She was nervously biting on her lower lip while torturing a strand of her sandy blond hair. She seemed to be hanging on his every word.
Kelly was about to ask her friend about this odd behavior when Dyllon cut in.
“You seem to be an authority,” Dyllon said towards Willis. “Where did the costume part come from?”
“Well, it wasn’t until 1000 A.D., that that kind of thing started. The Christian church made November 2nd the day to celebrate the dead, which was called All Souls Day. Again, there were large bonfires and parades, but those celebrating also began dressing up as saints, angels and devils. The wearing of these costumes eventually came to be known as Guising."
Dyllon was fascinated with the topic, but felt like the guy was being a bit too snooty. He wanted to know more, but he also wanted to trip this guy up, at least just a little.
“Where did the name Halloween come from?” Dyllon asked.
Willis could see that Dyllon was looking at him in the rear-view mirror so he spoke directly to him there when he answered.
“When eventually the three traditions of All Saints, All Hallows and All Souls were combined, they came to be known as Hallowmas. In the 16th century, the festival was known as All Hallows’ Even or evening. Somewhere along the way, many found it simpler to just say Halloween.”
“All sounds very dark,” Dyllon said. “Anything terrible ever happen on Halloween besides the Tricks?”
“One of the most famous events was when the magician Houdini died of gangrene from a ruptured appendix. The organ got damaged when he got punched in the stomach about twelve days earlier. His refusal to seek medical attention prior to the blow is probably what killed him. He died on October 31st 1926.”
“You seem to be an encyclopedia of Halloween facts,” Dyllon said. “What if I just throw out a year? Think you can tell me an event that occurred on October 31st?”
“I could try,” Willis responded.
“Dyllon,” Kelly intervened. “That’s not fair. How could he answer that?”
“Won’t know until I ask,” Dyllon replied and he placed his free hand on her leg.
Dyllon glanced again into the mirror before he spoke.
“That’s easy,” Willis quickly responded. “The first hydrogen bomb was detonated in the Marshall Islands in 1952. That thermonuclear device was 750 times larger than the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. All residents were cleared from the area, but with what we now know about fall-out, it’s unlikely that no one was affected.”
“How about Halloween 1961?” Dyllon said doggedly.
“Hurricane Hattie killed 400 people in British Honduras,” Willis said resolutely.
“1963?” Dyllon said feeling less like he might win at this game.
“During a Holiday on Ice event in the Indiana State Fair Coliseum, a propane leak caused a concession stand tank to explode. 74 people were killed. About 400 people were injured.” Dyllon felt stunned.
He wanted to ask one last question, but hesitated. He could tell by how quiet Kelly had become that he was irritating her with this competition he was playing. He decided to hold his tongue.
The road they were on soon turned to the 12th Street portion of the elevated ramp. Kelly spoke as she pointed in the distance at a building just before they passed it.
“This has been a very fascinating conversation, but I think we’ve getting close to our destination.” The five-story building, which they sought, could be seen to their right from their spot on the ramp. On the upper portion of the edifice, the brightly lit neon sign displayed the burning letters, THE EDGE OF HELL.
As the road descended to street level, they had to circle a few blocks to the right until they eventually made a final right on 12th Street. The elevated ramp that they had left now ran parallel to the street and its sturdy columns directed them towards the structure that they were hunting for. Both on the 12th Street section of the industrial district and beneath the quiet of the ramp, there were numerous parking spaces for the taking.
“That can’t be this many parking spaces so close,” Dyllon said. “We’re just a block away from the place.”
“Sounds like a complaint,” Kelly said.
“No. Just amazed,” Dyllon said as he inadvertently bumped his right tire into the curb while parking.
Kelly could tell by Dyllon’s fidgeting that he was getting ready to say something. He shut off the engine and then turned to speak to Willis.
“Okay, Mr. Halloween,” Dyllon finally said. “One last question. I know that this gloomy Wednesday is still young, but have any dire circumstances occurred on this Hallows Eve night?”
Willis was about to answer when Millie placed her hand over his mouth.
“I guess you guys weren’t listening to the radio when we started this trip,” she said. “They said a DC-10 struck a vehicle while still on the ground in New Mexico. It was pretty bad. By the last count, they were certain that 72 people died in the crash.”
Everyone was silent in the car for a few moments until Kelly finally spoke.
“All this talk of death is scaring the crap out of me,” she said. “It’s really hard enough walking into this haunted house. Are you two guys finished? I’m really frightened.”
“Sorry,” both men said simultaneously to their partners.
This caused a light moment of laughter throughout the group as they got out of the car. As they walked the short distance to the building, the silence was soon broken.
“Willis is right,” Dyllon said as he turned to the group. “Tonight we will witness the macabre. Thank you for setting the mood.”
“I guess that I have to apologize,” Willis said, “but that’s all I was trying to do. That is besides building up my own ego. I’ve loved reading about scary stuff ever since I was a kid.”
As Kelly and Millie led the way, their husbands held their hands as they trailed them through the dark red double doors of 1300 West 12th Street. Just inside the doorway, Dyllon heard a guy talking to his friend.
“I’m looking forward to that curly slide which runs down the back of the building. That part is the best.”
Dyllon would keep his eyes open for this, but there seemed to be more immediate concerns.
The group screamed as costumed scaries shot out unannounced from hidden doorways. The place was filled with ghouls and goblins that seemed to be having more fun than those that they were entertaining. While walking through a close hallway, Dyllon was startled when he felt cobweb-like material brushing pass his face and then had to jump when someone close to the floor strongly grabbed his ankle for just a second.
There was even one semi-dark room that had generous 16th century decorations adorning the walls, but there were no actors anywhere to be seen. As the group moved forward, strobe lights began to flicker at an ever-accelerated tempo. The anxiety was high as they all waited for someone or something to jump out of a door or from a hidden spot in the wall. They were almost to the next area and the strobes ceased as Kelly spoke.
“They did that on purpose. There was nothing going on in that room except for our own imagination and fear. I’m still shaking from the anticipation of waiting to be scared.”
“This is great,” Dyllon thought to himself. He loved the psychology of fear that had been amassed in order to create this place. He also realized that all the time that they were walking, they were either hiking up ramped passages or climbing stairs.
After almost a half an hour of wandering about, waiting for the next scare and even getting a bit lost, they approached an area that was quite different than the previous rooms they had seen.
There was soft melodic music emanating from hidden speakers somewhere close by. The artists that they passed were not attempting to scare them at all. There were about five or six of these actors who were standing before a background of what seemed like cotton soft clouds. Some had their palms together as if in prayer and the others were smiling while requesting that we keep moving along. White lights from overhead bathed everyone and some actors even had feathered wings, which seemed to mean that they were supposed to be angels. One of the women had a toy-like harp, which she was trying to play along with the faint music. This could only be Heaven.
Just before turning the corner from this event, Dyllon realized that since they had walked into the building, Willis had not spoken a word. As the wives were screaming and Dyllon was laughing, Willis had been strangely silent. Dyllon stopped for a moment to ask a quick question.
“Hey, man. Aren’t you scared?”
Dyllon had simply been too caught up in his own world, but now he could see that Willis was shaking like a leaf.
“Are you kidding,” Willis finally responded. “I’m scared out of my mind. When is this thing going to be over?”
Dyllon pointed to something that he saw up ahead.
“I think we’re coming to the end,” he said while he patted Willis on his shoulder. Dyllon quietly smiled to himself about the unexpected reactions of the King of the Scary.
As they approached, the once lit area gradually grew darker. There were two guys dressed in raggedy clothing, requesting that their group either move in the direction of a door which had CHICKEN EXIT painted on it or towards a round opening in the wall which brightly had the words THE VORTEX painted over it.
“Why come this far and not see the rest of the show,” Dyllon said to everyone. The raggedy men would only allow one person at a time into the mouth of the chute. Dyllon not so bravely stepped forward to be first.
Dyllon knew this had to be the twisted slide that he had heard was on the outside of the building. He hesitated for only a moment before he sat down and began his descent.
The continuous darkness was claustrophobic as Dyllon twisted and turned down the windy, sponge-lined tube. He realized that he must have been sliding back to the ground floor, but in dizzying circles to the right, over and over again.
As the opening could be seen before his feet, suddenly Dyllon shot out of the tube for a quite a few yards. He rolled to the right and then finally came to a stop on the floor.
A small-gloved hand reached out to assist him to his feet. After Dyllon was able to orientate himself to his immediate surroundings, he saw that the tiny guy had small horns budding from either side of his forehead. At first, Dyllon chuckled at such a layperson attempt at scaring him. But as Dyllon heard what sounded like forceful organ music playing, he twisted his head to the right. That was when he saw him.
He sat on a dark wooden throne and he was bathed in subdued red light. On the rational side, this was simply a large, muscular guy whose half naked body was covered in red paint. Behind him, stood tall organ pipes from which the strong, haunting music seemed to be emanating. On the irrational side, Dyllon wondered whether he was having a wide-awake nightmare.
The demon, who sat about fifteen feet away, bore huge horns which curled until they finally pointed in Dyllon’s direction. The thing was fingering a rather sharp looking pitchfork in his right hand. A broad smile suddenly grew on his face as he stared deeply into Dyllon’s eyes. With his left hand, the creature motioned his index finger in a curling motion as if he were inviting Dyllon to walk towards him.
Every fantasy, childhood fear or nightmare, could not compete with what Dyllon was experiencing. He knew that this had to all just be a joke, but he could not feel even mildly amused. His only thought was that this pit he had fallen into had to be Hell and that the being before him was truly the Devil incarnate. As he stood there trembling before the crimson figure, Dyllon realized that he had a decision to make.
In front of Dyllon, was a path, which headed in the demon’s direction then veered to the right towards a darkened door. The only way to that exit was to pass within a few feet of the demon himself. There was no avoiding this.
The monster’s smile became even wider as his prey grew closer. All Dyllon could do was press his back into the wall as he did his best to keep as much space between himself and the crimson fiend. Dyllon could feel his jacket scraping noisily across the cold brick behind him. The demon turned his head slightly, but did not attempt to move towards him.
As their eyes met, Dyllon swore that he heard a low whisper of a voice.
“You will soon be mine.”
Dyllon could see that the devil’s lips never moved, but he was certain about what he heard.
Dyllon mashed his back into the wall as he shuffled his feet to the right.
“Please don’t let this thing reach out and touch me,” Dyllon thought to himself. “If he does, I’m going to lose my mind.”
Before he could see it, Dyllon felt his hand on the cold metallic door. He pushed quickly through the exit, which led him out into the night air.
One by one, each member of his crew appeared next to him. Kelly and Millie shook with fear, but eventually they laughed as the group quietly found their way to the vehicle.
“You okay,” Kelly asked seeing that Dyllon was obviously shaken.
“The people in there earned their pay for the night,” he said. “I’m not going to be able to sleep.” Millie then spoke to her husband.
“Anything you’d like to add, Honey?”
“You’re not being funny,” he said. “You never told me it was going to be that bad.”
“Sorry,” Millie said. “Thought it might be fun.”
She began laughing and she grabbed hold of his arm as they walked.
“Let’s get something to eat,” Kelly said. “Hopefully we can find someplace that has scary burgers.”
“Funny,” Dyllon said as he feigned a chuckle. “I’ll bite you later.”
Dyllon attempted to calmly sit in the driver’s seat but he could not help but think about what the devil had wordlessly said to him.
“You will soon be mine,” he had whispered.
“It was probably just a good scare and nothing more,” he thought to himself.
Dyllon began to slowly move the car, being careful not to bump the curb this time. He checked the rear view mirror only to see that there were two fiery bright eyes staring back at him. There was no mistaking the sandy blond hair of Millie, but the flesh, which it surrounded, was a horribly scarred reddish color. And yes. There were the distorted horns. They were shorter than before but just long enough to push through the grossly entwined yellow strands. Dyllon watched the reflection in terror as the demon grinned and raised its curled finger, as if beaconing him.
His foot was already pressing hard on the brake and he found that he couldn’t move. Dyllon desperately wanted to grab the door handle and run from the car but his body would not respond to his fears. It was not until he felt bony fingers clutching and pulling back on his shoulder that he loudly screamed in blind terror.
Kelly jumped, with her head almost hitting the roof of the car. She quickly turned in his direction and then saw the hand gripping at Dyllon.
“Millie,” she shrieked. “What are you doing?”
After retrieving her hand, Millie began doubling over with laughter. She dragged the rubbery mask from her face. As she laughed through her tears, she finally caught her breath so she could answer.
“I’m sorry. I’ve wanted to do that since last week. Forgive me please, everybody. Happy Halloween.”
Regardless of the apology, Millie’s minor chuckles turned to another round of uncontrolled laughter.
Kelly watched as Dyllon simply put the car in gear and turned the wheel to the left. His tight grimace meant that he was too angry to respond.
She gazed back at Millie in disbelief and noticed that she heard nothing from Willis. He sat wordless, as he peered though the steamy glass close to him.
“Guess he knows his wife,” Kelly thought to herself.
The vehicle moved off the local street and turned into the quiet obscurity of the night for the very long drive home.