Here’s a treat for Halloween: a ghost story, perfect for reading to kids (or grownups) who want to be frightened just a little on Halloween.
The story comes from my play, Welcome to the Neighborhood, and promises to be a spooky way to end the night or begin your morning (that depends on when you’re reading it, I suppose). If you’re reading it aloud, you can read it as if only one character is telling the story and leave out Chloe’s lines completely. For added effect, you could change the name “Chloe” to the name of the person you’re telling the story to.
I hope you enjoy it. If you’re interested in reading the rest of the play, click on the picture at the end of the story – for a few dollars, you can get your very own copy of the full play.
Set Up: Four girls are having a slumber party over at Chloe’s house. Chloe is new neighborhood and tends to frighten easily. The other girls decide to take advantage of this by telling her a ghost story now that a storm has taken the lights out and the only lights come from their flashlights.
Alexis: Are you afraid, Chloe? (Alexis stares at her pointedly. Chloe hesitates and then speaks.)
Chloe: No, why would I be scared? It’s just a story, right?
Alexis: That’s right. I’ll start. (Alexis takes a seat on the floor. She is joined by Cindy and Emily. The three girls look to Chloe, who slowly joins the circle. They all sit in a circle while holding their flashlights.) It was a dark and stormy night and little . . . Chloe was all alone in a really big and old house. The oldest house in the neighborhood, where legend has it that an entire family disappeared and was never heard from again. Chloe’s parents were gone for the night and she didn’t like staying by herself, especially here . . . in this house.
Chloe: You think you could change--
Cindy: (Stares at Chloe. Matter of factly.) No. (Pause.) So Chloe decided the best thing to do would be to go to her room and get under the covers and stay there until her parents came back home. She slowly made her way up the stairs, hearing every sound that this old house made. She finally made it to her room, ran and jumped into her bed and pulled the sheets over her head. All was quiet until she heard a noise. A noise so soft she could barely hear it. It sounded like something scraping against the window. Then it started getting louder. And louder. Was that someone scratching at her window? (The sound of scratching is heard at a window. They all jump a little.) She wanted to look, but she was scared. Scared of what she might see. But then she couldn’t take it anymore. She slowly pulled the covers down and she saw--
Chloe: What did she see?
Cindy: A tree branch getting blown against the window. Chloe laughed a little about how silly she was being. What could happen? Her parents would be home soon. She started feeling a little braver, but then--
Emily: . . . she heard movement downstairs. What could that be? She was the only one home and Gracie was sound asleep. Maybe she was hearing things. But then she heard it again. It was a footstep. Definitely a footstep. Then another. And another. Chloe quickly pulled the covers over her head. The footsteps were getting louder and louder. Were they getting closer too? Chloe thought. Then--
Alexis: . . . she heard a voice saying “Chloe . . . Chloe . . . Chloe.”
Chloe: Really, that’s enough. I can’t--
Alexis: It’s not enough! The story isn’t done yet. (Pause. Alexis stands up and starts to walk slowly around the girls.) The footsteps were getting louder and louder. And the voice continued to say “Chloe . . . Chloe . . .” With each passing moment, Chloe became more afraid. She could feel her heart beating faster and faster. Then she heard her doorknob twist . . . followed by the creak of the door as it slowly opened. Whoever it was . . . was now in her room. Chloe tried to hold her breath and not scream. She heard the footsteps coming closer to the bed, while the voice kept chanting--
Cindy/Emily: Chloe . . . Chloe . . . I know where you’re hiding. (Emily and Cindy stand up and the girls begin circling Chloe. Cindy and Emily begin whispering “Chloe . . . Chloe . . . Chloe,” gradually getting louder and louder as Alexis takes over the story.)
Alexis: The figure was at the foot of the bed . . . then the middle . . . then Chloe felt the presence right beside her head. She could hear the person breathing. Chloe became more and more afraid. She didn’t know what to do. She felt the person bend closer. Then she thought of her parents. How could they leave her alone like this? The she felt hands on her sheet. This was it. There was no escape. Suddenly, the covers were ripped back and she heard:
Alexis/Emily/Cindy: (This is said as they jump at her.) Chloe!!! (Chloe jumps up and backs near the stage left window. All three girls burst out into laughter.)
Chloe: You guys are so mean. You know I hate it when you gang up on me. I already feel like enough of an --- (She stops speaking when she sees Alexis, Emily, and Cindy freeze as they see something behind her.) What? Are you trying to scare me again? Well, it won’t work.
Emily: Chloe, c’mon over here. Now.
Alexis: And don’t turn around, whatever you do.
Chloe: I’m not falling for that again. As a matter of fact, watch this. (She turns around to see a person with a white mask staring back at her.)
When we were kids, my older brother could be classified as a really good brother. When I was a baby, he would give me the toy he was playing with if I wanted it. Later, he let me tag along with him and his friends even though it wasn’t the cool thing to do. And when I was in 9th grade and trying out for the baseball team, he threatened to beat up the entire team when their intense mocking left me in tears at home one night. But this post is not about the goodness of Chris. It’s about something different.
It’s about how he did a typical big-brother thing over and over again and how some years later, I got my revenge.
You see, growing up, Chris seemed to relish scaring me when I was asleep. It wasn’t a nightly thing (that would have been weird), but it was pretty consistent. He got in trouble for it, but when has getting in trouble stopped a kid from doing something they enjoyed that didn’t really cause any long-term pain or suffering? He would take his punishment, whatever it was, wait a couple of days, and then strike again when I was in my glorious slumber, happily dreaming of my close friends at the time: the Care Bears. “How did he scare you?” you ask in a questioning voice.
One way would be to crawl under my bed, after I had been asleep for quite a while, and punch the underside of the bed. This would cause me to wake up, scream, and run into my mom and dad’s room as Chris laughed. Other times, he would get really close to me as I slept and stare. Intently. Then he would whisper my name. I would wake up, scream, and run into my mom and dad’s room as Chris laughed.
The thing he did the most, though, was to pile up all of the contents of my room on me quietly while I slept. I remember one time distinctly because that night, in my dreams, I was being attacked by those furry little turncoats – the Care Bears – who had apparently turned against me. After one particularly vicious attack, I tossed violently in bed, causing an avalanche of stuff to hit the floor. I screamed, jumped out of bed, tripped over the stuff that was now on the floor, and ran into my mom and dad’s room. All the while, I heard Chris laughing over the sweet tunes of his Shaun Cassidy album.
I dreamed of revenge, and although I attempted it many times, it never worked. Until one glorious Halloween night when I was 16 and he was 20.
Chris had been really sick for a couple of days. Perhaps it was malaria, typhoid, the bubonic plague or some other kind of ancient disease. I don’t remember. But I do remember that he had been sleeping all day. I was working at Kroger that night until around 11, and just as I was leaving, I saw it. An ALF mask. A spectacular ALF mask. I knew instantly that it wasn’t just a mask . . . it represented my chance at ultimate revenge.
I drove home, happily listening to a mix tape that I had made featuring Glenn Medeiros, The Boys Club, and Toto. Did I mention how cool I was at 16? Anyway, all the lights were out when I arrived home. Everyone was asleep. Perfect. I silently opened the door, locked it behind me, and put on my mask. I laughed under my breath as I stealthily moved to Chris’s room.
I got to his door and listened. I could hear him snoring. I looked to my parents’ room and heard Yoda speaking, which is what my dad’s snoring always sounded like to me. Everything was just right. I prepared (as all actors should), took a deep breath, slammed open the door, and flipped on the lights, yelling . . .
“CHRIS, I’M COMING FOR YOU!!!”
Chris’s eyes shot open as he saw an alien life form in a Kroger apron – which, looking back, I should have taken off. But I guess the apron didn’t lessen the effect at all, because he leapt to his feet, stood on his bed, and shrank as far away from me as possible. He was terrified. He then screamed, louder than I’ve ever heard him . . .
“Please! No! Don’t hurt me!”
At that point, I took off the mask, laughing. My parents came rushing in, thinking that something terrible had happened. No, something terrible hadn’t happened. Something magical had. They were all furious at me, but I knew that sooner or later, we’d all have a good laugh about this.
And as I lay in bed that night, moments after being put on restriction, having to apologize to the family, and being forced to return the ALF mask, I smiled. Not in a demented way, but a satisfied one. Knowing that I had redeemed a little boy who had been scared to go to sleep. Oh yeah, I had also gotten a story that I could tell forever (perhaps at a rehearsal dinner) and one day blog about many years later.
I slept peacefully that night. I don’t recall what I dreamed about, but I’m sure it involved the Care Bears. Not being terrifying (as Care Bears sometimes are), but frolicking merrily with me in Care-A-Lot.
Our family likes to scare each other. We hide and then jump out suddenly, hoping to startle someone for our own amusement. It has led to falling down, some tears, lots of laughs, and possibly a mild coronary or two. The Manatee, at age 2, is now also trying to scare us. She’s sort of terrible at it right now, but it’s pretty adorable.
Maggie is the interesting one, though, and the topic of this post. She scares very easily, is aware of that fact, and yet continually puts herself in situations that she knows full well will scare her. We watch scary movies all the time – or should I say, I watch scary movies as she sits beside me and makes me narrate the movie for her covered-eye self. She’s a huge fan of the Final Destination series; she’s “seen” all of them (even the ridiculous NASCAR one), some of them several times, but has yet to watch a single death scene. And those movies are 85% death scenes. Halloween is her favorite holiday, and yet she refuses to go into Halloween stores unless Chloe or I lead the way around every corner, just in case there’s anything scary. But she’ll still be there with us – because even though she’s scared, she refuses to let it keep her from hanging out with her family.
This need to spend time with us, combined with her inability to avoid getting into situations where she will be terrified, led to The Incident. Maggie and her sister, Anna, joined me and Chloe on a trip through the “Tombstone Town Haunted Hotel and Mirror Maze” at the Wisconsin Dells several years ago.
Chloe was 4 at the time, clearly the perfect age for one’s first haunted house. We knew she’d get scared, but she really wanted to go, and with three adults accompanying her we figured it would be fine. Besides, it was a haunted house at a family resort – how scary could it be? Pretty scary, as it turned out, and Chloe did end up crying. But not for the reason you think.
We started off in the Mine Shaft Mirror Maze. Chloe and I were in front holding hands, with Maggie and Anna close behind us. The maze was dark and creepy, and we were surrounded by frightening sounds.
“Can we leave now? I don’t like this.”
“No, Mommy, we just started.”
So we pressed on. I looked at Chloe, who was wide-eyed. I began carrying her so that we could talked about what we were seeing. We talked about why it was dark, why there was smoke, and why people liked to be scared in the first place. Then something popped up in front of us. I jumped, Chloe jumped in my arms, and Maggie and Anna screamed.
We made it through the maze and entered the Lobby. Body parts were everywhere. It was really well done and gross. Chloe and I kept talking as we made it through (at a decent pace), and though she was a little scared, she seemed to be enjoying it.
We continued on and were saved from the decapitated falling heads by Maggie, who saw them early and warned us. We entered the kitchen to see what was for supper, and it was about what you would expect. Arms, legs, eyeballs, intestines, hearts, various organs that I couldn’t identify, and lots of blood. Chloe asked if we served body parts for dinner. Of course, I said, but only when we have guests. “But Daddy, we’re vegetarians.”
“Or are we?”
She looked at me and said something she continues to say to this day (her little sister has also picked this up): “Oh, Daddy.” Then she added, “Where’s Mommy and Annie?”
I looked back. We had lost them. We called their names and faintly heard their frightened voices saying something that sounded like they were coming. How they got so far behind or why it had happened left our minds as we entered the saloon.
It was an old-timey saloon with more ghoulish sights all around. Chloe and I sauntered up to the bar, pretending to order drinks from the zombie-like bartender. I ordered a beer and Chloe ordered a chocolate milk. We talked to all the various stages of dead costumers as we waited for Maggie and Anna to catch up. We didn’t have to wait long. We heard them. Both of them, running. They entered the saloon, with Maggie leading the way. Both looked terrified. Chloe saw Maggie and said “Mommy! Come - -“ She never got to finish that sentence because Maggie interrupted her as she dashed past, yelling:
“We’re all going to die!!!” *
Then they were gone. Headed for the exit, leaving us in their dust. I looked at Chloe, who had been so brave and was now convinced that she was going to die. She started bawling. I thought of trying to calm her down (there was one more room, after all), but decided it might be best to hightail it out of the haunted hotel as well.
Outside, we saw Maggie and Anna, still looking scared but relieved, waiting for us. Chloe recovered more quickly and said, “Mommy, you scared me.”
“Or did I save you?”
That was almost 4 years ago, and it’s still one of our favorite stories. Chloe manages to bring it up a lot, often at the most inappropriately appropriate times. Like around a bunch of friends, or strangers, or even at church. Always without context.
“Mommy, remember that time you scared me ‘cause you screamed that we were all going to die?”
*I still contend that we were all going to die. –Ed.
In celebration of Theatrefolk’s release of my melodrama She Wrote, Died, and Then Wrote Some More, here’s a short excerpt from the script. Hope you enjoy. :-)
Writer Alina Deveraux’s unveiling party for her new book, She Writes With Quill – A Moment by Moment Recollection of the Life of Alina Deveraux Up Until Now, is not going well. The gala is sparsely attended, there’s zero interest from publishers, and now . . . she’s been murdered. Sort of. On top of that, a masked figure has come to rob her. But what could this masked figure want?
Setting: The Parlor of Alina Deveraux
At Rise: Alina lies dead on the floor, covered by incriminating evidence in suspicious places. A masked figure enters, notices Alina’s body, and crosses to it.
Elizabeth: Oh, it seems Ms. Deveraux has taken dead. And on this, her most special night. What a pity. But I came not to praise Ms. Deveraux, but to . . . steal her book and make it my own. (Crosses away and moves to the book. Alina’s eyes open as she decides what to do. Finally she jumps up as the masked person is lifting the glass case.)
Alina: Unhand my book, you fiend. (They stare in silence.)
Elizabeth: You’re not as dead as you appeared to be.
Alina: No. Clearly, I am not.
Elizabeth: (Understands.) You were faking your death to drum up interest for your book. I’ve faked my death many times for the same reason.
Alina: Who are you?
Elizabeth: Ask me who I was.
Alina: Were you a different person in the past?
Alina: Then I suppose it doesn’t matter who you were.
Elizabeth: That would appear to be true. Very well. (She rips off mask and Alina stares at her.) Now do you know who I am?
Elizabeth: I am Elizabeth Poe. (Alina continues staring at her.) Nothing? (Alina shakes her head no.) I have been gone a long time. No matter. I, Ms. Deveraux, was the first modern writer to use only a quill. That’s right. And I, too, had one best seller! “The Great Adventures of a Girl Named Carmen Who Was Raised On a Barn by a Family of Goats: A Love Story.” (Alina remembers it.)
Alina: I remember that one. It had its moments.
Elizabeth: You bet it had its moments. Unfortunately, my quill broke when I suffered a bit of . . . “writer’s rage.” (Alina looks on bewildered.) I haven’t written anything since, but my thirst for the spotlight has not been vanquished.
Alina: So you’re going to steal my book?
Elizabeth: And sell it as my own.
Alina: But it’s my life story.
Elizabeth: And it will still be your life story, only now . . . it will be written by me, your long lost non-related sibling.
Alina: That . . . is an awful plan.
Elizabeth: Only if it doesn’t work. If it does, however . . .
Alina: I’ll tell them you’re lying.
Elizabeth: But you faked your death.
Alina: I’ll unfake my fake death.
Elizabeth: Then I’ll unfake the unfaking of your fake death, thus making it . . . a real death. Right?
Alina: I have no idea. As matter of fact, I think if I unfaked my fake death, as I previously stated . . . I might actually be making my fake death real.
Elizabeth: It is all rather confusing. Very well. Let’s use plain speak. I’m going to murder you, which will make it highly unlikely that you can do anything to wreck my plans.
Alina: Is that a threat?
Elizabeth: No. It’s a promise. (She smiles.) And by the way, your first novel was a joke.
Elizabeth: That’s right. A joke. And . . . your quill . . .
Alina: Don’t you speak ill of my quill.
Elizabeth: Your quill’s work . . . was very substandard. (Alina is furious. She reaches for anything and finds the glass with the nectar and throws it in Elizabeth’s face. The nectar goes into Elizabeth’s mouth because it was open. Alina looks stunned. Elizabeth tastes the liquid. Smiles.) Ah. The nectar from the rare mamey sapote fruit. Delicious. Do you know they make a variety of this that is poison? I mean, they also make an “I can’t believe it’s not poison!” type but. . . (starts to cough.) . . . oh my goodness . . . oh my goodness . . . this is the poison one. You poisoned me!
Alina: Technically, no. I just threw it in your face.
Elizabeth: With my mouth open!
Alina: Well, who stands with their mouth opened in a fight? I mean, seriously . . . (Elizabeth collapses.) I suppose it doesn’t matter now. Humph. (Alina sighs. Then Marian enters and notices another body.)
If you liked this and you’re interested in more information about the script, performance availability, or the answers to all of life’s questions, please feel free to check out the Theatrefolk website by clicking on the cover below:
Here it is. Steven's blog, where his thoughts about things are revealed. Good luck.