October 2003



Welcome, Foolish Mortals . . .

You find yourself walking, leaving the clean-swept and orderly surroundings with their attendant crowds far behind. You feel drawn, compelled to take a less traveled path. You have passed by this area many times before, yet, for the life of you, you cannot recall seeing what now lies before you.

A grove of magnolias and oaks stretches out ahead, bedecked with moss and vines. You notice a small pathway that seems to wind its way through the grove, disappearing into the murky depths of those ancient trees. You take a deep breath, look around you, and then plunge into the depths yourself.

As you follow the pathway, the forest closes in around you, obscuring the sunlight. You are quite alone, now, the happy throngs of people only a dim memory. You begin to contemplate the rationality of your decision to proceed, when, rounding a turn, you find yourself in front of a large iron gate.

Which, to your combined delight and apprehension, is standing open.

You pass through the gate, and into a clearing. Actually, "clearing" is perhaps not quite accurate - for all around you the grounds are littered with headstones and old statues, most in a state of great disrepair. A closer look reveals the added presence of half-buried bones sticking out of the ground.

You are in a very old graveyard.

You round yet another corner, and - there it is: an old, dilapidated New England style mansion. It looks as if no one has lived there for a very long time.

But wait - what was that? Was that a face you just saw, just for a second, leering down at you from one of the windows on the third floor?

Having come this far, of course, logic dictates that you enter this forbidding place.

On the other hand, another sort of logic would compel you to turn tail and get the heck out of there as fast as possible!

Are you ready?


Heh heh heh . . .

Welcome, dear readers, to our special Book Again Halloween column!

It's been a long time - far too long - and there's stuff I'm just dying to share with you . . .

For instance, did I ever tell you the one about the Jesuit Priest and the Insane Asylum? (No, no, no - it's not that kind of a story!)


It seems there were these two old friends, who had lost track of each other for some years. When at length they reconnected, it turned out that one of them had become a Priest, while the other was now Director of an Insane Asylum. One day the Director invited the Priest to his place of business. They talked, caught up on old times, and then the Asylum Director turned to his friend and said "Come with me, Father. There's something I want to show you."

They passed through the Asylum, past the areas where the relatively "normal" (i.e. less dangerous) inmates were kept, and continued - into the dark recesses of the place, where the incurably criminally insane ones were kept.

They stopped at last at a door. The guard was instructed to open the door's little window. At once a man's face appeared. He seemed quite normal, relatively pleasant, not at all deranged or anything.

He looked straight at the visiting Priest (who, naturally, had never seen this man before), and calmly began to rattle off a list of the Priest's deepest, darkest secrets and sins, in great detail.

At length the window was closed, and the Director turned to his shaken and dumbfounded friend.

"Possessed", the Director said. "But who would believe me?"

The above tale is true, and was told to me by a friend of that very Priest.

Ah yes, what could be better for this hallowed, haunting time of year than a true Ghost Story or two? That's right - nothing! So pop up your corn, get that caramel apple ready, light the fire and break out the candy corn and miniature chocolates - it's story time, kiddies . . .


It was just an innocent little toy, the kind you're likely to find at a small gift shop somewhere . . .

There were two of them, a boy and a girl, both around 12 or 13 years of age, and they were in an occult shop when they spotted it - it was a pendulum that was supposed to be able to tell fortunes, much like a Ouija Board. Pockets at that age being what they are, the two left without purchasing it, but upon returning home they resolved to recreate it themselves.

There were two parts, the pendulum itself, which consisted of a prism dangling from a chain, at the end of which protruded a needle pointing straight down, and a circular chart containing numbers and letters. The idea was that one would ask a question, and then the pendulum would swing across the chart, pausing at different letters and/or numbers until it had spelled out some sort of an answer.

Anyway, they soon had a fairly good reconstruction built, and proceeded to play with it for hours, asking the usual dumb questions ("Does so-and-so like so-and-so?" etc.). Other friends and family members would come and go during this time, including at one point one of the girl's sisters. At that point the girl asked the pendulum who her sister liked, and the pendulum, which was not being held by said sister, proceeded to spell out a name unknown to either of our young fortune tellers. It was, however, known to the sister - specifically, it was a coworker of hers, who she was quick to state most emphatically she did not like to any degree.

The kids continued to play, but then a strange thing happened. The pendulum stopped swinging, and would not start again. This went on for some minutes, and then, as they were about to give up, it began to swing on its own (of course one of them was holding it, but they had not asked a question and were indeed about to put it down). In short order it had spelled out the letters "H-E-L-L". The two watched in increasing horror, which quickly turned into absolute terror as the bottom of the prism proceeded to defy gravity and rise up into the air all by itself!

Naturally the kid holding it let go of it immediately, and this would be the end of my story, except: the pendulum, both ends in the air, did not drop for a few seconds, but remained there, floating, just long enough to scare the wits out of the kids before it finally crashed to earth.

The two immediately ripped up the chart & took apart the pendulum, and slept with rosaries and bibles that night. And never tried that trick again . . .

This actually happened as well, some twenty two years ago. I was told the story by one of the two kids, and had it independently verified by the other on a later date.

And it was such an innocent little toy, the kind you're likely to find at a small gift shop somewhere . . .


Well, kids, I hope you enjoyed my little Halloween tale. Here's wishing all of you the spookiest, creepiest, most delightfully dreadful Halloween possible, whether you're off carousing at some sinister shindig or handing out candy. And remember -

Sorry, did you say something?

What's that - I left you hanging? Hmmm . . .

Oh yes, I remember now. You were standing in front of an old, decrepit house, weren't you? Heh heh heh . . . No, I suppose it wouldn't do to just leave you there, would it?

Why, you haven't seen the inside, yet . . .



You stand in front of the old, moss-covered New England mansion now, contemplating your next move. You would swear you just saw someone (or some thing) staring down at you from one of the windows. You've seen the bones strewn around the ancient graveyard - you can only imagine what it's like inside this creepy old house . . .

Ah well, it wouldn't be much of a story if we let you turn around and leave at this point, would it?

So, my apologies, but in you go.

(If it's any consolation to you, had you looked behind you would have seen that some of the decrepit graveyard statues had begun to move of their own accord - heh heh heh . . .)

As you pass through the doors you find that you are not alone. Several other foolhardy adventurers stand alongside you in a dimly lit entranceway. There are barely visible paintings on the walls, and before you is a large staircase. The wind seems to have suddenly picked up, as you can hear it howling outside, and whistling through the cracks in the walls of this rotting house. Above you, the ceiling beams creak, and you begin to wonder what on earth possessed you to venture into this place when suddenly, somewhere above you, a disembodied voice begins to speak - an oddly familiar sounding voice.

The voice welcomes you, and relates a little tale concerning the unfortunate family that once lived here - a family cursed by repeated tragedy. By the end of this narration a butler has appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. He is to be your guide through the house. He cautions against getting too close to the staircase, and right then, down that self same staircase, a human female head comes rolling down, rolling right at you! Your instincts tell you to run, when suddenly you realize that you and your fellow explorers are actually sinking beneath the floorboards - dropping slowly to whatever nightmares await below!

You find yourself in a Portrait Gallery. These paintings, more visible than the ones above, are not all that nice. There is a portrait of Jack the Ripper, and another of Rasputin. You pause in front of a picture of Henry VIII, and as you look another visage begins to appear on the very same painting - it is the same face you just saw rolling down the staircase - and it is now quite clearly the face of Henry's second wife - the decapitated Anne Boleyn. She now poses next to Henry in the picture, and then proceeds to berate him as you watch - her head tucked securely underneath her arm the entire time.

On the other side of the room the butler is making some general comments about the Gallery, but the gasps from the crowd have nothing to do with the narration - for, reaching out of a hidden panel, an incredibly large and hairy arm is reaching out to strangle the unsuspecting butler! Fortunately, the butler manages to move out of harm's way just in time.

You continue down hallways and into other rooms, the butler occasionally disappearing and reappearing through more secret panels, which seem to be everywhere in this house. From time to time you follow him through some of these "short cuts" yourself, at one point passing through a fireplace which slides upward to reveal a doorway behind it.

The creaking of the beams above increases in intensity, and it seems not altogether unlikely that the house is in danger of imminent collapse. As if that weren't enough, the floorboards are in equal disrepair, and all around you can hear the sound of rats scurrying about.

You enter a bedroom. There, upon a large four poster bed, someone is sitting, reading a book. The only problem is, this someone is invisible, with only their cap and nightgown showing - and the book itself is apparently floating in mid air!

As you watch, the canopy of the bed begins to descend, lower and lower, and as it does so, amid a cacophony of otherworldly screams, the butler calmly informs you that many an unfortunate soul met their maker in just such a manner, in that very bed!

You are noticing more and more details as you continue through the house. Overhead, several large bats are flying. You can hear the sounds of clanking chains, and, in the distance, the howling of wolves.

Suddenly, just ahead, you are confronted to your horror with the spectacle of a pair of skeletal legs, not attached to a body of any sort, walking across the floor!

You hear the sound of someone moaning in despair. It seems to come from within the walls. This, you are told, is the "lost carpenter", who was walled up inside the house many years ago . . .

You pass into the Library, where you notice the portrait of a hunter with his latest kill - a large tiger. On the floor below the painting lies a tiger skin, presumably the same "kill". Then, the ghostly image of the hunter appears, and as you watch the ghost of the tiger rises from the skin, and proceeds to bite the unsuspecting hunter in a most awkward place.

A large bookcase slides back, and you pass through it into another gallery.

Surrounding this gallery is an elevated indoor balcony, from which the sounds of footsteps and screaming can be heard. All at once a female ghost flies into view through a closed door, closely pursued by a murderous male ghost brandishing a knife. The two run across the balcony and disappear through another closed door.

You pass into the Great Hall. You are now inexplicably on the second floor balcony, looking down. Downstairs is an organ. The sound of footsteps is heard as bloody footprints appear, one by one, "walking" toward the organ, which then proceeds to play by itself!

Finally, you emerge from the accursed house. Unfortunately, you do not emerge into the same world you left. For it is quite dark - it is, specifically, a windy, moonlit night - and you are in the middle of another graveyard.

The moon is reflected in a pool of water in the distance. Lightning and thunder punctuate the eerie surroundings, as clouds pass across the moon, obscuring it, and rendering this haunted landscape even darker. Off in the distance, a rider on a black horse can be seen, galloping toward you. He disappears, but you can still hear the sounds of galloping, drawing ever nearer.

Suddenly the rider bursts into view, and in one horror-filled instance you realize that he has no head!

There is a flash of lightning, and a wolf begins to howl, and then, all around you, spirits begin rising out of the ground, the graveyard's ghostly denizens seemingly summoned up to the surface by this spectral horseman!

Finally, a huge, blinding burst of lightning obscures all - and then . . .

And then it is over. You are ushered out, into the real outdoors, back into the park.

And yes, that was indeed the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's immortal "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" you saw. More specifically, it was an exact replica of Disney's Headless Horseman from the film "Ichabod and Mr. Toad".

For you have just completed a tour of what was once to be called the Haunted House, which was to have been located behind a grove of trees in Disneyland's Frontierland, the way Walt and his original team envisioned it back in 1957 . . .

I leave you all with a sample from the original narration you were to have heard as you waited in the entranceway - a narration that would have been read by none other than Walt Disney himself:

"This is the lakeside estate of the unfortunate Blood family... it was built about 1800 in the swampy bayous near New Orleans, and was moved here intact because it was such a fine example of early architecture .

"We started the work of restoration as soon as it arrived at Disneyland, but strangely enough, the work of each day was destroyed during the night.. . . the night watchman reported he'd heard eerie screams and seen weird lights . . .

"Our house had a tragic and bloody history of unlucky owners who died sudden and violent deaths, which resulted in their unhappy ghosts remaining behind to fulfill the uncompleted missions of their lives.

"The house has proved too dangerous to be lived in, but we have succeeded in making it safe enough for a visit . . . it mysteriously remains always night within the house . . . the night in which all ghosts are condemned to exist, so we recommend you stay close together during your visit, and please, above all, obey your guide's instructions..."