|Samhain Holler: Master of the Murder House
Author: Sam Loomis PM
A piece of a project I'm cogitating about a small West Virginia town and the strange occurrences there told from the POV of newcomer Anna Longdale. Alice, the little sister of her new friend Mack, has disappeared and the holler's resident witches suspect the spirit of a multi-murderer may be the kidnapper.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Suspense/Horror - Words: 2,410 - Published: 09-19-12 - id: 3059449
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
We entered the so-called Murder House through the storm cellar. Mack and I led the way with our flashlights and séance supplies while Chandra led her grandmother carefully behind us. We were obviously not the first to take this route into the house; there were shattered glass bottles strewn across the rocky floor, stacks of condom and candy wrappers, and an abandoned sneaker. I wondered idly where the other one might have run off to. What would cause someone to be in such a hurry that they only took the time to put on one shoe?
The door leading up into the house was warped, so it wasn't fully closed when we mounted the stairs. I was skeptical of this whole thing—I didn't believe in ghosts, much less the ability to confer with them—but the place was still pretty creepy. Especially with a monicker like "the Murder House." I led the way with a steady beam of white light and held the door open for Angelina, Chandra, and Mack.
Upon entering we were in a dining room. All the furniture was still there, caked with what was probably decades worth of dust. The pendulum of the grandfather clock beside the door still swung back and forth, ticking as if life in this place hadn't screeched to a halt a long time ago. The table was still set with a white lacy cloth, four chairs tucked neatly beneath it. It seemed that even the squatters who'd littered the cellar hadn't had the gumption to venture up into the house itself.
I held the flashlight on Mack as he set the backpack of supplies down on the table. He produced from the backpack a bowl, a plastic grocery bag, and nine short white candles which he positioned in a loose ring around the bowl at the center of the table. The plastic bag held a bunch of red grapes we'd bought as an offering to the supposed spirits of the house ("Because who doesn't like grapes?" he reasoned). Mack stuffed the bag into his backpack then put the now-empty pack on again. He took a book of matches from his pocket and offered it to Chandra.
Chandra ripped a match from the book and lit the candles carefully. She took her seat at the head of the table as her grandmother made herself comfortable at the opposite end. Mack sat down and I extinguished my flashlight as I followed suit. We were certainly ready... but for what, I wasn't really sure.
"So how does this work, exactly?" I asked.
"There's no protocol for this, per se, but give me your hands, both of you. We'll see if we can't... conjure somebody, for lack of a better word," Chandra replied.
"Isn't that dangerous?" Mack said, in little more than a hoarse whisper. He was chewing on his lip, already impatient to make contact with anyone who might know anything about Alice.
"If things do wrong, we break the circle and get the hell out," Chandra told him. "Pay close attention to everything you experience—what you feel, how you feel—and if you get overwhelmed pull away immediately. Now. Mack, Anna, give me your hands."
With that, Chandra took our hands and we took Angelina's. The candles flickered before us, as if the creation of the circle alone had heightened the energy in that dusty, cobwebby little dining room. The air was electric. As skeptical as I was, I swore I could feel what I could only describe as power emanating from Angelina, whose sloe eyes were shut softly. It was abundantly clear to me at the time that the electricity coursing through our bodies was the elderly woman's doing—but it was an errant vibration, with no direction, no form. A tingling wave traveled down my body, from my arms down to my feet and back up to fill my head with static. I glanced at Mack across the table, and from the look on his face he felt it too. It was at once calming and galvanizing. Serene waters beneath a sky cracked by distant lightning.
Eyes closed, Chandra bowed her head and pressed her lips into a thin line in concentration. I did the same, focusing my attention on the sensation of that tide and—through that, if that's possible—the sounds that surrounded me. The deafening buzz of silence. Wind against the windowpanes. The ticking of the clock behind me. Breathing. Candles flickering. Moments passed, and little by little I felt the static inside me stabilize at chest-level, and instead of a wave it coursed through our arms like a laser beam. We were the conductors in a psychic circuit, and all the energy Angelina emitted was flowing through me and Mack and into Chandra.
I opened my eyes and looked to the old woman. Her lips were moving, but she was making no sound. When I turned to Chandra she was doing the same. The energy continued to shoot through my arms, entering at my right-hand fingers and exiting from my left; I imagined it like a light blue shaft of light that, if I broke the circle, would shoot from my fingertips.
Angelina licked her lips and locked her granddaughter's gaze, renewed vitality shining in her eyes: "Dörren har öppnats."
Chandra nodded. "Andarna är vakna," she replied. "I can feel their energies gathering."
"Whose?" Mack asked in a whisper. He swept his eyes around the dark, musty house but it was too dark to see anything beyond those at the table.
"'The master of the house,' he says."
This was my turn to speak. "What? Who?" I was incredulous, momentarily forgetting my skepticism in favor of a generous helping of the creeps.
"Mr. Dorsey," Angelina said, as if she were greeting someone. Her expression said so much more: I see you, that look said, I know your face and I know your name and I know what you've done in this house. "Edward Dorsey, the most vile man to ever set foot in the Hollow."
Mack gasped, visibly horrified and stricken with grief. He'd tell me the whole history later, but at the time I didn't know the story of Edward Dorsey or of this most haunted of Samhain Holler houses, so I examined the spot upon which Angelina's eyes were set so intently. I didn't see what she saw, but I was spooked.
Mr. Edward Dorsey was the most prolific serial killer in West Virginia, though you'll find few mentions of him anywhere. Mack told me that people are so superstitious that they won't speak his name, even eighty-plus years later, and the only existing photographs of him are archived in news clippings from that era. Some novelists native to the state make mention of him in their work, but only in passing; and even then they often refer to him only by his nickname, given to him by local papers in the 1930s: the gentleman ghostmaker.
Dorsey had an obsession with the occult. Some say he worshiped Satan. However, his fixation mainly centered on the phenomenon of ghosts: Legend says that Dorsey's single-minded pursuit of what causes a person to haunt a place is what led to his eventual madness. He had "the Murder House" built with some hidden rooms, to confuse and trap spirits on their way out of their bodies and so that he could keep multiple victims at a time.
The diaries he kept were meticulous records of the suffering he visited on his victims in the hopes of creating his very own tormented spirit. They say that he embedded the names of the victims in the gory details so that, if he were apprehended, the authorities would have to read every word he wrote ever so carefully to learn who had fallen victim to Dorsey's insanity. By the time they were discovered there were 23 journals in his mad scrawl, chronicling the capture, torture, and death of 118 men, women, and children. His 119th victim, a young man who'd been on his way to the capital on business, was found strapped to a gurney in the hidden room behind Dorsey's bedroom closet, mutilated beyond recognition, his body still warm and shuddering and dying. Dorsey hadn't written this last victim into his notebooks, so the identity of victim 119 is a mystery still today.
Dorsey never found any evidence that his efforts produced any spirits. In 1927, the police questioned him briefly over the whereabouts of a young man from Richwood who'd been reported missing. Thinking his arrest was imminent, Edward Dorsey shot himself in the head. His body was found not long afterward. The day after they took his body to the mortuary, his estranged sister was packing up his things when she found the diaries in the back of the bedroom closet. Had Dorsey not killed himself, he might have gone on killing, undetected.
It's said that Edward Dorsey was such an evil man that the Devil wouldn't have his soul, and that's why he still haunts the place.
It's no surprise, then, of all the spirits we'd later recognize as inhabitants of the Murder House, that Mr. Dorsey himself would appear to Chandra and Angelina.
"Mr. Dorsey," Chandra said, with all the authority of a goddess speaking to a lesser deity, or maybe even a lowly mortal, "we know that girl is somewhere in your house. Tell us where she is, Mr. Dorsey."
I witnessed the curls around Chandra's ear move without a current of air to explain it. In my mind's eye I saw him lean in to whisper into her ear. What makes you think I'd tell you, dearie? My skin crawled at the thought.
"What'd he say, Chandra?" Mack asked. His patience finally worn thin, he addressed Mr. Dorsey: "Where's my sister, you son of a bitch?"
"No," Chandra said sternly, looking at Mack but clearly not speaking to him. The candles flickered with spectral fury, but Chandra never wavered. "You speak to me, Edward Dorsey. Where is Alice Ridley?"
Angelina, who'd been sitting in silence, finally spoke, and her granddaughter's attention was full upon her. "Jag vet var hon är," the elderly woman said in her native tongue. As a ghost, one can do many things one couldn't do in life, she'd confide in us later, but a spirit is limited to discovery—he had no supernatural ability to comprehend a language he didn't speak.
"WHAT?" Mack demanded.
I found my voice enough to whisper, "Shut up, Mack!" And that was all I'd say for the rest of the time we spent in that miserable place. Not that there was much more to it after that.
"Goodbye, Mr. Dorsey," Chandra said.
Leaving so soon? I imagined him asking in an oily voice.
"I dismiss you, Mr. Dorsey. We're closing the circle." She looked around at each of us and said, "Anna, have your flashlight ready when I blow the candles out, okay?"
I nodded. I waited.
"If Alice is in there, why did we leave her?" Mack asked, once we were all in the road, walking toward Galoshin Street with none of the things we'd entered the Murder House with.
Angelina pulled Mack to her and kissed him on the head gently. "Patience, gosse," she said, as calm as if she'd just gotten out of a nice warm bath instead of a serial killer's haunted torture mansion.
Chandra explained that "sensitives" like her grandmother and herself would be unsafe deeper inside the house. "We're going to call the sheriff and tell him to investigate. Most of the police don't believe in ghosts or anything like them—it doesn't make them immune to Dorsey's antics, but it will protect them some—but they believe in Grandma, so they'll listen to us."
"If they don't, I will," Mack replied. "I'll tear that place apart."
Sheriff Carney sent two officers into the house at 313 Kraft Avenue and spent two hours going over every inch of that house. I sat out on the grass across the street with Mack, who was back to chewing on his lip. "D'you think she's okay?" he asked me.
I put a hand on Mack's shoulder. "I think we're gonna find out soon," I replied, because I couldn't think of anything else. I didn't want to give him hope only to find out his baby sister was another victim of the Murder House.
An ambulance showed up on the scene and two paramedics rushed inside with a gurney. Mack and I stood and watched with rapt attention. The paramedics emerged not long after with a small form strapped onto the gurney, and Mack and I both knew it was his four-year-old sister Alice. "Oh my god," Mack muttered. "Oh my god ohmygod OHMYGOD," he chanted, until he was yelling. Before I could stop him he bolted across the street. All I could do was follow.
"She's gonna be fine," I heard the female paramedic say, while her partner loaded the gurney into the back of the ambulance. "Her leg's broken but she'll be fine, Collin," she told Mack. I'd never heard anyone call him by his real name before. Hearing it made me feel a bit embarrassed, like I'd intruded on an extremely private conversation. "Go home and tell your family that Alice is gonna be at the Hollows."
The "official story" is that Alice was snooping around the house, found a rotted floorboard, and fallen through onto the first floor. When Mack and I talked to her alone in her room at the Hospital of the Hollows, she told us she'd been in the yard of the abandoned place. "A man took my ball," she said, "he said he'd gimme it back. I walked towards him but I don't rem'ber any more. I'm sorry, Macky."
"Don't think about it anymore, okay?" Mack kissed his baby sister's forehead. "Don't you worry about it, Ally. It's all right."