Posts Tagged ‘Horror Fiction’

Part Twelve: The Ghoul of Plainfield

July 23rd, 1991. Plainfield Wisconsin

Robert Bloch sat at a bar in Plainfield Wisconsin as the local news delivered a shocking report on just discovered local serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who had been arrested after police found a man fleeing from his home. In Dahmer’s apartment, police found two entire human skeletons, seven human heads, and an assortment of other human anatomy. As the news report continued, the tavern remained eerily quiet. Then, finally, someone broke the silence. “Well you know who that sounded like?” said an old man at the bar.

“Oh come on, don’t say it Lester.” a woman, Bloch presumed to be the man’s wife, replied.

“I’ll say it Irene, because you know we’re all thinking it.”  Lester insisted. “It sounds like old Eddie Gein.“ Lester said, half laughing.

Bloch then recognized the clerk at the store earlier, who was probably the youngest patron in this establishment. The young man asked, “Who?” 

“Was before your time,” Lester explained, “and you should be thankful for that. For years Ed Gein was kind of the village idiot around here.”

“Well why does he remind you of that guy?” The young man said pointing to the TV.

“I’ll tell you why.” Another older man interrupted. “When I was a kid me and a buddy was over his house one time.”

“Bullshit Bob!” Lester objected. “You were in his house?”

“Yeah,” Bob insisted. “God this must have been 40 years on now. But yeah, me and my buddy Jim used to go to movies and football games with him. One day we were over his house playing cards. Well, I wasn’t too into playing cards as a kid, so Ed gave me this tool to play around with that punched holes in paper. I’d run out of paper so I went in his room to get more. I go in there and, my hand to god, there’s two shrunken heads in the room!”

“Get the hell out!” Lester exclaimed.

“Swear to god!” Bob raised his hand in earnest. “He said he had a cousin that got them from the Philippines during the war.”

“Well he for damn sure didn’t have any family who fought in the Philippines! The only family he had was that religious nutjob of a mom.” Lester pointed to the screen as the local news story still continued, “Ten to one says that freak had mommy issues.” 

“Did you see anything else?” Irene asked Bob.

“No, but now that I think of it he didn’t let us over the house anymore after that.”

“Well, these heads you saw, did they look like Phillipino heads?” Lester asked. “Like were they dark skinned?”

His eyes widened as he thought about the answer. “Well no, now that I think of it, they weren’t.”  

“So what,” another older man said. He sat next to another gentlemen who remained quiet, but appeared visibly agitated at the conversation. “We brought all kinds of shit back from the war. Why I had a buddy who fought the Japs in Okinawa. I was over his place one time and he says ‘Hey look at this!’ He had a necklace made of human ears!”

“Did you take them home with you Fred?” Lester joked. Getting no reply Lester then said to the quiet man next to him. “What about you Sheriff, what was your take on Gein?”

At first the man only glared at Lester. Finally, he answered with a question of his own. “Well do you remember people coming up missing when I was on the force?”

“All right, just saying!” Lester threw up his hands in jest.

“So this Ed guy,” the younger patron asked, “did he ever kill anybody?” 

While the locals conversed about their local legend, Robert quietly placed an order of french fries, “I’m gonna sit in the booth over there.” he told the bartender, pointing to the back corner. Bloch was now like a fly on the wall. He took out his notebook and wrote down this name that he never heard before, Ed Gein. 

“People always suspected he killed his brother.” Another older woman spoke up. “My dad was on the fire department. When Ed was young he reported a fire on his property, and said he couldn’t find his brother, but my dad said when they got to the property Ed led everyone right to his brother’s body. Didn’t seem affected by the fire, but the body had bruises on its head.”

“Yeah, and there was Mary Hogan who ran that Crossroads Tavern up north in Pine Grove.” Another old man spoke up. “Ed was always after her, then she came up missing one day.” 

“Now cut the shit!” The former Sheriff protested angrily. 

Fred, sitting next to the ex-lawman, turned a watchful eye to his friend while he added, “Yeah come on, Elmo,” speaking to the man who brought up Mary Hogan. “Everyone knew she was mixed up with the mob. She left Chicago to hide out here, mob probably tracked her down and took care of her.”

“Ed was always in there though.” Elmo insisted. “I think she reminded him of his mother.”

“Bloody Mary reminded Ed of his holier than thou mother?” Lester objected. “I don’t think so!”

 “I’m telling you, I remember when she first went missing.” Elmo began his story. “Ed came down to help out at the sawmill one day, and we were all joking with him about Mary. I remember saying ‘Eddie if you had spent more time courting Mary she’d be cooking for you instead of being missing.’ He looked at us with that deadpan face of his and said “She’s not missing. She’s down the house now.’ He always joked like that, saying that he went and got her in his pickup truck and took her home.”

Lester then said “Yeah and when that teenage girl went missing you said she was at your house.”

“Well maybe she was! Elmo said, bursting into laughter.

“Wait so whatever happened to Ed?” The young man asked.

“He and his place went up in flames back in the 50s.” Bob said, then pointed to Fred and added “Just an empty property now out by where Fred lives. Look I’m not saying he was like that guy.” Bob tried to explain as he pointed to the TV, “but if he did crazy shit like that then he did it right under our noses.”

Irene heard enough “Look you stupid bastard,” she looked at Elmo but pointed to the former policemen “Arthur served this community for years! Are you saying he didn’t do his job?”

“Hey leave me out of this.” Arthur raised his hands in protest.

“I’m not saying he didn’t do his job. but you know where Ed lived?” Elmo reasoned. ‘He had that farmhouse out of town away from everybody. He could have been doing all kinds of massacres out there and nobody ever would have found out about it.”

“Now that’s enough of this bullshit!” The former sheriff now rose to his feet. 

“Come on man take it easy.” Fred stood up behind him trying to caution his friend.

Arthur practically charged at Elmo shouting “Mary Hogan was into all kinds of crooked shit and it finally caught up with her! Ed died in a fire because the stupid bastard didn’t have electricity and lit himself up with a kerosene lamp! Now that’s the last I wanna hear of this shit!”

Elmo raised his hands nervously, “Ok ok I wasn’t insulting you. I’m sorry, I was just saying.”

“Well stop saying!” Arthur got nose to nose with him. “I’m just saying, I’m saying shut your damn mouth!”

Fred came up behind his friend and patted him on the back. “It’s OK Art, it’s OK let’s just go.” He finally managed to get his friend away from the man.

“Make sure he gets home ok.” the barkeep requested as Fred escorted his friend to the door.

“I will.” Fred assured her.

As they walked out the door, Art turned back, Bloch froze as he realized he’d caught the eye of the retired cop. No one else in the bar noticed Robert taking notes. He could rip up the pages if need be, he could say he was making a note to call home, he was sure he could think of some cover if the former Sheriff approached. Fortunately, his scribbled notes were safe as Fred re-entered and said “Come on buddy I’ll get you home” and helped Art get out the door.

After this the conversation was minimal, but Bloch still kept his ears peeled. “I’m telling you, if you paid Ed a dollar you got a dollar and a half worth of work out of him.” Irene insisted. “He was a hard working man, just a little odd.”

Part Eleven: What If?

July 23rd, 1991. Wisconsin

Robert Bloch’s high school class always had reunions at odd years. In fact, the thirty-ninth reunion of the class of 1934 was the very first one they ever had. Back then the Cold War was in full swing, so maybe they didn’t want to chance waiting til forty. This summer was their fifty-seventh reunion. Bloch wondered if there was a special name for such an odd number, like how fifty years is the golden anniversary and sixty five is the sapphire.

Driving through the plains of Wisconsin, he laughed to himself as he thought back to the reunion a few nights ago. One of his classmates, who really shouldn’t still be wearing those low cut blouses, leaned over her dinner plate while eying his watch and asked “What have you been doing since you got out of school?” He delighted her with an impromptu story that he ran a garbage truck company. As a matter of fact, he was the top garbage service in three counties. “Trash, manure, medical waste, we haul it all!” he said with a jovial wave of his fist. She wasn’t eyeing up that nice watch of his anymore.

Later at the bar one of his friends looked that old classmate over and said “I don’t know about you Bloch. If you played your cards right you could have had her in the shower tonight screaming bloody murder!”

“I don’t think my wife would approve!” Robert laughed.

“Who knows?” His mischievous friend said. “Maybe she would have watched!” Robert missed the humor of his classmates, but he also missed his wife. Elly wasn’t up for another trip to the great state of Wisconsin. It was probably for the best though. He learned that night one of his friends who couldn’t make the reunion was living in one of those little towns in the northern part of the state. He managed to get a hold of him, and via a rental car went out to see him for a few days.

Now that visit was finished and he was heading back south. Eventually he would turn east and fly back home via Milwaukee. Speeding down the highway he noticed the road sign, ninety miles to Plainfield. Something about that name sounded familiar, Plainfield, but he couldn’t remember. Not long after, he saw another sign, now sixty miles away. About a mile later he finally remembered, that big guy back at that horror convention, and his story about the psycho house. As he drove by the empty fields he tried to remember the details. 

Less than an hour later Plainfield was ahead of him, and on a whim he decided to get off the highway. Coming into the one horse town, he stopped in at a general store to get a drink. He couldn’t resist a peek at the magazine rack. Long gone were the magazines like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories that writers like himself and old HPL got their breaks in. At least they still had a few comic books. A young man next to him was thumbing through a magazine about professional wrestling. Robert never knew they even printed such things. He didn’t understand what the appeal was, grown men in tights pretending to fight each other. As he looked over the shoulder of the young man, he spied a report about a wrestling event from Japan. A color photograph portrayed a grappler wearing a mask of a deformed face while holding a chainsaw over his head. The caption read this was a new wrestler named Saw-Man. Saw-Man? he thought to himself. Wasn’t that a character from a horror movie?

Either way, Robert grabbed some stationary and a soda and got in line to check out. In front of him were a much older couple who placed a few items on the counter, but the clerk charged them nothing. He’d heard of a senior citizen discount but this was ridiculous! As Robert paid for his own items he watched the happy couple walk out of the store. Maybe they used to be the owners or something. As he looked at them, he thought to himself that he hoped he and Elly made it that long.

Robert then walked outside and looked down the street. There was a hotel nearby, he didn’t imagine many people staying here.

“Elly it’s me.” Robert said as the phone picked up.

“Hi honey, how was your visit?” He heard his wife’s sweet voice over the phone.

“It was great, really fun. Listen I decided to stay out here a few extra days.”

“Oh ok, where are you now?”

“I’m in a little town called Plainfield.”

“Plainfield, never heard of it. Who do you know there?”

“Actually no one,” Robert answered, “which is the reason I called. I need you to get something for me.”

“Ok.”

He hated the thought of subjecting her to this madness, but he had no other recourse. “In my desk,” he went on to explain, “I think in one of the right hand drawers there’s a stack of papers from that convention I went to last Halloween, see if you can grab it for me.”

“Sure.”

“There should be a folder with just a few papers in it.” He explained. “There’s stuff written down in there about Painfield.”

After a few minutes her voice came back on the line. “Ok I got it.”

“Great, there’s just a few papers in there, I want you to read whatever it says, and I’m going to copy it down.“

“Ok,” he could hear the papers rustling. He took a deep breath as he remembered what she was about to discover. “Plainfield Wisconsin, October 1957, Sally Kohler,” Robert wrote it all down. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed as she continued reading. “Is this true?” 

He almost regretted calling her now “Well I don’t know honey, I’m going to try to find out.” Then, feeling the need to soldier on, he said “Just keep reading it please.”

She finished the last remaining notes before adding, “Honey please be careful.”

“I will Eleanor, thank you. I’ll be home in a few days, love you”

It wasn’t that late in the day. Robert managed to find the library, and the old lady helped him find the microfiche of the local newspapers. Given the Plainfield Sun only came out once a week, it didn’t take long for Robert to scan through years worth of papers. Not much going on of course. There was the occasional hunting accident or hunter disappearing. News about Evelyn Hartley made its way all the way out here. He remembered that case, poor young girl; disappeared while babysitting. It was the biggest manhunt in state history and it didn’t turn up a thing.

Locally there was not much else of note. Looked like two times back in the 50’s there was a fire at the same property, an old farmhouse on the edge of town. Also in the early 50’s there was a woman who ran a bar not far from here that came up missing. Blood and a bullet cartridge were found in the bar. This seemed to be the most serious occurrence in this area he could find. After decades of scant local news whizzed by he started to feel stupid. What did he think he would find? There was no rash of local disappearances, not even a little nugget that could inspire a good yarn.

Soon nightfall came, and Robert didn’t have many options in terms of entertainment. He imagined he’d write a letter to his young fan tonight, or at least started a new piece of fiction, but there was nothing to write home about. Maybe he should have known better. Lacking in options, he found himself at a local tavern that evening. A few people eyeballed him as he came in. He thought to himself he might have been the first out of town person to come into this tavern since, maybe ever. Looking around at the mostly older crowd, he would have bet the same people had probably been coming here for years. 

On the TV screen the Brewers had an away game with the Kansas City Royals. He couldn’t remember the last time he even watched a ball game. Way back in his youth, what felt like a thousand years ago now, there was a special father’s and son’s day exhibition game. Robert couldn’t remember who it was against, but he remembered it was hot. As he put down a few dollars for his beer at the bar he remembered the then outrageous price of a dime for a ballpark soda. That day, during the seventh inning stretch, big league player Hack Wilson tossed an autographed ball directly at him. The ball flew perfectly through the air. He reached his hand up to grab it, looking for his first moment of athletic glory, and the ball slipped through his fingers. He watched the white sphere stitched in red fall deep down into the abyss below the open bleacher seats. He never knew if he had disapointed his father. He did just get his first pair of glasses, so at least he had that for an excuse. But what if? 

Sitting at the bar with his drink in his hand, he couldn’t help ask himself this question, a question probably faced by all in their twilight years. What if? What if, by chance he was able to catch that ball? What if he then leapt into the more extroverted world of sports, and what if he never dove into that most introverted world of books? What if he hit home runs or scored touchdowns instead of spinning strange yarns of the Elder Gods and dead Whitechapel murderers? It was too late for such questions now, Robert did not regret his path in life. He did what he loved, but as he saw his reflection in the mirror at the back of the bar, he mulled over how his work never hit the nerve of the American consciousness. While he certainly had a successful career as a novelist, and even wrote a handful of screenplays and television episodes, he never had that one piece of work that captured the public’s imagination the way Stephen King had, or the way his old friend and mentor H. P. Lovecraft had, or, as he watched the ball player on TV hit a homerun to a cheering crowd, the way athletes had. Too bad it was hit by Todd Benzinger of the Royals.

Long lost in thought, he didn’t even notice later when the game ended, a game he’d stopped watching so long ago. The tavern was now filled with the tune of the local news station, whose Breaking News logo emblazoned the screen. The news caster then appeared, he seemed more serious than usual, his voice in fact was almost shaking.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we come to you tonight with extremely disturbing news from right here in our area.” The Wisconsin anchorman said. “We warn you, the following segment may be too disturbing for some viewers. Milwaukee police have arrested thirty-one year old Jeffrey Dhamer, after finding an adult male fleeing Dhamrer’s apartment with one wrist handcuffed. Police arrested Dhamer in his home, after which they found a scene of pure terror.” After taking a visibly deep breath, the anchor man continued. “Police found seventy four polaroid photos of corpses at various stages of dismemberment, which were all taken in his home. Dhamer’s apartment was filled with actual human remains, including two entire human skeletons, seven human skulls, a pair of human hands, an entire human torso, two human hearts, and a bag of other human organs.”

As the report went on, and footage from the killer’s home was shown, Bloch looked around to see all eyes were on the screen. At this moment, nobody ordered, nobody drank, solids and stripes remained still on the pool table, the bar-keep even turned the jukebox off. Bloch couldn’t put his finger on it, but somehow he knew this horrific news hit the people of this tiny town with an extra sting.

Finally, an old man at the bar broke the silence. “Well you know who that sounded like….” 

Part Ten: Deranged

George worked a lot of overtime to afford the VIP party after the convention closed. He was glad Robert Bloch spoke on the panel, because he might not have recognized him otherwise. With his usual gregariousness he approached the man he’d been corresponding with for the first time. “Robert Bloch!” he said. “I’m the one you’ve been writing too.” 

“Of course you are.” Robert said, raising his glass to him.

“So what did you think of my story?”

“It was terrible.” the acclaimed author said in an instant.

George froze solid as if he’d been dowesed in liquid nitrogen, for once in his life he was at a total loss for words.

Robert burst into laughter as someone patted him on the shoulder saying “You were always great at encouragement Bloch! Is that how Lovecraft talked to you?”

“What he said to me was even worse!” Bloch laughingly replied.

“Yeah I’ll bet!” The man laughed loud along with Robert before going to get himself a drink.

Seeing the young fan was still standing there, Robert said “Let’s try this again.” and reached his hand out to introduce himself. “I’m Robert Bloch, what can I do ya for?”

“George Kohler.” He gave the author a strong handshake. “Pleasure to meet you.”

“Ok, that name is ringing a bell.” Bloch now recalled as his hand was released from the exuberant fan’s mighty grip. “You sent me a story, what was it called?”

“Well I started it as a screenplay when I was in film school, but after I left film school I decided to write it out as a novel.”

Bloch’s eyes rolled as he asked “And the name of this soon to be classic of American literature?”

“My story I wrote was called Deranged.” George said proudly.

Bloch registered recognition as he recalled the gruesome tale. “Ah yes,” noticing the Zodiac Killer shirt Robert remarked “I should have known it was you when I saw that shirt.”

“Yeah, I forgot my Zodiac mask at home. Totally sucks.”

Bloch’s voice trailed off as he replied. “Hmm that’s such a shame.” 

“Yeah it blows donkey balls.” 

“Haha, I wouldn’t know, I’m more of a sheep man myself.”

George was loving the author’s humor. After letting out another good laugh he then asked, “Anyway what did you think of my story?”

“Well it was pretty gruesome, I’ll give you that.”

“Yeah, cool!” he nodded.

“Hmm, well let’s get a drink and sit down.”

As they sat down at a nearby table, George reached into his bag for what he wanted to give to the author. He’d forgotten he’d just purchased two of Bloch’s books. Pulling those out, he asked the author to sign them.

“I’d be happy to.” Opening up American Gothic and beginning his inscription, Robert said “That Holmes, he was a real evil man.”

“Yeah, that torture chamber was nuts!” Geroge smiled with pleasure.

Now signing the second book Robert began, “So your story, well it was quite gruesome in the details, I didn’t understand what the motivation was. What would drive a man so do such unspeakable things?”

“I don’t know, he’s just nuts.” George said matter of factly.

Handing the books back to his fan, Bloch then asked. “Ok, so let’s look at it this way, what inspired you to write your story?”

“Well when I was a kid, I had this Aunt who had this really crazy story.”

The author keyed in on George’s use of the past tense, “You ‘had’ and Aunt?”

“Yeah, she was in and out of mental institutions a lot, and eventually she killed herself.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Robert said in sympathy.

“Yeah, anyway when she was a kid one time she stole her dad’s car and ran off. Story goes she ran out of gas, and got stuck near this old farmhouse. My Aunt got out of the car and went into the house to get help. When my Aunt went inside she said there were bodies everywhere!” George grew very animated as he told this part of the story. “Heads were hanging on the wall and all this gruesome shit! That’s what I put in my story. Then she said something chased her out of the house with a gun.”

“Some THING?” The author stressed the word ‘thing.’

“That’s what my Aunt always said. It had long hair like a chic, but it squealed like an animal. It chased her right out of there. Later the cops found her and brought her home. That’s how the story goes at least.”

“That sounds awful. Did the police ever investigate?”

“Nah,” George said dismissively. “My Aunt was always messed up on drugs. She was like a beatnik, and was always going on about something. One time it would be UFO’s, another time it would be Atlantis, you know the type.”

Robert nodded. “I guess I do.”

“Yeah, but that one story she always stuck with though.” George stated. “She told that story a lot and it never changed. Would have made one hell of a movie!”

“Could have been worse than Chainsaw.” Robert quietly pondered.

“Yeah man.” George’s mind instantly lit up with the possibilities. “If they combined the hillbillies in chainsaw with the shit my Aunt saw. Jesus, that would be the most terrifying movie ever made!”

Robert was cautiously skeptical yet still disturbed. “I’d never heard a story like this before.” He then asked. “Did this supposedly happen around here?”

“No, I’m from Wisconsin originally. Ever hear of a town called Amherst?” 

“Oh I see.” Robert answered. “No, I can’t say that I have.”

“Well, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you.” Before putting the books away he pulled out a manilla folder from his bag. “I know you’re from Milwaukee.” he said as he slid the folder across the table. “This is the basic information about what happened. If you ever had a chance, I thought you could look into it.”

“Well I live in Los Angeles now.” Bloch said. “I’m sure you’re aware they don’t film much television or film in the great state of Wisconsin.”

“Oh right.” In a rare moment, George’s voice deflated with enthusiasm. Given he’d been sending letters to Bloch’s Los Angeles address, it didn’t occur to him that the author might not be spending much time in the plain states. 

“Well you took this time to put this together, let’s see what we have.” He opened the folder to look at a few sheets of paper with notes written on it.

“I don’t have much to go on.” George hesitantly cautioned.

“Plainfield Wisconsin,” Bloch looked at the pages. “Never heard of that place either. Fall of 1957,” he continued to read, there was a brief description of what his aunt reported, along with the description of George’s grandfather’s car and a few other notes, including Sally’s suicide and George’s home address.

“Well I do visit the old homestead on occasion.” Robert said, closing the folder. “Next time I do I can give it a look.”

“That would be awesome!” George said. They spent the short time they had remaining talking about writing and the business.

Thank you all for your support of this story thus far. There will be seven more chapters of ghoulish mayham and alternate history which will be spaced out from now till Halloween. On a less macabe note please remain safe and take care of yourselves. Just think, we’re almost done with this horrific year!

Part Nine: Yours Truly, Robert Bloch 

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con New York City

George browsed a book vendor while waiting for the auditorium to open for tonight’s panel. A blue covered book caught his eye, on the cover was the Frankenstein Monster and the Wolfman. Flipping through the pages, he remembered reading Movie Monsters by Alan Ormsby as a kid. He put it back, then noticed a few movie novelizations and spin-off books were present. George spotted a Halloween novel. It wasn’t an adaptation of one of the movies though. The title read, “Halloween: The Return of Michael Myers.” by Nicholas Grabowsky. This book also brought back memories, as he borrowed it from Dan back in film school. The novel was an original story where both Michael Myers and Dr. Gavin survived the explosion at the end of Halloween II. Myers awakes from a ten year coma to wreak havoc on Haddonfield. Dr. Gavin returns to again save Laurie Strode, who now has a daughter. Myers is legitimately blown up in the climax, but the novel ends on a great twist when Laurie is killed by her now psychotic eight year old daughter, who has inherited her uncle’s madness.

George then picked up the next book, which he never read. Halloween: The Revenge apparently followed the exploits of the child psychotic. It looked pretty cool, and he soon put it down to browse Halloween: Child’s Play, which was a crossover novel where the killer girl gets with Chucky, the evil doll from the Child’s Play series. The vendor told him a new crossover novel was coming out soon, mixing the two aforementioned series with the new Puppet Master films. “That sounded fun,” George thought to himself.

He put these books back when he noticed two others. American Gothic was a novel he’d read as a teenager. It was about this guy named H. H. Holmes who had a literal torture chamber in his house. George made the mistake of lending the book out in college and it never got back to him. The thing was, this case was actually real. Dr. Holmes Murder Castle, was a factual account of the real life case by the same author of American Gothic, the same author he was going to meet tonight. He hadn’t read the factual account, and decided to buy both books. After paying and putting both books in his bag, he went into the now open auditorium. 

The special topic tonight was the history of the horror film, hosted by the man George sought to meet, Robert Bloch. George was growing to like his work, but he wondered why Bloch was presenting on this topic, since he had little if anything to do with horror movies. As the author was introduced, George now realized, per the MC’s introduction, that Bloch wrote television episodes for shows George liked, such as Monsters, Tales of the Unexpected, and Darkroom. Not only that, but he also wrote episodes of the original Star Trek, Night Gallery, and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. The MC joked that Robert Bloch had the heart of a young boy, which he keeps in a jar on his desk. This elicited laughter from the audience and Robert Bloch took the stage.

After receiving a warm reception, the author graciously thanked the convention for having him, then jested “You were too cheap to ask Stephen King and you knew I needed lunch money.” The audience laughed some more. George did not expect to find the master of psycho tales to be cracking jokes, but there he was.

Naturally Bloch started with the golden age of horror of the 1930’s and 40’s. He pointed out how the classic monsters like Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were all foreigners, and/or characters from European folklore. Then in the 50’s you had the nuclear monsters in the wake of the atomic bomb. George remembered watching those movies. His dad and his sister liked them too. He remembered one time he covered himself with a blanket trying to scare his sister while they watched The Blob. He rolled over to her in his disguise and Helen just laughed hysterically.

There wasn’t as much to cover in the 1960s, but Bloch noted that the 1970s brought a pronounced change. George cheered ferociously at the mention of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Hearing such an exuberant response, Bloch pointed to George and said “I bet you loved the sequel, the Tennessee Slumber Party.” to which George and everyone else howled in laughter. Bloch went on to explain how the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was a 1974 film about a group of hillbillies in rural Texas. The lead villain, a deformed character named Saw-man, dispatched random motorists with his trusty chainsaw. George wished with all his heart that that movie could have turned into a series. In his mind it could have stood up there with the modern franchises like Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street. Unfortunately, in the real world, a sequel never came.

Bloch’s point about Chainsaw was, while it was not a big hit, it marked the beginning of a trend of homegrown American horror, of scary stories of not a foreign or alien menace, but about your neighbor, the guy next door. Other movies mentioned included Last House on the Left, and The Hills Have Eyes, which Bloch joked was followed by the sequel the Woods have Noses. Bloch theorized that in the wake of the Manson murders and the social unrest of the 1960s, audiences were developing a taste for real life and brutality in their horror. George was never academic about his fandom, but he was unsure of Bloch’s theory. After all, as the author himself had said, the aforementioned films were not big hits.

Halloween was mentioned, which brought about a big cheer. “If you remember, the first two Halloween movies weren’t about ghosts and werewolves,” Bloch reminded the audience. “It was about a boy, Michael Myers, who was a psychotic killer. Michael Myers wasn’t from another country or from outer space, he was from anytown USA. Now, hearing the cheers in this crowd, assuming you’re not cheering for me,” to which the audience laughed again, “these movies obviously found an audience.” Another cheer erupted as Bloch continued, “but the truth was these weren’t very successful movies when you look at the box office. Now if you look in the last decade, we seemed to have taken the idea of the home-grown threat, and brought it back to the monster. If you look at Halloween, it did inspire a sub-genre known as the slasher, with movies like the Burning and Sleepaway Camp, but they weren’t huge hits like 1980’s Friday the 13th with it’s Jersey Devil, or like CHUD, or Critters, or the Thing remake. You did have ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’, with Freddy Kreuger being slasher-esque, but he’s also like a ghost, more supernatural. Halloween itself got away from the slasher genre it helped create in its later installments, bringing in witches and ghosts and werewolves. Reportedly the next entry of that series is going to involve vampires. I have an idea for the following one though.” He then suggested, pointing his finger up in the air, “It should be about Jack the Ripper!” Again the audience laughed, especially from those familiar with Bloch’s frequent works involving the infamous London serial killer.

“So what will the 90s bring to horror cinema,” Bloch asked as he reached the end of his speech, “who knows? Sequels for all the big franchises are still in the works, but undoubtedly a new generation will come along with new characters that will make us scream.“

After dinner Dan and Victoria sat in on a presentation on entertainment law. The presenter was a young woman, a lawyer who specialized in the entertainment business. Dan found her quite attractive. She had a certain special poise and intelligence about her, similar to what Dan saw in Victoria.

When the presentation ended the woman stayed to take questions from the audience. As Dan and Victoria approached, the woman greeted Dan with a smile and said “Nice shirt.”

Dan looked down at his Halloween shirt that he forgot he was wearing. “Thanks.” he said. Then looking back up at her he asked. “Are you a Halloween fan?”

“Yeah I got a soft spot for the original.” The lawyer revealed. “Actually I auditioned for a role in it.”

“Wait what!?!” Dan and Victoria were both surprised as Dan asked. “You were an actress?”

“Well my mother was.” The woman said. “You probably never heard of her. Janet Leigh?” 

Dan drew a blank but Victoria recognized that name. “Oh, I know her, she was in the Machurian Candidate and Angels in the Outfield!”

“That’s right!” The woman said, pleasantly surprised.

“And she was in Touch of Fear!” Victoria added enthusiastically.

“The Orson Wells classic.” The woman said. Then pointing at Victoria she said to Dan. “That’s a smart girl you have there.” 

“Thanks,” Dan said, “she’s the best.” 

“Aww that’s so sweet.” The woman said, admiring the young couples affection for each other.

“So what happened?” Victoria asked.

“Well when I was young the acting bug got me, so I dropped out of law school to give it a shot. My big break never came though.” she explained, revealing no remorse over her path in life. “So eventually I went back to school, became an entertainment lawyer, and here I am!”

“That’s really cool.” Victoria said. “Do you ever regret it, not getting to act?”

“Sometimes I think about it, but I like what I’m doing.” she answered.  “Who knows, maybe someday I’ll take a stab at it!” she said laughing while she thrusted her hand in a stabbing motion. “In the meantime if you ever need representation here is my card.”

Both Dan and Victoria took her business card. Dan looked down to read it. “Jamie Curtis.” Looking up he said “Well it was nice to meet you.”

“Nice meeting you too!” Jamie Curtis said. She smiled as the young couple walked away. The lawyer then turned to chat with the last few people remaining in the room.

Part Eight: Film School

October 26th: 1990. Hallow-Con, New York City

“Man they kill you on these prices!” Dan complained as he handed cash over for two hamburgers and sodas. He then brought his tray back to the table in the convention venue cafeteria with Victoria and George, who had splurged on a big personal pan pizza and a large soda. 

“Well it was cool running into you.” Victoria said as she took her hamburger from Dan and started eating.

“Yeah man, so really what happened?” Dan’s curiosity was killing him. “You were the big man on campus, then you just disappeared. Some of us wondered if you were dead!”

“Haha, I was dead!” George relished in hearing exaggerated rumors about himself. “That is so great. No, the truth about what happened to me was worse, my fucking dad wouldn’t help me pay for the rest of the school year.” 

“Oh man that sucks.” Dan said.

“Sure does.” George said, taking a bite of his pizza. 

Dan then asked, “So what are you doing now?”

“Back in Bethlehem, working a sucky job. Sometimes I get some gaming in, and I’m working on a few projects.”.

“That’s cool.” Dan said before remembering. “I think the last time we hung out was in the East Village when we saw Macabre.”

“I think you’re right.” George agreed. “I just got the new Slayer album. It’s pretty wicked!”

“Cool,” Dan said. That venue we saw Macabre at is where Victoria and I met.” He then started eating his burger.

“Neato.” George said before taking a drink.

“Yeah, it was a Fibonaccis show.” Victoria happily remembered.

“I remember them. Sucks they broke up.” George pointed to Dan recalling “I remember you playing their album in the dorm. I liked that track Some Men, and the instrumental piece after it, what was it called, Romp of the Meiji Sicophantas?” 

“Sycophants.” Dan corrected.

“Right, not my usual cup of tea,” George said. “but cool stuff.”

“So you two met at school?” Victoria asked.

“Yeah it was at a Herschell Gordon Lewis seminar.” George said.

“Who’s that?” Victoria asked.

“He was this guy who made a bunch of sleazeball films in the 60s and 70s.” George explained.

“Yeah you probably wouldn’t have liked him.” Dan said to Victoria. “I read in an interview once that he thought about doing horror movies, but never followed through with it.”

“Too bad.” George complained. “His style would have fit the genre. He could have been a real wizard of gore!”

“Probably right.” Dan agreed. “So are you ever gonna come back to school?”

“I don’t know, I got more into writing recently, I’m gonna try to bang out a book or two. I tried to get some film projects going a few times, but you know how that is, poeple are stupid and flake on you and all that.”

“I hear you man.” Dan agreed. “I finished but I stuck around because Victoria here is gonna finish next year. We’re gonna get married once she’s done.”

“Cool beans,” George said before finishing off his pizza.

“Yeah, we also got a few projects going on but nothing big.” Victoria explained. “We both got a shit load of debt now, so who knows maybe you dodged a bullet there.” They all had a laugh at that thought.

“Say some of the old gang is meeting in the village.” Dan said. “You should come too. I’m sure a lot of them will be glad to see you.”

“Well I’m going to a panel then I’m gonna meet this author I’ve been corresponding with.” George said as he looked at his watch. “Actually I gotta go.” 

“That’s awesome. Well hey it was great running into you.” Dan said.

“I was happy to talk to you both.” George said as he stood up. 

“It was nice meeting you.” Victoria said.

“Laters.” George then walked away.

As Victoria watched George exit the eating area, carving out a path among the crowd wherever he went, she observed. “He was… interesting.”

“Yeah that’s one way of putting it.” Dan said, to which they both giggled. While watching his friend from film school walk away he said “He’s got an ego the size of Montana, but he was SUPER talented. If he ever got the ball rolling he could make some kickass films.”

Bethlehem, 1989

“This is bullshit!”

“No this is bullshit!” Henry held up a screenplay and slammed it down on George’s table, its front page emblazoned with the title ‘Deranged’. The murderous letters shined back at him in their red ink. “I’m not paying for you to make crap like this!”

“You just don’t want me to succeed!” George yelled defiantly. “You just want me to be like those asshole jocks in Freedom High School!”

Henry was beside himself in both confusion and anger. “You loved football when you were a kid!” he objected. “Then all of a sudden you stopped lifting and stuffed your face with pizza, I didn’t understand it.”

“I didn’t want to win the Superbowl dad, I wanted to make movies! My loan only gets me so far. Even if I have to work 80 hours a week I still can’t afford to finish my degree!”

“That’s not my problem!” Henry desperately tried to reel his emotions back in. “I know I told you I would help you pay for school, but I’m not gonna pay for you to exploit a family tragedy!”

“It’s not a family tragedy Dad! She was probably just high, you know how fucked up she was.”

“She was my sister, you son of a bitch!” Without thinking Henry lunged toward his son, his hands pushed hard on George’s chest, knocking him down to the couch. There was a loud thud when George’s body hit the cushion, followed by the sound of wood cracking as one of the legs of the couch snapped. Henry pulled back and braced himself. He was getting older now, but his son was grossly out of shape. He held his hands up, more than prepared for anything his son might do.

George remained still on the couch, it was now evident he wasn’t going to do a damn thing. Henry couldn’t remember the last time he saw George with tears in his eyes, and he was plenty upset himself. As Henry lowered his trembling hands he could feel his heart racing. He raised his right hand back up, pointing his finger at his son to say “You do what you wanna do, but you’re on your own.” He then picked up the screen play again and squeezed it with his fist. “But if you ever go through with this shit, then I don’t ever want to see you again.” He threw the document back down and walked out of his son’s apartment. 

Henry was brought back to the present by the voice, it was a female voice talking quietly over the microphone. “I remember cabbing home from an artist party, somewhere near my old shrinks building…upper West end, catching all the green lights.” Looking at the small stage Steve was now gone, and in his place was that lovely red haired woman who continued, “Till we hit this wasted eastside corner down in ‘Alphabet’ land.” Henry looked back at the table to make his shot, but he couldn’t stop listening to her voice. “And there was this crowd hissin to the street bitching of some old punk band.” He called eight-ball in the corner pocket. It was an easy shot, so easy he missed it, he missed it and the cue ball sunk. He’d scratched, she won. “When this kid comes up to my window with a chewed up styrofoam cup in his hand… and he says…”you gotta let life go…” Helen gloated as the woman laughed and said “What a rip!” Henry expressed no disappointment in his defeat. He simply put his pool stick down and looked at the stage while the woman slowly sang the words, “You gotta let life go.” In her light gentle voice she continued. “You gotta live, let live.” She looked a little older, maybe she was around his age,”Don’t even, search your soul.” Ha, not likely he thought. “You gotta let life go.” Her bare arms looked fit, and her face was quite pretty, but he could tell by the deepness of her eyes this woman had lived a life. He picked up his beer and took a sip while still watching, still listening. He’d lost the game, but he was starting to enjoy his evening.

Part Seven: The Master of Horror

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-Con, New York City

Victoria, like most everyone else at the convention, was excited to meet Tom Savini, the master of gory special effects. Savini did effects work for such classics as Dawn of the Dead, Maniac, The Burning, Creepshow, and Friday the 13th, hence the long line at the Friday the 13th booth for his autograph. While waiting with Dan she rolled her eyes as George bragged about the all the times he’d already met him.

Strategically adjacent to Savini was the booth for the current Friday the 13th TV series. Dan and Victoria were happy to meet Chris Wiggins, Eliaz Zarou, and Steve Monarque while moving along in line. Talking to the cast of the series, they got to look at a few props from the show, which was about cursed items from a pawn shop and had nothing to do with the films. Dan took Victoria’s picture while she tried on the cursed apron, which was worn in an episode by a distraught camp cook whose son drowned in a lake. George picked up a hockey mask laying among the props, and Victoria remembered another episode where a guy got ahold of that mask, which turned him into an unkillable psychopath. Victoria and Dan both agreed that would have made a good movie.

The mask fit perfectly over George’s face, and through the eyeholes he could see across the aisle to the Nightmare on Elm street booth. Its star, Kane Hodder, who played Freddy Krueger, was present signing autographs. As usual, unable to contain his excitement, George screamed “Kane Hodder!” Kane laughed as he looked across the aisle to see this big man wearing a hockey mask waving at him. Kane waved back and smiled politely as he continued signing autographs for his fans.

Victoria and her fiance were both glowing as they finally reached the end of the line. “Hey big guy!” Tom seemed to recognize George from past conventions and happily shook his hand. Victoria was afraid George would yap with him forever, but fortunately he did not, and her and Dan were next.

“I’m so thrilled to meet you!” Victoria blushed. Tom graciously shook her hand as a rush of excitement went through her. She flashed back to all those times as a young teenager, watching horror movies on her dirty couch, never even daring to dream that someday she would be here before him. To Victoria and her fiance, this moment was like what meeting Michael Jordan or Joe Montana would be to the people outside these convention walls. The couple were absolutely thrilled to talk with Tom, who could not have been more friendly.

To George, meeting Savini may have become old hat, but he was still excited due to what was standing right next to the horror effects master. There it was, decked out in full costume straight out of the movies, what was considered to be Tom’s greatest creation. It was massive, lumbering, evil. While her fiance made small talk with Tom, Victoria noticed George looking over the creature the way most men would look over her. His eyes went up and down the monstrous body, appreciating every little detail, from the fangs and claws down to the last little bloody scar. There before him, stood the Jersey Devil of the Friday the 13th series. 

Naturally Dan and Victoria admired the beast as well. “I always wanted to ask you this.” Dan said nervously.  “Is it true you there was a different story in mind for the first Friday the 13th film?”

“Well I didn’t write the script, but most of the people on the crew were big fans of Halloween.” The master explained while pointing to Dan’s Halloween shirt. “From what I remember, the original story was going to have a human killer.” Looking at Victoria he added “If I recall they were even thinking of a female villain. Thing was, Halloween wasn’t a huge hit, so the financiers were a little gun shy.” 

“Really!” Dan wondered aloud. “I thought Halloween was awesome!”

“Sure, I mean the people that come to shows like this love it,” Tom said, “but remember it wasn’t really a successful movie. Some of it was great, but they needed a better lead actress.”

“I loved that red head!” George motioned with his hands. “She had that nice big rack!”

“Uh, yeah,” Tom nervously laughed. “She couldn’t act though, they needed someone to play Laurie Strode with some vulnerability. Michael Myers was such a great villain, and Donald Pleasence was pitch perfect as Dr. Gavin, If they’d just cast a good lead that could have put the movie over the top.” George continued admiring the creature while Victoria and Dan nodded in understanding.

“Anyway, Sean Cunningham got a new group of investors for the film,” Tom went on to explain, “and these new investors pushed for a monster. There hadn’t been a good monster movie in a while, and we thought, hell since we’re filming in New Jersey anyway, why not make it the Jersey Devil?”

“Too bad about not having a female killer.” Victoria thought out loud. “We don’t get too many of those, aside from Carrie I guess.”

“And Mary Lou from the Prom Night Sequels.” Dan added.

“That’s why I love you dear.” Victoria’s eyes twinkled at her fellow horror nerd.

“It’s probably all for the best though.” George said, pointing to the Devil. ”That thing is awesome. So who is under the mask? Is it C. J. Graham or Dan Bradley?”

“That’s the one and only Tim Mirkovich, straight from Part Eight!” Savini revealed.

“Oh sweet, straight from Part Eight. I wasn’t sure if you were going to be here!’ George said excitedly.

Then the young couple got their pictures taken with both Tom and the Devil. George also got his Friday the 13th Part 8: The Devil Takes Manhattan poster autographed. “This is the best Friday ever!” George said. “I loved that chase scene on the Brooklyn Bridge, and that scene where the Devil dives off the Statue of Liberty was so cool!”

“Thank you.” Tom said. “Those were really hard scenes to shoot, we’re sure glad you appreciate them.“

“So what’s the next movie going to be about?” Victoria asked.

“Well we don’t know where else to take him.” Tom started thinking on his feet. “We did Jersey, we did New York, maybe next the Devil should go back to hell. haha.”

“That would rule!” George said, his eyes still on the beast. More fans were gathered around to meet Savini, so the trio and Tom made their final greetings. Walking away with the autographs and pictures, Victoria could have gone home right then and there and would have been happy.

October 26th, 1990. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

The Second Street Tavern was filled with music as Henry watched her daughter take a shot. He’d long dispatched Phil from the pool table, who was now on stage jamming with Steve. Henry was growing to like the local music scene. He liked it more when an attractive red head walked in with a guitar slung around her back. He gave her a quick smile as he heard her daughter say “Shit!” after the sound of the cue ball hitting the side of the pool table for a scratch. “Your shot dad.” 

He remembered his daughter being a better player than this as he looked over the table. She’d missed an easy corner shot that set him up to knock one of his own in the side pocket.  Looking at her while he set up his shot, she seemed annoyed.

“What’s wrong hon?” He asked while easily making the shot.

“I don’t know, I’m still upset George didn’t come out.”

“You’re here, that’s what counts.” he said while eying up his next shot.

“But it’s our family. I guess I just expected him to be here, you know, because this was the night.”

“Well, he probably doesn’t remember her too much.” He said as he sank another ball. “Do you remember her?”

“Yeah a little. I remember going to see her in the hospital, and I remember when she stayed with us for a while. She would let me watch cartoons when you wanted me to do my homework.”

“Yeah,” Henry laughed while looking over his next shot, “she was a free spirit. Our parents were really tough on both of us, and she just had it in her so much to rebel.“ He went on to reveal, “Sometimes mom and I knew she was letting you watch movies or sneaking you treats. We let her go, figured she should have some fun with you while she could.”

“Were things really that bad for her?”

Sinking another solid Henry said “She was in and out of trouble as long as I could remember.” He looked over at the bar sign indicating the date bartenders referred to when checking ages. “Once she was gone, I mean it was devastating, but nobody was really surprised.” He then looked at the table to set up his final shot. “None of this is on George though, he’s got to go his own way.”

“When’s the last time you even talked to him?” Helen asked.

Eyeing up his final shot, about to win another game he said “I don’t know, it’s been a while.”

Part Six: The Thing

October 26th, 1990. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

Helen parked on Broad street, and remembered how she used to live close by here. She passed a tattoo shop when she got out of her car, where in a window hung a sign for that horror convention. She hoped her brother was having fun, but she wished he would’ve been here with her now. Coming into the Second Street Tavern she could feel everyone’s eyes undressing her. She imagined them sneering when the older man waved to her, she then walked past the pool table and embraced him.

“Thanks for coming hon.” The older man said as he held her tight.

“No problem dad.” Helen said as they both sat down.

A cute woman around Helen’s age with black curly hair and glasses came over to their booth. She smiled at Helen and playfully jabbed her father’s shoulder, saying “Boy Henry, do you have to know every pretty girl in the Lehigh Valley?”

Helen was both amused and slightly startled by her jest. “Only the very pretty ones.” her father laughed before explaining “This is my daughter. You can tell she gets her looks from me.”

“Oh is that right!?!” Helen shot back.

Then her father said “Honey this is Lisa, she works here.”

“Hope he doesn’t give you a hard time.” Helen teased.

“Oh he’s a sweetheart. So what can I get you?”

Helen ordered a Yuengling, her father already had a drink which he took a sip of as Lisa walked away. Helen took off her jacket while her father said  “Thanks for coming out. I appreciate it.”

“Oh it’s not a problem.” she assured him.

“Have you talked to George lately?”

“Yeah I had breakfast with him this morning.” Helen said. “He couldn’t make it. He’s at, he’s…” she didn’t have the heart to tell him why his son wasn’t here when he needed him.

“He’s at one of those horror shows isn’t he?”

“Yeah, yeah he is.” She felt disgusted, almost sick to the stomach as her mouth formed those words. “He should be here”, she thought to herself. This time of year was always rough on Henry, and especially this particular day. “I’m sorry dad.” she said as Lisa returned with Helen’s drink.

His response surprised her. “He’s got to live his own life.” Henry said, taking a drink. “not be stuck in the past like me. How did he look anyway?”

She again felt hesitant as she answered “He’s still been putting on weight. I’m really worried about him actually.”

“Yeah, maybe I should have pushed him harder at sports.” Henry confessed. “He loved football as a kid, I don’t get what happened.”

“I don’t know, I think as a teen he got a different group of friends and then he got all obsessed with his horror movies.”

“Well how come you didn’t go to the show you used to like all that stuff?”

“Yeah,” Helen laughed, “used too.”

The eight ball sank at the nearby pool table. Helen took a drink, and felt a little tense as a man in a denim jacket approached with a pool stick in hand, “Shit,” she thought. She didn’t care to shoot pool right now, especially against strange men. This guy was older too, maybe even her father’s age. Unlike her father he had a scruffy beard to match his long dark brownish hair. The man smiled at her before turning to her father. “You’re next Henry!” the man said.

“Alright!” Henry chugged down his beer before turning to his daughter. “Excuse me hon, I’m gonna knock Phil here off the table. You should put a pair of quarters up next, I’m gonna be playing for a while.”

Helen was happy to see her father’s confidence. Soon the sound of billiard balls being knocked around was accompanied by the twang of a guitar. Looking over at the small stage on the other end of the bar, she saw that trademark tannish colored hat and sunglasses. Steve Brosky, a well known local musician, started his set. While his tunes filled the bar, Helen’s mind drifted back to the days when she lived just down the road. 

October 26th, 1976. Bethlehem Pennsylvania

Mom came home drunk again. Helen could smell the alcohol as soon as her mother got through the door. She never remembered this happening when they lived in Wisconsin, but as soon as  they settled into their new home it seemed to be happening a lot. It was getting to be hard on dad too. At least this time they fought in the bedroom. Helen could still hear them yelling at each other, but at least she could sit in the living room and watch TV. She turned the volume up as The Thing From Another World was on. She figured George would like this. She’d just read the story ‘Who Goes There’ by John W. Cambell, which this movie was based on. She found she liked the book better. She was getting to that age where she started to realize books were often better than movies.

Her little brother hadn’t reached that stage yet. He was sticking with his King Kong and Mummy movies. She tried introducing him to some old scary stories she liked to read, like Yours Truly Jack the Ripper, or Something Wicked This Way Comes, but he found them boring. 

This was boring too apparently, as she saw George fumbling through his Movie Monsters book before going to his comics. She never bothered with Laser Man or Neutron Man or whatever it was he liked to read, but at least he was reading something. She noticed George’s attention did turn back to the TV when a commercial for channel 69 news came on. At 11pm, the newscaster said, they would have an update on the Son of Sam killings. Helen might not have liked comic books, but she really hated how every day George read about Son of Sam in the newspaper. He was fascinated by it, especially since New York City was only a few hours from their home. Maybe he was too young to understand how things like this really happened to people, like that thing that happened to her Aunt. No one ever talked about it, but something really bad happened to Dad’s sister, or maybe it didn’t really happen, she couldn’t tell, but her Aunt got really sick and then she died. In fact, it was a year ago today that she passed. That’s why her dad moved them across the country. It was just too sad for him to stay around Wisconsin. 

At the age of thirteen something was already happening to Helen. There was a boy, Michael, at their new school, he was always looking at her in class. She even caught him following her home one day. She was walking with her friends by the park across from Nitschmann Middle School, and she saw Michael lurking behind a row of bushes. She turned to tell her friends, but when she looked back he was gone. Last Sunday when she was watching football with her family the same thing happened. She looked out the window and she saw him across the street, just standing there, staring. She told her dad about it, but when he looked out the window no one was there. 

The Thing came back on TV, and as she resumed watching she heard a voice. “Helen, Helen.”

She looked around and realized she was now alone in the room. “George, George where are you?”

“George is gone…”  The voice whispered.

Her first instinct was that her little brother was pulling a prank on her, but that voice didn’t sound like George. It was low, almost hoarse like. Still, she shouted “George I’ll kill you if this is a joke!”

Then she saw the curtain move. “You looked really pretty in class today.” She audibly gasped, only one thought screamed in her brain. “Michael is in her house!” Her hand, now trembling, moved to reach the curtain, dreading to reveal the truth that lurked behind it.

A boy’s arms sprung out at her, she screamed as loud as she could. Falling backwards, she knocked a lamp over. There was a flash of light and a puff of smoke as the bulb busted and bits on glass embedded into the carpet. Now the room was only lit by the black white glow from the TV.

“What the hell is going on out here!” Her father shouted as he stormed into the room.

“He scared me!” She pointed at her brother while wiping her tears. George was still laughing, but he stopped that quick once she gave him a good smack.

Her father wasn’t interested in justice, her father was interested in peace and quiet. He angrily turned the TV off and barked “Both of you go to your room!”

Helen desperately pleaded, “but dad!”

“I SAID GO TO YOUR ROOM!”

Part Five: The Blackest Eyes

October 11th, 1974. Madison Wisconsin

Even though he’d lived here his whole life, George never stopped being amazed at how you can see off into forever. His eyes watched the nothingness outside his dad’s car window. He’d long finished his stack of Spiderman comics, but his older sister still had her nose buried in a book. Nothingness soon became something as they approached the two story brick building, in front of which was a sign that read Mendota Mental Health Care Institute. He couldn’t understand why his daddy would bring him to a place like this. He’d rather go to the Outagamie County Fair where that guy did the show with the trick mice. So he asked, “Why are we here daddy?”

“To see our Aunt, stupid!” his sister Helen scowled.

“I’m not stupid!” George fired back, angry at his sister’s insult, and because his mother didn’t intervene. In fact, her reflection in the rear view revealed she even cracked a smile.

“Then why are you reading those stupid comics?” Helen retorted.

“You’re both gonna be stupid when I leave you on the side of the road.” their father said in frustration. “Now knock it off!”

The two tykes piped down and soon they got out of the car. Summer was gone but it wasn’t too cold out yet. His mom dressed him in shorts that day, and he could feel the comfortable autumn breeze on his legs as the four entered the lobby of the hospital. 

“May I help you?” asked the Dr. in the lobby. George assumed he was a Dr. because of his white coat. He couldn’t make out the name on his name tag, it looked something like Strege.

“Yes.” his father said as George now looked up at the two adults. “We’re here to visit my sister, Sally Kohler.” His father seemed like a giant to George’s young eyes. He wondered if he would ever get to be big like him.

The young boy was a little confused as he expected to be going into a hospital room and find Aunt Sally lying in bed, like how they visited grandpa before he died. Instead he found himself in what looked like a big living room and playroom filled with people playing board games, table tennis, and watching TV. “Maybe I should get sick so I could get to play in a place like this,” he thought to himself. He didn’t dare say such a thing out loud, as he was sure his father would spank him. 

The people here didn’t seem sick either. They were moving about of their own strength and conversing with each other. He did notice some of them talked funny, and one of them had a bit of drool coming out his mouth. Looney Tunes was playing on the TV hanging high on the wall, so naturally George wandered over toward it. Approaching a nearby couch, he saw the back of a man’s head, whom George assumed was watching the show. Coming around the couch, he laughed at the cartoon, but when George looked to his left he noticed the man didn’t laugh. In fact, he wasn’t even watching the TV, he was looking at the wall. When George looked closer it seemed the man wasn’t even looking at the wall, but that he was looking past the wall, as if he were watching and waiting for some secret signal that only he would receive.

Then George noticed the man’s eyes, they were the blackest eyes he’d ever seen. His family didn’t go to Church, but he had a friend in school who always talked about the Devil, and who sometimes teased George, saying he had the devil’s eyes. George almost peed himself when the black eyes finally moved, now locking onto him as if he’d just done something very naughty.

George jumped as he felt a hand in his shoulder. He couldn’t scream as he felt the warm embrace, his mouth partly covered with hair and a fleshy cheek. ”George it’s so good to see you. Thank you so much for coming!.”  He finally realized it was Aunt Sally. He hugged her back tightly as she kissed the top of his head and led him to a table where his parents and sister were sitting.

The family spent the afternoon playing Connect Four and various board games together while they all caught up. Sally was happy to hear both her niece and nephew were doing well in school, and that George was doing great in sports. Soon enough, he again got distracted by the television as a Spiderman cartoon came on TV. 

“Stop staring at that!” His father scolded. “We can watch TV at home.”

“It’s ok.” Aunt Sally assured. “Do you like Spiderman?”

“Yeah I love Spiderman! He’s my favorite!” Little George then planted his feet on the seat of his chair and imitated his favorite arachnid hero shooting webs. “Thwap thwap!” he sounded before jumping off the seat and onto the ground. “Did you know his Aunt May almost married Dr. Octopus this year?”

“Oh really!” Sally said. Young George had no awareness of his Aunt’s ignorance of current Spiderman comics, so he prattled on. “Yeah, and he had a new villain called the Punisher, but he’s not really a villain, but he has a skull on his chest! I like him more than Ghost Rider though. He’s too scary!”

Sally smiled as she watched his nephew play as though he were swinging through the skyscrapers of the Big Apple. George’s young mind dreamed of being in New York for real someday, while back in reality his dad scolded “Knock it off this isn’t a playground!” It was too late though, he was off in his own universe as he leapt back onto the seat, then off again. Little Spidey leapt once more onto the chair, but this time its wobbly leg gave out and it sent him tumbling to the hard floor where he scraped his knee. His father panicked when he saw the blood. “Oh my god are you alright!” he said, rushing to his side. 

“He’s fine.” his mom said dismissively. George knew his mom was a nurse and figured she was probably used to seeing a lot of blood. No way was he gonna cry, but he was a little mad when he saw his bratty sister laughing at him. 

At least his Aunt wasn’t laughing. In fact, she looked a little scared. “Oh no.” she cried, still sitting in her chair. “Oh no!” George stood up and brushed himself off. He thought nothing of it when he looked down and saw a piece of skin hanging off his knee, but for his Aunt, it was too late. “No no no, oh no!” Now George was scared as he saw his Aunt shaking her head back and forth, tears streamed down her cheeks as she screamed “Gotta get away, GOTTA GET AWAY!!!!” 

“Watch him!” His father ordered his mother as he rushed to his sister’s side. “Sally are you alright!?!” Two orderlies in white uniforms approached behind her as she babbled “The bodies, the bodies, there’s bodies everywhere!!!” 

“I’m sorry,” the Dr. they met in the lobby came and said. “I’m afraid she’s going to have to come with us.” 

George’s mom looked at her watch while his dad said “It’s ok I understand.” George was now fighting back tears himself. Some superhero he was.

“NO! NO! You gotta believe me!” she pleaded as the pair of orderlies took Sally by the arms and led her away. She didn’t struggle as the doctor pulled out a long syringe, but she continued pleading, “You gotta believe me! There were bodies everywhere, they were everywhere!” 

“I’m sorry dad.” little George fell into his father’s arms, his tears dampening his father’s shirt.

“It’s ok son.” George felt his father holding him tight. “It’s not your fault.” His sister also came over to give him a hug, but George felt guilty inside for triggering such a horrible fear in poor Sally.

That was the last time George ever saw his Aunt, and it was the first time he remembered being really scared.

Part Four: Hallowed Visions

October 26th, 1990. Hallow-con, New York City

Victoria held Dan’s hand as they walked down the aisle looking at all the vendors. She spotted a group of guys sitting around a table with a few hardcover books, sheets of paper, and twenty sided die, “Oh look?” her black lipstick shined as she smiled. “Should we see if we can join this session?” 

“Sure, let’s check it out.” Dan said as they approached the area set up for a table-top role playing game. Every guy at the table shifted his focus as the couple approached. One of the guys nodded in approval of Dan’s shirt from the first Halloween movie. The rest of them grinned at the sight of Victoria in her tight leather top. “You guys playing?” she asked.

“You bet.” one of the gamers said as he stroked his massive beard. “We’re setting up for a Ravenloft session, wanna play?”

“Yeah that would be great.” Victoria said, excited as she and Dan sat at the table.

A pencil thin guy seated with the group looked sharply at Victoria and asked. “Do you know what Ravenloft is?”

Victoria’s pale face lit up as she said “No I don’t, can you tell me!?!”

“Well it’s like Dungeons and Dragons with some horror elements in it.” the man said. His voice was deadpan serious as he asked. “Do you know what Dungeons and Dragons is?”

Putting her finger in her mouth like a valley girl from the recently passed decade, Victoria said “Uh, yeah, like I think I heard of it.”

The man then condescendingly raised a sheet of paper in his hand to explain “Ok, well this is a character sheet that you use to play in the Ravenloft setting.”  While his eyes locked on her cleavage he continued to explain, “You have different skills and abilities, and..”

“And you encounter the Dark Lords like Strahd Von Zarovich, ruler of Barovia who wishes to win back is love Tatyana,”  the jaws of the nerds dropped, some out of surprise, some out of infatuation while she finished “or Vlad Drakov who’s military ambitions ar forever doomed to failure. It’s a pretty dark place, but at least Vecna and Lord Soth managed to escape.” Finally, two of her black nailed fingers pointed back to her face as she knelt toward him and yelled “And by the way, my eyes are up here asshole!” before storming away. 

“Nice job dipshit!” She heard behind her as Dan caught up. 

“Sorry about that,” Dan sounded so embarrassed. “You ok?”

“Nothing to be sorry about.” Victoria then looked at the large back blocking the aisle ahead and said “That guy’s gonna be sorry if he doesn’t stop blocking the way.”   

As the large man looked around, Dan squeezed Victoria’s hand and said “Hey I know that guy.”

Taking a few steps closer she heard him yell out “George! George!” The man turned around and waved as Dan asked, “George it’s really you?”

“Yeah it’s me.” the man answered. 

“Long time no see brother how are you?” Victoria watched Dan excitedly hug the man while other convention goers walked around them..

“I’m good, I’m good.” Dan’s friend said before eying Victoria up.

“This is my fiance Victoria.” Dan introduced. “She got to school after you were gone. She’ll be finishing up next year actually.”

“Nice to meet you.” he said smiling. Victoria then noticed the General Hospital picture he was putting into his black bag. “Oh, you got John York’s autograph!” she said excitedly.

“Yeah,” Victoria was a little confused as he now looked like he could barely hide his irritation. She then understood as he explained. “It’s for my sister.”

“That’s so sweet of you to do that. I’m sure you’re a fan of General Hospital too right?”

She realized by his facial expression he had no idea she was kidding. Thankfully Dan intervened with, “Last season of Werewolf!”

“I know, that totally blows.” Geroge instantly reacted. “I was talking to ‘Eric’ though, and he told me they’re wrapping the story line up. So at least there’s that. I hate when things end on a cliffhanger!”

“Awesome man!” Dan said. ” Well we’re gonna check out some posters at this venue here.”Dan pointed to a booth down the aisle.

“Cool, I want to get the new Friday the 13th poster.” Victoria now realized George would be joining them.

Making their way through the swarm of people, the trio came to a booth that had bins of posters, including several large posters on displays facing out towards the crowd. One of the posters facing out featured a ferocious looking werewolf chasing a young girl through a back alley. 

“Remember when we saw that back in school?” Dan remeniced.

“I do remember that.”  George answered.

Dan pumped his fist remembering. “Man, I was so excited that they finally put a Halloween movie back in the theaters.” 

“Are you a Halloween fan?” Victoria asked George.

“I liked the series,” he said, “but I’m more of a Friday the 13th fan myself. Halloween is cool, but you know, after the second one each entry was its own story.” 

“That was Carpenter’s vision man,” Dan chimed in. “Make it an anthology!” 

“I think that’s a cool idea.” George explained. “I mean, I thought they were good movies. Like that one up there,” George pointed to the ghostly image on the poster for Halloween Four. “That was scary, but I like following a series like Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street that tells one continous story.”

Victoria pointed up at the display to the poster for Halloween Five, on which a quartet of red robed figures hold sacrificial knives over the near naked body of a voluptuous young woman. “Do you have that one hon?” 

“Yeah I got that one back at my mom’s place.” Dan said. “The only one I never got was number three.”

“I never saw that one anywhere.” George said. 

“That’s the first one they released direct to video,” Dan relayed to George, “and they didn’t make a lot of promotional material for it. Really sucks.”

“It’s in here somewhere.” The vendor poked his head out from behind the display while finishing a transaction with another customer. “If you dig around here long enough you’ll find it.”

“Cool,” Victoria looked back at him and asked “Do you have the poster for Night Skies?”

“It’s in there somewhere hon.” The vendor winked at her as he answered.

While Victoria started digging through the bins George pointed back to the poster for Halloween Six: Curse of the Werewolf, to say, “I heard there’s a producer’s cut of that movie.”

“There is,” Dan said with a devilish smile on his face before revealing “I saw it.”

“That’s so cool!” George said as he began looking through posters himself. “I wouldn’t mind seeing it.”

“Yeah it’s pretty awesome.” Dan recalled, himself now looking through a bin of posters. “Somebody on campus got a hold of it last year. They explain more of the lore and stuff, but maybe the coolest part is that there’s an extra scene with Donald Pleasance!”

“He played the priest in that one right?’ George asked.

“That’s right, Father John.” Dan answered. “There’s a scene where he mentions he has a cousin in..,” Victoria smiled as she knew Dan loved talking about this, “guess where…” George shrugged his shoulders. “Haddonfield!”

“What!” The wheels were turning in George’s head. “Wait, so it’s linked to the first one?”

“Well who knows,” Victoria looked up at them as she speculated. “It could be just a gag for the fans, just like how in each entry someone is always watching the previous movie.”

“Right?” George recalled. “In part three a commercial for the first one comes on in a bar, right?”

“Correct” Dan said, “and in part four they go see part three in the theater.”

“I can’t remember what happened in the last two!” George said in frustration.

“Part five they rent part four from the local video store,” Dan said, “and part six they are on the set of part five.”

Both Dan and George turned to Victoria as she squealed in excitement. At long last she’d found the poster for the Stephen Spielberg horror film Night Skies. It featured a creepy image of Extra Terrestrial aliens terrorizing a family on their farm, above the image of a little girl read the words “They’re here.” the move’s famous catch phrase. “This scared the shit out of me when I was a kid!” she recalled, as she pulled the poster out of the bin and went to pay for it.

Dan struck gold next. “Here you go George!” George rushed over to Dan who pulled out the last poster in the bin he was searching. It was a poster for last year’s Friday the 13th Part Eight. Dan admired the image of New York City in the background before he handed it off to George. Dan then walked over to the bin George had just been searching.

While George and Victoria paid for their finds, Dan finally struck paydirt. “Bingo!” His face lit up like a Christmas tree as he saw the silver letters that spelled out Halloween III at the top of the poster, on which red skies hung below a silhouette of a trio of trick or treating children. 

“Oh shit!” George excitedly quoted from the film’s poster. “The night no one comes home!” The trio high fived each other as Dan purchased the poster for Halloween Three: Season of the Witch. Victoria looked up at the displays of the other Halloween posters her fiance already owned. There was Halloween Four: Return of the Wraith, next to that was Halloween Five, Revenge of Samhain, then Halloween Six: Curse of the Werewolf. Victoria remembered how that was the first Halloween since number two to be put back in the theaters. It was a great movie, and it made werewolves cool for a couple years. She could see down the aisle where John Yolk was happily signing autographs, and mused that perhaps that cycle has come to a close. 

Victoria had only just met George, but she could tell already he wasn’t often quiet. He too was looking at the Halloween Six poster, and she assumed he must be reminiscing too, but she then realized George fixed his gaze on the woman, the woman and her bare legs, her bare legs and her skinned knee.

George finally stopped zoning when she asked him, “So how long have you been a horror fan?”

 Part Three: Expendable Youth

October 26th, 1990. New Jersey

Cruising down I-78 in his gargantuan Chevy Impala, George was like the captain of a boat cruising through the garden state, while the automobile’s cassette player blasted Slayer’s new album, Seasons of the Abyss. George slowly rocked his head back and forth as he screamed words to Expendable Youth.

‘injured soul lies on the ground

head blown off face down

lying in a pool of blood

an accidental death homicide 

expendable youth

fighting for possession

having control a principal obsession

rivalry and retribution

death the only solution’

As he pulled off the Interstate, he thought about what all he might buy today. He had a lot of his favorite movies on VHS already, and owned a lot of posters and other merchandise. That actor his sister liked never did one of these shows before, so it would be cool to get him. He also didn’t yet have the poster for last year’s Friday the 13th movie, so he would keep an eye out for that. 

Expendable Youth came to an end. The next song on the cassette was Hallowed Point. This was a much faster paced song with the usual intense lyrics.

‘instinctive regression

with intent to kill

no regard of human life

or the blood spilled’

George could care less that any drivers who passed him saw his long mop of hair flopping about the car while he furiously headbanged to the rapid drumbeat and the piercing electric guitars. However, his head suddenly stopped and he quickly turned the dial down as a cop began to tail him. Now he carefully eyed his speedometer as he didn’t need another ticket, and he knew that cops targeted out of state plates. The dead skin on his knuckles cracked as he gripped the wheel. His face shifted from that of a serious metalhead to a still mask of stoicness. 

“Fuck!” he then yelled as Hallowed Point finished, bringing the cassette to the end of side A. He just realized his Zodiac killer mask was still at his apartment.

At least he managed to get his car in one of Hoboken’s parking garages without incident. Soon he took the train across the river into New York City. Once he got to the convention venue, he saw people dressed up as characters from all the classic horror movies; Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and his favorite, Friday the 13th. All the psycho’s were out, there were even some old school Frankensteins and Draculas. It totally sucked that he forgot his mask. His Zodiac killer T-shirt would have to do. 

Naturally, George was a seasoned veteran of the convention scene, already having many autographs of the greats that all the noobs now gathered in long lines for. Looking around at the sea of vendors on the convention floor, he calculated his options. Nearby, he saw someone at a table who had a few girls talking to him. Seeing his handsome features George understood why. He wished girls would talk to him like that. He hovered close while he watched the girls woo over the celebrity. After the wenches walked away he went over and introduced himself. 

“Holy shit it’s Eric Cord!” George said excitedly. 

“Pleasure to meet you.” the actor answered politely, not seeming to mind the fan calling him by his character name.

“Man that sucks that Werewolf won’t be back next year.” George complained. “Such a good show, the creature effects were wicked!” 

“Thank you, I appreciate it,” the actor said graciously. “We had a good run though. Anytime you make a TV show, you never know if it’s gonna get past the first season. We were lucky we got as far as we did.”

Reaching his hands out like a beast George said “Well it’s been four seasons of savagery and I loved it! It blows hard that it will be gone next year. Is there anything you can tell me about the rest of the last episodes?” George was anxious to hear his answer, as the third and final season was now airing on the Fox network, and would wrap up this spring. 

“Well if I told you too much you wouldn’t watch it right?” The actor laughed. “I can tell you this though, the story will have a definitive ending.”

George about jumped out his skin and asked “You mean Eric is going to finally kill Nicholas Remy and break the curse?” 

“Now I didn’t say that.” The actor cautioned. “I’m just saying all the loose ends will be tied up. We won’t be ending on a cliffhanger or anything like that.”

“That’s such a rarity in this business man.” George said, talking as if he were a Hollywood insider. 

“It sure is.” Gesturing to several photos at his table, the actor asked “So, would you like an autograph?” 

“Definitely, let me see what you got here.” Looking down, he saw several pictures of the actor that were from the show Werewolf, as well as a few from Night of the Creeps, an obscure horror comedy, and a few one off appearances in various TV shows like Murder She Wrote, Family Ties, Hunter, and Dynasty. Another one caught his eye, one of the actor in a white coat. “Oh that’s General Hospital.”George said.

“Yeah that’s right!” The actor sounded surprised. “Do you watch the show?”

George was revolted that anyone would even think to ask him if he watched something as stupid as a daytime soap opera, but he managed to keep his answer to a minimum. “No my sister does.”

“That’s cool. Well I’d be happy to sign a pic for her.” he said as he picked up his sharpie.

George naturally wanted a Werewolf photo, but he didn’t want to seem like a dick in front of the actor, so he reluctantly selected a General Hospital photo and handed over his cash.

“Thanks man, appreciate it.” The actor signed the picture and asked. “What’s your sister’s name?” 

“My sister’s name is Helen.” George said, looking longingly at one of the Werewolf photos. He may have been a horror nerd, but he knew enough not to blow all of his money in one spot.

“Ok, ‘To Helen,” the actor wrote out a brief message for his fan who he didn’t know, and handed the picture to George. “Thank you very much buddy.”

“Thanks man,” George took the photograph and stepped away from the booth. Before putting it in the small blag bag he carried with him, he stopped in the aisle to take a look. People walked around his massive frame while he read the inscription. “To Helen, thanks for watching. Yours truly, Malcolm ‘Mac’ Scorpio, a.k.a. John J. York.”

October 26th, 1957, Plainfield Wisconsin

In the woodshed Sally felt something brush against her shoulder. She covered her mouth as she gasped. There was no sound, save the awful squealing outside. Nothing but blackness was visible behind her. She wouldn’t dare turn on a flashlight had she possessed one, but she did have a lighter. The small flame lit up the enclosed space, and the first thing Sally noticed were a pair of human feet. They were spread apart, bound to an overhead beam. There before Sally, a female corpse hung upside down, her torso split open, gutted like a deer.

The flame extinguished as she dropped the lighter to the ground. The door made a loud banging sound as it flung open and her own shrieking scream accompanied the howling of the ghoul. Sally ran as hard as she could toward the road, not even trying to see where the fiend was. She could hear it though, crying out somewhere behind her, and she heard its footsteps too.

Now a third sound cracked the empty night air, Sally winced as she heard the shot of the rifle. She thought if she could just get to the tree line she may have a chance. Mercifully, a pair of lights emerged ahead of her. Her legs desperately ran toward them as she put some distance between herself and the fiend. Another gunshot flashed as the pickup truck slowed down. She ran directly toward the front of the vehicle, frantically waving her arms. The truck swerved to her left, nearly knocking her over, it’s tires skidded in the grass as the truck almost flew into the trees. Circling back around, Sally planted her left foot on the rear tire and pushed herself up into the truck’s cab. Slamming her hand into the back window Sally screamed “Go Go!”  She could see the man driving through the back window, he immediately sped away. As she looked back to her left, the road behind her disappeared in the darkness. Sally shed tears of relief, and, she had no thought to what made her do this, but looking back as the shape of the terrible dark house vanished from her sight, she cackled hysterically. 

Whatever that thing was that chased her, she no longer saw it. She didn’t see it frantically throwing itself around the road, it’s rough skinned hands still gripping the rifle as its arms flayed and its body spun around aimlessly in a dance of madness and violence.