Halloween Night Disaster
As I recall the Halloween night disaster
of so long ago, I feel lucky to still be
alive considering the pathos I suffered
through on that disastrous evening.
Oft I have sat in solitude and silence,
listening to those voices which grew silent
for all time on that Halloween night disaster,
when we found that secret room.
I shant linger back with those memories
without informing you of how and when
it all started, so allow me a few minutes
to explain what I consider the beginning.
It was quite a few years ago when
I inherited my grandfather’s home,
a house that was huge and mysterious,
one he designed himself with crazy ideas.
He had it built after his wife, my step-grandmother died,
or I should say disappeared, twenty-three years ago
when she was 50 – that was when I was just two.
One day she was just gone and never seen again.
I had been in the house before to visit
my grandfather but was never allowed
to go upstairs or explore until
he died and the house was mine.
And explore I did, in every room,
nook and cranny in the whole house
as I followed halls that went nowhere
and stairs going up to just ceilings.
Some doors on the first floor
opened to blank walls while some on
the second and third floors opened to
outside with no stairs or terraces.
After nearly plunging to my death
when I opened one door up there
I was very cautious about opening
any other doors upstairs.
I loved Grandfather, he was always
so good to me, but he was very strange
and secretive, never answering any
questions about what was upstairs.
Well, now I know why he did not
want me going above the first floor,
or answering questions that arose
in my wondering and curious mind.
After I had first moved in, I spent
most my time in the kitchen which
was huge and bright, with the smells of
the wonderful foods Gretchen cooked.
Oh! Those fun days in the kitchen
when Gretchen’s husband, Boris,
was still alive and we played chess
while eating delicious pastries.
Gretchen never left the kitchen
or her bedroom behind the kitchen
except to go out back to her garden
and gather some savory herbs.
Boris was at Grandfather’s beck and call,
as a butler, chess companion, and to
move or lift heavy things every time
Grandfather had a notion to change things.
“My Boris died because your Grandfather
made him move such heavy boxes,
those baskets, and furniture,”
I looked at her in shock. “Caskets?”
She got very flustered and, drying her eyes
with a dish towel, said, “Oh! I said baskets,
yes, lugging those heavy baskets upstairs!”
I wondered about that over again
and again, as I looked for heavy
baskets upstairs, and oddly
I found not one basket.
Well, maybe they are up in the attic, I thought.
I was hesitant to climb up in that attic,
because I had a terrible fear of spiders
and cobwebs that dangled in dark places.
Yes, Grandfather was an interesting
person, if not rather strange.
He had a great love for my mother,
but hated my father.
My parents both died in a car accident
when I was about twenty-two and
Grandfather took me under his wing
and sent me to college.
I got a degree in architecture so
when the day came I could figure
out the strange house
Grandfather had built.
Well, I have filled you in about the
house and my family, along with
Boris and Gretchen when I often
visited as a child.
Now it is time to get back to that
scary Halloween night disaster
I began to tell you about and why
I am lucky to be alive.
What might be in the attic was
always on my mind, so I
decided one year to have a party
on Halloween and invited all my friends.
I had a lot of friends from my college days
and thought it would be fun to take them on
a tour of the house which would be rather spooky
because it was so huge and mysterious.
Also, since I was a coward about going up
to the attic, I could have them go up
ahead of me and let me know it was
safe before I ventured up.
Everyone was in fabulous costumes
and in high spirits (a pun, ha ha)
which made for a fun party
My best friend, Harry, went up first.
He was not afraid of anything
and always teased me about my
arachnophobia, but in a fun way.
I had invited fifteen people
so it took a long time for me
to get up there and join the
others who seemed disappointed.
“There are just a few big old baskets
lying around and they’re all empty,”
one woman said as I looked around
at the baskets Gretchen spoke of.
Harry said, “Yep! And they are
stained inside with something
that looks like dry blood! But
what is that cart over there for?”
I looked in a few baskets and did
see the stains then my attention
was drawn to the cart which
was quite low with wheels on tracks.
Harry and I knelt down by the cart
to examine it closer.
“Look,” Harry pointed to the tracks.
“They go under here at the wall.”
“Why would they go under the wall?”
I asked, then we tried moving the
cart and it would not budge,
so we felt all around the cart.
One of us touched something along
the rim and the cart suddenly moved
as the wall slid up about two feet!
We both jumped back, landing on our butts.
“Wow!” Our friend Jake shouted.
“A secret room,” he was peeking
through the open space in the wall
then crawled onto the cart.
Before we could stop him he was
all the way in and started screaming!
His legs were kicking wildly and
we grabbed his ankles and pulled.
His screaming suddenly stopped and
we pulled him out. He was dead!
His head was twisted backwards and
one of his arms had been torn off!
Everyone started screaming when they
saw Jake’s body and they rushed to the
stairs, falling over each other in a panic
and falling down the steep stairs!
Harry and I pulled the cart out and the
wall lowered down again.
We stared at Jake’s body. “Don’t
touch him!” Harry shouted.
“We need to call the police so don’t
touch him or anything else.”
We headed for the stairs to follow
our friends down.
Two women and one man had fallen and lay
on the stairs in grotesque positions.
When we checked them, they were dead.
We did not move them.
By the time I got down and to the phone
I could hardly breathe and was shaking
so bad I could not dial.
Harry dialed for me.
Four police cars and an ambulance
arrived with sirens blaring.
All my guests were anxious to leave
but the police told them to stay.
Everyone was interviewed as more police squads
arrived and surrounded the house with yellow tape
and ten heavily-armed officers went up to the attic
keeping their rifles aimed at the secret room.
The coroner arrived, checked the four dead bodies
and had them taken away to his lab. He determined
the man had a heart attack and the women tripped
over him, each had a broken neck.
Gretchen was the last to be interviewed.
The story that came out of Gretchen was
horrendous and unbelievable, but she was
crying so hard it took a long time to
calm her down and get her story recorded.
I was allowed to sit in on Gretchen’s
interview and my heart was breaking for
her as she sobbed and finally got
the whole story out.
This was Gretchen’s story:
My Grandfather’s first wife died
after giving birth to my mother.
Grandfather remarried about two years
later and she disappeared a year later.
Grandfather’s second wife was never
found and the search lasted for four
years. She was never found because
she was upstairs in that secret room.
Grandfather had her entombed in the
secret room which was first surrounded
by iron bars then a thick wall which
The cart on the tracks went into a cage
that was secured by iron bars with just
enough room between the bars for the woman
to reach in and take out her food.
She was not a normal woman Gretchen related,
she was like a werewolf, but a werecat,
and when Grandfather realized this
he imprisoned her up in the attic.
Boris was the only one to ever enter the
attic and he provided all her food, which
was large portions of raw beef or pork
which Grandfather sent him out for.
The woman, werecat I should say,
had not eaten since Boris had died
two weeks earlier, so when Jake entered the
cage his fate was horrible.
The Captain of the police force
called in men to tear down the
thick wall of the secret room as the
squad kept their rifles ready and aimed.
The werecat was now seen and when
she saw us she she threw down the
arm she was gnawing on and started
screeching and rushed to the bars.
Harry and I cowered back by the stairs
but the men in the squad stood their ground,
not moving a muscle, and they pointed their
rifles at the werecat.
The Captain gave the order and the
squad moved forward as the creature
backed up, snarling and growling, with
rifles between the bars the squad fired.
The werecat lay in a dead heap on the floor.
We all stared at the creature in shock
as it transformed into a beautiful woman,
Grandfather’s second wife.
So many years ago was that horrendous
Halloween night disaster and I can still
see the house in my dreams even though
I had it demolished.
I now live alone and try to forget
that Halloween night disaster,
but Harry and I sometimes speak of it
in hushed whispers, and we often visit
Gretchen in the asylum.
© 2022 Phyllis Doyle Burns
For more works by this author see Phyllis Doyle Burns on The Creative Exiles.