“We make our own monsters, then fear them for what they show us about ourselves.”– Mark Twain
Now, children, when you think Halloween, I wager you don't think of Hawaii, or
the Sandwich Islands as they were called when Captain Sam and I rode over their haunted beaches, jungles, and hills.
I tell you, pilgrims, those islands had the most magnificent, balmy atmosphere in the world.
Why I swear I am surprised it did not rouse the dead from their moldy graves.
But I get ahead of myself, for that is exactly what it did.
Captain Sam and I ransacked those islands until I could not walk for the saddle sores.
I surf-bathed til I nearly drowned.
We rode by moonlight through a ghostly plain of sand strewn with human bones
and contested there with the shades of slain warriors.
Do the Dead Walk?
Obake is what the natives call them. I called them Hooey until the time Halloween taught me different.
The Haleiwa Plantation looked nice enough on the outside all right.
But the inside had the aura of decay as if it were a corpse waiting only for its final disposal and interment.
The mistress of the place looked near to losing her wits nor did I much blame her from the tales I had heard amongst the workers ...
her jealousy of her daughter who was driven off by it ...
the subsequent abandonment by her enraged husband for her unfounded jealousy.
"You may think me mad, Captain McCord," she rasped,
"but these islands are old, so old. Thousands of things, sinister and dark roam the nights here. And in this very house death waits for me."
Captain Sam sighed, "I am not an exorcist, ma'am. Perhaps your priest might ...."
"He does not believe me! But you, sir ... I have read lurid tales of you. You may be my only hope!"
The poor woman had obviously read far too many Penny Dreadfuls about Captain Sam.
I shook my head. It was my fault actually. I'd written most of them.
Hey, a fledgling author needs to put bread and stew on his table any way he can, don't you know?
She wrung her hands convulsively over and over again as if she could somehow that way squeeze out the fear tormenting her soul.
"Captain McCord, though I live on this island, I am of Celtic blood.
This eve is the Three Spirit Night when the Door between the helpless living and the vengeful dead swings open wide."
Now, during the day, children, I am the most reasonable of men, but as the shadows lengthened,
so did my desire to see other parts of that island -- far, far distant parts.
Captain Sam smiled sadly,
"So you would have Sammy and me stay the night to stand in the breach of that open door between you and whatever may lie beyond the Other Side?"
"Oh, yes. Yes!"
Inside I was going 'No! No!'
But Captain Sam could never turn his back on any woman in need.
Me? I needed a drink.
Luckily, I had a flask in my carry-all. Not that I needed the luggage to change into bedclothes, mind you.
Both Captain Sam and I had more sense than to be naked in a house full of haunts. At least he did.
He had to point out how embarrassing it would be for me to face demons in my nightshirt.
After that, I even slept with my boots on, telling a smiling Captain Sam that all heroes died that way.
So that was how we slept, awaiting the worst and fearing it would come to pass.
The view outside our guest bedroom was as dismal as I felt.
A be-draggled black cat mournfully looked into my eyes as I thought about switching places with him.
At least out on the roof, I might not be attacked by some native spook.
My flesh almost jumped off my skeleton as a terrible screeching pierced the silent night.
Footsteps scurried past our door and down the stairs.
In a flash, Captain Sam was up out of his bed, his Colt drawn. Me?
I thought about staying right where I was until it hit me:
I would be all alone in a dark room in a haunted house.
I decided I couldn't leave my friend to face spooks all on his own.
There was a screaming woman in a white night gown, running as if Hell itself was hot on her shapely heels ...
hey, I am a writer. I notice details ... like how flimsy her gown really was.
Still I could see nothing behind her.
Captain Sam saw my frown,
"Sammy, my eyes are not like yours. There is a specter of a bloody man chasing the poor woman."
That did it.
I swore off any more adventuring with him.
I promptly forgot my promise when the Xanadu set sail for Paris the next year.
So sue me. I am a man of notions. Besides, Paris had that new Can-Can dance to oggle, ah, I mean to describe for my readers.
Captain Sam did some swearing of his own as, wouldn't you know,
that scared witless woman scurried down into the dark basement.
"Danged females," I huffed as I ran after Captain Sam.
"Why do they always insist on going down instead of out in situations like this?"
"She's being herded by that spirit, Sammy. But to where and to what end?"
We both pulled up short at the answer to that question, waiting for the poor woman in the cellar.
"M-MaMa. MaMa! Why did you kill Step-Papa and then me? He forced himself on me.
Forced himself! He was to blame. Not me! I was innocent. Innocent!"
The ghoul's lips turned up in hellish glee to reveal sharp, sharp teeth.
"I was innocent. But no longer. No longer!"
With the speed of the vengeful dead, the murdered girl leapt upon her mother
who turned to Captain Sam as her slender throat gushed bright red blood as it was gnawed by her daughter's biting teeth.
"Help me. Help me!"
Captain Sam stiffened and stood death-still, slowly shaking his head.
"No. You helped yourself to that which was not yours to take. Now, you must pay that debt in this life ... and in whatever lays after."
He turned to me, his eyes windows into that realm waiting for the murdering mother.
"Sammy, her mother's life may not be enough for this ghoul. I suggest ...."
He didn't have to say another word. We reporters are quick like that.
With the great reluctance that came with leaving the screaming woman to her grisly fate, I went up the steps ... three at a time.