By: Thomas M. Malafarina
“Conscience is no more than the dead speaking to us.”- Jim Carroll
“Ghosts crowd the young child’s fragile eggshell mind.” – Jim Morrison
Not one of the residents of the quiet, upscale subdivision of Wellington Estates understood why their reclusive neighbor, William Elverson, divorced at age forty-eight, hated Halloween passionately. And because of Elverson’s less-than-outgoing demeanor, no one ever managed to feel close enough to the man to ask him why that might be. Or perhaps they didn’t care enough to try to discover the answer. But it was nonetheless obvious to everyone in the neighborhood that Elverson detested the holiday.
The entire subdivision went all year to make the holiday festive with elaborate house decorations, including lights, props, and even a few animatronic
displays. Some lawns were adorned with large, cheerful-looking inflatable cartoon-like
decorations. Others took a more sinister approach, transforming their frontage into
frightening graveyard scenes. Ghosts, ghouls, and goblins abounded, as did various
incarnations of vampires, werewolves, zombies, famous Hollywood slashers, and every
A few residents even went to the next level of Halloween enthusiasm. They
converted their large two and three-car garages into makeshift haunted houses, complete
with billowing gray fog, movie-quality scenery, frighteningly realistic makeup, and stereo sound effects. As a result, hundreds of revelers walked through the development with their children on Halloween night, turning the entire neighborhood into one big Halloween party. As the word spread, families from other neighborhoods made the pilgrimage to see what new ideas the folks managed to devise. But not William; he would never do anything to participate in the annual festivities.
Most people couldn’t help but notice how William’s place was cast into darkness every year on the evening of October 31, when every other house in the neighborhood was aglow with Halloween decorations. His car was nowhere to be found. Ironically, in many ways, the lack of decoration and the solitary darkness surrounding his home on Halloween night often made it seem more frightening and more sinister than
even the most elaborately decorated property.
William’s absence likewise did not go unnoticed by the neighborhood’s various kids, especially those of the more malicious ilk. These creatively nefarious juveniles took the letter of the law when it came to “Trick or Treat” and felt that Elverson’s obvious absence and snubbing of their favorite holiday granted them carte blanche to play whatever pranks they could imagine and even commit minor acts of vandalism on the
These hoodlums rationalized that if William had chosen not to be home on Halloween night to offer them treats, it was their right and perhaps even their duty to play any tricks on the man they deemed appropriate. As a result, Every November 1, William awoke to find the trees in his front yard draped with long, flowing streamers of toilet paper. On more than one occasion, William had returned to his property on Halloween night to find his doorbell had been taped down in the ringing position and the window to his
storm door had been coated with soap-streaked vulgarities added by some more daring neighborhood kids.
And on one unfortunate occasion, the legendary flaming bag of poo had been set afire, fortunately on his concrete walkway, so that no real damage could be done to his home. That incident ended up being more symbolic than effective and, in reality, was an exercise in futility since William was never home to rush from the house to stomp out the fire, completing the gag. Suppose the neighborhood people would have taken the time to get to know William better. In that case, they might have possibly had a better understanding or at least an appreciation for his avoidance of the holiday. They would also know why he
avoided the yearly holiday since he was just a child. But then again, William Elverson did not care enough to know or associate with any of his neighbors. He was a quiet, reclusive, and antisocial man who tended to keep to himself. Even the neighbors living next door to William knew very little about him. Elverson’s lack of deference was largely the result of his melancholy disposition.
Even before his divorce, he and his wife had been less than friendly, but he had become more of a loner and a recluse since the split. This made him seem like the oddball of the neighborhood. However, this aspect of his personality had little to do with his displeasure with the Halloween season. That particular dislike resulted from a much more horrifying and completely life-changing event.
William was only eight when an unspeakable tragedy occurred, altering his personality forever. William, known back then as Billy, and his best friend, Jimmy Jenson, had been trick or treating in their neighborhood on that fateful Halloween night forty years earlier. The two young boys had been friends forever, so it seemed, and every year, they anxiously awaited the arrival of Halloween, which had been one of their favorite holidays.
As all kids did, the two boys enjoyed dressing in costumes and pretending to be someone or something they were not. They also loved and anticipated filling their sacks with candy and treats. Although they had participated in the trick-or-treat ritual for as long as they could remember, that particular Halloween night was a special time for them.
It was the first year the boys’ parents had consented to allow them to go from house to house unescorted. In the past, one or both of their parents had always gone along with them, waiting by the curb not only to protect them from any of the larger kids who might want to steal their treats but also as a warning to the homeowners that they would be checking their boys’ treat bags and the candies before either of them would be allowed to eat any of it. There had been reports in the newspapers over the previous years about
treat tampering and urban legends of razor blades in apples and laxatives injected into chocolates and other such horrible acts. The presence of the parents was to serve as a deterrent to any such despicable behavior.
That year, the lack of parental accompaniment was a significant turning point in both boys’ young lives as it indicated they were no longer considered little kids but were now big boys, old enough to trick or treat on their own. This was especially important to Jimmy, who had been burdened with a noticeable speech impediment—what many neighborhood children called “baby talk.” He said his Ls and Rs were like Ws, as in “Maawy had a wittle wamb,” sounding like the cartoon character Elmer Fudd. He had been attending special speech classes at the elementary school to try to break him of the speech defect, but progress was slow. Billy didn’t mind the way Jimmy talked because Jimmy was his best friend.
On that particular Halloween night, young Billy was dressed in a homemade pirate costume, and Jimmy wore a cowboy outfit, complete with a red felt hat and neckerchief. Billy had thought Jimmy’s costume was a bit too young looking for him and did nothing to help him shed the baby image, which haunted him because of his speech. But they were best friends, and as far as Billy was concerned, if that was what Jimmy wanted to wear, then so be it.
The night had been very successful for both of them as they made a good haul, and their candy sacks were bulging with treats. Billy was tired and wanted to go home, but Jimmy was excited and wanted to try one more house before calling it a night. He pointed down the street, indicating he had found his final target for the night.
Jimmy had chosen the last house at the end of a street, which dead-ended at a vacant lot. Beyond the lot lay the edge of a local forest, cast in shadow beyond the glow of the streetlights.
Billy was reluctant to approach the house because it appeared to be a dilapidated wreck in such dire disrepair; he doubted anyone lived there any longer. They did notice, however, that an inviting light was glowing on the paint-chipped ceiling of the dilapidated front porch, which was a signal all kids immediately recognized as the universal beacon of welcome for young, costumed children on that most mysterious of
The two boys approached the front stairs apprehensively, Jimmy taking the lead and Billy following a few cautious steps behind him. Billy suggested, “Jimmy. Let’s skip this place …it gives me the creeps. Something doesn’t feel right about it.”
“Aw, c’mon,” Jimmy insisted. “Stop bein’ such a baby, Biwwy. Theo ain’t nothin’ wong with this peace. Pwobably some owd guy wivves here or somethin’ wike dat.” Billy had been so accustomed to hearing Jimmy speak with the baby-like quality that he had understood every single word the boy had said, even though he doubted others would have.
Ignoring Billy’s protests, Jimmy boldly walked up to the rickety front door several times and knocked hard on its surface. The door seemed to rattle in its frame, and the broken front window tinkled from the vibration as if threatening to fall out and come crashing onto the porch. When he didn’t get a reply, Jimmy knocked yet again even harder. Eventually, a gruff-sounding voice called out, “What d’ya want?” The tone, a
man’s voice, and a sinister sound that seemed to lie just beneath the spoken words made
Billy quaked with fear. The voice sounded very wrong, and Billy got a strange sensation in the pit of his stomach. But Jimmy was not intimidated by the peculiar tone and simply replied, “Twick or tweet, Mista.”
For a moment, nothing happened. Billy pleaded with Jimmy to leave the place and head home. He even considered turning and running away, but his feet felt heavy, like they sometimes did in bad dreams. Then, several things occurred in just a few seconds before he could do or say anything. Billy saw these horrifying things played out, like watching a slow-motion movie. Suddenly, the overhead porch light switched out,
plunging the boys into total darkness.
Before their eyes could completely adjust to the sudden blackness, and before they could even consider turning and running, the front door burst open inward with a rattling bang, the already cracked glass shattering and falling in a tinkling rain of shards somewhere inside the house.
As his eyes came into focus, Billy saw two grimy, scab-covered hands reaching out from the house’s darkness. They grabbed Jimmy’s arms and pulled the now-screaming child inside. For a moment, Billy stood in terror, mouth agape, unable to comprehend what he should do next. It was like a bad dream as he stood frozen with fear. Then, suddenly reacting, not thinking, Billy did what any defenseless young boy would likely do in a similar situation. He turned screaming, dropping his cache of candy to the ground, and ran home in terror. The street was dark and deserted, so no one was around to hear his cries for help. He ran madly, occasionally venturing a glance behind him, assuming some horrible denizen of the night was bearing down upon him. As he ran toward his house, the streetlights glistened like stars through his tear-filled eyes.
When he finally arrived home, Billy was confused and uncertain about what to do next. He wanted to scream for his mother and father, but he felt ashamed of the tears flowing down his face. He wanted to be alone, just for a little while, to figure out how he should handle everything. He was worried about Jimmy but was confused and unsure what to think. He didn’t want his family to see him crying like a baby, so he bypassed his brothers and sisters and hurried directly up to his bedroom, where he crawled into his bed, pulled the covers over his head, and sobbed uncontrollably.
After a few minutes, his mother entered his room and asked Billy what was wrong. He tried to hold back his emotions but instantly broke down. Tearfully, he recounted the events with as much detail as his terrified young mind would allow. His mother immediately called the local police and Jimmy’s parents. Within ten
minutes, both had arrived at the Elverson home, and with Billy’s guidance, the group found the house where Billy said Jimmy had been abducted. Their spilled sacks of candy still covered the front porch, but Billy was no longer hungry for candy and didn’t ever want to think of Halloween treats again.
The police eventually discovered the house was vacant but had not been abandoned. Its owner had recently passed away after years of being aged and infirm. That explained the dilapidated condition of the property. However, the electricity had not yet been disconnected. Upon examining the house that night, the police found it was unoccupied, although they discovered the back door lock was broken; obviously, the route the perpetrator had used to gain entrance and likely the same door he had used to escape. It was located on the forest side of the house so the vagrant could enter unseen. Other than the spilled bag of candy, they found no trace of Jimmy.
Billy overheard one police officer tell his mother, “If your boy would have just told you sooner, maybe we could have gotten here in time to help Jimmy. But too much time has been allowed to pass. And now, honestly, I’m afraid it just doesn’t look very good.”Billy was stricken with guilt and grief at the thought that his inaction was likely responsible for whatever might have happened to his best friend. But Billy knew he was just a little kid; he wasn’t supposed to know what to do in such a situation. Heck, stuff like that wasn’t supposed to happen to little kids. But this knowledge didn’t help ease his young conscience.
After several weeks of futile searching, a hunter inadvertently found the boy’s decomposed remains buried in a shallow grave in a nearby forest. He was still dressed in his Halloween cowboy costume, filthy with coagulated blood, rotting flesh, and dirt. Rats, birds, insects, and other small forest creatures had partially consumed the young boy’s corpse.
The medical examiner determined that young Jimmy had been tortured and sexually assaulted before his death. Eventually, he had mercifully succumbed to his injuries. Then, even more than previously, young Billy found himself guilty, hearing the police officer’s comments about him echoing in his mind repeatedly.
“If your boy would have just told you sooner . . . would have just told you sooner … told you sooner … sooner.”
From that day on, Billy never went out trick or treating on Halloween night again, and each year, he stayed locked in his room, in bed with the covers drawn tight over his head until the night was over. As he hid in terror, in his mind, Billy relived the horrible events of the night he lost his best friend. Sometimes, on the more disturbing Halloween nights, Billy believed he could hear tapping at his window and imagined he also listened to a small voice in the wind saying, “Biwwy … Biwwwy …” He imagined the small skeletal hands of his long-dead friend scratching on the windowsill, trying his best to find a way inside; to get to Billy.\
As an adult, each year for the past forty years, William Elverson did everything he could to avoid Halloween. When the rest of his neighborhood was busy greeting the crowd of costumed children, William would instead leave his house for the evening, returning only after the 9:00 p.m. curfew; it was the only way he could ensure no children would come ringing his doorbell. He could not bear the thought of seeing them; he was filled with the irrational belief that one fateful day, his long-dead friend might be hiding somewhere among them, waiting for his chance to get back at Billy for his unforgivable act of cowardice. This Halloween night, it had been raining heavily, and although it was only eight-thirty, William was certain there would be no more kids, so he decided to break tradition and head back to his house a bit earlier than normal. As he suspected, his street appeared to be deserted. He pulled his car into his garage and quickly closed the door, keeping all the lights turned out. William sat in his family room at the rear lower level of his home, watching TV, out of sight of the street. As far as anyone outside was concerned, his house appeared uninhabited, which was fine with William.
After a few minutes, as he sat and watched television with the sound turned way down, William heard a light knocking at his front door. He tried to ignore it until he heard it again, but louder. And then he heard the knocking once again, even more forcefully. William became irritated. He had his lights turned off, and there was no reason for anyone to knock on his door. He had just about had enough of the neighborhood and the damned kids who lived there. Who did they think they were?
Didn’t he have a right to his privacy?
William decided to go upstairs to the front door and sternly lecture the impudent child about his inappropriate behavior. He approached the front door and looked through the peephole but could not see anyone. Then, straining to look downward, he saw what appeared to be the top of a red felt cowboy hat of a variety he had not seen since childhood. The hat appeared to be caked with dirt and grime. William Elverson stood silently for a moment, a sick, sinking feeling forming in the pit of his stomach. Cold droplets of sweat began to bead on the back of his neck, quickly trickling along his flesh as an icy chill crept down his spine. He suddenly no longer felt like lecturing anyone, and he heard himself asking uncertainly through the
door, “What d’ya want?”
He immediately realized how frighteningly similar his now older croaking voice sounded to that horrible murderer’s voice he had heard coming from behind the door of the abandoned house on that Halloween night so many years ago.
“Twick or tweet, Mista,” The voice said from the front porch with a baby talk quality William immediately recognized, and he was certain what awaited him on the other side of the door. After so many years of avoidance, fate had finally caught up with him. He had tried to run for forty years but could no longer run. It was time for him to face his destiny and, if necessary, to beg for forgiveness. His hands trembled with terror as they tried to grip the doorknob while wet with sweat. William slowly opened the front door and looked upon the rotting remains of his once best friend, Jimmy Jensen, standing in his filthy shredded cowboy costume, his skeletal hand extended as if in anticipation of a treat. William looked into the creature’s. Black-ringed dead eyes and imagined he saw the flesh sliding from the child’s rotting face as worms squirmed just below the surface of his skin, actively boring holes through the decaying flesh. In his mind, he could smell the deep earthen odor from the undead child’s former shallow forest grave.
Again, the hideous creature looked up at William with a gap-toothed grin and said, “Twick or tweet.” The incredible shock of this monstrous ghost from his past was too much for William to endure as he collapsed to the floor in a heap, his heart stopping instantly, dead in his chest from the inconceivable horror of the blasphemous specter before him.
Later, after the ambulance had removed William’s still cooling body and the police asked their questions, the young boy named Sammy Wilkins, still dressed in his amazingly realistic zombie cowboy costume, cried openly, cradled in his father’s arms.
The boy was confused, not knowing what had happened to the strange man in the house who had come to the door and feeling like he might have done something to cause it to happen. His father assured him it was not his fault and that the man was probably sick.
Both Sammy and his father knew his Halloween costume was scary. After all, they had both worked hard for several weeks to make it so. Sammy’s father was a big Halloween enthusiast and amateur makeup artist who enjoyed making costumes as terrifying and realistic as possible. However, he never thought that one of his costumes could have been realistic enough to have the potential to cause someone to die from
fright. But apparently, he had been tragically wrong.