Halloween in New Hampshire is like no other place on Earth. Beginning in September and continuing through the fall the leaves change to brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. The sun sets early, there’s a chill in the air, and by October 31st our town looks like something from a postcard. New Hampshire is an old place, ancient in some ways, and every town has a ghost story, haunted house or spooky place children are afraid to walk by. Conway rests in the northern part of the state. In Conway, the old-timers sit around the fire and tell ghost stories to give the children a Halloween fright but some, some stories are meant as a warning. There are places in this world where man was not meant to tread.
It all started out innocently enough. It was Halloween night, and as the last of the party goers cleared out of the dining hall to return to their dorm rooms, my friends and I sat around a table in the corner and watched the clean-up crew clear away the decorations. It had been a good party, Brewster Academy always went out of its way to show its students a good time on Halloween, but at 17 years old, jack-o-lantern carving contests and bobbing for apples had lost some of their thrill.
“Another Halloween and another boring party,” Wendy sighed.
“Sorry it didn’t meet your high standards,” I groused. I was on the student council and helped plan the party. I admit it was a little cheesy, but it was a school function, what did Wendy expect?
“I wasn’t criticizing you. I’m just saying, don’t they think we’re a little old for this stuff?” said Wendy.
“Well, you have to keep in mind we have a broad range of ages to deal with. Besides, not everyone is as warped as you,” I snickered.
“Hey, putting those eyeballs in the punch would have been awesome.” Wendy smiled.
“Eyeballs?” Timmy grimaced.
“They weren’t real eyeballs.” I rolled my eyes. “They were marbles, but still, gross!”
“I try to give you a cool idea, and this is the thanks I get,” Wendy pouted.
“Your genius is lost on these guys.” Adam, her boyfriend, patted her on the back.
“I thought it was a fun party.” Timmy smiled.
“Thanks, baby.” I held his hand.
“That’s because it’s easier to scare you than a toddler,” Wendy giggled.
“Oh yeah?” Timmy challenged. “Well…ok, yeah, I guess you’re right.”
Timmy isn’t what I’d call a fraidy cat, but pretty close. He’s easily startled, and that’s led to some pretty funny moments at his expense. We all laughed at his admission.
“You know, it’s not too late for us to salvage a little fun from the evening.” Wendy grinned.
“It’s too late to go trick or treating,” said Timmy.
“Honey, you’re so cute,” Wendy pinched his cheek, “but I was thinking of something a little more daring.”
“Damn it, woman,” I exclaimed, “how many times must I tell you? Timmy and I aren’t interested in group sex with you two!”
Adam laughed, Timmy blushed and Wendy rolled her eyes.
“As much fun as it would be to deflower you innocent little boys, that’s not what I had in mind,” said Wendy.
“Well, what did you have in mind?” asked Timmy.
“You guys heard of Stark Road?” said Wendy.
I looked around my circle of friends to find blank stares on their faces.
“I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say no.”
“Honestly, don’t you guys know anything about local history?” said Wendy, exasperated.
“Hey, I’m from California. I just go to school here.” I grinned and then slapped Adam’s knees. “Your boyfriend is the native.”
“Never heard of it. Sorry, babe.” Adam grinned sheepishly.
“It’s up in Conway…” Wendy began.
“Well that explains it,” Adam interrupted. “That’s almost an hour from here.”
I don’t know if it’s a New Hampshire thing or a small state thing, but travel over any distance more than ten miles and these people start looking for a room for the night.
“Sit there and look pretty. Let momma do the talking.” Wendy rubbed Adam’s back.
“Momma?” Timmy snickered.
“You think he calls her that when they’re doing it?” I giggled.
“They are pretty twisted, but that’s weird even for them,” said Timmy.
“Anyway…” Wendy interrupted, “there’s a graveyard out on Stark Road, and it glows at night. They say if you wait long enough you’ll see a pair of red eyes, and they’ll follow you up and down the road.”
“Wicked.” Adam grinned.
“Sounds creepy.” Timmy snuggled up to me.
“Sounds like bullshit to me,” I scoffed.
“Oh Brice, you’re such a skeptic. But what do you guys think, should we go check it out?” said Wendy.
“Um, small problem with that. We’re not allowed off campus and none of us has a car,” I reminded her. Students aren’t allowed to keep cars at the academy.
“Duh, Adam’s dad is the headmaster. We could take his car,” said Wendy.
Adam was the only one of us who was actually from New Hampshire. He’d grown up at Brewster Academy and had lived in the Headmaster’s House since he was 12 and his father had been promoted to the job. Of course he had access to a car.
“If we get caught my dad will kill us,” said Adam.
“He’ll bitch us out, but he’s not going to expel his own son, ergo he’s not going to expel the rest of us either,” Wendy reasoned.
“That sounds like a big risk to take just to go see some old crap graveyard,” said Timmy.
“What it sounds like is you guys are a bunch of pussies,” said Wendy.
“Hey, hey, hey, watch the language in front of the baby!” I laughed and put my hands over Timmy’s ears. In addition to being a fraidy cat Timmy is somewhat innocent. It’s one of the things I love most about him, his genuinely sweet nature.
“I’m not a pussy,” said Timmy, pushing my hands away. “I just think it’s stupid, but I’ll go.”
“Yeah, I’m in,” said Adam.
“Fine,” I grumped. “Let’s go and see the green eyed monster or whatever it is.”
“Red eyes,” said Wendy.
“Whatever.” I rolled my blue eyes.
Adam went home to swipe his mom’s SUV while the rest of us returned to our dorm rooms to don more appropriate clothing. I snickered when we regrouped at the main gate and discovered that, without planning it, we’d all dressed in dark jeans, t-shirts and hoodies.
“Are we going for a ride in the country or out to rob a liquor store?” I quipped.
“Get in the car, smart ass,” Wendy giggled as she jumped in the passenger seat. Timmy and I hopped in the back and Adam drove off campus. There was no turning back now.
It was a cold night, and as we sped north on the back country road, Timmy snuggled close and put his head on my shoulder, while Wendy hectored Adam with her backseat driving.
“I can’t believe I agreed to this,” Timmy sighed.
“Me either, but I guess we’re committed now. Who knows, maybe it’ll be fun.” I squeezed his shoulder.
“No, you’re right. I’m just a little…”
“Yeah,” Timmy nodded.
“Timmy, there are no such things as ghosts, and you’ve got me to protect you from anything else that might be out there. Ok?”
“Yeah,” he smiled and then kissed me softly.
“Awwwww,” said Wendy as she killed the moment by snapping a picture of us with her iPhone. It was so dark in the car the flash was blinding.
“Damn it, Wendy, I’m seeing spots now,” I groaned and rubbed my eyes. Timmy laughed though, so at least she’d taken his mind off his fears. Maybe I helped with that too.
Finding Stark Road was simple enough, but finding the glowing graveyard turned out to be rather more difficult. We drove up and down the road in both directions for what seemed like miles until Adam pulled over so we could consult a map. Wendy tried locating the graveyard with Google Maps but struck out. Adam reached into the glove compartment for a hard copy, and while he and Wendy pored over it, Timmy tugged on my sleeve and pointed out the window.
“Guys, look,” said Timmy.
Without knowing it, Adam had pulled over right where we wanted to be. I looked out the window and a light fog drifted a foot off the ground. The fog caught the moonlight and the graveyard did indeed appear to be glowing.
“Wicked,” Adam whispered from the driver’s seat.
“Huh, I wonder why we didn’t see it before?” said Wendy.
“Maybe our eyes needed to adjust to the light or something,” I offered.
“Anyone see any red eyes?” asked Wendy.
“Nope,” I replied.
“Come on, let’s explore,” said Adam, as he pulled a flashlight from the glove compartment.
“Hey, no one said anything about getting out,” said Timmy.
“We’ve come this far; might as well check the place out,” said Adam.
“Count me in, babe,” said Wendy as she hopped out of the passenger seat.
I moved to open my door but Timmy pulled me back.
“Brice, I don’t like this,” he whined.
“It’s fine. Remember, nothing to be afraid of,” I kissed the top of his forehead.
“This place is really creepy,” said Timmy.
“Ok, you stay here and watch the car. We’ll be back in a few minutes,” I assured him.
As I opened my door Timmy sighed and took my hand.
“Wait. I’m coming with you.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’d rather be with you than here by myself,” he admitted.
“It’ll be fine,” I assured him and put my arm around his waist.
“If you two love birds are finished,” said Wendy.
“Ah, stuff it, woman,” I teased.
Adam only had the one flashlight so we stuck close together. I really couldn’t understand how we’d missed the graveyard at first; the place was huge. There was a massive wrought iron gate, and once we passed through it there was a chapel on the right. We walked up the path of a small hill and then peered down into a valley covered with headstones. The moonlight glinted off the fog, and the valley floor glowed an eerie grey.
“Are you sure you guys wouldn’t rather spend our night among the living?” said Timmy.
“Are you kidding? This is so cool,” said Wendy. She took Adam’s hand and the two of them skipped down the earthen path into the valley.
“It’ll be fine.” I squeezed Timmy. “But that’s the only flashlight, so we better keep up.”
Timmy flashed me a weak smile and we followed our friends, though we didn’t skip.
“This is a really old cemetery,” said Wendy, when we caught up to them.
“Figures,” I replied. “This is an old state. People have been fighting and dying over this land for hundreds of years.”
“The internet said the first graves were discovered by the early French settlers. They figured they were Indian graves because there weren’t any markings on the stones, so who knows how long they’ve been here,” Wendy added.
“Great, we’re in an ancient Indian burial ground,” Timmy scoffed.
“Keep your eyes out for a World War One soldier,” said Wendy, drawing our attention back to her.
“World War One soldier statue?” I asked.
“No dork, a ghost. I read that one of the most famous ghosts haunting this place is some guy who died in WWI. He had a sweetheart, and when she got the news he’d been killed she threw herself off a bridge. The legend says they meet up each night in the graveyard and walk among the headstones holding hands,” she explained.
“That’s kind of sweet,” said Timmy.
“That doesn’t freak you out?” asked Adam.
“Well, I’m sure it would if I saw them, but think about it. They loved each other so much even death couldn’t keep them apart. Don’t you think it’s romantic?” said Timmy.
“It’s not making love in front of a warm fire, but yeah, I can see it as romantic,” I agreed.
“Ugh, I think I’m going to throw up,” Wendy gagged.
“What’s the matter?” asked Timmy, concern in his voice.
“Picturing you two boning in front of a warm fire,” she laughed.
“Oh ha ha,” Timmy rolled his eyes.
“Come on, guys. Let’s keep going,” said Wendy.
“Whatever. Dora the Explorer, lead the way,” I replied.
Wendy rolled her eyes, took Adam’s hand again and continued along the path. The deeper we walked into the graveyard the creepier it became. Have you ever felt like you’re being watched? Felt the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up as some kind of a warning? That’s how I felt at every turn in the path. Timmy twitched at every noise he heard, and when an owl hooted in a nearby tree he practically jumped into my arms.
Each step forward was like a step back in time. The headstones grew older the further we went until we reached a point where you couldn’t read anything on them because the inscriptions had been worn away by erosion.
“Guys, look,” Adam pointed with his flashlight at a series of small stones with rounded tops. They bore no markings whatsoever.
“This must be the original Indian burial ground,” said Wendy.
“Shit,” Adam swore as the flashlight went out. “Sorry guys. I don’t know how long my mom’s had this thing in the glove box, but it looks like the batteries are dead.”
“Maybe that’s for the best,” I offered. “The fog’s getting thicker; we should head back.”
“Great idea,” Timmy exclaimed. He and I turned and started back up the path, but we didn’t hear our friends behind us.
“Guys?” I called out but when I turned there was no sign of Wendy and Adam. “Ok guys, come on out.”
“I don’t like this,” Timmy whined.
“It’s alright. They’re just messing with us,” I comforted him before addressing our wayward friends again. “Guys, we’re going back to the car. You can fuck around out here all you want.”
“We can’t just leave them here,” said Timmy.
“Ok,” I sighed. “You wait here. Don’t move from this spot. I’m going to look for them.”
“But…” Timmy started.
“I’m not going far. I just want to look around some of the big tombstones and see where these assholes are hiding,” I explained.
Timmy hugged himself and shivered in his hoodie. I felt bad leaving him, but I really wasn’t going far. In fact, I only got about ten feet away when I heard Wendy shout “BOO,” followed by Timmy screaming bloody murder. I raced back to find Timmy shaking like a leaf with tears streaming down his cheeks while Wendy and Adam laughed like a pair of jackals. I grabbed Timmy and pulled him into a tight hug. His heart was beating so hard I half expected it to burst from his chest.
“I wanna go home. I wanna go home,” Timmy sobbed and buried his face in my neck.
“Shh, it’s ok,” I soothed him. I held Timmy and rubbed up and down his back and felt his body start to unclench a little. I was furious and turned my rage on Wendy and Adam.
“You two are fucking assholes! You scared him half to death!”
“Aww, come on, Timbo,” said Wendy. “Everyone needs a good scare on Halloween.”
Adam was a little more contrite. “Dude, I’m sorry. We really didn’t think you’d freak out that bad.”
“I just want to go home,” Timmy wiped his eyes on his sleeve.
“Ok, let’s get out of here,” said Adam, bringing up the flashlight, but it wouldn’t come on. “Shit.”
“What now?” I demanded.
“I turned off the flashlight so we could, you know, scare Timmy. Now it won’t come back on,” said Adam.
“That’s just great. Let me see it,” I demanded.
Timmy still had his face hidden against my neck, but I think it was more from embarrassment now. Adam and I fussed over the flashlight until Wendy’s voice broke the silence.
“Guys,” she hissed. “Guys! Guys, look.”
We raised our heads and saw an expression of abject terror on Wendy’s face. She’d gone completely pale. Her mouth hung open and her arm trembled as she pointed toward the Indian burial ground we’d been standing on. I turned my head and found the source of her horror. There in the distance, but approaching rapidly, were a pair of sinister red eyes.
“Oh my God,” I breathed.
I felt Timmy cling to me as the four of us stood there trembling in fear.
“Run!” Adam shouted.
We didn’t need any further encouragement. We bolted up the path as fast as we could. The eyes kept pace with us as if they were stalking us into a trap. The wind began to blow at gale force and the fog turned dense as pea soup. Wendy tripped over a rock and landed flat on her face. We stopped to help her up, but the eyes were gaining on us. We ran as fast as we could in the thickening fog. We didn’t care what may lie in the path before us; we were too afraid of what we knew was behind us.
Just when I didn’t think we were going to make it we burst through the graveyard’s iron gates. As soon as we passed through, the gates slammed behind us with a resounding clang that could have been heard three towns over. We didn’t stop to catch our breath. We ran straight for the car, and as soon as Adam had the key in the ignition he started it up and put his foot to the floor.
“Do you see anything behind us?” said Adam through chattering teeth. Chattering from fear, not from cold.
I turned and looked out the rear window. Thankfully nothing was there.
“No, we’re good,” I sighed and turned to face forward.
My eyes caught Adam’s in the rearview mirror and as the reflection gleamed a sinister red I…
Two Days Later…
“…Finally tonight, State Police are still searching for four students who disappeared from Brewster Academy on Halloween night. The students, identified as Adam Ross, Wendy Clark, Timothy Hightower and Brice Winters, were last seen at a party the Academy hosted that night. The teens’ car, a black Lexus SUV registered to the mother of Adam Ross, was found parked in the middle of Stark Road in Conway. The keys were still in the ignition. Local volunteers have been searching the woods along Stark Road since the car was discovered but have yet to find any trace of the missing passengers. If you have any information about the missing students you are encouraged to contact local authorities.
“For Al Green on weather and Tom Lopez on sports, I’m Amy Gardner thanking you for watching us on WABZ Action News at 11:00. Good night.”