Just when you thought it was safe to open the newspaper, it’s the return of ... Ghastly Ghost Stories!
Want to scare the wits out of your fellow Evening Sun readers?
Enter our annual Halloween fiction contest!
The Evening Sun’s Ghastly Ghost Stories competition is returning for another year of spooky fun.
This year the contest will be open to students grades 5-12 and to adults. Entries should be 1,500 words or less. Prizes will be awarded for the best story in each age group; fifth and sixth grade, seventh and eighth grade, ninth through twelfth grade and adults.
The winning story in each category and selected others will be published in The Pumpkin Vine, a special section of the paper that will be included in the Thursday, Oct. 29 edition, prior to the Norwich Pumpkin Festival. Winners will receive a certificate of accomplishment and gift certificates from First Edition Bookstore in Norwich! Questions? Call Melissa Stagnaro at 337-3071.
Submit your most terrifying tales via e-mail only to:
The Evening Sun
Put “Ghastly Ghost Stories” in the subject line!
DEADline Thursday, Oct. 21!
To get things started, our ES staffers have penned their own terrifying tales. Can you do better?
By Tyler Murphy
By Tyler Murphy
A decade ago, the great Chenango Canal was ordered closed. Yet like the slow filling of a grave, the last water ways that defined our area were still being shoveled with earth.
Many in the Village of Norwich benefited from the great 1890s rush to electrification though many in the country still used wood stoves and burning flames to light their homes.
In the wake of the canal’s flowing water came rails of iron track. The growth of the area was cranked in and out of the county one train at a time. The grounds of the current Norwich High School were a spider web of metal, serving as a major railroad yard for two of the biggest train companies, the D.L. & W. and the Ontario and Western.
The frozen mud streets captured the hard imprints of passing wagon wheels and the occasional automobile.
Hung by cables, large carbon electric bulbs lit most major intersections. They stood four feet tall when set on the ground and hummed with the crude industrial might of their era. Suspended above the street like giant spark plugs, they cast an oasis of light at the end a darkened street.
The time is 10:14 p.m. and it’s the winter of 1889. In place not too far from here, a long time ago, 12-year-old Marie cautiously stepped through a snow covered Lock Street (Lackawanna Ave.) in Norwich.
You shouldn’t travel alone at night. A firm yet gentle voice soothingly scolded.
It was a voice nobody but Marie heard anymore. The charming motherly advice delighted Marie when she was younger, but now the memories tortured her. Unable to ignore their sounds, they constantly reminded Marie of her mother’s death. She thought the voice was real, but no one believed her.
The nagging at least offered her a comforting presence.
You shouldn’t have left grandma’s house.
Angry, she stormed from grandmother’s log cabin in Preston hours ago and hoped to find town, and father, before dark. She felt lucky to have found it at all.
Marie hurried from the wilderness’ growing darkness to the dimly lit streets with glee.
She recognized the smoke plumes of the Maydole Hammer Foundry as they towered to meet the stars. She rushed through the town houses with unfamiliarity, cutting awkwardly across the streets until she was a block from dad’s work place. He was smelting long into the night to meet a high order for the company’s trademark hammer.
Many of the town’s better-paid laborers could be found toiling over the factory’s molten iron. Apart from the railroads and the Norwich Pharmaceutical Company, there were few as influential blue-collar businesses.
Lock Street was named after the old canal lock it once was. Many canal workers by day were rowdy bar patrons by night and the same was still true of the railroad’s men. Drawn to the street’s local reputation were drifters who often traveled the boxcars.
Marie thought she found a side-street shortcut to the foundry.
Avoid the alley, walk around a few blocks further down.
Marie hesitated at her mother’s ghostly plea, but continued.
The final trek of her journey would be cast in darkness. The carbon light at the end of the street, near the factory’s edge, had been struck down by the recent winter storm.
Marie glanced around at a handful of threatening characters idling their gazes upon her, but she kept walking steadily on.
A girl in such a place found many curious wondering eyes from the crowds who tumbled in and out of Lock Street’s alcoholic domains. One intoxicated pair among them was hideously loathsome and sinister.
Marie’s young brown eyes rippled like shaken cups of hot chocolate as they met his for the first time. The man’s eyes were too dark for color but above them sat rusting red eyebrows and a greasy, bald head.
Caught in their corrupt stare, even mother’s voice fell silent. The moment was cut by the sound of scraping ice and the yelp of an old man. Marie spun around and saw a gray-bearded man dressed like a drifter, old clothes spotted with black soot and smeared rail grease. He tumbled down the stone stairs and sprawled helplessly across the snow in aged whimpers of pain.
The red brows sneered a cackle. Marie wanted to run ahead, but mother interrupted the thought.
Help the old man.
Marie hesitated as the creepy, bald man continued to stare at her. Slowly she turned to the old man in the snow. She placed a firm hand on his shoulder; he glanced up and was surprised to see the face of a child. The old man hunched on a stoop and rubbed his aching back. Still bewildered and a little drunk, he spoke with sad blue eyes. “Thank you little girl,” he nodded thoughtfully and waved her off.
Marie could hear the approaching sound of a train roaring toward town in the far distance. Its engine rumbled closer; no doubt part of the foundry’s large order involved a late-night delivery. She looked across the street, the bald man with red eyebrows was gone.
Go back my child, it’s not too late.
Marie ignored the voice and paced quickly into the unlit street.
At the darkest spot, Marie was about to turn the corner and headed toward the foundry’s light ... but a bald figure stepped out and his red browed silhouette eclipsed the distant hope. The train’s brakes screeched as it came slowly settling into town.
But Marie froze in terror as the man leapt. Her body shuddered as his hands grasped her coat and hood. Her long blond hair spilled out.
Run, Marie; leave your coat.
Marie quickly ducked, falling to her knees as she spun with furious adrenaline, sliding out of the heavy coat. Terrified, she ran and screamed, but the hulking jitters of the nearby train drowned out all sound. She had no choice and fled away from him, away from the foundry and away from help. She had no idea where she was going.
The red man was stunned but seemed almost amused. Whiskey twisted deep in his mind replaced rational concern with reckless arousal. He glanced around and bolted for the youth, yearning to grasp her long golden hair.
Marie darted blindly down the tracks.
Quickly my child, hide in there.
Marie looked up and saw a box car door left slightly open. With the bald, red man only moments away, she jumped inside and kicked the heavy doors closed, but she was too late. The man’s grotesque fingertips reached through just in time to be crushed. With a muffled bang and gritted scream, the man’s finger’s crumpled. He winced in pain, but managed to reach inside and pull the door open.
Use the other side! Run.
Marie turned her back to the man and opened the car’s other side door. Just as she leapt down the man’s bloodied fingertips grasped her boot and she lost control of her decent. She fell silently into the snow, the world around her was still consumed by the loud train. The red man pinned her down, straddling her legs with his foul smelling torso.
“Mother help me, I’m sorry I didn’t listen, mother,” Marie whaled. The voice was silent as Marie was gripped by fear.
The man covered her mouth tightly and his dark eyes sparked with diabolical desire.
Scream for me my child, and I can save you.
Marie’s eyes blurred with tears and her lungs began to spasm out, her world was dark but she was still alive. The red burrowed man glanced nervously around in clenched teeth and with anxious impatience.
In that instance, Marie wrenched her last effort and broke free.
She longed for breath and let her constrained lungs out in a dire shriek that no good person could ignore.
The man’s red hair seemed to grow darker. He seized Marie’s neck so violently, her voice shuttered silent, her face instantly reddened.
A sound echoed and the strangulation relaxed. It was a noise of natural, but devastating vibration, like falling timber, cracking stones or bones broke open. The red man slumped slightly, his brows dropped; his body then slowly tipped but quickly fell.
In his tumbled space, a figure of gray and white shown down with peaceful eyes at a saved life. The old man from the alley dropped a rail pipe from his hand. The iron’s heavy red tip dropped and sunk deep into the white snow, burying any sight of blood.
He pulled his dark soot-covered gloves off and his pale complexion seemed almost clean. The bearded man then kneeled with weary but controlled grace. He reached out his hand and spoke with gentle blue eyes.
“I’m glad you’re all right ... but little girl, my mother always told me never to travel alone at night.”