October 1, 2004: The New Attraction
A large man in a black and orange striped suit with a skeleton mask materialized in front of the large castle-sized house. “Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening and welcome to the first annual opening of Dr. Thimbault’s Haunted House. As you may or may not know, this house was built in 1894 by Dr. Arthur Thimbault but was abandoned by his family during World War II. For nearly a hundred years, thousands of rumors have been spread concerning the truth behind what happened inside. We have spent months revitalizing this age-old mansion to create the most immersive haunting experience you’ll ever have. Inside you will find monsters, jump-scares, and fears beyond your darkest imagination.”
A slight applause came from the back of the crowd where some eager high school kids were waiting to get inside.
The skeleton man continued, “There are no live actors awaiting you within these ancient walls, for we have designed a state-of-the-art computer system that conjures the scares to your fears using holograms. We’ve built a smart haunted house! Nothing is as it appears. Even I am not really here."
With a sudden flash and jet of smoke the skeleton man vanished into thin air. A silence took over the crowd before it erupted in applause and cheers. It was the eve of October 1, 2004, when Dr. Thimbault’s Haunted House graced Boston Massachusetts with its nightmare inducing scares. Hundreds of people were waiting until six o’clock, the time the house would open itself to the public. In the crowd was a recently married couple, Steven and Ashely Harrold. Ashely’s palms were becoming sticky as she attempted to hide her nerves.
“You doing okay?" Steven said, noticing her nervousness.
“Yeah, I just can’t believe I let you talk me into going with you to this.”
“Don’t worry it’s going to be awesome!” he assured.
“Do you think Timothy is going to be okay at home?”
“Oh come on Ashley, he’s two years old and Bethany is the best fifteen year old babysitter this side of the Mississippi! Besides, we’re only going to be gone for like an hour.”
The crowd had already been shuffling into the massive house, and the Harrolds were almost to the door. Screaming and aching could be heard a few floors up, and even Steven began to feel his nerves twitch. When they reached the door, the house greeted them.
“Welcome to Dr. Thimbault’s Haunted House,” said the house with the eerie voice of the skeleton man. “Beware, beware of what’s inside, my scares will make you run and hide. Running will not get you far, for Dracon, Amethyst, Tuten, and Arthur will wait for you at every turn. Each floor they will watch, waiting to get you at the top. Once complete take the elevator down three floors and return to your homes. Have a good night.”
“I can’t do this,” Ashely insisted.
“Too late now, we have to keep going. We already paid for the tickets,” Steven said, a slight look of amusement in his face. “I can’t wait until the guys at the station hear about this place!”
Just before entering the house, a figure peered out from behind the curtains and gave a howling scream. The crowd jumped. It was a gruesome looking witch, who would be nicknamed Amethyst the Howler. The Harrolds stepped inside, Ashely gripping tightly to her husband’s red polo. The inside of Thimbault’s mansion was breath taking. The large foyer was gently connected to the second floor by two large stairwells, which other couples were climbing, holding onto each other for dear life. A sign in the foyer flickered with each strobe light flash. It read, “Choose a path, left or right, either room will take you to the next floor.”
Remembering that they had seen Amethyst peering out the window of the right side, they decided to go left. As they approached, the door automatically opened, screeching slightly. Steven was still smiling, finding Ashley’s fears more amusing than the possible hauntings within the left room. There was a loud bang and flash of light which caused Ashley to scream and squeeze Steven tighter. The room was filled with old furniture and cobwebs, and the objects appeared to be original.
“Holy Jeeez--” Steven whelped, grabbing his heart, as a mangy mummy appeared in one of the chairs. Tuten, the pharaoh, stood and began to approach them, scarabs climbing in and out of his limbs. Heavily breathing, the Harrolds ran out of the room and slammed the door behind them.
“Okay,” Steven admitted, trying to catch his breath, “They got me on that one.”
They crept through the next door, trying not to get noticed when the skeleton man’s dark voice boomed loudly above them, “Having fun yet?”
Ashely screamed so loud that she felt a slight tickle of pee escape her body. “I think I just peed a little,” she whispered to Steven, who was trying really hard not to laugh.
They finally reached the stairs, as Amethyst flew above them, around the massive foyer. “Only three more to go,” she cackled, referring to the amount of floors left.
“My bladder will never make it through this,” Ashley whispered.
Steven couldn’t hold in his laughter and spit slightly in an attempt to contain himself. On the second floor they were sure they were going to die. Amethyst kept appearing in front of them, zooming through walls, and rising from the floor. Her scream was so piercing that the Harrolds had to plug their ears. They entered into the last room on the second floor. The skeleton man was standing in the corner.
“So you’ve made it passed the second floor. Do you need a change of underwear yet?” Ashley blushed. “I’ve been watching you, and I don’t think you’re scared enough, Steven.” Steven gulped, unsure how the hologram knew his name. “Floor’s three and four will be programmed especially for you. I’ve scanned your mind and discovered exactly what makes you cringed,” the man faded away, his evil laugh echoing down the hall.
Steven became very nervous. The stairwell to the third floor was extra creaky and didn’t provide any sense of comfort for Steven’s impending doom. The third floor was very dark, and Steven already knew he was in trouble. Darkness was one of Steven’s greatest fears. “Can’t see, can you Steven?” groaned a voice in the darkness.
“Go away,” Steven screamed, gripping tighter to Ashley than she had ever gripped him.
The dark figure was tapping on a hard surface. It started to run toward them, dragging its rough nails across the surface, generating an awful screech.
Steven felt like he was about to lose it. He fell to the floor plugging his ears. Ashely began to panic as the creature came into the moonlight. It was Dracon, a six-foot tall vampire. Ashely didn’t know what to do. Dracon’s pale face highlighting the blood dripping from his sharp, pointed teeth appeared in the moonlit room. Ashely grabbed her husband’s shirt and began pulling him out of the room. Dracon zoomed closer then vanished, leaving a trail of purple smoke behind him.
“Run!” Ashely screamed, as her and her now sobbing husband went into the next room. “Are you okay?”
“Am I dead?” Steven wiped the tears from his eyes, gaining control of himself again. “I don’t know what came over me.” Ashely laughed a little, imagining a hug wet spot on the front of Steven’s khaki pants.”
“At least I didn’t pee myself,” he nudged, giving Ashely a smirk of enjoyment.
“Oh, shut it Steven, or I’ll tell the guys at the station that you cried like a girl.”
“Yeah,” he paused, realizing he’d been caught. “Please don’t tell them that. If they found out their best detective was afraid of a little haunted house, I’d never hear the end of it.”
The smart house computer must have registered that it had done a good job in scaring the bejesus out of Steven because the fourth floor wasn’t nearly as terrifying. There was blood and bodies all over the floor and occasionally a zombie chased them down the hall, throwing holographic limbs at them. The character was Arthur, named and designed after the appearance of Dr. Arthur Thimbault. The zombie was gaining on them when they reached the elevator, narrowly escaping his grasp.
The Harrrolds stood hyperventilating as the elevator crawled back to the first floor.
“Congratulations Steven,” The skeleton man began, an evil lure in his voice. “For a second there I didn’t think you’d make it out.”
Steven turned around and jumped, grabbing his heart again. The skeleton man had appeared in the glass mirror of the elevator.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed scaring you both this evening and hope to see you again soon. Next time, I will know exactly how to grab at your heart-strings. I have stored your fears in my hard drive and will patiently be awaiting your return,” he smirked. “Thank you for participating in the D.A.T.A. program. Please drive safely, so that I can haunt you again someday.”
The elevator doors opened and the Harrolds ran as fast as they could to their car. They sat silently the rest of the way home, not sure what they could say to lighten the mood.
“Ashely,” Steven nudged his wife, who had fallen asleep, “We’re home now.”
They relieved the babysitter and checked on Timothy, who was put down to sleep a few minutes before they arrived.
“What a night,” Steven suggested as they got to bed.
“Yeah, I never want to do that again. The whole idea that the computer can remember us and keep a record of our darkest fears is just too creepy for me.”
“Crazy what technology can do nowadays. Why can’t we think of anything like that?”
Ashely didn’t respond, she was already fast asleep. Steven sat up most of the night, slightly terrified and excited about the new attraction.
October 31, 2004: The Last Data
“Hello?” Steven said, picking up his new cordless home phone.
“Harrold? It’s Chief Salenzie. We need you at the office right now.”
“But sir, it’s seven-thirty at night. What’s going on?”
“We’ve got a case that we need you to look at right now.”
“All right, give me fifteen minutes.”
“You’ve got ten.”
Steven hung up the phone and walked up the stairs to let Ashely know. She was in Timothy’s room getting him ready for bed.
“Knock, knock,” Steven said as he walked into the room.
“Oh, look who it is Timmy; it’s Dad!” Little Timothy’s face always lit-up when he saw his dad.
Steven squeezed his little boy’s cheeks and kissed his wife of the forehead. “I’ve been called in to look at a case. Salenzie wants me there now. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I’ll be waiting for you.”
“It might be an all-nighter, so don’t stay up for too long. Love you.”
“Love you too, be safe,” Ashely gave him a longing expression. Steve had only been called in to work a few times this late at night, and it was never for a good reason.
Steven walked quickly down the stairs and outside to his undercover Crown Vic. He pulled the car out of the driveway and zipped down the street. There were ghosts and princesses wandering the streets carrying pillowcases full of candy they had been collecting all night. When Steven finally got to the station, all the lights were on, which for a normal night would have been odd but tonight was Halloween. Calls of kids throwing eggs at houses and other misdemeanors would flood the station tonight.
“Hey, Scott, you get called in too?” Steven joked to the first officer he saw.
“Yeah, it’s Halloween, and you won’t believe what has happened tonight.”
Steven made his way down to Salenzie’s office to hear the news.
“You’re late,” Salenzie began.
“Yeah, it’s late,” Steven pointed out, trying to get a grin out of his boss.
“Detective, we’ve just got word that there has been a killing up at Thimbault’s estate.”
“Thimbault’s estate? But isn’t that…”
“Yes, where the haunted smart house is. I’ve sent some officer’s ahead of you to do some crowd control but I need your detective skills to figure out what’s happened.”
“I’ll go right away, sir.”
“Don’t hit anybody on your way. The last thing I need to get is a phone call proclaiming that one my officers hit a scarecrow-child.”
“I’ll keep my eyes out.”
Even with his sirens on it still took Steven twenty minutes to get to the scene of the crime. There were children screaming and running up and down the streets. He even saw some with baskets of eggs, like it was Easter but he didn’t have time to intercept them. At the scene, the officers had removed most of the crowds. However, the channel 4 news was there now.
“In only the first month of the first year of its operation, Dr. Thimbault’s Haunted House has been faced with a traumatic event. We have received knowledge that a young man has been murdered here tonight,” Steven heard the reporter announcing to the camera.
“Bloody rats,” Steven whispered, having gained a great annoyance to news related folks. He snuck passed the reported unnoticed and made his way to the house.
“Detective Harrold, it’s good to see you,” said Jessica, a young officer.
“Always a pleasure Jessica,” Steven had learned that small, short sentences were best around Jessica. Anything else would give her the wrong idea. “Where’s the body?”
“Upstairs on the third floor.”
Not the third floor, Steven thought. It hadn’t even been a month since he was scared to tears on that very floor.
“Is the attraction shut down?”
“Yes, don’t worry, nothing will be there to scare you now.”
Steven glared at her, wondering if she somehow found out about his little meltdown on the first night. He cleared his throat. “Good to know.”
Steven relived the horrifying rooms of the house on each floor, working his way toward the top. The house actually looked really nice when there weren’t monsters jumping out at you at every corner. When he reached the last room of the second floor he heard, “Welcome back Steven.”
“What!?” he jumped. Shaking, he looked around with his flashlight. “It was nothing Steven,” he told himself, “nothing.”
The third floor was much brighter this time around and he was certain that he hadn’t heard anything now. A few other officers were looking around the house for any signs of a suspect.
“Evening, Steven,” said Officer Jordan.
“Evening, Jordan. Find anything worth mentioning yet?”
“Nope, but you can go look at the body over there.”
She gestured toward the place where the body lay. It was the same place that Steven was tortured by the nail grinding sound Dracon had made. The boy on the floor was gruesomely beat up. Bruises appeared on his arms and face. There was blood all over the floor and the boy’s neck had a large, open wound. There was no major evidence of a weapon. Suddenly, there was a sound movement in the next room. Jordan and Steven jumped, pulling their guns out.
“Let’s go,” Steven whispered.
They hurried into the next room, hoping to find the killer.
“Freeze!” They yelled simultaneously as they banged the door down.
There, on top of the large wardrobe was a great horned owl that looked guiltily toward a lamp it seemed to have knocked over.
“Darn bird,” Officer Jordan proclaimed angrily.
“Detective!!” a voice yelled from the other room.
Steven rushed back to where the body was to see Jessica with a look a sheer shock in her hazel eyes. The body was gone.
“It was there just a second ago, I swear!” she said in a panic. “I’m getting out of this house.”
Steven stared at the puddle of blood, reflecting a look of confusion on his face. What is going on here? He thought.
“Jordan, did we get an ID on that body?”
“No sir, we couldn’t find anything.”
“The boy should’ve had a wrist band with his ticket number on it. Did we get that before the body disappeared?” he demanded hastily.
“I don’t know, I’ll go check with forensics.”
Steven pulled out his Razor cellphone and dialed the Chief.
“Whatcha got for my Harrold?” said the Chief
“Nothing sir. That’s why I’m calling. The body has vanished.”
“What?! How did you lose the body!?”
“Sir, Officer Jessica was in the room when it disappeared. She didn’t see anything and doesn’t know what happened. I’m waiting to hear back from forensics to see if they picked up any ID.”
“Well, keep me posted Harrold. I don’t want the news to find out we lost the body.”
Steven hurried down the stairs to check and see if Jordan had found anything.
“Forensics says that the boy didn’t have a wristband. He must’ve snuck in.” said Jordan.
“Dang it! We really could’ve used that. The Chief will be pissed. Can we access the security tapes yet?”
“There aren’t any tapes,” Jordan said, irritated.
“What do you mean there aren't any tapes?” Harrold asked.
“Well, the security system had been shut down this evening, it’s like the house was malfunctioning.”
“Great. The chief isn’t going to want to hear that either.”
“So what now Detective?”
“We’ll have to put it in our John Doe’s until we gather more information. Until then, this attraction is going to have to be shut down for good.”
The police cars silently left the premises and Dr. Thimbault’s Haunted House came to a close. For the next few years, the truth about what happened that dark Halloween night became urban legend. No one dared go near the old mansion, and the case of the disappearing body was locked away in the unsolved files.