Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 1998
Adult Winners

Third Place

Our third place adult entry was co-written by two authors, Donald Veitch and Richard Provenzano. Taking place in the area near Lynn's Dungeon Rock, this story contains the elements of a good traditional ghost story. We won't say more for fear of spoiling it.

The Visit

Donald Veitch & Richard G. Provenzano

The spring snow swirled around and drifted down through the trees in Lynn Woods on that Spring day in 1972 . April snows were not unusual in eastern Massachusetts although this late storm was worse than most. The leaden veil filtered the scene, shading and shadowing the woods and landscape. The light was dim, grey and changeable. The immense shape of the rock -- crowned hill stood out among the trees making everything around it seem small, unimportant, sinister and foreboding in the swirling grey of the of the spring storm. Even in the snow, the large crack which divided the huge mass of stone, as if cloven by some devine wrath, was visible. On the right edge of this rift, at certain times in the shifting mysterious light, one could make out a face formed in the rock -- a dour face in profile -- with downturned lips, hooded eyes, protruding chin and long hooked nose turned inward away from the watcher toward a gaping cavity. An opening -- leading where? What could there be in the center of such a mass of rock?

Alex was not the first to wonder. For centuries, misfits, miscreants, and fortune seekers had been drawn here and struggled to learn the secret of the face and what lay hidden behind it. All, apparently, in vain! Alex's interest was not new; he had been drawn to this spot many times in the past, affected like so many others by the magnetism and legends of the site.

Alex stood, anxious now, drawn to stay but also pulled by a feeling that he should be elsewhere. His wife, Winnie, was waiting-warm heart, in an old house comfortable by a Nineteenth Century fireplace. Before he could join his heart's desire, however, he had another promise to keep, with his young friend Carl.

Alex's angular features reflected his youthful love of the outdoors, his thirtyish face reflecting his love of the outdoors with new lines around his eyes and mouth. Today his concern for the time and promises made added some worry lines between his full dark eyebrows. He stamped his hiking boots and shrugged deeper into his parka, the fur-lining further hiding his face from the swirling wind-driven snow. What was this call which kept him here on a stormy Saturday morning when there were other places to be and other things to do?

Finally, stamping again he turned his back on the rock and started down the trail through the woods towards Walnut Street and his meeting with Carl. Carl was a much younger man, pursuing graduate studies at Salem State Collerge. He and Alex had struck up an acquaintance which had deepened into friendship when they had both taken a course at the college. The evening course was a makeup for Carl -- a grad level course not taken when first offered -- but needed for credits. It was a course in local history which Alex had taken because of his interest and knowledge of Lynn and especially of Dungeon Rock. They lived in the same neighborhood and, despite the ten years which separated them, they enjoyed sharing an occasional hiking trip and mostly, their contrary opinions about local legends especially those concerning Dungeon Rock. There had been several evenings drinking at Fred's Cafe or watching the Celtics at Alex's apartment which saw spirited differences of opinion about the supernatural. Carl, a pragmatic, was adamant; the Rock was a rock -- nothing more!

Alex was swayed (but not quite convinced) that the history of the place and the stories he had heard might indicate something more -- and that's where Mr. Long came in. Long had a house near Lynn Woods and during the class in local history that the three of them took together, he had shown impressive knowledge of the Dungeon Rock legend. The three of them often talked about the story of pirates at Dungeon Rock in the Seventeenth Century and how Spiritualists in the last century had tried to find treasure there directed by instructions from the dead. Mr. Long had often said that the more the story and site were studied, the more confusing the whole thing bcame to him.

Alex and Carl enjoyed the older man's knowledge and easy disposition and had liked his friendly input to class discussions. Alex especially, had been intrigued with some unusual stories Mr. Long had told the class about Lynn history but it was hard to get him to privately elaborate on the stories because Long usually arrived when the class was ready to start and was one of the first out the door when it ended. When he casually mentioned that his house was connected to the Dungeon Rock story, however, Alex was determined to talk to him about the details .

Long's house, according to local authorities had been built about 1890 by Silas Newhall, who had used some old lumber in its construction. Some of this old lumber had come from Hiram Marble's house at Dungeon Rock when it was taken down at the time the city of Lynn reaquired the site. It was Hiram Marble who had spent years at the site digging for pirate treasure, certain that the spirit world was giving him comfort and direction. Alex had wondered if the lumber in Long's house was responsible for some of the strange stories about the house which had occurred in years past. Mr. Long had been somewhat cryptic when mentioning some of the events he had witnessed saying only that, it was a most fascinating house to live in, although he could never hope to thoroughly understand all that had happened there.

Alex was nearly at Carl's house on Nicholworth Street, ten minutes late, but not that far from the address of Long's house he had determined from the local phone book. The snow had lessened and Carl was eager to be off -- to "put to rest" Alex's fantasies about Dungeon Rock. He certainly didn't share Alex's sense of excitement from what Long had shared with the class.

The two friends walked along briskly in the snowstorm It seemed to be getting darker. They quickly ran out of Dungeon Rock conversation and turned to familiar and agreed -- on sports topics -- wondering about the likelihood of the Celtics being able to beat the Knicks at that evening's game and speculating about the possibility of "scoring" some tickets for a game one of the next few weekends.

Before long they stood in front of the house -- small, unremarkable, and showing some age, although it appeared to be well cared for. They were not expected, having elected to just take their chances rather than call ahead. Their knock was answered in slow time, the opening door reveled an aged woman with grey hair tied up in a bun and wearing a stylish housedress. She was a pleasant looking woman and and bit stooped. Her hand trembled on the handle of a striking carved wooden cane with which she steadied herself. Her face held a welcoming, if somewhat puzzled smile.

"I'm sorry to bother you. We're Alex Scrofulas and Carl Rope. We were in a local history class with Mr. Long. Are you Mrs. Long?"

"Yes, I am. It's no bother. Please to meet you. How can I help you?"

"We were hoping to ask your husband some questions about this house and the neighborhood -- is he in?"

Not right now.What a shame you missed him! He loves to chat about local history. He's just gone to do some shopping and should be back in an hour or so. Perhaps you could come back. What is it, two now? He should be back by about three. I know he'll be happy to talk to you then."

She had a pleasant demeanor which seemed to match what the two men had appreciated in her husband.

They quickly agreed to return in an hour, took their leave and spent the time shopping for some hiking gear at a store about half a mile away for a trip they planned to take the next week.

When they returned, they rang the bell as a gusty wind whipped around them. The door this time was answered by the familiar (if somewhat surprised) Mr. Long.

"Oh, why it's Alex, isn't it? And, was it... Carl?" His mind was obviously searching back through some time when they had taken a course together.

"Yes, Mr. Long. It is, how are you?"

"I'm well, but your visit has caught me by surprise... But I don't mean to keep you on the doorstep. Come on in!"

"Yes, thanks," said Alex. "We were hoping we could chat for a few minutes about your house."

A few minutes later they were comfortably settled in the warm homely livingroom. The piano and tabletops held many photographs with loving care. In several of them was the happy smiling face of Mrs. Long which they recognised from their earlier visit.

They asked about the house and its construction using lumber from the old house built by Marble at Dungeon Rock in the Nineteenth Century. Much of the story was known to the two visitors but Alex was interested in any new details that Long could supply.

"Can you tell us, Mr. Long whether there have been any strange happenings in this house which might be associated with the Dungeon Rock legend -- or for that matter any strange things which can't easily be explained?

Long's eyes became averted and distant and his face became less sunny and more tense. The question hung there for several minutes like a blue cloud- silent, prescient and invasive. At length he replied.

"Well fellows, there may or may not be anything there. You have to understand that for someone my age to see something weird and then talk about it can cause other folks to start clucking and shaking their heads. Probably best not to go down those roads!"

Carl and Alex were both silent and Alex's eyes roamed the room as he considered whether to accept this dead end or not. He thought about the friendly face of Mrs. Long smiling in the many pictures, inviting them to return, holding out promise of a man who loved to talk about unusual local tales. As he considered his options he noticed Mrs. Long's wonderful cane propped up beside the piano.Perhaps she would have something to say about the house.

"Mr. Long, I just noticed your wife's cane. Perhaps she might like to join us?"

There was a pause. "Yes, that's my wife's cane but she won't be joining us She passed away seven years ago."

"No-that can't be! Then who was the woman who answered the door this afternoon with that cane in her hand?"

Long's face became rigid. "I don't know what you mean. There wasn't anyone here to answer the door. I live here alone and when I'm out the house is empty!"

Ten minutes later, the young men left, the final rays of the setting sun just barely caressing the two bent backs. Their heads were low against the the wind, their faces hidden in shadow. They didn't speak for several minutes.

The face on Dungeon Rock a mile away was also touched by the final rays of the sun. Its face was unchanged and it remained inscrutable, looking inward, looking away from the dying chilly afternoon, inward toward some secret only a few had glimpses of. And those who HAD glimpsed its secrets were only more perplexed by what they discovered.

Continue to the 2nd place story

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