Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2000
High School Winners

First Place

Our first place winner in the High School category is ninth grader Hillary W. Steinbrook who attends the Marblehead High School. Ms. Steinbrook was a winner last year in the Middle School category.

The Trap Door
A Ghastly Halloween Tale

Hillary W. Steinbrook

The car trip from Marblehead, Massachusetts had been long, and Dad had underestimated the amount of gasoline that we needed for the journey. The gas gauge was dangerously low as we finally made it into the state of New York. The sun was setting in the overcast sky and it was getting very dark. I checked my watch - 8:00 PM. I had been cooped up in the stuffy Volvo station wagon for six hours of stop-and-go traffic. Suddenly, the old car started to sputter and wheeze like an old man with bronchitis. The vehicle stopped abruptly; we were stuck somewhere in New York and the car was out of gas. My family had been traveling to Queens to visit my grandmother for our semi-annual visit, but it looked as if we weren't going to make it. We all got out of the car, knowing that we had to stick together. My father snapped on a flashlight and we slowly made our way up a jagged stone walkway to the main entrance of the large, dimly lit house in front of which Dad had stopped the car. He lifted up the heavy gargoyle knocker and knocked once, twice, three times, and we waited. After what seemed like an eternity, we finally heard muffled footsteps. The large, wooden door creaked opened.

"Yes?" the old woman asked, wrapping a robe tightly around her small, hunched frame.

"We are out of gasoline. Our car is stuck in front of your house. We are very sorry to disturb you at this hour, but could we use your phone?" my mother inquired.

"I'm very sorry, dear, but my phones don't work. Those lazy repairmen don't have any respect for the elderly. You are, however, welcome to spend the night here."

My father hesitated. It was dangerous, but we were reluctant to spend the night in our car, which was still on the road. It was Halloween night, and I could see the bright, full moon shining through the clouds and almost-bare tree branches overhead. I am a person who believes in omens and seeing signs, and as a shiver ran through my body, I sensed that something bad was going to happen. It was, after all, quite warm outside - a regular Indian summer. Therefore, that shiver was not because I was cold. I tried to take a good look at the old woman's face - I had the ability to judge people by looking at their eyes. At a glance, she looked harmless enough, but I knew that under her grandmotherly demeanor, this was a woman who was best avoided.

Despite my quiet, but desperate, pleas and protests, my parents took our heavy suitcases out of the car and trudged back up the stone path to the front of the house. The old woman showed us to a dusty guestroom with two double beds. After making sure we were all right, she gently shut the door and went back to her bedroom to go to sleep, or so we thought. I did not change into my pajamas that night, so I could be ready to run if I needed to. My brother said I was being silly, and that I was taking the Halloween spirit much too far. I didn't think so, and my gut instinct was telling me to run. I couldn't flee, however, because my mother fell asleep as soon as her head hit the soft, stale pillow. It had been a long day, and she was exhausted. My parents shared a bed, and I unfortunately had to share a bed with my younger brother. I lay at the edge of the lumpy, old bed, scared out of my wits, jumping at each sound I heard. My father eventually fell asleep, and my mother began to snore. My brother was soon sound asleep, too - he could sleep anywhere and through anything. Lying in bed staring at the ceiling, I strained my ears for noises that sounded remotely human. A cat meowed loudly in the bushes below the cracked window and a dog howled forlornly. Suddenly, I thought I could hear someone talking downstairs. Quietly, I got out of bed and crept to the closed door. I pressed my ear to the moldy wood and listened, terrified:

"I'm telling you, Jane, they're upstairs sleeping. They are perfect for our next victims."

"Kay, don't be silly. There are four of them. That's too many at once."

"No, it's not! There are two of us!" Kay replied indignantly.

"Shhh!" Jane warned her. "Let's think this through carefully. We don't have much time." That was all I needed to hear. I panicked. Hyperventilating, I ran to the bed my parents were sharing and shook my dad.

"What? What is it?" he asked, startled.

Between gulps of air I told him. In the dark, I could not see his face, but I knew he must have looked aghast.

"Tiffany, we have to get out of here," he told me, as if I hadn't been thinking that all along.

"Wake up your brother. I'll pack up our things."

I shook Andy until I could get him awake enough to tell him what was going on. He jolted awake once he heard the word 'victim.' After pulling his clothes on, he and I hurried over to where our mother was still sound asleep. She was oblivious to the scheme that was being drafted just one floor below. Hoping that we couldn't be heard, we shook her until she finally awoke. After groggily asking what was going on and receiving our horrifying answer, she sprang into action, grabbing her clothes and all of our other things. We were soon packed, but we then were faced with another dilemma: How were we going to get out? We couldn't leave by using the door through which I had heard the news. That door led to the kitchen, where the two old crones had been plotting to do who-knew-what with us. As my brother was walking towards the window, he stumbled on something sticking up in the floor. I gingerly lifted up the small, dirty carpet to examine the offending object. To my surprise, it was the rusty door handle to a trap door! We had an escape route! Using all of my upper-body strength, I pulled the damp, rotting door open. My father shined the flashlight down the large hole. There was a steep set of stairs.

"What do you think is down there, Nathan?" my mother asked my dad.

"I don't know, but the only way we're going to find out is to go down there."

With flashlight in hand, my father cautiously descended the cobweb-covered steps. We all followed, several steps behind. To my relief, it led to a simple wine cellar, with a few broken glass bottles on tall racks by the bottom of the steps. However, the stench inside the cellar was unbearable; it didn't just smell like rotten grapes, it smelled like rotten flesh. As I looked around, my eyes adjusted quickly to the darkness. I saw, to my utter horror, a pile of pale, stiff corpses, covered with old, torn curtains. That harmless-looking old woman was a vampire! We darted around the damp cellar, looking for a way out. A large rat scurried across the dirty floor and I almost fainted. We finally found a small door after making our way through the labyrinth. My father opened the door to reveal a garage containing three cars.

"From her previous victims," my mother murmured.

"We need to get the car in here. From there, I can get gasoline from these cars to ours, and we can leave this ghastly house." my father said urgently.

Struggling, we pushed our car from the street into the garage. My father did as planned, and we hurriedly got into our vehicle. Just as we were pulling out of the evil hag's garage, she appeared in the cellar doorway, her mouth agape, her finger pointing accusingly, and her eyes opened wide. My father slammed his foot on the gas pedal and we sped out of the garage just as the large garage door slammed shut. I shuddered, knowing she had planned to crush the car under the door's weight. We sped away into the night towards the borough of Queens. As I learned that fateful night, and as you should have learned from reading this tale, always listen to your gut instinct. To the trick-or-treating children reading this story, only knock on the doors of well-lit houses. You never know who lives inside.

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