Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2001
Adult Winners

Third Place

Our third place winner in the Adult category is Margery Hunter of Saugus. Ms. Hunter was also a winner in last year's contest.

My Special Pumpkin

Margery Hunter

What do you call the greedy, evil, self-centered people who exist on this planet only for their own selfish reasons?

Karl Peterson was never known as a nice person. In fact, he was downright evil in his youth and never changed that way of life. When Karl was 9, his family bought him a puppy to see if this could fill the dark, empty hole in his chest where a heart should have been. In the winter of that year, the puppy was found tied to a tree and nearly frozen to death. Fortune did shine on the puppy however, because some passers-by just happened to be driving near the Peterson farm and spotted the yellow fur of the puppy huddled under a broken old tree. How could anyone be so cold and unsympathetic as Karl. Never a hello, never a wave, never a recognition that anyone else even existed, never a helping hand to anyone nor grateful for what he possessed. How did he sleep at night?

Maybe his mother ignored him growing up; maybe his father beat him. The questions were never answered. He went to school as little as possible. The townspeople knew very little of Karl's secluded world. Just a glint of life ever appeared on Karl's face and usually it was as he was counting his money from the sale of his corn and other crops. His eyes were mostly just slits that allowed only enough light in so that he could see where he was going. Evil narrow eyes they were; black as night and as uncaring as sharks' eyes. It was never actually proven or fully investigated as to the disappearance of Karl's parents when Karl was 18. It remains a mystery and the talk of the town to this day. Karl was now left alone just as he wanted - to count his money and live like a hermit on his land. When Karl ventured off the farm, he only bought what he needed and then went on his way. Karl was self-sufficient - no interaction, no pleasantries. Just a pimple on the world's behind!

While working out behind his house during the spring of this one year, Karl noticed something growing that he had not planted. Birds must have dropped the pumpkin seeds behind the old weather-beaten shed that had missing boards and a rotten roof. On the day Karl discovered the growing plant, he was furious at first. He went to get his shovel to dig it up and dispose of it. As he was about to snuff out the plant's life, a strong wind came by that nearly knocked him over. The wind also caught a page from a tattered local newspaper and blew it right to Karl's feet. There before him was a notice that the local county fair was going to hold the annual pumpkin weighing contest on October 31st. He never, ever contemplated entering any contest. That would subject him to be out in the public more than he could tolerate. "What a stoke of luck," Karl thought. Here he finds a strange pumpkin growing where he did not plant it and that was followed by the eerie sequence that brought the news of the contest to him. "Must be fate," Karl said to himself as he decided to fill out the required entrance form and put it in his mailbox at the end of his road. The postman would surely take the entry form from his mailbox the next day. A chill crossed Karl's chest and ran right up through his head. "Why would anything good happen to me?" Karl questioned. This plant, Karl imagined, must be his sign that he deserved this pumpkin and the prize for having the biggest jack-o-lantern.

Karl thought how fortunate for him that a stupid bird would leave its droppings on his property only to give him a gift of that fabulous jack-o-lantern that was beginning to take shape in the garden. "No sense letting the pumpkin go to waste. I might as well take a chance at winning the money as a prize for the best and biggest pumpkin in the area. I think I will call my pumpkin Jack!"

Karl went on about his business of growing his corn, beans and other crops and didn't notice the pumpkin tendrils were growing out of control, sometimes as much as a foot a day. He didn't notice that the roots of the pumpkin were deeper than ordinary - more likely than not, the roots came from deep in the ground, probably from the bowels of Hell. He didn't notice that the shed was slowly being covered with the massive leaves of the pumpkin. He didn't notice the plant was growing closer and closer to his house. What he did notice though was that the once "baby" pumpkin was gaining weight daily and it was looking more like the contest money would be his. "Good growing, Jack," Karl encouraged.

Karl didn't think that it was strange that the small animals didn't show up anymore. Instead he thought, "Just as well. More time to tend to my creation." Karl was usually scaring the birds and squirrels away so that they did not eat any of his crops. Karl also didn't notice that butterflies or bees didn't come near his property either. Karl only saw the pumpkin growing bigger each day, counting his winnings over and over in his head. His wild thoughts grew more maniacal. Greed can warp a man's mind and Karl had a warped mind all right!

A couple of weeks before the county fair, strange weather took its toll on Karl's farm. Since Karl's farm was secluded from his so-called intrusive neighbors, he didn't think twice about how odd the weather really was. When it rained, it was very near hurricane conditions. The vegetables and other cold-weather crops were seriously being beaten by the wind and battered by the unusually hard rain. Karl still thought everything was all right as long as his ever-enlarging jack-o-lantern was safe and thriving. And the pumpkin was surviving. As a matter of fact, the pumpkin was flourishing and much to Karl's surprise, the pumpkin appeared to be assuming the features of a face - the kind of face that children carve in pumpkins just before Halloween. Strange, Karl thought as he moved some of the leaves aside to get a better look. Yep, there he saw the nose and the eyes in perfect triangle shapes and the uneven toothy grin seemed to be looking a bit menacing. "My imagination," Karl thought, even after he dismissed the low growling moan he thought he heard. "Hummmm. Must be the wind." Karl mumbled. "Keep up the good work, Jack," Karl would say every evening before retiring to his house.

The date of the fair was closing in on Karl, so he knew he had to start thinking of a way to load the massive pumpkin onto his truck. With a huge array of ropes and pulleys, and quite a bit of sweat, Karl figured out how he would manage to load the ungainly pumpkin on the truck and secure it with the ropes. "Saturday will be my day!" said Karl as he ate his dinner in his gloomy, rundown kitchen inside the house that had now been totally covered by monstrous leaves and tendrils. It was just as if Jack were reaching out to conquer Karl's world.

Suddenly, Karl's attention was drawn to a rustle outside near his truck. Karl ran to get his axe in case the neighborhood kids were trying to harass him and his property, as they liked to do this time of year - it's near Halloween you know. Once in the driveway, Karl didn't see any kids or animals but did hear someone calling to him is low, gruff voice that sounded like it was muffled with a pillow. "Karl, Karl," the voice whispered. "It is time to get what is due to you," said the voice. "Who's there and what do you mean it's time to get what is due to me?" said Karl. "It's time to get what you deserve," said the voice again. "Where are you and come out and face me," Karl shouted. The voice did not return but the loud rustling started again. Slowly the tendrils of the pumpkin plant began coiling up Karl's legs. Karl struggled to get himself free, but the tendrils, which had grown to be 3 inches thick, were more than Karl could push off. The axe that Karl was holding was being pulled from his hands at the same moment the tendrils surrounded Karl's waist and throat and began to tighten. "How can this be happening! It's only a pumpkin! Jack, Jack!" gurgled Karl as the suffocating pain reached his head. One loud last flurry of pumpkin leaves then the tendrils enveloped Karl. The disbelief and pain were short-lived because Karl was no longer outside the truck. Karl was inside the pumpkin now, along with all the remaining pieces of bone and fur of the little animals that ventured too near while the plant was growing. Just as Karl had suspected, there was a menacing face on the pumpkin - the face of evil. Karl got what he deserved!

The townspeople were surprised that Karl did not show up for the pumpkin-weighing contest, as they received his entry form with the words, "The memory of my pumpkin will live forever in this town!" Karl's words were never truer.

So, what do you call the greedy, evil, self-centered people who exist on this planet only for their own selfish reasons?


Continue to the 2nd place story

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