Halloween Ghost Story Contest -- 2003
Adult Winners

Third Place

Our third place Adult winner is Mary Ann Back of Mason, OH. Ms. Back writes fiction for both children and adults. Her publications include poetry (including Friendship and Times That You Forgot) as well as short stories (including Francis W. Edgarton III).

Rose Hill Plantation

Mary Ann Back

St. Francisville, Louisiana,

October 30, 1825

"What the hell is it old woman? What could be so important that you find it appropriate to interrupt me?" Beauregard Deveraux spun toward Mama Odette, the large, elderly slave who sought his attention. They stared eye to eye. Spittle flew from his mouth as he bellowed.

Mama raised her chin never taking her eyes from his. "I'd like a word sir."

"You'd like a word - with me?"

"Sir, my baby, Callia, she showed me a dress she say  came from you. Says you want her to wear it to the Halloween ball tomorrow. Beg your pardon sir but that ain't - proper."

"It isn't proper? She's educated and well mannered because of my kindness. I'll clothe my slaves as I see fit. You should show more appreciation for my charity, you insolent hag!"

“Monsieur you and I both knows that dress ain't gonna be free. She's sixteen, a baby sir. Let her be!" Mama's eyes bored straight into his skull.

"You impudent bitch, how dare you!" The blow from his fist knocked out her two front teeth and threw her barely conscious to the ground. He dragged her to the stables, tied her hands with a horse lead and suspended her from the rafters. He tore the back of her dress to expose her flesh and proceeded to flay the skin from her back strip by bloody strip. His arms burned violently, his breath coming in ragged gasps as he tore her skin over and over. With each crack of the whip her blood stained both the stable floor and his clothes in a progressively macabre design. He was winded but his words were clear. "She'll wear that dress you pathetic cow and she'll be my whore too if I say so! Did you really think you could stop me?" When he finished, he cut her down and left her body lie in a pile of horse dung.

Sobbing, Callia retrieved her Mama and rubbed salve into her wounds. When morning came, Callia slipped quietly off to the plantation house to prepare breakfast. Moving ever so slowly, Mama put her cauldron on the fire. One by one she added her ingredients chanting slowly as she brewed her potion When she finished, she dipped one finger into the brew and carefully wiped it on the face of a small doll, whispering these words, "The devil's hate be in your heart, the devil's eyes be in your head. Soon all shall see as I can see, not mortal man but ghoul instead." She tucked the doll away. When Callia returned, she asked what was in the cauldron. Mama's smile was taut and her eyes glazed when she answered, "Herbs baby, just herbs."

The plantation buzzed with preparation for the ball. Even the servants were dressed in relative finery.

Callia crept from her room with tearful downcast eyes wearing the ruby gown; the gown that had cost her Mama so dearly. "I'm sorry Mama. I must wear the gown. I'm afraid of him. Can you understand? I'm not as strong as you."

"Your time is near child, closer than you think. You be strong and powerful you just doesn't know it yet. Here baby, let's tuck this pretty white flower right here." Mama placed it in the cleavage of the ruby gown.

Callia paled, her voice quivering, "It's oleander isn't it?' She had seen oleander on Mama's herb shelf only once. It was very strong gris gris. A shiver crawled up her spine when she found the courage to ask, "Mama why did you choose the oleander?"

"It be a beautiful flower for a beautiful girl, a flower with many uses. When the time come you know what to do. You keep that tucked there tonight - you do that for Mama Odette. I be there when you needs me. Now, go on to the ball."

The guests arrived masked and costumed in magnificent splendor. The women were preening and vying for Beau's attention despite the fact that he was wearing a hideous mask. Its face was distorted; its texture far removed from that of human flesh. Two horns adorned the top creating a look of evil royalty.

He and his guests drank incessantly and the ball descended into a night of sheer debauchery as the inebriated men became rabid wolves stalking their tipsy female prey. Beau paid little attention to Callia with such a bountiful supply of beautiful women at his disposal. Had he noticed, her he would have observed her faithfully serving the guests with a forged smile and vacant stare.

He ordered a round of champagne. While the other servants filled the glasses of the guests, Callia went to the kitchen to prepare his goblet herself. She chanted quietly as she did so under the watchful guidance of Mama and served it to him on a silver tray. He gulped the champagne, head back, his vision swimming from intoxication. Looking at Callia, he noticed that the beautiful flower she had been wearing in her delicious cleavage was no longer there.

When the grandfather clock in the foyer chimed midnight, Beau and all his guests removed their masks in unison. Laughter abounded as each confirmed the true identity of the other. Beau was dizzy, feeling ill, and confused that all the laughter seemed to be redirected toward him.

"Beau, please you've scared these beautiful ladies long enough tonight! Take that hideous mask off," roared one of the gents.

"Yes, please dear Beau! It's a shame to hide your handsome face behind such a vile mask. I beg you, please remove it!" simpered one of the ladies.

"But it is off! Look it's me you see - not the mask," he insisted as he moved his hands to touch his face. He failed to find the smooth refined features that had been his; instead, he found the distorted fiendish features of Satan himself! Horrified, he jerked his hands away and saw the mask he had removed hanging on the banister where he had placed it. One terrifying glance in the mirror confirmed his demonic appearance. Gripped by dizziness and nausea, he lunged to the balcony for fresh air only to see Mama and Callia fleeing across the grounds. Twisted with excruciating pain, he tore across the grounds and found the two, hands joined, in the cemetery. "What have you done to me, what have you done?" he cried. "Is it not clear to you Monsieur? Mama's spell has allowed all to see you as the devil you are. Your handsome face is forever gone." Callia's childish petulance had been replaced by righteous vengeance.

"You ignorant savage Idon't believe in Voodoo, tell me the truth!"

"I speak only the truth. Perhaps you'll be comforted to know that your face, though gruesome, is the lesser of your misfortunes and will soon be of little consequence to you. Your death will see to that. The agony you suffer is the affect of the ground oleander I placed in your champagne. I assure you it is very lethal. Your heart will stop and you will be dead soon; but not before you learn your eternal fate."

Writhing in pain he fell to his knees. Keening in an inhuman voice he shrieked, "You miserable witch, you'll never get away with this!"

Callia smiled with angelic innocence, stooped to his ear and whispered, "Ah, but we all ready have. Your body will be found tomorrow lying here in unhallowed ground where it belongs."

Mama stepped forward, folded her massive arms across her chest, rolled back her eyes and tilted her face to the moon as she called upon a higher power. Energy surged from her body in a brilliant array of tiny tendrils that electrified the night sky. When she rejoined hands with Callia the sky above Rose Hill glowed with the brightness of the midday sun. Mama stretched her free hand to the heavens then threw it down with vengeance summoning a bolt of lightening that struck the ground nearby. The earth shook violently rolling, rumbling and collapsing in a very precise configuration: that of a perfectly dug grave. Mama turned to Beau and asked, "Does you still not believe?"

He cowered under the gnarled oak sniveling, seemingly unaware that his sphincter had relaxed spilling urine on his exquisitely tailored pants. He was getting weaker and did not recognize his own voice as he pleaded for his life, "1 believe! 1 believe! 1 really do, please stop, 1 don't want to die! Please!" The poison had nearly run its course; the pain was all consuming and blood was frothing at the corners of his mouth.

Mama stretched forth her hand as though beckoning him. His body levitated several inches and silently floated to the foot of the freshly dug grave. She swept her hands around her in every direction and cried aloud, "Rise children, rise! Mama Odette wakes you from your sleep! Rise now, I command it!"

The air appeared to move but it was only the shadows of the dead as they migrated through the dirt and into the world above where they transformed into spectral silhouettes Their features, hair and clothing were all intact, as though they might have died only moments earlier.

Mama stove her finger into Beau's face screaming, "Look at the dead, look at them! Does you recognize them? Look at them!"

Though his eyes had difficulty focusing he was able to see what Mama wanted him to see; the faces of all the dead slaves he had killed, maimed and abused. The dead pushed forward slowly surrounding him and forcing him to the edge of the grave.

Mama stared coldly into Beau's eyes as she spoke. "You barely breathing, you be dead soon, but I ain't done with you just yet. Listen hard boy and you be thinking on this as you die. Every year on this date, till the end of all time, you will rise from your grave just like they did tonight. But you won't be alone; they be with you, I be with you, Callia too. And we all gonna live this night over and over and over again. Each time you gonna lose that pretty face of yours, you gonna writhe in agony, you gonna beg for your miserable life, you gonna taste the blood bubbling in your mouth, and then you gonna die. And when you do, they gonna rip your soul right out of your body and give it to the devil himself. That be what's coming next."

And so, as Beau drew his last breath, the legion of the dead descended upon him tearing his malignant soul from his body. They delivered it into the hands of the Prince of Darkness, and tossed his mangled body into the grave.

Mama smiled upon the dead and spoke lovingly to them, "You did well children, very well. Go back to sleep now, rest your weary bones. Come to me when I call you and you will enjoy the sweetness of revenge for all eternity!"

Once more the air appeared to move as the shadows of the dead returned to the earth. They would sleep until Mama summoned them again.


So ends the story of the legion of the dead, who would do anything for their beloved Mama Odette. But it isn't really over yet, is it? Tonight is the night that the dead of Rose Hill awaken and do unspeakable things. Sometimes on Halloween folks think they catch a glimpse of the old plantation house from the comer of their eye and swear they see lights in the windows; or if the wind is right, they might think they hear the soft strains of music or muffled laughter coming from the ballroom. But that cannot be for the house no longer exists; it burned to the ground over one hundred years ago.

Come - it is time for us to leave Rose Hill. Soon the dead will rise again to relive that heinous night. Trespassers are not welcome. The dead prefer to walk alone.

Continue to the 2nd place story

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