The Dead Have the Best Candy

by James Chambers

To be honest, I can’t say for certain whether or not the dead have the best candy. But, I know they can arrange for some nasty Halloween tricks. I learned that when I was five. That Halloween, I went as Superman in a single-piece costume that slipped on over my clothes and a cape that tied around my neck. I wore that costume on a regular basis for most of the year after that Halloween, until it wore down to threads in places, because I preferred being Superman to an ordinary first grader and wearing it kept a little bit of Halloween alive. I had a plastic jack o’ lantern bucket for candy and a friend from the neighborhood to walk door-to door with me. Our mothers trailed a little ways behind us.

We weren’t far into our route when we came to the quiet house.

Its inside front door was open, and through the open glass slats of the storm door, I saw brown carpet and a hallway full of shadows. A big bowl of candy sat on a table beside a stairway. My eyes settled there first, on the bowl, on the colorfully wrapped candy piled inside it. It was the best assortment we’d seen yet, an enormous stockpile of it, and I could almost taste the sugar and chocolate.

My friend and I ran up the front porch and rang the bell. Before the chime faded, I noticed the bottoms of the shoes.

They stuck out from the shadows, and the moment I saw them I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what. No one came to the answer the door and hand out candy. I leaned close to peek inside the house, and then I realized a woman was wearing the shoes. She was lying on her back on the floor, her legs sticking out alongside the candy table, and I glimpsed the edge of her dress, the rest of her hidden in the deeper shadows of the hallway.

I’m pretty sure my friend and I said “Trick or treat” then, thinking we needed to wake this lady up and get our candy. But the lady didn’t get up. She didn’t move.

The house seemed so damn quiet, still, and dark, like the air all around it had thickened and stopped moving, even muting the voices of the kids out trick-or-treating, that I knew—without knowing how I knew or what it meant—that the lady inside was dead.

Our mothers were waiting on the sidewalk, wondering what was holding us up. I walked down from the porch and told my mother I thought there was a dead lady inside. She thought I was joking. I made her go up the walk with me and look.

I was right.

I don’t know what my mom and my friend’s mother did after that. My friend and I were quickly ushered away to the next house, and we kept trick-or-treating. We were too young to really grasp what we’d experienced, and I think my mom was grateful for that. She did her best to downplay the whole incident. To this day, she doesn’t like to talk about it. I don’t know what happened to the lady in the house, but she was older, and I’ve always thought she probably had a heart attack or stroke in between handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. Of course, I never got my hands on any of the candy. But I’m pretty sure the whole experience had more than a little to do with my growing up to become a horror writer. Like I said, the dead know how to play some nasty tricks.

Welcome to the Horror Writers Association Halloween Haunts!

If you’re a horror writer or reader, this is the place to be for the next 30 days. We’ve lined up a daily dose of tricks and treats to celebrate Halloween, horror writing, and horror writers, to give folks everywhere a chance to see what some of the incredible people who belong to the HWA are up to. Throughout the month, we’ll be posting Halloween anecdotes and articles, commentary about the HWA, story excerpts, poetry, non-fiction excerpts, posts about the art and business of horror writing, and much more.

If you’re already a member of the HWA, we invite you to enter freely and of your own will to share some Halloween goodness and check out what your colleagues are up to. If you’re a horror writer or reader who isn’t a member of the HWA, then this blog will be a great place to learn about what’s happening with the group and why you should consider joining. Membership in the HWA has been rising steadily. With the recent addition of new Stoker categories for graphic novels and YA fiction, a new membership level (sponsoring member), and other changes, the HWA is staying dynamic to serve its membership. Information about joining can be found on our membership page, and to join, simply click on the “Join the HWA now!” button at the top of the page.

In the meantime, enjoy what’s coming. Several of this year’s Stoker Awards recipients have graciously pitched in to give us excerpts of their award-winning work as well as exclusive interviews, wherein they answer the dreaded “13th Question,” among others.

We’ll have plenty of treats on hand in the form of more than a dozen giveaways (starting today—scroll down!), including books, e-books, and an extra-special Halloween treat to be given away on October 31: A Nook e-reader, pre-loaded with a selection of novels by HWA authors, courtesy of Journalstone Publishing!

With posts and interviews from people such as Bruce Boston, Ellen Datlow, Gabreille Faust, Don D’Auria, Nancy Holder, John Hornor Jacobs, Jonathan Maberry and Janice Bashman, Nick Mamatas, Lisa Morton, Weston Ochse, Norman Prentiss, Anne K. Schwader, Matthew Warner, and many others, Halloween Haunts will be the scariest thing going on the Web this Halloween.

Many thanks are in order to Rocky Wood, who gave this crazy scheme his blessing and support; to Lisa Morton, who helped shape it and get things moving; and to Angel Leigh McCoy, whose incredible enthusiasm and dazzling Web-fu have made this all possible . Thanks are especially due to all the HWA members and Stoker recipients who took the time to write a post, share an excerpt, send some photos, or give us an interview. Happy Halloween to you all!

Today’s Giveaway

James Chambers is giving away one signed paperback edition of Resurrection House and one signed copy of The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales. To enter, post a message in the comments section below or e-mail memoutreach@horror.org.

Winners will be chosen at random. Contestants may enter once to be considered for all giveaways, but multiple entries are permitted.

James Chambers is the author of The Engines of Sacrifice, a collection of four novellas, which Publisher’s Weekly called “…poignant as well as deliciously creepy,” in a starred review. He is also the author of two short story collections, Resurrection House and The Midnight Hour: Saint Lawn Hill and Other Tales.

His tales of crime, horror, fantasy, and science fiction have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines, and he has written numerous comic book stories, including Leonard Nimoy’s Primortals and The Revenant in Shadow House. More information, stories, and excerpts are available on his website is JamesChambersOnline.com.

4 Responses to “The Dead Have the Best Candy”

  1. SharonS says:

    I look forward to a fun month!! Thanks:)

  2. David says:

    Can’t wait to settle into my new collection of horror!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Awesome idea! Will definitely be a spooky month now!

  4. Weston Ochse says:

    Nice way to start this out, James. Very good and creepy!