Halloween Haunts: The Halloween Party Guest
by R.A. Stafne
Sometimes Halloween plans just don’t work out. Indeed, they sometimes fall completely apart. This does not necessarily mean that Halloween won’t end up being scary and memorable, for that is just what happened to my husband and me one October 31.
We invited a couple dozen folks to attend our Halloween party. Oftentimes in a new town, especially a small town, making friends with people to invite to a Halloween party can be difficult. Thus, as in previous years, we found ourselves inviting a few people we didn’t know very well.
One invitee in particular was an older gentleman we had met a year and a half earlier at a local establishment where patrons gathered once a month for live music and microbrews. In fact, this sturdy man with long grey hair and a wiry beard had attended our ghoulish gathering the year prior. There had been a few small, odd occurrences, but we overlooked them. Not surprisingly, we hadn’t seen this guest, or most of the others, more than once since Halloween.
Unfortunately, on October 30, with a Halloween forecast of 100% chance of severe storms all day and night, we made the gut-wrenching decision to cancel our event. Feeling defeated in our efforts to bring Halloween joy, we decided to offer refreshments and a scary movie to a few folks. I contacted two couples who had previously attended. Four guests, plus us, seemed doable. One couple replied “yes” and the other “maybe”.
Later that afternoon, the man we didn’t know very well called to convey his disappointment in our party cancellation. He had several alternate ideas for how we could celebrate. I politely declined. He persisted. Eventually, I threw him a bone, saying I would mention one of his ideas to my husband when he returned from work. I felt sorry for him, so after speaking to my husband, I texted the man that maybe one or two couples might come over to watch a movie with us Saturday evening, concluding with “let us know if you want to stop by” and “we’ll see you another time”. He never responded. Relieved, I felt good about letting him down gently.
October 31 arrived with a BOO. We were thankful we chose to cancel our Halloween party. Not only did we have severe storms, but the National Weather Service issued a tornado warning for our town and we remained under a tornado watch nearly all day. Our yard was flooded. Everything was soggy and wet; branches and leaves were everywhere. The couple who was going to come over called and cancelled-the weather was too poor. We agreed. I texted the other couple to let them know all secondary plans were off because of the awful weather. They understood.
Halloween was ours and ours alone. We changed into Halloween pajamas, lit our jack-o-lanterns, put an Alice Cooper concert video on the television, curled up on the sofa with our dachshunds, and began snacking on food and beverages I had prepared for the party. With the wicked weather outside, it was the perfect ambience for this sort of evening.
Fatefully, at 8 p.m., my phone began playing the theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween-my chosen ringtone for the spirited season. I received a text message with only a photo, no words. The image was of a greyish, animal-shaped food item on a tray? Bizarre. The text message was from the older man. The man who never responded the previous day. The man who lived about 45 minutes away. I replied, “Funny! We are hunkered down after the storms. No one is coming over because of the tornado/flooding.”
Without giving it another thought, I placed my phone over on the table. We went back to watching our second selection; a DVD movie: Halloween II. All quiet except for rain. No trick-or-treaters. No one in their right mind would be going out in this weather, not even for free candy.
My phone went off again with the Halloween ringtone. I considered ignoring it. I looked at my husband. He paused the movie. The man had responded, “Sorry, I’m on my way.” Mouth agape, I showed my husband the phone and exclaimed, “What the hell?!” He rolled his eyes and said, “He’s not serious.” He restarted the movie. I replied with a text that read “Ha good trick, we are in bed watching a movie”. I turned my phone over.
Rapidly all of the “odd” things that happened with this man the previous year came flooding back into my mind and I reminded my husband. “Do you remember how he showed up at our house the week before the party last year with a bunch of clearance items from the dollar store?” He nodded. “You know he lives alone.” “Do you remember how the week before the party he decided he needed to sleep at our house and would crash on our couch?” My husband nodded. “Do you remember how long after the party was over and all the guests were gone, he just kept standing around the kitchen, talking to us, dead on our feet, until 3:30 a.m.?” I paused. “And when we said we were going to bed, then he decided he was going to drive home, after I’d already prepared his bed on the couch?” “Yes,” my husband replied slowly. “But do you remember that when the three of us were alone in the house and you went upstairs, he requested me to follow him into the guest bathroom to help him remove some of his clothes?” “I forgot that,” my husband replied.
We returned to watching Laurie Strode battle Michael Myers. Fifteen to twenty minutes went by. My phone went off again. I groaned, rolling my eyes. I felt a little sick and annoyed when I reached for my phone and typed in my passcode. Please let it be my Mother, I thought. It was the man. Again. He replied “I’ll be there in 20 minutes” or something to that effect. My anxiety went from 0 to 60 in five seconds. I handed my husband the phone. Were the texts in real time? Reception with our cellular carrier was terrible. Sometimes we didn’t receive texts for a whole day which is why we gave everyone our home telephone number.
Freaking out, I stood up and shook my head. My husband was irritated. He restarted the movie. My heart was racing. Excitedly, I told him, “Look, we need to decide what to do, because he won’t leave when he gets here or he’s going to try and talk us into going to a bar (one of several ideas he had pitched).” Silence. “It’s going to get awkward very quickly,” I added, “so, unless you want him staying here all night like last year, or you feel like getting costumed and going to a bar, then we need to shut off the lights and go upstairs.” My husband replied to me “What kind of a person gets a text that you are in bed and then shows up?” I felt he was in denial. He felt I was overreacting.
Earnestly, my husband tried to get me to sit back down, relax, and eat. We had just started a new movie, Halloween H20-which seemed more like Halloween H2O on that day. However, I couldn’t eat. My stomach was knotted. I felt sick. My brain was racing. I could literally feel the clock counting down to an impending disaster at our own front door. I continued on, elaborating, “I don’t know for sure, but I think he’s coming for real. I don’t think this is a joke. He’s serious and we need to get prepared!” Finally, my husband gave up. Together we shut off the lights, unplugged Halloween decorations, blew out candles, locked the doors, and went upstairs with the dogs, a lit jack-o-lantern, and our DVD. We quietly climbed into bed and turned on the tv.
My husband re-started Halloween H20. We barely had time to pull the covers up when I received two text messages at once. The messages themselves made worse by the Halloween movie-themed ringtone which seemed to be setting the mood for some quickly unfolding horror. I thought, “Oh, God, no!” They were from the man. The first one read, “Be there in 5 min.” and horrifically, the next one read “I’m here are you going to let me in?” I whispered, “What the hell?!” How long had it been since he had sent them? I was scared. I quickly silenced my cell phone. I placed my finger to my lips and mouthed to my husband, “Shh”. I motioned for him to keep the dogs quiet on the bed. My hands shaking, I replied once more. “Dude, are you serious? We’re in bed. Had a bad day. We’re going to sleep when the movie is over”.
My heart was beating loudly. I wanted to vomit. We were straining to hear any unusual noise coming from outside. We didn’t hear any vehicles. We didn’t hear the doorbell or anyone knocking. Even our security cam was not alerting us that someone was on the front porch. Where was he? Which door? We had four doors that accessed our home. Were they all locked? Minutes passed. We waited. My cell phone alerted again. The man replied back “Okay, I’ll leave.” I quietly read it aloud and then looked over at my husband. All we could think was “Please, go away!” Suddenly, we hear a big truck engine start near our driveway. It was difficult to determine, as we had no windows on that side of our home. We listened to a truck take off and drive down the road. Looking at each other with shock and a bit of fear, we whispered back and forth, “WTF dude”, “Was he in our driveway?!”, “and for how long???”, “Or maybe it was the neighbor’s truck??”, “Did he make it to our front porch and peek in the windows??”, “Is he sitting out there right now waiting for me to respond?” We didn’t know. We’ll never know. We don’t want to know.
I did not reply to the final message. We laid there in silence for what seemed like an eternity. The movie was still playing, but we weren’t really watching it as much as we were living it. We both had a headache. The whole affair ruined our night. Completely forgetting beforehand, I asked my husband to set the house alarm. All sorts of things ran through my mind. How well did we know this man? Why didn’t he respond the day before? Why did he continue driving to our house after we protested? Was he drunk? Why couldn’t he take a hint? What if he’d be drinking and would “sleep it off” out in our driveway? I was scared to look at the bedroom doorway, afraid I’d look up and he’d be standing there like Michael Myers. I could not believe what happened with this Halloween party guest.
The house phone rang. We nearly jumped out of our skins. Was the man calling the landline? I imagined a policeman saying “Ma’am, the call is coming from inside the house.” I looked at the phone and was relieved to see my Mother’s phone number on the Caller ID. She wanted to know if our friends were there, how the tornado warning went, and update me on the trick-or-treaters who had visited her home. Nervously, I recounted the entire evening. Some part of me was afraid the guest was still standing on our porch or on our patio, waiting, and would somehow hear my conversation, so I whispered. Afterward, I hung up the phone, turned out my table light, rolled over to the wall, and tried to sleep. Halloween was ruined.
Undoubtedly, it was the craziest thing to ever happen to us on Halloween. Be careful who you invite over for a Halloween party, but I guess at Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: R.A. Stafne is a Certified Professional Horticulturist and a freelance garden writer working on a non-fiction Halloween book. Her first book on Halloween, in 4th grade, “Bat, Bat What Do You See?” was a riff on “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”; but it sparked a fire that led to her attending the Young Author’s Conference in Springfield, MO. A confirmed Halloweenophile since childhood, this professional scientist gets her kicks out of celebrating all that is Halloween year-round. She lives and writes in a modern Victorian home which she tries to keep as creepy as possible. When not writing, Stafne works alongside her Hallo-wieners maintaining a ghoulie garden and landscape. The mail lady recently commented, “Ya’ll live in the spookiest house in the whole neighborhood!”
Ghouls and Ghoulies can socialize with R.A. Stafne at