Horror Writers Association

Halloween Haunts: Your Story Idea is Stupid by David B. Riley


“A mirror that drips blood? Really?”  That was the response an  editor of an anthology of horror stories gave me  after she read and rejected my submission.

Let’s go back a few years. I once worked at a haunted hotel.  The employees knew it was haunted.  Few of the guests did.  The company that owned the place didn’t seem to want any more publicity about it.  For that reason I will refrain from mentioning the property, save from the fact it is in Wyoming.

Back then I worked a lot of night shifts–We had a night porter, two security guards, and me for a typical night crew.  I worked the front desk and ran reports and such.  Needless to say, there was some chit chat that would occur as we tried to stave off the encroaching monsters called sleep and boredom that were always trying to tempt us from our appointed duties.

One night we got a new security guard. His name was Phil.  The other guys showed him around.  We all introduced ourselves.  He seemed like a good guy–an ordinary guy about my age just trying to make a living. Nothing unique or unusual about him. The next few nights were uneventful.  It was mid summer and the hotel was full every  night as tourists descended upon the greater Yellowstone  area.

heat_of_the_midday_coverThis was an older hotel with three stories and the choice of a modern elevator or go up and down a creaky wooden stairway. I mentioned it was haunted.  One way I already knew that was  I’d taken people up on the second floor of the old wing and they kept seeing a 1920s flapper.  They’d even given her a name–Matilda.  Other employees had reported seeing her as well.

But other things beside seeing a flapper ghost happened that summer. The security guards regularly photographed mysterious light orbs in the bar and dining room.  So, yeah, I was past the “Maybe this place is haunted phase.”  It was haunted and I’d accepted that, although why these entities seemed to live there was still something I hadn’t quite figured out. But they were there, nonetheless.

They say you never really believe in ghosts until you’ve seen one. But what’s a ghost and what’s something else that’s just scary or creepy?  Well, I know one manifestation that I think fit the bill and it, unfortunately involved our rookie security guard.

So, Phil had worked there for around a week. About halfway through his shift he came down to the lobby. He looked pale and was shaking all over.  He had to sit down and it was a few minutes before he could speak. He said he’d gone up to the second floor and there was a mirror dripping blood.

Well, that wasn’t quite what we expected.  He seemed perfectly sober.     Of course, the rest of us had to go immediately up and see this.  There was no mirror dripping blood.  In fact, there was no mirror of any kind in that hallway and never had been since any of us had worked there. It was just a quiet empty hotel hallway.

martian-anthology-covWe gave Phil some grief for the rest of the shift. I kind of wish now we’d taken it more seriously. He quit and left the next day. And I moved on to other things.

And that other thing was a Holiday Inn in Colorado.  One night I was talking to our general manager and it turned out he’d been manager of the same hotel in Wyoming a few years before I’d worked there.  I asked him if he’d ever had anything strange happen, then told him about the mirror.

He had a funny look on his face. Then he told me their night porter had gone upstairs one night and came down reporting a mirror dripping blood in the hallway, He quit on the spot and left. Of course there was no mirror back then, either.

Not scary enough? Two grown men fled in terror.

So, madam editor, you can reject my story because you don’t like it.  And it may not be believable, but perhaps you should try working in the hotel business a while.  I can suggest a nice place.

Today’s Giveaway: David is giving away one copy of Heat of the Midday Sun, which is weird western anthology, and a copy of the Martian Anthology.

David B. Riley is an Arizona author who writes horror, steampunk & science fiction. He has a blog at sftrails.blogspot.com .David is the author of over 100 short stories, four novels and the editor of seven horror anthologies. He also published Story Emporium: Purveyors of Steampunk & Weird Western Adventure.

Read an Excerpt from Heat of the Midday Sun.














2 comments on “Halloween Haunts: Your Story Idea is Stupid by David B. Riley

  1. I thought one of the whole points of horror as a genre was to show a funhouse mirror to our own fears and psychoses. Whether the editor believes in the bleeding mirror or not, it’s certainly effective as a symbol.

    Good post.

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