The line of horror-seekers weaved into Harwood House. It was time to judge if the antebellum structure earned its Top-Ten Halloween Destination rating.
A crystal-chandelier shown light over a staircase, where the acting Master and Mistress Harwood greeted their guests. “Many believe All Hollow’s Eve to be a night of fear and sacrilege. For us, it’s another opportunity to celebrate friends—old and new.”
Simultaneously, the couple lifted feathered masks to their eyes, inviting, “Let the merrymaking begin.”
Sudden darkness descended, punctuated with shrill screams.
A green-glow drifted over the Harwood’s—their faces now charred to distortion. The Master—a macabre mixture of half-skeletal, half-seared-flesh—the Mistress’ grotesque femininity accented by the mask and jewels now melted to her burned features.
Still, they smiled.
“You, our Witching Hour guests, are greatly treasured and invited to share all our home can offer.”
Eerily, smoke rose from the floor. Fear and excitement mingled throughout the crowd, as a scene from Harwood House’s past came to life upon the wall of fog.
Happy couples in colorful attire danced, laughed, ate, and drank.
Anxiously awaiting the next scare, most onlookers missed the living memory’s slow spread. With ease, hazy revelers reached out, bringing new guests to join in the haunted gala.
Some of the untouched noticed, and began backing away.
Others were too enthralled to move.
All were unable to do more than gasp, as one dancer’s skirt, brushed over a festively lit jack-o-lantern.
The swirling material was like dry tinder, and flames engulfed the twirling couple.
Panic spread as fast as the fire, the nightmare-scene quickly becoming an inferno.
Smoke rolled from one world to another. Flames licked the edges of the vision until the different centuries fused in demise. The cries of pain-filled terror ebbed to a distant hum—the room slowly returned to calm. The scene faded, smoke dissolved.
All that remained was an acrid smell of singe and a greenish tint in the dark.
On the lawn, bloodcurdling screams serenaded departing guests, disappointed they’d missed another welcome into Harwood House—the hottest Halloween spot, year after year, century after century.