(Editor's note: A few of the readers who posted alternate endings for the Halloween Mystery also wrote their own submissions. Here are some of the best ones.)
Here's a finish:
As I walked along the darkened street, I felt as though something, or
someone was following behind me. With each and every step, I would turn
around, only to find that I was being followed by the mere darkness of the
night. It only seemed that I had taken just a few steps down the street
that I realized I had traveled further than I thought and was now standing
in front of the old lady's hauntingly darkened house. I was, by now, scared
out of my wits at the thought of approaching her home to look for Barnabas,
but knew I had to do just that.
I made my way down the leaf-covered drive, the presence that seemed to
have been following me out on the street was growing stronger. I was trying
to keep my composure and accept that I was only imagining this "feeling" and
needed to press on with my search. As luck would have it, once I reached
the house, my flashlight went out. It was as if the old lady herself had
turned it off on purpose to scare me away. Having no choice, I continued my
journey in the darkness, hoping to quickly find Barnabas and return to the
safety of my home.
The house gave off a feeling of almost being alive as I walked around it,
which was giving my imagination a good workout. When I had reached the back
of the home, I saw a faint light burning from within the basement as though
it was beckoning me to come inside. No matter how much I tried to fight it,
I just kept getting drawn in more and more. Much to my surprise, the back
door was unlocked and so I foolishly opened with much caution. As I made my
way into the home, I sensed that something was a miss and I was in for a
I found the door that led to the basement and it was as if I had once
again been drawn in to open it and go down the stairs. It seemed so cliché
that each wooden step I touched on the staircase would creak and crack as
though I was in a horror movie. When I made it to the bottom, the room was
still, with an uncanny silence that left me full of fear and anxiety. It
had a musty smell that goes with being an old basement and the appearance to
match. The light that had beckoned me to this place was coming from a
single candle, which looked as if it had been burning quite a while.
Once again, the presence that was haunting me since my journey began had
returned. I looked all around the room only to find that I was still alone,
or was I? Without hesitation, I took the candle to provide myself with a
guiding light and made my way through the darkness of the room toward the
stairs. By this time, I had realized that my search for that stubborn cat
had become a horrifying excursion to make it back to my home. Once I had
reached the stairs, my worst fears began to overcome me. Something in the
darkness startled me enough that I fell while trying to make my way up the
stairs. I dropped the candle I was holding and it extinguished upon impact
with the basement floor.
The key to my home had conviently dropped out of my pocket and landed
somewhere in the cold, dark basement below me. I was horrified, unable to
gather my thoughts and gain control of the situation. I ran up the stairs
as fast as possible and out the back door into the night. Before I could
make it to the front door of my home, I fell once again, only this time it
took a much bigger toll out on me. When I awoke, it was morning, and
somehow I found myself inside my home, in my own chair. Barnabas, to my
surprise, was in Tom's chair as though everything that happened last night
actually never did! I made my way to the outside to find that the tree limb
that had fallen was no longer there, but still intact on the tree! I went
back inside and stayed in my chair until Tom arrived and I explained the
whole thing to him. I felt as though something was still not quite right.
Was this a figment of my imagination that had taken over due to the fear I
had felt last night in my own home or was something more at work here?
As the days went by, I began to feel more and more that I had experienced
a very vivid dream and that I was silly in not acting my age about this
whole situation and should just put it behind me. I came home from work one
day the following week only to find an envelope laying on my front porch.
When I opened it, I fainted with fear! Inside it contained the key to my
home and a note that once I woke, read, "Thanks for the visit. Maybe you can
return again, say around Halloween! Oh, and bring your lovely cat as well!"
The idea: Her fear overcomes her so much, she appears to have imagined a
horrifying event, or did she?
Alyson Crawford, Evansville
At the end of the intro, the main character has a flashlight and pepper spray. Tom, the husband, is at work and rarely home. Possibly he will arrive late evening. The streets are dark so projected time will be around 7 pm or later. Main character is pursuing Barnabas, the orange cat (reference to Dark Shadows ‘Barnabas Collins’ [vampire]?). That’s another thing, main character’s age? Projected around mid 40s, just for possible allusion to Dark Shadows.
Note to B.J. Connor: Do you remember the old Dark Shadows TV soap opera? And did you have that in mind for Barnabas when you named him?
Okay! On with the suggestion(s)!
Those are simply my suggestions. The story is still yours and I am merely lending my ideas. Take and use what you choose, or what the voters decide, change anything else you think you could make better.
Elisa Midle, Evansville
The Ending of a Mystery
As I continued walking, my thoughts were confirmed when I saw a bright orange, bushy tailed creature scamper up the stairs of the old woman’s house. I shone my flashlight up the stairs to see where the little fur ball had gone, but all I was able to see was the front door slamming shut.
With much suspicion, I slowly climbed the creaking stairs and stepped onto the porch. I stopped for a minute to gather my nerves. Then, I approached the door and knocked lightly.
The door burst open, and I was face to face with a witch. The old woman was dressed from head to toe in stereotypical witch attire; black flowing cape, tall pointy hat, and I believe I saw a wart on the tip of her nose. “My dear, what are you doing out alone this close to the witching hour?”
“Well, my cat, Barnabas, ran away from my house. I am pretty sure I saw him come into your house,” I explained, being very nonchalant.
“I have no recollection of that, but you are more than welcome to come inside and take a look around, dear.”
“Thank you,” I said as I stepped inside the house. “I love your Halloween costume. I bet the Trick-or-Treaters do too.”
“Oh my dear, this is not really a costume. It’s more like a uniform. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No thank you. I am just trying to find my cat. I would not want to be a burden to you.”
“It is not a burden at all. In fact, I received the honor of best tea concoction in my Indiana Homemakers meeting last November. It’s a wonderful ginseng and ginger creation. Guaranteed to warm you soul. Continue looking. I will be right back.
I looked around the living room. I was very surprised to see that all of the furniture was covered with a fine blanket of cobwebs, as if no one had been there for many years. I began to wonder about this old woman who had been my neighbor for so long. I began to call for Barnabas, but did not hear or see any form of a reply. I looked behind an old overstuffed easy chair and found Barnabas and about twelve other cats drinking from milk saucers. The only weird thing I observed was that the milk had an eerie bluish tint to it.
“Here you are my dear,” said the old woman as she entered the room.
She handed me my teacup and recommended that we sit and chat until the storm let up. Not wanting to appear rude, I agreed. She quickly dusted off a spot on the couch for me and took her placed in the comfortable easy chair. I looked around the room and noticed that all the cobwebs had suddenly disappeared as a soft blue light filled to room.
As I lounged on the couch, sipping my tea, I felt a strong sleepy feeling come over my body. Then something attacked my lap. I looked down and saw Barnabas lying across my legs. I would have brushed him off my lap, but my body was so relaxed that I really did not care. The cat turned his head and looked at me.
“Hello, Linda. Glad that you could join us. I bet you do not remember me,” said Barnabas. “Remember a woman named Brenda Voegel. I believe she was your neighbor about six years ago.”
“Yes, I remember her. I heard that she died a year ago in a house fire,” I said, completely aware that I was talking to a cat, but my body was to relaxed to care. There was something funny in that tea. I was certain of it now.
The old woman chimed in now. “Precisely what I wanted people to think. Redheaded Brenda could not stop snooping around my territory. So when she found out my secret on All Hallows Eve last year, I turned her into an orange hair feline.”
“What secret is that?” I asked feverishly, not certain that I wanted an answer.
“My dear, I am a full blooded witch; gifted with powers unknown to any mortal on this planet. I feel sorry for you on two accounts. The first is that you had to follow your feline friend into my house. The second is that your brown hair will turn you into a dreaded black cat.”
Robert Wolf, Evansville
Well, to no surprise, that is exactly where I found that cat. Before I could get to him, he ran into an open basement window. I had no choice but to go and knock on her door and ask the witch to find my cat. I just hoped that I would be able to find him and get him out, both of us in one piece. I must have stood at the steps to the house several minutes, trying to convince myself that all was OK. Then I finally got the courage up, and told myself, this is just a silly story, this woman is probably just a little eccentric and would not harm a fly. I cautiously stepped up to the door and used the door knocker. It sounded like a large base drum. The sound of it made me jump back several steps and reconsider if this cat was worth all of this. Then ever so slowly, the door creaked open.... With no lights on there either, I saw the shadow of what I thought was that witch flowing in the blowing candlelight. I saw long thin fingers with long nails opening the door. I was just about to run when I heard the voice. It sounded like.....my grandmother...... telling ghost stories. When the voice calmed me to some extent, I was not as scared. The little old woman was just that, a little old woman who had also recently moved into the area. And of course with the way she dressed and looked, the rumor started up that she was the Witch Lady, and then all of our imaginations took over from there. She did in fact have a lot of cats, she worked for an cat adoption and protection agency. We talked over some spiced tea, and exchanged phone numbers so that we could keep each other company, she, because of no other family and me, because of my husband being gone quite often. Then all of a sudden the lights came back on, and I found out how beautiful this lady really was. As I was leaving, I thanked her for making me feel so much at home. She thanked me for not running from her and visiting her. I them promised to let everyone know that this was a beautiful person and encouraged the community to take her into their hearts and make her welcome in our town. I took Barnabas and went home, smiling at myself for letting rumors get to me. But then again this was Halloween, and aren't we supposed to be a little spooked?