It's the night of Halloween, and there is a huge Carnival at the town-square. Carey and her friends are sitting off to one side after some trick-or-treating, watching everything going on. It's really crowded and nearly every person in sight is dressed up in costumes of some sort, the assortment of colors dance and shift in the dim lights. Carey's small group of friends are trying to think of something to do next.
"Jeez, I'm so bored." Annie complained, digging around in her bag of candies.
"Well, we could go on one of the rides again." Carey suggested.
A groan swept over the four friends. They had already been on every ride as many times as their stomachs would permit.
A long silvence.
"Hey! I know!" Bell exclaimed, nearly knocking Annie off her precarious perch on a side rail. "What about that creepy old stone house down on Caroway street?"
That caught everyone's attention and they shot her a warning look.
Bernie laughed nervously. "Ah, I don't think so Bell, that place is really creepy! My brother says it's even haunted!"
"Kids stories!" Bell scoffed. "C'mon guys! Can you think of anything better to do? We don't even have to go in, I'll tell you the story behind the Caroway Mansion!"
"Can't you tell us here?" Annie whined.
"And ruin the whole effect!? You've gotta be kidding! Besides, can any of you come up with something better to do? Don't' tell me you're scared of those silly old stories!"
Silence, then slowly everyone shook their heads in resignation.
"Well, I guess it's worth a look…" Carey said cautiously.
"Carey - are you sure?" Annie asked doubtfully, tucking her bag away.
"Well, come on then! " Bell was already leaving.
About half an hour later they were all grouped outside the forbidding black iron gates of the infamous Caroway Mansion. The huge stone house loomed above them, darker than night and deathly silent. Nothing moved, nothing gave off any appearance of life.
"It looks so threatening at night." Annie shivered.
"And so lonely." Bernie whispered in a haunted voice. "The town-square is a long walk from here." She glanced nervously over her shoulder, back at the way they'd come. The street was empty. Not a single trick-or-treater threatened the eerie silence.
Bell perched herself on the sidewalk, her face serious. "Story has it this place was once owned by a rich man named James Caroway. He was a nice guy, young, well known. His family got rich by a stroke of good luck in the wine business. Anyway, this James Caroway guy, who was like in his twenties or so, he fell in love with the town beauty, Laurana, with hair as gold as the sun and azure eyes that looked like they were cut from the same cloth as that of the summer sky itself. They were so much in love they eventually decided to get married."
"Sounds so typical." Casey laughed, but quieted down from the look Bernie, who was wrapped up in the story, shot her.
Bell just ignored them and continued the story with a far off look in her eyes and a voice so quiet they had to move closer to hear her. "Well Caroway's best friend had once been in love with James' fiancée and was a very ambitious sort. James' best friend, who was called Henry, thought up this really ingenious and twisted murder plan which he wrote in a letter to Laurana.. Well anyway, Henry had become very close to the couple, they were all really close friends. One night Henry told James to meet him in the cellar. The cellar used to be something like a dungeon so it was really damp and had chains everywhere. It was a real cavelike cellar, you know the kind I mean? Anyway, he wanted to talk to James about these wine kegs he had brought down there. So James went down and he and Henry were talking. Henry went upstairs to look for Laurana so James was left down there alone. Suddenly, while he was shifting some things around he just happened to bump into one of these gargoyle-like decorations on a wall. It swung open to reveal a hidden room.
"It was all made up, cozy, with lit torches in the wall scones and a desk. There was this old box that was right on top of the desk. Curious, James opened it and saw these letters of this terrible plan to murder him and take over his family business. He was crushed, and all the more when he recognized the writing as Henry's and the beautiful penmanship of Laurana. Just then Henry and Laurana, who was carrying a tray of wine glasses, came down. She was glowing in her beauty but there seemed to be something she wanted to tell him,
"Now, James was a really nice guy, he wasn't the kind of person who seeks revenge over everything, but unfortunately he wasn't very thorough in things. Well after he saw these pages, he confronted his wife and Henry with the letters.
"As you can imagine, James was really upset and no doubt feeling betrayed. They got into an argument and Henry and Laurana tried to explain. But James wouldn't believe any of it, he shoved Henry in the heat of it all, who fell over one of the kegs, splitting it open and knocking over the glasses which Laurana had put down when it all began. I guess James lost all sense, went insane. In his delirium, he grabbed this old iron fire poker which happened to be down there with a bunch of other old stuff and charges Henry! Well, Henry had a bit of trouble getting back up and meanwhile James is preparing to impale his best friend.
"Laurana, frightened and crying, was trying to talk some sense into her enraged fiancee. She tried to stop him and, well, got in the way." She paused, her voice hushed.
"Time seemed to freeze for a moment, and then, Laurana crumpled to the ground. You can guess what happened. James catches her, hysterical realizing what he did. Laurana just looked at him - eyes wide with pain and full of love - and told him that she had never loved anyone in her life more than him, and their child she was with. She died in his arms, there in the gloomy cellar. As for Henry, he had recovered from his topple and told James in the shocked silence, that he and Laurana were working on a book together. They were planning on telling him as well as the news that Laurana was indeed, pregnant. Almost as an afterthought, Henry mentioned he was planning on proposing a partnership with James.
"Now, James was proud and cared much for what people thought of him so he tried to stop Henry from going to find the police but Henry left anyway, saying he didn't know who James was anymore."
A strained silence spread over the four.
"What happened?" Carey whispered.
Bell sighed. "James was - I don't know how to describe it - distraught, out of his mind with guilt and grief. Some say he hung himself right there on the spot with these chains from the walls.
"But it doesn't end there, when Henry went back to the house with two police officers, they found James had hung himself with chains, Laurana lying in state on the ground below him. Supposedly when Henry and the police entered the room the panel slid shut behind them. Sealing them and the secret of what happened that night away.
"To this day, you can hear the sound of chains banging, moans and sobbing, even glass colliding with stone. Some have heard the blood curdling screams of people and raised voices of a heated argument. Eventually, the walls opened again, no one knows how or why. The few people who went in came out with their sanity hanging by a tenuous thread. What's more, when a large team of villagers finally went in, they didn't find any bodies - not even the bones. In fact no one would believe it if they hadn't found the box of letters and a mysterious account of that night written in the beautiful penmanship of a young woman.
"They say there's still that room which isn't hidden anymore and that the ghost of James Caroway stalks the halls, his soul condemned to eternity repeating the betrayal and then the pain of that night. Laurana, in her radiant whites, and Henry, laughing with her, work in the cellar on the book that will never be finished, waiting for James to break the cycle. Supposedly, he tries night after night to apologize to them - but he can't, his pride gets in the way and they can't hear or see him, and the wine from Henry's casks run crimson as blood."
They sat there a moment longer in silence.
After a long pause. "Crazy ghost stories." Annie scoffed. "Let's go."
Bell just shrugged and the quartet set off for the Carnival again, shaking off the eerie feeling left from the story.
It wasn't until after they had left that that faint murmur of voices filled the air, harmonizing with the shrill chatter of chains. Somewhere in the mansion cellar the twin torches hanging on opposite walls, in twin scones flared up from cold ashes. And in the dancing torchlight two figures, a woman in radiant whites, and a solemn young man, sat at the desk with their backs to the chained man in the cellar, as he relived his pain once more.