The Kellogg House

The Kellogg House

A Story by Debbie Barry

Two kids go trick-or-treating at a creepy mansion.


The Kellogg House


My friends and I were trick-or-treating.  Whirling winds on this cold October evening sent chills down my spine.  I really regretted choosing the 50s sock-hopper costume; the whipping wind kept swirling up under my poodle skirt, even though it came almost to my ankles.  The little short-sleeved blouse didn’t do much against the wind, even with the cherry red cardigan sweater buttoned over it, with the small, rounded color of the blouse outside the sweater.  I shivered.

Brendan walked next to me.  He’d chosen a Robin Hood costume this year.  I’d teased him about the green tights, but he really did look good in it.  The feather in his peaked felt hat fluttered bravely in the wind, and I knew he was a lot colder than I was, in that jerkin that didn’t quite reach his knees, and a short, green, hooded cape that only fell to his waist; he refused to wear the hood, because he said he already looked enough like a girl.

This was our last Halloween to go trick-or-treating for ourselves.  Next year, we’d only be able to dress up and go out if we took my little sister and his little brother to trick-or-treat.  No collecting candy, once we were 13.  We were going farther than ever before, to make the most of this last Halloween as kids.

We turned off the main road, onto a narrow, dirt road.  We’d been to every house in the village, and in the new housing development by Lake Benning, where we had learned to swim.  We’d even stopped at Old Mr. Rice’s run-down old shack of a house.  Everyone was afraid of Mr. Rice, because he’d shoot at kids who got on his land; a couple of teenage boys had got their butts full of rock salt not too long ago.  I wasn’t afraid of the old man, though, because I was friends with his grandson, Eddie, and went in his horse pasture all the time.  I’d been in his house lots of times.

“You’ll be safe with me,” I’d promised Brendan when he had protested.

“I dunno, Deb.  He’s crazy!”

“C’mon,” I’d insisted, pulling him up the hard-scrabble footpath around to the side, where the kitchen door was.  Like most people in the neighborhood, Mr. Rice didn’t use the front door; front doors were for funerals.

I’d been right about Mr. Rice.

“Been lookin’ fer you, Miss Debbie,” he’d growled, when he opened the door.  “My Eddie said you’d come.”

“Yessir, Mr. Rice,” I’d answered politely.

“Who’re you s’posed t’be?” he’d asked Brendan.

“Uh … Robin Hood, Sir.  I’m Brendan, Mrs. McIntyre’s grandson.”

“Ah, yeah, she’s a good woman.  You me a good boy, hear?”

“Yessir!” Brendan had gulped.

Then, since kids never dared to go there, Mr. Rice had dumped half a big bowl of chocolate bars in my bag, and half in Brendan’s.  It doubled what each of us had got that night!

Now, we walked all alone up the dark dirt road, just past Mr. Rice’s hay barn.  There were no streetlights out here, and just one house, right at the end of it, a quarter mile down.  The moon was bright enough to show us the dark shape of the huge, Victorian mansion, with a pair of towers on the front corners, like a castle would have.  From the corner, we had seen a dim, yellow light in the highest window, under the eaves that still bore weathered remains of the gingerbread trim they’d worn when the house was new. 

As we got closer, I saw lights in one of the rooms on the first floor, shining dully through dusty windows.  I poked Brendan’s arm.

“She’s there!”  I whispered, even though there was no one anywhere close to hear us, or to care, if they had.

Uh huh,” he agreed, unconvinced.  “I see the lights.  Don’t mean this is a good idea.”

“Oh, c’mon,” I laughed.  “We’ll go home after this one.”

“Yeah, we’d better,” he replied.  “There aren’t any more.”

Old Miss Kellogg lived alone in that enormous house.  Folks said she’d been born in it, in the big bedroom at the back.  The same bedroom where her father had shot her mother, and then himself, when Miss Kellogg was just 16.  That had been about 80 years ago now.  Miss Kellogg was ancient!  She’d stayed in that house.  The story was that the servants had left her, one by one, until just one maid was left.  She’d been the scullery maid when the shootings happened, so I’d heard, and was an orphan, younger than Miss Kellogg.  She’d stayed, because she had nowhere else to go, no family, and she needed to stay.  Besides, there’d been a big inheritance, and Miss Kellogg’s lawyer kept paying the ones who stayed.  I’d heard the maid was still there, but no one ever came out of the house, and no one saw who took in the groceries that were delivered to the front porch every Monday morning by the owner of the village store.

They claimed the house was haunted, because of the killings, but it looked okay to me.  I was feeling brave when we reached the foot of the worn, wooden steps, so I grabbed Brendan’s hand, and dragged him up onto the porch.  He didn’t want to do it, so I knocked on the door.

I heard nothing from inside the house.  I could see the dim glow of a light in the room to the left of the entry hall.  It showed me the foot of a huge, curving staircase, when I peered in through a clear spot in the fancy, leaded-glass, oval window in the wide, heavy front door.

“Musta been really pretty, once,” I said to Brendan.

“Yeah,” he agreed, his voice a bit unsteady.

I knocked again, harder.

The light in the hall got brighter.  I couldn’t hear a thing, but I saw through the ripply glass that a light was coming toward us.

The door opened inward.  The hinges must have been kept oiled, because they were silent.  As the gap widened, the first thing I saw was the bright, yellow light from an old-fashioned candle lamp, with a small, glass chimney around the candle, keeping it from flickering, on a pewter candle holder.  The light spilled out the door, and onto our costumes.  I couldn’t see past the brightness of the candle, and the shining glass.

“Who is it?” asked a soft, dry voice that made me think of old snake skins.  “What do you want?” 

“Um, trick-or-treat?” I said weakly, inadvertently turning it into a question.

“Trick-or-treat, is it?” asked the voice.  “Well, who are you?”

Brendan and I looked at each other.  Lots of old ladies in the village had asked the same thing, but this was the first time I wasn’t sure I wanted to answer.

“Speak up, children.  Who are you?  Tell me your names.”  The dry, rattling voice sounded stronger now, and impatient.

“Miss Kellogg?  I asked.  “I’m Debbie Fisher, Mrs. Billings’ granddaughter.  This is Brendan Garrow, Mrs. McIntyre’s grandson.  It’s Halloween, ma’am.  Trick-or-treat.”  I’d started out bravely enough, but I ended weakly.

“Hmph!” snorted the old lady behind the candle, still hidden behind its glare.  “I’m not Miss Kellogg, but you’d better come in.  She’ll want to see you.”  She stepped back enough so we could pass the candle into the hallway.

I wasn’t sure when I had grabbed Brendan’s hand again, after letting go to knock, but I realized that his palm was clammy against mine.  I held on tighter, and hung back from the door.

“Who are you?” I asked.  I swallowed hard.

“Mamie,” she said.  “Come in now, so I can close this door.  It’s cold out.”

Brendan squeezed my hand.  He probably meant it to hold me back, but I took it as encouragement.  I gulped a deep breath of cold air, and stepped across the threshold, past the candle, pulling Brendan along behind me.

The hall was larger inside than it had looked through the window.  The worn, hardwood floor that stretched back well beyond the light of the candle lamp was dark with age, but it was spotlessly clean, and shone with recent polishing.  The dark, curving staircase, with its heavily carved balustrade, swept up into the shadows of the mansion’s upper floors.  I was surprised to see that the intricately carved cherubs carved on the posts supporting the handrail were not only free of dust and cobwebs, they were carefully polished, so that each feather of the nearest cherub’s wings, at the edge of the circle of soft, yellow light, could be clearly seen.  The dark red carpet on the stairs, like the one at home, showed the wear of years, but was clean and neat.  As my eyes drifted from the staircase, I caught sight of a large portrait in a heavy, gilt frame, hanging on the wall to my right.  The portrait, just visible at the edge of the light, was of a young girl, maybe just into her teens, with long, dark curls falling over the shoulders of a delightful light blue shepherdess dress, and framing a sweet, heart-shaped face, with dark eyes.  I couldn’t see her clearly in the dim light.

Beside me, Brendan still had a tight hold of my hand.  The feather in his hat quivered slightly as Mamie shut the heavy door with a soft thud, and it latched with a sharp click.

We were inside the old Kellogg Mansion: the town’s legendary haunted house.  I didn’t know a single other person, grownup or kid, who had ever been inside.  It was said that her lawyer handled everything, even the grocery list, and that even he only communicated with her by mail.

“Come along, then.  Don’t dawdle.  Since you’ve come, she’ll want to see you.”  With that, Mamie turned, and started walking away with the candle.  I had expected her to go into the room on the left, where I still saw a dim light glowing, but the tiny woman, bent nearly double, with a huge bun of iron-grey hair at the back of her head, limped slowly to the staircase, and started to climb the stairs.

Brendan and I looked at each other.  I saw my own fear mirrored in his blue eyes, and that forced me to call up my own courage.  I squeezed his fingers reassuringly.

“Come along!” Mamie commanded from the third step.

“But, isn’t Miss Kellogg in there?” I asked, pointing with the hand that held my very full canvas sack of Halloween candy.

“No, girl.  That’s where I sit, keeping watch.”

Mamie turned back to the stairs.  I realized that I still hadn’t seen her face.

“If you’re goin’, I’m goin’, too,” Brendan muttered.

“Let’s go,” I replied, half-dragging the still-reluctant Brendan with me to the stair.  I put my right foot on the bottom step, drew a deep, shaky breath, and began to climb.

I expected Mamie to take us into a room on the second floor, but we walked down the hallway in silence, all the way to the back of the house.  We passed closed, dark, wooden doors on both sides of the passage.  Between the doors, the walls were covered with portraits.  In the flickering, moving circle of light from Mamie’s candle, I glimpsed men and women in clothes from the Civil War, or maybe earlier.  Many of the men seemed to wear military uniforms, and the women wore beautiful gowns and elaborate hairstyles, but it was too dark to see them properly, and the light never stayed on one portrait long enough to see much.  Besides that, Brendan and I were pretty much walking in the dark, and I was afraid of tripping over some unseen obstacle.

At the end of the long hallway, Mamie opened a door on silent hinges, and stepped through it.  Her light disappeared beyond the door, and we hurried to catch up.  To my surprise, the door didn’t lead to a room, but to another staircase.  Mamie and her light were already several steps up when we got to the foot of the stairs.

Mamie must have noticed that we were falling behind.  Pausing with he left foot already placed on the next step, she snapped, “Come along.  It’s getting late!”

“Late?” I whispered to Brendan.

“She’s right,” he whispered back.  “Gram’ll be lookin’ for me.”

“Nana’ll be looki’ for me, too,” I agreed, “but she didn’t mean that.  Late for what?”

“Guess we’re gonna find out.”  It was his turn to be the decisive one, but these stairs were narrower than the other ones, so he shoved me up in front of him.

“Guess so,” I agreed.  Goosebumps ran up and down my arms and legs.  My stomach clenched into a knot in my belly.  With a sigh, I followed Mamie up the stairs, glancing back over my shoulder to be sure Brendan was following me.  He was.

There was a third staircase at the top of that one, and my legs were starting to get tired.  We’d been walking all evening, trick-or-treating, and the village and housing complex were both pretty hilly.  I hoped we’d get where we were going soon, and I kept climbing.

“Must be getting’ close,” Brendan whispered, as he emerged behind me onto the fourth floor.

“Yeah, we’re runnin' outa house,” I agreed.

Mamie led us down another long hallway, lined with closed doors, back toward the front of the house.  There were no portraits on the walls way up here.  There were still no cobwebs, either, though, or other typical signs of a haunted house.

Mamie stopped at a door at the very end of the hall.  She waited while we caught up with her.  I noticed that she wasn’t out of breath, even though Brendan and I were breathing hard.  My heart was racing.  A cold shudder ran down my spine.

Mamie rapped lightly on the beautifully polished wood panel of the door.  After a moment, she reached to turn the shining brass knob.  For the first time, I noticed her long, bony fingers, with knobby knuckles, swollen with age, and with neatly trimmed, rounded fingernails.  The pale, fleshless skin on the back of her hand was mottled with purple and blue, and looked as dry and tissue-papery as her voice sounded.

She turned the knob, and I heard the soft snick of the latch.  She pushed the door slowly open, stepping before us into the room beyond.

“What the…” I gasped at the sight of the room.

“Whoa!” Brendan breathed at the same moment.

I thought I was ready for anything.  I’d heard all the stories about the vicious murder-suicide.  I knew the tragic couple was supposed to haunt the house where their beautiful young daughter had grown to be ancient.  She was the last of her line, alone in this huge, dark mansion with the former scullery girl.  I had thought I was ready to run into anything in this creepy old house.

I wasn’t ready for this.

“There’s children come to see you, Miss Elsie,” Mamie said softly, leaning over the side of a tall, wing-backed chair with its back to us.

“Children?” a raspy voice asked.  “Is it a boy and a girl that’s come, Mamie?”

Brendan and I, crowded close together outside the open door, stared at each other in shocked disbelief.

“A boy an’ a girl,” Brendan whispered, almost inaudibly.

I shivered.

“Yes, a boy and a girl,” Mamie confirmed.  “A plump, pretty pair, they are, miss.”

“Plump?” I gulped.

“Bring them in, Mamie, and go put the water to boil.  I’ve waited for them a long, long time.”

My legs felt like rubber bands.  I couldn’t run if I tried.

“You two,” Mamie said more loudly, turning to us.  “Miss Debbie and Master Brendan, you said you were.  Come in.  Miss Kellogg is waiting.”

Trembling, I took a breath, and then let it out.

“Run?” Brendan whispered.

I shook my head.  “Uh uh.  We came this far.”  I swallowed the bile rising in my throat.  I grabbed Brendan’s hand again, and pulled him into the room.

Mamie took her candle lamp, walked past us as we stood stock-still a few steps into the room, and pulled the door shut behind her.  Snick.

I couldn’t believe what I saw.  The room was filled with the light of dozens of candles burning on the mantle, and on every table in the room.  I cluster of candles burned with a golden glow atop a baby grand piano that stood, polished to a glassy shine, in the far left corner of the room.  On the walls, a pair of large, gilt-framed mirrors flanked the chimneypiece to the right, reflecting the candlelight with added brilliance.  Above the mantle, a large portrait in a dark wooden frame showed a handsome gentleman in a uniform of the Union army standing beside a tall, wing-backed chair, in which a beautiful woman was seated.  His hand rested on her shoulder, and a pair of long, spiral curls had escaped from her elaborately up-swept hair, framing a lovely, heart-shaped face, with wide, smiling, dark eyes.  The candles on the mantle added a golden brightness to the couple as they illuminated the portrait.

“Come here, children,” rasped the dry, ancient voice we had heard before.  Brendan squeezed my hand, and I looked away from the portrait, into his face.  He looked as stunned as I felt.

“Who are they?” I asked, my voice surprisingly steady.

“You see the picture,” the voice replied, musingly.

“Yes, ma’am,” I agreed.  “Who are they?” I repeated.

“My parents,” Miss Kellogg said, very softly.  “Papa and Mama.  But they’re gone.”

We stood in silence, our dusty shoes making deep imprints in the otherwise spotless Persian carpet that covered the center of the shining, hardwood floor.  Seconds passed like minutes.

“They’re gone, but you’re here,” she said, her dry, raspy voice carrying a note of satisfaction.  “Come here.”

Slowly, reluctantly, yet feeling somehow compelled by the situation, I dropped Brendan’s hand, and stepped toward the chair.  My feet were silent on the soft pile of the antique carpet.  I knew Brendan was following, because I could hear his shaky breathing close behind me.

“Mamie’s boiling the water, dearies.  It won’t take her long to make everything ready.”

“Uh, yes, ma’am,” I managed.  One more step would bring me even with the back of the chair.  Two steps, and I’d be able to see her.

“I hoped you would come, children.  No one has come in so very long.”

“Um, it’s Halloween, ma’am,” Brendan ventured, from behind me.  “We came for trick-or-treat.”

“Ah,” she sighed.  I was even with the chair.  “Will it be trick or treat, child?”

I stepped past the side of the chair, and faced the wizened old woman in the huge chair.  I realized it was the chair from the portrait of her parents. 

“Treat, ma’am,” I replied, gazing at the rheumy eyes in the heart-shaped face that was so lined with wrinkles that it looked like a shriveled apple. 

Miss Elsie Kellogg sat in her mother’s chair, wearing the pale blue shepherdess dress she had worn when she posed for the portrait down in the front hall.  Her long hair was snowy white, no longer dark, but someone �" “Mamie,” I thought �" had arranged the snowy mass in the same long, spiral curls that had fallen over her young shoulders so long ago.

“Yeah, treat,” Brendan echoed, stepping beside me, and staring at the figure in the chair.

The rheumy eyes fixed on my face, and seemed to dimly see.  She looked me up and down, then shifted her gaze to Brendan, and looked him over, as well.

“A pair of very pretty children,” Miss Kellogg said approvingly.  A bright smile suddenly lit her face.  “Very pretty children.  What did Mamie call you?”

“I’m Debbie,” I replied, feeling the goosebumps disappear in the warm glow of her smile.

“I’m Brendan.”

“Miss Debbie and Master Brendan.  Yes,” she answered brightly.  “Yes, a treat it will be.”

Brendan and I glanced at each other.

“Sit down, children,” Miss Kellogg said, pointing at a dark red loveseat that was placed at a right-angle to her chair, near the piano.

We walked in front of her, crossing the soft carpet to the seat.  We sat down on the soft, velvet seat, facing the cheery fire that burned in the fireplace beneath the mantle.

We sat in awkward silence for several long minutes.  I looked at the fire.  I looked at Miss Kellogg, who was looking interestedly at us.  I glanced at Brendan, and found him staring intently at the intricate geometric whorls in the pattern of the carpet.  Just when I thought I couldn’t take the silence, the snick of the door latch sounded again.  Brendan and I both looked up at the door.

The door swung silently open, revealing the long, dark hallway.  Framed in the dark opening was Mamie.  I still couldn’t see her face, because the candle lamp she had carried before now burned in the middle of the large tray she carried.

Mamie entered the room.  She set the tray on a table beside the door, and then closed the door with another snick.  Leaving the tray on the table, she turned to the far side of the room, where she collected a round table, which she carried over, setting it in front of Brendan and me.  She kept her face down as she settled the table.  She limped back toward the door, and picked up the large tray from the side table.  She carried it over to the round table, and set the large, heavily-laden tray in front of us. 

I didn’t look at the tray; I stared at Mamie.  Not seeing her face bothered me, and I was intent on seeing it.  My curiosity was satisfied when she met my eyes with her shining, bright, black, button eyes.  To my surprise, her iron-grey hair framed a chestnut brown face.  She had a wide mouth, surrounded by a wealth of lines and creases, and her lips were tightly pursed.  She put her hands, curled into loose fists, on her hips, and stared defiantly back at me.

“Oh!” I gasped, when my eyes found the rough bands of scarring around her skinny, dark wrists, and �" I gulped with horror and pity when I saw �" around her neck.

“Take a good look, missy,” Mamie said sharply. 

“I thought you were an orphan,” I gasped.  “You were a …”  My voice failed me.

“A slave,” Mamie finished.  “No, miss, but my mama’s master surely thought we still were.”  Her dark eyes flashed with anger.  “Mr. Kellogg found me and my mama chained up just like slaves.  He was on a business trip down to Mississippi, buying wood pulp for the paper mill down by the river here.  My mama couldn’t work, because she was sick, so the old man threw us away.  Mr. Kellogg paid a lot of money to get us out of there, even though slavery had been ended for a long time.”

“Some families never accepted that,” Miss Kellogg cut in gently.

“No, Miss Elsie.  Some didn’t.  Anyhow,” Mamie paused, and drew a deep breath.  “Anyhow, Mr. Kellogg brought my mama and me back here with him  He got my mama a doctor, but she was too sick.”

“She died right after Papa brought them home,” Miss Kellogg finished for her.

My eyes were filled with tears.  I couldn’t speak.

“Enough of that,” Mamie said stoutly.  “You children came for trick-or-treat, so you’ll have your treat.”

The tiny, bent woman removed large, snowy-white, linen napkins from the dishes they covered, revealing two enormous slices of four-layer devil’s-food cake, with thick layers of chocolate butter-cream frosting between the layers and over the outside; a plate piled high with homemade chocolate chip cookies, two large bowls of rich-looking chocolate pudding, and a plate filled with dozens of chunks of homemade fudge.  I saw chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, and brown sugar penuche fudge with chunks of walnut.  There was also a lovely china teapot, patterned with peacocks in full plumage, along with three matching teacups and saucers, a pitcher of pale yellow cream, and a bowl of sugar.

“How could you have all of this ready?” I gasped.

“Mamie has it ready every Halloween,” Miss Kellogg replied, as Mamie poured three cups of tea,  and put three spoons of sugar and a splash of rich cream into each cup.

“But why?” Brendan asked.

“Because I never got to have my Halloween tea party, and I have wanted to have it every year since then.”

“Since … when?” I asked, dreading the answer.

“Since that last Halloween,” Miss Kellogg said, calmly accepting a cup of sweet, creamy tea from Mamie, and taking a sip.

“Oh my God!” I gasped, suddenly remembering the rest of the story I had heard about her parents.  Her father had killed her mother, and then himself, in their bedroom, on Halloween night.  Their daughter, their only child, had seen the whole thing. 

“I was a Shepherdess that year,” Miss Kellogg went on.  “It was my favorite fancy dress costume.  My two best friends were to come for a tea party, but Papa had been drinking.  He was so angry at Mama.  I went to their bedroom, because I heard Mama scream.  I went into the room, and the gun went off.  Then it went off again.  Papa stopped yelling.  He laid across the bed with Mama and his favorite revolver.”

I felt sick.  Tears poured down my cheeks.

“Collins said my party had to wait.  She took me to my room, gave me a cup of beef broth, and told me to go to bed.  After that, a lot of men came and left, and came and left again.  Collins told them I was too ill to go to the church.  When it was quiet, she promised I would have my party, but no one came.”

I realized that witnessing her parents’ murder-suicide must have unbalanced her mind.  I’d seen a couple of crazy people before.  Crazy Mary walked around the village in a heavy woolen coat and a black knit cap every day; Mom told my sister and me to avoid Crazy Mary.  How would she feel about this creepy Halloween tea party with Miss Kellogg?  I felt really uneasy.

“Eat your cake, children,” Mamie interjected.  “It’ll make her happy.”

I gulped.  I looked at Brendan.  He looked scared.  I was scared, too.

“Go on,” Mamie urged.  “Eat up.  I made it all for you pretty children.”

Afraid of what might happen if I refused the treats, which had ceased to be so tempting, as Miss Kellogg’s story had unfolded, I reached for the silver fork that lay beside the cake plate.  Praying that the abused-scullery-girl-turned-maid wasn’t as crazy as her mistress, I took a large bite of rich cake and creamy frosting.  Despite my horror at the gruesome story, the cake was really good.  I swallowed, and took a sip of the tea.  Beside me, Brendan picked up a cookie, and took a bite.  We looked at each other.  A crumb stuck to his chin. 

“You okay?” he whispered.

I glanced at Mamie.  “So far,” I replied.

For many minutes, the only sounds in the room were the crackle of the fire, the clink of teacups on saucers, and the sounds of chewing and swallowing.

“Don’t you worry about the cookies and fudge,” Mamie said softly, when it seemed as though Miss Kellogg had dozed off.  You eat the cake and pudding.  I’ll put up the cookies and fudge with the rest that’s down in the kitchen, and you pretty children can take ’em with you.”

Brendan and I both nodded.  We finished the enormous slices of cake.  We drank several cups of tea apiece to get it all down.  By the time we scraped the bottoms of the pudding bowls, I was sick to my stomach.  I liked chocolate as much as the next kid, but that was an awful lot of cake and pudding.

Mamie took Miss Kellogg’s teacup and saucer, put all the dishes on the tray, and covered the cookies and fudge with the napkins.

“Well, you’ve finished your treats!” she announced rather loudly.

The announcement startled Miss Kellogg from her nap.

“Finished?” she asked, looking at the tray, which was partially blocked from her view by Mamie’s body.

The ancient servant looked at us meaningfully, and gestured toward the door with her eyes.  We took the hint.

“Yes, Ma’am!”  Brendan and I replied in unison.

“Our moms’ll be lookin' for us, but it was a really nice party,” Brendan said.

“Yeah, it was really nice, I echoed, smiling as brightly as I could.

Mamie picked up the tray, and headed for the door.  Brendan and I stood up.

“Oh!” said Miss Kellogg, sounding confused.  “Oh,” she repeated, more happily.  “I’m so glad you came to my party!  Thank you for coming, Charles and Amelia!”

“Charles and …” Brendan began, but I cut him off with a sharp poke in the ribs.  He shut up.

“Thank you, Miss Elsie,” I said as gaily as possible.  It was a lovely party.  Thanks for havin’ us!”

Impulsively, I stepped over to the chair and pressed a quick, light kiss against the dry, fragile cheek.  Before she could respond to the gesture, Brendan grabbed my hand and dragged me toward the door.  I followed very willingly.

We followed Mamie down to the entry hall.  She left us in the warmly lit sitting room off the hall, where her sewing basket and a stack of dog-eared paperback novels gave evidence of the many hors she spent keeping watch there.  We didn’t have to wait long before she brought us each two large packages, wrapped in white butcher’s paper.  We still had our very full trick-or-treat bags, but I was grateful when she produced two more canvas shopping bags, and put the packages into the bags for us.

“Don’t worry about the bags,” Mamie said, answering my unspoken question.  “We’ve got more than we need.”

“Thanks, Mamie,” I replied, accepting my bag of treats.

“Yeah, thanks,” Brendan added, as she handed him the second bag.

“You’re welcome, children,” she said, opening the heavy front door.  The cold October wind swirled into the entry hall, chilling my legs under my poodle skirt.

“Come back next Halloween, if you see my light,” Mamie added, as we stepped out on the creaky old porch.

“Yes, Ma’am,” we both responded.

As we walked down the dirt road, going as fast as we could with our double burden of treat bags, I noticed someone coming our way, sweeping the road with the light from a flashlight.  As we got closer, I recognized old Mr. Rice.

Before I could call out, Mr. Rice’s raspy voice shouted, “That you, Miss Debbie>”

“Yessir, Mr. Rice,” I shouted back.

In moments, we reached the old man.

“Where the divil’ve you two been?” he demanded, anger and relief in his gruff voice.  “Gone up t’ th’ Kellogg place, weren’tcha?”

“Yessir,” said Brendan.

“Uh huh,” Mr. Rice grunted.  “D’ja see ‘er?”

“Uh huh,” I replied.

“Huh,” he said.

We walked several paces toward the main road in silence.

“And t’other one?” Mr. Rice asked.

“Yeah,” Brendan said.


When we reached Mr. Rice’s front yard, he pointed to the warn path that led off the far side of the road, and over to the railroad tracks.  Across the tracks, and the paved road on the far side, I saw the lights of my house, and the lights of Brendan’s two houses over.

“You two get yerselves on home,” the old man growled.  Your families’re lookin’ fer you two.”

We hurried down the short path, crossed three sets of rails, and darted across the paved road, into my front yard.

“Happy Halloween,” I told Brendan.

“Yeah, you too,” he replied, turning red, as he always did when he was saying good-bye lately.

“Seeya tomorrow!”


He walked off toward his house, and I followed the driveway to our back door.  As soon as I let myself into the kitchen, “Mom said, “Never mind, she just walked in.”  She put the receiver back on top of the phone more forcefully than usual.  Standing, she demanded, “Where have you two young fools been all night?!”

It took a few minutes to tell Mom and Nana what had happened to Brendan and me.  Mom calmed down as I explained, but then she got tense again.  When I was done, she asked, her voice tightly controlled, “You met Elsie Kellogg?”

“Yeah,” I replied, suddenly wary.

“You met both women?” she asked, with emphasis.

“Yeah.”  I felt weird.

“Hon, Elsie Kellogg died 80 years ago,” Mom said, sounding strange.  “Her father shot her mother, then her, and then himself.”

“But….”  I felt dizzy.

“An old, old servant still lives there, but she’s been alone for a lot of years.  The father’s will left the house to the scullery maid, his illegitimate daughter.”

“So, who did I kiss good-bye?” I asked, wiping the remembered kiss from my lips with my sleeve.

“They say the house is haunted,” Mom said, very quietly.

The next day, Brendan told me him mom had told him the same thing.  We were both fine, once we’d slept off way too much cake and pudding.  The cookies and fudge were real, too, and were really good.  When my sister ate some without dying, I decided they were safe, after all, and ate them; I shared them with her, for testing them for me.

Brendan and I never went back to the Kellogg house, where Mamie lived all alone.

© 2017 Debbie Barry

Author's Note

Debbie Barry
Ignore typos and grammar. Initial reactions appreciated. Readability?

My Review

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Featured Review

What am absolutely brilliant story!!! I looked at its length, wondered if i should.. then, I dove and dove into what is tale filled with charm, fine lights and darks, dialogue, descriptions, everything sweet then.. there comes the moment into.. this and that i'll not describe because i have to nudge others to read the tale.. and will.

You, Debbie, are such a fine writer.. i love story-telling, know a few or two in here who feel same way.. they reallty need come and share your skill.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thank you, Emma! I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it. This is one of my favorites right now. The s.. read more


A amazing story. You brought me in and you held me to the last word. I liked the location and the characters came alive for the reader. Thank you Debbie for sharing the amazing tale.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for such a wonderful review!
Coyote Poetry

2 Years Ago

You are welcome. I enjoyed this tale. I live in Michigan and you taught me something new.
I like this nice write. thanks for sharing.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thanks, Roxane. I'm really pleased that you enjoyed it.
this is a great story debbie,i enjoyed the read

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thank you! I'm really pleased that you enjoyed it. I hope you'll take a look at some of my other s.. read more

2 Years Ago

my pleasure
Well-told story with tons of imagination! I felt you did a good job keeping this tangled tale straightened in the reader's mind. I like the way this is spooky in a childlike way, no "gore" but just good fun in dark & mysterious wrappings. Mostly your fully-developed descriptions take the story along with suspense, but in a couple places, the pacing did slow down a bit. Perfect ending with lingering doubt & mystery.

I notice that you use "had" before your verbs a little bit more than I like to see in a story. "Had" creates passive verbs, whereas a story can always be improved by using active dynamic verbs. It's OK to use "had" before your verbs when you're doing a backstory ("this had happened and that had happened previously to your story). But it's not as powerful when used thru-out the present storyline ("he had touched her and she had smiled" -- just omit "had" -- he touched her and she smiled). Using passive verbs is a bad habit that I've tried to clean up in my own writing too.

Excellent storytelling (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie .. . and thanks to Emmajoy for read requesting me on this.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thanks, Margie! I really appreciate the honest, constructive criticism and advice. I'll take a loo.. read more
What am absolutely brilliant story!!! I looked at its length, wondered if i should.. then, I dove and dove into what is tale filled with charm, fine lights and darks, dialogue, descriptions, everything sweet then.. there comes the moment into.. this and that i'll not describe because i have to nudge others to read the tale.. and will.

You, Debbie, are such a fine writer.. i love story-telling, know a few or two in here who feel same way.. they reallty need come and share your skill.

Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thank you, Emma! I'm so pleased that you enjoyed it. This is one of my favorites right now. The s.. read more
It reminds me of the Goosebump stories my son read when he was younger. It reads very well and clean. Great story.

Great Read


Posted 2 Years Ago

1 of 2 people found this review constructive.

Debbie Barry

2 Years Ago

Thank you, Matthew! Being compared to Goosebumps is a nice compliment. I've never read them, but m.. read more
Matthew Kult

2 Years Ago

You are welcome


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6 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on October 30, 2017
Last Updated on October 30, 2017
Tags: story, halloween, trick-or-treat, haunted house, tea party, murder, suicide, slavery, spooky, creepy, horror


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..


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