Note: The below story claimed to be true is shared by a Reddit user, Happy reading!
Halloween, as a concept, is not particularly new – in fact, it’s very, very old. It’s also not a distinctly Western holiday. I mean, yes, Halloween as we know it is, with the candy and dressing up and carving pumpkins; those are all pretty much exclusively European. The idea behind Halloween, though, is fairly ubiquitous. Plenty of cultures celebrate a time of year when our world and the spirit world draw closer together.
Most places view this one of two ways; either it’s a time when loved ones and long-lost family members come back to us, like Day of the Dead, or it’s a time when we put up a bunch of protective rituals to keep away the things that go bump in the night. Halloween falls into the second category, which is why we wear masks and make Jack-O’-Lanterns to keep the malevolent spirits away.
I can tell you without hesitation that both interpretations are correct.
The story I’m about to tell you took place when I was just a teenager. I was living with my family; it was me, my two parents, my older brother and sister, and my grandmother. I’d had a younger sister, too, but she and my grandfather both died in a car accident several years earlier. We moved houses not long after. Our new house was much bigger. I think having a smaller, cozier house would have let us feel their absence too easily; in a large home, we could just dismiss their absence as them being in another room – even if we knew they weren’t.
Anyway, one Halloween, our whole family – minus Grandma – was gathered into the living room, where we had lit a fire and put a movie on for the evening. It was late, and the trick-or-treaters were starting to thin out. The movie was in a bit of a lull when there came a shriek from upstairs. Instantly, we all knew it was Grandma who had screamed, so we all ran up in a panic. As we climbed the stairs, we could hear her sobbing, and saying “It’s you! It’s really, really you!”
She kept repeating that in a kind of hoarse cry as we made our way to her room. When we got there, she had fallen down onto the floor with her back against a wall, and she looked paler than any of us had ever seen her. Tears streaked her face, and her breath was ragged, but her expression was a mixture of bliss and excitement. Standing across the room, dressed in an old-fashioned suit and with a hat in his hands in front of him, stood my grandfather.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how stunned we all were; none of us were particularly superstitious, and even if we were, that’s just not the sort of thing you ever expect to come across. Had I known then what I know now, I would have ordered him – it – out of our house that very minute. But I didn’t.
My mom was the first one to break down. Seeing her father again brought her to tears immediately, but my grandfather simply smiled and reassured her. We spoke for what felt like hours, hearing the story of how Grandma was in her room, getting ready for bed when she heard a tapping on the window. When she turned, she saw his face there, peeking in at her.
She explained that this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened; when you lose someone you love, you see them everywhere. But when he didn’t leave, and motioned for her to open the window, then climbed inside once she had, Grandma knew it wasn’t the same. That was when she screamed, and we came in.
After that, my grandfather regaled us with tales of the other side; how beautiful it is, how all your wildest dreams can’t compare to the reality of it. I’d like to tell you that I was skeptical, but I was just happy to see my grandpa again.
He explained how, when the time is right, spirits can come back to the land of the living, and there was so much superstition and ritual going on during Halloween that the barrier between our worlds grew thin. He apologized for not visiting sooner, claiming that he had tried many times, but that he simply hadn’t been experienced enough until this year. And we all believed him.
Once all this was finished, we agreed it was best if we left my grandparents alone to catch up. Grandpa stood up, turned to my grandmother, and reached out his hand. “I’ve got a lot to tell you. Come with me.” He smiled as he said this; a warm, friendly smile. She took his hand, and together they walked down the hall and out of our sight. The rest of us went back downstairs, still shaken by what had occurred.
We spent a long time in silence there, by the fire. Trick-or-treaters would still drop by, even more infrequently than before. Eventually, we got back to talking and joking, almost as though there weren't a ghost upstairs. It was the best night we'd spent together in years. Mother was just telling us a story about Grandpa when he was her age when the doorbell rang again. It was now going on eleven o'clock, so we weren't expecting any more children. A cry of "Trick or Treat!" came from outside our door, though, so my mom stopped her story, and went to the door.
My mom loved children. She peeked out of our front door window, and caught just a glimpse of the young girl standing there in a pink princess outfit. She swung the door open, not even waiting to get a full view of the girl before complimenting her costume. "Well, don't you just look ado-" There was the sound of a bowl hitting the floor, and my mother froze mid-sentence. "What's wrong, Mommy?" The voice didn't come from any of us; it came from outside.
My father, my older siblings and I all looked at each other before racing to the front door. When I got there, my heart leaped into my throat and tears filled my eyes. Standing in the doorway was my younger sister, Sarah. Sarah, who had been killed in a car crash years earlier. Those of you who have shared a house with a young child can imagine how deeply their absence is felt. There is no aspect of life they don't affect in one way or another, and when she died, nothing was the same. And there she stood, not a day older, and not a mark on her body. I broke down crying.
When I looked around, I saw that all my family was crying, and Sarah looked deeply troubled by it. "Did I do something wrong, Mommy?" That voice snapped us all back to the moment. "Of course you didn't, sweetie," my mother replied hurriedly, adding, "We just missed you." "Can I come in now?" We let her in, of course.
The family then talked as we hadn't talked in years. Sarah was just the same as she had ever been. Back then, I would have called her annoying, but that night she couldn't have annoyed me if she tried. Once we had been together for half an hour or so, Sarah looked towards my parents. "Mom? Dad? Can I show you something?" "Of course you can, honey," my mother breathed. She still had tears in her eyes. Sarah lept off the couch. "Great! Come with me," she said, holding out bother her hands for my mother and father to take.
Suddenly, I realized that Grandma was still upstairs, and had no idea that Sarah had come back. So, I went upstairs to get her. When I got upstairs, I saw my grandfather coming out of a room quietly, and shutting the door behind him. When I asked where Grandma was, he told me she was resting. I asked if she could come downstairs, and he simply said that wouldn't be possible, before adding that she would have plenty of time to spend with Sarah. I was excited; did this mean they were staying with us? I asked my grandfather, and he just smiled and went downstairs with me.
My older siblings were chatting in the living room when Sarah came skipping in from around the corner alone.
"Where are Mom and Dad?" I asked.
"Well, when we went to the basement, they started kissing and hugging, and told me to go back upstairs, so I did!"
That didn't sound right. I couldn't imagine my mother leaving Sarah's side for a moment tonight. Nobody else seemed to find that strange, though. Grandpa just laughed and said that adults were weird and that I'd understand someday. Then he turned to my brother and said he had brought a gift with him; something to make up for all the lost birthdays and Christmases. He held out his hand for my brother to take.
"Come with me."
It was only at this point that I grew suspicious. I asked Grandpa where my gift was, to which he simply said, "Oh, don't you worry. You'll get yours soon enough." I urged my brother not to go with him, but he didn't listen. Taking my grandfather's hand, the two of them went down the hall together. Sarah turned to us, and said "Mommy and Daddy have been down there a while. Let's go check on them."
She reached out for us.
"Come with me."
My older sister reached for Sarah, but I slapped her hand away.
"Billy! What the he-"
"Don't go with her," I begged.
"Come on, Meg," Sarah said, "Billy just doesn't want to see Mom and Dad kissing."
Before I could stop her, Meg took Sarah's hand, and the two of them went downstairs to the basement. Grandpa started coming back down the hall, alone. His eyes met mine.
"I've got your gift ready now, Billy."
"Come with me."
I ran past him into my room and shut the door behind me. I didn't know what to do; I didn't have a cell phone yet, and there were no home phones in my room. They hadn't been openly violent yet, but how long was that going to last? All I could do was sit there and wait for them to either break in or leave. Heavy footsteps came down the hall and stopped just outside my door. My grandfather began calling me, begging me to come out so he could give me my present. A few minutes later, his voice was joined by Sarah's, asking me to come out and play with her.
"Why don't you love me anymore, Billy? What did I do wrong?"
She sounded like she was on the verge of tears. I can't possibly tell you how hard it was to stay in there, listening to my little sister beg me to play with her one last time. But the survival instinct is a strong one, and I kept the door shut.
The clock chimed twelve, and all fell silent. I looked under the door, and my grandfather's figure was no longer casting a shadow underneath. I placed my ear to the door, listening carefully. I heard nothing.
My family was out there, possibly hurt. I had to go check, or call for help – do something, at least. I took a deep breath to steady myself, and opened the door. The hallway was empty. Across the hall, through the open door, I could see my brother lying on the ground, motionless. He was pale, and it didn't look like he was breathing. I was only in high school, but I ran over to him – I checked his wrists and his neck for a pulse, but found nothing. All I saw was that one of his hands was tinged black, as if necrotic.
I ran upstairs – I should have called the police, or an ambulance, or somebody, but my mind wasn't working. I found Grandma in the same state; pale, not breathing, her hand slightly blackened. My heart was racing. I had to go to the basement. I couldn't go to the basement. Because I knew what I would find there – the rest of my family, lying pale and motionless, dead. I sat there for a long time, paralyzed, before I decided that I had to know.
The descent to the basement felt longer than it ever had before. I felt cold and numb, and each step felt like an eternity. But when I got to the bottom, I saw exactly what I knew I would find; my parents, and my older sister all lying on the floor. I began to cry. Cry like I hadn't done in years, like I hadn't since the day my little sister died.
"You stupid boy!"
The voice was sinister and evil, sounding just like every demon from every horror movie you've ever seen and worse. I spun around, and Sarah was there – but she was different. Her eyes were empty sockets, and her mouth was a black, lipless hole ringed with fangs.
"You have no more family. No more loved ones; they all came with me. They're mine now. And you? You will live the rest of your life alone. You will die somewhere, forgotten, alone and afraid. You will never see your family again. Ever."
Then the thing paused, and held out its hand.
"Unless, of course... you come with me. You can be with us all again, forever."
I'd like to tell you now that I kept my distance, that I told her to get out of my house, or at least that I sat frozen. But what she said was true; I felt it, deep in my bones. I would never see my family again if I didn't go with her. I was just a kid. A scared, stupid kid who wanted his mom. I stood shakily, and reached out my hand slowly. Sarah's mouth formed a sick facsimile of a smile as I approached.
There was a noise upstairs. The clock chimed one o'clock, and I looked up, just for a heartbeat. There was a distant scream, and when I looked forward again, Sarah was gone.
I called 911. It was eventually deemed that the family died of carbon monoxide poisoning, and that the leak had spontaneously resolved itself and dispersed through my grandmother's open window. My experiences were brought on by hysteria and oxygen deprivation. It could've been worse; they could've blamed me. I was legally an adult at that point, so the estate fell to me. I sold the house and everything in it and moved to a small apartment, using the proceeds to put myself through school once I graduated.
If you see a loved one who has passed away this Halloween, please don't let them in. Don't take their hand, and never, ever go with them.
You might be asking why I'm sharing this now. It's a fair question. For many years I've been terrified of the things that came to my house that night. For decades, I've thought that the scariest thing in the world was the idea that whatever came to visit, whatever we let into our home, they weren't my family. This year, though, I had a thought that was even more disturbing still:
What if they were?