It was Keri’s idea. A good idea. Saturday night and six days until Halloween, she thought we should look for the best haunted house experience possible. We found it in a place called Hell Hole.
The four of us looked up local haunted houses. Keri and I on our phones and Jimmy, my best friend and Keri’s man, on his laptop since his phone’s screen was smashed. But it was my girl, Michelle, who saw a local radio station’s Twitter feed. According to 92.7 The Planet, Hell Hole was the newest, and possibly best, haunted attraction in West Virginia.
When we arrived, Keri was the first out of the car. We’d been in the car for two hours, but her energy and excitement for this had not waned. She jumped around, her auburn locks bouncing with her. I could smell autumn leaves and jasmine blowing off her as the October night air washed over her. She clapped her hands like she’d won a prize on a game show. “Oh my God, you guys, this place looks awesome.”
“Looks kinda deserted to me,” Jimmy said. He stood outside the car with the driver’s door open as the car idled.
“Close to closing maybe?” Michelle asked.
Jimmy checked his phone. “It’s just past eleven. Seems kind of early to be closing. Maybe not many have heard of it.”
“Big place,” I said. “With the radio station’s website, you’d think they would have.”
Michelle gave me a look I’d gotten all weekend. Was I talking to you, it said. She joined Keri as she approached the gate.
I looked at Jimmy, who shrugged, “What the hell’s bells? Right, Marty?”
I gave a humorless laugh and a “What the hell’s bells, Jimbo?”
He cut the engine and we followed the girls. His arm encompassed my shoulders in an ole buddy ole pal way and he gave me his most winning smile. Jimmy had a way about him that could get him about anything he wanted.
“You gotta lighten up, Marty,” he said. “She’s just a girl. She’s only gonna bite you if you’re into it.” He nudged me.
“Not exactly. She’s all about biting my head off lately.”
“Nonsense.” He removed his arm. With his other hand, he produced a pack of cigarettes and packed it against his palm. “If it was that bad, why is she here?”
“Gotta be more than that,” his voice dropped to a whisper as we approached the girls. “Remember man, Meek Marty doesn’t get the girl. Mighty Marty, on the other hand ...” He gave me a wink and turned from me to place his hand on Keri’s behind.
Hell Hole reminded me of a hotel out of the old west, and hell, for all I knew it once was. It was a huge three story building, white but in great need of a paint job. A large cross stood on top of the building.
“I bet this was some old church,” Jimmy said. “Ironic, huh?”
“Creepy,” Michelle said. “Where is everyone?”
“Inside,” Keri said, her excitement spilled over, and she headed toward the front of the building. Lanterns lined the side of the front steps; the flames inside danced as the wind shook their posts.
A ticket booth stood at the top of the stairs with the words BUY THE LAST TICKET YOU’LL EVER BUY HERE! painted below the window. No one was in it. Keri knocked hard and called for someone, but no one showed.
“Do you think something happened?” I asked Jimmy.
“Nah,” he said, “Guy’s probably just taking a piss.”
“Wish he would hurry, dammit,” Keri said. “This place looks awesome.”
I saw movement inside the ticket booth behind Keri, what looked like a white floating orb. I opened my mouth to say something.
“Boo.” The voice was low but amplified by a speaker in the booth.
Keri jumped, screamed, and turned slapping at the air only hitting the booth a couple of times. She backed into Jimmy’s arms. Michelle screamed, too, but she stood her ground. No backing into my arms.
The face in the booth was long, with a hooked nose and large eyes. It was painted white, and it wore a hood. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman although it reminded me of the witch from the old Disney Snow White cartoon.
“Can I help you?” it asked in a croak.
We all stood there. No one answered. No one moved.
Pale hands rose behind the glass, long and gnarled, but the way they moved reminded me of puppet hands. It knocked on the glass. “Hello? Hello? Can I help you?”
Not knowing why nobody had answered, and feeling I needed to prove something, (for Michelle, but more so for Keri) I stepped forward. “Yeah, yeah, we want to buy four tickets.” I motioned over my shoulder as if it couldn’t see all four of us.
“Twenty dollars and we’ll make you holler.”
Jimmy laughed behind me, but it was a nervous laughter.
“I’m sorry?” I said. “What?”
“Those deaf ears will look good on a chain,” it said. “I said…” It moved it’s mouth closer to what I assumed was the microphone. “TWENTY DOLLARS.”
I jumped a little, even though I expected it. Jimmy added his ten to mine and I slid the money across the booth’s counter. The money disappeared, but no tickets replaced it.
I stood expectantly while the moon white face stared back.
“I know I’m pretty,” it said. “But I’m not twenty dollars worth of pretty.”
“We need the tickets,” I said. I thought of putting my hand up on the counter, or tapping on it, something.
“Oh, right,” it said. “No, you don’t. Just walk up to the doors. Someone will let you in.”
I turned to the others, who shrugged. I looked back at the crone behind the glass. “Thanks. I guess.”
It cackled. “Uh huh, thank you.”
We walked to the doors and Jimmy tried the knob. It was locked but as soon as he let go of it, the door creaked open.
Jimmy laughed, “This is the weirdest, creepiest shit I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah,” Keri said. “I love it.”
I had to admit, there was something about this place. It had a genuine creep factor to it. The atmosphere was like nothing we’d seen yet.