The End of the World Drive-In
The End of the World Drive-In
Kit took hold of Andy’s t-shirt and led him across to the far side of the video store. The rest of the group followed. As they crossed the store, Andy couldn’t help but notice the growing line of customers at the counter. The guy renting the videos had a desperate look on his face as he watched his manager vanish into the maze of shelves. The crowd appeared anxious to complete their transaction more quickly so they could return to the sunshine and beach that beckoned from beyond the double glass doors.
“We shouldn’t talk about this where everybody can hear,” Kit decided.
“Are we talking about the devil here?” The brown-haired girl asked. “Because I didn’t sign-up for devil-talk.”
Petra put a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “Don’t be such a scaredy-cat.”
“That kind of thing does bother some people,” Kit explained. “That’s why I thought I’d get away from the customers.”
“Don’t you guys realize, that’s what the song is about?” Meredith said.
“What did you say?” Kit asked.
“You know that right, Magdalena,” Meredith said.
Magdalena said. “I get how in the song the movie star sells her soul to the devil.”
“All these connections to that song are a little weird, I’ll admit,” Kit said.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Petra explained, “because the actress in the song sells her soul to the devil but never becomes famous anyway.”
“It’s supposed to be ironic,” Magdalena said. “I think that’s the point, right.”
“That is sad,” Andy agreed.
Petra moved so close to Andy her face nearly rested on his shoulder. “It’s the saddest song I’ve ever heard.”
“I’m not going to lie,” Kit said, “the more you go into it, that song really does sound like it could be about Jasmine Carmichael. If anybody was going to write a song about Jasmine Carmichael it would be pretty sad.”
“What if they’re related?” Meredith considered her words. “What are the odds?”
“The whole thing last night at the church was about rock music and the devil and stuff,” Andy said under his breath. “The song is literally about that.”
“There are so many connections it is kind of crazy,” Kit admitted.
“What do you mean, more than the song?” Magdalena asked.
“Let me start with your question, Andy. You came in looking for a movie she made. There is a rumor that the movie you’re looking for is hidden on this massive estate in Maine. Jasmine made more than one movie. But the one I figure you want to know about. The one they say killed all those people. There was only one print of it ever in existence. It only showed one time.”
“What do you mean?” Meredith interrupted. “How does a movie kill anyone?”
“The people watching it killed each other. But they say they were driven to kill each other by what they watched.”
“Isn’t that always what they say? Isn’t that what the guy who shot Reagan said. Jodi Foster’s character in Taxi Driver made him do it.” Andy wasn’t buying it.
“Why is it in Maine, though?” Magdalena said.
“It’s hard to know where to begin. There are so many tentacles to the story. The story reaches into so many areas. It’s in Maine because this silent film director from the 1920s built a castle there when he was kicked out of Hollywood. His name was Thomas Holleran. In his heyday, he was as famous as Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Fatty Arbuckle. But he had become obsessed with satanism and the occult. Let’s be clear, at the turn of the century, a lot of people were interested in spiritualism. This guy Holleran raised the dead with his movie camera. He could bring the dead back by filming them. And it freaked some people out. So he was driven out of Hollywood.
“No surprise, he wasn’t happy about it. So he plotted a way to get back at the people in the burgeoning studios that destroyed his career. The first part of his plan was to throw these lavish parties. These parties were more than extravagant. They were hedonistic. They were down-right terrifying.” Kit caught himself because his voice was inadvertently rising. He was worried one of the customers milling about might overhear what he was saying. He brought his voice to almost a whisper as he continued. The group of young people around him moved in closer so they didn’t miss a word. “Holleran had a massive library of occult works he had spent years collecting. Did you know that the second most printed books in puritan New England were about the devil and the occult? Number one, the Bible. Number two, books about raising the devil. Holleran spent years gathering up as many of these early pamphlets and books as he could find. During these parties, he would bring one or two books and he would practice incantation as though they were parlor tricks. He did this because he wanted the word to travel back to Hollywood. The creepier the experience at the party the faster word would spread. Nobody wants to be left out. These parties kept getting bigger. People from California did come. So Holleran came up with an idea of how to make the parties more selective. He decided that anyone who wanted to attend had to bring a prop from a cursed movie. It would be like a form of ticket, to get into the party.
“Flash forward a few years… Or a few decades, really. You come to Jasmine Carmichael. It is strange how this movie she was a part of came to be used as a ticket to enter a world of the occult that at this point had become a movement that was spreading underground across the country.
“The film reels were actually stolen out of evidence by an F.B.I. agent who believed an underground movement of satanism was trying to infiltrate the media. This agent believed a secret cabal of occultists was sacrificing children. Many people believed this agent was on the right track. It all started in the castle Holleran built-in Ogunquit, Maine. In the 1980s, maybe a decade after Jasmine Carmichael made the film in question, he published a two hundred-page report for the F.B.I. that traced the web of satanic rituals from the halls of power in Washington to the studios of Hollywood to the private sex islands of the ultra-wealthy. That report never saw the light of day. The agent who wrote it had his character smeared when he was found in the den of high-priced prostitutes in San Francisco. He had ingested thirty-two milligrams of LSD and they say he cut his eyes out while having sex with an underaged girl. The report was re-written by a department head and all the facts were twisted. His years of investigation were undermined and the report that was published claimed irrefutably that there was no secret network of devil worship and ritual sacrifice in America.
“The reason he stole the film reels was in order to get into Holleran’s party. The story of what happened at the drive-in that showed Jasmine Carmichael’s film had become legendary, in certain circles, by the time it reached Holleran’s front door.
“Jasmine and a small cast and crew went to a little, a desert town in New Mexico called Truth or Consequence.”
“This is just outlandish,” Meredith interrupted. “I mean if you want me to believe this story you have to come up with a name better than that. There is no such place as Truth or Consequences.”
“Look at a map,” Kit said. “It was named for a 1960s game show. It was a giant publicity stunt. The game show offered any town in America one million dollars if they would be willing to change their name. And this desert town off the interstate in New Mexico took the bait.”
“Of all the stuff this guy just said,” Petra laughed, “that’s you hang up. The town name.”
“I told you guys this was a crazy story,” Kit admitted.
“You did?” Magdalena was trying to remember if he had actually warned them.
“This was around 1975, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre had just been a massive hit. Every film student with a camera wanted to cash in, thinking they could just kill a few pretty girls in the desert and sell a million tickets. I don’t want to get too into what the movie was because nobody really knows much about it. Only one audience ever saw it and they all died.”
“What do you mean died?” Tom said.
“There are pictures. It was worse than any horror movie I’ve ever seen. The whole crowd of people at the drive-in turned against each other. People’s faces were smashed in with those steel posts used to hold the speaker. The speakers make the movie sound like it was recorded in a tin can. Men crushed little kids’ heads with the heels of their boots. It was a nightmare of blood and carnage.
“The reason there were so many people at the drive-in was that they decided to host a screening of the movie for all the people in the town where the movie was made. You have to figure not a lot of movies were made in the middle-of-nowhere-New-Mexico. People were so excited that a movie had been shot in their town they brought their families even if the movie was wildly inappropriate for kids. People flocked from all over. They drove from as far as Las Cruces and Albuquerque to see the movie. Not one of them survived. Everybody died that night. Of course, a story like this will spread through the cult film world like a wildfire. Of course, a man like Holleran would do anything to get his hand on a movie that drove an audience to murder. This young federal agent saw this as a perfect opportunity to infiltrate a world he had only heard rumors about. The film itself was taken off the projector at the Truth or Consequence drive-in and vanished into a warehouse of evidence in the J. Edgar Hoover Building. This agent saw this as his perfect opportunity to make a name for himself. He could use the film as leverage to gain access to one of the most secretive parties in the world and he could begin an investigation to unravel how the richest and most powerful elites in the world commune with the devil.”
“Where is this castle?” Andy wanted to know.
Kit smiled. He knew what Andy was thinking.
Before he could say anything, Meredith spoke, “You can only see it from the water.”
“You know what I’m talking about, then.”
“My uncle took me sailing up to Boothbay Harbor once. He pointed it out. It’s built into the side of a cliff.”
“Holleran built a wall around it in the last years before he died. You can’t see it from the road. It’s actually near this really beautiful hiking trail that runs along the edge of the cliff called Marginal Way. But nobody really knows it’s there, not unless they’ve heard the story, because it is completely hidden from the land. The only way to see it is like Meredith said, from the water.”
“It’s pretty creepy,” Meredith said.
“Have you ever thought about trying to get inside?” Andy asked.