Wednesday, September 12, 2012


THE Four Gables Bed and Breakfast in Brattle, Vermont, was built in 1791 as a residence for Archibald Horton. Horton, a professional surveyor and an amateur occultist, achieved a small level of notoriety when he broke off from the Freemasons to form his own group, which he unimaginatively called the Hortonists.
            Horton and his Hortonists were obsessed with black magic, and they believed there were invisible portals all around us—portals to alternate realities where great old gods with terribly unpronounceable names dwelled. The Hortinists wanted to usher in a new era for mankind; an era where the ancient demon gods would liquefy human flesh and turn bone into ash. Despite their best efforts, the Hortinists never managed to achieve their goal. But they did pull off a bunch of other dark, nefarious stuff.
            One after another, the Hortonists died off in bloody, suspicious ways, until Horton himself was the only one left. Having lived to the extremely old age of 103, he committed suicide by cutting off his own head in a guillotine he had had shipped to America from France.
            Over the centuries the house passed from owner to owner—none of whom stayed very long. There was a long period of time when it was completely abandoned, but the historical society kept it from being demolished.
            Everything changed in 2001, when Beatrice Torgleson purchased the house with hopes of turning it into a bed and breakfast. She was recently widowed (under mysterious circumstances), as well as recently retired, and she thought this was a perfect way to spend her “golden years,” as people liked to call them.
            Bea shelled out a small fortune to restore the house, although it was hard to keep the same contractors working on the job. They would quit at an alarming rate, with no real reason given.
            Eventually Bea was able to get one of them to tell her that the house was haunted. The workers would hear strange things. Rooms would suddenly grow cold. The walls would bleed. Black ooze would leak up through the floorboards. Random animals were found skinned and decapitated all around the property.
            Bea was miserable. Her dream was dead before it began. How on earth could she open a B&B if it were haunted?
            The house was finished before winter came, and just in time. A blizzard came crashing in, smothering the landscape in snow. Bea was alone in the newly restored house, sitting by the fire, when Archibald Horton appeared. He stepped out of the fire, clutching his severed head in his arms.
            In her rocking chair, Bea sighed.
            “Are ye not afraid of me, woman?” Horton’s head asked.
            Bea shrugged. “What does it matter? My life’s dream is over. I killed my husband to inherit his fortune so I could open this bed and breakfast, and now it’s ruined.”
            “I understand not many of the words you have just spoken,” Horton said. He placed his head up onto the bloody stump of his neck and it rested there awkwardly. “I demand a sacrifice, woman.”
            “Go ahead, then,” Bea said. “Kill me and get it over with.”
            Horton laughed, and his laughter caused his head to fall off his neck and roll into the fire. Cursing, he reached into the flames and pulled the head out.
            “You are too old and ruined for the likes of me, woman,” Horton said. “The sacrifices must be of virgin blood.”
            “Well, you’re all out of luck,” Bea said, rising from her chair on creaking legs. “No virgins here.”
            She turned and headed for the stairs.
            “Where are you going?” Horton said. “I demand you come back and have an audience with me!”
            “Whatever,” Bea said and went upstairs to bed.
            That winter was spent interacting with the various dark forces that dwelled within the walls. Bea had planned to open the B&B in time for Christmas, but she gave up on that idea. She updated the B&B’s website to say Opening Delayed Indefinitely.
            Every morning as she woke and went to the bathroom, a shrieking female face stared back at her from the mirror, blood pouring from her eyes and spiders crawling from her mouth.
            Bea ignored it.
            When she took breakfast in the large, empty dining room, a headless, legless torso would crawl out from the heating vent and drag itself across the floor, leaving a trail of blood that would eventually evaporate.
            Bea ignored it.
            There were gigantic, hideous goat-like men in the attic, and two -headed rats in the basement. There were shrouded specters that floated from room to room, moaning and leaving a sticky residue of ectoplasm on the walls. There were a man and a woman, who were both nude and seemed to be composed entirely of blood, who would have violent, loud sex on the living room floor, before vanishing into mist. And of course there was Horton himself, always losing his head, screaming and chanting and demanding Bea bring him the sacrifices he desired.
            Bea ignored it all.
            Winter gave way to spring, and then summer, and soon autumn arrived. Bea took a trip into town. She needed to get out of that damned house for a while. She spent the day doing some light shopping and wandered into a Barnes and Noble.
            After perusing a few of the romance paperbacks, she was heading for the exit when she bumped into the corner of one of the display tables. The table was set up with various books for the upcoming Halloween season. Bea couldn’t believe her eyes. There were at least half a dozen books that acted as guides to various haunted locations. There was even an entire book devoted to haunted bed & breakfasts of New England.
            People apparently liked this sort of thing. They would pay good money to stay in a haunted hotel. Slowly, a plan began to materialize in Bea’s brain.
            She returned home. Horton floated up from the floor, clutching his head by the hair.
            “Tremble before my visage, woman!” he shouted. “For I am one with the Great Darkness!”
            “Yeah, whatever. Listen, I have an offer for you,” Bea said, setting her shopping bags down.
            “I do not make deals with the living,” Horton spat. He set his head down on a coffee table next to him.
            Bea smiled. “Oh, I think you’re going to like this one.”
            That Christmas, the Four Gables Bed and Breakfast finally opened, and seemingly overnight became renowned as one of the most haunted spots in New England. This brought in the tourists by the dozen, and the fact that Bea was a very good cook kept them coming back for more.
            Every day, a different person who was staying at the B&B would come up to Bea with a giddy look on his or her face, and tell of the horrifying sights he or she had seen during the night. Bea always smiled and nodded. She acted as if she didn’t really believe in that sort of thing, but that she would let the guests have their fun.
            And every few months, there would be reports from the surrounding towns of missing children; children seemingly snatched from their bedrooms late at night and never seen again. There were no leads, and no known motive.
            Of course, Bea knew the motive. She knew it because the basement was always off limits to guests, and she kept the key to the big padlock on her at all times. She knew it because she spent many nights washing the blood from her hands.
            But what did a little blood matter? After all, it was good for business.


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