The torn tissue-paper ghost was held by a wire right above the front door. Decrepit spiders, bats, and creatures of the night dangled throughout the room.
“Is this supposed to be scary?” Joe whispered to his older sister Miriam.
“Not now, silly, with the lights on.” She ruffled his hair and threw a grin at her boyfriend Roger. “Now it’s just the American Legion basement. Tonight when it’s dark, it’ll be great. And aren’t you a lucky boy to know exactly what will be scaring everyone else? Go on and explore.”
Roger pulled her to one side.
“You know, Mir, the kid’s got a point. This setup has seen better days. I could grab some paint, a few strobes…”
Miriam shook her head. “Sal Allman was Bar Harbor’s favorite citizen for years. He and his cronies set this up after the war, ran it for the kids. They improved it year after year, but no more now. One by one the guys passed on. When Sal went, his wife decided the Allman Horror House was sacrosanct as it was, and half the town would probably agree with her.”
She smiled. “You just moved here, so you don’t know how much goes on in the ten days this runs every year. Dad claims I was conceived behind the biggest coffin, although Mom smacks him every time. There’s no way, but I do know there’s been a lot of fooling around.”
Her smile grew broader at the look Roger threw her.
“Fooling around, proposals, new friends screaming together in the dark, old friends reunited at the bake sale table. It’s a big thing around here. A few stains and dustballs don’t make a difference.”
Roger raised his hands in surrender. “Fine, sweetie, whatever you say. I honestly don’t see how this place is going to scare anyone, but there’s nothing wrong with a little tradition. Now, about that coffin…”
Mindful of Joe, Miriam allowed him only a small peck before they got on with sweeping the floor. They headed home as soon as the evening volunteers arrived.
That night, the town began filtering down the darkened stairs, lead by the shrieks of those already inside. Even Joe had to admit that the Horror House had exceeded his expectations. His heart raced as he was startled by illusions he hadn’t noticed that afternoon.
He wasn’t usually so jumpy, but he told himself that he understood. It was the mood, the experience. A tradition of horror and fright was really just a tradition of community and goodwill. He was right.
And if the hanging ghosts were animated by more than just wires, nobody gave it a thought. The spirits, too, were friendly.