In honor of the month of October and Halloween quickly approaching, I bring to you the Halloween "scary" story I wrote a few years ago for my Gothic Literature class in college. I know, you're all super excited, but try and keep calm. I haven't read this myself in years and, let me tell you, 1) scary stories are not my forte, and 2) I believe I have improved since then. But, I thought it would be fun to let you all read some of my early stuff. So, without further ado, I present to you The Curse of Emma Folken.
The Curse of Emma Folken
The Folken family has a curse and a prophecy. Or at least, that’s what Folken parents tell their kids to scare them and try to make them behave. A couple hundred years ago, some teenagers were out in the woods when they stumbled upon the town witches creepy mansion. It was exactly how one would picture a witch’s house; it was far out in the middle of the thickest and darkest wood, the walkway to the door was made of the bones of her victims, strange colored smoke was billowing out of the crumbling chimney, which matched the crumbling façade of the brick and vine covered house.
The night the teens ventured out into the woods just so happened to be on All Hallows’ Eve. It was pitch black and the trees were blowing like a storm was coming in to knock the little town off the map. With the clouds billowing up and thunder and lightning off in the distance, four teenagers set off into the woods to see what the witch was conjuring up on the witching night.
The story goes that the four kids trudged through the impending storm and went up to the witches dilapidated mansion and tried to spy on her. When they could not see her through the window, they decided to go inside. No one knows what the inside of the house looks like, because no one who has ever went in came back out the same. The four of them started poking around, looking into her bubbling cauldron, trying to pet the black cat that was sitting on the table, until one of them found the old crone’s Book of Spells. While they skimmed through the pages, which are said to be made of human flesh, and talked about bringing it back home with them, the witch had come up behind them.
The old witch looked exactly how one might think. Stringy, greasy gray hair, hunched back, and a crooked nose with a wart on the end. She was dressed in black witchy fineries, with amulets holding powerful spells draped around her neck. Colorful rings that had unknown amounts of power covered her fingers. Her beady black eyes glowered at her unwanted guests.
With a bone chilling cackle, the witch used her powers and zapped one of the boys to the ground. The other boy and the two girls let out a shriek of despair and split up, running through the house. One girl didn’t make it too far, as the old crone pushed her into the boiling cauldron. The other two made it safely to a hiding spot, deep within the house, with the witch’s book still in hand. As the old woman came looking for them, they hatched a plan. The boy went one way and the girl the other with the witch’s book firmly in her hands.
The girl headed back to where her two friends had already perished and held the book menacingly over the flaming fireplace. The witch raised her finger, no doubt to off the girl like a fly on the wall, when the boy came up behind her and pushed her into the flames where she began to burn. The boy and girl turned to run out into the now raging storm, but not before a curse was placed upon them. The curse went a little something like, “I curse you, your family for generations to come, and anyone who enters here will have to answer to me once more.” Fairly blunt and to the point.
The two kids were obviously scared, so when they reached the safety of their home, they went to the town fortuneteller. The fortuneteller told them that, “When the innocent becomes the brave, and the brave takes on the form of the innocent, the curse shall be lifted.” The girl married the boy that had been her savior and for years, their entire family line was cursed. Death, accidents, missing cases, stubbed toes, bad hair days, and much more affected their lineage.
Two hundred years later, to the date, and my parents were still telling me this story. Every Halloween, my parents made the story scarier and scarier to try and make me stay at home. These two people were my relatives of long ago, and after years of hearing this story, how could I not believe it? I mean, it would explain my cat’s disappearance and my hair at prom…
As I stepped outside on Halloween night in my costume, something felt different. The chill in the air seemed…chillier. The moon, which was supposed to be full, was covered by a stray cloud and the darkness enveloped me immediately. Only when a car pulled into my driveway, the headlights shining all around me, did I feel less suffocated, warmer even.
I ran to the car and stumbled inside as quickly as I could. In the driver’s seat, my boyfriend looked at me like I was a crazy person. Which I was. I was scared of most things: scary movies, dark alleys, bumblebees, spicy foods…
“Are you alright, Emma? Is something out there? I’ll go look!” Travis moves to open his door and looks back at me before touching the handle.
“No, it’s fine! Really! Let’s just get to the party.” Travis moves back into position and we both buckle up before pulling out of my driveway.
I look over both of our costume to make sure we look perfect. We were going to my best friend’s annual Halloween party that she held in her family’s cabin in the woods that surrounded the town. Which, she assured me, was the only house within miles.
Travis and I were going as Anna and Hans from Frozen and we both looked the part perfectly. My hair was in two braided pig tails and my dress was an exact replica or hers. Travis had the slicked back hair and sideburns and he even wore the gloves like I’d asked. Tonight was going to be perfect.
And then the wind picked up. Thunder shook the earth so hard I could feel it inside of the car. Shortly after the brightest flash of lightning streaked across the sky directly ahead of us. A storm was rolling in.
Which is exactly what happened two hundred years ago in the story of my family’s curse. I knew I shouldn’t have went out tonight. I knew it was going to be dangerous.
No, no. It will all be okay as long as I don’t leave the cabin when we get there. I repeated my new mantra in my head over and over again.
The rest of the ride out to the cabin was quiet and uneventful, except for the occasional flashes of lightning and booms of the thunder. Travis kept glancing around, watching our surroundings intently. He seemed to have a very protective look in his eyes, and I was very thankful that he was with me. If it wasn’t for my curse, I might have actually believed tonight was going to be a good night. But, I had thought the same thing last year when I went to my friend’s birthday bonfire. My right eyebrow still hadn’t totally grown back.
Finally, we arrived at the cabin where the party was in full swing. We get out of the car and I start looking around for the hostess of this huge party, Caroline, and her boyfriend Chris. Travis and I pass by some guys dressed up as firefighters minus most of their protective gear. Off to the other side of the Chip-N-Dale firemen was a nurse and her friend the French maid. I’m pretty sure I saw some other Disney princesses running around, too. Maybe even a light-up ladybug costume.
We made our way into the cabin which was even more crowded than outside. Did these people not know a storm was coming? Inside, it smelled like wood, alcohol, and sweat. The floorboards were creaking as teenagers danced on the old wooden boards. I was sure that one of them had my name on it and I would face-plant onto it before the night was over with.
As we came to the stairs, we ran into Caroline and Chris who were descending with cups in their hands. They made the perfect Danny and Sandy from the final scene in Grease.
“Emma, you made it! I’m surprised you came!” Caroline said while giving me a big hug. “You two look great! Who are you?”
“We’re Anna and Hans from Frozen! Can you not tell?” Travis says as he stands up a little straighter.
Caroline looks at me for a second before answering. “Didn’t he turn out to be the bad guy?”
"Well yeah, but Travis didn’t want to be Kristoff.” Which I thought was a little weird, but it was his costume.
“You guys got here just in time! We were about to go for a little Halloween haunted walk through the woods. You guys in?” Chris was good at changing the subject.
My eyes must have gotten to the size of a soccer ball and I must have looked like I was about to bolt because Caroline shook her head and looked me dead in the eyes and said, “Em, there’s nothing to worry about. He’s just kidding about the haunted part. We just wanted to take a walk before the storm hit and we were stuck in here with all of these people. It’s just a little breather. And I know you’re thinking about the story, but seriously stop. Nothing bad is going to happen!”
And at that moment, I knew something bad was going to happen.
The wind was picking up wildly and any leaves left stuck to the trees were quickly falling off around us. Underneath our feet, old brown leaves that had fallen long ago crunched and scared me every time. A drizzle was starting and I slid too many times to count. Any light from the moon that we could have had was blocked by angry looking clouds. Other than Chris’s flashlight and the occasional systematic flash of lightning was the only source of light we had. But, I didn’t need the light to know that the curse was working its magic on my perfectly braided hair while Caroline still looked like the perfect badass Sandy that she was.
The path we took put us deeper and deeper into the woods. With every strike of lightning the trees took on an otherworldly existence. Every crash of thunder sent a shiver down my spine.
None of us were talking; just walking and enjoying each other’s company. Well they were, I kept trying to not fall and covertly sleek my hair back down to normalcy.
We had only been walking for about 10 minutes when we saw a dim light shining through the trees. And my worst nightmare became a reality.
Just ahead of us stood the house that had haunted my family, and myself, for centuries.
Travis stood beside me wide eyed, and Caroline was on me in an instant. “Em, look at me. This is not a witch’s house. That family curse and prophecy are not a real thing! It’s a scary story your family came up with to keep the kids in line. I promise you that everything is okay! So you better shape up!”
“I feel like that’s not such a good idea.” Surprisingly, these words came from Travis and not me. “I mean, for Emma’s sake. We should just go back.” He was looking all around us, his eyes never stopped their zigzagging through the forest.
“Emma, didn’t the prophecy say that the curse would be broken when the innocent becomes the brave?” Caroline asked me, an idea forming in her mind.
“…yes.” I replied grudgingly.
“Well, don’t you think going back to this place would be brave? If this whole curse and prophecy is a real thing, wouldn’t this break it?”
Unfortunately, her point was made well enough for everyone else and that is how we ended up at the little white picket fence in front of the house that had been the bane of my family’s existence for two hundred years.
“Emma, look at the walkway.” Caroline whispers to me.
The walkway was the last thing I wanted to look at. I didn’t want to see the bones of this wicked old woman’s victims. I knew it would forever be burned into my mind. My nightmares wou—
My reverie was broken by Chris forcing my head to look down…where I saw that we were walking on a cobblestone walkway. The uneven path wasn’t due to bones at all.
“Well, that’s one mystery debunked.” Chris said as he smiled down at me.
While this revelation warmed me a bit, I looked over at Travis to see a very pale face still checking our surroundings.
“Travis, you alright man?” Chris asked.
“Ye-yeah. Just making sure no one…no one sneaks up on us, you kn-know?”
Caroline and Chris give each other a look and shake their heads. We continued towards the window on the side of the house to peek inside, but the only thing looking back at us were red curtains.
Unfortunately, this didn’t deter Chris and Caroline. They marched straight to the front door and waited. As I walked up to the door, trailing slightly behind them, I noticed that the house itself was old but still in very good condition. No crumbling bricks, and also no strange smoke from the chimney. The smoke looked and even smelled normal.
Just as I started to come to the conclusion that this might not be so bad, what seemed to be a black cat came streaking across the walkway in front of me and Travis.
This super high, blood curdling scream didn’t come out of my mouth. It came from Travis who, after screaming like a 5 year old girl, took off scrambling into the woods and out of sight.
“Well, I was wondering how long he was going to last. That kid has been scared of his own shadow since we were in elementary school.” Travis said, a look of exasperation on his face.
“I had no idea he was scared of everything…” But now that I thought about it, he was always looking around and almost doing protective things, but never quite going through with them. Like in the car before we left…
“Forget him. Come up here, I have an idea.” Caroline said.
I walked up to her and she took my hand and made a fist. Then she told me to do the scariest thing yet: knock.
Seeing the witch’s house had caused me enough grief. I wasn’t sure if she had even died when they pushed her into fireplace. If she had lived, she probably had just redecorated. Or maybe her kin had taken over the house and had modernized it for their new age witchy ways. Either way, I would not be welcome here. Knocking was not on my agenda.
“We’re right here with you. All you have to do is knock.”
I looked at my two friends. They hadn’t run away. Maybe Caroline was right and there was no curse. It was all just in my head. But, there was only one way to find out.
So I took a deep breath.
And I knocked.
I held my breath as I waited for something, anything, to happen. Who would answer the door? An old woman? A little kid? A whole coven of witches waiting to turn me into a black cat or a goose for what my ancestors did to their ancestor?
A light came on just inside the door at the same time the light on the porch came on. The door squeaked open and standing there was an old woman.
Instead of a pointy hat and black robes, a dazzling array of rings and necklaces, and a crooked nose and stringy hair, I was looking at the epitome of a cute old grandma. She had on one of those Halloween sweatshirts my own grandma was famous for wearing. Her light grey hair was in a bun and there was a pen stuck through it to keep it in place. She had a smile on her face and I could hear the sound of the movie Hocus Pocus playing from inside the house somewhere. I could see a little of the inside of the house from where I was standing, and there was no big book made of human flesh as far as I could see.
“Hello, dears. You three look a little old to be trick-or-treating!” The old woman was smiling at us.
“We aren’t here for candy. It’s kind of a long story, but my friend here, Emma, really needed to come here.” Caroline said, always polite to anyone that looked like her Nanna.
“Emma Folken? I’ve known your family for years! I am Grandma Gracie. Don’t look so frightened. Yes, I know the story. Your father came when he was about your age, too. Broke into my house. When I caught him in my husband’s fishing net, he told me about this ancient curse and prophecy nonsense and said he was trying to break it. Poor thing was scared to death of me until I let him look around so he could see there was no book or bubbling cauldron anywhere in sight. I’m surprised he’s still telling this story after his experience!”
I stood in shock for a few minutes. “If my dad knew you weren’t a witch, why did he keep telling me about the curse and the prophecy?”
“Emma, you’ve been scared of everything for as long as I can remember. Anything bad that happens to you, you blame on the curse. I think your dad wanted to break your habits. I think he wanted you to become brave.” Caroline said. “And look how brave you’ve been since we got here.”
There was a rustle in the woods and suddenly, Travis fell through the brambles and plopped out on the lawn, face first. He scrambled back up and, noticing us, instantly stops in his tracks.
“Uh…oh there you guys are! I’ve been looking for you. Did you see that ravenous animal come after me? I just now lost it in the woods!” He was breathing heavily and he was covered with leaves and mud.
Then, out of the bushes behind Travis came the cat. It walked right up to the house and hopped onto the porch in front of us. Now that it was in the light, I could see that it was a little tabby kitten, not black at all.
“I think your ravenous animal found you, Travis. You know, I always thought you were there to protect me. But, really, you never did a brave thing in your life. What if this house had held some witch and that cat could’ve actually caused us harm? You just left us here on our own. You saved yourself. The curse never was real. But at least I faced my fears. You’re just a scared little boy. Well, now you’re a very single scared little boy. Good luck finding someone to tuck you into bed every night. You can go home now, Travis.” And with that, I turned back around to my friends, and the not-so-wicked witch and listened as he started to sniffle, and then full-out cry, as he shuffled back towards Caroline’s cabin.
Caroline and Chris, and even Grandma Gracie, clapped at my newfound bravery. As we said our goodbyes to Gracie, it dawned on me that the curse might not have been real, but maybe, in a way, the prophecy was. I had thought Travis was the brave one, but really he was just the innocent coward I had been my whole life. I was now the brave one.
And if the curse was real, and I just broke it, this mean I’ll have good hair days now! Right?