About 12 Hours of Halloween:
The year is 1980. Jeff Schaeffer, Leah Carter, and Bobby Nagel decide to go out for "one last Halloween" before adolescence takes away their childhood forever.
But this Halloween is different, they soon discover; and an outing that was supposed to be light-hearted and fun becomes a battle for sanity--and perhaps even survival.
From the author of the reader-acclaimed “Eleven Miles of Night”, “12 Hours of Halloween” is a coming-of-age tale unlike any you have ever read.
A sinister teenager known as “the ghost boy” declares that Jeff Schaeffer and his friends will endure “twelve hours of trial” on Halloween. The three young people subsequently find their once familiar suburban surroundings transformed into a bizarre and terrifying landscape.
They discover that just beneath the surface of their middle-American neighborhood lies a secret realm of haunted houses, demonically possessed trees, and spirits with unfinished business. One entity, called the “head collector”, lurks the darkened streets in search of grisly trophies.
At the same time, Jeff is forced to confront new feelings for both of his old friends.
He believes that he is in love with Leah, but does Leah feel the same way?
Meanwhile, his friend Bobby, who had always protected him from local bullies, now seems to harbor a dark agenda that threatens to divide and possibly destroy them all.
View 12 Hours of Halloween on Amazon Kindle. Or listen to the rest of the recordings on my YouTube channel.
Ordinarily a person would say, You look like you’ve seen a ghost. It is a testament to the oddities of that particular season that Bobby was able to meaningfully say “another ghost”—even though he had since come to disagree with me about the true nature of the ghost boy.
“Come on,” Leah said. “Let’s go. These people have a warped sense of humor, or something.”
“It could be more than that,” I began. “Those are real headstones. I’ve never actually priced one, but I imagine that they don't come cheap.”
“Yeah, well—let’s just forget about it.”
I saw Bobby start to say something, and then he thought better of it. Bobby, like Leah, did not seem eager to discuss the possibility that the headstones had been more than a homeowner’s sick prank. In the same way, neither of them had wanted to explore the possibility that the ghost boy might be more than just an ordinary teenage boy who had made some lucky guesses.
As we walked down the driveway toward the street, Leah allowed herself one last backward glance at the inexplicable headstones.
“Weird,” she said. Yeah, it was weird, all right.
We made our way to the next house. It occurred to me that we were traveling, however slowly, in the same direction that Matt Stefano had been walking. That would be no problem, probably, so long as Stefano kept moving. But if Matt were detained for some reason, or decided to double back, we would run straight into him. And my pirate costume didn't much disguise me.
In that moment, I made a decision: It was one thing to back down from Matt Stefano when it was only the two of us—or even when Bobby was around, for that matter. But with Leah here tonight, the stakes were higher.
If I cowered before Matt Stefano tonight, Leah would lose all respect for me. And however much she liked me as a friend, I sensed that that would be the end of any chance that she might eventually like me as something more.
I didn't yet understand much about the whole amalgamation of masculinity, courage, and other factors that spurred female attraction. I only knew that being a coward before Matt Stefano would be the wrong thing to do.
I was therefore determined to stand up to him. But could I do that? I had never been able to do it before. Moreover, to view the matter objectively, Matt Stefano was older, larger, and stronger than me. To directly challenge him would be suicide—it would mean a bad beating, and maybe worse.
For the time being, I allowed myself to take comfort in the odds that we would not directly cross paths with him.
There were no headstones in the next yard. It was a normal looking split-level with an overgrown belt of shrubbery near the house, a white picket fence enclosing the back yard, and a tool shed in the back. There was a Mustang in the driveway that Bobby and I both paused briefly to examine. Driving was still four years in the future—a relative eternity at our age—but we had already begun to admire cars, to speculate about the masculine pickup trucks and muscle cars that we might drive at some unspecified point in the future.
The house was adorned with a few tasteful Halloween decorations: a tiny light bulb glowed inside a plastic jack-o’-lantern on the front porch. A white bed sheet, roughly manipulated to resemble a ghost, had been strung up in one of the shrubs.
“Do you know the people who live here?” Leah asked me. There would have been no point in asking Bobby, as he did not live in Shayton Estates.
“I don't know any of the families in this end of the neighborhood,” I said.
And that made me think: What the heck had Matt Stefano been doing in Shayton Estates to begin with? Surely he didn't live here. Had he come here tonight with the express purpose of tracking me?
Pushing these thoughts aside, I pressed the doorbell.
The voice inside the house caused chills to ripple up my spine. It was a deep, booming voice:
“Open the door! Open the door!” it shouted.
Curiously, the voice also had an echo, as if the distinctly male presence were calling from the bottom of a ravine.
“That must be a recording,” Bobby said.
“I don’t think it’s a recording,” I said. The words had come as an immediate response to my ringing the doorbell.
“Well, then it’s some kind of a sound effect.”
Have it your way, Bobby, I thought. How could it be a “sound effect”? This wasn't a Hollywood studio, after all. This was a house in suburban Ohio. (And in 1980, stereo systems were pretty basic.)
Leah was about to offer her two cents, but then the door opened.
The woman before us appeared to be perfectly normal—at first glance. She might have been in her early- to mid-thirties. She was wearing what might be described as a “sexy witch” outfit: a sleeveless black gown that featured a short (though not indecently short) skirt, and a plunging neckline. Her light brown hair overflowed from beneath a store-bought witch’s hat. Somewhat incongruously, she also wore glasses. They were encased in large, round plastic frames—the kind that were so popular in those days.
“Hello, children!” she said sweetly.
Once again, we heard the voice from somewhere deep in the house: “Open the door!”
The words seemed to vibrate through the front doorframe of the house.
The woman turned away from us to call back at the unseen source: “I’ve got the door. You can stop now!”
When she turned back to us, she quickly recovered from what might have been a look of annoyance. She was clearly unafraid of the man who had called out in that preternaturally low and rumbling pitch. This was some sort of an elaborate Halloween ruse—or something unusual was taking place here. I hadn’t yet decided.
Was the woman’s skin unusually pale? A part of me thought so; but it was difficult to say for sure in the dim lighting.
“Candy,” she said, as if declaring her own absentmindedness. “That’s what you children want: candy.”
I know, even now, that all of us were feeling vaguely insulted at being referred to as children. None of us protested, though. We were the ones trick-or-treating, after all.
The woman stepped briefly away from the doorway and retrieved a serving bowl filled with “fun-size” chocolate bars and lollipops. Nothing out of order here, I thought.
When she gave me my Baby Ruth chocolate bar, the woman also favored me with a wide, friendly smile. Her mouth opened just wide enough for me to see her canine incisors.