A young married couple were invited to take part in a reality television show within a hospital that had a dark history behind it, and what they see goes beyond anything they cannot explain with a rational mind. This is the second installment of the House of Spiders series. Bite of the Spider in Reality Check: An Anthology Of Horror is the first one. House of Spiders 3: The Account of Todd Hollins co-written with Barbara Marjanovic is coming out in September from Naked Snake Press. The story that Terry Lloyd Vinson calls the calling card. Welcome to what is my entry into what they call Bug Horror. I've had it coined a Cthulhu Mythos story too.
We look into the eyes of a person who was selected for a reality show but the details of what she was told that she would be doing was uncertain. Though from the account of Joanna Hollins is one that paints the picture of what nightmares become when they answer the call. That call was one that begins the account that was transcribed to what they see here. Joanna was from a small town outside of Joliet called Mazon, Illinois, but her fascination with reality shows was one that was beyond anything that one can understand. It was about January 24, 1997, when she got the call of being on a show which was hosted by the local news and the setting of it was in a local asylum. She got the call about 8 AM, it was a calm winter morning within her Grundy County home.
“Hello,” Joanna responded to the call, still tired. “Do you realize what time it is, some of us are still trying to sleep.” She was really tired from doing an all night study session, she had to write a thesis on abnormal psychology and a paper on phobias for her psychology class.
“Is this a Joanna Hollins?” the person calling asked, “You have been selected by CLTV news for a reality show that is set within an old hospital. We cannot go into the details of the show right now but if you give us your mailing address we can send you more information about what the show is about. We can tell you a little about the hospital we are doing this in, it has a macabre history of doctors killing themselves and nurses becoming violently sick without warning. How they found the nurses in the hospital, blood drained from their bodies but barely alive. The kind of thing that writes themselves into old horror novels or urban mythology. Pack as you would a camping trip because the area we are going to have you sleep in are the old resident quarters. We’ll be taping every move you make, and every move that your room mates have. We are looking to take about 20 married and engaged couples then put them in this place, and have them tape their own accounts. We managed to call you because of a paper you wrote a few years ago, one of your high school teachers gave it to us since the teacher is a personal friend of mine.”
“Sort of like the show that is on basic cable right now? Sounds intriguing but old, abandoned hospital places give me the creeps,” she said with hesitation, “but I might as well do it. It sounds intriguing enough. I thought this was a bullshit prank at first but seems like you got a legit deal here. I was looking for inspiration to write about, but right now I was running on dry with the ideas. I want to do this, but lets see if I can get my husband in on it as well.”
“I take it that you watch some of those reality shows, don’t worry this is nothing like that show or similar shows,” the caller answered, “the place is said to be haunted for a number of years. We will be meeting you in Joliet Union Station, your meals will be covered along with your room and board when you are staying in the old hospital. The taping of the show will be for about 8 months, but what you are welcome to do here is bring your own video camera and make a documentary of the events that go on inside of the place. The reason I tell you to bring your own video camera is that one can document in case there might be a ghost that will walk into the room where you are staying at.”
She agreed to the project because Joanna already kept a video journal and after she got the phone call, she pulled the video camera and started taping. The show was going to use her own footage for it as well. A conversation between her and Todd, and a degree in film making and her husband was a writer of gothic novels.
“I think you should do it,” Todd suggested to her, they were both in bed getting ready to turn out the light, “I know that there is a lot going into your mind about this project. But something like this doesn’t come around every day; this is an opportunity that one cannot even begin to pray for. If they called me, I would jumped at the chance. They said you can bring someone along with you and I am glad that you offered to take me with you. I read some about this place that they are doing the show at, it was something out of the pages of an Edgar Allan Poe short story. The nurses that became violently ill were in their late 20s, and the doctor that killed himself. They didn’t say much on the reasons why but it had to go along with something that happened within the place.”
“I just feel very uneasy about it,” she responded, “I know I am excited about it but it scares the shit out of me about the idea of going into a place as that, with the history that it has. I will do the show, but it scares me to death because of the place that I am doing this show in. Did they say how the doctor killed himself? I know it sounds morbid that I am asking this, but I want to know as much as possible about the history of the doctor. I was reading the outline for the show and it scares the shit out of me because how they did their research for this. I know I must try to get some sleep but that what happened to the doctor is what keeps me awake.”
They kissed each other a good night and turned out the light. Joanna was nervous for some reason and felt quite uneasy about the call and invitation to be part of a reality show, and especially about the subject matter namely. She thought, damn, Todd is asleep like there is nothing to worry about while this scares the hell out of me. The history of the place is what baffles me the worst and how the nurses became violently ill. It has to be about midnight, I have to get some sleep. What they left out about how they found the doctor was the way he tried to kill himself, the discovery of his body was one of the most grizzly in the history of Illinois. It was about 2 am when Joanna fell asleep, but felt uneasy about everything within the details told in the article and thesis of the show.
Before she went to bed, Joanna had a camera set up next to her bed. As part of the requirement, before going on the show she had to do a video journal. It was about 9 AM when she awoke from a disturbed sleep. The dream that she had was how she found the doctor, in the residence room. He was without his hand because he cut if off, couldn’t save himself in time then bleed to death from what little blood was left in his body.
[day one] Video Journal of Joanna Hollins:
“The name is Joanna Hollins. I was picked to do a project that is hosted by CLTV, I don’t know the details of this show that I was selected for but I was told that it would be a documentary type of format. I don’t makes sense of the reasons why they ask us to bring our own cameras into the show, but I will find out later on as I am going to the train station. I am just packing my things needed for the show, and the husband is going to be accompanying me on the start of the thing. Honesly I am scared as hell to do this because I know a little bit about the story of what happened inside the place. The details gave me some nightmares that I cannot begin to relate. My husband, Todd, is fine with the idea, but he seems more excited than I am about the project. I just have this notion that something is going to go wrong within the place that I pray doesn’t.
I felt very uneasy about the thing because I am going into a place with a history that is darker than the House of Usher. Though I might only be 21 years old, but something of this nature does make me nervous. My husband is looking forward to it because he wants to use what he picked up in the project and write a story off it. Just something about this made me feel uneasy, but he is like a boy scout who is telling ghost stories on a camping trip about the whole idea. I could hear him trying to scare the shit out of me as his idea of a practical joke. One thing that I am scared to death of is spiders, and that is something that goes back a number of years. But though the thing that gets to me is how the doctor killed himself those many years ago, and that is the riddle that will play out in the mind as I do this video journal for the show.
I just feel like a character in a horror movie that is going to go to a place that they know they would end up dead, just that notion I have. I cannot begin to describe this though it is something that scares the hell out of me when it comes to places with a back history behind it. I have an allegory to bee stings, that goes back to when I was 16 years old. It was on my birthday when I was at a friends apartment, a bee flown into can of soda and accidentally allowed the bee to get into my mouth. I was carried out on a helicopter to Silver Cross hospital in Joliet. And what I was told of the place had an infestation of hornets, I don’t really have an idea of where this place is at but some of my friends are familiar with the old hospital. They used to squat in the place when they ran away from home, sometimes they saw the ghost of the doctor walking around in the halls. So what they told me about the place I was not able to sleep for weeks unless it was with some chemical assistance.
The question of how CLTV got my phone number baffled me, but I was thinking they found a paper I wrote in 1990 about Illinois’ dark history.”
She turned off the camera and proceed to pack her bags up for the project. The words she could describe of herself being a bit uneasy. It was about 11 AM when she and Todd made the trip to Joliet Union station, and there they were greeted by a midnight blue SUV. It turned out the truck was driven by a person behind the project, “Are you Joanna Hollins? We spoke on the phone. I’m the organizer of the reality show type documentary. See you got your video camera, the members of the project have to film their own footage and what we are expecting is someone who keeps a video journal of each night they are there. This must be your husband, Todd, I am pleased to meet with you. This place that we are filming at has a dark history behind it, I will explain more in the truck.”
“Joanna, you seemed like you haven’t slept in days, you could tell me what is going on?” Todd asked his wife, sounding a bit concerned, “seems like something you read in the thesis made you disturbed for some reason.”
The truck had a camera in it and filmed them, they didn’t realize the show was taping, “Do you mind, we are trying to have a private moment between husband and wife.”
“I apologize for not introducing you to the main camera man, this is the Hollins family. I want you to meet Thomas Edwards. He is the one that is going to be taping this documentary project for CLTV. He is not very familiar with the St. James Hospital. The area of the hospital is in Dekalb, Illinois. The reason I told you to pack as you would for a camping trip because there are no bedding in the place. Beds but no bedding. It had been abandoned for about 20 years, since the death of the doctor and the discovery of the nurses becoming violently ill. The nurses are still alive, and one of them was one of our sources of why we are doing the documentary. They could not explain why they became violently ill but the reason the doctor killed himself because he was in a lot of pain, the medical examiner said that he killed himself because he had a bite of a spider on his arm. The animal drained his blood as myths of the undead. We were doing a project in a matter of months about haunted places or places with histories shrouded with bizarre happenings in them. I never had a chance to introduce myself on the phone, I am Catrina Taylor,” the staff member stated, “We have about a little more than an hour drive, and what intrigued me about the place is the history and the way it is designed. It was built in the 1930s, and one of the first modern hospitals for the mentally ill. I will be staying with the cast on the project in one of the residential rooms.”
“I will be honest with you, the history behind the place has some pretty sick shit,” Catrina tried to reassure them, “ I will have the cellphones handy and have medical assistance at a press of a button in case things get too frightening. The reason I want to do this is because I am looking for the ghost of the doctor that died in there. They said of the doctor that he walks among the halls and leaves a trail of blood that was the place the spiders bit his arm.”
“Why did you have to mention spiders?” Joanna responded, sounding a bit horrified.
“It’ll be fine, I am going to be there with you,” Todd tried to reassure her, “nothing will happen to you. It looks like we have arrived. Damn it almost appears out of the pages of a Poe story. I could just hear the gears churning in my head, let me see that video camera. I want to document this stuff, shit, this can make for some good inspiration. Is this the House of Spiders everyone is talking about? Damn, this is has some vibe that I cannot begin to relate but I can say this much. It does have that atmosphere of some of the gothic stories I have written.”
[day one] Journal of Todd Hollins:
“This place, I don’t even know what I can say of this place but all I can say it has a feel that is all of its own. That I know my wife is horrified as it is from the dreams that she had from the story behind the place, but I am more intrigued by it. The staff and crew are going to be staying with us on the entire project, and we don’t know when it would air on CLTV but I know one thing. I wish they called me instead of Joanna. We will be presented with our rooms soon enough here and some of the roommates arrived within an hour from our arrival, one pair came from Racine, Wisconsin, and the other was up from Toronto, Ontario.”
It was a matter of hours before they settled into the abandoned hospital; for the next five months they were going to call the place home. Though the narrative given will be of the first few days, but by the time the entire project was done, no one can begin to find the words to describe what they saw in the place. But it was within the first night that Joanna heard the walking around in the halls. The stirring around in the darkness she felt, even though the room had heat in it and the cold was touching the feet as she slept. Her husband rested in the next room; they didn’t have everyone in the residential rooms, they had placed some of them in the waiting rooms (the ones that used to be used for the patients who had been in surgery for long hours, and the visitors would often spend the night. This is where they were placed.)
She began to dream. In her dreams she felt the horror that was within the walls and in the walls she felt four pairs of eyes looking back at her, then another pair of fangs impaling the roommate she was assigned. The animal began to drink without end, though one cannot explain how these spiders had lived as long as they have. One of her roommates that the spider was drinking from was the person who organized the project to happen, then around the roommate were the nurses who were violently ill. Their faces were bloated with puss and mouths were swollen shut from the places the spiders had bit them. In her long nightgown and bare feet she watched in horror, but she was not able to scream or say a word. She was so horrified by all that she saw there but when she tried to run, she couldn’t move her arms or legs. She was thinking, this was not real, I am dreaming. I see my own body still in the bed covered up which is the telltale thing that I am dreaming but I cannot wake up. What the fuck is going on here? I see myself sound asleep, and dead to the rest of the world. I must wake up, hey bitch, wake up here.
It was about 12:30 am when she awoke from the dream, and her hands were clammy to the touch. The camera man was shaking her for about a half hour but she was not able to wake up on her own. “Joanna, are you all right? It seemed like you were having a nightmare so I had decided to try and wake you. I had this uneasy notion about the project as well but I knew it was something that the boss wanted to do. I knew of the place’s history before taking on the project. I do understand quite well about the reasons that you are badly shaken about this place, I know because I have seen this thing that one speaks of. ”
She began to look at his hand, since it appeared to be all bloated. The place where it was bit at was at the forearm. His face was bleeding from the eyes, and what she couldn’t describe was an absolute horror. Again; when she closed her eyes again no one else was around. She was still dreaming, but the horrors within the place grew on her. It was a matter of hours before she awoke again, she kept the video camera close by for when she woke up. It was still dark when she awoke, turned on the camera and proceeded to do another entry in her video journal.
“Did you hear that? I know that someone won’t believe me when I do this entry but I think I heard footsteps in the hall. Not one but eight sets of footsteps but no one was around, my roommates are still asleep and think nothing is going on. Though I know different. I had a dream that was beyond anything that was disturbing, though I had an idea of what happened to why the nurses became violently ill. They had bites from what appeared to be the resemblance of vampires, but they were not the undead people from the vampire myths. These were spiders that lived for hundreds of years. The thing that frightens me is that they were giving immortality. I went to check on my husband but he seems to be asleep without a sound, though one can hear the whispers in the hall. I went to check on the roommate that was sleeping on the top bunk, no pulse and not breathing. Their body was all bloated and puss filled, and the worst of the wound came from the arm. Two puncture wounds, similar to those of a venomous snake.
The lifeless body of the roommate was a frightening sight to describe but I cannot begin to realize what all that happened. It all seemed normal from the first night but one didn’t realize that all the horror started within the first night, I might of seen the ghostly doctor walking around within the halls and when I went to get something to eat he was standing there, watching. I haven’t seen them for real but in the dreams they appeared. All eight of their eyes were staring at me; each of their eyes having a life of their own. In the eyes they walk around, as they appear to be with a soul that is all their own.”
Frantically she ran out of the room from the horrific discovery and called to her husband. Still wearing the nightgown that she packed, walking down the halls in bare feet. “Todd, wake up, there is something you have to see.” The cameras were following her every step of the way, “Something really horrible was in my dorm, you have to wake up. There is something here that I cannot begin to describe.” She began to run into the area where her husband was passed out at, the roommate that was staying with him was being gored by a spider.
“Joanna, what the hell is going on?” Todd asked, with a bit of a puzzled look on his face. Then he saw the camera rolling, “Shit I cannot believe they caught that on tape; I wonder if they are actually going to air this. We have to go find Catrina, because she didn’t expect something like this happening. Though I have seen that ghostly doctor as well, seen the trail of blood that was there. I began to realize what was going on when we started to spend the first night in the place. We have to leave, try to get everything you came in with and lets get the hell out of here. I saw what happened to one of the nurses, she is caught up within one of the webs of the spiders. The reason they are called vampires are that being they live on human blood, but they don’t convert humans to vampires after they have been bit. We have to go get that nurse and get out of here, go find the rest of the people we came in with.”
Time ticked slowly as Hollins family proceed to find their way out of the hospital, the camera crew was still alive as well so they proceed to follow them out. The reason why the spiders were alive this long was that they did drink human blood, and the venom from the fangs of the spiders made the victim violently sick. Todd nervously grabbed his video camera and a pair of basketball shoes for his wife because the rest of the hospital was filled with broken glass. “Put these on, sorry I couldn’t get any socks for you but I am sure we can get back to your sleeping area and get some socks. It is a good thing we didn’t unpack everything, it is easier to vacate the place.”
Joanna grabbed as much as she was able to carry; along with her camera, without question she began to video tape the carnage. “Shit, I don’t think anyone would believe me unless I got the footage of this; the story of seven strangers about their lives being taped had nothing on this. I know from what I saw in this place, I had to get the hell out of here But we had to find the nurse before leaving the place, I know nothing about the layout of this hospital but she can be almost anywhere.”
It turned out that where the nest of the place was on the same floor as they were staying at. The nurse was in the web and all that was exposed of her was the face. She couldn’t move her body because she was pasted up to the wall. “Todd, Joanna, get me fucking down from here,” she screamed with a horrified look on her face. One of the spiders proceed to bite into one of her arms, just taking enough blood to weaken her. Todd frantically ran toward her, pulling out a pocketknife he had from the days when he was in boy scouts and quickly proceeded to cut her cocoon away from the wall. The cameras continued to roll while Todd was lifting her down from the silk prison. “Joanna, take this cigarette lighter in case they start showing up. Spiders are scared of fire. Hold on nurse, I will have you out of there in a matter of minutes keep still long enough so I can cut you free.”
The nurse’s hands were free so she could help in the process of freeing herself. “Let’s not hang around. Tell the camera crew to turn off their cameras because the spiders are attracted by movement. There is a way out of here and follow me; it is beyond these doors. First we need a way to get the rest of the spiders to go in another direction.” They nodded in agreement, Todd kept his own video camera rolling because he couldn’t resist the footage. “Okay just about have you free here, and time to get of here. I hear them coming, and felt one of their bone-like fangs impale me as I was freeing the nurse. Damn, that is it – now we fight these things.” He took his pocket knife and impaled it into the spider that bit him on the floor, saw human blood hit the floor as the spider pulled its abdomen away from the blade. Todd was looking in horror, “you got to be shitting me. Run, don’t look back grab everything you got on you and run like hell.”
They felt multiple legs chasing them as they ran down the halls and followed the trail of ectoplasm that resembled blood, “I think the doctor is trying to help us find a way out. Keep running.” Todd at this point was beyond horrified, stopped a few minutes to bandage his hand and kept going. The cameras were rolling and caught him, exhausted and the spiders gaining on them. They didn’t realize that the very place where they were supposed to do a reality show was a house of spiders. The party involved with the project felt the eyes looking back at them from an infinite darkness, knowing what was staring back at them were immortal. The screams they heard were nothing that they were able to do about it, and the people left behind in the house were the other roommates as they were being devoured blood first. The nurse that was retrieved from the nest had a gaping wound on her head from the impact that she took from when the spider took her.
“Where the fuck is that cell phone? We need to call an ambulance for the nurse, she lost a lot of blood. Grab the sleeping bag and put her in it. We are going to carry her out, and almost there. Bandage her head up so the spiders cannot smell the blood.” Todd said taking charge, “we are almost out of here, it would be easier for me to carry the nurse out if we can package her up and belt her to a door to use as a stretcher. Hurry, I can hear the hiss of the spiders.” He motioned to one of the remaining camera crew, “Give the camera to my wife, and we can get out of here faster.” The cameras proceed to roll and in a matter of minutes they found the exit. Todd and the camera crew stopped for a minute to close the hood around the nurses face because the snow started to fall to the ground. A blue SUV waited for them outside, Catrina was firing up the Hemi while the camera crew unbelted the nurse from the makeshift stretcher. The nurse was barely awake, though alert to what was going on, “Todd, I never had the chance to thank you for saving my life in there.”
They drove away into the winter’s darkness, Todd looked at the wife and the rest of the surviving party. “I don’t think this will be going on the air, the events that happened were too frightening to relate. I am thankful we made it out, and the story will be told – just not now. Catrina, there are some things that are not meant to be a reality show. Not at the risk of the life of others, ” Todd explained, there is a thankfulness to his voice. More that he is glad to make it out alive. They took the nurse to the closest hospital that was about an hour east in Glendale Heights.
Site: uncensored version.
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"House of Spiders"
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|Reviewed by Zebrial Gossage
|This is a brilliant idea. I like it! I could see it being a movie.|
|Reviewed by Charles O'Connor III
|Holy Crap Nick,
This was a very good story. I too hate spiders. With this level of material and imagination, I won't be suprised if I see your name in lights one day. Good Job.
Charles D. O'Connor III- check out my new story "The Jack N the box, unsure about this one though. "In everything I am an outsider"- H.P. Lovecraft.
|Reviewed by Gary Starta
|Great way to tell the story as a documentary. At least that's what I felt...maybe this is real?...Anyway it definitely left me wondering...and if that's what you were trying to accomplish you tricked me all the way with the clever format. Great Job. I look forward to checking out more of your writing. I appreciate the kind comments and tip about my short stories you checked out. I am working on a horror-scifi novel at the moment. I know you tend to lean to horror by checking your work history. I sometimes find it almost impossible to separate the two genres. Thanks again and take care. Gary Starta - website garystarta.com|
|Reviewed by Birdie Houston
|Shimmer me timbers great job is there a part 2 or 3 to come?|
|Reviewed by Chuckie Finn
|Wow, a seat squirmer for sure! The kind of story where you wince, twist and contort your face and then peek with one eye to read the next line because you just HAVE to know what happens next and where the spider is! I had written Ebony Eyes about three years ago about the government genetically altering the living things in the country by dumping chemicals there. I based the story on a hunting trip where we left this dude that was with us alone in the cabin for a while to go do something and he totally freaked out when a "colony" of spiders walked across the cabin floor! We heard him scream a mile away. Like the song lyrics say..Won't give me three steps, give me three steps toward the door, and you'll never see me no more! For sure!" He locked himself in the Jeep! Great story which kept me riveted to the computer screen!
|Reviewed by Macey Baggett Wuesthoff
|Nickolaus, this story truly kicked some horror butt! It was like "It," "Dawn of the Dead," and "Fright Night" all rolled into one! I hate bugs and spiders, and I love haunted house movies, so it freaked me out. The story got really fast-paced toward the end, which made it very cool. You did a really nice job with this one. I liked it a whole lot.|
|Reviewed by Shirley Cheng
|A great combination--I'm always afraid of spiders and vampires. Great for bringing them together. I wanted to read something like this...this is the first, and a very good one, too.|
|Reviewed by Robert Rousseau
|Great job, Nickolaus! I agree with a lot of people here also-- you should be a screen writer.
|Reviewed by Mitzi Jackson
|Whew....man you inspire me to open up more!!!
this is some touchy stuff here can see this as a screenplay that some one else wrote here, excellent job Man
|Reviewed by Nicholas Stember
|Nickolaus has a way of reaching inside your psyche and finding just the right way of unhinging it. Excellently written, both this story and "Gruesome Cargo" which is currently on "House of Pain".
Take a look at the rest of this writer's works...it's worth it.
|Reviewed by Ken Kupstis
|"VEDDY EEEENTERESTING, Master Pacione"...I wouldn't be surprised if this turned out to BE a reality show in a year or so...Best, K.K.|
|Reviewed by Terry Vinson
|Great stuff as usual, Nick. Hope to see this published in the "REALITY CHECK" anthology late this summer.
|Reviewed by Sandie Angel
|Wow Nicholaus! This was like a movie! You should be a screen writer. I saw some movies too about the reality show. It was rather frightening. I'm also very much afraid of spiders and anything crawling.
This story is so well-written. The events were close-knitted and unfolded one after another. The suspense and terror was great. You have done a great job on this story.
I remember there was a house on the same street where we lived when I was a little girl in Hong Kong, it was so haunted that no one wanted to live in it. The owner of that house had offered to the public for free - anyone who would want to live in that house only had to pay for the utility bills. Wish I had gone in there to make a show.
A very interesting story indeed!
~ Sandie Angel a.k.a. May Lu ~
|Reviewed by Karla Dorman, The StormSpinner
thanks. a. LOT! two things i hate: spiders. and old creepy hospitals (with all my medical adventures, who can blame me?? LOL)
this is one HELL of a scary write--like karen said, if i have nightmares tonight, i'm blamin' yew :0
geeez, now i've got the creepy crawlies *shivering* this one hooked me in and wouldn't let up--surpasses stephen king in my opinion
(((HUGS))) and love (??), karla.
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|geez, nickolaus..this scared the poop outta' me! you are really giving my nightmare machine quite a workout! if i have ANY bad dreams about spiders tonight, i am a blaming YEW!! LOL
(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in tx., karen lynn. :D
creepy, chilling write! (hope my twin doesn't see this; she hates spiders....LOL)
Nickolaus A. Pacione