The old house at the end of a dead-end street is more of a dead end than anyone realizes....
They are five misfit kids who have banded together in their small Ohio River town. Over the years, they had organized various clubs, and now they've formed the Halloween Horror Club. The premise is simple: each week, each teen spins a horrifying tale, and at the end of five weeks, the scariest story wins a prize. The twist: the stories have to be told in the infamous and abandoned Tuttle house, where, fifteen years earlier, nearly an entire family had been murdered in their beds. The idea of the club seems like a good one, until the kids begin to realize they may not be alone in the Tuttle house, which backs up against the woods. There seems to be someone--or something--watching them. Is it Paul Tuttle, the son who, while still in his teens, disappeared the night his parents and sister were killed? Or is it someone even more sinister? With each story (each a completed short, original horror tale that stands on its own), the tension mounts...and so does the anger of the house's mysterious inhabitant. He is enraged at having his space violated, and his rage could mean a real dead end for those who dare to invade his home...
Even if all the horrible things that had happened there had never occurred, the house would still look scary. There were solid things one could point to and say: "that's what makes this house look forbidding:" things like the dirty white paint, most of which had cracked and fallen away, revealing the gray and rotting wood beneath. The windows were empty eye sockets, glimpsing the darkness within, the glass panes long ago succumbing to the wiles of vandals. Pine and Maple trees grew riotously around the house, closing in on it. The steps leading up to the front porch sagged and looked as if the slightest pressure would send them crumbling.
The house's placement, where the woods met the end of Acton Road, gave it a feeling of separateness. Almost as if the house were waiting, there at the entrance to the woods, to suck in the innocent, to make them disappear into its darkness.
Not many people went near the house on Acton Road. Most, in the Ohio River town of Summitville, Pennsylvania, had forgotten what had occurred in the house fifteen years ago. The murders had caused a sensation at the time, but the crimes faded into obscurity, much as the house, once neatly kept and inhabited, faded into rot and disrepair.
Not everyone in Summitville had forgotten the house. Over the years, groups of teenagers had tested their mettle by entering the house, searching for bloody handprints on the walls or the chalk outline of a body. There were always one or two who were brave enough—or foolhardy enough—to wander inside, to test the creaking floorboards. These brave souls would often run outside, screaming and laughing, and report back to those less brave, outside and waiting in the shadows, that they had heard a voice telling them to get out, or that they saw a shadow pass along a wall, or simply felt a presence there, watching.
Peter, Marlene, David, Roy and Erin had more of a mission than to merely cross the threshold of the house to see what was inside. The group of five, all eighth graders at East Junior High School, had known each other since they were just little kids, having grown up in the same neighborhood on the hillside not far from the infamous Tuttle house. They too had heard the stories of weird lights flickering on and off in a house that had long ago seen the exit of electricity, or the tales of people who had gone inside, only never to return.
Over the years, the five friends had formed among themselves various clubs. These clubs gave them an excuse to be together and specified times when they knew they would see one another and maybe more importantly, gave them something to look forward to. Peter had been the first to come up with the idea for a club, when they were all seven. "How about a Liar's Club?" he had proposed one August afternoon, when the air was thick with humidity and the buzz of flies and cicadas. All of the others were just learning the benefits of falsehood and how a cleverly thought–out fib could save them from trouble with their parents. But the idea of lying just for the sake of lying had an odd appeal...and the group decided to try it. The Liars Club had lasted part of that summer, when each member was required to tell lies to his or her family; the one who got away with the biggest whopper was the champion liar. The club didn't last long, due probably to guilt and the group's limited talents in the field of falsehood. Other clubs, like a forestry club, various fan clubs and even a Society for the Advancement of Endangered and Stray Pets (the group's parents particularly disliked this one), formed and disbanded over the years, accomplishing little more than cementing the bond of friendship between the five. And these five had friendships that had weathered the storms of childhood accusations, petty jealousies, and “new” friends whose companionship had faded away with the passage of time.
Now, it was September and the group of five wondered if there was anything new they could come up with to further cement their bond. School had started again and one day after classes, with Halloween looming on the horizon, Peter had blurted out his latest idea for a club. The group was in Erin's basement, where they were surfing the Internet, looking for a site where they had heard they could download episodes of Lost for free. They weren’t having much luck.
"How about a horror club?" Peter proposed, almost out of the blue, as the rest of the group was trying to make sense of four million hits on Google after Erin had entered “TV shows online.” He took off his glasses, which everyone except his friends in the group said looked like the bottoms of Coke bottles, and rubbed them on the tail of his green and white striped T–shirt.
"The only horror is your face." David said, bending over the desktop to adjust the volume on the computer speakers. He grinned, looking back at his friends, who either lounged on the berber-carpeted floors, or were huddled together on the Early American couch that had, in better days, taken up residence in Erin’s parents living room.
Peter lifted a pillow from the couch and flung it at David, who caught it and flung it back, knocking Peter's glasses askew. Peter adjusted them and ran his fingers through his dark brown hair. He bit his lower lip: the comment wasn't amusing, not in the least, especially when Peter noticed that morning he had gained five more pounds and three new zits on his forehead. "Shut up, David. I'm serious."
Marlene pressed some keys on the keyboard and the volume of the computer got softer. They were listening to an iTunes mix of dance hits from the 1980s (the olden days). "C'mon, David, give Peter a break." She turned to him. "What do you mean? Some sort of club to go see horror movies? We already do that." Marlene was the quietest of the group and even they all acknowledged she was the smartest.
Peter rolled his eyes. "No, I have something a little more imaginative in mind." He paused and waited until Roy and looked away from the computer monitor. Peter bit his lower lip, then continued. "I was thinking of this club as a limited time thing." He let his statement hang in the air, hoping he was building an appropriate sense of suspense and danger.
"Yeah. Like the McPig sandwiches at McDonald's." David snorted with laughter at his own joke.
"C'mon, Dave. Let him finish." Roy spoke up, but it wasn't very convincing: he still sounded like a seven year old boy or worse, a girl.
"Thanks," Peter said. "Anyway, what I was thinking was this: it's only six weeks until Halloween, right?"
Erin nodded and flung a mass of her dark brown hair over one shoulder. She gave Peter the full attention of her eyes, which were so dark they appeared bottomless. Erin was the prettiest of the group and what made her even prettier was the fact that she had no idea this was the case.
"Well, what we could do is meet officially once a week. At that time, each one of us would be responsible for making up a scary story...you know, something really gross or bloody...for that week. Let’s see if we can make something up really scary, scarier than any movie, something that would make some of us afraid to turn the lights off when we got home at bedtime. When we're all done, we'll take a vote and whoever gets the most votes gets to decide how we'll spend Halloween."
"Boring!" David said. "Can we move on to other business, like putting some other music on? This sucks." David reached out toward the computer and Marlene slapped his hand away. Her eyes were bright with interest.
"I think the idea has potential," Marlene said.
"I didn't tell you guys the best part, though." Peter's face flushed red with excitement. "We'll meet at the Tuttle house each week. That's where we'll tell our stories." Peter’s smile died as he surveyed the reaction on his friends’ faces when they heard the locale he proposed.
The group got quiet. Even the music seemed to get softer, as if an unseen hand, pale, veiny, and covered with sores, was turning down the sound.
"The Tuttle house?" Erin whispered, her dark eyes alive with fear.
"Isn't that where all those murders happened? That family?" Roy's voice cracked.
"Supposedly." David spoke up. "That was a long time ago, before any of us were even born. I think it's just a rotting house up on the hill. Nothing to be scared of."
"Then we can do it?" Peter sounded hopeful.
"I haven't got a problem," David said.
"I don't know," Erin twisted a strand of her dark hair. "What if someone catches us?"
"Who's going to catch us?" Marlene spoke up. "The house is at the end of a dead end road; there aren't even any neighbors until you get to the Washingtons and they're at least a football field or two away. If we're quiet, I don't think anyone would even pay any attention. It's just an empty old house, really."
Peter looked around at them all. "An empty old house? Maybe. That's part of why I want us to meet there...to see just how empty it is. I've heard things, lots of things about the Tuttle house. I know you guys have too." His gaze met Erin's, whose unblemished and perfect skin had gone pale. "It may not be as empty as some people'd like to think." He grinned. "Or hope."
"What are you talking about?" David's mouth was turned down into a frown.
"That's for you to find out at the first meeting. I'll tell the story. Next Wednesday after school okay for everybody?"
They all agreed to meet the following Wednesday at the bottom of the hill.
The "Halloween Horror Club" was born.