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Trial by Witch

Welcome to Our Frightmare : 5Th Annual Scariest Story
Ever Told Contest

October 31, 1997|GRETA JACOBSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

You readers are simply frightening.

It's spooky how many of you--5,626 to be exact--have bizarre enough imaginations to submit entries to our fifth annual Halloween scary story contest. And, yes, blood-draining as it was, we closely eyeballed each and every one.

Oh, the gore, the guts, the annoying sisters who meet deservedly bitter ends, the green zombies who masquerade as elementary schoolteachers, the outer space guys who turn little boys into ground meat (yes, bones and all).

Martha Stewart moves to our house!

Christmas season presents Tickle Me Donny Osmond dolls!

Marv Albert asks, "Do you have that in a 40 short?"

Stop, stop, stop. Life in Southern California is scary enough.

Well, here are the winners--four adults and four children in the writing category, and an adult and a child in the drawing category. These lucky 10 each win four tickets to Disneyland.

Here are a few samples from those who didn't make it:

Understatement of the Pile: "Two years ago there was a boy named Max. He was not very nice. He robbed an old lady. He felt bad. So did the old lady."

Best Last Line: "It's been a year since Scott's death. I'm sad about this tragedy, but at least I'm popular."

Call David Letterman: "It would be a scary Halloween this year when . . . your mother generously volunteered to provide entertainment (defined as singing and doing the polka) at the annual school dance."

Take me to Funkytown: "The Boogie Man wore a white polyester suit and a gold chain around his neck. . . . Gerald could feel the life drain out of him as he was compelled to do the Disco Duck and then the Hustle."

And now the winners:

Billy kicked at the piles of dead leaves strewn across the pavement as he walked along. The leaves were gold and orange and brown and yellow, crisp and crackling under his feet. It was Oct. 13 and just a week before in school they had started to read "The Crucible," a play by Arthur Miller. Billy had loved it at first, the wicked hysteria of the girls, the suspicion of witches; he was intrigued by it--until the teacher had started correlating their reading with the history of the Salem witch trials. Then Billy began to feel an ominous sense of fear whenever they talked about a witch being hung or burned. His hands shook when he had to read "The Crucible" aloud and his voice was all quavery.

Billy had always lived in Salem, Mass., and his family went back generations there. But he really had never been familiar with the intense history of Salem until that year, in seventh grade.

Last Friday as Billy was walking home, he felt that ominous feeling again, as he was passing the town graveyard. All his ancestors were buried there, dating back to the 1600s and the Puritans. Why, his grandmother was a member of the DAR. Today, as he glanced sideways at the old, overgrown plots, an impulse told him to break into a dead run, but he couldn't. Feeling stiff and cold, he just stared at the decrepit headstones. When he finally turned to leave, he had a creepy feeling that someone had been watching him.

Rummaging around the family library that weekend, Billy came across an old family Bible. It was worn and flimsy, and the pages were brown and almost transparent. As he gingerly leafed through it, he came across a page devoted to family births, deaths and marriages. Looking closely, he discovered that one of his ancestors, Sarah Parsons, had died in 1645 when she was only 25. Her name was almost smudged out, the cause of death listed as "unknown." But underneath the date of her death, in a tiny scrawl, was written, "God have mercy on her wicked soul."

Back in school, Billy's teacher was still talking about the trials and punishment of the Salem witches, recounting one memorable trial where the accused leaped onto the judge's bench, screaming and clawing at his wig. She was tried and hanged at dawn the next morning.

The story horrified Billy. No, he thought. It can't be! But the ominous feeling crept over him again, and his teeth chattered.

Two nights later was Halloween, and Billy noticed dark clouds gathering as he tramped through the chilly air, outfitted in his red devil costume. The wind had picked up, leaves rustled and danced along the street, and a full moon was hardly visible through the clouds when, at midnight, he said goodbye to his friend Robbie and started home. There was only one way to go. Petrified and lugging his heavy candy bag, Billy proceeded to walk past the graveyard. Something brushed his leg as it scurried past. Billy shuddered when he realized what it was--a black cat. As he turned, terrified, to dash across the street, the most terrible sound rose shrill on the wind, piercing his eardrums. It was a woman's scream of terror and hysteria.

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