Break the Cycle


The girl at once looked out of place and yet perfectly natural as she stood in front of my house. Her colonial attire was flawless and matched the colonial houses of the neighborhood.   Being a bit of an amateur historian I placed her costume at late 17th century, not too different from a classic picture of a Pilgrim girl at the first Thanksgiving. Perhaps, I thought with a laugh, she looked more like a witch’s apprentice in the Salem trials.

When we first moved in the kids used to play pranks on the old ‘haunted house’ and its new inhabitants, particularly at Halloween. As the kids got used to us living here the pranks and whispers slowly died out. Nobody had pulled a stunt like this in ages. I had to wonder what this girl heard. She couldn’t have been more than a baby when we moved in 16 years ago.

As I was closing the front door a man said, “Break the cycle.” I turned but nobody was there.

I looked out of the window. The flaming red sunset seemed to make the girl catch fire. I had called out to her when I first arrived home but she didn’t acknowledge my presence. She was still rooted to that same spot, she hadn’t moved an inch. I don’t think she even blinked; she just stood staring at the house.

A young voice said, “Mister, you need to leave right away. Break the cycle and free us.”

I turned from the window to the dark room. A boy was standing in front of me. My heart quickened. Cold air from the window sent a shiver down my back. However, as my eyes adjusted to the dark I saw I was mistaken. It was an optical illusion formed from an out of place chair. I reached over and turned on a lamp. The reassuring yellow light proved I was alone in the house.

I walked away from the window, ignoring the fact that the girl seemed to still be glowing red despite the fact that the sun had set. I turned on more lights, forcing the dark to flee out of every corner of the old house.

The sign you read as you enter our town proudly proclaims that it was incorporated in 1662, not particularly old for this part of Massachusetts but ancient for this country. A house was first constructed on the site of my present home in the 1670s. All that remains of the original structure is two walls in the cellar. The house burned down in 1694 killing the entire family. Nobody built on the site again until 1710 when the core of the present structure was built on the old cellar hole. The house has undergone several modifications and additions throughout its checkered past, though not as many as some of its neighbors. Altogether it was only occupied for about half of its history.

I fell in love with the old house the minute I first laid eyes on its deteriorating form. It had stood empty for about 16 years and was in pretty rough shape, but so much of the original 18th century structure survived in astonishingly good condition that I knew it had potential. Because of the ghost stories I was able to buy it for a song and used the money I saved to have it restored and modernized.

I wanted my restored house to be as historically correct as possible so I did quite a bit of research. The more I found the more fascinated I became and the more I searched out.

After the original fire there were more than a half a dozen tragedies in which all of the house’s inhabitants were killed. The last one happened a little over 30 years ago. A car was left running in the newly built garage, carbon monoxide leaked into the house killing the entire family. The garage was an abomination which I ripped down the minute I bought the place.

Before that the influenza epidemic in 1918 struck down every member of the family. They all died on the same day. Down through history there were botched robberies, blood feuds, diseases and such. The fact was that every so often something killed all of the current residents.

Every time one of these tragedies struck the house would stand empty for over a decade, falling once again into disrepair. A new family would eventually fall in love with the old house and put it back into shape.

The girl puzzled me. I needed to consult my records.

My second floor study overlooked the front yard. As I sat at the desk I could see the girl out there, glowing red in the late October evening. I shook my head to clear the imagined voices. Rifling through the drawers I found I was in luck, the years of research scribbled in notebooks were still there. Libraries from all of the surrounding towns had been pillaged to fill these pages; records at town halls gave stark details. I had been obsessed to discover the hidden past of my house, but over the years the obsession faded, the papers were all filed away. On this Halloween night I opened them once again.

The owner of the original house, Nathanial Reeve, sent his oldest daughter, Rebecca, to be raised by his sister in Salem after his wife died while in labor with their second child. Several years later Nathanial remarried and had more children, but Rebecca stayed with her aunt until the troubles began in Salem. The adolescent girl never liked her step mom or step brothers and sisters. She seemed strange and moody.

Legend has it that after a fight on her 16th birthday, October 31, 1694, Rebecca used an ax to kill her entire family while they slept. The horrible screams of the victims woke everyone in town.  Rebecca burned the house down around herself as the horrified neighbors looked on.

“Tis All Hallows Eve, when spirits once again walk the Earth. Some are all innocence waiting for the final chapter of their book to be read while others are evil. She is EVIL.”

I spun in my chair. A woman in late 17th century garb was standing at the door of my study. “Thou should run,” she said. I blinked and she was gone. I must have fallen asleep and had a nightmare from the grim reading.

Turning back I could still see Rebecca, glowing like an ember, staring up at my window.

I opened a new notebook and wrote the date 1694 at the top followed by 1710. I then went through my notes writing down the dates of when tragedy struck and when the house was reoccupied. A pattern quickly emerged. It was reoccupied in 1710, 1742, 1774 and 1806 while death occurred in 1694, 1726, 1758 and 1790. The death occurred 16 years after it was reoccupied, every time. And, every time, the house stood empty for another 16 years. I continued through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and saw that the trend persisted. I don’t know how I ever missed such a blatant pattern.

“The cycle has gone unbroken. You must break the cycle.” I didn’t look up or try to identify the man’s voice. “Leave the house now. Meet your wife and son before they enter and go away. Tomorrow all shall be well, but tonight is the night. You must break the cycle.”

I looked through a notebook as I gathered my thoughts. Every time there was a death it had been on October 31, Halloween. Tonight was the night, Halloween.

“Please sir, hurry. Break the cycle.”

There was a disturbance in the front yard. I looked out of the window and realized the glow was gone; Rebecca Reeve was no longer there. I stood up and took a step toward the door. All of the lights in the house went off.  I froze. A bump downstairs broke my reverie.

Reaching into the top drawer of the desk I felt the reassuring cold metal of my revolver. I pulled it out and let it slip comfortably into my hand. I heard another noise as I carefully crept into the hall. A light was coming up the stairs, glowing red. Rebecca took the last step off of the stair and faced me. My gun fired and fired again. Rebecca was gone. There was a flicker. The lights came on.

It couldn’t be. My wife Michele and our Tom were both dead. A flashlight was lying in a pool of Michele’s blood. It was me, I did it. I killed them.

Without thinking I turned the gun and looked into the unblinking black eye of the barrel. That eye was unfazed by what it had just witnessed; it didn’t care what was about to happen. I slowly squeezed the trigger.

I’m trying to leave this record. I hope it’s found. I know everyone will wonder why I would kill my wife and son and then turn the gun on myself. It was her. I swear. If you find this, please save yourself.

October 31, 1982

We bought the house back in 1998. It had stood empty since the terrible double murder and suicide back in the early 80s. This year we decided to redo the little study on the second floor. I discovered that before we bought the house the real estate people had stuck some new wallpaper over the horrid old 70s paper to “freshen up”. As I was removing the older layer I found the above story burned into the back of a sheet of wallpaper. It’s October 24, October 24, 2014. I have to be here on Halloween, I’ve already invited guests. Should I be concerned?

11 thoughts on “Break the Cycle

        1. trentpmcd Post author

          Darn. I wanted you to stop by and bring your pickled hand. I’m wondering if you light the candle before the ghosts show up if they’ll continue to “sleep”. And of course the revelers would be able to party all night.


    1. trentpmcd Post author

      Well, you know, party like it’s the last day of your life. I had originally written it as the main story happening now but I decided it would be better to step back a cycle to add some unresolved tension to the ending.

      Liked by 1 person


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