For the past few years, my cousin, Mel, has written a Halloween story for me which I share with you all on my blog. This year, she wrote something a bit more personal…hope you enjoy! Here it is:
The gate creaked as it swung open. It was a mess of rusty wire and pipes that in its day had been an ornamental work of art. No one came here any more; the walkway was overgrown with tall weedy grasses which made it hard to find the flagstone footing that lay underneath. Vines hung down like tinsel and moss and mold grew around the trees as if they had been covered with gift wrap. Even in the late afternoon there wasn’t much light as shadows like a deep dark shroud lay over the old graveyard. As I walked in I was caught in a gossamer tangle of webs that clung to my head like a bad wig. I tore it away knowing that a spider was crawling nearby.
When I was a child I came here often with my Grandmother. I’d jump on and ride the gate as it swung open and then run ahead to find “our” spot. We’d spread a blanket and set out the sandwiches. After we ate I’d lie on my back looking up at the sky while my Grandmother told me stories about some of the people who were buried around us. My favorite story was about Gilda Gladstone. My Grandmother said Gilda had been a lovely young woman with long blond hair and the face of an angel. Her headstone was under the tree that shaded us from the heat of the sun. My Grandmother would click her tongue and say, “So young and so tragic what happened to dear sweet Gilda!”
I’d beg my Grandmother to tell me more and she’d pause and begin by saying, “It was Halloween night…..Gilda’s most favorite night of the year, the night she had planned to be married. No one ever understood her fascination with such a dreadful night with the ghosts howling, witches riding on broomsticks, vampires and monsters roaming about.”
“But Grandmother,” I’d always say, “None of that is true. Halloween is so much fun.”
“Well, it didn’t turn out that way for poor Gilda Gladstone. You see she went out alone that night, into this very graveyard and was never seen alive again. No one really knows what happened except for me since I was hiding way up in this very tree. I was trying to see if I could see spirits rise up from their graves on Halloween when Gilda walked in. I never made a sound and I saw the whole thing, right before my eyes.”
“What did you see?” I begged. “Was it horrible, Grandmother?”
“Ah, it was beyond horrible dear child! It was very dark, except for the beams of moonlight that set shadows and shapes about the ground. I had a perfect view of the whole thing. Gilda walked quietly into the graveyard wearing a black cape over her shoulders, but the full moon caught her hair making it look as if she wore a crown of gold on top of her head. I saw her look over at that grave over there. It says “Wallace” on it, nothing more. Go look for yourself if you don’t believe me.” Of course I’d jump up and run right over to peer at the small stone. It was just as she said except for one thing the stone looked wet. I’d holler back to my Grandmother and say, “Wallace’s stone looks wet, why is that Grandmother?”
“Don’t touch it,” she’d yell back, “It’s wet from Gilda’s tears!”
Carefully and slowly afraid I might disturb some endless sleep I’d back away from the stone never once touching it.
When I finally made my way back to Grandmother she’d grab me and pull me down next to her and wrapping her arms around me say, “Now this is no kind of story to be telling a young child. I better stop here or your Mom and Dad will be angry with me for filling your head with such stuff!”
“No, no Grandmother, don’t stop. Please go on. You’ve told me this story before, please, please?” I’d beg.
“Well, alright!” she’d whisper and begin again. “The tears on the gravestone were from Gilda of course! She and Wallace were so in love it breaks my heart to think of it, but one month before their scheduled Halloween wedding Wallace died mysteriously. He was found dead in this very graveyard. The doctor said natural causes, but I’ll tell you one thing it wasn’t natural to die when you were so much in love. Of course Gilda was heartbroken. She sat here by Wallace’s grave day after day talking to him and an ocean of tears poured out of her eyes. That’s why the gravestone remains wet even to this day.”
“So on Halloween Gilda came as she always did to visit his grave and see if his spirit would come to her on their wedding night.”
“So you were up in that tree when Gilda arrived?”
“Yes, up there minding my own business. Gilda arrived wearing that black cape that I mentioned, but right after she arrived she took it off and under her cape she was dressed in her wedding gown, a shocking gown of orange and black, hardly traditional. She placed a black veil over her head and slowly walked toward Wallace’s grave carrying a bouquet of fall flowers in her hands. It was as if she was walking down the church aisle to meet her groom. I knew at that moment that she was going to die.”
I shivered just a bit as Grandmother continued “Gilda kept walking until she reached Wallace’s grave. As she stepped on top of the newly dug grave I saw it!”
“What did you see? Tell me Grandmother.”
“It was a spirit of some kind and it rose right up out of Wallace’s grave and flew through her coming out the top of her head.”
“Was it Wallace?”
“Oh yes, it was what remained of the once handsome Wallace. Poor Wallace he was a ghastly looking tortured soul in death without his Gilda. In his pain at missing his wedding and missing his beloved Gilda he cried and screamed and howled so loud it woke the dead. Every grave opened up, dirt was pushed aside effortlessly, coffins came rising up and then the tops CREEKED opened. Bones rattled about, ghouls and ghosts drifted in the breeze, creatures of all kinds sat up and began to prowl around. I think he was trying to warn her and make her leave, but he couldn’t speak to her and she didn’t move a muscle. Poor Gilda must have been terrified, I know I was. I clung to the tree limb and tried hard to keep out of sight, but Gilda was down there and even Wallace who hovered above her could not save her.”
“Did she die of fright?” I choked out.
“It would have been an easier death if she had. As she stood there in her strange but lovely gown I could see below me a shadowy figure moving toward her. He wore all black, but his face was deathly pale. His eyes glowed in the dark and he had white gloves covering his hands. Gilda was facing the opposite direction and there was no way for her to see this tall dark stranger approaching. With one quick leap he moved in behind her and held her firmly as she screamed and tried to push him off. There was huge frenzy of activity at this point. It felt like all the spiritual forces were out of balance and clambering for a safe return from the activity at hand. Another scream pierced the air and I saw Gilda slide to the ground with the stranger at her side. He carefully moved her head to one side and then…… he bit her neck to draw out all of her blood.”
“Was she dead, Grandmother?”
“Nearly; I tried to force myself to look away, but I couldn’t. I saw her hand reach up into the air and then with her last breath she whispered, “Wallace.” Next I spotted Wallace’s hand reach down until their two hands met and with such tenderness they touched. With a cloud of thick black smoke and a chorus of piercing cries all the ghosts, ghouls and Halloween creatures flew back inside their coffins, the lids snapped shut and returned under the earth as if they’d never come out.”
“Is that the end?”
“Almost; that’s when I climbed down out of the tree and ran all the way home and told my Father that I had seen Gilda in the graveyard and I thought she was dead. The whole town rushed to help her, but it was too late. She had joined her dearest Wallace in eternal sleep. Everyone believed she had died of a broken heart”
Grandmother is that a true story? Did it really happen? Did you really see all of that?”
“Well dear, I never did come back here on Halloween, but I heard it said by others that every Halloween Wallace and Gilda come back and that they reach across their graves until their hands touch and it’s their deep love for each other that keeps all the creatures tucked safely away so no one else will die in this graveyard on Halloween the way Gilda did!”
I hadn’t realized that I had been in the graveyard for so long, sitting there remembering my Grandmother’s story and all the while it had grown dark and night had fallen. The air was cool and crisp and smelled of wood burning in a nearby fireplace. It was then that a bat flew over my head and startled me back to reality. Wasting no time I rose to my feet to leave, but my body froze on the spot for right before my very eyes in the shadowy gloom of that graveyard on Halloween night I saw two transparent hands reaching across their graves to touch once again.