Authors: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Juvenile Fiction, #Children: Young Adult (Gr. 7-9), #Horror & Ghost Stories, #Children's Books - Young Adult Fiction, #Mysteries & Detective Stories, #Performing Arts, #Horror, #Horror tales, #Ghost Stories (Young Adult), #Interpersonal Relations, #Motion pictures, #Mysteries; Espionage; & Detective Stories, #Psychiatric hospitals, #Film, #Production and direction, #Motion pictures - Production and direction, #Haunted places
Laurie Faria Stolarz
I had a lot of support and encouragement during the writing of this book, particularly on those nights when the story of Danvers State kept me awake. Thanks to family and friends who were there to listen, to encourage, and to cheer me on--you know who you are.
Sincere thanks to my stellar agent, Kathryn Green, for her generous guidance and faith in my ability. And a hearty thank-you goes to my editor, Jennifer Besser, for her keen insight, attention to detail, and contagious enthusiasm.
I owe much gratitude to Lara Zeises and Tea Benduhn, two amazing writers and friends who were there for me page-by-page, offering critical advice, time and patience, and a much appreciated sense of humor. Loving thanks to Ed, Mom, and Ryan--my biggest fans-- whose friendship, love, and support are truly invaluable.
Thanks to Helen Jensen and to artist and author Michael Ramseur for answering numerous questions I had about Danvers State Hospital. A big thank-you to Mike Dijital, who was able to answer even my most technical of questions regarding all the little nooks and crevices of the DSH campus, and whose footage and photos made me feel like I was part of the crew. Thanks, also, to all who shared their DSH stories with me--those who worked at, lived at, passed by, visited, broke into, or simply knew of someone connected with the place. Thanks to Raid Sullivan who answered some of my filming questions.
And, lastly, a great big thank-you goes to my readers, who continue to e-mail and send me letters of support and enthusiasm--you guys are the absolute best.
We each went to Danvers State Hospital, the old abandoned asylum on the hill, with the intention of spending one night before the place got torn down.
Little did any of us know how haunting the experience would be.
Little did I know how the experience would change my life.
--Derik LaPointe, filmmaker,
Danvers State Hospital
Danvers State Hospital
I TAKE THE ROAD
that leads up the hill, my heart beating louder than the Cryptic Slaughter song that's thrashing out my car speakers. It's barely seven a.m. on a Monday, and while I should be on my way to the pit--a.k.a. school--I keep driving farther away from it, toward this place.
This abandoned mental hospital.
The idea of it, of how messed up this seems, almost makes me feel like maybe I should be one of them--one of them loonies who got locked up here; who got kicked out on their ass when the place closed down more than ten years ago; who now roams the streets trying to get back. Because this crazy place is the only thing they know.
A screwed-up house of horrors.
I crank the volume, wondering why I'm feeling so unhinged. I mean, it's not like I haven't been here before.
It's not like me and my buddies haven't broken in on occasion for a late-night light-up and a couple or ten beers.
But for some reason everything's changed. Maybe it's because of the summer. I came here with this hot player girl and saw a bit of it through her eyes. The whole time, she was totally freaking--convinced the place was haunted, that we had to get out fast.
That something twisted was gonna happen to us if we didn't.
The speedometer on my dash reads fifteen mph when I should be going thirty. I all but stop before taking that last turn in, trying to calm myself down. I mean, what is wrong with me? Why can't I just get a grip?
I almost turn around, but then I remind myself of the alternative and decide that I don't feel like flipping burgers or scrambling eggs for the rest of my life.
And that this is a killer idea.
So I take the turn that leads up the drive. The front gate is open, and I'm able to drive right through--no guards, no fuss. But then as soon as I see the giant motherfucker, my heart starts pounding all over again.
A huge brick building with tons of pointed roofs and steeples. Big-ass wings that jet out at an angle from both sides of the main building--like one of Dracula's bats, like this is his goddamned castle. It's at the peak of a hill, which only makes it seem bigger. You can see for miles, all the way down 1-95.
The place is surrounded by what used to be landscaped
gardens and paths, which makes it even more twisted, because just beyond the lawn is a cemetery, and in that cemetery rots a whole yardful of dead bodies. They're marked with numbers rather than names, for all the patients who croaked--all the crazies who were ditched and buried here. Left like trash.
I heard about this one loony who crawled up into a heat duct to hide from the quack doctors, but only ended up frying himself when nobody could find him. I wonder if he's rotting here, too.
The trees that surround the place are the most twisted I've ever seen. The limbs are all entwined, like torsos and legs. Like couples getting freaky.
Or maybe they're getting smothered.
I focus in on this one tree and can almost make out a pair of eyes staring back at me, making me feel like I'm being watched. This guy from school swears that the last time he visited this place, some lady wearing bunny ears and painted-on whiskers--and not in a hot way--smacked her fists against his passenger side window. He rolled the window down to hear what she was yelling. "No more ice packs," she kept screaming over and over again. "Please don't give me the ice packs." Like they'd kept her in the goddamned freezer. And then she tried to get in his car, flashing him her set, like that was supposed to turn him on. The lady must have been at least fifty, the guy told me.
Anyway, I doubt he was even telling the truth. I mean, supposedly this only happened last year, unless maybe she was one of them squatters who finally found her way back to home-sweet-creepy-home.
I try to look away, but I can't help staring back at those haunting tree-eyes, making sure they don't blink, that I'm not crazy, too. They stare back at me, almost like they want something now.
Like they want me to stay.
I look closer, tempted to get out of the car, to go up to them. I turn the volume down on my stereo and reach for the door handle.
At the same moment, someone smacks against my window. "Holy shit," I hear myself shout. I roll down my window, noticing the security officer.
"You scared the crap out of me," I tell him.
"What are you doing up here?" he asks--some forty-year-old bald guy peering into my car.
"Just checking stuff out," I say. "No big deal."
"You're not supposed to be up here," he says, picking at his yellow teeth like he just had breakfast.
"Why?" My heart's still beating fast. "I'm not doing anything wrong."
"This is private property. You're trespassing."
I hold myself back from giving him attitude. I mean, yeah, I know that I'm not technically supposed to be here. But it's not like it's at night. And it's not like I'm breaking in.
"The gate was open," I argue. "I just wanted to take a look."
The guy nods and adjusts his lame-o security officer cap. "Yeah, we're expecting a lot of people up here today--some construction people, some developers and surveyors."
"They're really gonna tear this place down?"
The guy nods and points toward a couple chapels, a giant medical building, and the crap-hole quarters that supposedly housed the nurses. "Just another week and two-thirds of this place will be nothing more than dust, rubble, and brick. They're gonna build condos and luxury apartments."
"Like anyone would want to live here."
"You'd be surprised," the guy tells me, still working something from between his teeth. "This place is famous. Been here since 1878 ... even before my time." He lets out a goofy laugh. "Some say the lobotomy was perfected here." The guy jams his spit-covered finger into his tear duct and makes like a drill.
I nod. I've heard it before.
"You'd be better off coming next week," he continues when I don't laugh at his lame-ass joke. I mean, how is that funny? "Grab yourself a couple bricks, some stray patient files, and sell 'em on eBay. Don't think some of my own friends haven't already tried to reserve an arty-fact or two. I got a neighbor who has his eye on the main doors.... Wants to install them in his house."
"Supply and demand is all it is. People will pay good money for this stuff."
I look toward the main doors, noticing how monstrous they seem, wondering what kind of twisted ass would want to install them in his house. I shake my head, completely surprised. But maybe I shouldn't be, because as crazy as it is that some people would want a piece of this place, or would want to make a home here--a place where patients were abused, where random bodies are supposedly buried, where screwed-up ideas of treatments were perfected--it's the place where I want to make my movie.
IT'S TUESDAY MORNING,
before first period, and I'm sitting in the guidance office, waiting for Mr. Trotter to finally open his door and let me in. I suspect he knows what this is about. I also suspect it's precisely the reason the door has remained closed.
"He should be with you in just a couple minutes," the guidance secretary tells me.
I nod and let out a deep breath, digging my fingernails into the fabric of my purse.
"Are you okay today, Liza?" the secretary asks me. "You look a little flushed."
"I'm fine," I say, unsurprised by my flushy appearance, especially since I feel like I'm going to be sick.
"Maybe you need a Munchkin." She tilts a box of sugar-coated lard balls toward me.
"No thanks," I say, managing a polite smile, wondering if they're pity lard balls. If she heard about what happened, too.
"Mr. Trotter is really busy this time of the year," she adds, popping a chocolate doughnut into her mouth and topping it off with a gulpful of some equally sugarfied coffee drink. I wonder if she knows how unhealthy her breakfast is, if maybe I should explain to her about saturated fats and hydrogenated oils.
I'm tempted to say something, but then Mr. Trotter finally opens his door. "Liza!" he announces, as though it's such a big surprise that I'm here, even though the secretary intercommed him ten full minutes ago. "Come on in, I was just on the phone." He opens the door wide, his normally shaggy dark hair shaved just shy of a buzz cut. That, coupled with his tight black T-shirt and dark khaki pants, makes him look like an Army recruiter--which, in turn, makes me wonder if maybe that's where I'll be headed next.
He takes a seat behind his desk and gestures for me to sit in the chair across from him. I do, noticing how my lips tense before I can even speak. "I'm sure you've heard," I say.
He nods, the corners of his mouth curling downward. "I'm sorry."
I bite my bottom lip, fighting the urge to burst out crying. I mean, he's supposed to be able to fix this. This is supposed to be some huge mistake. I half expected to come in here, show him my rejection letter, and watch in relief as he placed a couple of phone calls and made everything right.
"You just never know about these things," he
continues. "It's gotten beyond competitive out there. I'm just glad
not applying to college these days."
"No," I balk. "You told me. We talked about this."
"I'm sorry," he repeats. "But sometimes things just don't work out the way we plan."
"No," I repeat, shaking my head, refusing to buy into his counselor-speak. I can feel my face flash hot, the tears work their way into my eyes. "I kept up my end of the bargain. Why didn't you?"
"Hold on," he says, raising a hand up as though to stop me. "What bargain?"
"You told me you knew someone on the admissions board at Harvard. You told me that if I got all A's, that if I became this year's valedictorian, there was no way they could say no."
Trotter lets out a sigh. "Maybe I shouldn't have said all that, but I honestly thought that you
get in. This comes as a surprise to me, too."
"Did you call your friend on the admissions board?"
"Of course I did. But just because I can make a few phone calls ... just because I can get an application a closer look by the powers that be doesn't mean I can get my students through the door."
My upper lip is trembling now. I push my hair off my face, noticing my reflection in the glass cabinet door behind him. My eyes are raw and puffy, and my normally pale cheeks look red and blotchy. "I worked so hard," I whisper.