Halloween Issue 2020

Photography by Jorge Mansilla

I wasn’t sure if we were going to do a Halloween issue this year. Once October hits life gets very, very busy. I knew that if we did a Halloween issue I wanted it to be separate from the regular Fall issue, which would mean we’d be looking at publishing two issues in two months. Which is obviously crazy.

I had pretty much decided it was a no go. But then I interviewed Christina Sanchez over the summer for a profile I was writing, and I saw the amazing images of her as Catrina from Dia de Los Muertos. Christina is pretty much “the” Catrina on the planet, and on top of that, she photographs rock bands (like The Rolling Stones) for her 9 to 5. After I obsessed over her Instagram I started thinking about the Halloween issue again—because I knew I wanted her on the cover. I got another push when N. T. Brown sent me a Halloween story before I even started asking for them.

That was it. I decided Catrina and The Blue Man were signs from beyond (going with the Halloween theme here) and I put out the submissions call.

Submissions rolled in. Reading was so much fun, y’all. I would curl up on the sofa after everyone in my house went to bed and read, the string of orange Halloween lights twinkling around the fireplace, pumpkins glowing from the mantle. Thank you for sending in your wonderful stories.

Our goal for this issue was to collect stories that screamed HALLOWEEN. We have quite a few ghosts for you, from quite funny to disturbingly dark. We have monsters, myths, and unreliable narrators. We hope you’ll enjoy these stories, that you will get goosebumps, and leave the light on when you try to fall asleep. Maybe you’ll double check your closet and look under the bed, too.

Happy Halloween!!!

Elizabeth Varel
Editor in Chief

The Blue-Skinned Man
by N. T. Brown

Why didn’t anyone ever tell you? Why did your parents let you go on believing a lie? Why did they tell you about the Blue-Skinned Man in the first place? Why do parents do these things to their children? Do children exist for nothing more than their parents’ sick amusement?

Darkness on Stonebridge Lane
by Jeff Burd

The Steven O’Neill thing had to be a prank. Trick-or-treaters had chatted about the boy the night before as they stalked the neighborhood for candy, and had left enough gossip in their wakes for someone to think the disappearance was a hoax. The only thing for sure was the fact that Steven had left a Halloween party early Sunday morning on the opposite side of the neighborhood from his parent’s riverside home, and that was the last anybody had seen him. Except things like that didn’t happen in Riverside Crossing.

The Ukulele Teacher
by Upasana Datta

He said his name was Farishta, when he arrived at her house asking to rent the rooms downstairs that had been lying empty since the death of her husband. He was a ukulele teacher. His skin was a very pale shade, and she wondered if he might be Kashmiri. Such raw, almost burnt-red skin, she thought. He didn’t volunteer his age, and she considered it too tasteless to ask. A pale stranger named for the Persian word for angel. No last name, but it didn’t matter.

A Playground for Vegetables
by Max Dorfman

In Fall and Spring, the orderlies would take the odd collection of comatose patients and place them facing the brick wall under the weeping willow, and sometimes, if they felt humane enough that particular day, beside the chain-link fence, which looked out over a small garden filled with dying stalks of basil and lavender and tomatoes, and a great deal of gray grass.

Switchblade Serendade
by Kelly Gray

Did you know that most women are murdered by someone that they knew? It’s true. I don’t want to get all statistical on you, I’m not trying to act like I am smart or some part of a trend. Because, I have to tell you, once someone murders you, you have to wonder if you ever really knew them.

by Emily Miller

She resides somewhere between the squelch of the earth and the scent of decay brought on by a lack of oxygen—by a high acidity that preserves the bodies of her prey for her so neatly under unnaturally still water. She never takes from the peat bog more than it is willing to give. They are equals, and she knows this by the press of the stagnant water upon every tendon of her body: a portentous embrace.

My Dentist is a Werewolf
by Michelle Morouse

I love those pinstriped scrubs, and that bespoke mask for all his hair. He howls with the drill, and we do, too.

Seeking Soulmate at the Granada Theater
by Shilo Niziolek

The Granada Theater opened its doors in 1948, and I have been haunting the place for almost as long. I always thought that ghosts would look like they did on the day they died, but it turns out Beetlejuice almost got it right. I float through the building in what is the equivalent of a white sheet with holes cut in the eyes.

For the Children of Camp Fuller
by Janet Parlato

The pretty counselor smiled over children sitting in an arc in the dirt and began reading. “Once there was a Camp Fuller like this one, not so different. It had cabins like yours, and woods that rustled with life at night, just like here. Except this Camp Fuller lay abandoned, in ruins.

Mrs. Claiborne’s Ghost
by Laura Parnum

Mr. Claiborne finally folded the paper onto his lap and looked over at his wife. “You don’t actually believe in ghosts, do you? It’s all just flight of fancy and imagination. And even if ghosts were real, I don’t think you could simply invite one into your home. It’s not like you can go to a ghost orphanage and just pick one out.”

The Artificial Werewolf
by Ruth Rouff

“Did they really have to put that up?” Mrs. Gulls asked herself after her daughter Megan let out a blood-curdling shriek the moment she spied the thing. It was three weeks before Halloween, and Mrs. Gulls was walking Megan home from school. A number of houses in the neighborhood featured decorative displays on their lawns and porches—ghosts made out of threadbare sheets, plastic tombstones bearing humorous names, jaunty scarecrows, pumpkins, and the like.

by Hayden Smith

One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Everywhere I turn, the night moves with me, like looking at a mirror in a dark room–even when it’s too dim to see it, it still imitates, still stares like a lidless eye. That’s what the night is here. It’s watching me.