Ely is a small, friendly town. Sure, there’s a lot of gossip and small town blues, but it’s not so bad. I was raised here, had my first kiss here and… had my first haunt here.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “He’s going to go off on some fake, cheesy Halloween rant.” I want to assure you that this is anything but fake and cheesy. This is the story of Halloween 2006, and it’s not something I will soon forget.
I have a best friend. He’s been my best friend since the third grade. His name? Well, to protect the innocent, we’ll just call him Sterling (though some of you reading this might know his real name). Sterling is a nice guy. He’s always been taller me. He’s part Native American, part white. He’s sharp, but rarely serious.
The only reason I’m telling you this is because he was there. You see, we were seniors in high school. Now that I think about it, it seems like such a long time ago. As seniors in high school, we thought we were pretty cool. Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t operate on principles of mean-spirited exclusivity, but we didn’t hold back much either. If we wanted to go somewhere or be with somebody or do something, we just did. I don’t remember much fear or worry about what people thought that day in age.
One of the things we would sometimes do is walk. We would go to a park after dark, screw around, hassle some freshman maybe, then walk around town like we owned the place.They were simpler times.
To understand Halloween 2006, you have to understand the week before. The week before, we walked. I remember parking my car at Steptoe park, getting out, traipsing across the field and trying to find something to do. That’s always the kick in a small town isn’t it; finding something to do? With nothing found, we just walked, meandered, moseyed about town.
There are a few places in Ely that get a little darker at night than the rest of the town. Sure, it’s a small town, but that doesn’t mean it is without its light-less corridors. This night, we happened to find one of them.
It was a dirt alleyway. There are several of those in Ely–though I am not sure why. The light was bright above us on the street as we looked down the dirt path. There was another light, just the same, across the way. Perhaps we thought it a shortcut to our destination, perhaps not. Either way, we turned down the path.
We were quiet as we crossed through the alley. The dirt and gravel echoed in the air as it crunched under our feet. A dog barked. I may or may not have barked back. We may or may not have laughed. The silence returned. All was silent, but the crunch, crunch, crunch of our steps.
Sometimes, you get that feeling. We all know that feeling; the one where you just know there is someone watching you. Sure, you’ve alone, but someone is there now. We’ve all felt that feeling. About two-thirds of the way down that alley, that feeling was strong.
I looked to Sterling to see if he noticed. When he stopped stepping, I followed his lead. The crunch, crunch, crunch of footsteps, however, continued behind us. Bumps appeared on my arm. I became acutely aware of my breathing, my pulse, my heart. Standing hair on the back of my neck sent chills down my spine.
Perhaps worse was when the feet stopped behind us. I remember not wanting to turn around. I didn’t want to move, breathe or make a sound. It’s funny how quiet the world becomes when you hold your breath. It’s funny how loud it soon seems to be, especially when someone else behind you is breathing.
We seemed to turn at the same time, but there was only black behind us, all the way to the light on the other end. We weren’t fans of the alley at that point, so we quickened our pace toward the light. Three sets of footsteps moved though, not two. There was such a stench.
The light came quickly. We had so very nearly reached it when I decided to look back. There he was; a man in a long black coat. He smiled at me with crooked teeth once Sterling and I were safe under the light. I tapped Sterling on the should so he would stop and turn around.
The man asked if we could help him. He didn’t seem weak or in trouble. Sterling, always a nice guy, told him that we could. I didn’t trust it. I knew in my gut that this wasn’t going to end well. We couldn’t trust him. I knew we couldn’t trust him. I was angry at Sterling for offering assistance.
The man thanked us, then turned around and walked back down the alley, the smell retreating with him.
I asked if we should follow him, but Sterling had the idea to just wait in the light. I suspected his earlier display of chivalry was little more than false bravado. Never-the-less, we stayed. After several minutes passed by, we figured he wasn’t coming back, so we left, continuing our walk and heading to our homes at the end of the night.
The week and weekend passed by fairly uneventful. On Halloween night, however, we were once again out wandering the streets of Ely, Nevada. Once you pass a certain age, there aren’t a lot of Halloween options, especially not in Ely. By nine or so, all the trick-or-treaters have made their rounds and are returning to their little homes to gorge themselves on sugar for a week straight. By ten or eleven, the teenagers are done with their mischief. We were walking at eleven thirty.
This time, we chose a different route. Sure, we still started at the same old park, wandering through its fields before roaming the streets, but we avoided the aforementioned alley. As I said before, there are a lot of those dirt alleys. By the time midnight rolled around, we were tired and ready to call it a night. Neither of us were too worried, then, to cross down another dirt road behind a row of houses; especially since this particular dirt road gave us a nice light, right in the middle of the path.
Now, before we continue, I need to let you know something. I am not a superstitious man. I don’t think I was then, and I am definitely not now. I can’t speak for Sterling, but what we saw next is the one thing in a lifetime of events that could convince me otherwise.
The dirt road was just like any other. Our footsteps crunched. The was little shelter from the chill of the night. The air was dry and scentless, and we talked as we sauntered down it. The night was normal enough for two costume-less gents about town on Halloween.
We passed through the first few paces of the trail with no substantial event occurring. We approached the light in the center. We crossed through it. About three-quarters of the way, down the road, there was a familiar stench. I blamed Sterling, but he wasn’t laughing. His eyes were wide and he cursed–a rare occurrence for him. That is when I remembered.
There, in the light was the man from week before. He wore his same long, black coat. His hair was long and mangy, a detail I hadn’t noticed previously. He didn’t seem to notice us.
It took me a few moments to realize what he was doing. My body reacted with sweat and breathlessness before my mind could process the knife he held in his right hand, thumbing the blade with his left. He stared intently at the edge of the knife, as if he was studying it.
There are those moments in dreams, in terrors, when you cannot catch your breath. You try to breathe, to scream or speak, but there is nothing. I lived that moment. I lived that moment as I watched this man, knowing something sinister was going through his mind.
When I finally found my wind and resumed respiration, it was not done quietly. The man must’ve heard me, because he looked up, smiling his demon smile. He stepped toward us in a sprint, gripping the knife as his coat flew back from the wind.
At that point in time, I was in much better shape than I am now, so I ran. I ran and ran and ran, with Sterling one pace behind me. I don’t remember when we stopped hearing him or where we might have lost him, but we made it back to the car.
On the way home, we assumed it was just a prankster out for Halloween and said nothing to each other of the familiar stench that passed through the car on the drive home. I slept soundly enough, but was not prepared for what Sterling would tell me the next morning.
We both got to school a little early to hang out before class. Sterling looked at me we cold eyes, telling me about what happened to him when he was trying to sleep the night before. At that time, his bed faced the window in his bedroom. He had kept it closed and was out cold when he heard a tapping on the window. Sterling says he opened his eyes to a rising window and a building breeze. The man’s face, the man from before, shown in his window. It smiled, set down the knife on the windowsill, and left.
I didn’t believe him at first; especially since said knife could not be produced. After all, Sterling has been known to concoct stories. We went about our senior years just fine after that, not thinking much about the strange occurrence. I graduated and went off to college in Idaho. Sterling spent some time down south with his brother. Then Halloween 2007 came.
There was a pretty girl I was dating at the time, to protect the innocent, we’ll call her Ruby. She lived in an apartment complex right next to mine, only separated by an alley. I was lucky enough to have a room with a window so I could look out and see her if I wanted. Sometimes I’d wave at Ruby across the way, as we both had apartments on the top floor, both number 306. I thought that was kind of funny and interesting.
Anyway, I had just gotten home one night from her place. We had been talking about costumes and parties and whatnot, decided our plans for the upcoming Halloween holiday. I went up to my room to see if she was in her’s so I could wave across the way, blow kisses, that sort of thing. She wasn’t there, but there was a noise in the alley and a slight stench. The craziest part is, when I told her this story, she started seeing the man too… and I still do, from time to time.