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Fall was in full bloom. As I walked home from school on that Friday afternoon, I was taken aback by the beauty, manifested in the bright tangerine, scarlet, and burgundy leaves hanging ornately from each towering tree and gracefully dancing through the air with every breeze. Fall was simply the best time of year. The yards around me had sprouted all sorts of ornaments in the spirit of the season, ranging house to house from inflatable cauldrons to jack-o-lanterns. That was another thing I loved about fall, Halloween. Growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, Halloween was one of the most exciting times of the year. Every house joined in the festivities, witch related items being the most common décor of choice.
As I arrived to my own house, I saw my dad outside assembling all of our own Halloween decorations.
“You’re a little late Dad,” I called up to him from the sidewalk. “There’s only thirteen days until Halloween! Usually you put the decorations up on October 1. Someone’s getting lazy….” I laughed.
“Ha ha,” he replied sarcastically, “I wanted to get some new decorations for this year, that’s what held me up. Check this out!”
In front of him was a large box. He stood behind it proudly as I made my way up the driveway.
“What is it?”
“What is it?!” he mimicked, “It’s an inflatable witch for the front yard. A HUGE inflatable witch for the front yard! Thirteen feet tall, says so right here on the box.” With a pleased smile he pointed to it on the box.
“You get way too into these things, Dad,” I said with a laugh and headed inside.
“Mia!” I immediately heard as soon as I entered the door.
“What Justin?” I replied as my younger brother approached me holding an orange poster board and a slightly panicked expression.
“I need your help with this project!” he exclaimed, indicating to the poster board and an instruction sheet in his hands.
“It’s Friday, Justin,” I answered as I went upstairs to my bedroom. “Ask Mom. Besides, I have work tonight.”
That night was my first night of work. I had gotten a job with a small group called the Salem Haunt. The Salem Haunt was a haunted tour through Salem. The tour guide dressed as a colonist from the 1600’s and brought the tourists around the town to spots known especially for their roles in the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690’s and local legends of supernatural activity. I was not a tour guide, but my job was also to dress up as a colonist and help keep the group together during the tour.
I was anxious to begin work. I was especially nervous, it being my first job, but excited. It was going to be fun, getting to tag along on a haunted tour and see how scared the tourists got along the way.
As soon as I was dressed in my colonial costume, I drove over to the Salem Haunt building. Inside was a small check in counter and a few sofas. The entire room was decked out in orange and black. Every decoration and piece of furniture was somehow related to its overall theme of Halloween. Old scary movie posters and silhouettes of ghosts covered the walls. Jack-o-lanterns and scarecrows were scattered throughout, and bats and spiders on long webs hung from the ceiling. A witch’s cauldron sat in one corner, spewing thick steam. The room was more than fitting for a town like Salem.
“Welcome, I’m Katherine,” said the quirky woman behind the counter whose attire matched that of my own. “You must be Mia, the new girl.”
“That’s me,” I said with a smile. “My first night as a 17th century colonist.”
“And you picked a good night to start!” she said with a grin.
“Of course,” she answered, “It’s October 18.”
Immediately I racked my brain, curious as to why October 18 was such a special day.
“October 18?” I said, confused, “What’s so special about October 18?”
“You live in Salem and you don’t even know what October 18 is?” she said with a surprised expression. What a great way to start out my new job, I thought to myself.
“Nothing comes to mind,” I said, slightly embarrassed.
“October 18, says the legend,” her eyes lit up as she began, “is the night that Colette Broomshire was executed for witchcraft. It is said that she was accused in the 1600’s of being a witch. During the Salem Witch Trials, tons of colonists were being accused of performing witchcraft. But Colette Broomshire, she was different. She didn’t deny the accusations. In fact, she confirmed the rumors of her being a witch. She was accused and executed on the same night. Of course, Broomshire isn’t her married name. Her husband made her use her maiden name when she was accused, so as to protect the family.”
“Family?” I interrupted, “She had kids?”
“Oh yeah,” Katherine said, “Thirteen of ‘em. In fact, the legend says that the mansion just up the street was supposedly her house.”
“Wow,” I said, chills running up my spine, “I never heard that story before. It’s spooky.”
“What’s even spookier,” Katherine began, “Is that she is said to come back to haunt Salem on the night of her execution each year. Rumor is that her family still lives here in Salem. The legend even says that the first born daughter of the thirteenth generation after her is cursed with black magic. She apparently comes back to search for that first born girl every year.”
“Why the thirteenth generation?” I asked, completely engaged in the spooky local legend.
“Not sure,” Katherine began, “Thirteen kids, thirteen days before Halloween, thirteen generations later…thirteen just seems to be a witch’s favorite number.”
Suddenly, at the sound of a slamming door, I jumped.
“Relax, kid!” Katherine said, laughing at my frightened self, “It’s just the people coming for the tour!”
I turned towards the door and there stood a group of about twenty. They were all eager to begin the tour. One of the came up to the counter and checked in with Katherine. We got organized and headed out for my first Salem Haunt ghost tour.
When I got home that night, still in my 17th century costume, I was relieved but happy. I’d had a successful night of work, despite being completely freaked out beyond compare between hearing Katherine’s story of Colette Broomshire and attending my first Salem ghost tour.
“Mia, come here!” I heard Justin call from the kitchen when I walked in.
As I entered the kitchen, I saw Justin sitting at the table with the wide orange poster board spread in front of him.
“We called Grandma and she helped me a lot!” he exclaimed, pointing to the poster.
“Oh wow, Justin,” I said smiling down at the poster, “it’s a family tree. It looks great!” I immediately started scanning the crayon branches for my name.
“See there’s you!” he said, pointing to it in the bottom corner. “And there’s me, Justin, under you” he went on, “and Mommy, and Daddy, and Grandma…” He continued to drivel on, naming each person depicted on a branch of the family tree. But his voiced seemed to become drowned out of my mind as, from my name up, I counted thirteen branches, and came to the name Colette Broomshire.