In which we celebrate Hallowe'en with...a scary story, of course

I've been telling this story a lot this month.  Seems like it's time to share with y'all.  I wrote it down the way I tell it, so I guess it probably makes more sense if you read it out loud.  Anyhow, it's a good story...and a true one.  --Aarene

"Prom Night"

I grew up in Bellingham, Washington, a little town about an hour south of the Canadian border.  There's some stuff you should know about Bellingham:

The town itself was established in the late 1880's, and one of the first things that the white settlers built when they moved there was Bayview Cemetary, a rolling 22-acre plot of land full of beautiful old trees and lovely old tombstones.  It's interesting that, although the town itself was built around the mouth of Bellingham Bay, the cemetary was built miles away, in the middle of the woods.

After more than 100 years of urban growth, the cemetary is no longer isolated in the woods.  It's now surrounded on three sides by houses, condominiums, and little stores and strip malls.  The fourth side is bordered by Whatcom Falls Park, and I know a great ghost story about the park, but that's not the story I'm going to tell right now. 

I grew up near the cemetary, and loved to explore the hills and valleys of it.  There's one tombstone that's locally famous; we always called it "the angel."  It's the figure of an angel, about 10 feet tall, with huge stone outstretched wings.  That's not the famous part.  The famous part of the angel is the eyes.  Every year during Homecoming Week, the senior boys sneak into Bayview Cemetary and paint the eyes of the angel with orange glow-in-the-dark paint.  That's so that, if you're sneaking around the cemetary in the middle of the night with your buddies and you're trying to scare each other, and the moon comes out or a car drives by, what you see, ten feet up in the air, are these giant orange glowing eyeballs. 

Everybody knows about the angel and the paint and the boys, but still:  if you're sneaking around the cementary in the middle of the night and you see those eyeballs, it's freaky.  And it's cool.  Which is why we went there.   We'd go to the foot of the angel's hill, and sit under a maple tree and tell ghost stories--and of course, most of the ghost stories happened right there in Bayview Cemetary. 

One of my buddies had an older brother who was a senior in high school when we were freshmen.  He told us one night that he knew a true ghost story about Bayview Cemetary, and he went to the maple tree one night and told it to us.

Here's something else you should know about Bellingham:  It always rains on prom night.  Not a polite, misting kind of rain, either.  A sloshy, gullywasher frog-strangler rain is what we get.  The formal shops in town always include a little fold-up clear-plastic poncho when you buy a prom dress.  The tux shops do too--they tuck the little plastic poncho into a shoe when you rent a tux.  Because everybody knows: it always rains on prom night.

One more thing to know about Bellingham:  some long-standing romantic couple always breaks up on prom night.  Nobody can ever figure out in advance who it will be.  Sometimes two girls who are best friends will both dump their boyfriends on prom night, but usually it's just one couple.  It always happens.

So there were these two guys, my buddy's brother told us, these guys who were seniors when he was a freshman.  Neither of these guys had a date for the prom, so they went up to the orchards instead.  The orchards were a secret kid-thing; supposedly, the adults in town had no idea that that's where the keggers were held.  These guys went to the kegger and they drank some beer, and then one or the other of them had an idea: 

They should go cruise around the dance hall and try to pick up a girl who has broken up with her boyfriend!

They hopped into the car and went home to get some nice clothes.  Then they headed downtown, looking for a girl.  They rock-paper-scissored to figure out which of them should move in on a girl if there was only one, and the guy who wasn't driving won.  So he watched out the window while his friend drove circles around the Leopold Inn, where the dance was held.  They drove, and they drove, and they drove around in rainy circles, watching out the windows, and finally, they saw her:  a pretty girl in a pretty pink vintage-style dress with pink dyed-to-match shoes, standing in the rain and crying as if her heart would break.


The guy driving pulled the car up towards her, and the passenger leaned out the window to ask the girl what was wrong.

I just (sob) broke up (sob-sob) with my boyfriend!  She really didn't make much sense because she was crying so hard, but the guy didn't care.  A girl!

He was all kinds of sympathetic, and jumped out of the car into the rain.  He put his suit jacket over her and put his arm around her to comfort her.  He was, like,  I'd never do stuff like that if a pretty girl like you went out with me and How mean to break up on prom night, and like that.  He didn't mean it, of course.  He was just saying that stuff.

He asked her if he could take her to the dance--he didn't have a tux, but he did have a nice jacket (now wrapped around her, and soaking wet from the rain and tears), so he could go in if she wanted to do that.  But she just wanted a ride home, so he walked her to the car where his friend was waiting, and helped her into the back seat, and wrapped his jacket a little more snugly around her shoulders.  Then he got into the front seat (because he wasn't, like, a creep, you know, he just wanted a date), and they drove out of town.

The girl (through sobs and hiccups) directed them to her home out on North Shore Road, which is way outside of town, past the cemetary, past the orchards, and around the north end of Lake Whatcom.  That gave the boy plenty of time to talk to the girl as his buddy drove the car, and he was really nice to her, and she finally stopped crying and even smiled a little bit.

After a while, they turned off the road onto this long gravel driveway that went up the hill to a pretty house overlooking the lake. 

But when they got there, the porch light was off.   And that seemed strange, you know?  Because when you send your girl off to the prom, don't you leave the light on until she gets home?

So they turned around to ask her, was she sure that they were at the right house and


...where did she go? 

Both boys searched frantically in the backseat, as if an entire girl could be hidden by the discarded paper napkins and coffee go-cups on the floor.

Did she get out of the car? They opened their doors to search outside, and the car's dome light went on. 

Does the light come on when a back door opens?  They couldn't remember. 

They opened the back doors the dome light came on and searched again inside the car, in the trunk, under the car...

and then they looked at the house.  Had she gone inside?

They went to the dark doorstep and rang the bell.  It was a long time before they heard somebody moving around.  Finally, the porch light flipped on, and a man opened the door.

Your daughter, the boys said, did she come in?  We didn't see her get out of the car--did she come in the back way?

The man looked at the boys.  Then he looked up at the sky, dumping down rain.  Then he looked back at the boys, and said, It's prom night, isn't it?

Sir, the guys said, Your daughter, did she come in?  We gave her a ride home, but when we got here she must've gotten out when we weren't looking, and we didn't see her leave.

The man shook his head.  No, he told them, my daughter didn't go to the prom tonight.

Sir, they told him, She was there, she broke up with her boyfriend, we gave her a ride home! 

The man shook his head again.  You don't understand, he said.  My daughter...she went to the prom, almost twenty years ago. 

She broke up with her boyfriend that night, and started to walk home in the rain.  She got hit by a car that night, and she died right there on the road where you say you picked her up.  My daughter...she never came home from the prom.  But every year, somebody comes to my door on prom night.  They come here, telling me that my daughter is still trying....  But she never came home.

The boys interrupted him, You don't understand.  She was in the car!  We talked to her!  She was wearing my coat! 

The man told them where the girl had been buried, all those years ago, in Bayview Cemetary.  They didn't go there that night, of course--there wasn't that much beer in the whole orchard.  They went home.

The next day, they went to the cemetary.  Followed the man's directions, and found the tombstone.  They saw it there, with her name on it.  The birthdate, the death date--all those years ago. 

Folded neatly on the back of the tombstone, was the young man's jacket, still wet from the rain the night before.

My buddy's older brother told us this story, and then he took me by the hand.  Led me through the graveyard, and stopped in front of a tombstone.  Shined a flashlight for me to read the name on it, the birthdate, the death date.  He laid my hand on the stone.

I have touched the stone.  The story is true.


  1. This is definitely one of my favorite ghost stories. Really well told this year - great writing!

  2. I've got chills!! What a great story.

  3. Ahh! I grew up in Bellingham too. I wonder if they still paint the angel's eyes these days? Great story!!

  4. Great story, and you told it so well. I showed my cutting horse in Bellingham (over twenty years ago), and remember it as a lovely town.

  5. Totally Awesome Story.
    Of course it's true, it's Bellingham!
    (My brother lives there still...)


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