Spirits, spirits, from the other side!
Let this mortal body serve as your guide!
Appear before us in your spectral shroud
I give the dead voice, now speak ye, aloud!
For years, the Carnival of Souls has appeared and disappeared with no hint as to why it shimmers in and out of the mortal world every Halloween.
This year, the spirit medium Madame Sarita decided to get to the bottom of the story by performing a seance in order to contact the poor damned souls who man its booths every year.
(You can also take a look behind the scenes of the seance.)
Madame Sarita is a third class witch, not powerful enough to summon and banish spirits alone. To accomplish these tasks, she requires a group of willing participants, from whom she can harness the vital spirit energies required to break the black veil between life and death.
We walked into her Spirit Parlour. The floor was covered with intricate oriental rugs and puffy cushions, and the walls were lined with old trunks, ornate mirrors, frightening statues, and a bookshelf filled with all sorts of mystic tomes and arcane artifacts. Hanging on the wall was a portrait of Sarita's great great grandmother, which seemed to glow with an eerie light, as if her spirit were glowering down at us through it.
When we all had been seated, Sarita welcomed us and cautioned us about some of the more dangerous aspects of summoning spirits. When we had been properly warned, she told us the purpose of the seance: to hear the story of Sarah Beaumont, one of the most mysterious ghosts at the carnival. Her goal was to summon a spirit to relate her tale to us.
Then she began her spell. Her crystal ball glowed with an eerie green light as she intoned the mystic phrases that would call the spirits forth.
At first, the only sign of contact was a shuddering in the walls and a faint chiming noise. As her intonations gathered in strength, we felt a presence in the air, and I noticed that the portrait on the wall had... changed! Where once was a lithograph of a beautiful woman, now there was a grinning skull!
Turning from the portrait, I concentrated on the summoning. A chill ran down my spine as the spell reached its crescendo, and suddenly Sarita collapsed onto her table! And to my shock and horror, before anyone could run to her to help, not one but two spirits appeared.
They were grinning skulls! They floated in the air before us, hovering in the air and speaking to us with menacing tones. Bright, glowing eyes leered at us from the black eye sockets, and thick red tongues lolled out of the dislodged jawbones that clacked against yellowed teeth!
They hissed at us the sad tale of Sarah Beaumont. As they related the nightmare tale, the darkling portrait morphed and swelled, the light playing off it in strange ways, as if showing us images from Sarah's strange past.
The skull spirits had witnessed Sarah's story firsthand, because they were the departed souls of her fellow carnival workers at a wild west carnival in the late 1800's.
The star of the carnival was Sarah Beaumont, the beautiful trapeze artist, acrobat, and high-wire walker. She was the most graceful and beautiful performer this side of the Mississippi, and there were many men in every town who wanted to woo and marry her.
The man who wanted her most was Marius Blackwood, the evil, twisted RingMaster for the carnival. A vile, covetous man, Marius disgusted Sarah with his evil leers and cruel laughter, and she told him she would never marry him.
But Marius wasn't just a carnival ringmaster. He was also a warlock skilled in the black arts of evil magic. He knew arcane spells that could take over Sarah's mind and force her to marry him.
But he had no control over her heart. What good would it be to bend her to his will, if her heart remained pure and untainted by him?
So one night, Marius went out into the desert and used a forbidden ritual to summon forth the dark powers of the earth. He made a pact with them - if he could get Sarah to marry him on Halloween night at midnight, they would make her heart as black and twisted as his own. They warned him that if he failed, he would pay a terrible price, but Marius was certain his evil plan would work.
Cackling in triumph, he returned to the Carnival and intoned his incantation. Sarah's mind was helpless under his evil spell, and she became a slave to him. Entranced by the spell, she agreed to marry him on Halloween night.
But her heart was still free, and understood what had happened. It wept in a way that only the purest of hearts could weep. And on Halloween night, during her high wire performance, her heart became so heavy with sorrow that it broke the wire, and Sarah fell from the top of the carnival tent, down, down, down to her death.
The RingMaster was enraged that his prize had been taken from him. But his rage quickly turned to fear when he realized that Sarah's death had broken his pact with the Dark Powers. The ancient spirits appeared, and covered the Carnival in darkness, sucking it forever more into the spirit world.
Now, the carnival is damned to travel the nether regions beyond the veil, crossing into the mortal world only once a year - on Halloween. And Sarah, who died in such misery, forever haunts these darkened grounds as a specter of anguish.
Mere moments after Sarah's story was complete, one of the Skull Spirits went to fetch her for us. At the spirit's bequest, the ghostly form of the beautiful Sarah manifested before us! Bathed in a solemn silver-blue light, she looked at us with surprise and fear.
Immediately, a palpable wave of chill fear flowed through the room. Sarah, terrified, pleaded with us to leave at once. She said that when mortals are able to see her, the evil Marius Blackwood, the nasty carnival RingMaster, would be able to find her!
She explained that if he could find her, he could force her to marry him, and thus break the curse that had damned him to the black underworld. He would be free to wreak havok on the mortal world!
But before we could leave, the nightmare scenario played out: The RingMaster appeared!
He was a horrific vision! Shrouded in a sickly green pallor, his glowing red eyes transfixed us as the cold stench of evil washed over the parlour.
He gloated at having finally found Sarah, cackling with glee at the idea of his diabolical plans finally coming to fruition after a century of frustration.
It quickly became clear that Marius fully intended to break the curse, but his plan was far worse than even Sarah had imagined!
While suffering in the black pits of the afterlife, Marius had been industrious. He had sought out other evil warlocks who had passed on, and had learned deeper, darker secrets of black magic than any mortal had even known.
And with it, he had uncovered a spell that could return him to life if he could break the curse. If he could force Sarah to marry him in the afterlife, he could return to life as the most powerful warlock ever to walk the earth. Sarah's heart would become as black and twisted as his own, and she would serve him as his evil minion.
As if on cue, Marius summoned forth another of his minions, the ghost of a pilgrim preacher, who would preside over the black wedding Marius had planned.
The preacher began the ceremony as Marius exerted his supernatural control over Sarah.
The preacher asked, "Do you Marius, take this ghost for your own, to stand by your side as an agent of darkness for all eternity?" and Marius cackled, "Of course!"
The preacher then turned to Sarah, and asked, "Do you, Sarah, submit to this ghost as your master, to command your black heart in his campaign of fear and sorrow against the living?" She visibly struggled against Marius's hold on her, but his powerful magic was not to be denied. She gasped, "I do."
Then the preacher asked, "If there is any reason that this couple should not be wed, speak now or forever hold your peace."
At this, a chord of fear struck in Marius, and he bellowed, "What are you doing, preacher?"
This was the first sign of weakness we had seen in Marius, and instantly, Madame Sarita pounced! She stood up, and shouted, "I have something to say!" Turning to us, she told us that she could banish Marius with our help if we would shout "No!" three times!
We shouted, and Marius staggered back, his agony apparent. He hissed at Sarah, "You have escaped me for another year, Sarah, but every Halloween, until the end of time, I'll have a chance to find you again, and someday, your luck will run out! HEED MY WORDS!"
With another spell from Sarita, we banished him completely.
With Marius gone, Sarah's spirit thanked us for sparing her from a fate so terrible she could not even imagine it. Expressing her eternal thanks, she said her goodbyes and faded back into darkness.
And Sarita? Well, she thanked us, too. That night had proved to be more than all of us had bargained for, but we had come through it safely, and a little bit wiser about the world of ghosts and specters.
As we left, Sarita wished us all a Happy Halloween.