Before Sam Manetta and his friends snuck into the abandoned Crest Hill Insane Asylum, before the ageless haunted tomb unleashed all its ghoulish entities, Sam saw it on the television.
A reporter clutching a microphone with the Channel 7 News logo on it stood center screen. She had bright blue eyes and long blonde hair that was pulled back so tight there wasn’t a single wrinkle on her forehead.
The lady didn’t interest Sam in the slightest. It was the building behind her that did: a massive dark marvel of architecture with an innumerable amount of broken windows rising out of the ground like a monstrous tombstone.
“Even though the Crest Hill Insane Asylum has been closed for over seventy years,” the reporter announced, “it can still be remembered for treatments that would seem unethical today, such as ‘trepanning,’ ‘bloodletting,’ and prescribing mercury to cure ailments. It was even here that the first lobotomy in the United States was performed.
“But what really has residents worried is the private contractor that has bought out the land the abandoned asylum stands on. Early tomorrow morning the historic building will be demolished and construction for the new Meglo Mall will begin. The finished project estimates it will bring in over 100,000 customers per month from neighboring towns. This will—”
“What?” Sam shrieked. He’d been playing Angry Birds, barely paying attention to the TV. Now he dropped his phone and stared at the newswoman. “She can’t be serious!”
“She is,” his father muttered from the other side of the couch. Mr. Manetta was a tall, stocky man with gray streaks in his hair and a frown that permanently creased his face. He dipped his hand into the bowl of Halloween candy next to him and pulled out his fifth Reese’s Peanut Butter cup. While he unwrapped it, he said, “That new mall will be the death of us. Just you wait and see. There’ll be so much traffic it’ll take us twenty minutes just to get to the end of the block!”
Sam couldn’t care less about the traffic. To every kid in town, the Crest Hill Insane Asylum was a legend. It was supposedly haunted, infested with all sorts of ghosts and demons. There had only been three kids who ever went into it, and they were seniors in high school. Sam hadn’t told anybody, but he had a secret dream that one day he would be the fourth person to explore the abandoned asylum. Imagine what that would do for his image? He would finally be popular. Everyone at school would think he was brave. His classmates would all think—
His classmates wouldn’t think anything, he reasoned, because now some stupid contractor was going to tear down the asylum and build a lame mall. All at once, his dreams of being well-liked and admired came crashing down. Now he would just be regular, boring Sam Manetta.
Unless . . .
The doorbell rang.
“Stupid trick-or-treaters,” his father grumbled. He grabbed the bowl of diminishing Halloween candy. As he stood, he turned to his son, whose face was painted to match the black sweatshirt and pants with the image of a skeleton printed on them. “Why aren’t you out there running around with all of them?”
“I’m waiting for Billy and Eddy,” Sam said. “We’re gonna go around together.”
The grunt his father gave hinted at what he thought of his son’s friends. Sam barely heard it—he was once more thinking that it might not be too late to become popular after all.
There was no loud “Trick-or-treat!” like Sam expected. Instead, he heard a familiar voice say, “Hi, Mr. Manetta, is Sam home?”
Mr. Manetta grumbled something along the lines of You know very well he’s home as he walked back into the den. “Sam!” he nearly shouted. “Your friends are here.”
Sam sprang up at once, dashing to the door. Standing on the other side was two boys his age. The first was a little shorter and stockier than him with a head of blonde hair that was shaved into a crew-cut. He wore face paint and camouflage fatigues—one of the characters from Call of Duty. The second was taller and skinnier. He had glasses and a wig of shaggy brown hair that he tied back with a bandana to keep out of his eyes. His costume consisted of a tie-dyed t-shirt, flip flops, and baggy brown shorts.
“Hey, guys,” Sam said. He gave Eddy’s outfit a studying look. “And what are you supposed to be?”
Eddy spun around, gave a goofy thumbs up, and said, “I’m a surfer, dude! Kowabunga!”
“Ummm, right.” Sam turned to Billy, the Call of Duty character. “I like your costume.”
Billy grinned. “Figured if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right? I like yours, too.”
“So you ready to get some candy?”
Sam looked over his shoulder, where his dad had plopped back down onto the couch in the den. “I’m ready to get outta here, if that’s what you mean.”
“Works for me,” Eddy said. “I’m guessing we’re meeting Karen at her house?”
Karen lived two houses over. She went to the same school and shared most of the same classes. Sam had never told anyone, but he had a secret crush on her.
“Yeah, she’s waiting for us.”
If the situation had been different, Billy and Eddy might have made oooooing sounds and teased Sam for wanting a girl to hang out with them, but Karen had grown up with the boys and was part of their group. That’s why it was so hard for Sam to tell her he liked her—he didn’t know how to. He yearned to ask her out, but the idea of confessing his true feelings was terrifying. She might not like him back, and if that was the case, he didn’t want it to ruin their friendship.
Sam pulled his bike out of the garage while Billy and Eddy got on theirs. They were halfway to Karen’s house when Eddy said, “Hey, dude, you forgot your trick-or-treat bag!”
Sam didn’t slow down. “I know,” he said. “We’re not gonna need it where we're going.”
Billy gave him a puzzled look. “What are you talking about. “Where are we going?”
Sam had made the decision the moment his friends showed up at his door. “We’re gonna sneak into Crest Hill.”
Billy and Eddy squeezed their brakes and came to a skidding stop. “Did you say Crest Hill?” Billy asked.
“The insane asylum?” Eddy added.
Sam nodded. “It was on the news tonight. They’re tearing it down tomorrow morning to build some mall.”
“A mall?” Eddy asked excitedly. “Really?”
“Yes, really,” Sam said. “But you’re missing the point. That means tonight’s our only chance to sneak in and explore it.”
“But isn’t it supposed to be haunted?” Eddy asked.
“That’s what we’re going to find out.”
Billy gave him an uneasy look. “Are you sure you really want to? What if something bad happens?”
“I don’t know. What if one of us trips and gets hurt or we get arrested for trespassing?”
“Or worse . . .” Eddy said.
“What if there really are ghosts and they decide to haunt us?”
Sam looked at his two friends sitting astride their bikes. “None of that stuff’s gonna happen. Those high school kids went in a few years ago and nothing happened to them, remember? Besides, I don’t really wanna go trick-or-treating anymore. It sounds boring compared to this.”
Sam paused for a second, then added, “Plus, imagine when everyone hears about what we did: We’ll be the talk of the school!”
Billy brought up a good point. “How do we know those high school kids really went in? What if they just lied? For that matter, what if we go in tonight and everyone at school thinks we lied?”
Sam’s answer was quick, as if he had already thought this through: “We’ll take a picture.”
Billy squeezed his lips together. “That might not work. They might think we Photoshopped it or something.”
“Fine,” Sam said. “We’ll grab something from inside and bring it back to school. Then they’ll have to believe us!”
Billy and Eddy gave each other uneasy looks.
“I don’t know,” Eddy said. “I’d rather go trick-or-treating. I mean, we’re already in our costumes and everything.”
“Come on,” Sam begged. “This is our last chance to do this. After tomorrow, the asylum won’t be there anymore.” He turned hopefully to Billy.
“What do you say?”
Billy thought long and hard. “I guess I’ll go, but only if everyone else agrees.”
“Thank you!” Sam said. Then, “Come on, Eddy, it’s all up to you. Will you do it?”
CLICK HERE IF EDDY AGREES TO SNEAK INTO THE ABANDONED INSANE ASYLUM.
CLICK HERE IF EDDY DECIDES THAT IT’S NOT SUCH A GOOD IDEA.