Welcome to Halloween Camp!
Halloween is a big deal in my house.
My parents are super into it. Our house is the Halloween House on the block – you know the one I’m talking about, the one with all the elaborate decorations that take days to put up and take down. My mom used to hand-sew all of our costumes. Whatever we wanted to be, we got. I remember one year she sewed me my own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume – it must have taken her weeks.
“That’s the rule of Halloween,” she’d tell my brother, Sammy, and me. “For just one day, you get to be whoever you want to be. That’s a gift. Make sure you don’t waste it.”
So it’s unthinkable, now, that my parents would let us spend Halloween anywhere away from home. I’m still not really sure what prompted their decision. My parents deny it to this day, but I think they were having some problems in their marriage and they wanted Sammy and I sent away while they talked it out. I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter.
The point is that, on Friday, October 29th, 1999, my parents packed some duffle bags for my brother and me, complete with our handmade costumes, and sent us off to Halloween Camp.
Yeah, you read that right.
See, when you think of sleepaway camps, you probably think of summer, right? Because what kid in their right mind is going camping at the end of October? Even if you don’t live in a frigidly cold climate, there’s school to think of.
The camp was a new thing that had opened up about three hours away from my hometown. It promised a fun-filled Halloween extravaganza for the kids… and a quiet weekend for the parents. My brother and I were actually really excited to go. I know, I know – even then, we were both a bunch of nerds. But it sounded super cool to the both of us – a whole weekend dedicated to Halloween without being under the watchful eye of our overprotective (though admittedly morbid) parents? Count us both in!
So that Friday, my parents took us out of school early – just before lunch – and we started the long drive to the southern half of the state. Sammy and I chatted excitedly the entire time about our weekend away. Mom and dad got us McDonalds, which they NEVER did. We had a really great time.
Sammy didn’t start getting nervous until mom and dad pulled up to the campsite.
“What if we need to call you for something?” he asked. I could hear the worry in his voice. What he REALLY wanted to ask was what if he wanted to call because he was homesick? Would they come get us if he decided he didn’t want to stay? Sammy was kind of a baby about stuff like that, even though he was already eight years old. He hated staying away from home.
“You’ll be just fine, champ. You two will have a wonderful time and if you need anything, anything at all, your brother Ron will be there to talk you through it,” said my dad. I gave Sammy’s hand a squeeze to reassure him. Not because I’m the kindhearted older brother, mind you, but because I didn’t want him crying and whining and ruining this for me. As soon as we had seen the gates of the camp, my excitement had skyrocketed.
The gate to the camp was made of old wood, now painted black with skeletons tied to it. The sign read “Welcome to Camp Halloween” in red, dripping letters. A few bats and spiders hung from the bottom of the sign and waved in the breeze, as though to welcome us. I smiled at the sight. My brother shivered a little.
My parents unloaded our duffle bags and brought us into the camp. A small table was set up, neatly labeled ‘Registration.’ Sitting there were two camp counselors in black shirts with CAMP HALLOWEEN printed in red on the front pocket.
“Hi there, welcome to Camp Halloween, where the spirit of Halloween is never laid to rest! What name are your kids under?”
The camp counselor who greeted us was a beautiful, tall brunette girl. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen. My twelve-year-old heart stopped when she smiled at me, her eyes sparkling green in the sunlight.
As my parents handed her our registration forms, we heard another counselor a few yards away greet some new kids: “Hey, welcome to Camp Halloween, where we celebrate the Devil’s birthday, what do you want?”
My parents looked over at him in disgust and I followed their gaze. My eyes laid upon the tallest, biggest guy I’d ever seen. Seriously, he had to be almost seven feet tall, and he definitely weighed more than both of my parents combined. He looked like he could crush me between two of his fingers if he wanted to. He had shaggy black hair and a full beard. He stared at the parents he had been addressing with a bored look in his eyes that made me feel almost squeamish, although I couldn’t tell why.
“Oh, don’t mind him, he’s just a little… grumpy today.” She laughed nervously. “That’s Seamus, and my name’s Lizzy. Don’t worry, we’re going to keep a great eye on your kids and they are going to have a ton of fun! Won’t we, guys?”
“Yes, Ms. Lizzy!” I said, and flashed her a dazzling smile. She laughed at the title I gave her, just like I knew she would. Next to me, Sammy mumbled his assent. His eyes were fixed on the ground. I knew he was still feeling nervous.
“Hey, what’s your name?” She asked my brother. He looked up and answered so quietly, I could barely hear him.
“Sammy? That’s a great name! Are you a little nervous to be away from home?”
He glanced at me before nodded slightly.
“That’s okay. Sometimes, I get nervous when I stay away from home, too. But guess what? Since you’re staying here, I have something very special for you and your brother!”
That got Sammy’s attention. “What is it?”
She rummaged behind the table and pulled out two Oreos on sticks. They’d been dipped in chocolate and chocolate wings had been attached. They’d been decorated to look like little bats.
“Here you go! And believe me, there’s plenty more where that came from!”
Sammy smiled and grabbed the treat, relaxing a little next to me. Lizzy’s masterful handling of my little brother made me fall in love with her even more. I started mentally calculating our age difference, wondering if it she would be ok with dating a younger guy.
My parents filled out our registration forms and Lizzy told us we’d be staying in Cabin 4. My parents walked over with us and helped us get settled in. Initially, they’d put Sammy in Cabin 4 and me in Cabin 8 but Lizzy quickly switched it so we could stay together. I wouldn’t have minded being away from my annoying little brother for a little while, but he would’ve just come crying for me every night if they split us up, and we all knew it.
So we picked a set of bunkbeds that sat against the east wall. There were four sets of bunkbeds in total, which meant eight kids in the cabin. Against the west wall there was a single bed – that was for our counselor, Lizzy explained.
“Every cabin has a counselor so that the kids have eyes on them 24/7. Safety is our top priority!” She flashed my parents her beautiful smile.
So Sammy and I got set up in Cabin 4, my parents gave us their tearful goodbyes, and we joined the rest of the kids in the Halloween activities that had already begun.
Those first few days were really fun. We had cool activities planned every day – carving pumpkins, making paper bat crafts, decorating the cabins. On Saturday night, we had a movie night – the little kids watched Hocus Pocus, but the big kids (me included) got to watch a horror movie (PG-13, of course).
Overall, it was a really great time. The only thing that wasn’t great was Cabin 4, and our counselor, Seamus.
Since Lizzy seemed to like Seamus, I thought that I’d give him a try, especially since he was staying in Cabin 4 with us. To be fair, I can see why she thought he was nice. When he was around her, he smiled and joked with her and played with the kids like normal. But once our cabin doors closed, he became an entirely different person.
The first night, Sammy cried. He wasn’t being real loud or anything, he just missed home. I was pretty used to it, so I climbed down from the top bunk to lay with him on the bottom bunk.
I didn’t even notice Seamus standing there, watching us.
“What the fuck are you doing?” he asked, and flipped on the light.
None of us were asleep yet, so the kids all stared at us as I stood by Sammy’s bed, wide-eyed and nervous.
“Um… Sammy is just a little homesick, so I thought…”
“You thought what?” Seamus’s voice was low and quiet. I didn’t like it. At all.
“Well, I thought I’d lay down here with him until he fell asleep.”
“Is that right?” asked Seamus. “Is that what you thought?”
I glanced at Sammy. Tears still stood in his eyes and his breathing was ragged. He looked absolutely terrified.
“Yes,” I answered.
Seamus walked towards me and picked me up. He threw me back on the top bunk so hard I bounced against the wall.
I scrambled to the edge of the bed and watching over the side as he leaned over my little brother.
“Listen to me, you little pussy shit. You’re going to shut the fuck up and go to sleep, or I will ruin your fucking life. You got it?”
Sammy nodded. I noticed he was clutching the blanket hard against his body and his hands were trembling. I wanted to go down there and comfort him, to stand up to Seamus, but I was too afraid. I was frozen in my spot.
Seamus stood back up and flicked the lights off.
“Now everyone, go the fuck to sleep.”
Not a single person moved until morning.
Seamus’s attitude got worse over the next few days, if you can believe it. Every time we were in the cabin, he was screaming at us. He threw things against the walls, he cussed us out. He said things that are so horrible, I won’t repeat them here, not just for your sake, but for mine.
On Saturday night, I ended up on his shit list.
We were watching the scary movie – I remember, it was Friday the 13th – and I had scored a seat next to Lizzy. It was like a dream, sitting next to her the whole movie. I pretended not to be scared, even though I was actually pretty terrified during the whole thing. I’m sure she could tell, but she still told me she was very impressed with how brave I was.
I was still soaring on that high as I walked back to the cabin. I was reaching for the door when I felt a hand grab my shirt collar and drag me to the side of the cabin facing away from the camp.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing, you little shit?” It was Seamus. He had me pinned against the side of the cabin and was leaning over me, breathing in my ear.
“N-nothing! I wasn’t doing anything!”
“Nice try, you little shit. You think you’re gonna get with Lizzy? You think you’re gonna fuck her? Want some of that pussy, do you?”
I felt all the blood drain out of my face. Half of me was terrified and disgusted – I didn’t like this, I didn’t like what was happening. AT ALL. The other half of me was flying into a blind rage. How DARE he talk about her like that.
“Listen to me, you stay the fuck away from her. She belongs to me. She’d never touch a loser little virgin like you.”
He held me pinned there for a few more moments, completely silent. That was probably the scariest part – being pinned against the wall, just waiting to see what he would do next.
All he did was release me. He stepped back and I ran into the cabin, terrified. I climbed up into the bed and squeezed myself hard against the wall, making myself as small as possible. Seamus came in thirty minutes later and turned out the light.
I didn’t get any sleep that night.
The next day was Halloween. I was on edge the whole day, looking over my shoulder, waiting for Seamus to appear out of nowhere and beat the shit out of me. I stuck close to Sammy because I was worried about him, too. Something was wrong with that guy. And if I’d been smart, I would have told one of the other counselors. As it was, I was too afraid that they’d tell him and he’d hurt me. Or worse.
Maybe it’s best I didn’t tell anyone. Maybe they wouldn’t have helped anyway. The other counselors seemed to think he was harmless. Or harmless enough. He had, after all, been hired there. And even though people surely must have heard him screaming at us in the cabin after dark, nobody ever said a word.
At any rate, I made sure that both Sammy and I stayed far away from Lizzy that day. It was a good thing, too, because Seamus remained glued to her side. They laughed and joked with each other, although I could have sworn a few times she looked sort of uncomfortable. I brushed it off and decided I was seeing what I wanted to see. I didn’t want to get involved.
The day went on as normal. We played some Halloween games and made some crafts, all the usual stuff. That night, however, was different.
That night was the Halloween Dance.
Now, obviously we were in a camp in the middle of the woods, so it’s not like us kids could go trick-or-treating. Instead, we’d all be dressing up and going to a “masquerade” party. There’d be punch and bobbing for apples and dancing. We would each get a bag of candy, too. There were rumors that all the kids would get a caramel apple.
We all returned to our cabins around eight o’clock that night to get dressed in our costumes. The party was going to go from nine to midnight. We were all excited. I helped Sammy get into his costume. He wanted to be Superman. I thought that was pretty lame, because aren’t you supposed to be something scary for Halloween? But he was my little brother so I helped him get ready anyway. Mom had packed some hair gel so I could help him with the spit-curl. He was so excited, he was bouncing on his feet and I had to tell him to hold still more than once.
I was Michael Meyers that Halloween. He was the coolest movie villain I’d seen up to that point. My mom made the jumpsuit and put fake blood stains on it. She’d bought me the mask and together we made the fake butcher’s knife. I was just grabbing my mask when I heard Seamus walking up to the cabin door.
A terrible feeling wormed its way into my gut. It’s that feeling you get when you know you messed up and you’re waiting for your parents to find out when they get home. That horrible, sinking, hopelessness. I don’t know why I got it – maybe instinct, maybe some kind of sixth sense, who knows – but immediately I knew that something was wrong.
“Sammy, hide under the bed.”
“What?” Sammy looked up at me in confusion. The other kids didn’t notice me dragging him to the floor, too busy with their costume preparation.
“I’m not kidding, Sammy, hide under the bed. And don’t come out until I say it’s okay. You promise?”
Sammy scooted under the bed, looking at me in confusion. But he nodded and said, “I promise.”
I straightened up just as Seamus opened the door.
All of us kids stopped talking when Seamus stood in the doorway.
The way he looked at us… I don’t know. It was like he wasn’t even human anymore. Like whatever humanity he might have had had been sucked out through his eyes, leaving them glassy and doll-like. I wonder now if he had been on drugs. I guess I could go back and look at the police report, but I’d really rather not.
He shut the door and stared at us. We stared back. Nobody moved.
He motioned to a kid from the bed next to mine and Sammy’s. “Hey, dipshit. Come over here. I wanna talk to you.”
I wish I could remember that kid’s name. It was all over the news later.
The kid hesitated, but he knew better than to disobey a direct order from Seamus. He walked over, tentatively, until he stood next to the towering psycho.
Seamus put his hand on the kid’s shoulders, in a parody of a comforting gesture. He tightened his grip to stop him from getting away. “You excited for the dance?” He asked.
“Um… yes,” the kid answered.
“You gonna dance with some of the pretty girls?”
“I, uh… yeah, I guess.”
“Yeah, I bet you think you are, you fucking nerd,” he sneered. “You think any of them will want anything to do with a fucking creep like you?”
“I, uh…” the kid was stammering now, going beet red. I prayed he would find an answer that pleased Seamus. Anything to stop whatever was going on.
“You know, you would have better luck if your face wasn’t so screwed up. You ever think of that? Of fixing your face?”
The kid didn’t answer this time, he just stared at Seamus. He was shaking so hard his teeth were chattering. Seamus smiled at him.
“Here, how about I help you. Lemme just fix your face for you, kid.”
I knew what was going to happen a split second before Seamus even tensed his arm. Which doesn’t really matter, I guess – there was nothing I could do.
Seamus grabbed the kid’s arm and smashed him face first into the wall. He smashed him so hard that I heard the crunch of his bones. The kid didn’t even get to scream. He fell to the floor, his glasses smashed so far into his face that they probably lodged in his bone. His whole face was a ruined mass of pulp. And he wasn’t breathing.
One of the kids on the other side of the cabin screamed. I probably would have joined him, if only I’d been able to breathe.
“Shut the fuck up!” screamed Seamus, in a voice so loud that he must have been heard all the way across camp. But I held no illusions that someone would be coming to help us.
Seamus grabbed the screaming kid and started to choke him, all the while screaming at him. He was a few steps away from the door, now. I stared at the distance separating Seamus from the door, and then wondered if maybe, just maybe, if I ran fast enough…
But my brother. I mentally groaned, still unable to actually make a sound. Sammy would die if I left him alone here, I was sure of it. And sometimes the little squirt annoyed me, sure, but he was my brother and I loved him. I wasn’t leaving him there to get murdered.
“Psst, Ron! Hey, Ron!” I saw Sammy peak out from under the bed and my heart stopped.
“Sammy, what did I tell you? Get back under there!” I hissed. Seamus didn’t notice. His hands were still wrapped around the kid, whose face had turned blue and whose struggles were getting weaker.
“Get down here, I found something. Please, Ron, please!!”
As I stood there, wondering if I should make risk it, the screaming kid’s bunkmate made a dash for the door. He didn’t even make it four steps. Seamus’s unoccupied hand snaked out and grabbed his skull. He crushed his thumb into the kid’s left eye and blood poured out while he screamed.
I took the chance. I slid under the bed, my heart pumping in my throat. I could only pray to God that he hadn’t seen me.
Sammy had crawled so far under the bed he was pressed against the wall. I could see why. The wall was missing a chunk, leaving a small hole. I knew Sammy could fit through it. I wasn’t so sure if I could.
“Sammy, crawl out of there and wait for me!”
Sammy nodded and shimmied through. He slid right out without so much as a scratch. I wished I was still that small.
I started to pull myself through the hole. My heart was beating so hard that all I wanted to do was struggle and scream, but I knew that I had to be quiet and go slowly. It took some trying and I got snagged on some splinters a few times, but finally we were both out.
I grabbed Sammy’s hand and we started to run. I knew the main office was near the entrance to the camp, and there was a phone inside. If we were lucky, someone would be in there to help us. The camp looked deserted at that moment – all the kids were in their cabins getting ready. The other counselors were nowhere to be seen.
We heard the door to Cabin 4 bang open.
“Where the fuck did you go, you little shits??” Seamus bellowed. It didn’t take him long to catch sight of us, being as we hadn’t made it very far. He started to run after us, and even though he was way bigger than we were, he was also faster.
We got lucky because, at that moment, Lizzy exited the main office. She jogged towards us and we ran behind her, taking shelter. The relief I felt was dizzying. Seamus liked her so he wouldn’t hurt her, and she’d protect us. Everything was going to be okay.
“Seamus, what the hell, dude? What are you doing?” she asked. Her face went pale as she looked down at his left hand. I followed her gaze and saw what she saw: blood.
Seamus didn’t seem to realize what she’d seen. “I caught those two little punks peeking in one of the girl’s cabins while they were changing. I’m just gonna give them a good talking-to.”
Before Lizzy could answer, Sammy shouted, “No, we weren’t! We weren’t doing anything! And neither were those other kids!”
“What other kids?!” gasped Lizzy. But I could tell she already knew. Or at least guessed. The blood had given Seamus away.
“I don’t know what the fuck is going on with you, but this ends now. I’m calling the police!” Lizzy started to back away, keeping us shielded behind her. We weren’t far from the main office – I was sure we could make it.
My hopes were shattered when Seamus lunged forward and grabbed her by the neck. He lifted her by her throat and hissed in her face, “Listen here, you stuck up prude little bitch. I will fucking gut you, do you hear me? I will fuck you up so bad your own family won’t be able to identify the body…”
I should have left them there, grabbed Sammy, and run for the main office. I should have left Lizzy to fend for herself – I mean, I was only twelve. But I was a stupidly brave twelve-year-old, at least in that moment, and I found myself doing the stupidest possible thing anyone could do in that situation.
I looked at my brother and he saw that I was serious. He took off towards the woods and I ran at Seamus. I kicked his shin as hard as I could, intent on freeing Lizzy.
It was like kicking a fucking tree trunk. Seriously, he didn’t even flinch. He just looked down at me and I could see that all I’d done was piss him off.
He let Lizzy go and she crumpled to the ground. I heard her gasp for air so I at least knew that she was alive.
He yanked me towards him and grabbed me by my jaw. His hand was so large that my jaw fit right into his palm. He grasped the lower half of my face and I realized that he meant to break it.
“You’re a real annoying little shit, you know that?” he said, breathing into my face. His breath stank something fierce. “But you’re not gonna be around to annoy people for much longer. After I rip off your fucking jaw, I’m taking out your tongue, too. Gonna do it fast so you’re awake while you bleed out. How do you like that you little piece of shit? How do you…”
“POLICE! GET YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!”
In the heat of the moment, I hadn’t even heard them pull up. I hadn’t seen the flashing red and blue lights. And I could tell by the look in Seamus’s eyes that he hadn’t, either. He’d been too busy killing me and I’d been too busy preparing to die.
He looked up at them and snarled. Really and truly snarled, like a fucking werewolf or something. He didn’t step away from me, didn’t let me go. He wasn’t afraid. He just looked even more angry.
“Let the kid go and put your hands in the air!”
I could hear there were two policemen at least. But there may have been more. I wasn’t able to turn around and look.
“Put the kid down, Seamus. I mean it, or I will have to shoot you.”
Everything was going so fast, spiraling so far out of control. I wanted to make it stop, so I started to struggle. Seamus’s eyes darkened and his hand tensed. He started squeezing my jaw and I was certain he was going to rip it off.
Suddenly, a sound exploded in my ears and Seamus let go of me as though I was on fire. He stumbled backwards as I fell to the ground, clutching my ears and screaming. Two more shots and Seamus went down.
I didn’t realize until much later that they had actually shot him. And killed him. Right in front of me.
I stared at his body, waiting for him to get up and attack, as Lizzy crawled over to me, grabbing and holding me to her. “Are you okay? Ron, are you okay? Oh my god, what happened, how could this happen…”
I barely heard her. I was going into shock. His body was the last thing I saw as I slipped into unconsciousness.
Seamus Pommier killed four people that night.
Three of them were children in my cabin. The fourth was another camp counselor, whose body was found in the woods the next day. The same woods where they found my brother Sammy.
It took them six hours to find him. I begged to go with the search team. I told them – correctly, might I add – that Sammy wouldn’t come out unless he heard me calling for him. They didn’t want to risk it, and instead had me hauled off to the hospital. After six hours of combing through the trees, they found him, sitting on the ground next to an old stump. Sobbing. He wouldn’t calm down until they brought him to me.
Those first hours after the incident are kind of a blur. In fact, so are the first few days. It wasn’t until much later that we could piece together the story.
Seamus had been hired by the dean of the camp, who also happened to be his uncle. He was hired as a favor to the dean’s brother. The dean, unfortunately, knew about Seamus’s troubled past. His run-ins with the law. The animals he’d tortured and murdered. The time he spent at the “school for boys” nearby. But he’d hired him anyway. He would have lost face with his family, if he hadn’t.
He was sued by every parent whose child attended that camp, mine included.
It turned out that he had stopped any of the counselors from intervening when they heard Seamus screaming at us. And he wouldn’t let any of them use the phone in the main office to call the police. The only reason the police showed up is that another counselor used their personal cell phone to call the cops. If he hadn’t, I’d be dead by now.
His negligence landed him in jail. I don’t know if he ever got out.
The cops were questioned, too. Some people were appalled that they’d shot at Seamus while he was essentially holding me hostage. The cops claimed that they had a clear shot at his chest, well above my head. Personally, I’m glad they shot him. That fucker didn’t deserve to live.
I don’t know what happened to the other kids in the cabin. Or what happened to Lizzy. I’d really like to know if she’s okay, how she turned out, but I can’t bring myself to look. I’m too afraid that I won’t like what I find, you know?
As for Sammy and me, well. It could be worse.
The incident probably made us both a little less trusting of people, a little more skittish. I still have nightmares about it sometimes, and I’m sure he does, too. But my parents did a good job helping us out with the… trauma. We went to see a therapist. My parents helped us reclaim the good parts of Halloween that we’d always liked. Sammy and I both still celebrate it every year, although I stay away from the slasher flicks when October rolls around.
We both made it out. We’re both okay.
Well, except for one thing.
See, every once in a while I’ll see someone. Someone tall and big with a scraggly beard. Just out and about, shopping or going on a walk or taking the subway. And even though I saw the Seamus die, even though I know he’s cold in the ground – or what’s left of him, anyway – I’m always looking my shoulder. I’m always afraid.
Because if anybody could come back from the dead, it would be him.