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So you're here about what happened back in the fall of '64, right? For the anniversary? I guess most of the people who work at your site weren't even born then, including your boss. Well, it was a long time ago, but I remember what my brother told me. He was there when it happened, but got out before the end. You can try talking to him if you want, he's in a retirement community back in Ohio. 

The dance was for seniors only, so I didn't go, being fourteen at the time. My brother went, taking his girlfriend at the time with him. I stayed home with Mom and Dad and waited, handing out Halloween candy with Mom while Dad watched Bonanza. We didn't know what happened until after my brother came home with the cops.

It didn't start at the school. There was this stand of trees about a mile down the road from where the school was. There wasn't anything special about them, they looked like any other grove you might have seen along the highway, which back then was the main route between our town and Cleveland. Anyway, that's where it started, with a couple of local kids who'd gone missing. For a while it was the biggest story in town, even the State Police were there, along with volunteers, of which my Dad was one. They weren't ever found, as far as I know, but anyone who's old enough still remembers them. 

I remember when my brother came back. His girlfriend wasn't with him. The police said she was at the hospital, but we never saw her again and my brother wouldn't ever say what happened to her. I got the story in bits and pieces from other students who'd been there, stories that became local urban legends later on. 

There had been a fire at the auditorium where the annual Halloween dance was held. At least, that was what the fire department said, although there was no evidence of one, just the smoke, which those who;'d seen it said was more like a thick fog. It rolled in from the outside while the final song was being played. It surrounded everyone and everything, making it impossible to see. My brother said that was the last time he saw his date, wandering around in it before she disappeared. But she wasn't the only one-several of the other students went with her, into the fog, and were never seen again.

Of course people looked for them. For weeks and months, even years afterward, there were searches that became fewer until they finally stopped. Nobody ever thought to look in the grove where the other kids had disappeared earlier, but people started seeing things as they drove by, mostly after dark. 

They'd see figures --ghosts, I guess you could call them-of teenagers dancing in the mist to music that wasn't there, or that nobody but them could hear. They were wearing ragged or faded clothing, and looked like they'd been wandering out in the woods for a long time. Nobody ever got a good look at their faces, but the story got around that they might have been the missing students themselves. My brother said he didn't believe it, but some nights he'd leave home and not come back until a few hours later, always with a grim or disappointed look on his face. I know he was never the same after the dance, and thought about his missing girlfriend for a long time. He got better later on-went to college, got married to a girl he met there, and wound up working at a bank until he retired. But yeah, it was rough on him for a while...

Anyway, that's what happened. If you happen to be driving down that stretch of road, and pass by those woods, you might see what looks like a group of teenagers dancing among the trees. Don't stop, just keep right on going until you get to the safety of town. 

Because you never know who-or what-might be waiting for you out there in the dark.



Matthew Spence was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His work has most recently been accepted by Truth, Beauty and Imagination.


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