The Legend of the Haunted Carnival

The bent old man sat down at his normal table in the bar’s corner. The waitress brought him a tall glass of amber liquid, sitting it on the table in front of him. “Good evening, Karen,” the old man said.

She smiled. “Evening, Mr. Thomas. Will you be telling us a story tonight?” She asked, stepping back and reaching into a cubby above his head. She brought down a thick quilt and spread it over his legs, tucking it in around them.

“Yes, I believe I can. Is there a need?” He asked, glancing around the room at the oddly young people gathered. 

She leaned forward to whisper into his ear. “Truly. I’ve been hearing these young people talking about exploring the caves out by the pier,” she said. Standing up, she raised her voice and continued. “Would you like the usual for dinner tonight?”

Scooting over so his back was in the corner, the old man settled as comfortable as he could. He said, “yes, please.” He watched her walk away and looked again at the crowd sitting around the bar as he waited for her to make the announcement she made every night. He told stories from the corner table of the bar.

It didn’t take long before he heard her voice over the din of the crowd. “Folks, tonight is a special night here at Dom’s Tavern. We have with us a gent of world renown creativity. He has generously agreed to gift us with one of his tales. So please, if you would turn your attention to the man sitting at the corner table and partake of his tale,” she said. 

A moment later, most of the people in the bar turned their attention to him. To his amusement, this included the young men she had showed him a few moments before. He took a sip of his drink and began his tale. 

* * *

Beach Side Carnival set up on the Washington Street Pier the last week of August every year. Joseph had worked there for the last six years. He had gotten the job the first time in the summer he turned fifteen. Each year, he did the same job. He spent the week making sure those people within the portable fence line of the carnival had paid for the privilege. If they hadn’t he tossed them out without a care for their thoughts on the matter.

At least that was what he did while the lights were on and the carnival was in full swing. Once the lights went out, the music stopped, and they had slowed to a halt. It was his job to keep the people out. He walked along the fence where it butted up to the cliff. And more often than not, he was forced to make some group of kids or another leave before they could find their way past the fences and into the caves that opened along the water. 

This night Joseph, the moon was to be full, and he knew teenagers would try to sneak over the fence. So, he grabbed one of the heavy-duty flashlights as he headed out of the back office of the carnival. He walked the length of the park before they closed, checking for anything off. Nothing seemed out of place. When he reached the east-side gate, he walked over and tugged on the chain-link gate. It held fast. He moved on. 

He crossed the parking lot, letting his mind drift a bit. It was too early for most teenagers to be trying to get into the caves. Movement to his left told him he was wrong. “Hey, we’re closed.” He called out. 

The figures, three average looking teenage boys, stand at the edge of the concrete, just outside the fence line. They turn and look at him. “We know. We aren’t here for the carnival.”

Joseph tightened his grip on the flashlight, taking a step forward toward the trio. “I know what you are here for and I’m sorry, but I can’t let you guys get into the caves. They aren’t safe,” he said, knowing it would do no good with this group. They were going to find a way in, even if he blocked them with all the chains in the place. He sighed.

“We’re better than the others. We will not get hurt, just want to see the lake at the bottom of the caves,” one of the boy calls back.

* * * 

Mr. Thomas reached out and takes a drink from his glass to wet his dry throat. The waitress walked toward him with a tray in her hands. “Here you go, Mr. Thomas. Sorry about interrupting your story,” she said.

He looked up, his gaze drifting past her to the group he had been hoping would listen to the story and maybe learn something. They were talking among themselves and not paying him the slightest bit of attention. Damn. The waitress sat the food on the table in front of him. He reached forward and picked up the fork; the story shifting to the back of his mind. “Thank you, Karen” he paused, lifting his glass, “could you bring me a second?” He asked.

Karen nodded. “Of course.” She glanced at the same group he had and sighed. “I don’t think the story is going to help tonight.”

A sad sigh escaped Mr. Thomas’ lips. “It doesn’t always work, we both know that,” he said.

She nodded. “Would you like to move to the back and have dinner in peace?” She asked.

He shook his head. “No, I’ll stay here.” He glanced at the door as it opened and a young woman came in, gaining the attention of every boy at the table. “Maybe I can try again when I’m done with my meal.” 

“Understood. If you need anything, just give me a wave,” she said, walking away toward the bar.

Mr. Thomas nibbled at his dinner and gave her a smile when she returned with a second drink for him. She walked away after giving him a peck on the top of his head. As he finished his meal, he watched the group at the table. He pushed the plate across the table once he was done. 

A moment later, the girl he had seen came over to his table. “Excuse me, Sir. Are you Mr. Thomas? The man who tells the stories.” She asked. 

“Yes, that’s me. What can I do for you?” He asked.

She motioned to the empty seat across from him. Mr. Thomas nodded, and she sat down. “I was wondering if you would tell me the story about the ghost who haunts the caves below the carnival,” she said.

He looked at the group of boys. “Did they tell you I told that story?” He asked, trying to sound friendly. 

“No, they are too worried about going out tonight and causing trouble. I have my own reasons for wanting to hear the story.” She blushed, spinning a thin silver ring on her left hand. 

Mr. Thomas’ eyes darkened as he noticed the ring. He knew that ring. It was much older than the girl wearing it. “What is your name, young lady?” He asked.

Lowering her head, she answered. “Anna Gret,” she said.

He sucked in a breath. There was no way she could be sitting there. She had died over thirty years before and was a victim in the story he told to scare people. 

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