Welcome to Mystery Mansion!
Ipswitch, Massachusetts has its share of ghost stories. More than its share of legends about witchcraft and the occult, as well. Nowadays, that’s mostly tourist stuff and campfire tales to scare the little ones. Ah, but the little ones. Their minds are yet so fertile, their imaginations still unbounded by the banality of bosses and mortgages and the evening news. For them, Ipswitch is a town filled with wonder and terror in equal mesure, for they embrace these ghost stories. In the mind of every little boy and little girl in Ipswitch, that creepy old cat lady in the neighborhood is secretly the last living true witch. Bumps in the night are ghosts or wayward spirits. Any vagrant could in fact be a demon come to offer you all the candy in the world for the low, low price of your eternal soul. These are just facts of life.
But let’s not concern ourselves with the entire city and its rich, storied history. On the suburban outskirts of Ipswitch, well off the path of the city’s ghost and witchcraft tours, there’s a pleasant little neighborhood of well-kept lawns, picket fences, soccer moms, and cook-outs. The sign at the front of the neighborhood tells you this is Sunny Valley, neverminding the fact that it is neither a valley, nor is it any more sunny than the rest of the town.
Drive through that little slice of Americana, and you’ll get to a long, twisty little one-lane road. Barely more than an upjumped cart path, really. Follow that twisty road, and it takes you to the absolute edge of Ipswitch proper and up Carwile Hill. The road has no stops, no no intersections. It just winds its way through a good stretch of nice, thick coniferous New England forest and ends at the gates of an old, spooky mansion situated on top of the hill. This mansion, identified by its National Register of Historic Places plaque as Carwile Manor, has been an object of obsession among the youth of Sunny Valley since the first family moved into that neighborhood. The adults know this mansion as the family estate of the now-defunct but once-influential Carwile clan, a structure that was at one time impressive, but which has fallen into disrepair with the passing of the last living Carwile some fifteen years ago.
The kids of Sunny Valley call it by a different name. More evocative, and in their minds, more accurate: Mystery Mansion! Countless battles have been fought in and around Sunny Valley, waged by valiant young knights astride their Huffy bicycles, against the communist incursions, tides of zombies, alien invasions, and rampaging hordes of orcs that pour out of Mystery Mansion every day of every summer. The Mansion obligingly belches forth the enemy du jour for the children to combat, filling their afternoons with adventure and wonderment. If you were lucky, you had some patch of woods or old house near your neighborhood to spruce up your lazy, sultry summer days.
But never, not once, not ever, do the children cross the border onto the grounds of Mystery Manor, helpfully marked out by a wrought-iron fence. Go right up to it, yes. Look through it, certainly. Touch it – well, perhaps for the fearless. But the grounds of Mystery Manor are forbidden. Everybody’s parents tells them so. The friendly police officers who do safety lessons and at the community center tell them so. The grown-ups won’t admit it, but the kids know the truth – even they’re afraid of the Mansion, because it’s haunted. Probably even the most haunted mansion in the whole country, if not the world! It’s not in the Guinness book or anything, but that’s mainly because some information is just too dangerous.
Did I say nobody ever sets foot on the grounds of Mystery Mansion? My apologies – I meant to say nobody ever had set foot on the grounds of Mystery Mansion. Until now. Until you and your friends, this very Halloween night…