10/28/2014 08:17 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Can a Halloween Costume Be Haunted?


My Halloween dress is haunted.

Before you read this true story, make sure you're cuddled up with your blankey, a cup of soothing tea and your mommy's number on speed-dial. (Because I grew up in the '80s and think speed-dial is still a Thing.)

This tale begins many moons ago. My friend Devon and I were 14 and committing general teenage shenanigans that led us to a cemetery. It was Halloween. Dark and drizzly. Rumors claimed if you stood in a certain spot at midnight, you would see a tombstone burst into flames. We waited.

Then -- crack. The snap of a twig behind us ignited our feet like the gunshot at a horse race. We tore through the graveyard, holding hands and holding our breath. Then -- boom. I tripped, taking Devon down with me.

At first, we were paralyzed by fear. We lay there panting in unison, holding hands and shaking. Until we noticed at the same time where we had fallen: onto two side-by-side graves of twin sisters who had been hit by a train, according to the inscription on the tombs.

Years passed. I was planning my annual Halloween party with a group of friends. Laura found the killer location: a former train station in Loveland, Colorado, now a bar called the Sports Station. We would make it a ghost town gala, Wild West theme.

I met Devon at the Salvation Army to brainstorm costume ideas. We walked the entire store, blank and uninspired. Then, we turned a corner and saw two old-fashioned pink off-the-shoulder dresses, in our sizes. Hmm. We picked them up and walked further, when we bumped into a table: two floppy straw hats. Next to two blond curly wigs and two matching antique suitcases.

And a bundle of rope. All half-off.

"We could be twins," Devon suggested, "Damsels in distress, who were tied to the tracks."

As if the costumes hadn't picked us.

I needed to distress my gown. Make it look old and gory. I poured a pot of coffee over it. Then a bottle of Coke. Then a bottle of wine. I felt sad about wasting wine so I bought another bottle, and after I'd downed a glass, I shared the rest of the cabernet with my dress.

It needed more, so I decided to burn it. Sitting on the couch, I took the lighter to my costume. Right as I lifted the flame to the fabric, five fire trucks and about a dozen police cars flew down the street and skidded to a stop in front of my house. Did I accidentally start my house on fire? Did someone smell my lighter and call 911?

I ran outside, clutching my dress. I was safe. But the house not 10 feet behind mine was in flames.

I decided not to set my dress on fire, after all.

Devon showed up to the party wearing her dress, and it looked nearly new.

"It won't stain," she said in annoyance. "I have been pouring fake blood on it for a week, but everything I do absorbs right into the fabric. This dress is indestructible."

I shrugged. Before I could tell her my story, she continued.

"I think these dresses are haunted," she said. "I was trying to burn a hole in mine the other night, and the dogs started barking. I looked outside and -- you'll never believe this -- my neighbor's trash can was on fire. I was afraid they'd think I did it, so I just left my dress as it was."

Then she asked the question I had been suppressing: "Remember the graveyard when we were 14?"

Neither of us needed to elaborate.

After the party, I returned to my hotel to find a police officer in the hallway by my door. He said a neighbor had complained about loud noises in my room, and after three complaints, the hotel had to call the police. I explained that I had been gone all night, and that no one else had a room key. I said he must have the wrong room.

He left, and I entered my room, exhausted. I flipped on the light. It was a mess. It looked like black ashes and coffee grinds smeared all over the carpet. My room was overturned, all of the pens were broken in half, the towels were in a wet mountain in the bathtub. A woman's pointy boots sat in the corner next to a thick chain. Neither were mine. And there was a big red stain on the white duvet cover, dripping onto the carpet. Red wine. Almost like everything I had tried to do to my dress had transplanted into my hotel room.

I tore off my dress, shoved it into the old suit case and locked it. I called a taxi to take me home.

And left the maid a huge tip.

I have another Halloween party Friday. Needless to say, I'm looking for a new costume. And some therapy.

This story originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera.