The Halloween Project 2023 - Story 8: Mr. Tricks - Part Three
Friday, October 30th, better known as Mischief Night, dawned clear and brisk. Brunswick, only 18, loaded the back of the Subaru with all kinds of food and a case of beer. Now a freshman at Union College in upstate New York, he was pledging a fraternity. Union looked beautiful and smelled of Halloween. Many of the leaves had changed but there were still maples and oaks that retained brilliant reds and vibrant yellows. Campus windows were filled with stick-ons and homemade decorations. Skeletons, ghosts, witches, clawing hands, and demonic figures all gleamed, backlit and often funny. Some students traversed the quad in costumes. There was the Joker, a very short Frankenstein and a Wonder Woman who Brun thought very Wonder-ful.
Brun was pledging a fraternity this weekend and according to everyone; his roommates,
other friends and classmates, this was the weekend to end all. If you made it through “Hell
Weekend” you were in.
As in the past the fraternity brothers had decided to make the weekend induction at the
Saugerties Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1869 on a peninsula jutting out a half mile
from the western shore of New York into the Hudson River. It earmarked shallows and the
entrance to Esopus Creek. Standing only 42 feet tall, the white light, now automatic, circled
every 4 seconds and could be seen for 5 nautical miles. Today, it was a small B & B with only
two bedrooms along with a separate apartment for the light keeper and his wife. The fraternity
had reserved the two rooms for the highest-ranking members and all the other frat boys would
camp on the grounds just below the lighthouse tower. Pledges got the worst spots on the
Brun was amped. He was pledging for Kappa Alpha Society, established in 1825. It was
first among the Union Triad, the three oldest existing Greek-letter social fraternities in North
To be honest Brun, as everyone called him, except his girlfriend, was pretty far on the
side of being scared out of his mind. It wasn’t the hazing, Union had a strong policy of
non-hazing in place, especially with all the problems with fraternities in the last 10 or 20 years.
But the older guys did put you through some pretty weird and embarrassing situations. And
there was going to be beer. Plenty of beer.
Saugerties Lighthouse is an hour south of Union College. A caravan of six cars, carrying
19 guys, food for two days, various grilles, props, things that Brun didn’t want to think about, and
at least six cases of beer and one keg. They arrived before dusk and began the forced march
across the densely wooded stretch of half mile along a tightly overgrown, yet sandy, path. The
lighthouse, like a menacing beacon, emerged from the forest and sent its light funneling across
John Stokely stood up. “Gentlemen! And you…things…you pledges. Tonight will be for
fun and frivolity. Stories! Music! Jokes! And Beer! Tomorrow will begin the initiation. Or
maybe a bit tonight!”
There were only four pledges. Brun and three other freshmen. They all passed the
initial interviews and questions. Brun thought it all quite a bit of bullshit, but for some reason, he
had pledged. Frat life at Union was a big deal and despite his misgivings, he wanted in.
That evening was memorable between races to chug beers, competition over who could
stuff the most hot dogs in your mouth to reciting the scariest Halloween story you could tell
around the several illegal fire pits. That weekend the keeper and his wife were away.
It was 2 A.M. when the first scream carried from the deeper woods toward shore out to
the lighthouse. Some guys had already passed out in their sleeping bags. Most were up.
Everyone stopped. Then several laughed.
Chris, the vice president, announced, “Dudes and pledges! The induction has begun.
Members, blindfold those four and lead them on!” And so it started. They were told to be quiet,
not speak, not a sound. Put your arm on the shoulder of the guy in front of you and march on.
So Brun did. Along with the others. They walked for what seemed a long time, but probably no
more than 5 or 10 minutes. Someone whispered in his ear.
“Stay here. Don’t move. Don’t speak. We’ll come back for you. Don’t move.”
Brunswick waited. He sat down on a fallen tree trunk that he located with a hand. 10
minutes passed, which grew to a half hour. He heard a scream way off. Tempted as he was to
pull the blindfold he feared that a Kappa Alpha was sitting an arms length away and he didn’t
want to break a rule.
Until he felt a presence and a breath at his ear.
“Brunswick,” it murmured, a rasp beneath a cobra’s hiss and silence.
“Brunswick,” it whispered again, “I’ve missed you.”
He felt a claw-like spike at the back of his head and his blindfold fell away. Without
turning he knew. It had been two years since that Halloween and seven since the first time he
saw…he met… Brun couldn’t speak, he couldn’t utter the words.
“Mister Tricks,” it breathed with a voice buried in phlegm or worse.
Brun always knew or feared that Tricks would return. He hoped that it was over but he
knew that it could never be. The odor overtook him. Ragged clothes, torn and filthy, writhed
next to him. The wide brim hat flitted with the edge of his face. The eyes, bloodied, blackened,
rolled in circles. When he glanced, the face changed; a piglet, a garland of cloves, the moon, a
pile of sea glass, an old man, a crow.
“Take my hand, Brunswick,” and he did just as he was told, just as he had done when he
was 11 and 16. They rose together and walked through the pitch black trail. Branches scraped
as they made their way. They walked, not far, to the north side of the trail. The Hudson River
played out into the distance; moonlit, serene.
Mister Tricks spoke again and Brun, still embracing the icy, enveloping hand, could do
“It is your time,” it began, “but you must say yes.” The creature hesitated for a moment
and turned to look at the river. “Two are dead on the shore here tonight. Two of your…Alpha
Kappas.” Then it turned, hovering, yet gazing down at him with sickened, pus-filled eyes.
“I pledged this fraternity,” it said.
Once again, as in the past, Brun could not breathe.
“A hundred years ago. I am Alpha Kappa. And many other fraternities over the century.”
Brun tried to inhale.
“And your girlfriend calls you ‘Wick’,” it hissed.
Brun tried again.
“Will you say yes? We need three tonight.”
A breath came, Brun closed his eyes and managed to say the only word that he could,
The monster rotated its huge head in a large circle. It peered down at Brun then out to
the Hudson. The hand grew tighter, and tighter still, until Brun thought he might howl. Shouts
exploded in the distance. Voices rising and falling, then screams.
Mister Trick let go of Brun’s hand.