NEW OWNER AND GHOSTS BECOME BUSINESS PARTNERS!
Staring up at The Helstrom Hotel in Berry Hills, New Jersey, one can’t help being transported to another time, another place. The Hotel resembles a collision between the Munster’s house and The Adams Family’s abode. It’s recently been renovated and it’s picture-perfect. Oh, and it’s haunted.
This reporter walks up to the Gothic front door, replete with dragonhead knocker, and, using said knocker half expects the door to be opened by Herman Munster or Lurch. The door swings open and a casually dressed, totally relaxed man in his twenties extends a hand. “I’m Herman Munster.”
He emits a sheepish laugh. “Sorry. My real name is Larry McWilliams. I own the place. Come in. Come in.”
He leads this scribe into a large dining room with small tables set aside in the corners for privacy and a large Arthurian dining table in the middle of the room. He sits this correspondent at the large table, sitting across from me. “You must be hungry after such a long drive,” he says.
“Alrighty, then,” he grins.
As this WWN veteran watches, astounded, utensils, napkins, plates, and all the other necessities for a well-made dining table set-up float into the room and place themselves on the table, accordingly. Larry is grinning. A wonderful smell permeates the air. Wine glasses and a glass of wine are placed on the table by hands unseen.
A silver platter, covered by an ornate silver cloche, slides through the room with a little “bop” to its floatation. It lands before this reporter. Larry almost laughs. “Well, dig in!”
This correspondent lifts the silver dome of the platter and gasps. An old woman’s head floats in a stew bowl. She cackles. “Enjoy your dinner, Brick!”
A GHOSTLY DINNER
Larry sighs. “Oh, Agnes. I warned you.”
The head soon attaches itself to a body and zips out of the stew bowl. The spirit Agnes Helstrom is, apparently, the “imp” of the family Helstrom. Her sisters, Helen and Margaret, soon appear.
“Brick, this is Agnes, Helen and Margaret Helstrom; the ghosts of the house.”
Larry’s head pitches forward as if slapped from behind.
A big, burly man appears behind him, extending a hand. “I’m Larry’s Dad, Josh.”
This reporter’s hand goes through his. He shrugs. “Oh, I can be solid for a handshake, but this is more fun.”
This reporter surmises, “So, you have four ghosts, one of whom is your Dad and you plan to market yourself as the only certified haunted hotel in America.”
Larry nods. “Long story, short version. I had just gone through a terrible divorce.”
His Dad snorts. “Terrible? It registered on the Richter Scale!”
Larry continues. “So, I had to sell everything. I had a little money extra. I found the cheapest home I could find. Now, our hotel.”
“Did you know it was haunted before you bought it?”
“Oh, no. It just seemed, I don’t know, beautiful. After I finally dragged all my stuff in, I was treated to a home-cooked meal by Agnes, Helen and Margaret.”
Margaret chuckled. “He seemed so alone.”
Helen nodded. “We’ve never been alone.”
All three sisters died in 1975 in a freak gas leak. They had no relatives and, so, the house was put up for auction.
It turns out the 7 bedroom home was built prior to the Great Depression by a Wall Street wizard, Toby Winsnitz. For whatever reason, he got out of the market just before the great fall and turned the house into a home for the rich and lecherous, having hidden rooms built, leading to illicit lounges, “cuddle rooms” and downright raunchy bars.
“This place was probably porn central,” Helen smiles. “But it survived without a smirch, so to speak.”
HOW TO BE A GHOST
Since their deaths, the Helstrom sisters have seen a lot of owners come and go. “We had one wonderful family,” Agnes laughs. “With two kids, Ben and Sally. So, for fifteen wonderful years, we raised those kids. The adults never caught on.”
“We had a wife beater, for a while. So we made his life miserable. Then we adopted his wife and child. . I think he got a divorce because he always had wedgies.”
Agnes laughs out loud. “We’ve never been the usual ‘haunting’ ghosts, but Larry has taught us how.”
Says Larry, “After I discovered these wonderful women, I thought we could form a business venture, re-make the house and have a real haunted hotel. They agreed. Not many humans have interacted with them in a while.”
“So,” says Larry’s Dad, “I was a widower living in the old family house on a pension. I was a construction worker. When Larry told me about the house, it was a no-brainer. I sold my house, moved in here. For the first month, I did I lot of work on this house. But I died of a heart-attack working on that chandelier.”
“I’m so sorry,” says this reporter.
“Are you kidding?” Larry’s Dad beams. “I’m having a ball! What this house needed was a manly-man ghost, am I right, ladies?”
The sisters giggle, causing their bodies to undulate.
Larry jumps in. “We were going to open a year and a half ago but, with Covid-19 shut-downs, we had to delay everything.”
“Which turned out to be a blessing for us,” Margaret adds.
Larry picks up the thread. “We had all this time. Since we wanted to be certified haunted, we contacted every ghost-hunter on cable, the Internet and YouTube. Once the first wave of Covid-19 passed, they started to drift in from all over the world.”
Josh bursts into laughter. “Did we mess with their minds or what?”
“By late last year, we’d had every parapsychologist both professional and wanna-be in here.”
THE REAL DEAL
“In fact, they, taught us how to be ghosts,” laughs Agnes. “Who knew about ‘ectoplasm?’ My sisters and I still thought we had bones. So, once we knew we could appear as anything? We really got our game on.”
Larry is opening the hotel on Halloween, but he won’t be catering to the “Halloween House” crowd. He wants the house to look like just a house from the outside.
“We’re not a stunt,” Larry says. “We’re a hotel. Dad will be outside doing the candy giving to the trick ‘r’ treaters, because he’s done that all his life.”
Josh suddenly transforms into the Wolf Man. His son glares at him. Josh sags, reverting to his true form. “Okay. I like the Universal monsters. So, sue me.”
Josh suddenly is attentive. “Jehovah’s Witnesses! 12’o clock!”
This reporter looks up. Indeed, there are two Jehovah’s Witnesses approaching the house. The male looks weak.
“He’s going to trip on the sidewalk and die! If he dies, he’ll be living here with us!” Josh moans.
“The horror!” Agnes screamed. “The horror!”
Without thinking, this speaker of truth darted out of the building and caught the young lad before he fell, explaining to him that the family inside was in mourning and couldn’t be disturbed.
Returning to the house, this correspondent was embraced by all.
Larry sprung to life. “I have to get on the phone, now, Mr. Rivers. We have to hire a full-time paramedic. We can’t just have anyone visit, drop dead and move in!”
Josh, Larry’s ghostly Dad, slapped his boy on his back. “Good thinking, son. If that doesn’t work? I have a plan ‘B.’”
He grinned ear to ear. “A catapult.”