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home : lifestyle : entertainment   May 25, 2016

10/25/2013 12:14:00 PM
'The Allis Hotel,' an original story by Tricia Kelly


Illustration by NewsTribune graphic design artist Nathan Nosalik. Copyright 2013 NewsTribune, La Salle, Ill. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
+ click to enlarge
Illustration by NewsTribune graphic design artist Nathan Nosalik. Copyright 2013 NewsTribune, La Salle, Ill. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Illustration by NewsTribune graphic design artist Nathan Nosalik. Copyright 2013 NewsTribune, La Salle, Ill. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
+ click to enlarge
Illustration by NewsTribune graphic design artist Nathan Nosalik. Copyright 2013 NewsTribune, La Salle, Ill. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Tricia Kelly




The ashes of the Allis Hotel had not yet cooled when rumors of ghostly happenings began to surface.  Most folks dismissed them as hokum, of course, but a few tales survived generations, having been passed from those who were there to those who had never known such a place to exist in the quiet hamlet of Kendlin.
Young Donovan Spree was among the latter.
Donovan recently had celebrated his most glorious achievement — turning 10.  It was a celebration indeed, for Donovan knew that after age 10, he would be allowed in grandfather’s den and its secrets within.  He understood this because when his older twin brothers turned 10, Grandfather had let them in. 
Sometimes they would exit the room laughing, trying in vain to hide it.  When Donovan would rush them, asking what was so funny, they would attempt a most serious face and say, “You’ll learn, Donovan.  When you’re older.”  And away they would walk, barely out of earshot before bursting into hysterical laughter.
Other times they would emerge pale and silent.  Donovan tried his best to get one or the other to talk, but time and again his efforts were thwarted.  He was told hearing Grandfather’s ghost stories would give him nightmares.
It was this comment that made Donovan really angry.  He knew that many a night after such tales the twins themselves were up late into the night. Although their bedroom was too far down the hall to hear everything, Donovan would often hear phrases like ‘…too scary’ or ‘…do you really believe it?’’
The next morning, Donovan would observe how tired they both looked.  He wanted more than anything to hear one of Grandfather’s scary ghost stories.  After all, weren’t they all just made up anyhow?  He would not be like his brothers.  He would not find a reason to be afraid.
A week after his birthday, Donovan Spree finally got his wish. At breakfast, his grandfather tapped him softly on the shoulder.  “Come see me tonight after dinner; in the den.”
Donovan went to school that morning, but mostly he daydreamed — his mind wandering to the tales he would soon hear.  Would he learn that his grandfather was once a ruthless pirate? Or perhaps he would discover that Grandfather was a war hero and saved thousands of frightened villagers from some corrupt dictator.  For all that, Grandfather might surprise him with some horrific family secret.
“Donovan my boy,” his grandfather would say, “you’re 10 years old now — a man, to be sure.  You’re brave enough to take some rather shocking news. Donovan … we’re vampires — the whole family.  I was bitten by Dracula himself.  We can go out in the sun and eat whatever we want because time has made us invincible.  Invincible, except for your father; he still can’t eat garlic, or he’ll explode.”
Donovan smiled.
At dinner that evening, Donovan was disappointed when he watched his father help himself to garlic bread not once but twice.  Suddenly, dinner didn’t seem enjoyable.  He was hoping to be told his family was an assemblage of vampires.
When the table had been cleared and the dishes washed, Donovan watched his family scatter.  His mother retired to the living room, book in hand.  His father settled into his recliner with the sports section of the local newspaper.  The twins ran upstairs to play hours of mindless video games and talk about girls.  Grandfather was standing in the doorway of the den.  With a nod, he disappeared into the dim light beyond the door.
This was it! Donovan could hardly hide his excitement as he made a dash for the den, stopping himself short of the doorway.  He took a deep breath, smoothed the sides of his jeans and stood up straight.  He was a man now, ready for anything.  He knocked twice on the door, pushed it gently, and entered.
Donovan stood in the center of a room that seemed somehow bigger than the whole house.  A yawning, cavernous room it seemed, and yet not an inch of space was not taken by a book.  Hundreds, probably thousands of books of every size and condition lined innumerable shelves.  Stacks of 40 or 50 rose up from the carpet as literary skyscrapers.  There were books under lamps.  There were books that held up smaller books lined up along the carpet like marching soldiers.  In an overstuffed leather wingback chair sat Grandfather.  His legs were crossed and he appeared to be sitting comfortably, but his eyes were keen and alert.
“Hard to believe these days, but once there was a grand hotel in Kendlin.”  He motioned Donovan to a chair opposite himself.  “It was built in 1900 and when it opened it was the most magnificent hotel in the nation.  Thousands of people came to Kendlin just to say they had stayed at the luxurious Allis Hotel.  Its register boasted maharajas and celebrities, railroad tycoons and foreign dignitaries.
“The Allis had an indoor heated swimming pool and not one restaurant, but many.  It was the greatest hotel ever built until…”  Donovan’s grandfather sat silent a moment. His expression became somber and he said softly, “… until 1936, when it burned to the ground.” 
Donovan gasped.
“A fire of unknown origin spread so quickly that no one had any chance of escape.  Screams and cries for help from hundreds of terrified guests and staff were heard, but witnesses outside could do nothing but watch in horror. The Allis was reduced to ashes in a matter of hours.
“The first person to hear them was Mr. Jarvis.  Jarvis had a small leather goods store down the street from where the Allis stood.  He was closing up one evening when the sounds of screams filled his ears. The boys at the barber’s had a good laugh over it, but his wife scolded him, finding his ‘jest’ to be in extremely poor taste.  Soon, however, others were taking Mr. Jarvis more seriously.
“A nursemaid walking with her charges happened to pass by where the hotel stood.  She suddenly was so overwhelmed with unseen smoke that she lost consciousness. A police officer found her, along with the children who were huddled together, eyes swollen from their cries.  She was accused of being drunk, and dismissed.
“As teenagers, my friends would take girls they liked to the empty and abandoned lot.  They would tell them the story of the Allis and how the incident caused the souls of those who perished to be trapped forever to that location and how, if they listened hard, they would be able to hear the screams of the dying.  The girls, of course, would lean in close to their would-be heroes and listen.”  Grandfather sat silent for a long time.
Finally, Donovan spoke.  “Grandfather, you said your friends would go.  Didn’t you ever want to see for yourself?”
Donovan’s grandfather shook his head sadly.  Then he leaned forward and fixed his gaze on the boy.
“I have been haunted by those desperate cries and horrified screams each and every night … it was I who started the fire.”
  THE END
Copyright 2013 NewsTribune, La Salle, Ill. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.










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