Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Faith
And I'm Barbara Klein. October thirty-first, this
coming Saturday, is Halloween. Millions of children will dress as ghosts,
witches, skeletons, superheroes, princesses -- all sorts of costumes.
Then, with parents usually nearby, they will walk
through their neighborhoods. They will go door to door, yelling "trick or
treat." This threat of a trick, all in good fun, quickly brings a treat,
usually some candy. Then the trick-or-treaters will go off to the next house.
But, you know, there is a reason people in ancient
times were careful to honor evil spirits and the dead with a night of their
own. The masks that people wore on All Hallows' Eve were meant to hide their
identity, so they would avoid a most frightful trick. But now, do you want to
know a story that is even scarier than that?
Do you mean the story of my mother? That story? It
makes me shake just to think about it!
Faith's mother lived in a small town in New York State
when she was a girl. The fall season was beautiful in the Adirondack Mountains,
but it was very cold at night.
There was a girl named Arial at my mother's school. She
was popular but not very nice. She told stories about people. She ruined them
with her gossip.
Missus Hart was a very kind teacher at the school.
Everyone liked her.
"Class ... "
she said one morning early in the new school year,
"... we have a new student, Pearl Dew from Kentucky.
Please welcome her."
Arial saw an easy victim in Pearl. And my mother says
Pearl was very strange. She was so thin and her skin was so white you could
almost see through it. She had long black hair. It reached so far down her
back, she had to bring it around the front so she would not sit on it. She did
not look healthy.
Arial did not help the situation for Pearl, did she?
No, she made the situation worse. Soon terrible stories about Pearl and her
family were going around the school. Kids were saying that her father had
murdered a family of five back in the hills of Kentucky, but got away with it.
Yes, Arial started that rumor. She said Pearl's father
had buried them deep in the wilds of the mountains, so their bodies were never
found. No one could prove he killed them. Arial also told a lie about Pearl's
mother. She said the mother knew about the murders and could not live with the
truth, so one night she threw herself off a mountain.
Everyone believed Arial. They all knew that Pearl did
not have a mother.
"She fell by accident. She loved walking in the
hills. She would never leave me. It was an accident. My father's not a
murderer. That family -- he didn't even know them. No one knows what happened
to them. Why do you say these things, Arial? Please, stop. What did I ever do
When Pearl would ask her to stop, Arial would just
laugh. Or she would act frightened. "Don't get your Dad after me,
Pearl," she would say.
Yes, although Pearl's father was apparently not the
threat that Arial needed to worry about.
Weeks went by, and October came. People put pumpkins on
their porches and hung skeletons or ghostly shapes on their front doors.
The children at school noticed a slow change in Pearl
that month. She began to talk a little more. Sometimes you might see a little
smile, or hear a quiet laugh. In late October, she sent out twelve invitations
for a Halloween party. My mother got one. So did several of her friends. Pearl
even invited their teacher.
But not Arial?
No, no, not after all that torture Pearl had to suffer
But Arial did not understand that reasoning. She was
angry. In fact, it was the first time anyone saw her speechless. She was so
filled with rage, she could not put a sentence together.
But that did not last long. Arial told my mother that
she planned on attending the party anyway. She said she did not need an
The night of the party was cold enough that you could
see your breath. My mother dressed as a ghost, so she could wear a heavy coat
under her white sheet. It was difficult to get to Pearl's house. She and her
father lived in an old house in the valley of a mountain. There was a footpath,
but parts of it got a little rough.
But they all got there safely?
Well no. They never got to the party at all. My mother
said all the guests first met at her house. They decided it would be best to
walk to the party as a group. So they started along, dressed as witches and
zombies and the like. It was fun, she said, playing little tricks to scare each
other along the way. The group entered the woods near Pearl's house. The kids
were excited, happy to be going to a party. They could see the lights in
Pearl's house in the distance below.
So what happened?
Well, the kids and Missus Hart, their teacher, saw a
woman ahead of them walking very close to the edge of the path. Missus Hart
"Oh my god -- she's going to fall! We have to warn
her. Miss! MISS! Run ahead, kids. Oh, no!"
It was too late. The woman went over the edge. Yet she
did not fall. She was floating in the air. She had her arms held out.
"Come to me, child, come to me, my little
All of a sudden two girls come crashing out of the
woods and across the path. The girl in front is clearly Pearl. Her black hair
is flowing like wings of a dark angel. But who is she pulling behind her?
STOP! You'll fall off the cliff. You'll kill yourself. Who is that with you?
Pearl stops and looks toward the floating woman.
"Come to me, child. Come to me, my Pearl."
My mother shined her flashlight at Pearl and the girl
behind her. And there for an instant a look of insane fear stared back at the
group from the face of Arial.
Well, after that night, no one ever found any sign of
Pearl or Arial. Pearl's father also disappeared that night. The house had been
decorated for a party that never took place.
At the cemetery in town, there are headstones for Pearl
and Ariel in graves that hold no remains. My mother says she visits sometimes
when she goes back to her hometown. She told me that the last time she was
there, she noticed something for the first time. If you mix around the letters
of Arial's name -- spelled A-R-I-A-L -- it spells "a liar."
Our program was written and produced by Caty Weaver.
I'm Barbara Klein.
I'm Faith Lapidus. Transcripts and podcasts of our programs can be found at
voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA