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The Haunted Residency

By Mary Oves

Look, I enjoy Halloween just as much as the next gal.

Let me rephrase that. I love Halloween. But when I won this writing residency, I thought it would be my time to write without distractions.

I intend to complain, because this hotel room and the surrounding area is not without distractions. And while I contend that while the residency takes place during the Halloween season, and we are all prone to hearing bumps in the night in late October, I really don’t think the things I’m seeing and hearing are in my imagination.

Because every time I sit down to write, strange things happen. Diabolical, sinister events that the investigative journalist in me must check out.

Like, I’m seeing things. Apparitions.

Strange lights coming from the television and my iPhone, imploring me to walk away from my computer and binge watch the latest Netflix series “The Watcher,” or watch hour-long baby elephant rescue videos on Instagram.

Mysterious steam emanating from the first-floor jacuzzi tub, daring me to investigate the hot, luxurious water. One day, in a peculiar twist of fate, I just happened to be wearing a bathing suit, and entered the hot demon water in a trancelike state. I emerged from that nefarious steam bath in the form of human goo, obviously under the spell of a malevolent force that rearranges your molecules.

A spooky backyard patio under a perfect red maple tree, with big overstuffed couch cushions that in some fiendish plot made me mysteriously fall asleep for an entire hour. Upon which I awoke, sure I was bewitched.

Just what exactly is this foul trickery?

And the sounds. Sounds of a college football game coming through my open window, drawing me to it. Music and laughter from the lobby, and of bartender Jordan shaking martinis. The Carillon bell tower, summoning me to wander zombie-like through the beautiful Carillon Historical Park. An ad cajoling me to make my way as quickly as possible to The Greene, a premier outside shopping mall.

(I don’t remember much about the Uber trip there and back. I mean, I was obviously hypnotized because I ended up back in my hotel room holding an Athleta bag containing two cashmere sweaters and a box of leftovers from Brio. I’m sure you would agree I was under the spell of some corrupt demon).

Strange smells and tastes, my friends, designed to keep me bound inside evil and away from my work. Coffee and breakfast eggs from Dewberry, and ice cream from Cold Stone Creamery. The smell of beer in Carillon Brewing Company, and that of smoked wood and historical centuries of tradition in the Newcom Tavern, the Shaker Building and the Deeds Barn Replica.

So many distractions. The Oregon District. The Air Force Museum. The Wright Brothers National Museum.


As Halloween approaches in less than a week, I will be on the lookout for malevolent forces that continue to throw me off my writing track. As I write this, I receive an email from Top of the Hill Stables:

They have a trail riding spot for me on the weekend. I don’t even remember contacting them, so forces beyond my own consciousness must have done so on my behalf. I will go, because you simply never know what lies in wait for the intrepid traveler.

Now just to be an intrepid writer.


— Mary Oves

Mary Oves, a college English professor in Galloway, New Jersey, mother of three grown sons, and a freelance journalist and blogger for the past 35 years, is one of three 2022 grand prize winners of the Erma Bombeck | Anna Lefler Humorist-in-Residence Program.

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