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Authors: Nancy Holder


BOOK: Ghostbusters
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Copyright Page


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In memory of Harold Ramis.



Writing this book has been a terrific thrill, and I couldn't have done it without the help of a lot of people. My deepest gratitude to: my agent, Howard Morhaim, and his assistant, Kim-Mei Kirtland; my Tor team, including editors Christopher Morgan and Melissa Singer, art director Seth Lerner, cover designer Russell Trakhtenberg, managing editor Nathan Weaver, and copyeditor Faren Bachelis; publishing consultant Virginia King at Sony Pictures; and Eric Reich of GhostCorps/Montecito Picture Company. A huge thank-you to the
casts and crews past and present, and Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Paul Feig, and Kate Dippold. Greg Cox, I definitely owe you one.
Grazie mille
to Mark Mandell, who answers every call, usually from the other room, and feeds me, loves me, and inspires me. You are my density.



It was a dark and stormy night. Perfect for a tour of one of the most haunted houses in America, the dread Aldridge Mansion, a Victorian brownstone steeped in shocking scandal and even better, bloody mass murder. A dark jewel of Manhattan's West Village, the historical estate loomed in deep shadows. Cue the lightning, the thunder, the terrifying howl of a wolf hunting down a hapless but leggy Gypsy maiden—

Okay … not so much.

Actually, it wasn't dark and stormy at all. A crisp autumn day blazed away in New York City, bursting with the blue skies and puffy white clouds that made the locals shrug and say, “Hey, it's really not so bad here, despite the overcrowding, high rents, and crooked politicians. It could be worse—we could be living in New Jersey.”

On a glorious day like this, folks with a yen for the macabre could go out to the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in a national park greenbelt in the Bronx and get a fright and a tan for what, five bucks? But luckily for Garrett and his impressive student loan debt, Aldridge Mansion's terrible reputation—and truly fine collection of period pieces—had drawn a sizable crowd for the last scheduled ghost tour of the afternoon. Garrett was their tour guide. They were grouped together in the elegant parlor, eyes wide, palms sweaty, hopeful and eager. Time to get to work.

Time to scare the pants off them.

Just like they wanted him to.

Tour Guide Garrett cleared his throat.

“The Aldridge Mansion is the only nineteenth-century home in New York City preserved both inside and out,” he said in what he liked to think of as his
Sleepy Hollow
voice. He gestured to the original Aesthetic Movement settee and Clara Driscoll–designed Tiffany lamp, the neoclassical slate fireplace and the double-decker bookcases brimming with leather-bound volumes, including an original
On the Origin of Species
by Charles Darwin. When he wasn't brooding over his dismal rate of pay and the dead-end job's lack of health benefits, he had to admit that the mansion's sumptuous decor stirred him to his roots.

“This clock was on the
Sir Aldridge preserved it when he brought it with him into his lifeboat. That's his portrait.” He pointed to the fine-looking fellow hanging above the fireplace mantelpiece.

“Over here you can imagine Sir Aldridge entertaining his wealthy guests.”

One pretty twenty-something tourist glanced anxiously at the trio of headless mannequins in capes and a sailor's suit arranged beside a long table as he led them past. Her face noticeably paled and she looked seriously creeped out. Maybe she was a believer? Sometimes tourists showed him the photographs they'd taken during the tour that featured blips of light: “spirit orbs” or blurs, proof in their minds that the dead walked in Aldridge Mansion. He always acted surprised and intrigued, but seriously? The rooms were dimly illuminated night and day by period lamps and ornate wall sconces, and blurring in the snapshots was caused by using a flash too far from the subject. But of course he never told them any of that. Why ruin the fun?

Besides, gullible out-of-towners were generous tippers. And the tour guide biz was all about the gratuities.

Garrett led the throng down an extremely creaky hall at a merry clip. On every step, the ancient floorboards bowed ever so slightly underfoot, springing back sluggishly, bowing again. The overall effect hinted at imminent collapse. He smiled to himself as he heard a few gasps behind him.

“As you can see, even the wealthy get termites,” he intoned over his shoulder with perfect delivery and timing. They chuckled. They always did. It was fun dissing the rich. But seriously, would the New York Department of Buildings allow anyone inside a structure that wasn't completely safe?

He paused in front of The Door. It was sectioned into elaborate panels and accessorized with an ornate brass knob, all original, and he thanked his lucky stars that it featured so prominently in the décor. It was one of two focal points of the entire tour.

He slowly turned to face his eager audience. Here was where he gathered in his cash money, tax free. It was decidedly not in the exquisite upstairs bedrooms, where he provided fascinating details on the lavish furnishings, the art, and the architecture. Thanks to an otherwise worthless four-year course of study at CCNY in art history, with a minor in drama, he could talk the talk and walk the walk. Nor was it in the cavernous grand ballroom with its intricate parquetry floor, or the period-accurate kitchen, or the rooftop solarium. Not even in the gilded, marbled, mirrored master bath suite. Those were just way-stops, diversions included on the tour to fill out the allotted time, to let anticipation build, and set the mood for the big finish.

The Door.

The imposing barrier encapsulated an unspeakable horror that passing decades could not erase, the same unspeakable horror that had lured this crowd of wide-eyed thrill seekers away from Manhattan's more savory sites. It was in fact Garrett's center stage, and in his fantasies perhaps a stepping-stone to something far more rewarding. Three weeks ago his cousin Lester had shot footage of him delivering a rousing rendition of his spiel in front of The Door. Lester's building super had mentioned he knew a casting agent who lived in a co-op down the street. Careers had been founded on less.

And for all he knew, someone in this afternoon's group would post the performance on YouTube, and it would go viral, and, and—

And action,
Garrett told himself. Putting on his game face, he summoned up the necessary aura of the confidential and the mysterious.

“As you can see, this basement door is sealed shut.” He made a show of trying to turn the brass floral-patterned doorknob, which had never so much as budged during his entire tenure as a tour guide. It was frozen in position, either welded or glued. The basement was strictly off-limits, even to the cleaning staff. Pausing a beat, he searched the goggle-eyed faces, forcefully selling the idea that what he was about to reveal was momentous. Then he spoke.

“One morning, Sir Aldridge awoke, furious when his breakfast wasn't waiting for him. He called to his servants but none of them responded. Why? Because during the night one by one they had each been stabbed to death in their sleep.”

He let that sink in, right up to the hilt. As if drawn by an invisible magnet, the tourists leaned ever so slightly toward him. That's how hard they were hanging on to his words. Only one middle-aged man held back. Arms folded across his chest, he smirked as if to say:
I ain't afraid of no ghost.
Fine, be that way. The mass murder was a documented fact. Garrett had pored over the old sepia-tone photographs of the butchered cook and the eviscerated butler, the partially beheaded scullery maid and the shredded remains of the chauffeur—photos credited to Sir Aldridge himself. They were crimes of anger—no, of insane fury. Worse even than the photos he'd seen of Jack the Ripper's victims. As if the hand that had wielded the heavy blade wanted to erase the poor souls' very humanity.

The real details of the crimes were far too brutal for the present crowd, of course. Grossing out the audience was a surefire tip killer. Instead of hanging around after the tour for a nice chat with the friendly guide and the transfer of commensurate compensation, they stampeded for the front doors as if school had just let out.

“It was later discovered they were murdered by his eldest daughter, Gertrude Aldridge.” He pointed to her large oil portrait on the wall. Her dark hair was upswept and she was dressed in an elegant ball gown decorated with rosettes and ribbons on the puffy sleeves and the corsetlike bodice. She wore long white gloves. It had been painted several years before she went lunatic with the knife, and even then she had an expression that could curdle milk.

He often wondered if the artist had asked Gertrude to smile and that bone-chilling grimace was the result. And those eyes! How could a painter stare into those bottomless pits day after day without going mad himself? They blazed with a mixture of fury, hate, and contempt that made tourists avert their gaze. It was like facing down a tigress. Had Gertrude fancied the likeness? Had she directed the pose herself? Why else had the painting been kept and not destroyed? Garrett had walked past the thing five days a week for four years; to him it was just a late-nineteenth-century portrait by a pupil of Thomas Eakins of a dead crazy woman.

The atmosphere in the room grew close. He had their full attention.

“According to the old man's diary, by the time Gertrude had finished her mission her nightgown was so saturated with blood that it had left a two-foot-wide trail up the stairs to her bedroom. To spare the family public humiliation, instead of turning her in to the police, they locked her in the basement and fed her through this slot.” With a flourish he indicated a metal rectangle that had been inset in the thick wood. His intent listeners had questions, of course. He was leaving great gaping holes in the story. What did Sir Aldridge do with all the bodies? How did he conceal the crimes from the victims' families and friends? Who cleaned up the incredible mess? How long did Gertrude live in the basement dungeon? Did she wail and scream night and day? Did she die there of natural causes or did she take her own life?

BOOK: Ghostbusters
9.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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