Yeah it’s true. Halloween and all things associated with it are entirely forbidden in my hometown. Now before you go chucking pumpkin spice lattes at me and typing Hocus Pocus quotes in all caps; hear me out. There was a very good reason for this.

I grew up in a small town near Phoenix AZ, though I can’t say which one for reasons I’ll get into later. Many years ago, Halloween was celebrated just like it is everywhere else. Kids trick or treating, costume parties, autumn leaves bristling in the tranquil wind and that poignant spooky atmosphere that so many adore. However, all of that changed on Halloween night of 1983.

It was a normal holiday by most accounts, but what most were blissfully unaware to at the time is what became of dear old Mabel Hannifin. Mabel was a kind woman in her early eighties; a widow who spent most of her days tending to her garden.

Halloween was one of her favorite times of the year, as she loved getting the visits from children and spoiling them with sugary goodies. It was her own personal tradition to plop a nice juicy red-delicious apple in along with the candy she gave out, in hopes that the children wouldn’t indulge themselves too greatly. That night was the last time anyone ever saw her.

It was discovered three days later by a neighbor that Mabel hadn’t been seen in quite some time. Police did a welfare check, and found no trace of the woman. Her two pet beagles were near starvation, but luckily, they were discovered in time to make a full recovery. The same cannot be said for poor Mabel however.

Multiple interviews with parents escorting their children that evening, and even some with children themselves reported nothing out of the ordinary. Many of them attested to having visited Mabel’s home, and she seemed as cheery as ever. No one had seen or heard anything of real interest, and there were no signs of struggle or injury inside Mabel’s home. None of her extended family around the country had heard anything from her either. It was as if the woman had just vanished off the face of the earth.

We were all saddened by the news, but time went on, and people got on with their lives. Before long, the next Halloween arrived. The usual festivities began once more and a troubling pattern first emerged.

There was another local woman named Jessica Marshall who was home alone that night. She and her husband David had just been married a few months prior, and his work as a landscape surveyor had him away from the house that evening.

David was a wealthy and also paranoid person. He had installed a security system to protect his home and wife while he was away. He later admitted that the actual reason he did this was to make sure his wife wasn’t cheating on him while he was away, but regardless, it wasn’t enough to save her. Once more, that night was the last time anyone ever saw Jessica.

It didn’t take David long to notice, and soon after he contacted the local police in a panic. Just like with Mabel; the police were unable to find any incriminating pieces of evidence at the scene, nor were they able to find any trace of Jessica’s whereabouts. The only thing in the house that seemed to indicate anything strange was the spilled bowl of Halloween candy.

Police sat down with David and reviewed the tapes manually soon after. They quickly found something odd, but it was not what they expected.

It was 10:17 that evening, and the once bustling streets had since fallen relatively still as the trick-or-treaters returned home to gorge on their treats. That was when two figures were seen approaching the door of Jessica and David’s house.

One of them was dressed as a pumpkin, and the other as a scarecrow. From their voices and stature, it was determined they were both children between the ages of 8 and 11; one girl and one boy. Jessica answered the door, dressed in pajamas and greeted them much as she had with dozens of other kids that same night.

“Trick or treat.” The children both spoke in unison, with a tone that seemed devoid of the excitement exhibited by other kids previous.

Jessica complimented their costumes, and turned to fetch the bowl of candies. The children remained completely motionless as Jessica turned away. She returned a moment later, clutching the bowl in hand.

“You guys are out pretty late tonight huh?” Jessica reached out towards them, but paused as she seemed to notice that neither of them were carrying candy buckets or bags.

“Umm… are you going to be able to carry these?” The children just held out their hands and said nothing. Jessica hesitated, but then reached towards them slowly.

“Are your parents with you?” Jessica asked, dropping the candies into their outstretched hands.

“No… we’re alone.” The boy replied.

“Are you lost? Do you need me to call them?” Jessica asked and the little boy in the scarecrow costume nodded.

“Okay… do you know their num…”

“Can we come in?” The girl spoke, interrupting Jessica. She appeared a bit taken aback by the question and recoiled a bit in the doorway. She was seen locking eyes with the young girl for several seconds, before finally replying.

“Umm sure… you can wait here while I call them.” Jessica then gestured the two children inside, and the door closed behind them. That door remained shut until David came home the following day at around 6PM. There were never any screams or sounds of a fight, and the children were never seen exiting the house from any of the several security cameras.

Police scoured the house with a team of watchdogs, but they found nothing. No trace of Jessica or the children. The only thing out of sorts was the spilled bowl of candies on the ground.

Just like Mabel exactly one year previous, no one ever saw or heard from Jessica again. David was regarded as a prime suspect for both cases, until his completely distraught nature, solid alibi and lack of unifying evidence all but exonerated him from both. Tragically, David took his own life in the following months, unable to cope with the loss of his wife.

The next year was when shit really hit the fan though, as three others were declared missing. Mark Kemper, Allison Voss and Lidia Kaminski. All taken from separate locations, and all believed to have vanished within minutes of one another.

Police had started to suspect that there was some kind of highly-elaborate human trafficking ring going on that used the children as bait. Unlike the previous two years however, this time there was a witness.

Kelsey Bergman was at first incredibly reluctant to come forward, but reassurance from her parents and police desperation prodded her into an interview. She looked petrified when they brought her in, with deep pits under her eyes and behavior akin to those who have suffered an immensely traumatic experience.

Kelsey was 17 at the time, and was home alone that night when someone rang the doorbell. Kelsey got up, thinking it was just more trick-or-treaters. She opened the door, and found two children waiting patiently on the front step; one girl and one boy.

She says the little girl was dressed as a witch, while the boy was dressed in a skeleton outfit. She said they appeared soaking wet, but showed no concern despite the subzero temperatures. Kelsey then noticed their eyes were entirely black, devoid of pigmentation of any kind.

“Trick or treat.” They both spoke once again in unison, and once again without any sort of emotional inflection. Kelsey gave them candy, and the girl asked if they could come inside because they were cold.

Kelsey said that was when the red flags started waving in her mind, and she was suddenly very uncomfortable with the situation. Instead of allowing them in, Kelsey gave them a few towels, and phoned the police. That decision probably saved her life.

For the twenty minutes it took for an officer to arrive, Kelsey said the children did nothing but stare at her through the front window. She doesn’t think they blinked even once.

Before the officer arrived however, the children just walked away, back out into the night. Kelsey called out to them, trying to get them to wait in case they were actually just some lost kids, but the two did not respond. She didn’t even know what to tell the police officers when they finally showed up.

It was a strange account, and not all were so quick to believe it. Nevertheless, it was a break for the police who took it and ran with it. Despite their efforts, very little progress was made.

By this point, the town had caught wind of everything that was going on. They demanded answers, and closure to the bizarre string of cases. People were really starting to get nervous. In what had to be one of the worst PR decisions of all time; the police chief admitted they were still investigating, and without a prime suspect or even a real motive.

Many people in the town then turned on them, with some even whispering that the cops themselves were in on it. In a desperate bid to calm the tensions and prevent further incidents, the mayor pulled an unprecedented move. He said that for the safety of the community they would implement a curfew each night on October 31st, and an outright ban on parties, costumes that conceal the face and the act of trick or treating. And just like that, Halloween became illegal.

The townhall in which this all took place was met with a stunned silence. All in attendance seemed dumbfounded that they had actually suggested banning a holiday to try and stop the disappearances. None were very happy with the compromise, but they reluctantly held to it for the safety of their families.

The next Halloween may have been the worst of all. No one went missing this time, but more sightings of the children were reported, dozens more. That was just the beginning though.

There was an immense storm that night, thunder and lightning crashed while a torrential wind pounded the city. All throughout the night, people reported seeing shadows outside their homes, and hearing whispers from their closets, basements and attics. It’s hard to say how much of that is true and how much was the result of a petrified town with wild imaginations. However, the things they found the next day were beyond dispute.

Main street was covered by thousands of dead birds of many different species. Many blamed the storm for being responsible, despite the fact that some of the breeds had never been recorded in the area. Some were never even identified.

A young boy; Carson Roose was found mutilated, folded up and crammed inside the trunk of an old oak tree. People reported sightings of a large, black dog-like creature with piercing red eyes roaming the woods at night. Days later, and a baby was born with a severe birth defect. It’s head was malformed, and almost elongated like that of a jackal. There were also odd growths upon it’s shoulder blades, complete with accompanying tendons and muscle tissue. The infant only survived for a few hours, but many thought the growths looked almost like wings.

Police were at a loss, and on the brink of riots they called an assembly to address the increasingly horrifying incidents. Many in town spoke their piece, with the majority focusing their ire upon the authorities who had failed to stop these events. Our town was the old-school religious type, and many believed it had been cursed by god.

The police chief reaffirmed that Halloween would remain illegal, and that he would double efforts and resources to uncover the truth behind what was going on. The audience fell into a stunned silence, until a low grumbling chuckle emerged from the back row.

“That won’t stop it.” The voice of a man called out. All in attendance turned back to see him rise to his feet amidst the crowd. He was a tall man, slender with fierce, black eyebrows and a slight grin that seemed to be perpetually stapled to his face.

“And, who are you?” One of the council members asked; speaking the question that all had on their minds. The tall man smirked, and introduced himself as Atticus Stone. He claimed he was a soothsayer, and he had been guided by dreams to help the town in their time of crisis.

Now most people would scoff at the mere suggestion of what he would go on to claim, but our community was a deeply religious one. Some might even venture to say a deeply gullible one as well.

Mr. Stone claimed the gates of hell had cracked open, and all manner of foul things had begun to escape from the abyss. He said it was the beginning stages of the rapture, and there was no longer any sense in praying to God; as he would not help us. He mentioned something about how that would break a certain oath, but didn’t elaborate further. Someone asked who the black-eyed children were, but Mr. Stone gave only a cryptic response.

“The lost ones.”

People were scared, and prepared to believe and do anything if it meant keeping themselves and their families safe. Trust in the police and church plummeted to an all-time low as the odd occurrences refused to relent, and slowly but surely people turned to advice from the strange Mr. Atticus Stone. Stone professed that there was in fact a way to keep people safe during these turbulent times, but doing so required some alterations in tradition.

He first instructed people to mount a signet upon the front door. It was some odd, hieroglyphic-looking crest or coat of arms, with two identical symbols in the center that looked like mirrored number 3’s. If the two threes were pushed inward, they would form an 8, or perhaps an inverted infinity symbol. I didn’t know at the time if that was important, but before long I began to see the symbol hanging on the doors of many houses in the town.

Some saw this action as witchcraft, but Stone countered their accusations. He said it was not demons that we would pray to for protection, but instead an angel of the rapture. He explained that this particular angel held a great deal of power, and was feared by all things wretched and devious. He gave it no direct name, and referred to it only as The Lurker in Red.

Stone then spoke of a new holiday that was to be conducted every year in October. Most people in the town now call it ‘Hellmonth’, but Stone had a different name for it. Atonapatromus (uh-toe-nuh-puh-traw-mus), and no that’s not a Harry Potter spell… I already checked. It is a month-long festival of sorts which has now been going on for 32 years.

The first fifteen days of the month are known as the Time of Blood. People are instructed to fight, cut themselves and generally just be a dick to anyone and everyone they came in contact with. There is also to be no weddings, birthday parties or celebrations of any kind during this time. Even funerals are strictly forbidden. If someone happened to kick the bucket, then they would just have to be stuffed in the freezer until the allotted time was up.

And that actually happened too, not the freezer part, but the time of blood seems to coincide with a lot of heartache in the town. There is always a spike in suicides, domestic abuse and assaults during that period. It may just be coincidence or heightened stress, but my grandfather did pass away during that time as well.

The next fifteen days of the month are basically the exact opposite of the first. It is known as the Time of Flesh; and it is a celebration with parties, dancing and all the intoxicants you can get your hands on. People are encouraged to drink, take drugs, have sex and indulge in any and all pleasures they can possibly think of.

It started off tame for the first few years, but in time it almost became a sort of Mardi Gras for us. Nowadays it’s not uncommon to see large street parties, opium dens and moonlight orgies with dozens of participants. The degeneracy seemed to creep slowly, and corrupt the people in town as the years went by.

Former members of the church succumbed to the hedonism, and generally well-respected individuals began to indulge their deviant fantasies.

I won’t lie, I very much enjoyed this holiday growing up. The first half of the month sucked, but the rest was essentially just one giant party. The event is oddly cathartic in a way that I’ve never been able to replicate with anything else in life. It’s almost as if the contrast of immense pain at the beginning of the month made the pleasures at the end infinitely more enjoyable.

The last day of the month is reserved for the most important event of all: The Time of Silence. Every October 31st, in place of Halloween, people in the town return to their homes, extinguish all the lights and sleep in the same room as one another. No one is to step foot outside the house between the hours of 10PM and 4AM for any purpose whatsoever. Those that have defied this rule have yet to be seen ever again.

I remember those nights most vividly of all. Not only because I was finally sober after a two-week long bender, but because of the sounds. Turns out ‘the time of silence’ didn’t always live up to it’s namesake. Sure, it was quiet most of the night; dead silent as a matter of fact, but every now and then you’d hear an agonized scream in the distance, or animalistic snarls outside. God only knows what truly was happening on those nights, but honestly, I hope I never find out.

“The day we started listening to Atticus Stone was the day God truly abandoned our town.” My father told me that once before he passed. He never wanted to talk about the tradition, but that night he was drunk enough to not restrict his tongue. I now wish I would’ve talked to him about it more.

Stone made all of the citizens swear themselves to secrecy, and vowed to hunt down any who spilled his secrets to the outside world. Doesn’t exactly bode well for me, but I’ve lived my life in fear of him and what he brought to our town. I won’t live in fear anymore; come whatever may.

For these reasons, I’m guessing none of you have ever heard of this strange tradition. Apparently Stone and his minions are pretty good at keeping secrets regarding what they’re up to, but that’s only half of it. See the weirdest thing about Stone’s plan, was that it actually seemed to work.

Ever since the town has adopted the tradition, things have gotten a lot better. No more unexplained disappearances, sightings of obsidian-eyed children or other cryptids, heck even the property value has gone up. The town is booming in trade and has grown wealthy beyond expectation in the last few years. It’s almost as if it’s all too good to be true, which of course, is how I first began thinking that it is.

Turns out, we might’ve really screwed things up. That’s actually the reason I’m here telling this story now. You have to understand; when this all began, I was very young and well… stupid. Sure, it was odd at first, but we all just sort of got on with life after things began improving. What I’m trying to say; is that it’s very difficult to recognize a cult for what it is when you’re already in it.

I finally moved away from the town a couple years after high school. It took only a few mentions of our hometown tradition to friends and subpar coworkers for me to really begin contemplating my entire upbringing. That’s when I really got curious about the whole thing.

I started researching, and after months of searching I finally found that strange symbol that we hang on our doors. It was in a place I really didn’t want it to be either; an old book on voodoo and the occult.

This symbol is closely associated with a familiar sounding entity; The Lurker in Red. It has another name too, but most strongly advise against speaking it or even writing it. Apparently, that’s a good way to catch it’s attention, which is something you don’t really want if you’re not prepared. Names hold a great deal of power.

This deity or force or whatever it is has qualities associated primarily with vengeance, wrath and war. Sounds like a nice guy huh? Strangely enough though, it is also associated with things like protection, family and even the wellbeing of children. It’s like if you mixed Rambo with Mary Poppins and then gave it supernatural abilities.

There are a multitude of rituals and seances to gain favor with this being. It was a lengthy list, but one of them caught my eye and manifested an amorphous pit of dread in my gut as I read it.

As it turns out, this ‘holiday’ that we’ve been performing for the past thirty-two years is actually more like a ritual, designed to invoke the favor of the Lurker in Red. For me; the realization that my hometown had been performing an occult ritual for over thirty years and utilizing the power of some eldritch creature was troubling enough, but then I saw the other stories online and the pieces finally came together.

I’m willing to bet you’ve seen them too; accounts posted on Reddit and other forums detailing someone’s encounter with children whose eyes were entirely black. Most of the time the children would behave in unsettling ways, and ask the potential victim to let them inside.

I’m sure a lot of these tales are just fiction by this point, but many people swear by their accounts, and those are the ones I’m worried about. The thing is; I always assumed this phenomenon was isolated to our strange little town, and I think at one point it actually was. I don’t think Atonapatromus was actually banishing them to hell as Stone claimed, I think it just drove them elsewhere. Worse still, it might’ve actually exacerbated the problem.

I have reckoned with this knowledge for the past decade at least; a horrible truth which has all but consumed my life. For those that may lambast me for not speaking sooner upon it, I wouldn’t blame you. Truth is that I’m afraid. Not only of what Atticus Stone and his cohorts may do once they find out I exposed their secrets, but also of that thing they worship.

This year marks the 33rd year of Atonapatromus, and I think that is significant. 33 is a number with a great many interesting qualities. The highest rank attainable in Scottish Rite Freemasonry is the 33rd degree. The Grand Orient de France of Freemasonry was founded in 1733.

In 1933 Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, and the United States added the Masonic Great Seal inscribed with the Latin words for “New World Order” onto the dollar bill. Harry S. Truman; a 33rd degree Freemason became the 33rd president of the United States and dropped the nuclear bombs upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki which straddle the 33rd longitudinal parallel.

Many interesting locations with paranormal histories also lie along parallel 33 including Jerusalem, Roswell New Mexico, the Bermuda triangle, the pyramids of Giza. Some also believe Atlantis and the Garden of Eden were once located somewhere within the 33rd parallel. JFK was assassinated at the 33rd parallel, as was David Koresh; a cult leader killed at 33 years old. There have been many tragedies along the 33rd parallel, and I suggest looking into it for yourself as there’s no way I can list them all.

Numerology lists several traits associated with the number 33 including enlightenment, conscious ascension and spiritual birth. Many cultures and religions also place great significance upon the number as well. The Vedic religion of the Anglo-Indian tribes had 33 deities. The second level of Buddhist Nirvana is called Trāyastriṃśa, which translates to: belonging to the 33 devas. Islamic prayer beads generally have 33 beads, which correspond to their various names of god.

The Christian Bible may hold the most references of all though. The rule of King David in Jerusalem lasted 33 years. It is said that Jesus Christ performed a total of 33 miracles throughout the Gospels. He was then crucified in year 33 AD at the age of 33. Mount Hermon lies at 33 degrees longitude and 33 degrees latitude, and is said to be the place where the Nephilim first descended to earth.

The final book of the Bible; Revelation also seems to revere the number. 333 is half the number of the beast who is said to arise in the era of the rapture. The beast; is said to devour 1/3 of the stars in the sky and annihilate 1/3 of all life on earth; or approximately 33.33 percent. The beast has many different names including the great dragon, the lie of lies, but most interesting for our purposes… the Lurker in Red.

Now all of this may just be vague coincidence, and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what it is all supposed to mean. I just find it rather poetic that our town lies near Phoenix, Arizona. A phoenix is a mythical bird creature engulfed by flames, something that would’ve been depicted as a red spirit who lurks in the skies.

The crest which decorates the doors of my hometown also bare the inverted 33, as if it has to mean something. Oh and, can you guess what longitude our town lies on? Smack dab in the middle of the 33rd parallel.

I know it all sounds crazy, and probably like conspiratorial nonsense for which there is no real basis at this point. I may have just overanalyzed the hell out of all of this, but I just can’t help but feel there is something more to this. If you know anything about the Freemason philosophy, you’ll know that numbers are of great importance. Nothing they do is a coincidence; it is all supposed to mean something.

What that is exactly, I don’t know. And in regards to the black-eyed children and everything else, I’m still not sure how it all connects. I still don’t know what they want, how they can do the things they do or even what they actually are. I do know one thing though; they’re still out there.

Like I said at the beginning, I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun. I know that many people absolutely love this time of year, and I wouldn’t want to take that away from them. I just think it’s important for you all to be aware of the things that are truly out there.

So, when the big night comes, and you’re all dressed up as Clifford the Big Red Dog or a sexy version of a spatula or something, just keep an eye out. There’s gonna be a lot of trick or treaters out that night, and some of them may have eyes that look a little too dark. Whatever you do, do not let them inside your house.

I wish I could connect this all together in a way that doesn’t seem like the ramblings of a lunatic, but it appears my time has run out. My hometown tradition has already begun; and two days from now the Time of Flesh will commence. There’s no way of knowing what will happen when the 31st hits, but now you know the truth.

As always, be careful this Halloween, and keep a keen eye out for anything unusual. I can’t shake the feeling that something terrible is about to be unleashed. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope – if nothing else you can understand why we did what we did, and I hope you can enjoy the holiday that I as a child could not. It may be the last time you ever get to do so.