BY KATE DOMENICHELLA
The abandoned psychiatric hospital stood among tall rain trees, its walls choked by weeds and grass. Dead cockroaches littered the empty drawers and cobwebs threaded the stale air. Cabinets lay on bedroom floors like fallen soldiers on a battleground.
It was forbidden by the state to go there, of course, but Emma Carter was determined and the challenge excited her. Her secret consumed her and haunted her each day. This clandestine would appear before her during classes, beside her while she slept, and even with her while she showered. No matter what she tried to do to rid herself of her secret, it remained.
Emma learned from an early age that her secret was not meant to be shared with anyone because no one would believe her, and they would all presume her to be crazy—just like her older sister, Rose. When Rose was 8 and Emma was just barely 7, Rose was taken away from their family and placed into crisis-stabilization care at Raven Hall, nine hours away from the family house. Emma recalls nights when Rose would scream for hours on end because she saw ghosts. She would point at the walls and shake violently. Rose would need to be restrained during bedtime because she would convulse violently and tear out her own hair. She would scratch at her flesh and draw blood. Sometimes she would try to choke herself with her hands so the demons would not be able to do it for her. Emma loved her sister, even though Emma didn’t know any better.
When Rose was admitted to Raven Hall, she wasn’t allowed to have any visitors for the first year. The doctors wanted to ensure their treatment wouldn’t be deterred by any outside sources. Her doctors started her on ECT and high doses of medication to treat her bipolar disorder, manic behavior, and schizophrenia—all for a child no more than 8 years of age.
The ECT and medications seemed to be working. After a year, Emma and her family were allowed to visit Rose. It was saddening to Emma to see her sister in such a depressed state. The spark in Rose’s eyes was gone, there was no color in her cheeks and lips, and her hair was no longer long and full, but short and straw-like. Rose’s doctors assured Emma and her parents that she was doing well and making a lot of progress. There might be a chance that Rose would be discharged, but she would need to continue with ECT and medications on a routine basis.
Rose was never discharged. In fact, no one who entered the doors of Raven Hall would ever leave.
Three months after Emma’s family visited Rose, Rose lit a match to Raven Hall. In her attempt to free herself from the demons she believed wouldn’t leave her alone, Rose burnt down the crisis-stabilization wing. She burned thirteen patients and eight nurses to death by locking the doors from the outside so they could not escape and setting an assortment of fires inside the doors.
The eight other patients and ten doctors of Raven Hall were seated at the long dinning table in the center of the room. Since Rose was cunning and smart, she had locked the doors and windows of rooms from the outside and no one was able to make an escape. Each person in that room died of smoke inhalation but were later burned as sacrificial offerings as Rose offered herself to the demons, screaming out in anguish, “I cannot do this any longer! Please just take my soul and end it all! Fire, consume me!”
The remains of the 21 patients, eight nurses, ten doctors, and Rose were never found. Raven Hall had its own security system, which Rose had found and disabled all fire alarms, cameras, and call-for-help buttons. In the process of making sure each security feature was disable, she then killed the only three security guards Raven Hall had because she believed they would get in the way of her mission. The police officers and fire rescue squad from the town were unable to find survivors because they did not receive word of the fire until it had burnt out-- 3 days later. No smoke alarm was ever triggered and Raven Hall is set 20 miles away from the nearest community.
The Carter family did their best to recover and resume normalcy. The ghost of Rose is Emma’s secret. Emma’s family made the decision to change their last name from Carver to Carter, to avoid anyone linking them to the fire at Raven Hall.
From the day Rose died until now, her ghost has been haunting Emma-- but not any longer.