Ian – Jamie Alexander
Kathy – Greg Ashland
Todd N – Kent Dubrovnik
The three characters meet up as they are all determined to attend Witchcon IXX, the annual celebration of the occult and mystery that happens on Halloween in the little town of Shady Valley, MN. Shady Valley is the destination because of the last known witch trial in North America, in 1913, when Sarah Winston was burned at the stake by a crowd of townspeople under the influence of Rev. Joseph Bittman. Bittman was apprehended for this illegal action, but later disappeared from his jail cell without a trace.
The three strangers have met up for a rideshare, with only Greg and Kent having a casual acquaintance already. Upon registering for the convention, they find that they have won a free room for each of them in the Winston House, the site of Sarah Winston’s old mansion at the top of the hill in Shady Valley. They accept, happy to get free lodgings for the weekend, and soon they meet Zoe Winston, Sarah’s only known living descendant and Rosemary Diaz, her partner.
During dinner, they notice a strange man staring belligerently at them but since he doesn’t attack them, they ignore him. (also, Rosemary is flirting with a redheaded stranger). Later, they find strange doings in the Winston house- red writing on the walls of the bedchamber and strange noises coming from the drawing room where an empty box keeps falling off the table.
Retiring for the night, they each share a strange dream, in which they are in a tunnel and there is a bright light ahead of them, framed against which is a strange dimly-seen man-shaped figure, howling and weeping. Looking behind, they see a strange non-human form in a white robe, some sort of reptilian form.
They awake naked in Jamie’s room while flashing police car lights whirl on the bedroom walls. Looking outside they see three bodies being loaded into an ambulance. Investigating, they go downstairs to speak to the police and Zoe, who is handcuffed but quickly realize that the cops and Zoe are unable to hear them. Finally, Greg forces the sheriff (“Sheriff Dan”) to feel him as he tries to stuff Zoe in the police car— the unnatural interaction and brief sight of the “ghost” gives the Sheriff a heart attack.
Now they are realizing that they are ghost-souls— that the world thinks them dead, murdered in the WInston House. Sheriff Dan and Zoe are taken away, leaving the characters to explore the house while completely invisible to the living. Now in this spirit world, they meet the ghost of Sarah WInston who lives inside the box in the drawing room, but she appears to be too far gone to help them. She does point them at her journal though and thus they gather that there is a basement portal to the domain of the Hidden Ones or Derro who live beneath the mansion in their underground realm.
Trying to determine whether they should explore this mysterious underground realm from the basement portal in the Winston House, they meet up with the belligerent stranger from the bar (Dan’s Bar and Grill), this time he is now revealed as a lizard person. He lets them know that they may be looking for information from Bittman in town before they go down into the Derro hole, his motivations unclear but he is apparently an enemy of the Derro and their master.
The characters go into town and invade the “Bittman museum”, finding Bittman’s journal and suffering a loss of stability from just reading the musings of his deranged mind. Seeing that they will need the word he’s learned to re-bind their bodies to their souls, they realize he has hidden the word in the county jail somewhere when he was held there 100 years ago. They invisibly sneak into the jail and find the word scrawled on the wall beneath the bunk.
Now armed with the word plus a shotgun they took from the police car in front of the Winston house, they descend to the Derro realm to try to retrieve their bodies. They find their bodies half-alive and pronounce the word, scarred forever by the hours of torture that they’ve been subjected to. (Greg lost a toe). A brief fight ensues and Greg manages to open a lane in the flummoxed, surprised derro mob so that they are able to flee the scene. The Derro, though very hardy and surving point blank shotgun blasts, are not fast enough to outdistance them as they race up the stairs back to the surface.
They pile into Jamie’s audi and leave the scene, freaking out, but ultimately Kent is firm in the belief that they must return to the County jail and vouch for Zoe, so that she is freed from the crime of killing them. They do so and Deputy Matt asks them to sign waivers that they were not harmed in any way and agree not to press any charges against Zoe. When the county coroner opens the morgue cooler to see the bodies, Greg goes in with him and finds a “melting” pile of flesh with one eye blinking helplessly at them.. knowing that even this illusion of rotting matter will soon be gone.
Having ensured Zoe will not be tried for a crime that never occurred, the characters leave Shady Valley quickly. Shortly thereafter, scanning the papers, there’s never a mention of any of this, but they do see that several weeks later the Winston House is sold to the City of Shady Valley.