Shattered Reflections of Holloway Manor

Submitted into Contest #221 in response to: Write a story about someone who is haunted. Whether by a ghost or something else is up to you.... view prompt


Suspense Horror Fiction

Death is a cruel mistress and became incarnate at Holloway Manor exactly 100 years ago. On October 13, 1923, James Holloway murdered his wife and two daughters.  

Emily Claire stopped typing and closed her laptop with a sigh. The future of her career, at The News Room, hinged on this article’s success. 

“Struggling?” Dorian asked beside her. Outside rain drummed against the hotel window and the wind howled at the trees.

“I don’t understand his motive.” Emily pushed aside the laptop and scooted closer to her fiancé for comfort. “He was a loving father, a doting husband, and then one day he decided to murder everyone? They were a wealthy, prominent family for heaven’s sake.” 

“People do crazy things. Even rich ones. Remind me why you chose this story instead of something more recent? Or local? We could have stayed closer to home. This hotel doesn’t even have room service.”

Emily frowned. “I can’t explain it. I feel drawn to the Holloways. When I found the documents in the library archives, it was like fate pulling me in. And how fitting that it would be published on the 100-year anniversary of their death?” 

“Emily,” Dorian took her hand in his. “Does this have anything to do with your father?”

Simon Claire had spent exactly five years as of next week, locked away in Westview Medical Center for his strange fits. “Locked up in the loony bin,” as he put it. One day he was a caring, single father, the next he was stripping naked and running through the street screaming that the ghosts were out to get him. 

Emily’s throat bobbed. “This isn’t about him. I know my father is crazy. I’ve come to terms with it.”

“Alright. If you say so.” Dorian kissed the back of her hand and went back to reading Something Wicked This Way Comes

Emily returned her focus to the old documents she’d found during her inquest. Sarah and Marie Holloway were only 12 and 8 when they were murdered by their father. They never found the body of the mother Doris Holloway. And… 

“Look at this, Dorian. When they interviewed James in the hospital he was barely able to answer any questions. He was stunned. The only word he said the entire time he was there was ‘mirror’. He covered the small mirror in his room and was inconsolable until they removed it completely. What do you suppose that means?”

“Maybe he didn’t like the way he looked in prison garb?”

Emily ignored his joke and continued. “And when they interviewed the neighbor she said it was the ghosts that killed the family.”

“Ghosts?” snorted Dorian. “She sounds crazier than him.”

“What if she was telling the truth?”

“Are you saying you believe in ghosts? Maybe I shouldn’t have asked you to marry me after all. Is it too late to take it back?”

Emily lightly punched him in the arm. 

Five years ago she would have agreed with him. Back then she would have picked a more realistic topic to write her article about and laughed with him at any mention of the supernatural. But that was before her father was taken away. Now she was telling ghost stories and praying it was enough to grow her career. And maybe, if she was lucky, she could fill in the gaps of this story that the past had forgotten. 

“I’m bored of reading,” Dorian said after a while. “Let’s go to a bar or something.” 

“I can’t,” she sighed. “I feel too antsy. It’s like I have a puzzle in front of me but I’m missing most of the pieces. Maybe they have more details in their library. It sounds like it’s stopped raining.”


“Dorian. We didn’t come here to play. This is important to me.”

“Fine but all work and no play makes Emily a dull girl.”

Emily planted a kiss on his stubbled cheek. “Thank you for understanding. You’re the best fiancé I’ve ever had.”

“Don’t you mean only?”

Emily shrugged. “Do I?”

Dorian rolled his eyes and picked up his novel. “Go on, you, brat.”  

She stumbled upon the library a few blocks east of where she’d left Dorian pouting into his book. If it didn’t have a sign outside, she’d have missed it—mistaken it for an old house. 

“Hello?” she asked as the door creaked open. The smell of rotting paper tugged at her nostrils. The building felt damp and abandoned, much like the rest of the town. 

“Library is closed,” replied a gruff old woman with a hunched back. 

“But the door was open. I just need to look for a moment, please. I’m not from around here.”

The woman crept closer, the smell of rot billowing behind her. “Why are you here? We don’t get many strangers around these parts.”

Emily gulped and took a step back. “I’m a reporter. I’m writing about the Holloways. I was looking for more information before I go to their house tomorrow.”

The woman stepped closer still, taking a whiff of Emily’s hair. A thin smile spread across the crone’s ghastly face. “Well, why didn’t you say so. Follow me.”

She followed the strange woman past the rows of shelves, trying to ignore the cobwebs and grime that coated them. The place looked like it had hardly been used in 100 years. 

“Here we are. I knew it was back here still.” The woman placed a red leather-bound book in her hands. 

“What is this?” She opened it to reveal scrawled handwriting with dates at the tops of each page. “A diary?”

“It belonged to the family’s maid,” replied the woman.

“This is unbelievable! Thank you! I can return it tomorrow if that’s alright.”

The woman dismissed her with a wave of her hand and whispered, “Keep it. I’m glad to be done with it.” Then she turned to walk away. 

Emily followed close behind, paying so much attention to her newfound treasure that she bumped into a wall. An old heavy tarp fell to the floor, revealing a worn-out mirror covered in scratches and cracks. 

“Be careful,” said the woman behind her. The shock of hearing the woman’s voice so close to her when she hadn’t seen her reflection made Emily jump, dropping the diary on the floor. “Mirrors are not to be trusted.” The woman replaced the cover over the scratched glass, grimacing at the effort. 

Emily picked up the journal and turned to thank the woman for her help and to say goodbye but found the woman had vanished into thin air. Emily didn’t dare stay and find out where she’d gone. She cuddled the book close to her chest and ran the two blocks back to the hotel.

When she returned, she found a note on her pillow instead of her future husband. “Went out to grab a bite to eat. Be back soon. Love, D.”

The haunted feeling leftover from the encounter at the library seemed to disappear as she engrossed herself in the manuscript. One entry in particular caught her attention.

September 5, 1923

I heard that scream again. Mrs. Holloway, she pretended not to notice. Mirrors don’t scream, she say. But I knows what I heard. Nothin’ feels right ‘round here no mo’ since they brought in that mirror. I’ve gotta funny feeling in my hump.

September 10, 1923

Mr. Holloway say he leavin’. Say he can’t do this no more. I asked if I could go with em. The things I’ve seent this week. I can’t write ‘em down because no one would believe me. I don’t even believe me. I hope this whole house burns to the ground. And that damned mirror with it. 

“What ya reading?” Dorian asked over her shoulder making her jump. 

“Don’t scare me like that!”

Dorian grinned and tossed a paper bag down beside her. “You don’t normally startle. You alright?”

“Yeah. Sorry.” She looked at the greasy bag her health-conscious fiancé had given her. “Fast food? Really?”

Dorian shrugged. “It was all I could find. I guess being unhealthy once in a while won’t kill us.”

Emily smiled and took a bite of her burger, trying to hold back her excitement as grease ran down her chin. She loved that Dorian wanted them to be healthy but nothing could beat the thrill greasy food could provide. 

“What did you find at the library?”

“A diary. It belonged to the family maid. It could really strengthen my article. And it could be put in a museum after I’m done with it!”

“That’s exciting.” Dorian threw away both of their trash and read a sentence over her shoulder. “Mr. Holloway ain’t actin’ normal.” He stopped and planted his lips against her shoulder. “I’m about to not act normal either if you don’t come to bed with me now. I let you work, now I want to play.”

Emily’s toes curled from the warm breath on her skin. “Fine. But tomorrow I need you to focus. We only get a few hours at the house. I need you to look out for anything out of the ordinary. Make sure I don’t miss anything.”

“You got it,” said Dorian. “If I see any ghosts I’ll scream really loud.”

. . . . . . .

The world was covered in a fine mist when they arrived at the manor the next morning. The agent they'd spoken with had left a key under the mat for them to find. A skeleton key with an ornate design on the crown. 

“I can’t believe no one has bought this place,” said Dorian as he slid the key into the lock. “The agent said it hasn’t been lived in since the Holloways. No one has even bothered to tour it as long as she knows of. The bank keeps it listed just in case but it must be on the verge of falling apart by now. Be careful.”

Entering the house felt like walking through time itself. The door creaked open, revealing a dust-covered foyer. Old pictures lined the papered walls—every portrait was serious and serene. Every step made the floorboards groan. They had to bat away the cobwebs that ran from floor to ceiling. As soon as they were all the way inside, the door slammed shut behind them.

“Still think it’s silly to believe in ghosts?” whispered Emily.

“Just the wind,” said Dorian but his voice wavered. “This place is massive. We should split up, take lots of pictures, and get out.”

Emily started to protest but the diary felt heavy in her bag. She hadn’t had a chance to finish it last night and the prospect of reading it uninterrupted in the very house it was written in was too titillating to pass up. “Promise to be careful,” she said. 

“Always,” Dorian said with a grin before taking the creaking stairs two at a time. 

She pulled out the diary and turned to the last entry, leaning against the filmy window to get better light.

October 12, 1923

I waited too long. No one can leave. The front door won’t budge no mo'. Can’t even open a window for air without it slammin’ shut the next minute. I’m goin’ crazy. Mrs. Holloway didn’t eat breakfast nor lunch today. She spent all day starin’ into that mirror. The kids don’t seem themself. Nothin’ left to do now but pray. 

The newspaper didn’t mention a maid. Maybe she got out. Maybe she ran away and left the diary behind and lived her life somewhere peaceful and sunny. Emily could only hope. 

“Boo!” Dorian screamed. Emily jumped high into the air, knocking her elbow into the window so hard it cracked. “Why did you do that?”

Dorian laughed and pulled the dusty sheet off of his head. “I’m sorry. Oh my gosh. I didn’t think you would get that scared.” He grabbed her shaky hands in his own and kissed her fingertips. “That was messed up. I’m sorry.”

Emily gulped trying to shove the fear back down. It was silly. He’d been dressed in a sheet. If she’d been paying attention it wouldn’t have frightened her so. 

“Do you need me to stay with you? Are you OK? I haven’t even explored the rooms yet.”

Emily shook her head for fear of what he would think of her if she asked him to stay by her side. She needed to make up for the embarrassing reaction she just displayed. “I’ll be fine. I’ll focus now and put the journal away.” 

He gave her a kiss on the cheek and they went their separate ways again. It didn’t take long to take pictures of all the rooms downstairs. Even though she hadn’t solved the mystery, this was going to be the best damn ghost story to ever exist. 

“Alright, I’m done!” she yelled to Dorian. 

No answer came. 

“Are you finished upstairs?”

Still, only silence responded. 

“Dorian?” she tried again. In her task of taking pictures, she hadn’t noticed that the house had become so quiet that her footsteps seemed to echo off the walls. 

The stairs creaked as she followed them to the second floor. The same kind of worn-out wallpaper and unsmiling portraits greeted her in the upper hall. The air was thick with the scent of decay and dust, causing her nose to itch. Each room was set like it was waiting for its master to return—books, clothes, brushes—all positioned in wait. But still no Dorian. 

Her heart raced as she peeked her head into each room. “This isn’t funny, Dorian! I don’t want to be scared again!” 

Behind you. The words came to her mind as easily as a thought, but they didn’t originate from her. 

Look, it said again. 

She turned around and found footprints in the hall encircled by dust. Dorian. She followed the prints into the master bedroom, walked past a four-post bed with curtains yellowed by time, and stopped in front of a door left slightly ajar. Every instinct told her to turn around and run in the other direction. But the man she loved could be in there. So she pushed on the door and it opened with a groan, revealing a small hidden room, swallowed by an ornate and colossal gold-framed mirror. And there in front of it was her dark-haired fiancé. 

“Dorian?” she whispered. He didn’t respond, didn’t move.

Go to him, the voice said. 

All the hairs at the base of her neck stood at attention but still, she pushed forward. 

“Isn’t it beautiful,” whispered Dorian, his eyes transfixed on the mirror. “I can see it all. It’s perfect.”

She reached for his hand and found it as cold as ice. “Dorian, we need to leave. Forget the article. Something isn’t right.”

Mirrors aren’t to be trusted, the voice said in her mind. The familiarity of the statement was lost on her because when Dorian turned to face her, his soft blue eyes were instead dark and empty. As if the man living behind them was gone. 

“Don’t you see, Emily?” he sneered. “We’re home now.”

A flash of movement in the mirror caught her attention. It was a woman dressed in a 1920s-era gown with features eerily similar to the description of Doris Holloway. She was waving to them.

Run, the voice in her mind urged. 

Emily tried but didn’t make it as far as the door before Dorian grabbed hold of her and made her fall to the floor. “You aren’t going anywhere.” The voice that came out of her fiancé was dark and vile and angry. 

He grabbed her face in both his hands and forced her to look at the mirror. “Dorian is in there now. You can join him. You just have to look!” 

“Emily?” came a man’s quiet voice from inside the mirror.


Standing beside her reflection was her father, dressed the way he used to before, in his suit and tie. 

“I’m here, darling.”

The breath escaped her lungs as the mirror painted pictures for her. She saw it all. Her father back to normal. Herself as a hard-hitting journalist at the The News Room. Her wedding day. It showed her everything she wanted in life. It was impossible to look away as it pulled her deeper and deeper still. 

“I told you it’s beautiful,” said Dorian. His reflection held hers by the hand and kissed it. “And we can stay here forever, my love. We never have to be sad or tired or angry.”

Two little girls ran by her. She knew their names—Marie and Sarah. They were laughing and smiling. 

Everything inside of her felt warm and fuzzy and exactly as it should be. 

“We aren’t leaving, OK?” Dorian said.

“Of course not,” she answered with a smile. “Because we’re already home.”

October 26, 2023 14:31

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