The Secret of Mary Bell By Jacqueline Y. Paul

Thrills & Chills! Check back here each day leading up to Halloween for a new story written at an Inlandia workshop for those wanting to write for Ghost Walk. This story was a selection for the 2015 Ghost Walk.


Narrator: 100 years ago on these very streets of Riverside, there lived a child. A very odd child. This child was about 14 when she came to live with her adoptive parents–John and Josephine Jones. They were humble people who owned a mercantile in downtown Riverside–right about where we are standing now.

It was on this very night that a terrible incident occurred. I am actually not comfortable telling you about this particular story on this particular night, in this particular place. But, since you good people have paid good money to come on this tour tonight, I will take a chance.

The child’s name was MARY BELL. She had no friends. And her history was questionable. She had a stick doll she liked to carry around. No one knows where this stick doll came from but rumor has it, it was cursed. Some say it is the physical incarnation of Satan himself!

Just a little bit of little known local lore, right? All I know is that those who tell the story warn others …NEVER say the name MARY BELL…Never in this place on this night. NEVER say MARY BELL. MARY BELL.

Oh, no…I said it! I hope we will be okay! It’ll be okay, right?

Priest: (comes from behind the crowd…maybe some fog… he’s burned in tattered clothes and walks with a limp)

What have you DONE? Mary Bell. Mary Bell….say her name and burn in HELL!!! You’re cursed. CURSED!!! Then he limps away and collapses. All of you are CURSED LIKE ME!

John: (he’s also burned …comes from behind…wearing tattered overalls and burned….kind of looks like a zombie farmer)

CURSED indeed! I will never rest in peace as long as people keep saying that cursed child’s name…bringing her back to life. Bringing her back to torture my soul.

It was 1915… Mother and I wanted a child but my wife, Josephine, was barren. Some say it was the stress of a previous life. You see, my wife and I weren’t always upstanding citizens. We didn’t mean it….but we killed someone–a poor helpless widow. We hit her over the head with a cast iron pan left on her stove.

We stole all of her silverware and the money in her safe…then we buried her under our store.

Nobody knew. (repeats) Nobody knew…

Or at least we thought nobody knew….

When we heard from my brother in Santa Rosa that there was one child survivor after a fire burned the orphanage there, we thought God was telling us that this was our chance for a child. Nobody wanted to take her in because she was…strange. We traveled all the way to Northern California to save her. We thought it odd that she had been there for 13 years–since she was 13 months old–and was never adopted. And, there were strange stories about what had happened to three other families who tied to take her in…and then mysteriously disappeared. All of their homes burned–but she survived. They all had her with them for just about a year….

Josephine: (comes into the crowd ….in period clothing all torn and burned…she also looks like a zombie)

Who spoke that cursed child’s name? I will never rest as long as it is uttered. I remember that night… I remember so well. It was closing time. I yelled for Mary Bell to come help me clean up. She had been with us for 13 months exactly.

And…it was the anniversary of the very night that I committed that horrible thing…I was young. I didn’t know better. I was desperate. And, nobody knew.

Nobody knew.

Nobody knew.

But I knew and I hated to be out on this wretched night. I ached to get home.

I yelled and yelled for Mary–“MARY BELL! MARY BELL!”

I finally found her…sitting on the very spot where he had buried old widow Smith’s body-back where we stored cleaning supplies.

Mary. Mary. I scolded. Get away from there. Let’s go. But she wouldn’t leave. She just sat there staring at that doll…chanting….“BURN IN HELL! BURN IN HELL. BURN IN HELL!!!!”

Suddenly … a wind came along—a HUGE wind! Oh, I can’t think of it! The howling wind and the smell of sulphur! I looked at Mary…her eyes had turned BLACK. She started laughing at me. Oh no! No! No! She has come back!

MARY BELL: (she should look really really scary…) You stupid fools! I’m not a child. I am MARY BELL. I came for your souls! You cannot hide your wrongdoing from GOD or SATAN! You are damned to walk the earth whenever my name is said. You will NEVER REST!

(Mary then looks at her doll…the eyes glow and maybe there’s some smoke or a loud sound or something)

(John and Josephine and the priest start writhing in pain……and there is fake fire or at least fire sounds)

NARRATOR: The Smiths’ store burned to the ground that night. They say it was actually swallowed into the bowels of the earth. The townsfolk later called in a priest to purify the ground. Legend has it that a priest also was cursed to HELL and swallowed up the minute he set foot on the ground. It was many years before anyone built anything here again….but time goes on and we all realized that nothing bad can really come from saying a person’s name or standing in this spot on this night…Can it?…I mean MARY BELL…MARY BELL…what does that do? (dismissive and sing-songy)

(then MARY BELL and a legion of cursed souls start coming up to people saying MARY BELL….MARY BELL…SAY HER NAME AND BURN IN HELL….they all have stick dolls with them….they terrorize Ghost Walk visitors as they walk away…..)