The Séance at the Wax Museum
By: Cecilia Kennedy
In the wax museum, I smell smoke. Smoke marks my first day owning the museum. The next day, seventeenth and eighteenth-century figures join the Aerosmith Band display—and I didn’t put them there. Each day, I open the door to more unsettling surprises—and I avoid the basement. A stench—a rank, awful smell—gets into my clothes. When I go home at night, I feel waxy fingers playing with my hair.
“Ooh! What you need is a séance!” Jacqueline says. “I’ll bet the museum is cursed!”
I don’t tell her what I found in the basement on the fourth day: a grotesque half-woman, half-coyote head, fixed onto the wax body of a woman. Jagged purple sutures ran down the middle of the woman’s face. On the other side, the coyote’s face was partially sliced to reveal the skeletal jaw and sharp, ragged teeth.
The medium arrives at the museum, dressed in a cape, and when she removes it, flowing scarves fall in draped lines about her shoulders. She turns to look at me, studying me intently.
“Are you afraid of loud noises?” she asks.
“No,” I answer. “Sometimes.”
“Sometimes. I guess?”
“Unexpected things happen at seances, and you can’t be easily scared.”
Jacqueline stifles a squeal of excitement.
“I can put up with a few more scares—as long as they go away for good.”
“Oh, I can’t promise you that.”
“But that’s why I’m paying you, right?”
“No—I just find out who’s here, and then . . .”
The medium turns her head.
“Let’s move quickly. Gather around a table—it’s time,” she says.
Then, her head hits the table. The medium is slumped over—and I’m not sure what to do. But then, she sits right back up again, with her eyes rolled back into her head.
“I’m Robert Solstow,” she says, in a male voice that sounds authentic. “All of this is mine—everything in this place. I created them all—and other things that you, Doreen, know about.”
“What other things?” Jacqueline asks.
“Shh,” I tell her.
“You know, Doreen? There are more. And I can’t stop,” the medium says.
“What’s this about?” Jacqueline asks.
Before I can answer, the medium’s face stretches and changes. The forehead widens. The right side of her face curves into a snarl that reveals sharpened teeth. Jagged sutures appear on her face—and she opens her mouth to scream. Jacqueline runs for the door when the medium rises from the table. With a red marker, she writes on the wall behind her: “Stop me before I make more. Lift the curse.”
At night, I have dreams of that thing. It speaks to me in Robert’s voice and tells me to make him stop. In the morning, I see, in the news, the names of people who have disappeared—and I wonder. I wonder if Robert still walks among the living—creating hideous hybrids—and hiding them.
The medium still won’t help me get rid of the thing in my museum, but she does give me an ordinary-looking housekey.
“This key doesn’t open any physical doors,” she says. “However, if you put it under your pillow as you sleep, it could end the curse.”
I’m skeptical, but I take it and place it under my pillow. My dream that night takes me to an ice cream parlor, where my parents and I used to go on vacation. It’s no longer there, but in my dream, it’s just as bright, pink, and green as it was when I was young. The ice cream tastes terrible, but another sensation takes over as I eat. My mouth is dry, and I can’t breathe. I choke on something rough and fibrous. I clutch at my throat and reach down with my fingers to pull whatever it is that’s stuck in my throat, out. As I pull, a rope emerges. All around me, the parlor walls grow hands that reach out to grab the rope and tie it into knots. When I awake, I know what I must do.
In the moonlight, near the streets behind the beach resorts, I hear waves crashing on sand. I open the door to the museum. When I turn on the lights, my heart stops. The walls are covered in rows of red writing: “Stop me, Doreen. Stop me.” I go down the stairs to the basement and find that horrible thing that Robert made. This time, the waxy chest rises and falls as it breathes—as if for the first time. A disembodied voice calls my name, and I turn around. “Doreen,” it says. “Make me stop.”
I’ve brought some sturdy rope—the kind I’d swallowed in my dreams. The creature growls—and springs to life, lunging at my throat. I push back with my hands—the sting of sharp teeth pierces through my flesh and feels like fire, but I keep pushing back. Up close, the jagged sutures seep with thick, purple ooze. The creature grows claws to tear at my face, but my hands are free. I see its narrow, fiercely determined evil eye burning from within—so I gouge it out. I jab my thumb right into the eye and press it down, hard. The creature recoils. Reaching for a broom, I thrust the handle into its throat. It falls, but the chest still rises. Feeling the heat of its breath, I bind the hands and feet with the rope, and I throw the body into the trunk of my car. To stop the curse, Robert’s hands must be tied.
In the dark, I drive to the desolate spots near the undeveloped areas. I dig through layers of gray sand, past the shell fragments, and finer grains. I bury that thing alive and cover it. When I return to the museum, the waves crash beyond the four-lane road—and above the sound, I think I hear my name—and then silence—rising up from the layers of sand.
Cecilia Kennedy taught English and Spanish courses in Ohio for over 20 years. Currently, she lives in the Greater Seattle area with her family. Since 2017, she has been writing and publishing short stories (mostly in the horror genre) in literary journals, magazines, and anthologies online and in print. The Places We Haunt (Potter’s Grove Publishing) is her first short story collection, which was released June 30th, and she is the adult beverages columnist for The Daily Drunk. She also keeps a blog of her humorous attempts at cooking and home repairs: Fixin’ Leaks and Leeks: https://fixinleaksnleeksdiy.blog/