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A Collector of Spirits

You know how you can buy haunted dolls on the internet? You have to assume most of them are scams. You want to clear out your dearly departed grandmother's overwhelming estate and, bless her failed heart, she loved to collect perfectly ghastly porcelain princesses. Of course, she never thought they were so hideous, even with her failing eyesight. You list them once and no one buys, so you think to yourself "What gimmick could I use to offload these monstrosities upon some tasteless sucker?" Probably, you hit upon some article about a troll doll or Cabbage Patch selling for thousands of dollars because someone with a freshman flair for description typed out a low-grade horror story.

You think to yourself, "I passed high school. I bet I can do one better." You relist it, describing bleeding walls and unearthly moans in the night. You try to keep it vague, because you don't know if there is some regulatory agency who might demand evidence from you that your cat genuinely exploded and her feline viscera spelled "Get out of the house this instant and don't accept a bid below $100 for my vessel."

Yours probably doesn't sell. You have neglected the fact that the market is flooded with supposedly haunted dolls, some of whom manage to be described by someone whose skill hits that tiny overlap in the Venn diagram between "Very, very stupid" and "Clever enough to write something original and not a rehashing of the plot of a 1980s horror movie."

We, the ghost buying public, have had it up to our eyeballs with your shenanigans. I may not know a hawk from a handsaw when the wind is southerly, but I sure as shooting know your great aunt Bess's Hummel figurines from the Lament Configuration. I'll grant you, I get taken about half the time, even factoring in how unlikely it is that your child's pinky started spouting "REDRUM." I have a garage full of supposedly haunted objects that amount to gewgaws I couldn't unload at a yard sale, not that I would. I prefer to be reminded of my mistakes.

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Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings.

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