Through The Circus Door

** Please visit the GoFundMe my family created to help pay off and repair my grandparents very haunted house in St Augustine, Florida. Every dollar helps! Thank you and enjoy the story! ** Save Our Haunted House

The smell of freshly popped popcorn and cotton candy wafted through the air as Olivia and James guided their son and daughter through the crowded circus grounds. Kids with long strips of paper tickets hurried past on their way to the next ring toss or water pistol game, a gleam in their eyes for the biggest prize in the chosen booth. Music and laughter filled the air, along with a man’s voice yelling “Step right up and see our collection of oddities from around the world! Only two tickets per person, folks!”

The couple was terribly fond of the circus since their first date had been to a circus all those years ago. Noah and Charlotte were giddy with excitement and wanted to ride all the rides. Of course, Olivia was especially eager to visit this particular circus because of the swirling rumors that it was cursed. She loved a good scare. When she heard this circus was coming to the next town over, she immediately began planning a visit.

The story was that this circus once set up near a witch’s land. She was upset by all the traffic and demanded that the circus pick up and move to another location. Of course they weren’t going to do that as it would be a great financial cost to them so they refused. She supposedly put a curse on the circus, which they laughed at until visitors started to go missing. That part of the story is disturbingly true. Roughly four people per year go missing at this particular circus, despite the heavy security they’ve enlisted since the disappearances began. Olivia was intrigued by the stories but still kept a close eye on her own kids. People really were going missing, never to be found, after all.

The first place they decided to visit was the House of Mirrors. A motorized clown laughed at them from above the entrance as they passed underneath. The maniacal laughter could still be heard from within the building, echoing throughout the mirrored hallways. They handed over their tickets and were told children couldn’t be unsupervised. For this reason, James decided they should do girls against boys. Whichever pair made it out before the other was the winner. Olivia stayed with Charlotte and James stayed with Noah.

The narrow halls of mirrors stretched for what seemed like miles in front of them, which wasn’t the case but it sure felt that way. A slight musty smell of dampness hung in the air that made getting free of this place something to really look forward to. Every now and then, a muffled yelp would sound from somewhere else in the House of Mirrors, probably someone being startled by another person or a clown planted somewhere sneaky to scare them. Olivia held Charlotte by the hand and the two held their free hand out in front of them to keep from bumping into a mirror head first. Charlotte giggled as they felt their way through the maze, catching a glimpse of her brother in a mirror beside her.

“Mom! There’s Bubby!” she shouted with glee.

Olivia turned quickly to see Noah’s reflection and said, “We’d better hurry so they don’t beat us!” The two giggled and looked around for another passage when something red caught Olivia’s eye. To her left, at the end of a passage, was a red door. She squinted to see if it was an actual door or just another mirror but she couldn’t tell. “Let’s try this way.” she said as she guided her six year old daughter toward the door. “See that door up ahead?” Olivia asked. “Maybe that’s the way out.”

“What door, mom?” Charlotte asked as they moved forward.

“That red door in front of us. Don’t you see it?” Olivia said.

“I don’t see any door. Just a bunch of mirrors.” Charlotte answered. Olivia stopped to reexamine the door. It looked as real as could be and seemed right in front of them. The gaudy door had aged red paint that was worn away near the dark gold knob, which looked as if it had been opened quite a few times in its day. Ornately carved wood trim framed the door and gave it a very Gothic, sixteenth century look. The door itself had an equally intricate indention in each quarter of it. She imagined it would sound quite solid if knocked on. A door knocker hung in the upper center of it, about level to Olivia’s eyes she noted, since the door seemed perfectly proportional to her. That struck her as a bit odd since she was only five feet four inches tall. Doors were normally much taller than her but this one was just her size.

“That red door just ahead. You don’t see it?” Olivia asked.

“No. Maybe it’s the mirrors tricking you.” Charlotte said.

“Yes, I guess maybe it is.” Olivia said as she reached for the mirror she could see the door in and touched it. It was a mirror alright, but there was definitely a door reflected in it. How come Charlotte couldn’t see it? Even though she thought it odd, Olivia turned them in another direction and began navigating the maze again. She turned back and realized that mirror was the only one reflecting the strange red door. Surely, the door would be reflected in more than just one mirror, she thought. Charlotte pulled at her hand and she focused again on the path in front of them. Another minute of feeling around and a black curtain appeared in front of them.

Bursting through the curtain, Olivia and Charlotte were met with cheers and laughter, followed by “We beat you!” over and over as James and Noah celebrated.

“Awe man!” Charlotte exclaimed. “We shouldn’t have looked for that door, mom!”

“What door?” James asked.

“I thought I saw a red door in one of the mirrors. I was hoping it was the exit but we couldn’t find it.” Olivia explained.

“Well, looks like we’ve got bragging rights, Noah.” James said while he gave his wife a discreet smack on the backside.

“Yeah, yeah. For now. Let’s find another one to do.” she said.

The next amusement they came upon was a slow ride through a haunted house. Thankfully, their kids took after them and loved spooky things. They weren’t phased by haunted houses or Halloween decorations and it’s a good thing. This haunted house ride was creepy with a capital C. There were cobwebs everywhere with spooky skeletons shifting in the slight breeze of the day. A man who was dressed as an eerie butler stood at the entrance, taking tickets and warning guests not to join the dearly departed members of the haunted house.

The mechanical hearses they were loaded into only sat three people each so Olivia agreed to ride by herself. Both of the kids wanted to ride with dad because he would goof around more and they loved that. Dads are always for playtime, of course. It was fine, though. It gave Olivia a chance to really enjoy the spookiness of her favorite type of ride. The cars jerked forward abruptly as they began their slow ride through the haunted house. Creaking and clanking came from the metal pieces keeping them attached to the track underneath them. It was a quiet metallic sound but Olivia thought it added to the atmosphere of the ride. They passed all the typical rooms of a house except these rooms were inhabited by spooks of various types. Some were dolls and props while others were real people acting out their ghostly roles. Olivia thought this was a pretty well done haunted house ride compared to some other circus rides she’d been on.

While enjoying the scenery and laughing at her children being scared by their father in the car ahead of her, Olivia glimpsed a surprising sight. The red door, with all its ornate carvings, stood way off the main stage of the house’s setup. It almost appeared that they didn’t mean for it to be seen. The door was tucked away behind some coffins that had skeletons covered in spider webs hanging out of them. She leaned to the edge of her hearse car to see if there was a way to get to the door and there was, but she was sure the ride would halt if she left her car. She didn’t want to disrupt things for other riders. But why was the same door in two different attractions at this circus? Was there a red door in every attraction? Did it hold some kind of prize or bonus adventure for whomever figured out the red door secret and entered it? She was exploding with curiosity as her car rounded a corner and she lost sight of the mysterious door once more. It took several moments for the urge to lunge back toward the door to pass. What a strange prop. Why had it not been more included in the attractions? Olivia couldn’t wait to get off this ride and see if her husband had seen it this time.

“I didn’t see any door.” James was saying to a noticeably frustrated Olivia.

“She saw it in the mirrors, too.” Charlotte declared while skipping alongside her parents. Ignoring the entire conversation, Noah gasped and pointed at another attraction up ahead.

“Can we go on that?” Noah asked. “I bet Charlotte would love it!” Ahead of the family lay a huge carousel, probably the biggest one they’d ever seen.

“What’s a big carousel like that doing at a circus?” James asked.

“I don’t know. Seems a lot of trouble to pack up and lug around from town to town.” Olivia agreed.

“It looks like something you’d see at Disney or something.” James continued.

“Can we ride it?” Charlotte begged, hopping giddily beside them. Olivia could see why Noah wanted to ride it. He was really into horses and took riding lessons each summer. These wooden horses were so realistic, they looked like they might jump right off the ride and gallop away with the kids still attached. Their brightly painted saddles and reigns had a big number on each one like proper racing horses.

“Of course you can, sweetie.” Olivia answered and the kids took off toward the waiting area which was already about twenty people deep. They still had an hour before the main circus show started. That should be plenty of time to do one more thing before settling into their seats for the main attraction, Olivia reasoned.

“Well, it’s so big that we probably won’t have to wait very long.” James commented and Olivia nodded in agreement. Something else had caught her attention, though. A door. A big, red door in the middle of the carousel flashed at her each time that side of the ride whizzed past them. This time, she chose not to mention it and just stared patiently instead. When the conductor of the attraction began letting riders on, James was surprised to see his wife boarding along with his kids.

“I thought these made you motion sick?” he asked, looking puzzled.

“This one is so big.” she started. “I think maybe I can handle it.”

“Okay, but if your sick butt makes us leave early, the kids are going to be very disappointed.” James warned.

“I know. I’ll be alright.” She mumbled. She was hardly paying attention to him now. She intended to get the horse right next to the door. With some luck, she might even be able to touch it after the ride started. She had no idea why she wanted to do so as strongly as she did but there she was, sitting just five feet from the ever elusive red door.

The music kicked up and the carousel began to creep forward, slowly at first. Olivia didn’t even know where her kids were sitting. She didn’t care. She hardly remembered they were with her at all, to be honest. She just stared at the door as the world moved past her faster and faster. After a few moments, she realized the ride was going to make her sick after all. The only remedy for this, obviously, was to go into the door so she would stop spinning. She could come out again once the music faded and the ride stopped. This plan of action seemed perfectly rational to her. She was throwing a leg over the horse and reaching for the door’s knob before giving it a second thought. The door opened with ease and, just like that, Olivia was stepping through.

Purple wallpaper with white dots greeted her as her eyes adjusted to the brighter lighting. She recognized the room immediately and gasped with pure delight. It was her childhood bedroom, complete with the appropriate furniture and toys of her fondest memories. She’d made some of her best memories in this room before Dad lost his battle with cancer and they’d had to move to a much smaller home in a less friendly neighborhood.

Everything was just how she remembered it. The bed stood in the far left corner, complete with Care Bear bedding and a lace canopy over the top that her father had insisted on getting for his princess. There was a pink vanity on the left of the bed, against the wall, and her very favorite possession to the right of it. Her three story doll house. Every doll was right where she remembered keeping them before they had to be packed up and sold. She rushed to it, running her fingers along the edge of the roof with tears in her eyes. In an instant, she was sitting cross legged on the soft carpet in front of the doll house, moving the mommy doll from the kitchen to the upstairs bedroom to wake the children. A girl doll and a boy doll lay in their beds as mommy doll moved to wake them for another perfect day of breakfast, school, and dinner with the family. The pet dog, a fluffy golden retriever waited patiently to be moved into his position under the breakfast table for whatever scraps the boy doll could sneak to him without getting caught.


When the carousel slowed to a stop, Charlotte and Noah jumped off and ran around to meet their dad. James stood patiently, waiting for his most likely motion sick wife to join them. When all the other riders were off and the conductor began letting new riders on, James sighed an annoyed breath and began walking around to the other side to collect his wife. He was certain she was bent over trying to hold her lunch in. When he made it all the way around to the entrance again, he stopped and puzzled for a moment.

“Where’s your mom?” he asked the kids. Charlotte and Noah both shrugged and stared back at him.

“I don’t think she likes those kinds of rides.” Noah answered.

“She doesn’t but she got on with you guys for some reason.” James said while studying the crowd mingling around the carousel. “Lets walk around in a big circle and see if we can spot her.” he said to the kids. They followed behind James without showing much concern. Their mom had never gone missing before so they had no reason to be alarmed. James, on the other hand, thought this was a very strange situation indeed. There really wasn’t very far that she could’ve gone and he was standing at the entrance and exit the whole time. She would’ve had to jump the railing on the other side of the carousel to avoid him seeing her. Why would she do that?


Olivia was completely immersed in her doll house, guiding its occupants to and from their various activities, when she remembered her coloring books. She loved to color. Her parents always had at least one of her masterpieces on the fridge at any given time. The bin of coloring books were right where she remembered them, along with her crayons. Olivia took the books out one at a time looking for just the right subject matter to decorate today. A book of kittens was on top of the stack and she almost chose it right away, until she lifted it and saw the book of Disney princesses under it. Daddy was always calling her a princess and she always loved it. She would make him a special drawing of a princess today. He would love that!


After walking around the circus grounds for fifteen minutes with no luck, James and his children sought out the nearest security guard who happened to be standing near some portable restrooms. He must’ve seen the look on James’s face because he perked up and immediately asked if he’d lost someone.

“Yes. I seem to have lost my wife, actually.” James answered sheepishly.

“Well, this is a big circus. People tend to get separated sometimes. What was she wearing?” the guard asked. James paused for a moment and realized he couldn’t quite remember all of a sudden. His heart rate spiked in that moment. It suddenly felt much more real that Olivia was missing, now that he had to describe her clothing. Just then, he remembered a picture he’d taken of her with the kids in front of the entrance to the circus. She’d said it was a good idea to have a picture of the kids in case they got separated. James had jokingly suggested she get in the picture, too. She laughed and posed with her children. James was now showing that picture to the security guard because his wife was missing.

“We have a missing person. White female with blonde hair wearing blue jeans and a pink top with a white sweater. Pink shoes.” he said into his radio. Immediately, a voice answered and asked her height. The guard looked at James. He hesitated and then guessed that she was five foot five inches. Or was it five foot seven inches? James was becoming more and more flustered with each passing minute.

“Five foot Five inches. Last seen on the carousel.” he reported to the radio’s static filled ear. “Come with me, Sir. Your kids, too. We can look at the surveillance cameras while they canvas the grounds.” the guard instructed. He walked them to a trailer set back behind the main circus tent. On their way into the mobile command unit, James noticed six uniformed security personnel coming out of another smaller trailer. They were walking with purpose into the crowd and then split in six different directions through the crowds of people.

“Are they looking for Olivia?” James asked.

“Yes. We take missing people very seriously here, no matter their age. If your wife is here, we’ll find her.” the guard answered. Then, he looked up from the computer keyboard and noticed the worried look on James’s face and realized some calming words were needed. “I’m sure she just ducked into another tent thinking you guys were right behind her, though. Happens all the time.” he said. James looked him in the eyes and nodded even though his gut said that was probably not the case. He had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach that he was trying to hide from his children.


Olivia’s chosen picture was of Sleeping Beauty as she lay in her bed waiting for Prince Charming to awaken her. Each crayon was chosen with care to show a princess in a pretty pink dress with flowing blonde hair and red roses clasped to her chest. Olivia took much care with every space that she colored in, tracing the section before coloring it so she stayed inside the lines. That’s a trick Mommy taught her and she loved the way it made her pictures look. After finishing that picture, Olivia took a few more books out until she found a book of mazes. Her favorite! She was so happy to see that only half the book’s mazes had been completed, too. She turned to an untouched maze and began to guide her crayon through it, making sure to look ahead before choosing a new path to try.


Three hours later and the police were standing in front of James as his children looked on with tears in their eyes. Olivia was no where to be found. A report was being taken and James felt numb. His mother in law was on her way to pick up the children so he could focus more completely on the task of finding his wife. A kind circus employee was handing each of his kids a stuffed animal and asking if they wanted to meet a real acrobat. Just then, a young woman in a leotard walked in and invited the kids into the next room to talk about performing in a circus. James felt relief as he watched them leave the room. He wasn’t sure how much longer he could keep from breaking down. How could this happen? Grown adults don’t just disappear from the circus, right? That’s what happens to kids but not to grown women, right? His mind raced and he struggled to focus on the questions Officer Stuart was asking him.

“Do you know of any reason why your wife might want to leave?” the office asked flatly.

“Not at all.” James stammered. “We have a happy marriage and two beautiful children. She would never just leave.” He could no longer fight the tears that had been threatening an entrance for the last hour. They felt hot on his face and flooded his chin now, as if they’d been waiting patiently for him to drop his guard for just a moment. As much as he tried to fight it, James’s mind kept going back to Olivia’s story about the circus being cursed and people going missing. He felt ridiculous asking but he felt he must bring it up, just in case these officers knew something he didn’t.

“What about all the disappearances that happen at this circus?” James asked. He could feel the cop’s look of annoyance before the guy had even looked up from his paperwork.

“We don’t specialize in the paranormal. If you want help with that, you’ll have to call the Ghost Busters.” the officer said with a smirk.

“Can we at least rewind the cameras and find her getting on the carousel? Then we can see where she went when it stopped.” James suggested.

“Yes. That, we can do. That, we will do.” the cop said while giving James a look that suggested if he had anything to confess, he should do it now. After several minutes of messing with the video, the officer found footage of the family getting on the carousel. James stayed behind while the two kids and Olivia boarded the ride and chose their horses. Olivia seemed to choose one on the inner part of the carousel, which made it harder to see her while the ride was moving. James and the officer watched her pink shirt and white sweater pass the camera each time the carousel made a complete circle. Suddenly, James shouted to pause the recording. The officer nearly jumped out of his skin.

“Look! Her white sweater isn’t there anymore.” James urged.

“Are you sure?” the officer asked as he backed up the footage, frame by frame. “I’ll be damned.” he mumbled.

“Where did she go?” James asked with panic in his voice. “She got motion sick pretty easy. She couldn’t have jumped off without being sick or hurting herself.” he added.

“That is strange. I don’t see her getting off but I do see her getting on.” the officer thought out loud. “Hey, buddy.” he said to a security guard. “Is there any other way to get off this carousel while it’s moving? Or another exit?” the cop asked.

“Nah, man. One way on. One way off.” the circus security guard answered. It wasn’t really his answer that caught James’s attention, though. It was the knowing look he gave James that the cop didn’t see. The look that communicated to James that he’d asked the correct question. What was up with all those disappearances? The officer reviewed the video a few more times and then asked to take it with him.

“I think we’ve got all the information we need for now. Take your kids and go home for the night. We’ll be in contact in the morning. Here’s my card, in case she turns up.” Officer Stuart said. His eyes held deep suspicion and it felt aimed at James, although he couldn’t for the life of him think of why.

“Thank you. Will you guys keep looking for her?” James asked with a shaky voice.

“We will.” the officer answered. “And Mr. Andrews.” Officer Stuart added.

“Yes?” James said as he turned toward the room the kids were in.

“Don’t leave town any time soon.” the officer instructed. James knew exactly what he meant by that. He’d seen enough movies to know when the cops suspected the husband. It was usually the husband, after all. James knew the statistics. But he also knew that is wasn’t the husband this time.


Olivia had moved from her book of mazes to a tea set her grandma and grandpa had given her. It was made of real porcelain and clinked when she tapped the cups together. As she sat a stuffed animal in each chair at her little table, she wished she had water to put into the tea pot. She was getting a little thirsty and thought Mommy wouldn’t mind if she filled the tea pot in the bathroom sink, just this once. Taking the little kettle, Olivia opened her bedroom door and stepped into the hall that lead to the bathroom. No sooner had she stepped over the threshold than she was stepping back into her bedroom. What a strange trick her mind was playing on her, she thought. Hearing the door close behind her again, she turned and opened it. She could clearly see the hallway and the open bathroom door at the end of it. However, when she stepped out of her room she walked right back into it again.

She looked down at the tea pot in her left hand and saw the ring on her forth finger. It was a big, beautiful diamond set in smaller stones around it. She really did look like a princess, she thought. Then, she saw a flash of a man in her mind’s eye. A handsome man with a pretty smile. Two children were beside him, a girl and a boy. Olivia struggled for a moment to remember who these figures in her memory were. Then, in a dizzying moment of clarity, she remembered everything. She and James were at the circus. Charlotte and Noah were with them. There was a door. A red door. Then, she was in this room. Her room. But was it her room? How could it be? This room didn’t exist anymore. At least not in this form. It was someone else’s room now and it had been for a long time.

The porcelain tea pot fell from her hand and bounced on the plush carpet. Olivia was suddenly aware of her own body again. She was thirsty and she needed a restroom. Her eyes darted around the room in a way that they hadn’t before, looking for a way out instead of admiring her childhood memories. The windows were still bright and sunny, even though it felt like she’d been there for hours. Spotting the chair at her vanity, she picked it up and swung it at the window, hesitating for only a moment before doing so. It still felt a bit wrong to desecrate a place with such sentimental value to her but this was not her childhood home. This suddenly felt more like a cage and she wanted out of it.


Four days had passed since their fateful visit to the circus. Four days since Olivia had vanished without a trace. Police visited their house several times a day, trying to piece together what might have happened to James’s wife. The kids were staying with their grandma, just until things settled down James thought. Just until I find Olivia, he thought. Unshaven and hardly showered, James was wearing the same thing he’d put on the day after she went missing. Every day was spent driving around in circles looking for her or jumping every time his cell phone rang. He couldn’t sit still for five minutes without thinking of some new place he hadn’t looked yet. Sleep was damn near impossible so he didn’t really even try much. Grown ass women don’t just disappear, he kept telling himself.


Olivia was curled in the fetal position. Her childhood room lay in ruins. Every piece of furniture that she could pick up had been thrown at the windows. Neither of them had broken or even cracked under the onslaught. The My Little Pony trash can was the only thing still upright and sat in the corner of the room, smelling of urine and feces. Olivia was trapped. She’d tried to walk out of that door a few dozen times with no success. Now, too weak to stand, she had no idea how long she’d been here. The sun still shone through the windows as brightly as the moment she’d walked in. Glancing up at the door, she decided she’d try one more time. If she crawled back into this room, she’d give up. Admit defeat. Whisper her goodbyes to her family and close her eyes. But she had to try. One. More. Time.

Mustering the little bit of strength she had left in her, Olivia crawled slowly toward the door. That damned door. It wasn’t red inside of her room but it was on the other side. Each time she opened it, she saw that same carved, red door that she’d been so intrigued with at the circus. Her intrigue was long gone now. She just wanted out. Lifting herself just high enough so that she could reach the knob, Olivia grabbed hold of it and turned. The door opened easily, as it had every time, and she stared through the doorway expecting to see the same hallway she’d seen for god knows how many days now. Only, she didn’t see the hallway this time. She saw only darkness. A blackened emptiness that was new to her.

With a bit of excitement, as much as a woman thirsting to death can feel anyway, Olivia pulled and crawled her way through the doorway into this new, dark room. The light faded to pitch black as the door slowly closed behind her. With it, her last hopes of getting free of this place faded, too. However, once the door was closed, a light flickered into existence from the ceiling. Just as her eyes were adjusting to the much more dimly lit room, her nose was also adjusting to a different smell in this new environment. The smell of decay. Silhouettes began to take shape along the walls of the room. At first, they seemed like piles of clothing or blankets. The more she looked, though, the more they took on the forms of people. But these people looked as poorly as Olivia felt. They were laying on the ground or slumped in a sitting position against the walls. One man sat only a few feet away from her and Olivia inched closer to him to ask where they were. As she neared him, her hand touched something wet on the floor. It was slimy and seemed to seep from the man’s clothes.

It was at this moment that Olivia realized quite suddenly that these people were not sleeping. They were dead. The room was filled with them. Each one was rotting into the floor, as if it were slowly absorbing them. A scream tried to leave her but Olivia was simply too weak to release it. Instead, her mouth opened and shut again. She had no more energy to exert. The effort of getting through the door this last time was all she’d had left in her. Wishing for the childhood room she’d been trapped in felt almost as cruel as allowing her to leave it for this hell on earth. With grave acceptance, Olivia laid her head on the oddly warm floor and closed her eyes. Thoughts of her children passed through her mind as she finally rested. The circus had taken her, fair and square. It had lured her in and trapped her like a mouse in a cage. And it was feeding time.


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