The Sťance

by Chuck Gentry

It was just one of a thousand endless summer days in the South Charleston hills.  The elementary school bell heard far and wide in the upper Montrose valley was for a time silent, and during those most prized months, kids in that seemingly ordinary place were truly King.

The Flynn and Casto brothers were neighbors and lived practically in the shadow of Montrose Elementary.  Their back yards actually opened up to the playground behind the school.  The brothers Casto and Flynn might as well have been one family.  It was an inventive, mischievous and fun-loving alliance.  There always seemed to be a project, something new to create, or just some new thing to be exploited for the pure entertainment value.

The older of the boys, Paul and Reese Casto, along with Paul Flynn had come up with a great idea for some summertime entertainment.  They would have a sťance for their younger brothers and their little friends.

The preparations for the gathering were made, and in short order, the younger brothers, David Flynn, and Doug Casto along with several of their friends were informed of the planned commune with the spirit world.  There was a great deal of excitement and anticipation amongst the little ones.

The Flynn's basement was readied.  There was a large open space in the basement on the backside of the house.  A table was set up for all of the participants, and all of the windows were shielded from the light.  There was also an adjoining room with a thin curtain to separate it from the main area.  Paul and Reese Casto would use this area as the "control room".

The time for our special gathering had arrived.  Paul Flynn and I brought the boys together, and after making certain that they had assumed the properly respectful and somber attitudes necessary for such an occasion, we escorted them downstairs to the meeting place.  When we arrived, the room was quite dark, and we seated ourselves around the table.  Little David Flynn sat very quietly to my right.

Paul began the proceedings with an incantation, and asked that the spirits know that we meant no harm, and that we only seek their guidance.  Paul then lit a small candle on the table.  As he lit it, the candle crackled ominously (think volcano model).  Clearly this was no ordinary gathering!  Paul thanked the spirits for joining the gathering, and continued to ask for their presence.  Little David quietly slipped his now trembling little hand under the table into mine for comfort.

Paul continued his incantations and loudly asked the spirits to show themselves and to give a sign of their presence.  At that instant, one of the boys in the control room pulled the appropriate string, and a dart dropped from the ceiling and planted itself in the center of the table.  The boys all gasped in horror, and little David's hand instantly tightened in mine.  The little fellows were terrified (YAY!!!)!

Paul again assured the spirits that those gathered meant them no harm.  He asked more signs or their presence.  Again on cue, the boys in the control room set to work pulling the necessary strings, and a telephone began to mysteriously dial itself.  The boys around the table were amazed!  A rocking chair also began to rock, and pictures on the wall began to wiggle.  As Paul continued to speak, the room was now alive with a mysterious, invisible energy.  Little David maintained his tight, trembling grip on my hand.

Paul thanked the spirits for coming and for demonstrating their presence peacefully.  Then, with the slightly detectable sound of a phonograph record, the beginnings of a thunderstorm could begin to be heard.

Paul, reacting quickly to the sounds of the storm brewing assured the spirits, "We come in peace!"  "We mean you no harm!"  Still the sound of the storm increased, and the chairs, pictures, and other items in the basement began to move even more violently.  A chorus of moans and wailing from the control room was now added to the sound.  Paul pleaded ever loudly with the spirits, but to no avail.  By this point, little David was shaking uncontrollably and was maintaining a death grip on my hand.

During a thunder burst, one of the control room boys set off a photoflash for added effect.  Little Dougie was facing the control room during the flash and noticed the outline of one of the boys behind the thin curtain.  He immediately shouted, "Hey, there's somebody back there!"  Paul Casto, realizing that the plan was about to be exposed, made for a quick exit through the window on the backside of the control room.  Paul Flynn pretended not to notice all the commotion and continued to plead loudly with the spirits.

Reese Casto continued to work the controls, and as Paul Casto crawled out the window to make his escape, he looked back and whispered loudly, "Reese, Reese!"  Little Dougie, heard this and said angrily, "Hey, he said Reese!"  Paul Flynn, responding quickly, "It wasn't Reese, but Peace, Peace!"  "The spirits are pleased!!!"

By this time, Reese had dropped everything to make his getaway through the window.  The music still played loudly, and we all tried to run as much interference as possible to slow the pursuit.  The younger boys were able get past us and they ran around out the back door to try to catch the Casto brothers.  By the time they reached the front of the house, Paul had already gone inside, and Reese sat casually reading a magazine on the front porch.

In the end, the boys did in fact figure things out.  I'm not sure what life lesson they may have taken from it all.  Maybe it was some useful life lesson along the lines of how you should never totally trust your older brother or his friends, with that much spare time to and energy to kill.  I doubt in any case, there was any permanent psychological scarring from the event.  Just all in the name of good fun and mischief.

It was indeed a special time, and a special place, but most of all it is the people that I remember now.  How ordinary and permanent it all seemed!  I couldn't have been more wrong.  The older I get though, the more comfortable I am with being wrong.

Contact Chuck: clodhoppers [at]

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