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    21 – Hell Mall

    Ghoul, Interrupted

    By Tucker Burns

    STATEN ISLAND, NEW YORK — The average employee at the Staten Island Fashion Square Mall receives three hours of training, during which they learn such skills as how to use the credit card machine and the folding board. Of course, neither of those skills came in useful when the spirits of deceased mental patients made the mall their new home.

    Over the past several weeks, several mall employees lashed out against their co-workers and customers in violent episodes. One of the most gruesome occurred inside youth retailer Fashism. “Brandi was always a model employee — until she went nuts and jabbed a pair of scissors into our manager Stefaney’s eye,” said Connor, who was recently promoted to Stephaney’s position. “At Fashism we want to be known for hip clothes at reasonable prices, not brutal murders.”

    The Fashism attack came on the heels of an incident at the Piercing Pagoda and an impaling at Weiner-on-a-Stick. Searching for an explanation, this reporter went deep undercover as a perfume salesman. There, I worked closely with my new manager/mentor Anthony.

    “From the first time I saw him, I knew there was something weird about that Anthony guy,” said Wes Freewald, a Chronicle staff photographer. “When he started yelling in German and shooting fireballs at people, my suspicions were confirmed.”

    After Anthony’s fiery rampage, he ran to a balcony and jumped into the masses of shoppers below. When this reporter ran to the scene, I noticed an old woman, Velma, whose bizarre behavior had caught my eye earlier in the day. However, when I approached Velma this time, my arm went through her, as if she were a ghost. Later, I found Velma again. But this time, she turned into a mist and leapt down my throat. After that, she had possession of my body. I have no memory of anything that occurred during her possession of my mortal frame.

    Meanwhile, Chronicle researcher Sal set to work figuring out what had happened to Anthony. “I was able to connect Anthony’s actions to an abandoned mental hospital known as the Shady Oaks Sanitarium for the Criminally Insane,” Sal said. “Apparently, Anthony was possessed by a former Shady Oaks patient who was acting out his violent behavior through a host body.”

    Later, Freewald and Chronicle reporter Grace Hall figured out how the spirits traveled from Shady Oaks to the mall. “The spirits attached themselves to objects in Shady Oaks, which were being taken to the mall to make this hideous sculpture,” Freewald said. “I can’t fault them. If I were a dead crazy person, I’d probably do the same thing.”

    That night, Hall and Freewald found my body fully under Velma’s control. Velma was using me to try to reenact the crimes that sent her to Shady Oaks in the first place: vivisecting her patients and removing their vital organs while they were still conscious.

    However, Hall and Freewald came prepared to rid the mall of the haunting. “When the mental patients were alive, they were most afraid of Electro-Convulsive Therapy,” Sal said. “To get those psycho spirits out of there, we knew we’d have to shock them.”

    Soon, Freewald, Hall and Velma (still using my body as a host) returned to the mall to complete the mission. However, just as Hall and Freewald were about to rid the mall of the spirits, Velma attacked.

    “He tried to cut me open, then he locked us inside the mall,” Hall said. “Of course, Wes and I realized we were going to have to get the Velma out of Tucker somehow, if for no other reason then as a professional courtesy.”

    And so they did. After a struggle, Hall and Freewald tossed Velma into the sculpture just as they sent several hundred amps of electricity coursing through it. “The ghosts flew out of the sculpture, and Velma flew out of Tucker’s mouth,” Freewald said. “Tucker was back, the ghosts were gone, and we had to get out there fast before the cops came.”

    Back at the Staten Island Fashion Square Mall, things are slowly returning to normal. “Everyone’s been taking extra precautions, just to be on the safe side, but we feel like we have our mall back,” Connor said. “And once we get rid of the satanic cult that controls Pottery Barn, this’ll finally be a great place to work again.”

    “Hell Mall”

    Written by Michael Shear & Patrick Sean Smith
    Directed by David M. Barrett