In the world of paranormal research and storytelling, there are tales that come with a chilling, inexplicable quality, echoing through generations. As the author of The Empty Lot Next Door, I’ve always found myself drawn to stories nestled in the gray area between reality and legend. My current pursuit, the haunting of Candle Face, has pushed me deeper into this twilight realm than ever before.
To uncover the mysteries behind Candle Face, I sought out an 82-year-old gentleman who held knowledge of the tragic fire on Ben Howell Drive in Austin, TX. For reasons of his own safety and privacy, he chose the pseudonym, Mr. John Doe. He agreed to this interview on one condition: absolute anonymity.
What follows is a transcript of our dialogue. I had a mere ten minutes to unravel years of history with Mr. Doe, a constraint that lent urgency to every question. The interview explores not only the fire’s genesis but also the spine-chilling encounters with the ghost known as Candle Face.
Interview date: Oct 30, 2023
Location: Austin, Texas
Arthur: Mr. Doe, did you live near Ben Howell Drive in the 1960s or 1970s?
John Doe: Indeed, my family and I lived a stone’s throw from Ben Howell Drive. Our time there spanned from the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s. Once my children had all wed, we bid farewell to the neighborhood.
Arthur: There was a devastating fire in May 1969 on Ben Howell. Do you recall it, and if so, what do you remember?
John Doe: The father was cleaning a car carburetor with gasoline in the kitchen. One of his sons inadvertently knocked over the gas can, spilling its contents while the mother was cooking. It was an accident waiting to happen. The gasoline or its fumes ignited rapidly, engulfing the house in flames. I believe there were several children in the home; all escaped with severe burns. But the father couldn’t locate his youngest son, a mere two-year-old. Assuming the boy had returned to the house, he, his wife, and his mother rushed back into the inferno. The flames forced them to retreat. However, the father, driven by paternal instinct, tried to re-enter, but a crowd of onlookers held him back. Firefighters eventually entered the blazing structure, but initially, no body was found, leading everyone to believe the boy was lost in the neighborhood. A frantic search ensued, with over two hundred people calling his name, possibly Paul, though I’m not certain. Tragically, they later discovered his body in the kitchen. I vividly recall the boy’s mother, inconsolable on the curb across the street from her house, surrounded by comforting neighbors. Strangely, the father was arrested that night, reportedly for a parole violation unrelated to the fire. It was a cruel twist of fate; the police should have shown leniency, allowing him to tend to his injured family and grieve his lost child.
Arthur: You said the child’s name was Paul? Do you know if one of the other children was named Griffin?
John Doe: I believe the two-year-old was Paul, not Griffin. I’ve never heard of the name Griffin.
Arthur: As you’re aware, I moved to the house adjacent to the empty lot where that house once stood. According to rumors...
John Doe: (Interrupting) What rumors have you heard? Speak up.
Arthur: When we settled into the house in 1976, I was only four. The local children spun a tale of a little boy causing the fire by playing with matches near the water heater, resulting in the entire family’s demise, purportedly buried in the backyard due to financial constraints...
John Doe: (Laughing heartily for a couple of minutes) Children have a fondness for fabricating tales. It’s a part of growing up. No, there were no backyard burials, and only the little boy perished in the fire, not the whole family. Your book mentioned this, and I remember finding it amusing.
Arthur: As detailed in my book, The Empty Lot Next Door, I began experiencing dreams about a little girl emerging from the hole in the back of the lot...
John Doe: (Chuckling again) A hole, yes, but why would there be a hole there?
Arthur: Perhaps an old, collapsed septic tank?
John Doe: Unlikely, as the houses in that area [South Austin] aren’t equipped with septic tanks. It might just be a hole. Don’t fret over it (still chuckling).
Arthur: Mr. Doe, I recall standing around that hole with my friends. Randy, one of the oldest kids, dared anyone to jump in, warning that the ghost of a little girl would haunt the jumper. One evening, I took the plunge. Soon after, a little girl with charred features began haunting my dreams and even left handprints on my windows, proving her existence.
John Doe: But there’s no certainty she was buried there. Why did you jump in the first place?
Arthur: I was often overlooked as the smallest kid. I sought something to distinguish myself from my brother Ricky’s shadow, to be recognized for my own deed.
John Doe: Whatever your motivations, it seems you might have awakened Candle Face. I doubt she was buried there; perhaps the hole served as a portal. But what do I know, you’re the investigator (spoken condescendingly).
Arthur: If it's a portal, should I attempt to close it to stop Candle Face?
John Doe: You’re the investigator. Now you’re starting to sound like a movie (sounding irritated).
Arthur: Mr. Doe, you believe in Candle Face, I presume.
John Doe: Absolutely, it’s better to believe, just in case. It’s akin to an insurance policy. If you believe, you’re safe. If not, you might end up with a visit.
Arthur: Now you sound like a movie (I remarked, to which John Doe didn’t react). But how do you know this? How are you certain that Candle Face preys on skeptics?
John Doe: I’ve heard tales for years. Rumor has it she targets skeptics who lead degenerate lives, though not exclusively. Some of her victims are upstanding citizens. So, belief is prudent, just in case. Besides, I’ve encountered her firsthand.
Arthur: You’ve seen her?
John Doe: Yes, around 1990, while walking my dog near the creek you mentioned in your book, at the intersection of Wilson and El Paso Streets. I saw what looked like a young girl with long dark hair, seemingly bathing in the water. We locked eyes. I kept trying to see better. I thought I heard a voice asking, “Do you believe?” Perhaps it was the wind, but I whispered “yes,” just in case. She continued her actions. I never saw her again, but I heard stories, not specifically about Candle Face, but of a little girl ghost. But I knew it was her. In a sick way, I hoped it was her. If so, I knew I wouldn’t be next.
Arthur: Mr. Doe, do you think Candle Face is still out there?
John Doe: I do. I’m a believer. Interestingly, after you contacted me in July, I dreamt of Candle Face warning me against talking to you. But recently, she reappeared in my dream, encouraging me to reveal everything. Any idea why she might’ve had a change of heart?
Arthur: No, I don’t. But as you said, I’m the investigator; I aim to find out. Sir, you mentioned in a phone call in July that you had information about Candle Face prior to me awakening her. What can you tell me?
John Doe: Well, all I know is I saw her with my own two eyes in 1990. That was well before you wrote your book. I didn’t know you or your story back then. That’s what I was referring to.
Arthur: Do you think others in the community may have encountered Candle Face or have knowledge of her existence? Your sighting of Candle Face raises the possibility of additional witnesses or sources who might shed more light on the history and nature of Candle Face. You said you have heard tales of a little girl ghost, can you provide me the names of other people who may have additional information?
John Doe: I know of a few people, mostly my age, some younger around your age. They may not talk since they’re not believers like me.
Arthur: If there’re nonbelievers, then they have nothing to worry about…
John Doe: (interrupting) You can still be scared if you don’t believe. And you should be scared. But I’m not going to ask them, do your own investigation.
Arthur: Fair enough. Sir, is there anything else you would like to add?
John Doe: Yes, be cautious in your quest. You might find what you’re looking for. And when you do, remember, belief is an insurance policy.
Arthur: Thank you for your time, Mr. Doe.
The interview with Mr. John Doe adds a tangible layer to the haunting of Candle Face, providing invaluable insights and reinforcing the necessity of belief. As I go deeper into this mystery, I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” The pursuit of understanding Candle Face and her realm continues, bearing testament to the mysteries that lie just beyond the veil of our understanding.
To ensure readers grasp the full context and significance of this article, it’s crucial to have familiarity with Arthur Mills’ award-winning memoir The Empty Lot Next Door, inspired by actual ghostly events in Austin, TX. The book provides essential background information, and without it, the nuances and depth of this article might not be fully appreciated. Therefore, reading The Empty Lot Next Door is highly recommended for a more enriched and coherent understanding of this article’s content and implications.
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