THE HAUNT is open to the living, December 7th-10th, only in Miami. Keep scrolling to discover the otherworldly stories of the people whose after hours parties turned into afterlife parties...
After weeks of fighting, she awoke in her bed. She’d caught a pesky bout of meningitis, but she wasn’t going to let that stop her. She got out of bed and drew her messy hair back into a bun, just how she liked to wear it.
Dead or not, she had a town to run.
Miami was finally growing now that she’d convinced the ilroad company to expand here.
She left her house and walked down the main road, which was quieter than usual. This was her life’s work. A school. A town hall. A post office. A bank. She wasn’t satisfied though. If this was her legacy, she wanted to make sure Miami had everything it needed to exist without her.
Her spirit lingered on the beach, contemplating what she left behind. As she saw the moonlight dance against the water, it came to her. She knew what it was missing. A place for people to gather. Not for any reason, but just to converse with one another about what was happening, and how to continue to grow the city without her there.
Around the beach was dense brush, but she knew this was the spot. People would call her crazy, but where others saw ruins, she saw incredible potential. This was where it would be built.
And that is how The Haunt came to be. It became a place for souls to retreat, those who didn’t want to go anywhere else. And why would Julia? She went out of her way to get here. And now she could sit back, relax, and greet the eternal spirits of her city.
She had everything in life she ever wanted. A thriving career, a wonderful family, a successful retirement, purpose.
Her spirit lingered in front of the lot that was once the Biscaya Hotel, the beautiful historic hotel that she fought so hard to keep, but failed.
She managed to save so many buildings, but this one slipped away from her.
As she stood there, she recalled that day in 1987: people cheering as the building went down, the newscasters calling it “The eyesore of the beach”.
The hotel wasn’t the eyesore, the tourists were.
She continued to stroll up to North Beach. In some ways, she preferred the afterlife. She could gaze at the colorful buildings
instead of dealing with the people wanting to get rid of them.
On a side street of the beach, something caught her eye. On a newsstand, the headline from today’s paper: DEVELOPER TO TEAR DOWN OCEAN TERRACE DISTRICT. She couldn’t believe
it. She couldn’t save the Biscaya, but she still had a chance to save Ocean Terrace.
Her spirit found a new place to linger– in front of Ocean Terrace Hotel, with her picket sign.
Sometimes she’d see other spirits wander in and out of the abandoned hotel, but she paid no mind to where they were going. She had a mission.
Until one day, at last, she saw another headline from a paper blowing in the wind: MIAMI VOTERS REJECT DEMOLITION OF OCEAN TERRACE. Her eyes welled with tears. She did it, again, and felt that same familiar rush.
A colorfully dressed woman– or was it a man?– walked passed her into the hotel entrance.
“You comin’ in for a drink?”
This was news worth celebrating. She followed the person into the strangest place she’d ever seen. A vibrant bar buzzing with life, filled with all the people just like her. The ones who never wanted to leave Miami.
She took a seat on a comfortable couch, leaning her picket sign against the wall. This wasn’t a bad place to pass the time, but she knew it was only temporary. When duty calls, Barbara will be right there, back at the front of the picket line.
He woke up. It was another beautiful day. He put on his signature Hawaiian shirt, and left to go to the best job in the world.
He walked up the bar he’d owned for 50 years. The usual sign was missing, replaced with the flickering words, “The Haunt”. He scratched his head, puzzled. He didn’t authorize this. He was going to have to figure out who was behind it.
However, when he swung open the door, his staff was nowhere to be seen.
Instead, his bar was filled with colorful characters– people very different from the usual colorful characters.
People he recognized, people he didn’t. People who dressed in strange ways and people of all colors and ages. While this describes the usual crowd at the bar, something was different.
Then, someone caught his eye: a celebrity from back when the bar was still a well kept local secret. He was brutally murdered, and yet, here he was, laughing and drinking like he did back then. He was getting old.
His mind must be playing tricks on him.
As he weaved through the crowd, a woman dressed in a long dress and turtleneck ruffles gazed at him sideways. She carried herself in a way that felt like she was plucked out of another time, as if she were both completely out of place and yet belonged.
As he approached the bar, he saw a person with his back turned that he instantly knew. How could it be possible? He hadn’t seen the guy in at least 30 years.
The man at the bar turned around and smiled: It was one of his veteran buddies from when he first moved to Miami Beach on doctor’s orders.
“You gonna fix me up the usual?” the man asked casually.
“W-what are you doing here?” he gasped.
“Waiting on you. We’ve all been waiting on you.”
He stepped behind the bar, and stared out at his favorite place. The only thing he loved as much as he loved his beloved wife. He began to fix a drink for his old friend.
Mac had the best job in the world. And he was honored to do it forever.
He had never ridden on a plane before.
His parents told him he was going to another country called America on the plane. They told him he was going for boarding school for the summer. His older brother Ernesto was going to go with him, so there was nothing to worry about. They kissed him and hugged him and promised they would join them shortly.
When the plane took off, he watched out of the window as all the cars began to look like ants, then the buildings transformed into toy houses, and eventually he could see the outline of the island, just like on his map at home.
He didn’t know that was the last time he would ever see Cuba, or his parents.
When they arrived in America, a nice pastor who spoke Spanish took care of them. They lived in a house with other Cuban children just like him, who didn’t have parents. It was fun at first, until the summer passed, and he realized it wasn’t boarding school. None of them were going back.
As the days passed, the parents of many of the other children started to come. Eventually, Ernesto was old enough to work, and they were now on their own.
Ernesto would work at the local cantina washing dishes after school. After school every day, he would go to the cantina and do his homework while he waited for Ernesto to finish and take him home. He cherished those days. There was still a glimmer of hope that he and his brother would fondly look back on this time they spent together while they waited for their parents.
Days turned into years, and he grew older. He made friends, and alongside them transformed the city of Miami’s identity. He met a girl. He graduated. Got married. Had children of his own. Had grandchildren, and took his last breath happily with everyone by his side.
And yet, when his soul was finally free, he ended up back here. As a little boy in the cantina, that blissful time where he still had hope. Life was almost perfect; if only he could wait here forever, certain they would join him...
He strolled joyfully out of his Ocean Drive villa that morning. Normally his assistant would grab his coffee, but today was a good day. He could afford to stop and smell the flowers. But instead, on that fateful morning, he stopped and smelled the gunpowder.
He made it back to his doorstep when the sound of gunshots filled the air. He dropped to the steps quickly, dodging them by a hair. He jumped up and bolted down the block.
He pulled out his cellphone in attempt to call the police, but his phone had no reception.
There was no time to waste. He needed to go somewhere he could get help. However, something was off. The streets of South Beach were bustling a minute ago. But now, there was not a person in sight, not a single establishment open.
He came across the building, vibrant with signs of life. A club? Open at this hour? Well, it is Miami. He quickly shuffled into The Haunt.
He hung up his blazer, and greeted the bartender, whose outfit looked like he was trapped in 1979. Then he had to remind himself that, not everyone has the taste of a world famous fashion designer.
He tried calling Donatella. Then Santo. Then the police again. What was wrong with his phone? The news would get out eventually, he just needed to wait it out.
Little did he know, the news did get out. Twenty years ago, headlines gripped the papers that Gianni was murdered. Shot dead on his doorstep. His spirit couldn’t stand to see his beautiful steps stained with blood, everything he built senselessly gone in a second. So he ran to the place all spirits go to escape.
A place he can dance forever, a place where he never lost everything.
His phone still has no reception.
By night, she got kicked out of clubs and made headlines about them the next morning. She would take pictures with adoring fans, and also take verbal abuse from those who didn’t understand what she did.
But by day, he took all that off and lived as a relatively normal guy.
So imagine his surprise when a man showed up at the door with a gun, pointed at him.
When he answered the door, he was extremely confused. He always knew he was taking a risk when he dressed in drag, but to be faced with a gun while visiting a friend in the suburbs? While he wasn’t dressed as her?
Those questions were never answered.
He felt like he was meant to be there that night. His friend had a baby, and that baby needed a mother. The gunman was going to shoot whoever opened that door.
He was also meant to be somewhere else that night. She had a performance scheduled at a new club, and regardless of her reputation for debauchery, she never went back on her commitments. So her spirit went home and got ready. She began to paint her face– the cheekbones. The highlight. The wig. The heels.
The brand new skin tight gown she made just to wear for all eternity.
She had never heard of THE HAUNT, but she was willing to go anywhere that welcomed her with open arms.
Inside the humble establishment, restless spirits from different eras all stood around, sipping sparkly beverages. The DJ was a man in a sparkly superhero cape playing distorted disco music. Yup, she was definitely in the right place.
She cat walked up to him.
“Hi babe. I’m scheduled to perform here tonight. I’m Queen Wanda.”
The man looked back at her, confused.
“There’s no concept of time here,” he responded cryptically.
Before she could say anything, the dance floor she was standing on suddenly lit up, illuminating the room. The light reflected on the faces of the other spirits, all looking to her in anticipation.
She took a deep breath, and stepped out on the floor: It was time to begin her never-ending performance.
He’d traveled the world in his life, and seen so much, but now he was faced with a new world to discover: that of the afterlife. Nothing was the same in this version of Miami. There was no ocean tide. The water on the beach stood still, and the sun never rose. The moon constantly glistened against the still water. The only plants in sight were those that were overgrown, eagerly embracing the colorful buildings of Collins Avenue.
Through the vines, he caught the glimpse of one building with its light on.
He walked in, amazed at the unusual find. It evoked memories of speakeasies his colleagues occupied during the prohibition era. Not that he was well-versed on them; he preferred to pass his recreational time at the library.
He noticed a man in a colorful shirt behind the bar. At last, he’d stumbled upon someone else who also shared his fascination with vegetation!“Sir, do you enjoy researching plants, too?” He asked the elderly man.
“Oh.. what? no. My wife buys these for me.”
“Does your wife like plants?”
“… It’s a Hawaiian shirt, I don’t think too hard about it.”
He found it peculiar that a man would dress himself in a garment adorned with plants if he didn’t prefer them. He looked down at the cocktail the man was preparing.
“If I may add, you know what this drink needs? Cherries.” He declared. It always baffled him that people wouldn’t use all the incredible flavors the world had to offer, especially after all the trouble he went through to introduce them to the United States.
As he gazed around the room, he noticed it was empty and as devoid of life as the people occupying it.
“Actually, you know what this room needs? Plants.”
David found himself a role in this bizarre establishment, the same role he found himself in the bizarre world he just left.
If a living soul were to stumble upon The Haunt today, they would find an empty room, filled with flashing lights and vintage sounds– the only sign of life being a decadent display of greenery crawling up the walls. Upon closer inspection, the plants are not overgrown from years of abandon, but rather, carefully arranged and eternally cared for by a gentle hand that hides in the shadows.
He died of liver failure. Oh the irony. He never drank, but he sure did like to party. God must really have a sense of humor. As his soul wandered the sleepy streets of Miami in a haze, he wondered if this was heaven, if this is what all the scriptures he read growing up lead to. His essence drifted softly down the street like one of his beautifully written R&B songs, weaving in and out of memories past. He loved to write songs and perform, and he was grateful he got to spend his life doing so.
He loved to write songs and perform, and he was grateful he got to spend his life doing so.
But there was another side to himself– the dirty, rowdy, sensual side, that never got to be truly free on the airwaves.
People would sneak his singles in record shops as if they were buying porn.
He was never ashamed of that part of himself. So it was only natural his soul would end up lurking among these streets with the other conflicted souls who enjoyed the most sinful parts of themselves, too.
A sign flickered on above an establishment: THE HAUNT. He heard music inside, music he hadn’t heard in a club for years…
When he went in, the vibrant nostalgia of an obscure disco track hit him at lightning speed. He was suddenly immersed in a culture he hadn’t been a part of in a long time, a culture that was saved for the pages of history books and the backs of dusty record shops and recreated in pseudo vintage movies.
“What is this place?” He asked a bystander.
“Everything that dies, lives on here forever.”
Some of his fondest memories were in nightclubs. They weren’t like the radio stations. They appreciated his dirty lyrics, his uncouth sound. They were the only place for performers like him to thrive without judgement.
“Who’s on the bill for tonight?” He asked.
“Blowfly. That you?”
He was a boss- he ran the game all the way from New York to Colombia and back.
Nobody could touch him, or even came close. Except his wife.
The town spoke in hushed whispers about her ruthlessness, how they didn’t know a woman could do such horrible things. That’s why he loved her. Together, they ran the world.
She asked him to meet her in the parking lot that day. Someone did a drop in the club, and she needed to see to it that they personally pick it up. That wasn’t usually her style, but he figured this must be important if she couldn’t trust anyone to do it. That’s another thing he loved about her.
She was cautious. She didn’t trust nobody. Little did he know, that included him.
“Griselda! Mi amor!” He called out as she approached him, but she did not return the affection.
“You gonna tell me why we missing money?”
“No clue… someone probably miscounted.”
“Miscounted? You ever miscounted a couple mil?”
She stared him down with that stare that he knew too well. The stare of calm anger that he was thankful was never directed at him… until now.
“Mami, I can explain–“ He couldn’t explain. In a matter of seconds, she pulled out her prized possession– an emerald and gold MAC 10, and let him know how she felt about it.
He fell to the ground, gasping for air. In his final moments he saw her face, staring down at him completely unfazed.
Now, his soul remains in search of her. He heard she left Bogotá, but it was too risky to go back to New York– so she fled to Miami to grow her empire without him.
She would never leave a job undone, so he decided to wait at a club. He knew she’d have to come back eventually. She never did do that personal pick-up…
She lived on the green grass. Normally, the light outside was warm on her feathers. She played in the bath with her family. She liked fish. Life was good. But today something was off. All the birds felt it. The warm light was gone. The air was still.
Her instincts perked up. Something was coming.
Suddenly the people came. Usually the people came to bring fish. But not today. They were being guided somewhere else.
She walked in a line with her family, following the people with the fish into a cramped space. What was happening?
“...They should be safe from the hurricane in the bathroom…” the people made noises at each other. She didn’t understand. Just like that, the people were gone, and she and the other flamingos were left in the strange habitat.
It was like a cave, but with no rocks. There was light, but it was not like the warm outside light. There was a tiny elevated white pond in the corner. The floor was covered in grass, but
there was no dirt underneath it. And above the white circle pond, was… more flamingos?
She tried to greet the other flamingo. The other flamingo greeted her. She tried to walk toward it, but they ran into each other...
What was this barrier? It was like a pond, but it was not water. Why did it trap flamingos?
The other flamingo made every move she made. She was lost, staring into the flamingo-trapping vortex for what felt like forever...
Until she heard the people noises echoing around her.
“...looks like this one didn’t make it…”
She broke away from the trance. Her family was gone. Where did they go?
She noticed the entrance to the cave was open. Her family must be out there, where there is fish, warm light, water–
When she shuffled out, she was somewhere else. In another habitat that was dark, loud, with many bright lights. People walked around and moved in strange ways. These people did not have fish. The strange sounds of loud mating calls filled the room.
She retreated slowly backward. She decided to stay in the cave and stare into the vortex at the other flamingo instead.