Excerpted from Spooky New York
Retold by Marion Pellicano Ambrose
Liza worked in a box factory, and her salary was not large. She made just enough to cover the cost of food, shelter, and the clothes on her back. So when she received an invitation to a fancy-dress party from an old friend, she did not know what she should do. Here was her chance at last to shine a little, to experience how the other half lived, but she had no money to buy a dress, or even the material to make one.
She mentioned her dilemma to a woman at the box factory. “Why not rent a costume?” the woman suggested. “It shouldn’t cost much for just one evening. Try your local pawnshop.”
And so she made her way to a pawnshop near her home after work. At the rear of the store, she found a beautiful satin gown, complete with matching accessories. The owner of the shop was willing to rent the gown to her for a reasonable fee. After paying the fee she took the beautiful gown home with her on the night of the party.
She dressed carefully for the occasion and peered at her reflection in the tiny mirror in her bathroom. She looked radiant, her blue eyes glowing with the excitement of an evening out. As she turned away from the mirror, she thought she heard a whisper: “Give me back my dress.” She froze in the doorway, looking around uncertainly for the speaker, but saw no one. She shrugged, went downstairs, and splurged on the cab fare into Manhattan.
When she arrived, she was quickly inundated with dance partners. She felt like Cinderella at the ball, and the first hour of the party quickly slipped away.
She slowly became aware of growing nausea when she paused between dances. She felt light-headed, and the room was spinning for a moment. Once again Liza heard a ghostly whisper in her ear: “Give me back my dress.”
She tried to smile into the faces of her partners, but finally the nausea overwhelmed her. She gave an excuse to the man with whom she was dancing and slipped away. She made her way to the street and managed to summon a cab to take her home. She staggered into the building and crawled up the steps to her flat.
Her hands were trembling as she unlocked her door. She fell through the door frame and stumbled to her bed where she collapsed. She heard a ghostly voice whisper in her ear for the third time: “Give me back my dress. I want it back.”
Liza was found dead the next day, and the autopsy report stated that she had been poisoned by embalming fluid, which had entered her pores. The authorities found the receipt for the dress rental and questioned the pawnbroker. After being pressured and drilled by the police, pawnbroker admitted that he often purchased clothing from an undertaker he knew for a very low price.
The dress that had killed Liza had been removed from the body of a dead girl just before her casket was nailed shut and buried in the local graveyard.