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                                      THE HAUNTING OF BILLOP HOUSE

                                                                                           (2F, 2M)

When a famous Thriller novelist / playwright pays a weekend visit to his Sister in law, niece and his niece's boyfriend he gets a little 'too close for comfort' to his subject matter!  His sister in law is the new caretaker of one of the oldest (and allegedly most haunted) manor houses in New York state!  Through a series of experiments in past life regression they all discover the diabolical secrets of  the house.




                                                                                              SAMPLE DIALOGUE


ACT 1

SCENE 1

 

SETTING:                                           The basement of the Billop House located on the southernmost 

point of New York State on Staten Island overlooking the Raritan Bay.  The back wall of the stage is stone/brick. Back right is an archway leading to another room (alcove) used for storage.  Back left is the stairway that leads to the upper floors.

(the doorway at the top of the stairs can be visible or offstage depending on your theatre space) A small window is on the wall stage right.

 

AT RISE:                                 Stage is bare as opening music fades. A light as if a candle or torch                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        flickering can be seen from interior of archway right.

 

(Larry’s recorded voice can be heard)

 

“My name is Larry Landers. I’m a writer. I had no idea of the disturbing occurrences that would take place when I came to visit my niece, her boyfriend and my sister in law for New Year’s Eve in one of the oldest manor houses in New York State. Some call Staten Island the forgotten borough of New York City. But l will never forget what happened to the four of us in that very borough over one particular winter weekend.”

 

OLIVIA

(from upstairs)

Follow  me Uncle Larry.  Down here.

 

(torch light quickly goes out as  Olivia, her mother Janet, and her Uncle Larry descend the stairs. Olivia turns on the light switch at the bottom of the stairs)

 

LARRY

It’s cold down here.

 

JANET

Well it is the end of December Larry and this house is over three hundred years old.

 

LARRY

I know, the oldest manor house left in New York State. I’ve done some research.

 

 

OLIVIA

This used to be a kitchen in the old days. See the old fireplace. (she points downstage towards audience) Back here was where they stored the dry goods and meats. (She indicates the storage room) Probably why they kept it so cold. They say that room once led to secret passageways where the red coats used to sneak in and out on clandestine missions.

 

LARRY

Nice historical tidbit. They have added heat down here the last hundred years I hope.

 

JANET

Sure they have. (She turns up thermostat near the light switch) We don’t like to use the heat in this room unless it’s in use.  It will get warmer in a few minutes.

 

OLIVIA

It’s just great that you could join us for New Years Eve Uncle Larry.

 

LARRY

Are you kidding Olivia, why wouldn’t I want to spend time with my favorite Sister in law and niece. Besides, your father asked me to look in on you while he’s out of the country and I am always happy to oblige my older brother.

 

JANET

And the fact that I am now the caretaker of one of the most haunted houses in New York State had nothing to do with it?

 

LARRY

Allegedly haunted houses…and why should that have anything to do with my visit?

 

OLIVIA

Come on Uncle Larry, you’re one of the most famous writer’s of thriller novels and plays in the U.S.  Maybe doing a little research?

 

(She looks out the window)

 

LARRY

You know I make ninety percent of that stuff up.

 

JANET

And the other ten percent?

 


 

 

 

LARRY

The other ten percent I get from watching basic cable television shows. There is a very gullible public out there, starved for a good scare, which I happily provide for them.

 

JANET

Oh, but you don’t believe in the paranormal yourself.

 

LARRY

(tongue in cheek)

Janet, Janet, how long have you known me?….You know I’m a total pragmatist.  I’m only in this for the money I’m afraid….

(as he wonders around examining the floor and walls.)

So what do they use this room for nowadays…the Halloween bingo game?

 

JANET

Actually they hold many seasonal events here, Halloween being one of them. But mostly we use this room for seminars and other events. We’ve even staged a few plays down here.

 

LARRY

Plays? Down here in the dungeon?

 

OLIVIA

(still looking out the window)

That should be right up your alley Uncle Larry!

 

LARRY

Are you kidding, I wouldn’t be caught dead staging a play down here.

 

JANET

Not exactly the phrase I would have used.

 

OLIVIA

(crossing back from the window)

I wonder what’s keeping George. He should have been here an hour ago. It’s going on eight thirty.

 

LARRY

(He now crosses to the window)

Who’s George?

 

OLIVIA

My boyfriend from Jersey.  It’s his first time visiting this house since we moved here. Maybe he got lost. Let me text him.

 

JANET

I saved some dinner for him in case he’s hungry.

 

LARRY

Your boyfriend’s not in the seminary is he?

 

OLIVIA

Certainly not, why do you say that?

 

LARRY

I could have sworn I just saw a priest walk from behind the big tree out there and go into the woods.

 

JANET

A priest, at this time of night? In this cold? The nearest church is a mile away.

 

(Janet and Olivia go to the window)

 

OLIVIA

I don’t see anything.

 

JANET

Neither do I.

 

LARRY

I told you. He walked into the woods.

 

OLIVIA

Oh, there’s a car pulling up. Must be George. I’ll go get him.

(She rushes upstairs)

 

JANET

Come on Larry. Are you hungry? I slow cooked a nice chicken gumbo. There’s plenty left. We better get to it before George. That kid eats like a horse.

 

LARRY

Sounds great.  Hey,  I noticed you had some tables and chairs stacked in the storeroom there.

 

JANET

Yes, that’s where we keep things for the events we hold in this room.

 

LARRY

Do you mind if I set up a small table down here tomorrow?

 

JANET

Not at all.. But why?

 

LARRY

Well I am working on a new thriller, and this room may be just the inspiration I need to kickstart it.

 

JANET

We have a whole comfortable manor house upstairs for you to write in!

 

LARRY

Yes, but this room suits the purpose much better I think.

 

JANET

Well then, why wait till tomorrow, let’s do it now, I’ll give you a hand with the table.

(they go into the back room as Oivia and George come down the stairs)

 

OLIVIA

Watch your step on the stairs Georgie. They’re pretty old.

 

GEORGE

You didn’t really have to drag me down here. It’s a little creepy. Waiting up in the kitchen would have been just fine.

 

OLIVIA

You were the one who was so anxious to meet my uncle!

Hey, where are you guys?

 

JANET

Back here.

 

(They come out with Larry holding a folding card table and Janet carrying two folding chairs.)

 

GEORGE

Hello Mrs. Landers. Good to see you again.  When’s dinner?

 

OLIVIA

About two hours ago!

 

GEORGE

I’m sorry. It’s just that I skipped dinner and my car wouldn’t start so I had to grab a cab and the taxi driver got a flat tire on the other side of the bridge or I would have been here on time.

 

 

JANET

It’s okay George. I have plenty of food. And how many times do I have to tell you to call me Janet.

 

OLIVIA

And this is my Uncle Larry.

 

 

GEORGE

Oh no introduction is necessary! (He shakes his hand overzealously) Larry Landers! I’m a big fan sir! A big fan! Read all of your stuff. Of course I can’t sleep for a week after I read one of your books but…oh and the stage plays! “Murder at the Movies”,  “The Disappearing Debutant” oh, and “The Ghost on the Grass”, that’s my favorite!

 

LARRY

Yeah, that’s my favorite too Kid. You want to, let go of my hand and help me set up this table.

 

GEORGE

Oh, sure thing sir.  (He starts helping him set up the table)  You know, I’m studying to be a writer at William Patterson College. I’m majoring in English with a minor in theatre arts.

 

LARRY

Theatre arts huh? You might want to re-think that choice. That is if you plan on eating for the rest of your life.

 

GEORGE

Speaking of food.

 

JANET

Waiting upstairs in the kitchen George

 

LARRY

What part of Jersey are you from kid?

 

GEORGE

Newark. How about you?

 

LARRY

Brooklyn.

 

GEORGE

There’s a Brooklyn New Jersey?

 

LARRY

God I hope not.

 

GEORGE

Hey, Mr. Landers…

 

OLIVIA

Just call him Uncle Larry.

 

 

LARRY

Actually, I prefer Mr. Landers.

 

GEORGE

Well, you don’t think this place is really haunted do you? I mean, you don’t believe the stories.

 

OLIVIA

George is a well known coward Uncle Larry.  He may like reading all your books but he’s terrified by them. There are rumors that my dorm at school is haunted. It’s all I can do to get him to stay after night fall.

 

GEORGE

That’s not true. It’s just that I prefer my dorm room.

 

LARRY

Really Olivia. How did you ever convince him to come this old manor house, much less stay the weekend.

 

OLIVIA

Feminine coercing. Pure and simple.  I tempted him with my mother’s chicken gumbo!

 

LARRY

Well, unless we see someone come floating down that staircase in the next hour, I think we’re safe enough.

 

OLIVIA

Well I for one, am planning on debunking all this ghost stuff this weekend. I refuse to have  the cowardly Lion as a boyfriend any longer than I have to.

 

GEORGE

Hey, I’m in the room here.

 

LARRY

And just how do you plan on debunking the stories?

 

OLIVIA

I have my methods.

 

JANET

Olivia, take George up to the kitchen. Set a plate for him and your uncle.. We’ll be right up.

 

 

 

GEORGE

( Gordon continues as he and Olivia go up the stairs)

Hey Mr. Landers.  Maybe you can read some of my essays, you know, give me some pointers…I’ve got everything on my laptop.

 

LARRY

(deadpan sarcasm)

Great. Can’t wait.

(to Janet after Olivia and George exit)

Is that kid going to nudge me all weekend?

 

JANET

He’s twenty one years old, you’re the probably the biggest celebrity he’s ever met.

 

LARRY

I’m a writer, not a celebrity.

 

JANET

Can’t you take him under your wing for a little while. Give him a few writing pointers. He may wind up married to my daughter.

 

LARRY

You mean he’d be nudging me every Thanksgiving?  In that case I should probably be trying to discourage him.

 

JANET

Nice thing to say about your possible future would be nephew.

 

LARRY

Actually I’d be doing him and my niece a favor. Do you know how hard it is to make a living as a writer? Even if you’re good there’s no guarantee. Ninety percent of the battle is trying to market and sell what you’ve already written. And as for giving him writing pointers, in my humble opinion you can’t teach someone to write.  They can either do it or not. No one ever taught me. You learn everything you need to know about form and context by reading other’s works and assimilating it. Then you try to put your own creative twists on the same seven universal plots!

 

JANET

No kidding?

 

LARRY

Why do you think I chose to write the horror/mystery genre.  It always sells! People love a good scare, like George. Take this manor house for instance. I would try to spin a ghostly yarn about some past inhabitants while throwing in a little romance and comic relief to break some of the tension. 

 

JANET

You know I wouldn’t be too cavalier about this house.  I’ve noticed some very strange things happening since I’m here.

 

LARRY

Such as?

 

JANET

Lights turning on in a room before you hit the switch. My shoes moving from downstairs where I left them to my bedroom.

 

LARRY

Perhaps the ghost is a maid.

 

JANET

You said you researched the house. You should know.

 

LARRY

I know it was built by Captain  Christopher Billop in the late sixteen hundreds. It passed down to his grandson, also Christopher Billop, who was an English officer and a loyalist during the revolutionary war.  It was also the site of an unsuccessful peace conference with Ben Franklin,  John Adams and Edward Rutledge. Imagine that, some of the founding father’s, may have been sitting right over there by the hearth sipping brandy to get warm. Which isn’t a bad idea right now.

 

JANET

Maybe they’re still sitting there.. Did you know that Billop, the grandson that is, was also kidnapped twice and held for ransom?  Staten Island was loyal to the crown but New Jersey wasn’t. They would row right across the kill from Jersey at night for sneak attacks. The story goes that Billopp thought there was a traitor in the house possibly signaling across the bay with a lantern from a window upstairs. He used to interrogate the staff down here in that back alcove. One night Billopp allegedly caught one of the servants upstairs in the act, and flew into a rage, throwing her down a flight of stairs to her death.

 

LARRY

Allegedly being the key word here.

 

JANET

I wouldn’t be so sure.  One night I drove up here late after dark. The house was empty. I saw a lantern lit in the window as I walked up to open the door. When I went upstairs to investigate the room was empty.

 

LARRY

Come on Janet, as long as I’ve known you I didn’t have the slightest inkling you were superstitious.

 

JANET

You’re  absolutely right. I never was. Not until I moved in here.

 

LARRY

In that case, it’s a wonder you’ve stayed here even for a short period of time.

 

JANET

Well so far nothing dangerous has happened. And there’s one more thing.

 

LARRY

What’s that?

 

JANET

Just the strongest feeling of déjà vue I’ve ever gotten the first time I came here to interview. I’d never even been to Staten Island before except a few short trips to the North Shore and pass-throughs on the way to New Jersey.  I didn’t even know this place existed until I saw the ad for the position. Anyway, as soon as I turned the corner and set eyes on the place I felt I’d already known the place and the house. As I entered I felt I already knew the whole layout, including this cellar.

 

LARRY

Maybe you saw a documentary about the house on television and didn’t remember.

 

JANET

I don’t think so. What I do know is I feel a kind of comfort here despite the strange things that I’ve witnessed.  I feel like this is where I belong.

 

LARRY

You’re an old soul. I sensed when I first met you years ago when my brother brought you home to meet the family.  I’m sorry you two couldn’t keep it together, but I’m glad you and I stayed friends.

 

JANET

Me too. And hey, Steve and I had a good twenty year run.  You’d take that for one of your plays wouldn’t you.?

 

LARRY

The way Broadway treats drama’s nowadays I’d settle for twenty weeks.

 

JANET

Your brother and I will always be bound by Olivia. And it’s not like it was a bitter breakup.  We just…grew apart.  And for a long time, a really long time… I’ve felt like something was pulling me away…I don’t know, like I needed to be somewhere else…(pause) Maybe I just needed a little solitude. Don’t forget, while you guys came from a big family in Brooklyn I was an only child from Manhattan. We have very active imaginations and keep our own council pretty well.  While you guys were playing street hockey on roller skates I was fantasizing about castles, dragons and knights in shining armor!  I guess your brother and I just developed different interests over the years.

 

LARRY

Yours being old, allegedly haunted houses?

 

JANET

Well, there are no medieval castles on Staten Island that I know of so I guess the oldest existing manor house is going to have to do! Come on Lar, where’s you spirit of adventure? What, it’s okay to write about them but you don’t really care to spend the night in one?

 

LARRY

I’m spending the weekend aren’t I? Besides, I kind of lied to Livy about being a total pragmatist.  You can’t research and write about this stuff without keeping some portion of your mind open to it. Even if  in my case it’s mostly the subconscious mind. 

 

JANET

Larry, in all seriousness. Remember what I said about the lights going on and objects disappearing from one place and showing up in another part of the house. I’m not just making it up to entertain you.  It’s been happening quite a bit, but strangely I’m never afraid when it happens, just…curious.

 

LARRY

Well, I suppose I should keep my eyes opened. You never know, could be another play. Come on, let’s join the college kids. We could make the weekend a frat party. Let’s just hope no axe wielding slasher’s are hiding in the closets.

 

 

JANET

(as they walk upstairs)

Not funny.

 

 

(Lights dim as once again torch light shows in the back room then slowly fades)

 

 

 

 

ACT 1

 

SCENE 2

 

SETTING:             Same as scene 1 , 3 am

 

AT RISE:            Holding a flashlight,  Olivia leads George (who is holding a box)  down the stairs.

 

GEORGE

For god’s sake Olivia, it’s three A.M.  If you wake me up at this hour it better be to have sex.

 

OLIVIA

We’re not having it down here in the torture chamber.

 

GEORGE

(as he moves in to kiss her)

That would be kind of kinky.

 

OLIVIA

Focus George!  Open the box and put the board on the table.

 

GEORGE

Gee, I don’t know about using a Ouija board in this house. 

 

OLIVIA

We are going to cure you of your ghost phobia once and for all! Now ask a question.

 

GEORGE

To whom?

 

OLIVIA

How should I know. Try Christopher Billipp.

 

GEORGE

Forget it. That guy carried a gun.

 

OLIVIA

You ever feel like having sex again?

 

GEORGE

(grabbing the planchette)

So how’s the fishing around here Chris?

 

OLIVIA

You’ve got to be serious or it won’t work!

 

GEORGE

(standing up)

Good! I don’t want it to work!

 

OLIIVIA

Sit down.

(George sits)

I’ll start.  Now we both have to lightly touch the planchette. I’ll ask a question. And we’ll see

where it goes…Are you ready?

 

GEORGE

Not really.

 

OLIVIA

First question….Is there anyone here in this house who wishes to communicate with us?

 

GEORGE

(obviously pushing the planchette to the ‘No’ )

No. Well there you have it. Let’s go upstairs and have sex.

 

OLIVIA

Really, then who said no?  You pushed it over to there. Now cut it out!

 

GEORGE

Alright, alright. But I think you’re playing with fire here.

 

OLIVIA

Are you Christopher Billopp?

(nothing happens)

 

GEORGE

Nothing.

 

OLIVIA

Are you holding it softly?

 

GEORGE

Yes.

 

OLIVIA

Let go of it.

 

GEORGE

Whatever you say.

(He let’s go)

 

OLIVIA

Are you Christopher Billopp?

 

( a few beats)

 

GEORGE

Cmon, Liv, this is ridiculous and I’m getting tired.

 

OLIVIA

Shush, it’s moving.

(the planchette moves slowly to ‘no’)

No.

 

GEORGE

Cut it out, you’re just doing that to scare me.

 

OLIVIA

(getting a little nervous)

I am not. Go ahead, put your hands back on it.

 

(he does)

 

If you are not Christopher Billopp, then what is your name?

 

(the planchette moves to different letters as they both spell  out S-A-R-A-H )

 

GEORGE

SARAH.

 

 

OLIVIA

Did you know Captain Billopp?

 

(the planchette moves to ‘yes’)

 

Yes.

 

Where you his wife?

 

(planchette moves again)

 

GEORGE

No.

Were you a servant in the house?

(it moves again)

Yes.

 

(The lantern flickers in the alcove)

 

Did you see that light flicker?

 

 

OLIVIA

Why are you here?

 

(they spell out word A-F-R-A-I)

 

Afraid! Afraid of what?

 

(A women’s scream is heard coming from upstairs as the lantern in the alcove goes out)

 

GEORGE

(as he starts to pack the board)

That does it I’m going, back to Newark, where it’s safe!

 

OLIVIA

Go see what that light was George.

 

GEORGE

Me?

 

OLIVIA

Go see if anyone is in there.

 

(Larry comes down from upstairs)

 

LARRY

What’s going on down here? I heard a scream!

 

GEORGE

You heard it too?

 

LARRY

(he hits light switch on wall at the bottom of the stairs and lights come up)

Where’s your mother?

 

OLIVIA

Upstairs sleeping I guess.

 

LARRY

Did you scream Olivia?

 

OLIVIA

No, it came from upstairs.

 

LARRY

We better find your mother. Just what were you two doing down here this time of night?

 

JANET

(descending the stairs)

That’s what I want to know.

 

LARRY

Janet, was that you who screamed upstairs?

 

JANET

Yes.

 

GEORGE

Why, what happened?

 

JANET

I had a terrible dream that startled me. I sat right up in bed. Then I saw someone go past my room. I thought it was Larry or you George.

 

GEORGE

Not me. I was down here.

 

LARRY

And I didn’t leave my room till I heard the scream.

 

JANET

I went into the hallway and noticed the door to the main house was open. Now I always keep that door closed to keep the heat in our part of the custodial quarters. I figured maybe one of you three went in there so I started searching. When I reached the top of the stairs, the cat jumped out at me! That’s when I screamed. It was all I could do to keep my balance or I would have fallen down the flight of stairs. I came down to the kitchen to get a drink after that and heard you down here.

 

LARRY

(notices the board)

Ouija board.  Is that what you were doing down here? This is your idea of debunking ghosts?

 

OLIVIA

Why not?

 

LARRY

Because it’s dangerous!

 

JANET

Come on Larry. You said you make up ninety percent of this stuff.

 

LARRY

Yes. After I research it. And all the research I’ve done on Ouija boards tells me they are not to be trifled with.  Especially at three o clock in the morning in a house this old.

 

GEORGE

I don’t get it.

 

LARRY

Three A.M. is dead time. The witching hour. Twelve hours opposite the time that Christ died on the cross. People believe the board is a device to summon demons. In any event, whatever you believe, why take any chances.

 

GEORGE

I totally agree.

 

JANET

Come on, let’s go back upstairs…

(The lamp on the end table suddenly comes on)

 

OLIVIA

The lamp.

 

JANET

I told you the lights around here do that.

 

GEORGE

(as Larry examines the lamp)

I think you could use a good electrician.

 

LARRY

That’s not the half of it.

 

OLIVIA

What do you mean?

 

LARRY

(Holds up unconnected lamp plug.)

This lamp isn’t even plugged in.

 

GEORGE

(heading for the stairs) That’s it. What’s the number for car service?  I’m out of here!

 

OLIVIA

Get back here you coward!

 

GEORGE

That’s me, King George the cowardly!

 

LARRY

Alright, everybody just calm down.