Pennsylvania Dutch Country is one of the most recognizable areas of Pennsylvania. Sprawling around the city of Lancaster, the area is home to the Amish, a group of people who have chosen to lead a more simple existence. They have turned their backs on modern technology and use hand tools to build with, needle and thread to make clothing and the finest quilts you will ever find, and horses or mules to pull their plows. Those of us who are addicted to Black & Decker, Singer and Supermarkets would find their way of life quite difficult.
But that is not what usually draws me there.
No lie, it’s the food.
Shoo Fly Pie and Homemade Preserves and Relishes are just part of the litany of mouth-watering reasons to visit the area. Even the restaurants, like the “family style” Plain and Fancy or the “Dutch smorgasbord” Myers, are far and away better than anyone could imagine.
It was on one of these trips, which usually involve passing through the towns of Bird-in-Hand, Intercourse, Blue Ball and Paradise, that I came upon a most interesting store on Old Philadelphia Pike. The simple sign above the door read “Done & Gone Supply Company.” Needless to say, I had to stop in, even if I only got a business card for my collection.
After parking the car on the street and feeding the meter, I walked over to the door. Aside from the title, there was also a bragging notice that read “Serving the Area for more than 150 Years.” That is quite an accomplishment considering the business environment currently in place in America.
Upon opening the door, I was greeted by a bell being hit at the top of the door frame. Very quaint indeed.
“Good morning, sir,” a gentleman behind the counter said. “Welcome to Done & Gone! Can I help you?”
“No,” I replied. “I would just like to look around.”
“That is fine sir,” he said. “If you cannot find what you are looking for, just scream out and one of our associates will appear at your side.”
I thanked him and began to search up and down the aisles. I came to a section that was completely devoted to chains. There were chains of all sizes in rolls. It seemed to conveniently allow buyers to get the type of chain in the length they needed. One roll was more interesting and more expensive than the other. The chain had alternating keys and metal boxes attached to it. It was their “Marley” line. By the dust on it, it didn’t seem to be a big seller.
In the next aisle, there were mirrors. I looked at many of them. Most of the frames were obviously hand carved and beautiful, with expensive price tags to match. I looked at the first one and found that it was defective, as I could not see myself. The next couple was just as bad, casting reflections of faces that weren’t mine.
At that point, I realized I was in no ordinary store.
I decided to take the advice of the man behind the counter. I screamed. Sure enough, one of the store’s associates appeared at my side, out of thin air.
“Hello, my name is Dennis. How can I help you?”
I identified myself as a correspondent from BloodyWhisper.com and was wondering if I could do a story on the shop.
“Well,” he said, hesitantly. “I can’t give you that kind of permission. You should talk to my manager. I’ll get him.”
Dennis let loose an ear shattering wail. In the blink of an eye, another person appeared.
“Dennis!” he chided. “How many times have I told you to tone down your inner banshee? A simple scream will be enough.”
“Sorry sir. This gentleman writes for a website called WoodyBlisters.com. He wants to do a story on us.”
The manager eyed me.
“What do untreated splinters in a person’s finger have to do with us?” he asked me.
I corrected him on the name and that I noticed that the store’s merchandise was tailored to an unusual clientele; one that our readers might find fascinating.
“Well, a little internet exposure could go a long way.” He turned to Dennis. “Why don’t you take lunch, Dennis?”
Dennis quickly disappeared.
“Banshees are always looking for a reason to eat. Allow me to introduce myself. I am Gus Stoltzfuss, manager here at Done & Gone for about the last 75 years.”
I told him he didn’t look a day over 110. He was quite happy with the observation.
“Your store doesn’t sell to the normal person, does it?” I asked.
“Well, that depends on your definition of ‘normal.’ If you mean ‘normal alive,’ then you are right. We sell to the ‘normal dead.’ Our store is devoted to the haunter who wants to make an impression on new homeowners. We sell all forms of equipment to help our customers make the living run screaming into the night.”
“That explains the chains and mirrors, but there must be more here that your customers use.”
“How about I show you around some more, kind of a ‘ghouled’ tour?” Gus chuckled.
“I guess you’ve used that joke before?”
“Yes, but not for a long time.”
From there, we moved deeper into the store.
Manager Stoltzfuss showed me the company’s line of horrific masks, mechanisms that helped a head spin, a line of “press on” limbs with various sores and stages of decomposition, vials of vile odors (their aptly named “Vile Vial” line), and more. One area was lined with glass cases that carried any number of ugly disgusting insect or lizard, along with a series of bats, several of which glowed in the dark.
When I asked about them, Gus just mumbled something about genetic engineering and moved on.
For the last part of the tour, I was ushered into a rather brightly lit room with a series of chairs. A couple were occupied and a stylist frantically worked on each.
“This is our make-up station. Some of our customers are just too good-looking to scare anyone. You know the old saying, ‘Die young and leave a good-looking corpse?’ Well, that is actually true and causes some no end of trouble. Here, we do our best to make them look their worse.”
From off in the corner, I heard someone say “There! Finished!”
The customer stood and looked in the mirror. He loved the look. As he walked by me, a cold shiver ran up my spine.
“Effective, isn’t it?” Gus said. “That’s Miss Cassie. She’s been here forever and is our best stylist. Her ghosts can scare a homeowner out of their wits, and their home, in just one visit.”
In a second, another appeared in Miss Cassie’s chair.
“Okay hon,” she said, between chews on her gum. “Let’s make some terror!”
Gus and I watched as she went to work. In moments, what had been a genuinely well-groomed dead person was transformed into a ghoul that George Romero would have been afraid to use in a sequel. I was impressed.
“Well that’s our tour,” said Gus. “I have to float. If you have any other questions, please ask the man at the counter as you leave. He’s the owner.”
Gus disappeared. I made my way back to the front desk. The owner was ringing up a ghost with a hand truck with a huge barrel on it. The cash register rang and the ghost, barrel and all, disappeared. The man looked at me.
“Oh,” he said. “You’re that writer from BouncyWhipper.com. I don’t visit many porn sites on the internet, but if you’re going to write about us, I’ll check out your site.”
I tried to correct him, but he was less interested in the truth than most.
I had a few more questions.
“A moment ago, a man left with a large barrel. What was in it?”
“That was 100 gallons of Grade A Blood!” he said, proudly. “We carry the highest quality blood. No other blood in the area oozes down walls the way ours does.”
“How does anyone pay for their purchase? I saw no money changing hands.”
“Oh, we don’t charge anyone. They do a service for us that helps us finance the store.”
“But, that doesn’t answer the question. Where does the money come from?”
“Oh, I see,” he said. “The answer is across the street. Now, we are getting ready to close. Thank you for dropping by. I am looking forward to reading your article.” He winked at me.
That was all I could get out of him.
I opened the door, greeted by that same bell that sounded when I entered. I could hear the lock turning in the door behind me and an old-fashioned shade being pulled down. Across the street, I looked at some of the storefronts, reading the names. There was a small independent bookstore, a luncheonette called Dory’s, a hardware store, and then, there was the answer.
D & G Real Estate, Inc.