The Nightmare Box
I've noticed an interesting trend among posters in the [I]Haunted[/I] forums - at least, regarding The Nightmare Box and Cassandra's character. For that matter, the idea that [I]any[/I] of the short stories are entirely true or (auto)biographical strikes me as... fallacious.
The amount of truth contained in any of these vignettes is irrelevant, however, as long as you take into account that none of them is without embellishment.
Neither is the novella weaving them together, and not for the reasons people have pointed out. (Director Denial still had a paddle of flesh on one side, and a thumb and index finger on the other - sufficient surface area with which to gather up her skirts.) As many posters have already pointed out, it is the "Mythology of Us." Facts and fiction wrapped up together, assembled in a way that attempts to makes sense of the chaos of life.
Anyway... The Nightmare Box is a work of fiction, an extended metaphor by Tess Clark to explain what happened to her daughter - a placeholder for the 'real' explanation she would learn when she gathered the courage to put herself in the same position Cassandra had. When she joined the Writer's Retreat. When she "looked in the box." The character Rand is an extension of B[B]rand[/B]on, as is the creator of the box, Roland [B]Whittier[/B].
Oh, and Cassandra was saved by Whittier - that's why her fate was different. It had nothing to do with The Nightmare Box.
Or I'm totally wrong...