Halloween is my FAVORITE time of year. I decorate the house with ghosts, and ghouls, and goblins, and spiders (thank goodness they are fake!!!!) and, of course, black cats. I love cats so I have many of them. My own cats sniff them every year, wondering who the invaders are until they realize they don't move but stay put, unlike my two wild young-ins!
Today I'd like to share with you a short story I wrote in honor of the holiday. Every town has a 'haunted house'. I was told mine was haunted when I moved into it 24 years ago. First by a girl who happened to marry my brother's best friend, Russ. She grew up in The Clem, as we call it, and she's the one who told me the tales concerning my 'haunted house.'
Later on (like years) my daughter brought her boyfriend over. He stepped into my work room where I write and said I had two spirits, one of the man who built the home in 1917, another of a little boy.
Years later a woman named Ruth came to me because she could 'see' the dead and she had a hard time dealing with her gift. In fact, she didn't want it and was wondering if she could get rid of it.
"Nope I said, much to her dismay. "The gifts you have are God-given. But I can help you to deal with it."
I went on to explain that the dead cannot hurt you.
"Oh yeah? Well guess what," she told me. "You have two in your house, a man and a boy, but the odd thing is when you enter the room they leave. I've never seen anything like it before."
I was floored. Not because I had ghosts but because they leave the room whenever I am present. I had been told years earlier by the only palmist I ever checked out, that the other side (this included spirits of every type) cannot touch me. Here was confirmation.
My grandson used to tell me when I babysat him (I still do only now he's 10 instead of a toddler) that I had two monsters downstairs with glowing red eyes. I told them, in front of him so he wouldn't be afraid of my basement,
"You're dead. Kindly leave my house. Go to the White Light of the Holy Spirit."
I did this for years and have since been told my house is spirit free. Yipeeee! No more monsters with glowing red eyes, which I have since learned are Shadow People. My youngest daughter finally admitted she saw them, too, and that's why she was my 'leach.' They left whenever I was around. Hmmmm. If only I had known she had that gift. I would have gotten rid of them sooner!
Here's hoping no of my co-writers or readers have had any such experiences but mine just goes to show spirits can't hurt you . . . or can they?
ALL HALLOWS EVE
They passed the house every day on their way to school. Cindy, Joanne, Debbie and Karen speculated on who lived there. It was an old Victorian, the wood weathered from countless years in the sun. Once it had been painted blue with pink trim and burgundy accents but now it looked haunted. At least, that’s what Cindy said. Karen and Joanne disagreed, but Debbie wasn’t so sure Cindy was off the mark.
The windows were dull with the dirt and grim of who knew how many seasons. Once they sparkled . . . in an age gone past. The bushes out front were overgrown yews, with mulberry and walnut trees off to the side. Left of the house was a raspberry patch while on the right stood the outlines of a garden gone to weeds. The morning was misty, giving the property an other-worldly affect.
Karen stopped by the sidewalk leading up to the wrap-around porch. She turned to the three girls, a sparkle in her eyes.
“What do you say we ditch school and explore the old house?” she asked.
“We can’t do that!” Debbie protested. “What if someone is in there?”
“Who’s going to be in there? We all know the house is vacant . . . at least that’s what my dad says. He’s the real estate agent for the old witch’s house.”
The “old witch” was Miss Markhem, Lady Arabelle Markhem. The house had been her parent’s, and their parents, and so on, or so they’d been told by the countless stories circulating the neighborhood. There were rumors Miss Markhem killed her mother and father, chopped them into tiny bits with a butcher knife, or was it an axe? Some said she buried their bones deep within the cellar and on Halloween night you could see their skeletons in the windows, screaming for revenge. A bunch of hogwash, Karen thought and today, October 30, Devil’s night, was the day to prove it. Didn’t the spirits of the deceased walk this night?
She tossed her long blonde hair over her shoulder. “I say we check it out. Who’s with me?”
“Not me,” Debbie and Cindy said in unison.
Karen looked at Joanne. “I’m in.”
Cindy shook her head. “We’ll catch you two later to hear about your wasted efforts. Ghosts, witches, murder!” Laughing the two girls left.
“Well,” Karen said once they rounded the corner and was gone from sight. “Shall we go?”
Joanne opened the gate in the wrought iron fence surrounding the property. Together they walked up the sidewalk and stepped onto the porch. Nothing so far. Karen looked in a window but it was so dirty all she could make out were shadows. Furniture no doubt. Joanne tried the door knob and was surprised when it turned. She motioned to Karen.
It was dark inside. Joanne tried a light switch but nothing came on. The electricity must be turned off. The house had been vacant . . . forever.
“Your dad have a hard time selling this house?” she asked Karen.
“Yeah. He said everyone’s heard the rumors and no one wants to live in a house where people were murdered.”
Good grief, Joanne thought. Arabelle Markham killed her parents in 1898. It was 2008 now, almost . . .
“A hundred and ten years,” a voice said.
Both girls jumped. “Who said that?” Karen demanded. Joanne looked around, seeing no one in the now dusk-like front room.
Looking forward, Karen and Joanne saw a young woman emerge from the shadows covering the stairs. She appeared to be 19 and was dressed in a floor length black gown with a high neck and long sleeves with ruffles. Karen stifled a scream.
“This house is supposed to be empty. Who are you?”
A pale hand reached up and smoothed the bun at the back of her head. “I am Arabelle Markham. I live here, or used to. I left on October 30, 1898.”
Karen’s eyes widened. “Left? Don’t you mean ran away?”
“No. I mean left . . . not this house, but the world. I was killed.”
Joanne was stunned but Karen didn’t believe it. “Who put you up to this? John Amor? Or was it Tom Catchum?”
“I’m afraid I don’t know who you’re speaking of.”
The first shiver a fear raced down Joanne’s spine but Karen persisted. “Yes you do. This is some kind of joke. Who are you really?”
But the pale lady before them shook her head. “It’s not a joke. My body, or what’s left of it - bones are all - is buried in the cellar . . . along with twenty others. Some are children, no older than ten but most are teenagers, like yourself. You best leave.”
Joanne grabbed Karen’s arm. “I don’t like this. Let’s do what she says, actress or not.”
But Karen refused to be cowed. She speared Arabelle with a look of defiance. “Is that so? Who killed you? And the supposed others?”
A sigh left the white lips. “My parents - who else?”
That was when Karen knew she had this so-called Arabelle Markham. “Really? Then what about the legend . . . how you chopped up your parents? That a big lie?”
“It most certainly is. My parents are the ones who circulated that story, got the idea from Lizzy Borden.”
Lizzy Borden! How lame. Still Karen played along. “Then where did your parents disappear to, if they killed you and buried you in the cellar? Why leave their home?”
“I was handicapped,” Arabelle said with another sigh. “What you now call mentally challenged and my parents . . . well, they wanted to be free. So, they killed me, made it look like I murdered them in a fit and then they ran off, never to be seen again while they traveled the world.”
That was enough. Joanne headed for the front door. “I’m leaving,” she told Karen. “This joke is no longer funny.”
“Joanne! Wait,” Karen cried but it was too late. Joanne was gone, the door shutting with a quiet swish. Karen turned back to ‘Arabelle’.
A pale brow rose. “Aren’t you going to follow your friend?”
But Karen brushed past her, heading down the hall to where the door leading to the cellar lay.
“I wouldn’t advise going down there,” Arabelle said when Karen grabbed the knob.
Karen looked at her. “Why not? If what you’re telling me is true then all I’ve got to do is dig up your bones.”
“That’s what everyone else said when I warned them and now there are twenty.”
That gave Karen cause to pause . . . for only a moment. “Right,” she said, yanking open the door. “And who’s going to get me? The big, bad, boogey man?”
“No . . . my parents. They died in 1921 and their spirits have been trapped here ever since. I only come back when someone like you enters the house on October 30. It’s a dangerous time because on Devil’s night all spirits roam free, even the evil ones. Beware lest you become another victim.”
But Karen dismissed her, racing down the stairs into the cellar with its dirt floor. The door shut with a bang.
Later that night Debbie and Cindy sat in Joanne’s bedroom, listening with rap attention to Joanne’s tale of the actress inside the witch’s house.
“Did you find out who she was and who put her up to it?” Debbie asked when Joanne’s mother came in, wringing her hands.
“What’s wrong, Mom?”
“The police are here, Joanne. They want to talk to you, to all three of you. Karen never came home. She’s missing.”
Down in the cellar, a final pat was given to the freshly dug grave. Smiling, Mr. Horace Markham turned to his wife, Bernice. “That makes twenty-one. Too bad the second girl ran away but there’s always next year.”