Thursday, November 01, 2007

Haunt -- A True Story


I had planned to post today, in keeping with the season, about Wolf and Blood Moons.

However, in yet another example of hive mind, the Church Lady beat me to it.

Instead I will recount a ghost story from the family archives which ties with yesterday's parapsychology post.

A young man had taken a teaching post for one year on an island in the cold Atlantic, before returning to law school.

He rented a vacant, semi-furnished house by the shore for a ridiculously low sum -- though warned by the family who owned it that the old house was haunted.

By the ghost of a brother who had died there.

They had abandoned the dwelling, because, at certain times on certain nights, they heard his tubercular coughing as he sat, unable to rest, in his rocking chair in an upper chamber.

Exactly as they had heard him on many nights before he died.

But the young man was both bold and skeptical. He had faced down dangers before -- and the price was right. Law school is expensive, and he needed to save and miser every penny.

For weeks the house by the shore where the breakers rolled and broke on the rocks below was quiet. Empty. Silent.

And the young man revelled in the evening solitude.

Until one night.

Above the rising wind, the young man heard from the room above a rasping cough and then the slow rock-rock of a chair on the broad boards of the wooden floor.

He listened, alert, as the slow sequence of sounds repeated.

And repeated.

Needless to say, the hairs on the back of his neck became instantly verticle, and his heart beat increased considerably.

But -- being the young man that he was -- he crammed down the primal fears which leaped, shrieking and gibbering, from his sub-mind, loaded his rifle, found a flashlight, and went up the creaking stairs.

Down the hall to the dark rectangle of the open door, from whence came again the harsh sounds of tortured lungs.

Swept the light around the bedroom chamber -- bare except for an iron bedstead, a warped dresser and a rocking chair close by the window casement.

An empty chair that moved , back and forth, back and forth.

Then he lowered his rifle and sagged against the door jam for a moment before he crossed the room.

To shove aside the rocking chair - probably with a degree of violence.

When the wind rose from a certain quarter, it blew through cracks in the window frame and agitated an old fashioned blind, producing in the process a rasping, hacking sound.

The window blind in turn billowed out to strike the back of the rocking chair and set it in motion.

The young man never said, but I doubt, though, if he unloaded his rifle that night after he went back downstairs.

24 comments:

Ric said...

That was great. Kinda leaves you hanging...

J. C. Wells said...

Great story, Bernita. The first tiem I heard that racket, I would have run out of the house and not looked back.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

What a great story! [Will you also write about the ghost of the black dog?]

Bernita said...

Does it, Ric?
Didn't mean to.
There was no ghost, just a physical series of events that imitated a ghostly presence.

Ah, thank you, but we're both damn-your-eyes intrepid - as well as foolhardy in this family, Jaye.

Amy, the Black Dog becomes a character in the Lillie stories and I'd prefer to leave his fictional persona intact!
But, maybe sometime...

StarvingWriteNow said...

I wouldn't have unloaded my gun.

Just in case.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

One reason I like Ghost Hunters on SciFi Channel is because they debunk before all else. It's funny how two plummers, who truly do believe, can come up with the funniest knocks and bangings from pipes.

Often it doesn't make it any less spooky because then they find something else they can't explain...

SzélsőFa said...

I've been switched to Halloween mode while reading. Thanks!

You know we don't celebrate this day/these days like you do.
We remember the deceased friends and family members, some go to church but almost anyone goes to a cemetery or at least, lights a candle to recall the beloved ones. It is a sad day, not a fun day in costumes.

But a good read is a good read anyway.
Sorry for being off.

Ric said...

Bernita,
It works because the young man was told of the haunting beforehand. Without the prior knowledge and foreboding, there is no story, just the wind.

Always the wind.

Bernita said...

A gun would no doubt be useless, Starving, but a comfort, nevertheless.

I've heard good things about that show, SS, and watched one episode - and realized their investigative process for that episode was the same as a scene I had just written. I haven't dared watch it since.

Not at all, and thank you, Szelsofa.
I believe our Halloween tradition has a lot to do with Celtic heritage and traditions. We are inclined to remember our beloved dead on the anniversaries of their death in an unofficial and individual manner.

Ric, I once read a report of a haunting wherein at times eldrich shrieks were heard.
Investigators discovered a child's whistle jammed in a knothole in the attic!

Gabriele C. said...

Did he tell the family?

Bernita said...

Yes, Gabriele, he did.
They seemed unsure whether or not to accept his prosaic solution.

Church Lady said...

Oh Bernita--I wanted the ghostly struggle for the gun!

I could almost feel the wind, and hear the raspy cough. Great story!

And please do your "Moon" post!! I only put a couple of paragraphs with a link.
*this is me begging*

I hope you had a great Halloween. My nine-year-old wanted to make his own costume. It was a spider, with all the legs having the correct number of knees. Bits of spider leg are now strewn about the neighborhood...

Sam said...

I don't like haunted houses.
We once lived in one for about three months. Every night at 2 am we would be wide awake. No reason, just a feeling of dread.
Then we learned that a young man had hanged himself in that house...in the middle of the night.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Chris.
Nope, inspiration has faded. Besides you and Szelsofa provided good links. Maybe later.

One of my most successful costume efforts for a child was a coffin. Made out of cardboard boxes taped together and sprayed black, with a face plate and brass handles, and tastefull decorative touches supplied by gold tape. Green eyeshadow gave her face a ghastly hue under a scraggly witch wig.
The child claimed to all and sundry she was her way to the local mortuary to demand a refund.

Bernita said...

The thing is , Sam, there are damned few old houses that do NOT have some tragedy attached.
I'd have been curious about the air quality, myself.

Charles Gramlich said...

We once thought we had a poltergeist. Or so it seemed. It was all electrical. For no reason the lights would dim or flicker on or off. We checked all the wiring and it was OK. The wires outside didn't touch each other. Then we discovered that the house was slowly sinking and was pulling the house's electrical feed to tight from the main feed. No poltergeist. Although I did wonder what the house was "sinking" into.

Bernita said...

"Although I did wonder what the house was "sinking" into."
Ha, Charles! Imagination on over-drive? Cue swamp/lagoon music.

Here, when the lights flicker, we just blame the power company,or assume someone hit a pole.
But the association of spirits of the dark with the failure of light has resisted the ohm.

Jeff said...

"An empty chair that moved , back and forth, back and forth."

Seeing this would have been enough to send me flying back down those creaky stairs and out the front door! Kind of like Don Knotts in "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken." ha! ha!

Ello said...

Great story! And I can totally relate because sometimes when you are all alone you can hear the scary things in the house! like the hissing and groaning sounds every house makes but which can really spook you on a cold rainy and windy night.

Bernita said...

Jeff, I believe he had to fight down a strong urge to do just that!

Thank you, Ello.
Those noises always acquire an extra significance - when one is alone.

Vesper said...

A haunting with an ending that, even though offers a rational explanation, leaves you wondering...
Has it really happened in your family?

Bernita said...

It's a true story, Vesper.
The "young man" is my husband.

Shauna Roberts said...

I wonder whether the poor dying brother actually did sit upstairs rocking and hacking. Perhaps the family (and the brother) heard the same chair and blinds as your husband did.

Bernita said...

Yes, he did, Shauna - that's what convinced that family it was a ghostly visitation.
Any hacking and rocking, naturally, would have no significence prior to his death, for any sounds would have an obviously human agency.