It was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Halloween Night House

Halloween Night House (Photo credit: Photo Dean)

Why is it that on Halloween Night I am seized by this urge to write a ghost story?

Cutting my teeth on Nancy Drew books as a child might be part of it. Being a sporadic NaNoWriMo participant might be as well. I’ve loved mysteries all my life – the real mysteries of genealogy and long-dead relatives, and the fictional mysteries of Mary Higgins Clark, Les Roberts, Tony Hillerman, and Mary Downing Hahn. My daughters and I love watching Masterpiece Mystery: Poirot, Marple, Foyle, Wallander, Lewis and Hathaway, and of course, Sherlock.

What would I do if I actually encountered a ghost?

I’d like to think I’d stay rooted to the spot, bravely facing the apparition with a mix of curiosity and trepidation, trying to communicate.

I suspect I’d scream and run like hell. Or it would take me so long to compose myself, the apparition would disappear and I’d spend days wondering if I’d freaked myself out so much I imagined it.

As an amateur genealogist and family historian, I see dead people all the time. They live in piles of statistics and the odd photo or two. But they’re not scary. They’re just telling their stories. They’re family, more often than not, and I love them. Even in their non-corporeal state.

If someone who’d been dead 200 years stood in front of me, I cannot guarantee your personal safety if you were standing near me as I retreated from the room.

We’ve lived in our house for 9 years. It’s only 35 years old – not even close to Victorian or Edwardian, which is where you’d expect to find a ghost. But I swear, one sunny afternoon, home alone folding laundry, someone sighed. It was a sigh of defeat and sorrow, and my own heart ached in response. For a few breaths, I thought I might not be alone. I looked around, wondering if the cats were responsible. Nope. Just me and a basket of socks and underwear. I shook it off and went about my business.

I think some of us have a secret desire to be completely freaked out, but not by something fabricated in Hollywood. We like a decent shock or surprise. We like to stare down the unknown and misunderstood.

Some us – the storytellers of the world – like to cause a stir. Spinning yarns of dusty attics and hidden journals, creaking doors and sudden chills, restless spirits and ancient injustices.

Millie entered the foyer from the parlor, the stale air heavy with dust and mildew. Her flashlight created a narrow beam of light through the thick darkness. Here and there, a pinch of moonlight found its way between the window boards, but not nearly enough to be able to see.

The only noise came from distant whisperings of Ericka and Lori debating whether to move forward or retreat to the relative brightness of the mansion’s overgrown garden. Lori seemed to be losing the argument.

Millie’s flashlight beam dusted the carved banister near the front door.

All right. I’m going up.

Out of the corner of her eye, a figure loomed. Millie gasped and jostled the flashlight as she faced the intruder.

“Oh, for God’s sake,” she whispered. Her own reflection stared back from a dusty mirror. “Millie, just get a grip.”

The cobwebs across the face of the mirror shifted…in a breeze that didn’t exist.

Eyes that weren’t her own looked back at her, from a masculine face. He gave her a sad half-smile, glanced up toward the second floor, then vanished.


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