There’s one in every neighborhood. When I was six, the spooky house was two doors down from my home on an urban tree-lined street. A brooding three-story structure of gray stone with a sprawling covered front porch, white columns, and side bump-outs, it oozed mystery. The adults might have been clueless, but the neighborhood kids knew it was haunted.
No one actually lived there. It had been converted for business offices with a huge parking lot in the rear that butted against an alley. The lot was sectioned off with lengths of heavy chain strung between squat cement posts. We’d see people come and go, swallowed up inside, but there were never many cars in the lot and that made us suspicious.
My friends and I were convinced a coven of witches met there, and that if you ventured too close to the sides where the shadows were thickest, you’d get sucked up into a coffin tucked under the eaves. No one would ever know since an evil twin, capable of fooling everyone, would take your place.
The house also had a ghost who lived on the second floor. We knew this because the south facing room had a trio of beautiful stained glass windows and that was the perfect place for a ghost to languish. Our phantom was female. She was a melancholy soul who’d been separated from her true love and imprisoned by the witches because they were jealous. She spent her time listening to an old-fashioned music box, weeping for her lost love, and looking romantically tragic in a flowing white dress. It’s amazing what six-year-olds can envision when inspired by Dark Shadows and Quentin Collins.
Once when we were swinging on the metal chains in the parking lot (kids do dumb things when adults aren’t around), one of the neighborhood boys fell and cracked his head on the asphalt. It was a traumatic experience with a lot of screaming, crying and blood splatter. I remember following the trail of blood down the alley and across a connecting street to his house a day later. The evidence stayed there a long time before the rain washed away the grisly reminder. Although Chester recovered, we were sure the witches had caused his fall, angry that we’d discovered their secrets. I don’t think he ever swung on the chains again. I’m not sure I did either.
Not long after that, my family moved to the suburbs where I made new friends and found a new house to invent stories about. Why is it that old homes twine so ideally with the paranormal? Perhaps writing about WEATHERING ROCK, a nineteenth century home in my novel of the same name, has me thinking about those fanciful haunts from of my childhood.
What about you? Was there a spooky house in your neighborhood that still resonates in your memory? I’d love to hear about it!