part one of three
FRANK AND I HAD BEEN FRIENDS since school days. We were first united by a mutual interest in the occult. We shared the child-like dream of discovering the secrets of myth and legend. In time, my own interests became more scholarly while he devotedly pursued the subject as a rare and misunderstood reality.
What once linked us in friendship now bound us in a friendly rivalry. He was determined to convince me of the possibility; I was determined to reject all but the very concrete evidence that has evaded all investigators thus far. I still appreciated the stories he brought me, though they were nothing more than literature to me.
I will admit that I found some of these reports to be quite compelling. More than once he presented facts I could not account for, at least not politely. But the best he ever accomplished was for me to observe that all we truly know about the unknown is that we know nothing. Nonetheless, we had many enriching conversations and never became hostile despite this fundamental difference of perspective.
For a time he became scarce, and I worried that I might have gone too far in some refutation. I was happily proven wrong. He invited my girlfriend and me to join him and his wife for a weekend at a house they had rented for the occasion.
He happily informed me that he believed the place was ‘active’ spiritually, and that it was an otherwise beautiful and tranquil place. Even if a casual investigation came to nothing, he assured me, the country air was quite refreshing.
On the long drive, Maryanne and I had a chance to spend some quiet time together. I knew I truly loved her and wondering why I had not yet asked for her hand in marriage. We both found the green of the hills and fields to be a welcome change, though the ever-increasing remoteness had the effect of turning each mile into a nearly mystic transition. But these little shudders I put aside.
When we finally saw the house, we marveled at the small fortune it must have taken to secure it. It waited at the end of a long and lonely private road, and it was undeniable that, despite its beauty, it held a subtle hint of an unearthly atmosphere. This sensation is difficult to describe, somehow some ordinary aspect or feature would seize me with dread. And even as I tried to identify what it was that so affected me, it would be gone.
At the sound of the car, Frank and Danielle came out to meet us. Their greetings, fond and friendly, and contained, like the house, an impression of something else. It was as though they were grateful they were no longer alone. A strange sort of relief was clearly in their features. As Maryanne and I unloaded our things from the car, we whispered about it. I told her it was possible that they had already spooked themselves without us, and while chiding me I was happy to see her somewhat relieved herself.
We toured the place, admiring the quality of artistic touches that shined from everywhere. It was clear the house designed by nothing short of a genius and its value must have been an astronomical sum. There was beauty within and without, and but for the occasional tinge of inexplicable oddness, I might have thought of the place as paradise.
As we finished our walk, Maryanne noted there was one room on the ground floor that we had not explored. Our host simply told us that was for later.
I knew it was not for beauty alone that Frank had brought us here.
As I offered up the steaks we brought for the grill, I tried to pry more information from him. He smiled devilishly, savoring my interest, but insisted that I would have to wait… the wait, he promised, was worthwhile.
The four of us shared a pleasant evening, talking and laughing as the sun sank slowly down. We shared a few bottles of delicious wine, and as that ancient elixir took effect our host broached the subject of our sojourn.
“You, I’m sure, have noticed something odd about the house. Well, now it’s time for me to tell you what may be the cause. I will warn you that the tale is for neither the timid nor the squeamish, and, for all I know, it may be better if we load up the cars right now and tell the tale somewhere else.”
“Bravo,” I teased, “but unless you intend to do us harm, I think we shall all be alright.”
“I am completely serious,” he stated with a tone that indeed made me uneasy. “It isn’t me you have to worry about.”
“Spirits?” I asked incredulously. “You mean to say the ghosts here are dangerous?”
“I assure you,” he replied, “it is not ghosts that trouble me, but if any place I’ve been was haunted it would be here. These walls have seen death, blood and murder, but I blame no haunting spirit for the sense of menace that I have felt here, or for what I’ve seen on your face. But, now, I’ve got ahead of myself.”
story by Joe Stanley