If I was writing a book called “The Haunted House” it probably wouldn’t sell a copy, because that’s a boring-a** title. Although haunted houses are (or were, at least) a hot commodity for Kindle horror stories, I don’t seem to be able to write one well. Shame, really, because I have had a couple of experiences.
Disclaimer: I don’t really believe in haunted houses or ghosts — yet I have had these experiences.
My first story about a haunted house is about the house I lived in as a senior in college. Supposedly, the Bordans (of Bordan Milk, not Lizzie’s family) originally built the 3-story structure with a full basement in Rogers Park, a north Chicago neighborhood. By the time we got around to renting it, the insides had all been painted pink by its previous owner, an older woman who supposedly died in the home. It was purchased by a Polish filmmaker named Marian Marzynski, who had the grand idea of renting it to a group of college students, namely me and seven of my friends from the dorms. In return for rent credits, we were charged with stripping the pink paint from the gorgeous woodwork and cabinetry and fireplace, and we did a lot of it. But mostly, we held massive parties every time Tau Kappa Epsilon threw one. (For reasons lost in time, we didn’t like the TKE’s and wanted to spoil their parties.)
One night, I happened to be the only person in this house, and I heard a sound like a door opening. I figured one of my roomies was home, but when I didn’t hear anyone coming up to the second floor, I shut off my stereo and listened closely. It sounded like chairs were being moved around in the dining room. And I started freaking out. I thought someone had broken in. When I called out, “Who’s there?” no one answered but the noises stopped.
Soon after I thought I heard footsteps on the stairs coming up to my room on the third floor. Then a shadow on the floor cast as if someone was standing in the stairwell just out of my line of sight. So I picked up the cat, who hadn’t reacted to anything this whole time, and I tossed her in front of the stairs and waited to hit whoever was there with a baseball bat that was in my room.
But of course no one was there. When I stepped back, I looked to see what the shadow was from. A spot on the light? Nope. The shadow was gone.
So I went downstairs to the first floor, cranked up the stereo, and proceeded to drink a bit too much, which is how my roommates found me, singing and dancing around to songs turned up way too loud. That experience did make it into a short story I wrote called “Sole Occupant.” It’s in my collection, 14 DARK WINDOWS, if you’d like to read it (along with 13 other stories).
My second stay at a haunted house was actually at The Myrtles, a haunted plantation turned bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. It was a beautiful old mansion, lots of bedrooms, and some were apparently haunted and some have never had any reports of paranormal activity. They would not tell us which rooms we were staying in, saying that if we reported something they would know if we were telling the truth or making something up because apparently the stories from the haunted rooms were all pretty much the same.
I couldn’t sleep much. I thought every friggin’ sound I heard at night was a ghost, even though I didn’t (and still don’t) believe in ghosts. Try telling yourself to be rational at two in the morning while staying in a “haunted” plantation. But I didn’t have any paranormal experiences. Didn’t see anything, didn’t hear anything that wasn’t just an old creaky house.
My lack of belief is probably why I can’t write a good haunted house story. But that isn’t something I can switch on and off.
If you have a good ghost story, feel free to point me toward it in the comments.