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02 October 2017

Based on a True Story

Written by Sarah-Maree

So, it’s October and that’s the BEST month of the year. Spiders are dying and leaves are changing! Beautiful. Simply beautiful. But it’s also the month of ghost stories, dressing up (Halloween), and also remembering and honoring the dead (Día de los Muertos).

This story, based on a true story, was something I came up with to help celebrate the season. Enjoy!

A Ghostly Presence

It had long been told by the residents that their old house in the city had a ghost. Modern as it looked, the house had its secrets. No one could deny that. Doubters had only to enter the house to know its age.

Time had taken its toll on the house. Floor boards squeaked and faucets leaked. Though the living tried to change the house to match the changing times, old remnants remained. Though doors had been boarded up and made to look like walls, that could not alter their existence, nor their purpose.

The old foyer door that led into the parlor was one such door that was lost. So too was the second door that led from parlor to living space. While the room remained, it had changed from a room of welcoming to a bedroom. Yet parlors had not always been used for welcoming family or guests. Those double doors could open wide for the admittance of coffins and the dead who slept within. While many knew of the old tradition of having a showing in one’s home, none alive could say with certainty if any deceased, coffin and all, had ever graced the old parlor.

The old parlor was not the only thing to be changed, one had only to listen on a cold winter’s night for the clanging of the old furnace. Down in the dark depths of the unfinished basement still lay a gravel pit. Before the replacement of the old furnace, the pit had been used to store coal, which had been dumped from an old coal chute on the outside of the house, a chute long since forgotten, long since removed.

The unfinished basement, with its nests of spiders and occasional bats, was certainly a place to be avoided, but the old house had faulty wires and more often than its current residents liked, a circuit breaker would go out. Then, someone would have to a venture into its dark and dusty depths.

Such a venture involved a risky walk down rickety old stairs with an old brick wall on one side and no railing on the other. A single old dust covered light, one that could only be turned on by twisting the bulb, illuminated the stairs, but it’s light went no farther.

Another light remained dark, its pull string located in the far back section near the circuit board. To reach it and the malfunctioning circuit breaker meant traveling alone in the near total darkness, or if the wrong breaker had gone out, then in total darkness. A six-foot ceiling with thick beams meant trouble as any who entered had to duck and weave to avoid the low ceiling and worse, the dangling webs with their hungry eight-legged occupants.

It was in this old house with its many secrets that a father quite suddenly proclaimed there to be a ghost. He said so to his wife and children whenever he wandered into a ‘cold spot’. Always the chill occurred in the same space, but try as he might, he could never find the source of the chilly presence.

His children would often scoff at the remark. The older ones would often try to frighten and tease the younger ones with ghost stories, stories easily crafted given the house’s history and other oddities. Mostly, however, the children ignored the tales of ghosts, choosing instead to carry on with their usual mischief of raiding cupboards for food, dangling each other over the railing above the stairs to the second floor, or lighting fireworks in the house whilst proclaiming they, “could put it out.”

Time went on and the father passed the house to his second son and his young family. Many years passed and as so often does, the grandfather passed away. His children, however, never forgot his many claims of being chilled by the presence of a ghost.

On a day much like any other, the man’s two sons began sharing old stories of the house. As the night wore on, they inevitably shared the story of their father and his story of a cold spot. They continued to laugh at the foolishness of ghosts and of their departed father.

Through it all a young girl listened, all too happy to hear stories of her father and her uncle’s adventures in the house. She understood some of the things they shared, but mostly she just enjoyed listening to the stories. Unfortunately for her, they eventually noticed her presence, and realizing it was late, they decided to call it a night and sent her off to bed.

Then it happened.

As the girl’s uncle passed by the old parlor door, he felt a chill wind. In that moment, he denied what he felt, certain that he had only imagined it. After all, it was late and they had been sharing old stories. It made sense that his mind was playing tricks on him. He scoffed at the idea of ghost and ‘cold spots’ in the house.

Before he could take another step, he felt the chilly touch of air again! Now he knew his mind had played no tricks on him! He also knew there had to be a logical answer, so he planted his feet and began looking for it.

He did not have to wait long to feel the cold touch again. He swore out loud, causing his niece to eagerly jump out of bed and ask what had happened. Her father soon chimed in, uncertain of his brother’s unusual behavior, for he rarely swore.

Not wanting to admit what had happened, the girl’s uncle continued to search for an answer, but as he did so, the ghostly chill reached him for a fourth time. He quickly explained the situation, hoping for support in finding an answer. His brother, however, mocked him, as any brother would. Only when the younger brother felt the cold air for himself did he stop laughing.

The girl, not really knowing much about ghosts, looked around to see if she could help her uncle solve the mystery of the breeze. As she did so, she felt the cold air, but her eyes also caught a flash of movement in a dark room, the old parlor. Feeling uncertain, she pointed at the barely visible fan in her father’s room and asked if it was the cause.

The two brothers turned and peered into the dark room. When the saw it, they shook their heads at first. They wanted to believe the girl, but the fan wasn’t facing the doorway at all! There was no way for it to have caused a cool draft.

Then it moved as it began to swerve back around. The girl’s uncle immediately realized the breeze he had felt had been from the oscillating fan, and not a ghost. His brother laughed and the girl glared in suspicious confusion.

While the fan may have solved one chilly mystery, there remained the mystery of their father’s ghostly encounters, for there had been no oscillating fans in their childhood…