Before I tell you how the story ends I wanted to say… I am incredibly appreciative of the support I’ve received from all of you over the years. The kind email messages, the ridiculously positive reviews, and all of the interaction on social media encouraged me to keep writing. Without all of that the blog and podcast never would have become what they did. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I honestly never thought anyone would read or listen to these ghost stories but because people like you have been vocal about the it and have shared it with friends – word spread like wildfire!
It’s true. Ghosts in the Burbs is coming to an end. It was a difficult decision and not one I took lightly. I’ve realized that I simply can’t put in the massive amount of attention and time Ghosts in the Burbs deserves any longer. The stories will live on forever, or at least until the robots come to save us from ourselves and shut down the internet, but I have no intention of taking the stories down. They’ll be right where you’ve always found them.
I thought this ending would take three episodes to tell. But I was wrong, again. This is it. The very last episode. People ask me all the time “Are these stories real?” The honest truth is that every single one of these characters told me their stories. They walked right into my mind and started talking about their houses and their lives and the scary thing that was happening to them. And as I was writing what I thought would be part two of a three part ending, a very scary man walked into a basement in my mind and ended everything right there and then. I wished for another chapter, but stories are like that. Things don’t always go the way you want them to.
And I know I have to close this door so I can open a different one for all of the other ghosts and monsters stomping around in my mind to spill out into the world. So while it is true that the podcast and blog are coming to an end, I still intend to write. From here on out you’ll find me at lizreadsandwrites.com and on instagram @lizreadsandwrites.
But first, we have a three and a half year long story to bring to an unsatisfying conclusion. We’re onto the very last ghost story. #49 The Final Interview Part 2 – The End
[Author’s note: In the previous post (The Final Interview Part 1), our haunted neighbor was referred to as Bonnie. I have changed Bonnie’s name in this episode to Sarah. Thank you Sarah Miller for your kindness and your incredible support of the podcast.]
The girls were down for the night, if not yet asleep they were at least quiet in their beds. Chris and I sat in cozy chairs in our kitchen, me sipping coffee, him Chardonnay.
How long do you think you’ll be? You’re wearing that saint necklace right? Will you be able to tell if something attached to you or whatever? Are you scared? You’re sure this is safe?
I answered his nervous questions as best I could. It would probably take a couple hours. I had on the necklace plus a bracelet of St. Benedict medals that I’d dipped in Holy Water. I was pretty sure I’d be able to tell if someone was attached to me. Afterall, I always knew when Claire was around, if someone else wanted to tag along then I could deal with it before I came home. I was scared. No, I wasn’t sure if it was safe.
Speaking of Claire, she was there with us. Standing near the door in our mudroom. The protections around my home never applied to her because I wanted her there. She’d taken on the role of guide for me, and though she wasn’t always around she stayed close when I interacted with the dead, and provided snarky commentary when I interacted with the living. But if I asked her to scram and give me some space, she did.
“Will Claire go with you?” Chris asked.
Claire smiled. I do hate missing an episode of Goldrush.
I laughed. “She’s coming,” I told him.
“What did she say?”
“She likes watching television with you.”
“What does she want to watch?” he said hesitantly. “I’m open to suggestions, but I can’t watch anything scary.”
Out the picture window headlights flashed across our front lawn. “Judith’s here,” I said, standing up. I brought my mug to the sink while Chris went to answer the door.
“Christ Almighty, how many dogs do you have?” Judith crowed, her voice nearly drowned out by excited barking. She and Chris exchanged a hug. Holding him out at arms length she asked, “You ready for this? Did she spray you down with Holy Water?”
Like a deer in headlights Chris stammered, “Uh, I wasn’t planning to-”
“She’s joking,” I said, giving him a kiss goodbye.
He chuckled in relief. “I still don’t understand why you have to go do this at night.”
“It’s when the veil between the worlds is at its thinnest,” Judith said in a low voice.
I could tell Chris was trying to manage his expression.
“She’s joking,” Claire and I said in unison.
“Oh! So Claire’s tagging along then,” Judith said happily having heard the ghost’s voice.
Hi Judith. Claire replied.
Judith gave her a nod. “Let’s get goin’, this is going to be a nasty one.”
Chris gave each of us a hug and told me to keep my phone on and text if “anything happens.”
As we drove to Sarah and Ed Miller’s home Judith filled me in on her current cross stitch project (a jack o’ lantern surrounded by zombies), her dog’s current health issues (food sensitivities and a pain in the ass raw food diet), and the current state of her marriage (rocky).
“Anyway,” Judith continued, “The therapist says we need to honor each other’s communication styles.’” She glanced over at me. “Are you picking anything up?”
Startled I said, “About your marriage? God no.”
Judith let out a bark of laughter. “No, not about my marriage. About where we’re going. About the couple, the house, anything?”
“Oh,” I said relieved. “No, I mean not really. Though my anxiety is at about an eleven on a scale of one to ten.”
“I’m not feelin’ too settled either,” Judith replied. The Miller’s lived on Ledgeways Street, a wooded winding road off Cliff. Judith squinted at a black mailbox. “And… there it is.” Judith pulled into a curved gravel drive in front of an imposing brick colonial with black shutters and a red door. To the right the driveway branched off to a freestanding three car garage.
We sat in silence each consumed by our own thoughts and worries. Finally I unclicked my seatbelt and said, “Ready?”
I just about hit the roof of the car when Claire whispered, You’re not going to like what you find in there, right beside my left ear as if she were leaning forward from the back seat. Turning to look I saw she wasn’t there, and yet I heard her voice again. I’ll go back to the house and watch that stupid show with Chris. If anything happens I’ll tell you.
“Wait, what? Claire? Wait.”
“What did she say?” Judith asked.
“You didn’t hear her?”
Judith shook her head.
“She’s going back to the house she said she’d tell me if anything happens. Why would anything happen at my house?”
“One of my guides just took off too,” Judith admitted. “I knew this was going to be a nasty one.” She took the key from the ignition and shifted in her seat to look straight at me. “You’re gonna take the lead in there.”
“Yup. I’ll be right there with you, but the only way to learn it is to do it.”
“I don’t know if I’m particularly interested in building this skill set,” I replied.
“You don’t have a choice,” Judith replied.
“Yes I do,” I argued.
“No you don’t, and I’m supposed to train you.”
“That guide who just took off. Things have… changed.”
I looked from her to the woods surrounding the house. I didn’t need to hear dead people to know that there was something very wrong with the place. “I don’t want to go in there.”
“Me either,” Judith replied opening the car door and stepping onto the gravel drive.
I did the same, eyeing the dark woods around us. I could feel that we were being watched by angry eyes. I glanced at the house, movement in the dormer at the center of the third floor caught my eye.
But my attention was pulled away from the window when the front door opened wide, spilling warm light onto the lawn. “Hi,” Sarah called in a small voice. “Come on in. You must be Judith.” She stepped out onto the front stoop and extended a hand. Judith accepted it and followed the woman inside. Hesitantly I left the car and forced myself to follow them.
In the brightly lit kitchen after we’d said a round of hellos and Judith and I had turned down polite offers of coffee, seltzer water and wine, we explained our intentions. We would walk through the house to discern the nature of the haunting. The information we gathered would help us determine who they needed help from. A priest? A Voodoo practitioner? A Wiccan Priestess? Only walking through the house and meeting their spooks could tell us that. Sarah filled me in about the footsteps in the attic, the disembodied voices throughout the house, her terrifying sleep paralysis, and the boy in the hoodie over the coffee meeting we’d had earlier that week and I in turn had filled in Judith.
Judith said, “We’ve got a good idea about what’s going on here, but have you been bickering?”
The couple looked guilty.
“How about the kids?”
“They have, it’s driving us crazy.” Sarah admitted.
Judith nodded her head and turned her attention to me as though she expected me to say something.
“So then, let’s go ahead and take a look around the house,” I said, dumbly.
“What would you like to see first?” Ed asked.
I looked at Judith hoping she would answer and was met with raised eyebrows. I realized she’d meant it when she said I would be taking the lead.
I hesitated. “Uh, hang on a second okay?” I closed my eyes and took several calming breaths as I’d been coached to do by Judith and despite everything in me screaming that it was a very bad idea, I dropped my guard and opened up my all of my senses and I listened. I listened for the dead, for the sound of unsettle and for the thing that I knew was there but didn’t want to acknowledge.
The rooms around us on the first floor vibrated with the dispersed energy of an argument. No arguments. Nasty ones. The basement beneath our feet pulsed with fear and excitement, radiating an evil I hadn’t known existed until that moment. The detached three car garage held a playful sort of danger, and image of teenage boys playing with knives entered my mind. The second floor felt somehow bleak and intentional at the same time. There were two dead people in the attic. Wanting to talk.
“Let’s start in the attic,” I said.
The couple looked at eachother. “Why do you want to start there?” Sarah asked, her voice shaky.
“There are two dead teenagers up there and they have something to say, but they absolutely refuse to come downstairs.”
“We’ve seen them,” Ed said, incredulously. “The kids too, they say the ‘big kids’ have warned them to stay upstairs. Away from the basement.”
“Then up we go!” Judith said sounding positively gleeful.
We climbed two flights of stairs and stepped into a beautifully finished attic. To one side of the house was a bedroom with three twin beds built right into the wall under the eves. Cheerful royal blue striped bedspreads gave the room a nautical vibe. To the other side a playroom stuffed to the gills with brightly colored toys sat quietly waiting for us. I noted the dormer windows in both rooms, it was through one of those that I’d seen movement from the driveway.
“Do your kids play up here a lot?” I asked, trying not to sound as concerned as I felt.
“They did when we first moved in but now they avoid it. [Name omitted] saw what she described as two “big kids” up here who told her things about the house and they warned her to never go into the woods out back.”
“They’re right about that,” Judith muttered.
“What’s wrong with the woods?” Ed asked looking at Judith who in turn looked at me.
“Uh, I’m not sure yet,” I said. I glanced around us in the annoyingly dim lamp light and listened. “Wait here, okay?” I left the playroom and walked across the hall to the far end of the bedroom.
You should go, the boy said. He knows why you’re here.
Tell them the woods aren’t safe, the girl added.
It’s the garage they should avoid, the boy argued.
“Why won’t you guys go downstairs?” I asked.
We don’t want him to trap us. That’s what he wants. A collection, the girl explained.
We don’t want to end up like them, the boy said.
“Why can’t he come up here?” I asked.
We don’t know, they said in unison.
“Has he attached to these people?”
To the mother, he will collect her then move onto the kids. It’s all about the kids, it always has been, the girl said sadly.
It’s the first wave, the boy added.
“The first wave?”
“Can I help you?”
They shook their heads. We are fine here.
“It sounds like you’re just as trapped up here as they are in the basement.”
Where would we go? The boy asked.
“Across,” I said, feeling an overwhelming rush of sadness and loss.
We are safe here, the girl repeated. Tell them not to go into the woods.
“You can leave anytime you want,” I argued. “You have the power to make that decision.”
Not while he’s here, the boy said. The garage isn’t safe. Be careful.
And with that they were gone. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see Judith standing behind me.
“Sorry,” she said.
I wiped my eyes. “Someone is trapping souls in the basement and there’s something else in the garage.”
“I don’t know… but I do somehow. How does that make any sense?”
“There’s something here that feels like unfinished business to me. Or at least it’s something you’ve encountered before. One thing’s for sure, it doesn’t want you here.”
I laughed. “Well that makes two of us.”
Ed cleared his throat, he and Sarah stood anxiously in the doorway. I smiled awkwardly, “We need to go down to the basement.”
Sarah sucked in a breath.
“You don’t have to come down with us, but that’s where Judith and I need to go next.”
“Do you know who’s haunting us?” Sarah asked.
“Well to start with, there are two teenagers up here, it’s where they feel safest. They don’t mean you or your children any harm, they’ve actually been trying to warn you all to keep you safe.”
“Did you get them out of here?” Ed asked.
“No, they said they can’t leave until the other, uh, issues are cleared up.”
“This is just about the cutest darn guest room I’ve ever seen,” Judith declared, her voice bright. “I feel like I’m in a real live Pinterest post.”
“Thanks,” Sarah said with a small smile. “My mom is an interior designer, it was her idea.”
“Now that is a good mom to have,” Judith declared. “My mom’s a nutritionist, and that’s as agonizing as you can imagine and then some. Shall we?”
We trudged down the soft carpeted steps. On the second floor Ed said, “Uh, there is one room that’s an issue on this floor.”
“Oh?” I said, sensing exactly the room he meant and not wanting anything to do with it.
“Yes, it’s the office at the end of the hall,” he pointed.
Hesitantly I looked in the direction he indicated. The hallway was well lit. There was no reason for there to be a shadow blocking the view of the last door on the left. But there was. And that shadow slipped into the room and out of sight.
“Did you see it?” Sarah whispered.
Trying very hard to keep the accusation out of my voice, I said, “You didn’t say anything about shadow figures.”
“I thought I was imagining things,” she replied defensively.
“I think I’ll take that coffee now,” Judith said easily. “Sarah, you and Ed go on and brew up a pot. We’ll be down in two shakes.”
The couple didn’t need any further prompting. They took off down the stairs leaving Judith and I alone in the long hallway.
“Was that a real shadow figure?” I hissed.
“I don’t know. But that’s not even the worst of it.”
“What in the hell is this place?”
“I don’t think it’s necessarily the place or even the people, though I might be wrong. There’s something bigger at play.”
“I’m not stepping foot into that room,” I said, crossing my arms.
“That makes two of us,” Judith agreed.
We stood listening for several moments. “Are you getting anything?” Judith asked.
“Beside pure terror?” I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. It was a text from Biddy.
Hey. Are you going to that haunted house tonight? Just got a weird phone call, all static. Something about it made me think of Poe. I haven’t had any trouble from him in a long time. Be careful, got a bad feeling about that house. Could they have shadow figures?
“Is it from Chris?”
“No, Biddy. She got a weird call. Said it made her think of Poe.”
“The shadow figure she had attached to her?”
“Could Poe be here?” I asked in disbelief.
“I don’t think so, but maybe one of his buddies is,” she closed her eyes in concentration.
“Shadow figures are just about as bad as it gets right?”
“Right. Shush and let me focus.”
I sent a quick reply to Biddy, letting her know that I was indeed at the haunted house and that it was much worse than we’d thought.
Be careful. She texted back. I’m spooked.
Still looking down I said, “Biddy is creeped out. I think we should…” but I trailed off. Looking up from the phone I saw that Judith had made it almost all the way to the last door on the left.
“Judith!” I whispered. “Get back here.”
“It’s not a shadow figure, but he can make himself look like one. He wants us out of here,” she said in a low voice.
“Well then let’s give him what it wants,” I hissed. “Come on!”
Judith took a small step forward. “He’s planning something. No, he’s part of a plan and he’s proud of that. It isn’t about these people, about the Miller’s though he, no they, draw energy from their fear. This house is just a base. There are many.”
“Judith!” I said, trying to build up the nerve to walk down the hall and pull her back.
“Jason,” she said. “It’s Jason.” She turned back to look at me, a look of horrible understanding on her face. “You know him. He’s the boy who-”
The lights flickered and I let out a little squeak without meaning to. Judith stood in front of the door now, peering in. “My God,” she said, her voice shaking. The door in front of her slammed shut with enough force to knock it off the hinges. Judith threw herself back into the wall behind her then scrambled back along the hallway towards me.
“Go!” She said.
I turned and started down the stairs, stepping directly onto something small, my right foot slipped out from under me and I slid down several steps before stopping myself with the handrails. All at once, I let out a sort of “whoops!” and heard Judith say, “Oh, for Christ’s sake, Liz, are you alright?” as the small thing I’d stepped on shot out and bounced off the wall across from the stairs almost hitting Ed, who peered up at us in horror.
“What happened? Are you alright?” Sarah asked, holding tight to her husband’s arm.
Judith and I pushed past them into the dining room. Sarah hot on our heels.
White as a sheet, Judith insisted, “You mustn’t let anyone in that office. At least until we get a team here to clear it out.”
“Of course, never let anyone in there. We keep that door closed and locked so the kids won’t wander in.”
“So you opened it for us tonight?”
“No. I thought about it but figured you would ask us to unlock it if you wanted to go in,” she paused. “Was that door open?”
“Where did you find this?” Ed said suddenly, standing behind his wife. He held up the rectangular plastic box that I’d slipped on.
“It was on the stairs, I’m sorry, did I break it?”
Sarah stared at the box in horror. “That’s impossible,” she whispered.
“We haven’t seen this in at least a month,” Ed said firmly, setting the thing down on the table. Seeing it close up I realized that it was an old garage door opener. “I backed over this damn thing with my car, threw it in a garbage bag and drove the pieces to the dump myself.”
I giggled nervously like a dolt. “Why would you do that?”
“I had to disconnect the automatic door openers. The garage doors were keeping us up at night, opening and closing. The electrician said she’d never seen anything like it, couldn’t replicate the problem and told us that she couldn’t find a thing wrong with the system.”
“I asked her to come back at three in the morning to see for herself,” Sarah added. “Of course she didn’t. She looked at me like I was nuts.”
Ed nodded, staring down at the grey plastic box. “I unplugged the units, but it didn’t make a difference. Every night like clockwork at three a.m. those doors would go up and down steadily for half an hour. So I dismantled the system but it didn’t make a damn difference. I found this on a shelf in the garage a couple days later, realizing it was the last of the garage door system. I admit I went a little crazy,” Ed said looking embarrassed, “But I was at my whit’s end. It was creepy. That door slowly opening and closing by itself.”
“I’ll bet,” I said with a shiver.
“This went on from three until about three-thirty?” Judith asked.
“Like clockwork,” Sarah insisted. “Most nights I couldn’t fall back to sleep. I didn’t know what was scarier, a ghost doing it or some neighborhood kids screwing around out there. We’d seen them on the trail out back and I worried it might be them lurking around.”
“What trail?” I asked as Judith said, “What kids?”
“There’s a path in the backyard that leads to a walking trail around Rockridge Pond. The teenagers must have a hang out in the woods, I’ve seen a couple boys back there a few times.”
“Rockridge Pond,” I said, my slow mind catching up. I turned to Judith, “The kids, you remember Eric, the guy who was on Biddy’s old investigating team? That’s where he saw them for the first time – the path around Rockridge Pond.”
Judith remained silent. She peered at the Miller’s, seeming to study them. “Why do you two ended up here?”
They stared back at her.
“Come on now,” she pressed. “You’ve got ghosts in your attic, an evil dead boy in your office, Black Eyed Kids in your backyard and I’m not ready to say what I think is in your basement. What have you been up to?”
“Nothing,” Sarah said, her voice edged with hysteria.
“We are good people,” Ed said, pointing to his wife and then at himself. “And our kids are too young to be involved in the occult if that’s what you’re implying.”
“We’re Presbyterian for heaven’s sake,” Sarah insisted.
Judith eyed them. “I believe you, but you know I had to ask.”
“It’s not them,” I said, the basement pulling on me.
“Then they have the worst luck I’ve ever encountered,” Judith muttered.
I walked to the back of the house, and open layout, the kitchen overlooking a sectional-filled living room. Sarah, Judith and Ed followed, fanning out along the marble topped kitchen island. I closed my eyes. The basement pulsed. The teenagers panicked above us. The office was empty now, the boy had gone to the basement. Black eyes watched us through the windows. A thought came to me.
“The house you first stayed in when you moved to Wellesley, the one where the paranormal activity began,” I said, opening my eyes. “Who did you rent it from?”
“A couple named Michael and Laura Arnold,” Ed replied.
“Lilith,” I whispered.
“Bingo,” Judith said. “That’s what I was trying to tell you upstairs.”
Three loud knocks reverberated throughout the kitchen. The four of us jumped and moved instinctively away from the source of the noise, crowding together near the refrigerator.
“It’s the basement door,” Sarah said, pointing towards a door at the far corner of the living room.
“Does that happen often?” Judith asked.
Sarah nodded. “Sometimes.”
“Well, we sure as hell aren’t going out to that garage, we know what’s out there. Looks like the basement’s calling,” Judith said, moving across the room. She turned to look back at me. “Come on.”
I forced myself to follow her, every cell in my being screaming at me to turn and run out the front door. My phone buzzed in my pocket. I pulled it out and looked down at a text from Chris. Everything alright? Just got a little spooked here. When do you think you’ll be home?
I texted back, Don’t worry, Claire’s watching TV with you. Home in half an hour.
“Is that Biddy again?” Judith asked.
“No, Chris. Said he’s a little spooked.”
Judith raised her eyebrows. “Same thing Biddy said, yeah?”
We moved in front of the door. For the life of me I didn’t know how I’d gather the courage to walk through it.
“There’s a switch on the left right inside the doorway,” Ed called.
Judith gripped the door handle and yanked it open. “You first,” she said, motioning me forward. Our eyes met. “You know it’s you they want to talk to.”
I reached out and flipped the light switch bathing the hardwood stairs in bright light. I walked through the door and onto the first step. Down we went.
At the base of the stairs I turned and stepped into a finished basement. As I did a floor lamp set beside a leather couch flickered on and the overhead light shut off. There was someone sitting on that couch, I took a tentative step forward to get a better look at him.
The man was handsome in a Hollywood way, tight and toned with chiseled features and bright blond hair. He may have been thirty and he may have been fifty, from moment to moment my perception changed. An ankle rested on one knee revealed bumblebee striped socks beneath straight leg jeans. He wore a grey long-sleeved Allman Brothers t-shirt, the sleeves pushed up. A tattoo of a red Bic lighter seemed to almost glow on his left forearm. He bit his lip and smiled with sickening charm. “Hello, Scribe,” he said.
I couldn’t speak.
He looked me up in down and tilted his head to the side. “I don’t get it,” he said, “You go to spin class five days a week.”
“Fuck you,” I said without thinking.
The man smirked and stood. “You wish.”
He was tall, intimidatingly so. Somehow I managed to stand my ground.
He pointed up, “They did their best to get you to understand,” he watched me look at the ceiling. “Not those idiots you idiot. Higher than that. They’re the ones who influenced you to talk to all those little people, but no matter how many clues we let slip you just never put it together.” There was laughter in his voice. “But you did follow the calling to become the Scribe, so I guess that’s something…” He crossed his arms over his chest and in my own voice he said, “I created a little sign and pinned it to the library’s community message board. I promised free coffee and muffins in exchange for a scary tale.” His smile widened alarmingly and his voice changed back. “Would you like to hear a really scary story, Miss Liz?”
I took a step back because somehow he’d come closer without moving.
“Once upon a time there was a little town. It was a proper little town and it’s proper little people had proper little lives. They were busy bees, those little people. Filling their days with the business of wealth, with their high powered careers, shuttling the children to and from safe places, volunteering their time indignantly, sweating out their manufactured stress and anxiety at spin class,” he gave an exaggerated wink. “Those little people cherished their little lives and they thought about their little lives and they protected their little lives and they refused to accept anything that might interrupt those little lives.
“And then one day a great king looked up from his throne and surveyed the domain above him. Where might I go where no one would notice? Where might I go where the proper little people would refuse to acknowledge my presence? Where might I go to create a safe place for me and mine? He asked himself. And he saw the proper little town with it’s proper little people and he saw an opportunity.”
“What makes this town so different than any other?” I asked, my voice shaking.
“The land. The land is good.” He laughed, “Well… the land is good for us. It is very bad for proper little people.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the one who was sent to start the little fires. And it was my job to distract you.” His face changed, slowly at first then faster and faster. He was Biddy, then Judith, Becca with the problem in her basement, Jenn who’d been attacked in her own home by a religious zealot, Lindsay or perhaps her mimic, then Tom Murphy, quick as a flash he was Hillary, Vanessa and Jill. He became every single person I’d interviewed in Wellesley and finally, his face was Laura Arnold’s for a too-long moment before returning to its original sickeningly handsome form.
Without meaning to I’d backed myself against the wall, I was near enough to the stairs to run up but unable to move.
He raised his eyebrows up and down. “You’ve documented all the little games we’ve played with all the proper little people here. You’ve been a good scribe,” he said almost apologetically. “But you chased the wrong story, Liz. You chased distraction.”
The boy in the hoodie stepped out of the shadows. Expressionless he stared at me.
“Do you remember Jason?” The man asked. “Or I should say, does your tiny proper little mind understand who he is yet?”
The boy named Jason pulled down his hoodie and put his hands in his pockets.
“Jason’s sacrifice opened a door, one that won’t be closed.”
“You’re the one who haunted Lilith and her family? The boy who died in their house?”
The devil clapped slowly. “Yes, Jason’s the boy who sacrificed himself so that all this could be possible,” he spoke as though he was talking to an idiot. “Isn’t it brilliant? The rest of it, the ghost and monster theatrics were all in good fun. But it’s the girls like Lilith, and the boys like Jason that we want. Well, not like Jason, he’s dead, but there are little live boys to ignite. We’ve set these little fires everywhere. And they walk and talk and look like all the other little boys and girls in your little town. They live in your cozy little homes, play field hockey for your cozy little high school, ride their bikes down your cozy little streets. And they’ll do that and they’ll do that and they’ll do that until I tell them to do something else.”
“Jesus Christ,” I breathed.
The man winced. “He’s not invited. Now run along and tell those assholes upstairs what lives in their basement. And tell them if they don’t get the fuck out of this house I’ll take their children as soon as they come of age.”
Legs shaking I backed my way up the stairs right into Judith.
“What is it? What did you see?” She asked. “At least go all the way down and see if you can get a good read on the space.”
“You’ve gotta at least step off the stairs and look,” she whispered.
“I just did-”
She looked at me, “Are you alright?”
“We have to go right now.” I grabbed her arm and dragged her up the stairs, refusing to turn my back on the basement I climbed backwards, certain that man would come and drag us both back down there.
Once through the door I slammed it and moved away across the kitchen.
“That didn’t take long,” Ed said.
To Judith I said, “You didn’t hear any of that? You didn’t see him?”
She shook her head.
I closed my eyes, unable to look at the Miller’s. “You all need to get out of this house, now. And you can’t come back.”
“Now, hold on a minute-”
“Ed,” I said, quietly, “Your children are in real danger. You need to leave tonight and not come back. Do you understand?”
“Why?” Sarah asked.
“There’s a devil in your basement and he’s orchestrating everything, every single thing that is happening in this town and he wants your house so you’d better give it to him.”
“The Devil is in our basement?”
“Not The Devil, a devil. Hell has a hierarchy. I don’t know, we don’t have time to explain it right now. You can come to my house-”
“Liz,” Judith interrupted.
“Just for tonight, we will find you a place tomorrow, but you cannot stay here tonight and your children can never come here again. Ever.”
People approach me with their paranormal horrors all the time, and it is wonderful. There are so many stories I haven’t shared with you. Like the woman who brought home a chest of drawers from the dump swap only to find it infested with a strange mold that made her break out in hives and caused such paranoia that she believed her husband was an alien sent to deliver messages about the solar system to the Town Council. And there was the woman at a PTO fundraiser who drunkenly shared that she knew for a fact she was hanged for treason in a past life. She even showed me the birthmark on her neck to prove it. I’ve kept some of these stories in confidence and others simply because they were too wild or disjointed to even begin to relay (like the woman who swore her kitchen contractor was a psychic vampire hell bent on draining her life force and strong arming her into oak cabinets).
And listening to these magical stories is fun and spooky and exactly what I’ve always wanted. And in my retelling of those stories, if I have one regret, it is that in all the snark and descriptions of my neighbors and community I fear it didn’t come through that I was poking fun at myself too. Afterall, I live here, I’m right up in it, I get Botox, wear Lululemon sometimes, carry a designer bag, and drive a massive SUV.
I would love to continue interviewing neighbors about their hauntings and share their stories, if only it were as simple as that. But I find myself in a situation that neither a house cleansing nor a St. Benedict medal will cure. The interviews aren’t the point, they never were. I was chasing ghosts and monsters while a devil quietly carried out his terrible orders.
This blog (and podcast) has always been about me listening to other people’s stories and retelling them with a little snark and a lot of side notes so we could enjoy a good safe scare together. Tidy little hauntings for us to dip in and out of when we wanted, with a “nope” and a little shake of the head before we carried on with our lives. But there is something very wrong in this proper little town and I don’t have a tidy ending to relay.
And so… I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t do both things – I can’t interview neighbors and share their stories with you and listen to the dead and demonic. And it seems that I don’t have any choice in the latter.
So I’m going to leave Ghosts in the Burbs right here before it gets tainted or stale. Before it turns into something different than what I intended it to be. I do hope to keep telling stories, And I’ll quietly edit the book I’ve written about a haunted cul de sac and pray I find someone to publish it. But for now, I need to step back from this beautiful whirlwind that we created together.
And who knows, maybe someday I’ll find myself on the other side of the table, being interviewed by a writer looking for a safe scare.
And she’ll describe me as a rather scattered middle-aged woman, with the basic brown shoulder-length highlighted hair that is so common in the burbs and nails bitten down to the quick. She’ll say I told her my story in a disjointed, winding way that was as hard to follow as it was to hear in my raspy vocal fry.
She may say all of that and more, but above all, I hope she’ll tell you that I scared her.
And now, it is with gratitude and love that I say for the last time, This has been Ghosts in the Burbs. Good night, sleep tight, and don’t forget your nightlight.