As most of you have probably realized, I am an unreliable narrator. I don’t always tell you everything, sometimes I hold some things back. Besides that, I don’t always do what I say I’m going to do, sometimes I tell you one thing only to do another… which leads us to today. I told you that I planned to take a six month break. I said I’d return during our high holy season. I said it would take me six months to write the book. But, I was mistaken, again.
The book is done. The first draft sitting quietly, waiting until the story of a severely haunted cul de sac gets fuzzy in my mind so I can go back and edit it with fresh eyes. It’s August now and I don’t want to wait until October to start sharing my neighbors spooky stories with you, or my own for that matter. I want that October feeling right now.
So on Monday August 12th you can expect the next installment of Ghosts in the Burbs – or will it be Out of the Swells? I’m not sure yet, but a new story will appear. In the meantime, I need to thank some of the podcast’s generous supporters. These people have been patiently waiting over the hiatus for a thank you – six of them have been waiting for their own short story. I have that short story for you all today (actually, I got carried away and it’s not that short – see? Unreliable narrator), but first – thank you to everyone who’s reviewed the podcast on iTunes and everywhere else – you all are not only spreading the word among your friends, but the reviews are bringing in more listeners as well. Thank you.
I’d also like to offer a million thanks to…
Ree Ann McCool, Jennifer Powers, Marie Lyons Cooper, Pam Bayer, Selina, Sally Mulrey, KG, Ariana Allen, Pam Bobe, Rebecca Hoffay, Heather Powell, Elisabeth Dowell, Carolina Cutie, Jes Waldron, John Koch, Carrie Beaton, Silvia Delgado, Amanda McColgan, Alexandria Grice, Kandace McCreary, Reba Lamba, Samantha Cramer, Lindsey Brandish-Banks, Carmen & Her Freckles, Angelique Dewberry, JLN, and Stephanie Gunning
… for their generous support on Patreon. Without it, the blog and podcast wouldn’t exist. If you haven’t yet head over to check out Ghosts in the Burbs on Patreon where each patron tier carries with it a small token of my thanks.
The following patrons, Stephanie Montoya, Caroline Pettit, Jess Reynolds, Aeon Anjargolian, Kate Legee and Melissa Robertson, chose the $10 per month tier so that I might create a spooky story just for them.
I call this tale
VRB uh oh…..
It had been their dream since they’d honeymooned on Lake Winnipesaukee twenty-five years prior. A holiday bonus made it a reality. The couple bought the cabin thinking it would be the perfect place to entertain their children and their spouses and eventually their grandchildren. They bought it sight unseen, making an offer the same day they saw the listing. Their offer, put in low in anticipation of a negotiation, was accepted within the hour. That night they celebrated over lobster and pinot grigio. In the morning they drove to the cabin to see their new vacation home. A four bedroom, four bathroom Adirondack style cabin overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee. She was excited to get a closer look at the furniture, for it had been sold fully furnished, the previous owners wishing to start from scratch in their next property. He wanted to get a look at the kitchen, from the online photos it looked dated.
They spent only eight minutes inside the home. Another five on the property in the safety of their car trying to decide what they should do about the predicament in which they found themselves. They’d lived in a haunted apartment in their twenties right after they were married. The experience had cracked them open, it took them only moments inside the cabin to know they were in the presence of evil. It would not be the place to entertain grandchildren after all. Phone calls were made, emails sent. They’d signed documents that could not be unsigned. The property was theirs whether they wanted it or not. The money was spent. “We’ll rent it out.” The husband said. “On VRBO.” The woman agreed. Once we’ve saved enough we’ll sell it and get the home of our dreams, they agreed.
Friday August 2nd through Sunday August 4th 2019 – $350/night
Darkness fell as the women polished off another bottle of red wine.
Stephanie Montoya turned to look in the direction of the strange noise. The movement made her a little dizzy. “Somebody should probably go up and check,” she said, slurring her words.
“Not it,” her old friend Caroline Pettit said before taking a large gulp from her glass.
Jess Reynolds, the most practical of the group, dismissed the noises. “I’m sure it’s just the house settling.”
“Do you think that book flying off the shelf and smacking me in the back of the head was the house settling?” Stephanie demanded in an unnaturally high voice.
Her friends shared a knowing glance. “Stephanie, we already talked about that. The book fell off the shelf, nothing ‘flew at your head.’” Jess argued. “It’s just a creaky floor. We’ve got the fire going and it’s heating up the house. When I booked this place on VRBO the entire month was wide open. The house has been empty. It’s just waking up.”
“Waking up is right,” Stephanie muttered. “This is the perfect place to get murdered.”
“At least no one will hear us scream,” Jess quipped, scooting closer to coziness of the stone fireplace.
The friends were quiet for a moment, straining their ears to see if they would hear anymore footsteps overhead. For that is what they heard, though they were trying their best to convince themselves otherwise.
Caroline broke the silence. “Did you guys hear that Jessica Bernard has five kids now?”
“That girl one who used to draw all over herself with a black Sharpie?” Stephanie said with a snort.
“Yeah, I guess she lives somewhere in the Pacific northwest and she’s married to a guy who invented some, like nanotechnology thingy that’s in every cell phone. She’s, like a multi-millionaire.”
“Wow, good for her,” Jess said. “Speaking of inventors, do you all know whatever happened to Jake Farmer? Remember his dad invented that weird sleep mask that he was always trying to get our parents to buy?”
The conversation carried on like this for another half hour or so. The old friends had rented the secluded Adirondack style cabin for a quiet weekend of reminiscing. It was something they’d done every two or three years since they’d graduated from high school. When they were young they’d met in New York City for crazy nights that didn’t end until the sun came up, over the years they’d gone to fancy hotels, spas, even once they’d gone skiing in Vermont. This year though they’d needed a relaxing escape from their husbands and children.
Jess was in the middle of complaining about her husband’s obsession with running (which the friends thought was really a subtle brag about how hot he still was) when something came crashing down the stairs.
The three women jumped up and screamed all at once. Caroline knocked over the bottle of red wine. “Shit! The carpet!” She yelled.
“Shh!” Stephanie hissed.
“What was that?” Jess whispered. She crept across the great room beneath vaulted ceilings and a chandelier made to look like antlers and stepped into the short hallway in the center of the cabin.
“Is there anything there?” Caroline called, trying to mop red wine off the taupe carpet with a dish towel.
Standing at the bottom of the stairs Jess called back, “Uh, yeah. It’s one of those wooden tissue box covers.” She peered up the staircase just as a massive black roller bag (Stephanie’s) flew through the air straight at her head. It slammed her back into the wall with such force that she crumpled to the ground. Her friend’s screams filled the air, but Jess couldn’t hear them.
“Oh my God!” Stephanie moved forward to check on their friend. “That’s my suitcase!” The luggage had burst open upon impact with their friend’s head. Clothing lay scattered in the hallway.
“Be careful!” Caroline called ringing the now red stained dish towel in her hands.
Stephanie crouched down over her friend’s lifeless body. “Caroline,” she said in a small voice, “I think she’s-” but she couldn’t finish the sentence, for loud footsteps had begun to descend the rustic pine staircase with iron detail.
Stephanie didn’t even turn to look. She ran back into the cozy living room past the upholstered cowhide chairs and supple leather couch. “Run!” She screamed to Caroline.
They rushed to the front door but just as they were about to step out onto the front porch with its majestic panoramic views of Lake Winnipisaukee they saw the large black shadow figure, darker than the nighttime woods behind it rapidly advancing towards them across the lawn (the perfect place to throw an intimate wedding or anniversary party).
Caroline backed into the house in time, but Stephanie was too slow. The shadow overcame her, Caroline watched as it seemed to wrap its shadowy self around her friend. Stephanie lifted up off the ground about a foot into the air, her face a silent scream. Her body then crumpled to the floor, the shadow figure seeming to dissipate before disappearing completely.
She stumbled backwards, tears obscuring her vision. She turned to run to the back of the house, towards the back door that lead to breathtaking views of New Hampshire pine forest, but before she could make it to the somewhat dated though fully functioning kitchen the lights went out.
Caroline screamed, though there was no one to hear her. She stood very still, listening. The crackling fire in the original stone fireplace the only illumination. Something behind her growled. The thought of going out in to the pitch black night terrified her. There was a door to her left, she grabbed the knob, yanked it open and stepped through, thinking she was going into one of the two powder rooms conveniently located on the first floor. She wasn’t. She fell down the basement stairs, ass over tea kettle. She didn’t lose consciousness, though she’d hit her head hard enough that she saw actual stars. Her leg was broken, bone breaking through skin. She couldn’t feel her left arm. Which was for the best.
As she watched the shadow figure darken the already dark doorway at the top of the stairs, a useless thought flitted across her mind, “I knew we should have gone to a hotel.”
(Proposed) Weekend Weekend
Friday October 4th through Sunday October 6th 2019
$750/night + mandatory $1500 security deposit for large groups
“This place is amazing!” Aeon (E-on) Anjargolian called to the wedding planner.
“Yeah, no one will hear us scream,” his fiance, Kate Legee said, following him reluctantly.
Melissa Robertson pretended not to hear the bride’s comment. “I can’t name names, but a certain Patriots player and his gorgeous wife have been known to summer in this neck of the woods.” She watched the bride’s face brighten. “When I came across this venue I just knew it would be the perfect place for an intimate wedding party.”
“It is quite pretty,” Kate admitted as she gazed out across picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee. She and E-on climbed the stairs to the wrap around porch, outfitted with plenty of Adirondack chairs, just the place to watch fireflies dance across the lawn at night.
“I was thinking of this for the post ceremony / pre reception cocktails. Maybe a bar there, a buffet table here.” The wedding planner gestured like a flight attendant.
“We could get a steel drum band like Kevin and Jenny had at their reception,” E-on said excitedly.
Kate rolled her eyes.
“You could…” Melissa said slowly, “But acoustic cover bands are all the rage at cocktail hours right now. Think two guys with one guitar covering Taylor Swift’s last two albums.”
Kate squealed with delight.
“Let me show you inside.” Melissa lead the way through the front door. The couple took in the great room with its vaulted ceiling and stone fireplace. The decor; a modern take on rustic style with plentiful seating for a group of friends though the space was intimate enough for a couple’s getaway.
Melissa watched the couple take in the grand room. “There are four bedrooms upstairs along with two baths. There are even two powder rooms on this floor. The owners really thought of everything, it’s the perfect home for entertaining.”
“Ouch!” Kate exclaimed, putting her hand on the back of her head. “What the hell was that?”
E-on bent down to pick up a book. “Where’d this come from?”
“I don’t know but it just hit me really hard in the back of the head.”
“It must have fallen from the bookshelf,” Melissa said weakly.
“But that’s on the other side of the room,” E-on pointed out.
“Let me show you the kitchen,” Melissa said hoping to change the subject. The truth was, she was spooked out of her mind. While she’d been waiting for the couple on the front porch she could have sworn she’d heard loud stomping footsteps coming from inside the house. And right before she’d seen their car coming down the long drive she’s seen a strange shadow dart between two pine trees.
She watched as the couple studied the kitchen.
“It’s a little dated,” E-on said, pointing out the obvious.
“We’re having the reception catered, passed trays and buffet style, but they will need to use the kitchen to heat and prep food,” Kate added.
“I spoke with the owners last night and they told me that seventy five guests celebrated with the bride and groom at the last wedding reception held on this property,” Melissa lied.
The couple exchanged a look. They’d only invited sixty people to their wedding and reception, a fact the wedding planner knew quite well.
The small group jumped as there were two loud bangs overhead, they sounded like footsteps, but that was impossible.
“What the hell was that?” E-on said.
“Old house,” Melissa said quickly, forcing nonchalance, “Maybe something fell off a shelf.”
“That seems to happen a lot around here,” Kate quipped.
“Yes, well, the homeowner also let me know that the caterer of that last wedding actually commented that the flow of the house lent itself perfectly to party hosting,” Melissa said attempting to steer the subject back to the matter at hand. She had spoken with the owner of the home, but not about weddings or caterers. The owner had offered her a sizeable bonus for every party she could book on the property and she was determined to get it.
“Somebody should probably go up and check,” E-on said.
“Not it,” Kate replied with a nervous laugh.
Melissa made another attempt at dismissing the noises. “I’m quite sure it’s just the house settling.”
“Do you think that book flying off the shelf and smacking me in the back of the head was the house settling?” Kate snapped.
“Let’s take a look at the back porch, it has excellent views of the pine forest. A great place for some nice high top tables,” Melissa said beginning to sound desperate.
“Why don’t we take a look upstairs instead-,” E-on began but he was cut off when something came crashing down the stairs.
They jumped and screamed all at once.
“What the hell was that?” Kate demanded, her fear turning into what felt like the safer emotion of anger and that anger directed right at her wedding planner.
Melissa was too frightened to speak.
E-on was already in the small hallway. It was empty. Nothing in the immediate area could have made the loud crashing noise. He had his foot on the first step, ready to run up the stairs when something came sailing through the air straight at his head. He slammed back into the wall and crumpled to the ground. The women’s screams filled the air, but E-on didn’t move.
Melissa stood frozen in place, staring at the motionless young man. Beside him lay a wooden tissue box cover, the words “Sneezin’ Season” painted in script across its surface. Kate rushed forward and crouched down over her fiance.
“He’s bleeding!” She screeched. “He’s not moving! Oh my God! E-on!”
“Don’t move him, be careful!” Melissa said, taking out her cell phone to call 911.
“E-on,” Kate said in a small voice, “I think he’s-” but she couldn’t finish the sentence, for loud footsteps had begun to descend the rustic pine staircase with its iron detailing.
Kate looked up and saw a massive shadow figure descending the stairs towards her. She ran back into the dated yet functional kitchen with its green marble countertops and dark wooden cabinetry. “Run!” She screamed to Melissa.
Melissa had been circling the kitchen trying to get a cell phone signal. She saw the terror in Kate’s face and headed straight for the front of the house.
They rushed to the front door but just as they were about to step out onto the front porch with its majestic panoramic views of Lake Winnipesaukee they saw the large black shadow figure at the edge of the woods. It was like a black hole, absorbing the bright sunlight streaming down on the vacation property. It was as Kate watched the shadow figure rapidly advance across the lawn towards them that she realized just how perfect a setting it would have been for the small intimate wedding party she and E-on hoped for.
She was able to back into the house just in time, but Melissa was too slow. The shadow overcame her, Kate watched as it wrapped its shadowy self around her wedding planner. Melissa lifted up off the ground about a foot into the air, her face a silent scream. Her body then crumpled to the floor, the shadow figure seeming to dissipate before disappearing completely.
Kate stumbled backwards, tears obscuring her vision. She turned to run to the back of the house, towards the back door that lead to breathtaking views of New Hampshire pine forest and the porch upon which she’d envisioned wedding guests mingling with cocktails, but before she could make it to the kitchen all of the pine wood doors in the first floor slammed shut. All but one.
She screamed, though there was no one there to hear her. She stood very still, listening. Birds chirping happily from the trees the only noise. Then something behind her growled. The thought of going out into the never ending pine forest terrified her. There was a wide open door to her left, she stepped through, thinking she was going into one of the two powder rooms. She wasn’t. She fell down the basement stairs, ass over tea kettle. She didn’t lose consciousness, though she’d hit her head hard enough that she saw actual stars. Her right arm was broken, bone breaking through skin. She couldn’t feel her left leg. Which was for the best.
As she watched the shadow figure block out the light from the doorway above, a useless thought flitted across her mind, “I knew we should have just booked a hotel.”
This has been ghosts in the Burbs. Be sure to check out GhostsintheBurbs.com for all the links. Good night, sleep tight, and don’t forget your nightlight.