There was this house where I used to hang out a lot when I was a kid. It was nestled in a sparsely wooded area between to two highways with a McDonald’s on one side and a 7-11 on the other. The house was old and creepy, and looked pretty much nothing like the picture accompanying this story. Nobody lived there anymore except a large family of mice in the kitchen and two big tanks full of tropical fish in the living room. My best friend Grey’s grandparents had suffered the loss of their first born child, Ricky, in a drowning accident as a teenager and found themselves stuck between needing to rebuild a life in a new home which didn’t contain constant reminders of their son, and needing to hang on to whatever memories they had. And so they left the one house pretty much as it was–sofas, fully made beds, tropical fish tanks and all– and then moved into a new house and started over there.
Years later they opened a business across the street from the old house and so it became club house of sorts for their grandchildren and their friends. They kept ice cream in the freezer and the fridge packed with soda, and we were invited to take from it as we liked. And we did.
I kept going back under the pretense of hanging out with my best friend Grey. But, mostly it was because there was little adult super vision, and even though I had no intention of doing anything wrong, I suppose I like knowing I had the option to if I wanted to. A need for freedom that most teenagers have.
Summers were the most fun because we could trek around in the woods and play in the nearby stream. On rainy days we sat inside watching old videos, playing only dare–and never truth, and trying to scare each other with ghost stories.
“Dare?”, Teddy–Grey’s cousin–asked.
“Okay, go down to the basement, in the dark, alone, and stay for 3 whole minutes. With the door shut!”.
As the bravest of us all, my brother was the only one who actually lasted that long. The others gave up pretty soon after taking the dare. Lisa played it tough and held out for 30 seconds before claiming that not fear but a genetic case of claustrophobia passed down from her mother was the reason she wouldn’t be able to hack it. Katie cried the second she hit the last step, even before the lights where turned off. Me? I wouldn’t even attempt it. No way!
Then there were the scary stories, like the unsolved mystery of the blood that never dried. Some man/woman/child died in a motorcycle crash/tractor accident/fell down the stairs and was decapitated. Their head went rolling down the road/into the woods/down the stairs. Despite endless attempts the blood was never able to be fully cleaned up and no amount of paint could ever cover it. Until this very day, so they say, it remains wet with the blood of the deceased.
And of course how could I forget the one about the music box which played backwards? But, we all know music boxes are a direct portal to hell anyhow, so that’s no real surprise.
So we’d all be sitting in the living room playing chicken–each one of us too scared to leave the room but too proud to admit it, until eventually, some poor fool who had downed his entire Super Big Gulp from the 7-11 next door would run to the bathroom to find some relief and finally break the spell the room had on us.
“Hey guys, did you all know that Uncle Ricky’s ghost lives here?”, Grey asked one unusually chilly spring morning, when we were all huddled inside trying to stay warm. “He actually haunts the upstairs.”
“Shut-up Grey!”, I said, because frankly ghosts scared the living daylights out of me. Still do.
“No, I’m serious! Ask Grandma. It’s why she kept this house. Could you sell a house with your dead son haunting it?”
“I don’t believe you”, I gulped. But, I was shaking because of course I kinda did.
“Fine, but I’m not making it up. Sometimes you can hear him up there. Getting out of his bed. Walking around. Opening and closing the door to the bathroom.”
Just then, there was a bang upstairs. A door closing, opening, and some feet walking around.
“Stop fucking around up there you guys! It’s not funny! You’re not scaring me!”, I yell up to Grey’s cousin and my brother, throwing out the “f” word I’d be practicing when my parents weren’t around to slap me in the mouth for saying it.
“Sis, who are you yelling at like an idiot?”, my brother asked me as I turned around to see him and Teddy standing right behind me.
Probably just some squirrels that chewed their way into the attic, we all agreed.
“But, squirrels can’t open doors, can they?”, I asked quietly.
That house wasn’t nearly as much fun after that.