Haunt ~ A Short Story

~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp ~

A spirit needs a house to haunt. I’ve haunted a church, a theatre, a department store and a graveyard, but there’s nothing like a house. A house is where people have lived. Where things have happened. Where tears have been shed. Where people have been born and people have died. A spirit can feel all of it and more.

After looking at thirty or forty houses, I found one I liked. It was large, with many rooms, three floors, built in the old style. It was abandoned, in an advanced state of neglect, but still plenty sturdy. The cellar was like a dungeon with chains hanging from the beams. Behind the house was an old cemetery. All in all, the house had much to recommend it.

As a spirit, all I needed to do to claim a house as my own was to move in and take possession. If anybody else was haunting it, all I had to do was kick them out.

I soon discovered other spirits in residence. There was a woman who committed suicide every night at midnight, with piercing shrieks, by hanging herself from the upstairs banister. I don’t know why she did it every night since she was already dead, but I suppose she enjoyed the drama. One night, just before midnight, I grabbed her by the throat and threw her out of the house. She didn’t see me, not knowing of the existence of other spirits, and didn’t know what had happened to her. She wandered around on the outside of the house, not knowing how to get back in. Finally she flew up into the trees, and as far as I know she’s still there.

Then I found an eight-year-old female spirit haunting the attic. When she was alive, her cruel mother locked her in the attic with the mice and spiders to punish her. She was deathly afraid of the dark. While locked in the attic and unable to free herself, her mother was stabbed to death in a quarrel with her young lover. The girl never knew what happened to her mother. She starved to death, waiting for her dinner.

The girl in the attic wasn’t as annoying as the woman who hanged herself every night. I didn’t know what to do about her. I didn’t think it was right to just throw her out. I opened the attic door so she could come out if she wanted to, but she stayed where she was. She had been in the attic so long it was all she knew.

The spirit of a very old man haunted the cellar. He owned the house when he was alive. After he died, he didn’t want anybody else living in the house. He rattled chains and moaned at night to try to keep anybody away, living or dead. He didn’t scare anybody except maybe himself. He was the kind of spirit other spirits laughed at.

There were two boys, twins, who haunted the whole house but most especially the upstairs rooms. They had both died there of scarlet fever. They didn’t know yet that they were dead, even though it had been over a hundred years. They were constantly playing tricks, trying to scare each other. I heard them laughing all the time. Anytime they saw me, they ran as if we were playing a game. I wanted to grab one of them in each hand and throw them out of the house.

I was an old spirit; I had been in the spirit world for eighty years or more. I had seen everything and done everything a spirit could do. Now I longed for the quiet, pastoral life, and I didn’t want a lot of other spirits around me. I came to this house hoping to escape the clamor of the spirit world, hoping to be alone.

At night when I tried to rest instead of haunt, I could hear the old spirit in the cellar kicking up a fuss. He knew there were other spirits in the house besides himself and he wanted to scare them away. He thought the louder he became, the scarier he would be. He didn’t scare me, though. He did annoy me, however, and I wanted him gone.

Through most of the night, I could hear the twins laughing and running up and down the stairs. I wondered why they never slept. Then I realized they slept during the daylight hours. That would be the best time to catch them and run them out of the house, but first I’d have to find out where they slept. Even though they were children, they had been in the spirit world longer than I had and they knew all the ways to protect themselves.

Then I started finding dead, rotting bodies all over the house. Some were only skeletons and others still wore part of their human bodies. All were long dead. I knew right away they were from the graveyard behind the house. Many of them still wore remnants of the fine clothes they had been buried in: men in white-tie-and-tails and women in ball gowns or wedding dresses. Oh, what a world!

First there were one or two bodies and then eight or ten and then dozens and then hundreds. Finally they filled the downstairs parlor from floor to ceiling. I was past the point of pretending they weren’t there. Even though I was a spirit myself, I didn’t like dead bodies. They were part of the physical world that I left behind long ago. A rotting body was an affront to me. Hundreds of rotting bodies were an abomination!

After two or three days of observation, I discovered the twins sleeping during the daylight hours in a barely noticeable niche in the wall of their bedroom. I stormed in on them, waking them from a stupor, and was able to grab each of them by the neck. Before they knew what was happening, I clapped their heads together like cymbals. While they were stunned and nearly immobile, I threw them out of the house.

While I was brushing my hands off and congratulating myself on a job well done, I realized somebody was standing on the stairs looking at me. It was the little starveling girl from the attic. Her face was a glowing white and her eyes completely engulfed in black circles. She surprised me by speaking.

“It wasn’t them,” she said.

“What?” I asked.

“They weren’t the ones who brought the bodies from the graveyard into the house.”

“Who was it, then?”

She mimed hanging herself, and I knew right away what she meant.

Every night there were more bodies in the downstairs rooms. I could hardly go into any of these rooms without becoming ill. I had seen many vile things during my existence, but now I had seen the worst.

I waited until the middle of the night, three hours past midnight and three hours before sunup. I went quietly downstairs at this unholy hour and, standing on the stairs about halfway down, I saw her come in from outside, dragging her burden of dead bodies, as many as she could manage at one time. It was the hanging woman. I wanted to throttle her. I wanted to finish her off. I wanted to make sure she was gone for good and would never come back.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” I said, although it was obvious.

“It’s you!” she said. “What do I have to do to get you to leave my house?”

“Leave it yourself! It’s my house now! And make sure you clean up this mess before you go!”

She came at me then, teeth bared, but I was able to sidestep her. She hit her head on the banister with a crack that split the wood, but, without missing a beat, she got up and came at me again. Again I sidestepped her.

“You’re wasting your time!” I said. “I’m younger than you, stronger and smarter. You’re just a worn-out old hag of a spook. I think you were in your prime about the time of the Revolutionary War!”

“I’ll show you!” she said.

She hurled an unexpected fireball at me. I hadn’t counted on her being a witch, in addition to everything else.

The fireball was directed at my face and chest, but I was able to get out of the way just in time. It hit the wall behind me and set fire to it.

“You’re going to have to do better than that!” I said.

Next came a barrage of fireballs, more fireballs than I could count. Soon the wall and stairway behind me were a wall of fire. With her out-of-control emotions, she had set fire to the entire house in just a few seconds. All I could do was get out.

“Now look what you’ve done, you horrible old witch!” I said as I ran past her for the front door. “Now it’s nobody’s house!”

I went out to the road and watched the house as it burned all the way down to the foundation. I figured the hanging woman burned up in the house because I didn’t see her come out. Nobody can blame that one on me.

I stayed and haunted the cemetery for a few days, not knowing what else to do. Then I went to the city again and took up residence in a waterfront hotel. I had some friends there that I had known before. It was a good time for me.

Copyright © 2022 by Allen Kopp

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