This story is by DM Lawson and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Should we Sell Park House?
“Some people say when one door closes, another one opens. That’s called opportunity. I say if one door closes and another opens, your house is probably haunted.” ― author unknown
I awakened last Saturday morning early to pack for the three-hour drive into the mountains to attend the family gathering. My girlfriend Juli ventured outside of our Phoenix residence to put her things in the truck. Suddenly she dropped her bags and ran back into our home screaming.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“There is a man sitting in our truck!” she managed to say, although she was noticeably pale and trembling. I ran outside to our white Toyota pickup that was parked in the driveway, but I saw no one. I could find no evidence that anyone had been there. The truck was locked tight.
I tried to console Juli, whom I knew to be a rational person, not easily frightened. After all, she was near the top of her class in veterinary school and had to routinely deal with injuries and blood.
“There’s no one there, Juli. Are you sure you saw someone?”
She was insistent. “The man stared right at me. He was pale and skinny and old, but we made eye contact. His eyes were piercing. He wore an old blue baseball cap with a large letter A on it. I know he was there!”
“Look, Juli. We need to head up to the mountains. Let’s discuss this on the way.” Reluctantly she agreed, but it was obvious that she was still a little shaken.
We were headed for what was supposed to be a joyous family reunion, planned for weeks. Our family was going to get together in the exhilarating fall mountain air at our grandma’s house, called Park House, in the mountains. But last week, Grandma died, and the get-together changed. Instead of being a happy occasion, the family members would come to Park House to pay their respects and take care of logistical things like an estate sale. One controversial decision hung over us – what should we do with Park House? I know that for some, the house held great sentimental value. Others, however, could use the substantial payout that would come from selling the house.
It was only two years ago that Grandma was preceded in death by her husband, my grandfather. They both died inside Park House, the house where they raised their family. Grandma died of a stroke in the living room. Granddaddy died in his bed of cancer. I can’t help but wonder what they would want us to do with the house. I’m leaning towards voting to keep the house in the family.
Park House is very old – built in the 1920s. It has a basement, a ground floor, and a second story. It is surrounded by trees – elms and pines and spruce. Crawl spaces in the basement and behind the walls of the upstairs hallway have always been quite spooky. A large front porch, gables on the sloped roof, and a stone fireplace give Park House a very distinct character. A house like this could sell for a lot to someone in Phoenix looking for a weekend and summer retreat from the heat.
Juli had never been to Park House before and she was enjoying the drive. The road leading to the mountains was peaceful and scenic. A few light flurries of snow greeted us as we moved from the desert to the higher altitude. It became obvious as we moved further into the mountains that significant snow had fallen recently.
Upon arrival, we climbed the winding steps leading into the house and sat down in the living room. Juli began looking through an old photo album that had been left open on a table in the room. For the second time that day, I heard Juli scream. Pointing to a picture in the album, she yelled, “That’s the man who was in the car!”
The man in the picture was my grandfather who had passed away two years ago. He was wearing an Atlanta Braves baseball cap with the letter A on it. Juli had never met him nor seen a picture of him before this visit, but she was sure that this was the man in the truck from earlier that morning.
Just then, my brother Glenn walked into the room. He had arrived the night before. Glenn was a standout wrestling champion in high school. He is now Captain of the Fire Department. Glenn could tell something was going on so we explained what Juli had seen. He seemed genuinely shaken by what he had just heard.
“That’s extremely interesting,” said Glenn. “Let me tell you what happened last night here. I arrived last night at Park House and I too had a creepy occurrence. After I arrived, I was very tired, so I immediately went upstairs and got ready for bed.”
“Where is the upstairs?” asked Juli.
I interjected, “Juli, the upper level here was very scary to us when we were kids. The staircase leading upstairs is somewhat isolated from the rest of Park House. It is accessed from a small door behind the kitchen stove, very narrow and dark. If anyone was hiding in that stairway or in the upstairs bedrooms, they would be well hidden from anyone downstairs. For some reason, the light switch at the bottom of the stairs never worked. We always had to walk up in the dark, then turn the light on at the top.”
Glenn continued, “Last night, I was awakened by noises that sounded exactly like someone walking up the stairs. They were clearly coming one step at a time, slowly and eerily. Since I’ve been a weight-lifter and a wrestler, I decided to crouch behind the door that leads into the bedroom from the stairway so that I could surprise and overpower the intruder. I threw open the door and looked into the hall. No one was there. The sounds were real and couldn’t have been made just by old, creaking stairs. But since I saw no one there, I chose to ignore the incident and go back to bed.”
“This is eerie,” remarked Juli.
“I know. It gets worse. After I went back to bed, it happened again. I was alone upstairs, and the footsteps heading up the stairway started again, loud and clear. For the second time that night, I opened the door, ready to tackle the intruder. But again, no one was there. I decided to spend the rest of the night sleeping downstairs on the couch. I didn’t hear any more footsteps, but I did have a dream about Granddaddy. And in the dream, he was wearing his favorite Atlanta Braves hat.”
We were pondering the events when my Uncle Conner, a well-respected elementary school teacher, arrived next. Conner sensed that something was wrong. After hearing about the events, Conner said that he too had a story to tell.
“You have our full attention,” said Juli.
Conner said that he had stopped by Park House a couple of days ago to start cleaning up the place in preparation for the gathering. While there, he saw a bat flying in the upstairs bedroom. He had no idea how it had gotten in because all doors and windows were closed. He quickly went downstairs, picked up a tennis racquet and a shoebox to capture the bat, and went back upstairs. To his surprise, the bat could not be found.
“Then I saw it, perched on Grandaddy’s picture on the table. But just as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone. Then my cell phone, which was on the table next to the picture, started spinning in circles on its own with no perceivable force to account for the movement. I looked a second time to confirm that it was indeed spinning. It was. I snatched the phone and quickly left the room.”
Conner, Glenn, Juli, and I were all feeling a little on edge now, but we needed to hold it together. The remaining family members would arrive soon. We decided not to tell them just yet about what we experienced. “Let’s keep the occasion solemn and respectful, not get carried away with stories that could be unnerving,” said Glenn.
One-by-one the relatives arrived and the house cleaning began. Everyone was pitching in when suddenly a bone-chilling scream was heard. We ran upstairs. My cousin Cindy had taken down a picture in the upstairs bedroom. Words were found on the wall behind where the picture had been, in red as if written in blood. The words were “Leave Now”.
I don’t know who wrote those words, but I do know one thing. I’m voting to sell the house.
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