by Kerilynne McFadden
The house sat on the hill overlooking the valley below. It brooded as it sat there, the windows empty and the shutters swinging in the wind softly.
The house had grown bitter in the 125 years of its existence. It remembered the early days and its construction. It remembered the priest that came to the house to bless it before even the first stick of furniture had been taken through the door. Those were happy days, the young couple that had built the house as part of their wedding were very much in love. The house remembered the wide open spaces and the horses grazing in his front yard. The house remembered the carriages as they were drawn up the driveway and the laughter, smiles, and enjoy as the young couple greeted their guests.
Then came the sound of children, the house remembered the firstborn male child and the nine siblings that followed. The house also remembered the time of sorrow when three of the children suddenly passed away. But eventually the tears slowed and stopped and laughter rang in the house again.
The time passed and the young couple aged and the children grew older and acquired their own families. Eventually the man died, and the woman remained in the house talking to it as though it were truly alive. Because of her love for the house, the house knew it had to protect this woman. The second daughter and her husband came to the house to ask the woman if she would leave and go live with them. At this time the house knew it had to do something to show the woman that it would protect her. It forced all the windows shutters to slam shut at the same time and to shut the front door which had been open to allow a light breeze to blow through. After a couple of minutes, the house again opened every shutter and the door. “Oh my,” said the woman,” I don’t think your father wants me to leave.” “What do you mean?” Asked the woman’s son-in-law. “You see,” said the woman, “we moved into this lovely house when we were first married. Through all the hardships, through all the heart ache, through all the pain and suffering that a marriage goes through, this house has protected all of us. It has protected all of my children just as a father would protect his children, so I consider this house to be my children’s other father.”
The woman stayed and the house protected. But came the day when the woman did not rise from her bed. The children came and because it had been the woman’s last request, her wake was held in the living room. After the children had left and taken the woman’s body for burial, the house thought about what the woman had told him when they were alone one night. She had said that she wanted her wake to be held in the living room so the house could be a part of the family at the memorial service. The house sat alone for several years on its hill overlooking the valley.
One day, a man came to the house. The house noticed that the man had to walk with the assistance of a cane. The realtor that was handling the sale of the house informed the man that the house was 60 years old and had never received any remodeling or upgrades in the services. The realtor then said that the house would be best served by being demolished. At this, the young man turned violently toward the realtor.” That seems to be the way to do things these days” the man said violently, “when something is either old or no longer functional then society seems to think it is best to just throw them away.” As the realtor looked at the man with embarrassment, the man informed him that he would buy the house. He asked the realtor for names of contractors that would allow him to modify the house for his own needs. He asked the realtor if he could meet him at the office to return the keys, because he wanted to walk through the house by himself. After arguing slightly the realtor agreed. The man turned away from the realtor and slowly proceeded up the front steps to the porch. Unlocking the door the man stepped over the threshold and proceeded into the house. He admired the high quality workmanship and looked with approval at the crown molding of by the ceiling. He proceeded to the foot of the stairs and clapped his hands three times. He then spoke out loud to the house. “I know you can hear me and I know that you know I am here. I am going to buy you as my home. Because of my disabilities I will need to make some changes and modifications during the remodeling that is going to take place. I ask your indulgence and hope you approve and will allow the remodeling to take place without interference.” The young man then proceeded to slowly visit every room on the first floor. He returned to the base of the stairs and slowly, painfully went up to the second floor. The house admired this young man’s determination and because it had been closed up and the inside air was musty, dusty and hot the house again opened every shutter it possessed. The man looked with amazement as the shutters opened, and noticed that even the glass windows had been opened to allow air in. He felt the breeze as it came through the house and pressing his palms together, simply said “thank you” to the house.
The contractors began to arrive and the young man was there every day for every step of the remodeling process. What the contractors did not know, was that after they had left for the evening, the young man would sit in the living room and tell the house what remodeling was going to be done and what was expected to be done the next day. So the house silently sat and observed these craftsmen as they did their respective specialties. The house was amazed at all the things they were doing. The house had never had electricity or plumbing or indoor heating. With the plumbing came a special type of room for the young man to bathe in. With the electricity came brighter lights than the house had ever known before. As for the heating, the house didn’t think it would miss all the soot from the fireplaces.
Eventually all the remodeling and modifications were completed. Because the craftsmen had done such an excellent job the young man decided to throw a yard party for all of them. He explained to the house he was having it in the yard so the house could be part of the party. During the party, several of the craftsmen came and told the young man that their entire lives they had heard about this house being haunted. But, they informed the young man, they had had no indications of any haunting for the entire six months that they had worked there. The craftsmen’s families were also at the party and everybody was walking through the house admiring the woodwork and the excellent job that had been done for the remodeling and modifications. The eldest son of the main painter was walking around softly touching the carved wood and the wainscoting in the living room. He was alone and as he looked he softly said to himself “this beautiful old house cannot be haunted. It is just to lovely to be so.” At this time, the house very softly and slowly opened the front closet door. The boy’s eyes opened wide but he did not run and he did not scream. He walked out and found the young man resting in a chair from the pain in his legs. The boy told the young man he was so very lucky to have such a house and then explained about the front closet door. The house creaked with contentment as the young man told the boy that he agreed with him and he felt that he was a very lucky individual.
Once again time moved on, man would sit in front of a small fire in the fireplace with a class of wine and some cheese and bread. The young man would speak of different things that had happened in his life and he would say these things out loud as though he were sharing confidences with an old friend. Sometimes the young man would speak of the war and what it was like to live in a water filled trench. He spoke of the stench of death, he spoke of the rats, he spoke of the bad moldy food. Then one day the young man spoke of how he had gotten his injuries while in the war. That night the young man could not even finish his glass of wine or his sandwich. The house sat thinking and brooding and decided the best way to help his new friend was to remove all the bad memories as best he could. So the rats that had run the attic and the walls and the basement since the passing of the old woman were forced out into the fields. Bugs that were a normal part of living in the country no longer found shelter in the old house.
The young man had found his peaceful place in the world and he became an old man. He had lived in the house for 40 years and had never taken a wife nor had children. Then came the day the old man was walking through the living room. He appeared to be distracted as he gently touched the walls and other parts of the house. Then he began the hard struggle up the stairs. The house thought this was most unusual as the old man had slept on a cot in the living room for the past six months. So as the old man approached what had been his bedroom, the house allowed the door to the room to open. In the past 40 years this had happened enough times that the old man no longer gave it a second thought and merely thanked the house.
Once again the house was empty and alone. It was now 100 years old and had seen the property developers sniffing around the edges of its property. It knew it’s time was short. Between vandals sneaking in and destroying bits and pieces, and the grass growing high just before fire season was to begin, the house simply knew it would not last through the year.
As the house sat brooding it heard a voice. “Oh look! There it is!”. The house drew its attention to the owner of the voice. It was amazed! The owner of the voice was the young bride that had lived in the house so many years before. “Is it for sale?” The young woman asked. “Yes it is for sale, but why would you want such a raggedy old house?” The man next to her ask. “My great grandmother and great grandfather had this house built as a wedding present over 100 years ago. I would love to live in this house that has had so many happy memories for my great grandparents.” “You do know that this house is haunted?” The man asked. “Oh yes! The hauntings are part of our family history and it is reported that the spirits of my great grandmother and the previous owner still reside here.” “Okay,” the man said with a sigh, “you know I have never denied you anything and I’m sure as heck not start now.” The house cheered up immediately. So this was one of the descendent’s of the couple that had first constructed him. He thought he had felt strange sensations over the years since the old woman had died but had not considered the idea that she had loved him so much that at her passing, her spirit had never left. He thought of the young man who had needed the cane’s to walk. The house had thought it smelled the young man cigars after his passing. So now it knew. It was indeed a haunted house.
The young great-granddaughter and her husband purchased the old house and following the family tradition walked into the center of the house at the base of the old stairs and addressed the house. She thanked the house for protecting her great-grandmothers spirit and the spirit of the last occupant. She then ask the house for permission to upgrade and remodel the house for the safety of her family.
She moved her family in as soon as the remodeling and upgrading had been completed. As with the young man when he did the remodeling before, she was there observing every step of the process. When she moved her family in, the house found that once again there were going to be small children running, playing, laughing, crying, and it did not seem to be a bad idea. As it had for over 100 years the house knew it needed to protect the people living there. As the years went by, the house was lovingly maintained and received a complete new roof, a complete paint job on the outside and the minor repairs needed on the inside of the house. The house had to stop and think because it was not certain it wanted to be painted a light purple. For over 100 years it had been painted white. Then the old house looked at its companion for oh these many years and didn’t feel so bad. For while the house might be painted a light purple, the barn had gone from bright red with white trim to a slightly greenish color. But once again, vehicles were pulling up to the front of the house and parties were being held in the house. The house felt that unusual sensation and noted the woman standing at the top of the stairs with her hands clasped in front of her and a smile on her face. He knew her smile in an instant because it was his first owner. The spirit reached her hand to the wall and touched it as if to say thank you. Then tiny lights began to form around the woman. The young woman and her husband and several friends observed the tiny lights at the top of the stairs and stopped what they were doing and stared. The spirit stretched her arms as if to embrace all the people at the bottom of the stairs and then slowly faded away. The house felt the sudden emptiness. Finally, the house noted a young man standing at the top of the stairs with a cane. He looked at the people still standing at the bottom of the stairs. A young soldier was also standing at the bottom of the stairs in uniform. The young man raised his right hand in salute and held it. The young soldier realized what he needed to do, and he drew to attention and returned the salute. The spirit of the young man at the top of the stairs reached his hand and touched the wall gently, then faded away.
The people at the party were amazed and what they had just seen and spoke of the two spirits. It seemed to be the general agreement that the current occupants of the house were its new protectors just as the house would protect them.
The couple living in the house provided everything the house needed to ensure its protection. As time passed, the house was willed to a historical Society for the protection and preservation of the house. But as time goes by and people grow old so too the couple aged. One day the house observed that both were still in bed holding hands. It felt that strange sensation all over again.
The historical society came to take possession of the house. They kept the house mostly as it had been with only minor changes. Then they did the ultimate insult. They started allowing strange people to enter the house after paying a slight fee. The house did not understand that the fee was needed to maintain it. It only knew that strange people were walking around inside of it as though they were going to purchase it. This made the house bitter. It thought “if all things end, why can’t I?” The spirits that currently walked the house seemed to understand its frustration. But there was nothing the spirits could do.
So the house sat on its hill and brooded. Then in the middle of it’s bitterness it felt a familiar sensation. It had not felt this sensation for many, many years. Then it heard the voice’s of two young ladies and three young men in the living room. The time was midnight and there was nobody in its rooms. It began to pay closer attention to the voices. Then it saw the shapes as they slowly formed at the foot of the stairs. There was his old friend the young bride and her husband plus the great-granddaughter and her husband, then off to one side, there was the young man with his cane. The spirits spoke to the house and informed him that his time had not yet ended. The spirits told him that they had been granted permission to stay with him until his time was ended if the house was agreeable.
Again time went by, another new century opened up. The house learned a new word by listening to the visitors as they came to admire. The house learned about the word millennium. It was now the year 2000 and so many changes had occurred in the world. When first constructed the only thing the house saw in the sky where birds and clouds. Now there were these things called airplanes! Poles were stuck in the ground and had wires laced between them. This was one thing the house did not understand. Why would you take a tree that was nice and straight, then cut it down and remove all the limbs, just to stick it back in the ground again and lace it with wires? It had seen the passing of the horse and buggy and the beginning of the automobile. Now it was seen the beginning of computers. The five spirits that remained in the house seemed to be comfortable with all the changes, so the house was comfortable also.
Kerrilynne McFadden’s husband is a Vietnam veteran with chronic PTSD. She is originally from Australia but now lives in Utah. She retired so she could spend more time with her husband, and now writes full time.