My Annual Christmas Eve Ghost Story


This is possibly the closest I’ve ever cut the holiday ghost story here! Kept you in anticipation though, didn’t it? Not only for the story itself but to see if the author is still capable of hitting deadlines. Barely, but yes! Go me!

For many years it was customary to tell ghost stories on Christmas Eve. It’s a custom that I feel should come back into style! Here is this year’s installment. Enjoy.IMG_1085


Snow Angel

It could feel like they were the only people on Earth if she thought about how isolated they were, but it was beautiful here. The little cabin was clean and warm and had a composting toilet, so no outhouse was a big bonus. The wood stove kept the small space toasty, sometimes a little too warm and they had to prop open the door. There was a generator that the owner had started before they got there and a single string of Christmas lights twinkled along the roofline to welcome them. Chris shut it down during the day and booted it up for a while at night so they could use the lamps inside and enjoy the Christmas lights outside.

It was everything Chris said it would be and she found herself able to relax for the first time in several weeks. The little cabin was a popular spot in the Alpine ski area, and they had booked the stay almost two years in advance.

It had been a dry winter so far, and even on Christmas Eve there was little snow on the ground, and Chris had decided they should take a walk. The woods were quiet, the only sound was their feet crunching the thin layer of frozen snow on the ground. On the way in, the ranger had warned them that there was some weather moving in and she could see the dark purple clouds rolling over the peaks when the valley below was visible from where the trail meandered close to the edge.

“You doing okay?” Chris asked over his shoulder.

“I’m good. It’s beautiful here,” she said.

“One of my favorite places. I’m so happy to share it with you,” he turned and hugged her with one arm and patted her lower abdomen with his other, “and this little guy.” Chris had grown up in the little ski town of Nevar, originally the Spanish term for ‘to snow’  but now pronounced without the ‘r’ roll, less than fifteen miles from where they were now.

Joanna giggled, “Who said it’s a boy?”

Chris shrugged, “I don’t care what it is. I’m just happy!”

A brief wave of panic washed over her. They’d been here before. Many times.

“I’m still a little cautious. I hope coming out here doesn’t turn out to be a problem.”

Chris put both hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. “Nothing is going to happen. This time the doc said your hormone levels are good. We’re fine.”

She smiled, “You’re right.”

“Of course I am! God showed us this path, he’ll see us through.”

Joanna nodded. They had taken an entirely different route with this IVF try. Chris had heard about a group that adopts frozen embryos no longer needed or wanted by the bios. It seemed like the perfect thing for them, morally and medically. Chris was convinced that if they did the greatest good with their desire for a child, God would bless it.

She wasn’t as convinced. She loved Chris for his faith, but she didn’t share it. Still, she couldn’t deny that there seemed to be something to it because this embryo had implanted, unlike all the others. She was almost to the magic fourteen-week marker and the risk for miscarriage would drop even more, but she wouldn’t let her guard down until she held a breathing, crying, squirming baby in her arms.

A strong gust of biting wind assaulted them whipping her hair straight up and into Chris’ face. They laughed, and he leaned in and kissed her. She thought that the world could not be more perfect and her heart swelled with love.

“Come on! There’s a waterfall just over this hill. This time of year it should be frozen and spectacular!” he said.

His enthusiasm won out over her cold nose, and she followed him up the trail. Tiny flakes of snow had begun to fall, and the icy blasts of wind made them twirl and dance, making it look like a winter wonderland.

Chris’ boot prints led the way up the small hill for her. She put all of her concentration on her feet, not wanting to slip. She had on excellent winter hiking boots, but she wasn’t going to take a chance of tumbling down. It wasn’t a big hill, but steep and she could not see past the summit. The drop to one side in a small area she would pass looked precarious, and she could hear the river rushing down below. She had to keep her small passenger safe.

Joanna had been thinking so hard about where to put her feet she hadn’t realized that the trail was suddenly virgin. She looked up to find Chris was not in front of her. He must have crested the hill before her, but when she reached the top the trail leading down was empty and the snow untouched.


Tree branches breaking off in the distance answered her.

“Chris!” Joanna turned every direction praying to catch a glimpse of his red down coat. She turned to go back the way she had come. Maybe he’d stepped off into the trees to pee, and she had missed him somehow.

Looking down the trail, she saw where the double tracks ended, and the single track began. No directional change. Chris’ footprints just ended right at the area with a steep drop, the spot she had been so worried about. A shot of ice went through her heart.

“Chris!” She tried to strain her ears against the growing wind.

She inched back down to where Chris’ footprints ended and peered down the embankment. The snow was disturbed as if someone had sledded down it. She peered harder and saw a glimpse of red through the thick trees.



“Oh my God! How did you get down there?”

“The wind. A big gust knocked me right off my feet!”

“Are you, okay?”

“Well. My ankle is screwed up, and I ended up in the river.”

“The river?”

“Yeah, my feet are wet.”

She wasn’t as avid an outdoors person as Chris, but she knew what that meant at this temperature. Panic threatened, and she placed her hand over her womb.

“Okay. What do you need me to do?” Joanna asked trying to sound calm and in control.

“Don’t try to come down here. I’ll try to come up to you.”


She could hear him grunting and see trees being pulled and snapped. Suddenly, he shouted out in anguish.

“Chris? Oh my, God! Are you okay?”

He let out a frustrated growl, “It’s my ankle, babe. I don’t think I’ll be able to climb out on my own.”

“What?” a lump in her throat kept it to a squeak.

“Go back to the cabin, babe. Call 9-1-1.”

“No! I can’t leave you out here!”

“You have to.”

“Chris, are you sure? Can’t you find a way up?”

“It’s not that, babe. I think I broke my ankle and I can’t put any weight on it.”

She choked back a sob.

“You can do it, babe. Go back and call 9-1-1.”

“What if I come down and help you up?”

“Jo. Baby. It won’t do any good if we are both stuck down here. You have to call 9-1-1.”

“Oh, God. Okay. I’ll be right back! Right back, honey!”

“Okay, babe. I’ll be here!” he chuckled.

The snow had picked up and was falling in large continuous clumps. In places, their footprints were beginning to be covered over. The wind slapped her face and pushed back against her progress. Her heart was racing, and she thought about the tiny being in her womb. Could he feel her panic? Was she scaring him? She was scared enough for the both of them. Please, little baby, hang on!

By the time she reached the cabin, the snow was coming down like a blanket, and she had to lift her knees to step through the new powder. Snow had built up around the door, and she had to struggle to pull it open.

“Why does this freaking door open the wrong way?” she shouted to the forest. Grunting, she yanked hard feeling the muscles in her back, thighs, and abdomen strain.

Wait. She wasn’t supposed to lift anything. Did this count as lifting? She managed to get the door open wide enough for her to slip in. She tried to pull it closed, but the snow had clogged up the threshold, and she left it.

She yanked her wet gloves off as she ran to the little couch where she thought she had left her cell phone. When she realized it wasn’t there, she shrieked out of frustration and desperately began throwing couch cushions onto the floor.

Trying to calm her mind she chanted, “think, think, think.” She tried to visualize herself and when she had last had her phone. “Oh yeah!” A mental picture of her rinsing a coffee mug at the sink popped into her head.

Joanna rushed to the little kitchenette. The phone was sitting next to the sink just where she had left it. She pressed the button to wake it up and stabbed in her security code. The phone vibrated in response, wrong code.

She screamed at the phone and tried again. This time it came to life, but wouldn’t be for long. The battery was showing only ten percent life left. Thanks to the ski resort of few miles away, she had three bars.

She dialed 9-1-1.

A ring.

Another ring.

“This is 9-1-1. What’s your emergency?”

Sobs strangled her voice.

“Hello? This is 9-1-1,” the woman sounded friendly as if this were the neighbor calling to invite her for coffee.

“My husband has fallen down an embankment and broke his ankle,” she choked out.

“Okay, Ma’am. Who am I speaking to?”

Blood roared to her head, nine percent life left.

“We are at Devil’s Gate. We rented the cabin here. He’s fallen and got wet in the river. He can’t get up the hill alone! My phone is gonna die, and I don’t know how to start the generator to charge it!”

“Okay, Ma’am. I’m dispatching Mountain Rescue now. Is he conscious?”

“Yes. But he’s wet and broke his ankle. It’s snowing hard here and cold!”

“Yes Ma’am, I understand. What’s your name?”

“I’m Joanna.”

“All right, Joanna. I’ve got to make a few other arrangements. Can I call you back at this number?”

“Yes, but like I said, it’s going to die.” She began crying.

“It’s going to be all right. Stay calm Joanna.”

“I…I’m pregnant,” she didn’t know why she blurted that out.

“How far along?”

“Almost fourteen weeks.”

“Are you having contractions or bleeding?”

“No. No, please just hurry.”

“Okay, Joanna. Help is coming. Stay calm.”

The line disconnected. Seven percent.

She could not just sit here. She could lower blankets, dry clothes, and a hot thermos to Chris. She put a pan of water on the stove and began bundling some of his clothes in the tartan blanket off the back of the leather sofa.

Her phone rang. Six percent.

“Joanna, this is Alpine County 9-1-1,” the same neighborly woman. “I have Alpine County Search and Rescue on the line.”

A new voice broke into the conversation. “Hi, Joanna. My name is Robert. We are getting a crew together right now. I don’t know if you are aware, but we are in the middle of a major storm here. It might take us some time to get up there, but I have some guys on snowmobiles that will be headed your way shortly. You said he got wet?”

She could hear Christmas music and kids in the background. Robert must have been celebrating Christmas Eve.

“He fell in the river. I’m sorry to take you away from your family,” her voice broke on the word family.

“It’s no problem.”

“I was going to lower blankets and dry clothes to him.”

“Are you at the cabin?”


“How far to him?”

“Um. I don’t know. Maybe fifteen minutes.”


“Joanna, I think it’s best if you stay at the cabin. It’s getting dark, and the last thing we need is to have to find you too. Wait there for my guys, all right?”

“But he’s wet!”

“I understand that. The best thing you can do for him now is to get dry clothes ready and wait for us, okay? For now, we better get off the line because I know your phone is almost dead. Just hang tight.”

They disconnected. Five percent.

She slumped down on the couch cushions. The wind whipped in through the open door, and she shivered. If she was cold, how much colder was Chris? How long before hypothermia set in? She walked across the little room and yanked the door the rest of the way shut. She’d give them ten minutes, then she was going back to him.

She paced from the couch to the front door. Helplessness began to take root in her heart. It had taken them at least twenty minutes to drive from the main road to the cabin. No one was coming. Not anytime soon.

She put her hand over her womb, “We are going to go get Daddy.”

Using the word daddy made her think about the couple they adopted the embryo from. The Parker family had a rough go. The husband was diagnosed with cancer only two years into their marriage, and his treatment would likely leave him infertile. They had chosen to freeze several embryos for future use with the hope he would survive his diagnosis. He hadn’t, and the wife decided against using the embryos on her own. Mrs. Parker couldn’t destroy them, however, and donated them to the embryo adoption group.

Joanna squeezed her eyes tight. Chris’ God would certainly not let this little one loose two daddies, would he? Surely He wouldn’t let this little one who had waited so long to be born not make it. She bit her upper lip and thought about that for a few seconds. No, she was sure He wouldn’t, at least she hoped so.

She opened the small closet by the front door and began yanking out all the items to see if there was something that she could use. It was almost as if God approved of her plan because she found climbing ropes and a harness. She put the items in the blanket with the clothes and used the climbing ropes to tie it into a bundle.

The little pot of water had almost boiled away, but she poured what was left into their big green thermos and dropped a tea bag in before tightly twisting the lid shut. Digging in a kitchen drawer, she found a notepad and paper and scribbled a quick note. She rifled through the cupboard under the sink and found a working flashlight and a big garbage bag to keep her couch blanket bundle dry. With all of her finds she was more convinced that God was directing her rescue mission, she would not fail.

Joanna put on heavy ski gloves that she had found in the closet and slung her pack over her shoulder. It was almost ten pounds at least.

I’m not supposed to be lifting. Please God, if you are there, help us. Don’t bring us this far to leave us now.

She pushed the door hard against the snow that had piled up outside of it. Wind and snow blasted into the small opening and stung her face and eyes. The snow had been coming down in a steady stream and she sunk down half-way to her knee when she stepped out into it.

The sun was completely blocked out by the clouds and snow, but she knew it was almost ready to drop behind the mountains to the west. To the east, the sky was already an inky black. She needed to hurry.

The trail was not visible under the snow. She had to guess where it was based on the spacing of the trees and a couple of times she veered off and had to reset. It was tough going plowing through the snow, and she wished she had snowshoes. Her watch told her she had been walking for at least twenty minutes and should be close to where Chris had fallen, but nothing looked familiar. She knew the snow would change the way the terrain looked, but she felt like she was too far from the river. Maybe she had gone way off course and not realized it.

She stopped walking and looked around in every direction, trying to get her bearings. Everything was white. Silent. The snow had stopped. The sky was growing ever darker, and  soon it would be pitch dark. Her breath came in little misty clouds.

“Hey!” a man’s voice called. A man, not Chris.

“Hey! I’m over here! Are you with the Search and Rescue guys?”

“Come this way!”

“Which way? I can’t see you!”

“This way!”

She headed in the direction she thought the voice was coming from.

“Keep coming!” he shouted.

She stepped through some trees and could plainly see the trail. She had veered off by fifteen feet and was headed away from the trail. She would have been hopelessly lost herself if the rescuer hadn’t found her when he did.

She still didn’t see anyone, but she saw a faint light up ahead. Behind the light, she could just make out the silhouette of a man.

“Oh man! Thank God you’re here!” she gushed, and she moved as quickly as she could toward the light.

As she grew nearer the light flickered and faded out. The man must have gone over the side to get to Chris. She realized she was right at the washout where Chris had fallen.

“Chris!” she shouted.

No reply.

“Chris!” she fell to her knees and leaned as far over the edge as she dared.

“Jo! I’m here!” he sounded like he had been sleeping.

“I’m here! The rescue team is here! Are they down there with you?”


She looked around and didn’t see any sign that anyone had gone down this way. Maybe they had to find a better route.

“I’m going to lower a pack to you, okay? Will you be able to grab it?”

“I think so.”

She lowered the trash bag bundle to him. He had to strain but eventually got a hold of it.

“I can’t…I wont beable to putadryboot on my ankle,” his words were slurring.

“It’s fine, honey. Can you put on the sock?”

No answer.

“Hey! Hey, you guys! He’s right here!” she shouted as loudly as she could. “Chris!”

“I’m heere.”

Where the hell was that rescue guy?

“Can you put on the harness?”

“I doono,” his words were getting more jumbled.

That could only mean that hypothermia had set in. He didn’t have much time left. She’d have to act, now.

“Christopher! Put that damn harness on and click the carabiner in! Do you hear me? Do it now!”

She heard the jingle of the various clips on the harness, and she knew he was putting it on. She looped the other end of the rope through some trees as best she could.

“Are you ready?  Me and the baby are gonna pull as hard as we can, but you’re gonna have to help us! Do you hear me?”

“I wonletu down,” he said.

After several minutes of yanking, grunting, screaming, and pulling she saw the top of his head over the edge of the trail.

“Keep coming, honey! Almost there!”

“I caan go anymooore,” he sobbed.

“No, baby, no! Just a few more feet! You can do it!” she couldn’t let go of the rope to help him.

Suddenly he flopped up the last bit and lay on the trail, his legs still dangling off the edge.

Joanna dropped the rope and ran to him. She hugged him for all she was worth. He had one dry sock on, and his other foot was bare. The ankle was misshapen and various shades of red and purple.

“I told you you could do it!” tears streamed down her face.

“I dinnnt. Someone pusssshed meee from behind,” he said.

She peered over the edge. No one but the steep ravine and growing darkness.

“Joanna!” someone shouted from a distance.

“Over here! Over here!” she jumped up and looked in the direction the voice had come from.

Four men in black ski pants and read coats pushed up the hill towards her.

“Hey, Joanna! It’s me, Robert!”

“Oh my God! Robert! I’m so glad to see you!” she sobbed.

Robert got to her and held his hand out. Behind the headlamp, she saw a  weathered but kindly face and a warm smile. “I thought you were gonna wait at the cabin.”

“I couldn’t.”

“Well, when we got to the cabin we found your note saying you had headed back out, but the wind had blown snow over your tracks and we would have had no idea which way you went if not for your friend.”

“My friend?” she said, shaking her head.

“Yeah, the guy at the cabin. He told us which way you went.”

She had no idea what he was talking about, but it didn’t matter. They were safe now.

They checked Chris over and put a temporary splint on his ankle. Then they loaded him on a stretcher and began to make their way back to the cabin, a man on each corner. Joanna followed behind.

She could hear the generator for the cabin running as they approached and caught glimpses of the string of lights along the roofline through the trees.

“Looks like your friend got the generator going. Oh, yeah, he wanted me to tell you that Parker makes a good first name and you’d know what that meant.”

Her mouth dropped open, and her hand went to her lower abdomen, “That’s the last name of a man that I know of who passed away. My husband and I, well, he left us something really important.”

“Well, your friend thinks it’ll make a good first name,” Robert said.


I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and get a miracle or two.

Until next time, Never Turn off the Lights!



Announcing Ghost Light Stories


By LouisHeon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

I’m a firm believer that you can never get enough scares in your life! That’s why I’m so excited to introduce a new feature to this site: Ghost Light Stories. Once a month you’ll be treated to a spooky tale either from myself, a guest horror author or from readers just like you!

A Ghost Light is a single naked bulb left burning in an empty theatre. For practical reasons, this light keeps someone from accidentally walking into to the orchestra pit or off the side of the stage, but it’s also surrounded by superstition. There is a widespread tradition that most theaters are haunted. One story goes that the Ghost Light allows the spirits to take to the stage in otherworldly performances when the living actors have left the building. In a little darker version, the Ghost Light keeps the spirits with evil intentions away from the theatre ensuring safety and success. Either way, you may wish to fire up your own Ghost Light before you hear these creepy tales!

If you have a story of your own you’d like to share with us, please email it to  Fellow authors encouraged to play! You can also follow Ghost Light Stories on my YouTube channel at


A Thanksgiving Ghost Story

Dear readers, tonight we find ourselves on the eve of Thanksgiving. I have many things to be thankful for this year. Among those reasons are two writing-related ones. I released my first book, Dread, and I won a writing contest (read the entry here). I’m also very thankful for you! To show my appreciation, I’ve concocted a little tale for you. Enjoy!


Bernadette was beginning to think that the universe was trying to tell her something. When Mike said they were going to his Grandmother’s for Thanksgiving dinner, she’d envisioned a warm, colorful meal in a cozy little farmhouse nestled in the woods. He had said he wanted to introduce her to the whole family. Maybe a ring was on the menu for dessert!

She had wanted Mike to stay home and drive with her, but he had the whole week off from his teaching job and had gone ahead. He wanted to help his grandmother get ready for the big dinner. Bernadette wasn’t surprised, just like pretty much every holiday they had ever spent with his family, he felt compelled to help out, set up, or spend an extra day visiting.

Her job as a nurse kept her busy right up until about 4 am this morning. She’d gone home for a quick nap and then headed out with the map Mike had drawn for her since he said there was spotty cell service.

Now, she picked up her cell phone from the center console, and sure enough, No Service stood in place of the desired bars. The back-country road was rough and rutted, and it must have knocked something loose because the car sputtered and lurched to a full hissing stop after several jarring miles.

The early dark of winter pushed against the car window, making her feel like the only person left on the planet. Nothing but deep woods on one side and sprawling farmland on the other. She’d have to walk. Maybe somewhere along the way she’d get enough cell service to call someone.

Bernadette got out of the car and locked her door. An owl hooted a hungry cry, and his hunting partner answered, sounding almost on top of her. She looked overhead. A pair of large orange eyes perched in the nearest tree zeroed in on her. She pulled her jacket tighter.

This was the perfect ending to a terrible day. Or was it morning, or night? Her schedule at the hospital had her pretty messed up on time. It didn’t matter; it was always that last patient of any shift that was trouble.

Today, or was that yesterday, she had just looked at her watch and was relieved to see she had about ten minutes left in her shift. Bernadette was making a mental list of the things she needed to do at home before taking the two-hour drive to Mike’s grandmother’s when the ER doors banged open and in rolled trouble.

The woman was fighting against all the safety straps on the gurney, and two paramedics were trying to keep her from escaping.

“What ya got?” Bernadette asked.

“Some kind of accident. She was found wandering down a road. I don’t know anything more than that!” a paramedic answered.

“Ok, room seven,” Bernadette said.

She quickly prepared a sedative and entered the room. The paramedics were trying to wrestle the woman to the bed, but she was winning. Bernadette slipped in and injected the syringe into the woman’s buttocks.

The woman struggled a little more and then went limp. They got her on the bed and put her wrists in restraints, just in case.

“Can you tell me what happened to you? Are you in pain?” Bernadette began.

The woman’s eyes swam in to focus on Bernadette’s.

“He’s waiting for you!” she said, her eyes wide.

“Who’s waiting? Were you with someone?” Bernadette asked.

“He’s waiting for you,” the woman said again and then began sobbing.

“Ok, you’re all right now. We’ll get you taken care of, ok?” Bernadette said.

“He’s waiting for you,” she said through sobs.

“Ok, dear,” Bernadette said, and she gently squeezed the woman’s shoulder.

Somehow the woman’s hand got loose from the straps, and she grabbed Bernadette’s wrist and squeezed.

“You have to listen to me! He’s waiting for you! Only God can help you now!”

Bernadette’s chest filled with dread. She tried to twist free, but the woman had her in a vice-grip, crushing and grinding the bones in her wrist.

“A little help in here!” Bernadette yelled.

It took two more nurses and a security guard to get Bernadette free. Her wrist was swollen and bruised and still throbbed where the woman had dug her fingers into her flesh. She should be home resting and icing it, but no. Here she was. Broken down in the middle of nowhere. In the dark.

Gravel crunched under her feet as she began walking along the road. Her breath puffed out in weak misty clouds. As she crested a small hill, she could see the lights of a lone house in the distance. Relief flooded her; she’d ask to use their phone and be saved. She picked up her pace.

Headlights approached her. Her first thought was salvation, but then dark thoughts of who might be driving on a backwoods road slithered into her brain. Panic threatened to rise in her throat. Unsure of what to do, she stepped to the side of the road trying to give the car as wide a birth as possible. The car stopped a few yards ahead of her, and moonlight glinted off the point of the car’s V-shaped grill. An elderly woman stepped out of the big car; all Bernadette could see was the top of her head from her nose up over the door.

“Are you all right, Dear?” the woman asked.

“My car broke down. I was going to head to that house and ask to use the phone,” Bernadette said, pointing to the pinprick of light.

“Oh, no, Dear. You don’t want to use that phone. Get in, and I’ll drive you to a phone,” the lady said.

Bernadette considered her for a second. The moonlight lit up her silver hair like a halo, and her stylish clothing hung loosely on her tiny frame. Bernadette got in the car.

The big car glided over the rough road as if it were floating. Hot air billowed out of the vent and Bernadette realized how cold she was. The white interior of the car appeared to be in the same condition it must have been when it rolled off the assembly line.

“Great car,” Bernadette said.

“My William bought it brand new in 1969,” the woman’s voice trailed off.

“You just don’t see them like this anymore. My dad was big Caddie buff,” Bernadette said.

The woman did not respond.

“Do you live nearby?” Bernadette tried again.

When the woman did not respond or look her way. Bernadette decided that maybe she was hard of hearing. It was probably best to speak when spoken to.

They left the dirt road and turned onto a two-lane asphalt road. The big motor growled up a small hill and then like magic, a brightly lit 24-hour roadside cafe appeared.  Two police cruisers with lights and sirens passed them going the way they had come.

“Must be an accident or something,” Bernadette said.

The woman remained silent and guided the car into the parking lot of the diner. She braked and stared straight ahead, still not speaking.

“Ok then. Thank you, ma’am,” Bernadette said as she heaved her door open and got out of the car.

The door closed with a clank and the woman drove off. Bernadette watched the tail lights disappear over the next little hill. She wondered if she should tell somebody, maybe the old gal was senile. Who would she tell? Bernadette shrugged and went into the diner.

“Can I help you?” an attractive girl with dark hair and a white half apron around her slim hips asked.

“I hope so. My car broke down some ways down the road. I need a tow,” Bernadette said.

The girl smiled. “My Jim, he drives the tow. I’ll call him for you.”

Bernadette breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you, so much.”

“Can I get you some coffee or something while you wait?”

“That’d be great.”

“Looks like you may have missed turkey dinner. I can fire up the grill if you want,” the girl said.

Bernadette nodded.

An ambulance sped past the window.

“Looks like that tow may be a little long,” the girl said.

Maybe it was the relief she felt at finding the diner, but it was the best grilled cheese sandwich Bernadette had ever had. She was finishing her second cup of coffee when a police cruiser pulled into the parking lot.

“Hey, Mark. Is Jimmy gonna be much longer?” the girl asked the police officer when he came inside.

“How would I know?” he said.

“We saw the ambulance and stuff, isn’t there a wreck?” she said.

Mark shook his head and removed his hat. He held in front of him as if he was going to ask the girl to forgive him for something.

“No, honey, no wreck.”

Two state trooper cars sped by with lights and sirens.

“What’s going on?” the girl asked, panic edging her voice.

“Mrs. Henderson is dead,” Mark said.

“What?” the girl half whispered.

“We got a 911 call from the Henderson place, a hangup. When they got there, they found her stabbed to death,” Mark said.

The girl sucked in a harsh breath and fingered the small cross around her neck. “Did you find who did it?”

“That’s the strange part. We found an empty car not far from the house, but the guy was still in the house. Just sitting there. Said he was waiting for someone,” Mark said.

“I was out that way tonight. My car broke down, and I was walking to a farmhouse to use the phone, but an elderly lady picked me up,” Bernadette said.

“You drive a dark Ford Focus?” Mark asked her.

“Yes,” Bernadette said.

“That must be your car. Good thing you didn’t make it the house; the killer was still there.” He pulled a pad of paper from his pocket and licked the tip of his pen. “What’s the name of the lady that gave you ride?”

“I don’t know. She never said. She was very small and drove a big ’69 Caddie that she said her husband, I think his name was William, bought,” Bernadette said.

The waitress dropped the coffee cup she had in her hand.

“A big Caddie with a white interior?” Mark asked, his eyebrows lifted so high they disappeared into his hairline.

Bernadette nodded and she absently rubbed her sore wrist.

“Well, I don’t know who gave you a ride, Miss. But you just described Mrs. Henderson to a T,” Mark said.


All righty then! Be careful driving over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house or where ever you might be spending the holiday. Eat well and often. Until next time, Never Turn off the Lights!



Scary Christmas to All!

Christmas traditions are one of the reasons why I love this time of year, they keep the past alive and build memories for years to come. Inspired by the Victorians, a holiday tradition on my blog is the telling of a Christmas ghost story. This one is an overhaul of a short story I wrote way back in 2006. It is based on an experience a close friend relayed to me, enjoy!


house-631399_1920Lori’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to clean out Dan’s things. In a few days, the calendar would roll to 2016, and she hadn’t even touched his attic office yet. It had taken almost a year to clean out his clothes from their closet and his boxes in the basement. It had taken so long because every shirt, tie, book, and scrap of paper brought memories crashing down on her. The memories brought waves of sobbing which led to pounding headaches, which then led to medicinal whiskey, and finally a dreamless sleep.

The last of his personal things were in the attic office; it was one of the reasons they bought the fully renovated Victorian. Lori had fallen in love with the wrap-around porch and updated chef’s kitchen. Dan was smitten with the greenhouse and large yard, but the attic had been the thing he loved most about the house.

Dan spent the first few weeks in the new house working in there to make it just right. He worked late into the evening to put up new drywall and paint. They spent many hours in town shopping for the right lamps, the perfect rug, and the had-to-have accessories.

When it was finished, it was gorgeous. The deep green-gray walls complimented the dark wood floor, the black and green Chinese rug and mahogany furniture came together to create the perfect writing retreat.

That had been Dan’s dream, to leave the newspaper and write adventure novels in the vein of Jack London. For the next three months, everything was wonderful. Dan was writing, and they had never been happier. Then Dan began to change.

It was subtle at first; he became more withdrawn and quiet. Lori gave little notice to it, he always got that way when he was writing. Then he stopped working in the yard and greenhouse. The bushes and lawn became unruly and tender seedlings in the greenhouse neglected to their dry, lonely deaths. Dan spent all of his time shut up in the attic. He came down to bed long after Lori was asleep and didn’t appear to get up until after she had gone to work. Lori comforted herself with the idea it was rational to associate all of these behaviors to the writing, she couldn’t have known otherwise. Could she?

The evening it happened, she knew something was wrong before she walked into the house. The carefully chosen lamp was not burning behind the attic window as it had since the day they bought it. The Christmas lights she hung on the front porch were dark, giving the place a deserted look. When she entered the darkened house, silence, and a deep-rooted dread greeted her.

The dark feelings intensified as she made her way up the attic stairs. The heavy door at the top of the stairs grew larger in her sight as she neared it. She lay a trembling hand on the cold wood and pushed it open. Hinges whined in complaint, or was it a warning?

“Dan?” she whispered into the darkness.

It took several seconds for her eyes to adjust and several more for the sight to sink into her understanding.

The wan moonlight coming in from the window illuminated a bulky dark shape hanging from the rafter. A brown gardening shoe lay beneath the figure on the bare wood floor. The desolate creak of rope against the dry wood of the beam.

Lori had no memory of the call to 9-1-1, but the next clear memory is of uniforms surrounding her. Questions shot at her in a blur of grief and disbelief.

She had not been up to the attic since, until now. Perhaps the two glasses of wine and the letter from the bank declaring intentions of foreclosure had given her courage. She argued with herself that Christmas Eve wasn’t an ideal time to do this, but what else did she have to do?

The burden of the same dark feelings from that night pressed down on her as she climbed the stairs to the closed door. Lori gathered all of her courage, took a deep swallow from her wine glass, and pushed the door open. It yawned on its hinges, and a cold, stale odor greeted her.

It hadn’t registered with her on that night that the room was a mess. That’s why the uniforms were so concerned. The beautiful rug was rolled up and leaned in the corner; all the lampshades had been removed and crushed leaving bare bulbs in every light fixture. The cushions from the couch were torn open and white fluffy stuffing was strewn around. Books and papers stacked to form haphazard towers all over the room. Physical manifestations of his deteriorating mental state.

She righted the naked floor lamp and clicked it on. The room lit with a harsh amber light. A ringing buzzed deep in her ears. Where in the world should she start? The large desk drew her attention.

She sat down in Dan’s leather chair and breathed the scent deeply into her lungs. She coughed. The rich leather scent she normally loved and associated with Dan was spoiled now. Lori took the stack of papers closest to her and shuffled through them. Real estate papers from the purchase of the house. She might need them when the house sold and that needed to be soon.

She’d make a ‘to keep’ stack on the floor. A yellowed piece of paper slipped from the stack as she moved it to the floor. The paper felt like an autumn leaf between her fingers. She recognized the photo of her home under the headline: Local Recluse Kills Self, Family. A man who had once lived in her home killed his four small children and his pregnant wife with an ax. He then hung himself in the attic.

Her heart skipped a beat, but she read on.

He was the town store owner and built the house especially for his wife and growing family. They had not lived there long before he stopped opening his store and rarely came out of the house. A neighbor discovered the bodies when the children didn’t show up at school for several days.

Did Dan know about this when they bought the house? Why wouldn’t he tell her this? She recalled Dan telling her something about True Crime paying better than adventure stories. This was his book. This is why they bought the house. Another selfish act leading to the biggest selfish act of all. And now what? No book, no husband, and soon no house.

Her skin flushed, and the ringing in her ears became a roar. She ripped the news clipping into tiny shards and threw them on the desk. Swiping both arms across the desk, she forced the items to the floor in an avalanche. Breathing hard, she shoved over the tallest book tower and threw the naked floor lamp to the ground. The shattering of the bulb drained the storm from her and left the room in the gloom of the gathering night.

Her head pounded. She realized she broke the string of pearls she was wearing, the tiny moons scattered across the wood floor for cover. This had not been a good idea.

She turned to leave the room, but a photo-finishing envelope uncovered by her rampage caught her eye. The envelope was dated two weeks after they moved in. With shaking hands she sifted through the photos. The first few were exterior shots of the house, the yard, the greenhouse. Then, various interior shots. There was a selfie they had taken at the bottom of the attic steps, each holding a paint brush.

A photo created with the timer on his cell phone and an impromptu stand of books of them in the attic pretending to paint each other. Smoke appeared to be swirling around their smiling faces, odd neither smoked. In the next photo of Dan by himself the milky substance was there, but not in the one of Lori alone.

For the last three photos, Dan must have used the same technique with the books and timer. They were of him alone in the office. Dan, grinning at the camera from behind his desk, his image partially obstructed by the same anomaly. Lori could hardly believe her eyes when she looked at the last two photos. Dan was standing next to his desk, and the thick substance began to take shape. In the last photo, it appeared to have the face of a man and arms that ended in repulsive claws wrapped around Dan’s chest from behind in a bizarre bear hug. Grim pinched lips replaced  Dan’s grin as if he sensed the presence.

“What is that?” she asked the empty room.

The heavy door roared shut in answer.


He still couldn’t believe their luck. They had tens of thousands of dollars in equity the moment they signed the papers. He was sure the inspection of the Victorian beauty would reveal foundation or serious plumbing issues, but the house got a clean bill of health.

“Oh, honey! I love it!” the wife squealed.

“Here let’s take a photo,” the husband said.

He put his arm around her slender waist and pulled her in close. He held his cell phone out with his free hand.

“Say cheese!” the flash clicked in the gloomy attic space.

The wife kissed his cheek, “I can’t believe they left this desk behind. It’s perfect for me!”

The husband opened the photo to post it to the internet. He frowned.

“Hey, honey! We have to take another one. I think the lens was dirty or something.”

The end?

Merry Christmas everyone, or should I say Scary Christmas!

Scary Christmas Everyone!

My how the time flies. It’s already time for St. Nick to drop down the chimney again. It seems like just yesterday I put away the Halloween decorations (ok, it WAS yesterday, but whose counting?).

Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. Maybe it’s because I have little people all around to share the holiday with. Their exuberant anticipation is contagious. We have been busy doing all the family traditions that surround this lovely holiday. We baked cookies, we decorated, we visited Santa, we made Christmas crafts, we’ve been watching Christmas movies (the Grinch and Rudolph are favorites), and we’ve been reading Christmas stories. Among the requested repeat reads are, Pete the Cat Saves Christmas, The Fourth Wiseman, and various forms of the story of the birth of Jesus. Tonight we will visit a tradition started by my sweet mother, the opening of one gift on Christmas eve. Amazingly, it is always new pajamas!

Most of the popular and common Christmas traditions in the United States were begun in the Victorian era. Sending Christmas cards, caroling, and roasting a turkey for the feast were all brought into the American mainstream in the early 19th century. Sadly, one tradition that has fallen to the wayside is the gathering around the fire on Christmas Eve to tell ghost stories.

In honor of that old time tradition I’m going to tell you a tale based on a ghost story that my Grandma likes to tell us whenever she can. So lower the lights, gather around the fire, and snuggle up.

b5b6e5773f0a623c3997887a68d3036cTomas hadn’t always been bad. He had once followed the church but had long ago abandoned his faith. It wasn’t his fault that he had been born poor. It wasn’t his fault that foolish people left their homes unlocked when they went to Christmas Eve mass. It also wasn’t his fault they left their best silver and other treasures out in the open. They obviously didn’t cherish these items, it was his duty to put the booty to better use.

His haul in the tiny mountain town wasn’t as good as he had hoped. He should have known that with the mine closed there wouldn’t be much available to him. The pack slung over his shoulder was much too light.

He heard that the church would remain unlocked until morning mass for anyone who choose to spend the night in prayer. Churches always contained the best golden trinkets and the people would need to sleep sometime. Tomas had decided to hike through the woods and wait in the darkness behind the tiny stone building. When the coast was clear he would gather what he could and be gone.

The almost full moon was obscured by clouds, making it difficult for him to see but Tomas didn’t mind. It made it difficult for him to be seen, exactly what he wanted. The tall pines and aspens provided even more perfect cover. It was as if nature itself was assisting him.

He settled into a tight growth of pines and sat on a low growing juniper to wait it out. He watched the church,the windows glowing warmly with the candle light within. He knew that the people would return home soon and find their things missing. That would distract them from the church even further. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

A slight rustling behind him startled him. Had he forgotten to cover his tracks in the snow? Maybe they already tracked him here.

He spun around. Nothing but the dark woods. A slight breeze rustling the tree tops and billowing clouds across the face of the moon.

Something heavy snapped branches to his left. He leapt to his feet.

Silhouetted against the faded moonlight was a huge black shape. Protruding from the enormous head were long sharply pointed horns. Tomas recalled tales of the Devil from his youth. Only the Devil would appear to someone bent on such an evil act on the holiest night of the year.

The monstrosity began moving his way. Tree branches splintering in its wake. The Prince of Darkness coming to claim his own.

Tomas felt his chest constrict as the breath was squeezed from his body by fear. The pack jangled noisily to his feet and he collapsed to the cold ground.

468px-Texas_Longhorn_Steer_RockspringsIn the early Christmas light the people found the thief frozen by death and the cold night. They were unsure if he had been trying to steal the prize bull from the Garcia ranch, a foolish effort at best. Señor Garcia didn’t even know the bull was missing until the animal was discovered a few feet from the dead man, entangled in the underbrush. Everyone was able to reclaim their belongings from the thief’s sack and enjoy a Merry Christmas.


From my house to yours – Merry Christmas!

p.s. Grandma Rosie, I love you!