Announcing Ghost Light Stories

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By LouisHeon – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17896781

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 info@joyyehle.com  Fellow authors encouraged to play! You can also follow Ghost Light Stories on my YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7yz0LWLYNbdv-02mUvq0Aw

Enjoy!

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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!

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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!

Resolution

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!