This Old Haunted House
This story series was first written for Halloween in 2017. The story below is as it appeared at that time. I have not edited or rewritten any parts of it. This is the story that inspired Lucius’ Halloween tale in 2019.
Lukus and his friend Lucius argued after going fishing. Lucius claimed Lukus had tried to kill them, but he would forget anything ever happened if Lukus would spend the night in the old haunted farmhouse. Lucius did not believe he had the stomach to do it. Lukus now stood alone in the evening at the front of the old house thinking he may not. His courage wondered whether it could stand the strain, but Lukus had promised his friend fish and swimming before nearly blowing up the boat with them inside. Maybe he had this coming.
Lukus looked up at the old farmhouse. Even in the daylight its gray boards, sagging roof, and vine-covered walls looked uninviting. Black shadows now filled the property in the dim moonlight. He had to stay focused and remember no man should be afraid of a shadow. On the second floor, Lukus thought he saw a flickering light pass by a window. “I bet Lucius is planning on scaring me for all he is worth,” Lukus checked his pockets. He had his tactical light, extra batteries, cell phone, a couple of Kit Kats and his headphones. It was now or never.
He took his first step and heard a branch break. Lukus jumped in the air. His head was swiveling around before his feet touched the ground. His ankle slightly twisted on the broken branch. With his ankle sore, pride wounded, and embarrassed to nobody in particular, Lukus made his way to the front door. He stepped up to the porch and felt the boards sink beneath his left foot when he stood on the landing. He quickly shifted his weight and turned on his flashlight. The front porch had seen better days. The boards were rotten. Lukus would need to stand on top of the support beams the next couple of steps to the front door.
The window to the left of the door was boarded up. “What if the front door is locked? Maybe I will be off the hook. After all, if you can’t get in you can’t spend the night.” There was a glimmer of hope until a little voice inside of Lukus’ head reminded him there is a back door. He reached out and turned the knob. The old bolt inside the knob gave way and the door opened with a screech. Lukus jumped. He needed to calm down. If Lucius was around, he must be having a good laugh at his expense.
Lukus debated going in when he heard footsteps coming towards the door. He peered around the corner. The beam of his flashlight pierced the darkness across the entryway. The footsteps faded away, and he swallowed the dryness out of his throat. Was he imagining that, or perhaps hoping somebody was there? The only thing in the entryway in front of him was dust, cobwebs, and mouse droppings. If there were mice, there might be snakes. He would have to spend the night upstairs where they would be less likely to hide. Perhaps he would just stay awake all night and stand just inside the entryway.
Seeing neither varmint nor spirit, Lukus screwed up his courage and stepped inside. He closed the door behind him before anything could manage to find its way inside. “Hello!?” To whom did he think he was talking? If Lucius were there, he would never answer. Lukus did not want anyone, or anything, else to answer. Footsteps scraped the floor above. He could hear them crossing a room upstairs towards the landing of the second floor. Lukus was sure it was Lucius. All joking aside, nobody wanted to stay in this house longer than they had to. The steps stopped just out of site.
“Lucius you old hillbilly! Let’s just go home. This place is only good for mice and spiders!” The floorboards above creaked. Lukus raised his light beam to the top of the stairs with a welcoming smile on his face for his longtime friend. The smile quickly dropped away to shock. That was not Lucius.
Lukus saw a large shadow of a man; its blackness appeared to absorb the light from his flashlight. Lukus closed his eyes and shook his head. When he stopped, the man was gone. Had he just imagined that? He could not imagine those boots. The thought stuck in his brain. He looked down and there they were his favorite cowboy boots on the bottom of his feet. He swept the light across the floor and saw the steps he had taken. There were more of his footprints than he thought. Lukus let out a sigh in frustration and relief.
“Lukus boy, get ahold of yourself. What would people think of you being afraid of your boots and shadows?”
He considered which way to go next. To the left was the formal parlor. At least that is what people used to call it. The room was used to receive strangers. He walked in slowly and took note of his boots scraping the floor. An old red velvet couch was on the side wall across from him. Next to it on the left stood an old dusty chair. It’s curved arms and hand carved designs still looked lovely even in the dust and cobwebs. Lukus wondered quietly how much the antique furniture was worth. On the far wall to his right sat a curio cabinet. The dust-covered glass appeared intact. Inside were photos and some mementos. Lukus walked over and leaned in for a closer look.
An old family photo caught his attention. A man and a woman with five children all stared straight ahead. By the age of the picture, they were looking into the lens of an old box camera. It was no telling how long they had to hold their pose. Lukus understood why nobody smiled back then. An old rag doll sat in the corner on the bottom shelf. Her eyes were missing, and part of the yarn hair had succumbed to either a brother or little girl. Lukus heard a noise behind him and jerked himself up straight. He turned around and saw a mouse scurry along the baseboard into the entryway. Another beautiful chair stood to Lucus’ left on the front wall. Why had he not noticed that one when he came in? His flashlight pointed back to the first chair, but nothing stood in that spot any longer. He pointed his light back to the chair on his left, and then back to his right next to the couch. Without a word he cautiously walked out of the room.
“Am I losing my mind?” Lukus could not wrap his head around what he just saw. Had that chair been in the other corner when he walked in the room? Lukus wished he had brought a jar of moonshine with him. It was far easier to blame white lightning for these hallucinations than his mind. He looked down the entryway and saw a door that led to what looked like a bathroom. “It doesn’t hurt to check the plumbing. I might need it later.” Just two steps away from the door it suddenly slammed shut. The flashlight beam shook along with his hand. The slamming door was not in his mind; it had shut.
Lukus considered walking away from the door. What good would that do? If there were someone, or something, in the house, it would just follow him. If it was Lucius, Lukus had him cornered. He took a deep breath and changed the grip on his tactical light so he could use it as a club. The doorknob turned surprisingly easy, and the old door gently swung open. Lukus felt a breeze hit his face. The bathroom window was wide open. He laughed and shook his head. “Well if that don’t beat all. It looks like somebody was in here and took off through that window.” Lukus was not surprised to find the toilet dry and dusty. No doubt whatever well delivered water to the house had long since had its pump shutoff. He could try using the sink or shower, anything with a drain. Normally, the trees outside would be his first option, but he knew if he left he would not come back inside.
Lukus stepped out of the bathroom and was cautiously walking down the entryway. Behind him, he heard a loud bang. The window slammed shut. Lukus turned and started back towards to the bathroom to make sure there was no damaged glass. Three steps from bathroom entrance the door closed with a bang, and Lukus felt something push him from behind. He tried to stop himself from being shoved into the floor. His hands sprawled in front of him, and his flashlight fell to the ground. Lukus hit the old hardwoods with a thud. His light rolled next to the wall, and its beam fell onto his face. Lukus closed his eyes and prayed, “Dear Lord Jesus, please get me out of here. I am sorry I ever came.”
“Lukus, you best get up before a varmint gets you.”
Was that Lucius? Lukus rolled over and shined his flashlight in the direction of the voice. “You got me, you old hillbilly.”
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” A machete flashed across the light beam, and Lucius’ head tumbled on to Lukus stomach. Lukus screamed.
His eyes shot open, and he was lying there on the dusty floor. His flashlight shone into his face. He was tired of tripping around in the dark. Perhaps he would just rest there until morning. He felt a tickle against his leg. It started coming up towards his waist. He could barely make out anything with the aura resulting from looking into the flashlight. Blinking quickly his vision improved. The tickling was up to his side. There beside him, a field mouse was pushing and moving its way up his shirt.
He scrambled to his feet, and the mouse quickly scurried to the baseboard and back towards the parlor. Lukus wiggled with shivers going through him. He did not like mice touching him. Reaching down to pick up his flashlight his boot caught on something. Picking up the light off the floor, he looked at his boot. A rotting piece of floorboard had caused a rut. That is what caused him to fall. It was not some ghost. He raised his flashlight to the shut bathroom door. Lukus tried the doorknob. The knob would not budge. Maybe the door slamming closed jammed the knob. He’d worry about that later.
“Ok, Lukus boy, focus. So far it’s just all mind games. You know that. Lucius probably isn’t even here. I probably scared off some vagrant.”
Lukus gathered his wits again he walked back towards the front door and turned to the room on his left. This place had been the family room at some point in its young life. An upright piano sat on the wall next to the entryway. Lukus could not help himself. He walked to the piano and tried a couple of keys. He could feel the hammers hitting wood instead of strings. Other keys had no hammers at all.
“That’s ashamed. Such a beautiful old piano.”
Shining his light around the room, he caught sight of a couple of old photos sitting in worn brass frames. He walked over and took a look. The first one was of two small children. They appear to be sitting on the front porch. The old porch looked new and freshly painted white. The second photo was of a man and a woman. Lukus guessed it must have been their parents. The picture was odd. Shining his light, and removing dust from the cracked glass, Lukus noticed the woman’s eyes appear to be nothing more than black circles. The photograph seemed to be intact, but for some reason, it did not pick up her eyes.
He carefully put the photos up on top of the old piano. “Somebody should show respect for the people that came before them.” He walked towards the back of the house into the dining room. The room was somewhat vacant. Either vagrants or vandals had long since destroyed the dining room furniture and the china cabinet. Pieces of glass and broken wood covered most floor. Lukus picked his way through the debris and went into the kitchen. As he stepped in, the old linoleum felt soft under his boots. Lukus knew he better be careful where he walked. There was a dusty old electric stove, an alcove where the refrigerator used to be, and a dry sink full of dirt and dead bugs.
Lukus’ flashlight began to flicker. “I must’ve knocked something loose when I dropped it on the floor.” Without panicking, he pulled out his cell phone and turned on the device’s flashlight feature. He smiled to himself, he had forgotten about the compass built into the smartphone. At least he wouldn’t get turned around exploring the old house. He turned off his flashlight and put it in his pocket. It wasn’t dead yet, so it was useful as a backup. The phone flashlight limited what he could see, but it was bright enough to keep him safe. He checked the compass. The front of the house was North, and the back where he was now was South.
A thunderclap rumbled in the distance. Lukus laughed at himself. That was all he needed, a thunderstorm in a haunted house. The next clap of thunder was a little closer. “Lukus oh boy, looks like you’ll get to see more this house faster than you thought.” He stepped further into the kitchen to check the windows. In the far corner was a rusted out kitchenette table. He guessed it had probably been pretty in its younger days. He confirmed all the windows were locked in place. Behind him, he heard a bang. Lukus turned and shined the light through the kitchen. He noticed all the cabinets were open. He didn’t pay any attention when he walked in. He was only concerned with the windows. Another clap of thunder broke the silence and Lukus jumped. He started laughing hard and steadied himself on the kitchenette table. Lukus looked up and began to make his way back through the kitchen, but stopped mid step. Half of the cabinet doors were closed.
He wondered if possibly the rumble of the thunder had somehow caused it, but he knew he was grasping at straws. The rain began to beat on the windows, and the wind started to howl. Lukus wondered how the old house would stand up to such a ferocious storm. Above the din of the rain hitting the windows, he thought he could hear piano music. He made his way towards the kitchen entrance. The rain beat harder, but he was sure he could hear music coming from the other room. He poked his head into the dining room where it was a little quieter. He definitely heard piano music. He stepped back into the kitchen. Perhaps he would just wait here until everything stopped. He turned to head back into the kitchen and almost tripped over his own feet. All the cabinet doors sat closed. That had not been the storm. Swallowing his urge to panic, he quickly stepped into the dining room and stopped. He was between a rock and a hard place. The Prelude on the piano was beautiful and haunting. Lukus could hear the rattling of cabinet doors in the kitchen. He was cornered with nowhere to go. All he could do was to focus and tame the panic he was feeling inside.
Lukus stood there like a cornered animal. He had to get out of the house. “It’s just rattling cabinets, don’t be such a coward Luke.” What was the worst that could happen to him? If the back door was locked, he would go to the front. What’s the worst that ghost could do to him? Break out in a Bee Gees’ song? Lukus slowed his breathing and pictured in his mind the obstacles on the floor he had walked across. With a final cleansing breath, Lukus sprinted for the back door. It was stuck in place.
Something was sliding up behind him. Lukus turned and jumped out of the way as a chair slammed into the back door. “Thanks!” Lukus yelled in a moment of false courage. He picked up the chair and slammed it against the door’s window for all he was worth. The chair bounced out of his hand and back on the floor. Lukus ran for the front door. The music had changed, but he was too busy to care. He twisted the knob, but it was stuck fast. Lukus kicked and beat on the door. He backed up and threw his shoulder into the upper glass pane. Nothing budged, except for his shoulder.
The flight and fight had nearly run out of him. He had to think, but that stupid song on the piano was making it tough. Lukus started laughing. The piano loudly banged out “Stayin’ Alive.” Someone or something had a real sense of humor. Lukus looked up the stairs and shook his head. He could not stay downstairs. Whatever was going on, they didn’t seem to want to hurt him, but he could not stand the noise. Lukus walked up the first three steps and everything fell silent. Did that mean he should keep going, or turn around? Was he being corralled or warned?
Lucas cautiously made his way up to the top of the stairs. Holding the light out in front of him all he could see was a lot of dust and cobwebs. He noticed the second set of footprints on the dusty floor. Maybe Lucius was here after all. Lucas followed the footprints a short way down the hall to a closed-door. He banged on the door, and yelled, “Lucius, you hillbilly, get on out of there.” He stood there for a few seconds barely able to breathe.Nobody came to the door. He tried the doorknob, but it was locked. The hall became chilly, and Lukus could see his own breath in the air. The floorboard creaked behind him, and he prayed it was Lucius.
Lukus felt the cold surround his body. It seemed to pass through him. The room began to warm again. Looking behind there was nothing in the darkness. The light in his hand revealed only cobwebs, dust, and mouse droppings, but the hallway had changed. It seemed peaceful. Lukus shivered despite the warmth. “Something went through me, I felt it.” With some trepidation, he shined his light back towards the stairs.
On the right was another bedroom. Its door stood open. Lukus did not want to go in there. However, all the other doors now appeared closed. Lukus knew he could stay in the hallway, but what if it came back? He called the cold air an “it” instead of a breeze because it didn’t feel like a breeze to him. Sure, it had not hurt him, but what if it changed his mind? Worse, what if he got tired, fell asleep on the floor, and a couple of mice decided to walk on him?
Lukus tiptoed into the bedroom. The bed frame looked good. True, it was dusty, but compared to some other furniture in the house this appeared newer. No more than twenty years old. The mattress was not even stained. Nothing seemed out of place. Lukus sat on the side of the bed. The adrenaline began to subside, and exhaustion began to take over. He looked around the room, and there were no signs of mice. “That’s odd. No mice?” He didn’t care about the reasons, he needed to sleep.
Lukus woke up looking into the face of a dark shadow. The storm had passed by and a full moon filtered through the window. “Boy, it’s just a tree.” He attempted to raise up, but could not move. The shadow standing over him seemed to grow closer. Lukus’ felt his shoulders pinned to the mattress. He was trapped. No wonder the mice didn’t come near the bed. Lukus started to scream and pray at the same time. “Dear Lord, oh God! I come against you in the name of Jesus. Oh, let me go you, devil! HELP!!”
His shoulders were released. The shadow moved to the wall. Lukus heard an evil cackle. His blood ran cold. Was this a banshee? Then it said his name.
“Lukus.” Another evil cackle floated through the air. “Lukus, you is the dumbest friend I got.”
He knew that laugh, that voice. “Lucius! You hillbilly. How long have you been here!?”
“All night. I sure had you going. I was worried you’d see my face at the top of them stairs.”
“You mean this place isn’t haunted?”
“No, ain’t no such thing as ghosts.”
“What about the kitchen?”
“What about it?”
“How did you get the cabinets to slam shut?”
“You are slow. I didn’t move ’em. I just had speakers hid. Sounded like they closed. Recorded that in my own kitchen.”
“So that was your speakers playing the piano?”
“Sure was. Got that music off the internet.”
“What about the cold air in the hallway?”
“What cold air?”
“The air was so cold in the hallway I could see my breath.”
“Lukus, you’ve been in here too long. Ain’t no cold air. There just ain’t no ghost.”
The bedroom door slammed shut. Lukus looked over at Lucius. His eyes were wide.
“That wasn’t you Lucius?”
“No.” Lucius swallowed hard and got very quiet. Lukus walked over and tried the knob. It was locked. They both heard the mattress squeak. Lukus got his flashlight out and turned it on. The mattress indented about halfway down like someone was sitting there. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anybody there.
“Lucius, you seeing this?”
“I am. Maybe I was wrong about this here place.”
“Lukus, what do ya reckon we should do?” Lucius lost look let Lukus know they were in real trouble.
“Lucius, you’ve always been the idea man to get us out of trouble.”
“Not this time Luke.”
Lukus turned towards the bed. “Excuse me, whoever is on the bed. We didn’t mean no harm. My friend Lucius here was trying to play a Halloween prank on me. We didn’t know anybody was here. If we had, we would have never trespassed.”
Lucius reached for the doorknob. It still would not budge. “Look here you ole ghost, or whatever you is!”
Lukus covered Lucius mouth with his hand. Lucius took both hands and pushed it down. “Whatcha doing Lukus!?”
“Don’t make him mad.” Lukus looked over his shoulder. “Sorry about that. He gets a little uppity when he is upset.”
“Upset! You’re dern right I’m upset. We weren’t doing no harm. I just ran a few cables and speakers in the house. Heck, everything has to run on battery. It ain’t like I’m even stealin’ his ‘lectricity. Okay, maybe I climbed through the bathroom window, snuck around and pushed ya. I didn’t mean no harm. How was I to know you’d trip.”
Lukus turned and faced the invisible thing sitting on the bed. “I apologize for us disturbing your peace.”
Lukus wasn’t sure how he ended up pinned on the wall, but there he hung about three inches from the floor. Something held him hard, making it hard to breath.
Lucius walked over to the bed and kicked at it. “I have had enough of this foolishness. You don’t want us here, and we want to be gone. What is your problem. Let my friend down and we promise to never come back.” Lukus felt himself rise up another two inches on the wall. He was hardly able to get any air.
Lucius flipped the mattress off the bed. “I ain’t afraid of you. You know what’s gonna happen if you kill us. Darla, my wife, is going to bring the Sheriff. They will be all over this house. After that they’ll tear this place down. Ain’t nobody claimed it in years, and nobody wants a house where folks is murdered. Then where will you have to haunt? Now let Lukus down, unlock that door over yonder and we’ll be on our way.”
Lukus felt the pressure release, and then the floor. He was still trying to regain his bearing when the door slammed open. “Thanks, Lucius. Let’s go home.”
“Not yet, I need my stuff.” Both men jumped at the sound of all the other doors in the house slamming shut in unison.
Lukus raised himself off the floor and grabbed Lucius arm. “Sorry, I believe we are invited to leave. After all, we are trespassing.”
“I reckon so.” Lucius hung his head in defeat and pulled a flashlight out of his pocket. Both men made their way down the steps. The front door stood open. They carefully stepped over the rotting front porch and down the steps. Lucius stopped and looked back. Then he turned to Lukus. “Lukus, you reckon we just imagined all that?”
The front door slammed shut, and the men could hear the doorknob lock.
Lukus smiled, “Nope. Where’s your pickup?”
“Just over yonder beyond them bushes.”
Lucius left the driveway and headed down the road. Lukus looked out the window, glad his experience was over. “Lucius, I hope you don’t think I lost since we both got kicked out of there.”
“Nope. It’s almost 6 am. It ain’t your fault the sun’s too lazy to be up this early.”