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Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Horror/Scary · #1306885
A woman tries to buy a home, dismissing its haunted history as urban legend
"You know why they call it that, don't you?" said Norm, the caretaker of Bridgewood Farm.

"Actually, I do," said Janet, matter-of-factly. "There was a barn behind the house where sheep and pigs were raised and eventually killed. The Sharp family owned a variety of different animals that they would either sell at auction or put to slaughter, selling the various animal products at the town market. That's how they made their living,"

"Sounds like you've been doing your research," said Norm. "I guess Google never told you the real story behind that house,"

"What story?" asked Janet. "I've read dozens of articles on the history of Bridgewood Farm. What exactly did I miss?"

"You heard about all the screaming that went on in that barn over the years? The neighbors could hear it miles away. They even say--"

"Mr. Hardin, please. I didn't come here to investigate some urban legend. I'm just interested in buying the house. I'll probably have the barn taken down sometime this winter. You can mention that the next time you talk to the Realtor, Mr. Lipton. And those screams probably came from the sheep that were slaughtered in the barn. Their cries can sometimes emulate that of a human, so I've read,"

"What if I told you that those cries didn't come from no sheep?" said Norm.

"Then I would say that you were trying to start a horrible rumor," replied Janet coolly.

"T'ain't no rumor, ma'am," said Norm, shaking his head.

"There haven't been any deaths recorded on this property, have there, Mr. Hardin? Your supervisor told me that this place was practically untouched since it was first established,"

"Believe what you want, ma'am, but I sure ain't willing to spend even one night in that house. Heard too many nasty things,"

This is ridiculous. I thought caretakers were supposed to welcome potential homebuyers, not turn them away.

"There hasn't been an owner in nearly fifty years," said Janet. "On what grounds can you say something like that? You have no proof, Mr. Hardin. I know you southerners like to keep your own kind in these well-established homes but I'm afraid I'm going to have to be stubborn,"

"But ma'am--"

"Thank you, Mr. Hardin. You've done more than enough today. By the way, my name is Janet. I've been called ma'am since you were in diapers and, to be honest, I've had just about enough of that. I'll talk to the Realtor this afternoon to set up the payments,"

"Mr. Lipton said you were plannin' to pay for everything in full. That's an awful lot of money to spend all at once. Maybe you should just--"

"Maybe you should just mind your own business. My mind is made up. The countryside is absolutely beautiful and this place would make a fabulous vacation home. I just need to call the interior designer and--"

"Please, ma'am--er--Janet, I mean. Just spend one night in it before you make any final decisions," pleaded Norm.

The house was almost disturbingly out of place in the dusty flatlands of Hamilton. The only thriving plant life in that region of Texas was barrel cactus and sagebrush, which provided no source of complimentary landscape to the two-story Victorian home. An eyesore, it was called by some. Isn't that a pretty old house? said passerbys. Compared to neighboring ranch-style homes and farmhouses, the Bridgewood estate stood like a castle, callous with age and dark with secrets. The biggest story most of the other homes could boast was that they still carried microscopic traces of mold from the last big rain, which usually lasted less than an hour and filled about a quarter of a jar of mayonnaise if left outside.

Hamilton's biggest mystery was considered by many to be Bridgewood Farm. The Sharps were an eccentric family who lived meagerly despite the grandiose appearance of their European-style home. Although the house proved to be a fascinating topic of discussion by itself, what with its Queen Anne-era rounded tower and matching wraparound porch, the biggest mystery was said to be in the barn about a hundred yards behind the Sharp's ornate homestead.

The people of Hamilton were all too knowledgeable of the barn's rumored history and none would dare set foot on even an inch of the 90-acre property because of it. It was the barn that had caused most of the attention fifty years ago, when the screams that echoed from its blood-red walls filled the town with nightmares that many had yet to erase from memory. They called it the Slaughter House.

Janet surveyed the exterior of the home, scrutinizing every detail, from the espresso-colored shingles that covered the roof like a dark halo to the expansive collection of bay windows that circled the ominous-looking tower. Romanesque columns barricaded the front porch like soldiers and only added to the intimidating effect of the house. Surely the Sharps were out of their minds when they built it, folks used to say. Whatever the inspiration was at the time, the estate attracted a slew of publicity even before it became synonymous with the word "haunted". Ironically, despite all speculation about whether or not the rumors were true, one thing became increasingly certain. Even if the house was indeed haunted, it would never know why. Nor would the townspeople. Nor would the newspapers. Only the barn knew, and it wouldn't tell a soul.

"I'm buying the house tomorrow," Janet concluded. "Not that I really need the extra night, but I'll go along with your game,"

"Game, ma'am?"

"Don't worry about it. I'll call Mr. Lipton this afternoon and tell him I'll be spending the night here before it's officially mine,"

Norm made a polite nod and walked back to his truck. An '84 Chevy pickup, probably a service vehicle. Janet waited until the gray junker was completely out of sight.

‘Now,' thought Janet as she made her way back up the porch steps, ‘let's see what these hillbillies are hiding,'

Janet took a deep breath as the cool autumn wind blew her loosely tied blonde ponytail back and forth. Janet had survived two marriages, two divorces, no children (to her delight) and a hefty sum of money thanks to two well-devised prenuptial agreements. She didn't need to work. Hell, at 52, she'd probably be close to retirement age anyway. It made no difference to her. You can't just run away when things get a little messy, her father used to say. In the last 25 years of on-again, off-again marriage life, Janet didn't want to simply "run away". She wanted freedom.

"The old place looks as gorgeous as when I first saw it advertised," she said as she made her way up the last step. With a quick motion of her hand, Janet opened the front door, which made a faint creak as it greeted her. If you would call it a greeting.

I'll need to have that repaired.

The interior was just as dramatic as the exterior, revealing a grand staircase that arched slightly at the bottom. Hallways with rows of paintings gave the house a rather unique effect, as though one was entering a gallery dedicated to Victorian-era art. It was certainly an acquired taste.

As Janet passed the corridor leading to the master bedroom, she noticed something that she hadn't discovered in her first tour of the home. At first glance she mistook it for a mirror but soon realized that the object on the wall was, in fact, a painting. The painting portrayed the opposite side of the house, creating a mirror effect. It was perhaps the most curious thing Janet had ever seen.

‘Why would someone paint a picture of what the painting was looking at?' she wondered. ‘It sort of reverses the roles of the painting and the viewer, that's for sure,'

Janet made a quick overview of the house, checking for any lost remnants of the Sharps before they moved.

There's got to be a reason why they're trying to keep me away. I wonder if this house is on some giant oil reserve.

As she ascended to the top of the staircase, Janet felt a cold chill crawl up her spine. She began to feel as though she was an intruder. Janet didn't know why she felt the strong urge to investigate the forbidden history of the Sharps, but she thought that it would at least give her some ease about buying the home. Part of her thought it was only gossip. Some lavishly decorated myth about murder and gore. Another side of her thought differently. It said that something just didn't add up. Why would a family with this fine house and plenty of money just all of a sudden decide to move? Sure, families move, but usually there's a reason. Termite infestation, nosy neighbors, a draught, rats in the attic, something that was causing them distress. It couldn't have been for financial deficiencies; the Sharps lived well after settling down in an even larger piece of property in Oklahoma.

So why all the fuss?

Janet continued to think about the circumstances as she scoped out the rooms upstairs, searching in and out of dresser drawers and old cabinets that the Sharps had left behind.

It wasn't until she entered the children's room that Janet began to feel very uncomfortable. A Howdy Doody puppet and a Raggedy Ann doll stared at her from where they sat on each of the beds as she walked in the room. The wallpaper was an awful shade of rotten banana yellow, and poorly painted sailboats skimmed the bottom of the walls, just above the baseboards. It was truly a depressing room. A rotted oak desk and matching dresser were positioned in front of the small, solitary window, blocking nearly all of the sunlight that would normally be allowed had the blinds been open.

Poor kids, she thought.

Janet flicked on the light.

A dim, yellow bulb flashed above her, enhancing the wallpaper's grotesque color. Janet walked to the dresser and started pulling out the drawers. The first two were empty. She tried her luck on the third drawer. It was a bit harder to pull out. Age had a way of making things much more difficult and stubborn. The rotted wood was no exception. When Janet finally managed to pull the drawer out, she found a piece of paper folded in quarters. Janet opened the paper and examined it before stuffing it in her jeans pocket.

After Janet descended the staircase she decided to try the master bedroom one last time. As she made her way towards the hallway, something caught her eye. It was the mirror painting. She stopped cold before she realized that at that same moment her cell phone was ringing in her purse. Getting back to her senses, Janet rummaged through her purse and located the phone before it finished ringing. She opened the face.

The number was unfamiliar.

With a reluctant sigh, she pressed the talk button.

"Ms. Tarkington? This is Maxwell Lipton from Century Homes,"

"Oh, hello! I forgot that I gave you my cell phone number," said Janet. "Is everything okay for tomorrow?"

"Well, actually, I'm not sure if we can take the payment so soon before making a few follow-up calls. Your bank, for example. And of course, the insurance company. Little things like that. If you want to stop by this week after getting your things settled--"

"Mr. Lipton, I have to ask you something,"

"Yes, what?"

"Why is everyone so afraid of the estate? And why is every resident of Hamilton trying to steer me away from buying it? That story about the barn--"

"Is just that. A story. Now--"

"But I've noticed a few odd things about the Bridgewood home. This picture for example--"

"Oh, the one that reflects the other side of the house? Yes, that's certainly a unique--"

"Something in the picture changed," said Janet as she turned to inspect the painting.

Everything in the picture seemed to be the same. Except . . .

She saw it.

There was a shoe sticking out on the other side of the staircase.

"Janet? Are you still there?"


"Janet? Janet, what's going on? What did you see?"

"Mr. Lipton, there's someone in this house. This picture was recently altered and I saw the painting no more than five or ten minutes ago,"

"Janet, calm down. That painting can sometimes create optical illusions,"

"This wasn't an illusion. I examined the painting when I first walked in the house today and there wasn't a shoe behind the staircase,"

"Please, Ms. Tarkington--"

"First of all, my name is Janet, and secondly I want you to know that whatever you're trying to pull here is completely unprofessional,"

"Janet, maybe you should grab some coffee at the little café just down the road. I can meet you there and we can talk about all this. Have you been under a lot of stress?"

"More than you know,"

"Would you care to join me in about fifteen minutes at Greta's Café?" said Mr. Lipton.

Janet paused for a moment.

"Coffee sounds great," she said
Before Janet left the house, she made a final inspection in all of the rooms to see if any neighborhood pranksters were sneaking about, trying to scare the "new lady".
After ten minutes, Janet finally left.

No pranksters. No paint.

And no shoe.

*Note* *Note* *Note*

"Okay, first I want to know all of the rumors. All of the urban legends. All of the myths. Then, I want you to tell me everything you know about what really happened before the Sharps moved," said Janet before taking a sip of her coffee.

"Well, the only rumor that comes to mind is one that has haunted many of the older generation of Hamilton residents. They say that fifty years ago today, Mr. Sharp discovered that his sheep had all gone missing. It was the day that many of them were being scheduled for slaughtering. Come to find out that his son, Edwin, had released them just that morning. Every single sheep on the property was gone. The reason was perhaps his son felt sorry for the animals and wanted them to be free before his father would cut them up and freeze the various animal parts,"

Janet nodded in acknowledgment.

"This is just hearsay, mind you. Afterward, Mr. Sharp was said to be in some sort of maniacal rage. Lost his mind or something. It's all very blurred and many of the stories differ slightly, you know. Some say that the cries of the sheep told the boy to set them free. And some suggest that little Edwin had been given some heavenly sign telling him to save the sheep,"

"Yes, go on," said Janet, taking another sip.

"Well," said Mr. Lipton, "the rest is really quite disturbing. I'm not even sure if you want to hear this while you're dining--"

"It's quite all right," said Janet calmly.

"Well, thanks to a succession of myths passed down for five decades, the story goes that Mr. Sharp got in such a rage that he decided to teach his son a lesson. First, he shaved all of his son's hair off with the same pair of shears that he used on the sheep. Afterward, it was said that Mr. Sharp . . . cut up Edwin during an episode of hysteria. His son was dismembered in an assortment of ways and his body parts were packed in the large ice box behind the barn,"

"He actually cut his own son up? Are you serious? Just because he freed some sheep? That's absolutely ridiculous,"

"Which is exactly why it is a myth," said Mr. Lipton.

"The true story is much more believable and less gore-filled. The screams that echoed in the night came from Edwin as his hair was getting cut off. That part of the story is actually true, according to witnesses who claimed to see Edwin the next day on the patio, bald. The losses that the Sharps endured from the missing sheep were not that substantial, but it meant that they would have to start from scratch,"

"I see," said Janet.

"Instead of finding a new means to make a living or buying more sheep at auction, Mr. Sharp decided to move the family to Tulsa, Oklahoma where--"

"Mr. Sharp's brother lived. Yes, I read a little about their history. I have one bit of information to share with you, however," said Janet as she took out the piece of paper from her pocket. "Mr. Sharp didn't bring the family with him to Oklahoma,"

"What? Of course he did," said Mr. Lipton. "The entire family, Mr. and Mrs. Sharp, Edwin, and their daughter Vera packed up their belongings and drove off,"

"They didn't drive to Oklahoma, either," said Janet, unfolding the paper.

"And how, exactly, do you know that?" said Mr. Lipton, raising one of his stiff eyebrows.

"This, Mr. Lipton, is an official receipt stating that only one first class plane ticket was purchased for a Mr. Edward Sharp. It's dated October 3, 1957 and signed by one of the airline staff. Mr. Sharp's signature is also there,"

"Where in the world did you find that?" said Mr. Lipton.

"It was in one of the drawers in the children's room, of all places. Why it was
stuffed in there, I haven't any idea. Now tell me, if what this says is true, and if it's not a fake, then what happened to the rest of the family?"

"I thought everything in that house was completely cleaned out," said Mr. Lipton with a worried look.

"You realize what this means, don't you?" said Janet. "We could be on to one of the biggest cases yet to be solved until now,"

"But the Sharp family relocated to Tulsa. How could it only have been one person living there the entire time?"

"It sounds like we need to inspect the house again," said Janet.

"Good idea. May I see the receipt?"

Janet gave him the slip of paper.

After going over the receipt to affirm its authenticity, Mr. Lipton let out a sigh. He started to scratch his balding, frost-white head with his stiff, arthritic hands. His forehead started to wrinkle with anxiety.

"You may actually be on to something, Ms. Tarkington," said Mr. Lipton.

"Shall I follow you there?" asked Janet.

"Yes, that would be fine,"

*Note* *Note* *Note*

"Why, exactly, did you ask Mr. Hardin to accompany us?" whispered Janet.

"Security purposes only," replied Lipton.

‘I feel safer already,' thought Janet.

Norm followed close behind as the two walked up the porch steps and entered the Bridgewood home, greeted once again by the creaky front door. As the door slammed shut, Norm jumped about an inch off the ground.

‘Who's protecting who, I wonder?' thought Janet.

"I thought you said you were too afraid to even go near this old place," she said, looking directly at Norm.

"Well, I got a job to do, ma'am,"

"I told you not to call me ma'am,"

"I'm sorry ma--um, Janine?"


"Oh, that's right. I'm bad with names," said Norm.

"I suggest we split up and start searching for more pieces of evidence to back up your claim," said Lipton.

"I'll check downstairs," said Janet.

"I'll take a look upstairs, then," said Lipton.

"Where do I go?" asked Norm sheepishly.

"Go out and inspect the barn," said Lipton.

"The barn? Oh, no. I ain't goin' in there, sir," said Norm. "It's already dark out,"

"You have a flashlight,"

"Yeah, but--"

"You'll search that barn or you're fired," said Lipton .

"Yessir," said Norm reluctantly.

"We'll meet back in the sitting room in fifteen minutes," said Lipton.

Ten minutes rolled by, and Janet had yet to find a single clue to the Sharps' whereabouts.

‘I've gone through every nook and cranny in this mausoleum and still nothing,' she thought as she rummaged a second time in the china cabinet behind the dining room table.

‘Maybe there was never any murder. It would be much too difficult to get away with something like that, even in those days,'

Janet decided to spend the remaining five minutes near the staircase, checking small crevices and other oddities that the house offered. As she made her way towards the hallway leading to the master bedroom, she felt the hairs on her neck stand up. The temperature had suddenly dropped about twenty degrees. She rubbed both arms and crept quietly to the corridor. When she reached the section where the wood floor stopped and carpet took its place, Janet saw the figure staring at her in the reflection. She spun around the moment she saw the child's face near the staircase behind her. She gasped.

The child was gone.

"Who's there?" Janet called out.

She turned back around to look at the reflection and realized that she had been deceived by the mirror painting. A child stood on the staircase, staring straight ahead with piercing green eyes. His sandy brown hair was parted on the side and was combed over in the front. He wore a plaid, long-sleeve shirt and corduroy pants, torn at the bottom. He looked about eight or nine.

"Oh . . . my God," Janet whispered, putting a hand over her mouth.

‘It's him,' she thought. ‘Edwin Sharp,'

Janet raced to the stairwell.

"Maxwell! Mr. Lipton! I found something you might want to take a look at!"

‘Oh no,' she thought as soon as the words echoed upstairs. ‘Whoever did that is still inside,'

"I'll be right down, Janet!" called Lipton.

Janet was torn between the urge to discover more of what the altered picture had really uncovered and the feeling that if she stayed in the house, both she and Mr. Lipton would be in more danger than they ever imagined.

‘It could be a sign,' she thought. ‘Or some sort of warning. Whoever did this was incredibly talented. And fast,'

As Mr. Lipton's steps were audible, Janet brushed off the idea.

‘It could just as easily be some wise-ass,' she thought.

"My goodness, was it this cold when we first walked in?" asked Lipton, rubbing his hands together.

"My thoughts exactly," said Janet. "I think someone messed with the air conditioner,"

"Someone else is in the house?" said Lipton, his rigid eyebrows arching slightly.

"I would say so. And whoever is still creeping about made a slight change to that mirror painting in front of the hallway,"

"Let me have a look," said Lipton, taking out a pair of glasses from the breast pocket of his blazer.

"I should probably call the police," said Janet, opening up her purse.

"Wait just a moment," said Lipton, walking slowly to the edge of the wall where the hallway started.

He took a careful look at the painting, which was too far for Janet to see clearly.

"Well?" said Janet, anxiously.

"What alteration did you refer to? The painting looks exactly the same,"

"What? You've got to be kidding,"

Janet walked to the other end of the room and viewed the painting. There was no Edwin Sharp.

"I don't believe it," she said. "There was a boy standing on the stair steps. He had light brown hair, which was in an old fashioned cut, and he had on clothes outdated even for that particular era. I'm not making all of this up, Maxwell. You know I'm completely against any kind of foolery, especially if it concerns a house I'm willing to buy,"

Lipton wasn't listening. Instead, he decided to tiptoe around the sitting room, peeking his crane-like head over the various pieces of furniture.

"Sir, are you all right?" asked Janet.

"I wonder where our old friend Norm is at?" said Lipton rather loudly, then turned to face Janet and gave a wink.

"Maxwell, I don't think it's--"

Lipton put a finger over his lips signifying that she should be quiet.

Before Lipton could make his surprise attack, a faint sound reverberated from the windows. Janet recognized the sound and bolted to the front door.

"What are you doing?" said Lipton, bewildered.

"You didn't hear that?" said Janet, her face just as stunned. "It sounded like . . . screaming. I think it was a man's voice,"

"Now Janet, please. Come off this,"

"No, I heard it. I think it came from the barn,"

"Wait, before you go, take a flashlight," called Lipton, but Janet was already outside.

The cool October wind delivered a chill through all the life on the Hamilton homestead, sweeping across the dry soil in short gusts, nipping at the fragments of cactus still holding on to their lives in the unseasonably cold weather.

"Hello?! Is someone out here?" she called.

Only the wind answered.

Janet descended the porch steps and walked about thirty feet. She could see the dismal-looking barn in the distance. It gave no telling of any of the events that took place there fifty years prior. It just stood there, letting the wind beat down on its doors.

"Norman! Are you still in there?" she called.

No answer.

The barn was plain and made to fit a large variety of farm equipment and other miscellaneous supplies. Janet imagined a wall of sharp implements, towers of filthy hay and a John Deere tractor. Then she wondered if John Deere tractors were even used in the late fifties.

"Mr. Hardin!" she called.

Still no answer.

Janet decided to make her way back to the house. As she walked up the steps, that unnatural chill crawled up her back once again. The air had already dropped to about fifty degrees that night, which for October was nearly freezing in Hamilton. The air, itself, felt as though it had chartered into foreign territory. The sudden temperature drop startled Janet as she made it to the top of the porch.

Only in Texas.

Before she moved down from Los Angeles, many of Janet's friends had informed her of the sporadic weather conditions. The natural ones, anyway.

‘When Donna told me the weather changes every minute, I didn't know how literal she meant the phrase to be,' thought Janet as she opened the front door.

"Mr. Lipton?" she called.

Her voice echoed about the house until it reached the upstairs wing. She called again less than a minute later. The same echoes answered her.

‘I hope he didn't leave me here to fend for myself,' she thought.

As Janet made here way to the corridor leading to the master bedroom, her eyes directed their attention to the wall where an assortment of paintings hung. The gallery wall, Mr. Lipton had called it.

There, in the center, she saw it.

The mirror painting had been modified once again.

"Jesus Christ," she whispered.

For a moment Janet felt as though everything that happened since she first walked in the house was a dream. A twisted, nightmarish dream. The warnings of the townspeople. The house's haunted history. Proof that somehow a murder had occurred. And now this. Nothing made sense anymore.

‘How could anyone manage to sneak up on us and pull a stunt like this?' she thought.

She cocked her head at a slight angle to study the painting. There stood little Edwin, clad in plaid and corduroy, holding the head of Mr. Lipton as though it was a prized cabbage. Could it be? Yes, he was actually . . . smiling? It was closer to a devilish smirk. A proud, nasty grin, like the kind little boys wear when they intentionally cause mischief.

This was a bad idea from the start.

Janet burst through the front door and was shocked to find someone blocking her path. She then realized that she had smacked the person in the face with the door.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Norm. You gave me quite a start. Are you okay?"

"Good as can be expected, ma'am. Has it been fifteen minutes yet?" he asked,
hiding his bruise with his hand.

"Yes, it's been close to about twenty. Did you check the barn?"

"Um, yeah. Everything's fine,"

His face said it all.

"You didn't go in the barn, did you?" said Janet, crossing her arms.

"Well . . . I didn't technically go inside. I checked around the barn and went back to my truck to make sure no hoodlums came to cause trouble,"

"How sweet of you," said Janet dryly.

"Aw, it's no prob--hey, where are you going?"

"The place you were supposed to search," she called from behind.

Despite her age, Janet's lean physique and long, bird-like legs enabled her to run at admirable speed, despite the numerous tripping hazards and rocky terrain.

Norm began to sprint in her direction, then stopped to take a few deep breaths.

"If it weren't . . . for my asthma . . . I could've caught up with you in a second," he said, leaning his head down and putting his hands on his knees.

By that time Janet had already made her way to the barn.

"Are you coming or aren't you?" she called.

"Just one . . . minute, ma'am," said Norm, huffing and puffing until he finally reached the building.

Even in the dark, the barn's crimson walls shone like neon.

Norm pulled open the rickety barn door and motioned his hand for her to go inside.

"Ladies first," he said with a nervous grin.

"How kind of you, Mr. Hardin," said Janet, "but you have the--"

Norm reached in his back pocket and pulled out the flashlight.

"Here ya go, ma'am,"

Janet grabbed it from his hand in frustration and turned it on, flashing it towards the darkness. As she walked in, the putrid smell nearly attacked her senses. It reeked of rotten meat, mixed with a combination of feces and eggs. Janet quickly covered her nose for fear of fainting if exposed to direct inhalation.

"Hoo-wee it smells like somethin' died in here," said Norm as he closed the door behind him.

The beam of light scanned the interior, revealing a collection of traditional farm implements. A hay baler, a scythe for trimming weeds and grass, a horse-drawn plow, a grain dispenser, several pick axes, and a variety of cutting tools.

‘Even for 1957,' she thought, ‘the Sharps probably didn't believe in modernization. Having a horse-drawn plow wasn't exactly a technological breakthrough, if I recall,'

Then she realized something.

The Sharps never even had horses

"Hey!" called Norm from the north side of the barn, "I found something written on the wall!"

Janet sighed and walked to where he was crouched down. She laid the flashlight on the ground and kneeled next to him.

"See it?" he asked.

She looked closely, then grabbed the flashlight and shined it directly at the wall.

"Don't scream or he'll find you. That's real cute," said Janet.

"What does it mean?" asked Norm.

"Some smart-aleck is trying to scare us," she replied, touching the red lettering with her fingers. Despite being surrounded in an ungodly stench, she could recognize the smell on the wall, as well as the texture of the writing.

"It's . . . crayon, I think,"

"Crayon?" said Norm.

Janet felt the temperature dropping once again, sending a prickly tingle all over her skin.

"Where the hell is that draft coming from?" she said, waving the flashlight around the walls of the barn. She quickly realized that the barn had no windows.

A hand grabbed her forearm, causing Janet to drop her flashlight. She touched the hand with her own.

"Mr. Hardin, are you really that scared?"

Norm's asthmatic breathing was heard, and a loud groan soon followed.

"I'll hold your hand in a second. I need to get the flashlight. Goodness, you must be coming down with something. Your hand feels like ice,"

Janet bent down to retrieve the flashlight and shined it towards the east wall. Norm was lying on the ground, soaked with blood. A puddle formed where his mouth had regurgitated much of his intestinal fluids.

"Norman!" she screamed.

The hand that was holding her immediately let go. Janet shined the light behind her, but before she could see what had grabbed her arm, darkness took over.

The flashlight bulb had gone out.

"Turn on, you piece of--!" she screamed, hitting the sides of the light with her palm. "Please turn on!"

A sound emerged from the back of the barn. It sounded like laughter.

A child's laugh.

The thump of boots edged closer to where she stood, clunking against the wood floor slowly and loudly. Thump . . . thump . . . thump.

"Maxwell, if that's you, I swear to God I'll wring your neck!" cried Janet hysterically.

She started to run to where she thought the entrance of the barn was located, but quickly found a wall with no door.

"Good work, son," said a deep, raspy voice.

"Mr. Sharp?!" exclaimed Janet.

Those were the last words to come from her mouth, so they say. The screams that echoed on October 3rd in Hamilton, Texas were only heard by an elderly couple that lived less than five miles from the Bridgewood estate. Janet and Norm's bodies, or parts rather, were found buried in ice in the large freezer behind the barn several days after the couple filed a complaint adhering to the noise that woke them up on that fateful night. The homicide case that followed the gruesome discovery lasted only two weeks. The culprit was assumed to be a Mr. Jim Delaney, a local farmer who claimed he had trespassed on the Bridgewood estate that night after hearing "strange noises" while on his way home. No other evidence could prove that anyone else had been on the property, and he would serve life for the deaths of Janet Tarkington, Norman Hardin, and also Maxwell Lipton, whose body parts had also been located in the barn. The elderly couple, whose names are kept anonymous, was ordered by the city of Hamilton to undergo psychiatric treatment at Scott and White Hospital in Temple. Due to all of the commotion and rumors surrounding the estate, Bridgewood drew a large following and was later converted into an attraction, no doubt to promote tourism in Hamilton. Families all around central Texas flocked to the bizarre homestead to take tours of both the Victorian-style home and the barn after the two buildings had been cleaned and refurbished.

Some even say that a little boy of about eight or nine will appear in the mirror painting on occasion, holding the head of Janet Tarkington in both hands, as though it was a prized cabbage. He wears a sinister little grin, and he'll disappear as soon as you turn around to see if the reflection was real. The maintenance man is still baffled by the faulty air conditioning system. If you are interested in a tour, you are advised not to go into the barn at night. For security purposes only.

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