Two teenagers go looking for ghosts...
|The Granson Place
I remember I had quite a morbid streak in me as a kid. Like all teenagers, I had a fascination with the mystery and lurid glamour of ghosts, dead people and such. But looking back at it now, if I had trusted to my instincts, I suppose none of this would have happened, and I'd have been plopped on my sofa watching old horror movies on TV. Instead, I found myself speeding after the taillights of Ralph Neimer's Ford Mustang as it tore through the veil of darkness that hung like folded wings over the old Polk Road that wound down toward the infamous Grandson Place.
"This is really stupid," I said aloud, watching my speedometer creep past eighty and felt the car bounce across the smallest of bumps as though it wanted to take flight. But even as I was about to quit, Ralph's car began to slow, and we came to the dead-end which turned into a wide turnaround in front of the old Grandson property.
It was the only house around for miles, and as he pulled to the side of the road and stopped, I parked my Camaro directly behind him. Looking around, a small shiver ran through me as our headlights fanned out across the huge two-story mansion captured within the weed-choked grounds.
When Ralph killed his engine and turned off his lights, I did the same. The night quickly flowed back in to claim its territory, and then pooled around us in a heavy blackness.
Ralph kicked his door open and jumped from the car. "Ha, I beat you again!" he yelled.
I stepped out of my car, remembering to pocket my keys. "You wanna tell me how I'm supposed to pass you on a one-lane highway, hot-shot?"
He laughed again. "As if that piece of crap you're driving ever could," he teased. "Besides, you ain't got the balls to pass me."
"Yeah, yeah, whatever . . . so what are we doing out here anyway?"
Ralph smiled. "Did you bring the camera?"
I reached into my car and snagged the camera off the front seat. "Yeah, but you haven't told me why."
"Lemme ask you, do you believe in ghosts, Todd?"
Now it was my turn to laugh. "Ghosts? You brought me all the way out here for ghosts?"
"So, you're saying you do believe in them?"
I glanced at the house. I thought that if ever a place was haunted, this would be it. "Sorry, bud, but I don't believe in any of that crap."
"Too bad, because that's why we're here."
"Are you crazy? People have been talking about this dump for years. It's just a bunch of stupid rumors spread to keep kids outta here."
"Is it? You know the story, right?"
I don't know why I let Ralph lead me around like a puppy. I guess because I was a nobody, and he was the most popular kid in school. Hanging around with Ralph got me noticed . . . especially by the girls. "Ralph, everyone knows the stupid story."
"Twenty years ago, on Halloween, a nutcase broke in here and chopped the Granson family to bits . . . all six of them."
"Yeah, yeah, I know. Then he took their heads and stuck 'em out on the porch like a bunch of jack-o-lanterns. So what?"
"That's right! And they never caught the dude either. Never. By the time the cops got out here, he was long gone."
"And . . .?"
"And . . . what you don't know, is that there was a survivor."
"A survivor? How in the hell do ya know that?"
"I read, lame brain!"
"Yeah, right . . . comic books."
"No, I found it in an old newspaper at the library. The Granson's had a live-in maid. When she saw the guy, she ran out the backdoor and went screaming into the woods."
"You wish. She said the killer had a long scar that ran from his forehead to his chin. That's the only description they ever got of the guy."
"But did she say why he killed them? There had to be a reason."
"I dunno. Maybe he was just plain jealous and wanted their fancy house all to himself."
"That couldn't have been it. You gotta be totally bonkers to kill a bunch of little kids."
"Yeah, but just think of it! There was blood on the walls, soaked and clotted in the bedclothes, slick puddles of blood on the floor, blood on the stairs, and blood splashed all over the furniture. And don't forget those six heads stuck out on the front porch."
I tried to imagine a psycho running through the house with a bloody ax killing everybody he could find. A tiny chill wiggled through me. All of the sudden the night seemed darker than it had been when we first arrived, and the mansion looked more threatening.
The house was a huge, rambling wreck, with fancy gingerbread around the eaves, windows and railings. But storms had weathered the paint and ripped shingles from the roof. Where shutters still survived, they hung at a slant by a single mounting. I noticed the front-porch steps sagged, and there were gaps in the railing. Half the windows were haphazardly boarded shut, but the others were without protection and shattered. And the moonlight revealed shards of glass like transparent teeth biting at the empty blackness where stones had been pitched through. In spite of its shabby condition, the Granson place did not have the air of a ruin; in fact, it didn't appear empty at all, as did many decrepit buildings; somehow it seemed vital, alive. If a house could be said to have a human attitude, an emotional aspect, then this house was angry, very angry . . . furious, in fact.
"Some place, huh?" Ralph said.
"Yeah . . . "
"Let's go inside."
"Are you nuts? We don't even have a flashlight."
"Well, let's at least go up on the porch and look through the window. Maybe we can catch a ghost floating by and get a picture."
"Ralph, you're a bigger idiot than I thought. Come on, let's get this over with."
Together, we climbed the sagging steps and walked onto the porch.
I had the feeling something was watching me from the depths of the house--something less than human. Don't be childish, I thought. There's nothing in there. This isn't one of your horror movies. This is real life.
I tried to stand my ground, but the possibility that I was being observed became a certainty, at least in my own mind. I knew that if I stayed there much longer, I would surely be seized by a creature with huge claws and dragged into the dark house, there to be gnawed upon at the beast's leisure.
"They say that some nights there are strange lights in the house," Ralph said, "and that you can hear the dead children screaming in terror and crying for help."
"They hear the dead kids?"
"Yeah, moaning and carrying on something fierce."
I suddenly realized I had my back to one of the broken windows. I shifted away from it.
Ralph spoke in a whisper. "Some even say they've seen spirits that glow in the dark, crazy things, like headless children that come out on the porch and run back and forth as if they're being chased by someone . . . or something."
Ralph went to the shattered window and peered inside.
"What do you see?" I asked.
"Come and look."
I moved beside him and and tried to see. There was a broom in the corner, and I smelled a stale, extremely unpleasant odor.
"It's the living room," Ralph said.
"I can't see anything but an old broom."
"This is where he killed some of the kids. They tried to run away, but he chased 'em."
"I don't see anything."
"Keep staring. Your eyes will adjust."
From the corner of the room something moved.
"What was that?" I asked.
There was a soft rustling, a sudden clatter, and the sound of something rushing toward the window.
I leaped back, stumbled over my own two feet, and fell on my ass. Ralph burst out laughing as he stood with his back to the window.
"Jesus, there's something in there!" I yelled.
"I told you," he said smugly. "Ghosts!"
Just then, someone reached through the broken window and grabbed him around the waist. Ralph squealed like a caught pig as he was roughly pulled inside. There was the sound of a frantic scuffle on a hardwood floor and a couple of short screams. Then a...whooosh-chunk, whooosh-chunk like an ax burying its head into soft flesh.
I scrambled to my feet, too scared to scream, and backed down the porch steps. My eyes were glued to that window.
There was a soft groan, a brief rattle, and a barely audible creak, as a shadow filled the window and a tall man bent down and looked out at me. His hair was silver, his face thin and wrinkled. But what made me piss my pants was the long scar that ran from his forehead to his chin.
He stood up again, and then his long leg stepped through the window. In one hand he carried a wet and bloody ax.
"Shit!" I ran for the car, fumbling for the key in my pocket. I heard the porch steps creak behind me, but I didn't bother to turn around. He was coming.
My fingers danced over the key even as my other hand swung the car door open. As I jumped inside, I pulled the key from my pocket, and then dropped it on the ground.
When I looked up, I saw him.
The man was old and had a slight gimp, the bloodied ax dangled from his fingertips. He moved toward the car and lifted the ax over his head. Snagging the key from the ground, I slammed the door shut just as he brought the ax down. The windshield exploded.
"Oh-shit-oh-shit-oh-shit!" I rammed the key into the ignition and cranked it. The car hesitated, and then started with a grumble.
I saw the sick glare in his eyes as he reached for my door. Then I threw it into reverse, even as the door swung open, and stomped on the gas pedal.
The car jumped backwards, but somehow he hung on, and I dragged him across the driveway like a broken doll. Then my front wheel must have caught his leg, because I felt the car rock as I ran over something.
Nearly driving off the road, I spun the car around, and then took off in a cloud of burnt rubber and smoking tires. When I looked back in my rear-view mirror, he was gone.
I told the police everything. I remember crying and blubbering like a baby when I told 'em too. Ralph was a good friend, my only friend. I felt lost without him.
We left my car at the station, and then drove back out to the Granson place in a squad car. The cops acted pissed that they were called out over a teenage prank, but I shivered when I saw Ralph's Mustang still sitting there in the driveway.
They pulled up behind it, stopped, and then got out of the car. I was still too scared, and just sat there shaking. After they checked Ralph's car, they went inside to search the house. I was alone in the backseat.
Even as they entered the same window the killer had crawled out of, I heard a rustling in the undergrowth next to the car. Turning my head, I nearly peed my pants again. There was the scar-faced man staring at me from the bushes. This time he didn't look so mean. In the morning light, I could tell he was just an old man. But he was smiling.
He put his index finger to his lips as though signaling me to keep quiet, and then gave me a little wink as he chucked something through the open back window. It was smaller than a basketball, bounced once on the seat, and then landed in my lap.
It was Ralph's head.
His eyes were turned up as though he were trying to look at his eyebrows. His mouth hung open and slack as if he was still screaming. In fact, I did hear screaming! It took a while before I realized it was me."