A campfire story about a private investigator and ghosts on campus.
Sheridan Lockwood followed the evidence and came here, to the closed Schuyler Concert Hall on the campus of Charlotte State College. His client just wanted answers, and now he believes he could find them here.
A ghost appeared on stage, a young man well-dressed and standing straight. A panicked look on his face. When Lockwood approached, he sensed the anguish within the spirit, and backed down. He took a seat and began a conversation.
“Whom am I speaking with?” The standard first line, first question he asked. It was taught to him by an older paranormal investigator he followed for a month. It was grammatically incorrect, but in being so, it showed that he was not here to do harm.
“Augustus.” It was more of a sense than actual words. Two years ago, this would have freaked him out. Lockwood has learned since then that he has gifts, among them is the ability to “hear” spirits, in his mind as if they are speaking directly to his brain.
This was the ghost he needed to see. Anna-Maria Bonner had hired him, wanted him to use his skills to find out if the stories were true: That is was his ghost that was haunting the campus. He talked with the professors, students, and staff alike, gathered all the rumors, legends, and stories, and concluded that the concert hall was the nexus of all supernatural activity on campus. And now, in front of him, was the soul of the person he needed to speak with.
Ten minutes in and Lockwood felt another presence. This one was not good, bordering on evil. He could not quite tell if this new thing was a spirit or something else, just knew it was not good.
“Hello,” the investigator called out. “Who are you?”
The feeling of evil became greater and Lockwood’s opinion of it changed. Demonic, that’s the best way to describe it. The feeling in the hall had changed, the coldness the ghost had brought had increased and an awful smell of rotten meat came to him. Sulphur, too, as if someone had forgotten about Easter eggs. Subconsciously, Lockwood reached into his bag and removed a vile of holy water and a rosary presented to him by his great-grandmother upon his receiving First Communion. He was ready to defend himself.
“How dare you summon me,” a disembodied voice echoed. “You are not worthy of my presence.”
“I did no such thing,” Lockwood answered. “But while I have you here,” he began.
The presence cut him off, “Do not mock me. I am not to be ridiculed.”
He sighed, “I know. I just wonder why you hold so many here, why not allow them to pass peacefully. Oh yeah, I can feel more ghosts here now.”
“I am not the one,” the manifestation screamed. “It was your people who have kept them here.”
Lockwood placed a hand on his chest, “My people?”
“War between the Mohawks and Mohicans brought me here. The English fighting against both tribes brought me further.” The demonic had more to say, but with a wave of a hand, Lockwood stopped it.
“That’s a lie. Violence never caused your rise. You caused the violence.” Proud that he was able to speak to such evil, Lockwood smiled. “You know this. You try to anger me, feed off that emotion. Fear and anger are your manna.”
A door opened, light came from behind him, then closed. Lockwood was grateful for the addition. Without looking he said, “Anna-Maria, stay where you are.”
“Okay,” the client answered. She didn’t need to be told twice: she felt the cold and smelled death. She was scared.
“Your father is being held here. He is not the ghost who haunts this place, thought. He is just a captured spirit. He only cries out for help and in pain. He never wanted to, nor has he ever hurt anyone.”
“He lies,” the demonic spirit argued. “The man knows not of what he speaks.”
Anna-Maria crept further, into the main auditorium. She felt the evil, felt the anger. She looked at the investigator. “This is not my father?”
Lockwood shook his head. “It’s an agent of evil. He feeds on the fear of people. He uses the spirits of those what have died here to assist him in his lust of anguish.”
An animal howl echoed off the acoustic walls. The loudness caused the two to cover their ears. She went to her knees. She glanced to the investigator, and he saw her helplessness.
“Augustus,” he cried out. “Look at your daughter.”
A spirit reappeared on the stage; the painful look had deepened. It turned to anger. Several more ghosts appeared. The original turned. Silently, all the spirits gathered.
“Come forward demon,” Augustus commanded.
A howl echoed. Another command and the foul smell intensified. Lockwood and his client became nauseated.
“No.” The demon’s voice was weaker. Lockwood looked to the stage left and saw a blackness slowly turn to a human form.
“You hold us,” Augustus said. His voice was not just in Lockwood’s head. He knew this: Anna-Marie looked her father’s spirit.
“Why?” two female spirits asked.
The demonic shook its head, its horned-topped human male head. A few ghosts came forward, children. They held hands.
“We want peace,” they spoke. “We want to be with family.” The voices were innocent. They were soft. Lockwood felt their extreme sadness, and it brought a tear.
A tall Native stepped forward. “Years and years, you have kept me.” A fist came down on the evil. A painful yowl wailed throughout the empty concert hall.
Lockwood noticed a few spirits were smiling. He saw a light appear in the back of the stage, as if a door to the afterlife had opened. Anna-Maria noticed it, too. She nodded at her father’s spirit.
“We are no longer afraid,” Augustus said. He raised a first and came down. The demonic cried.
Several of the ghosts came forward. Lockwood sensed a drop in the heaviness. So did the client. Anna-Maria came closer, hugged him.
“Look at my father,” she whispered. They saw Augustus’ ghost direct spirits into the light. “He’s helping them be free, be at peace!”
“No!” echoed again, weaker than before. The two looked as the demonic began to disappear. They noticed no longer was there a smell of rotted meat, of sulphur, of death. They witnessed as the hall began to lighten up, be less dark.
Augustus took the Native’s hand and stopped him from delivering what would have been the final blow. “He is defeated. Join the others.” The Native nodded and disappeared.
The sound of thunder boomed. The demon was gone. Alone on stage was Augustus’ ghost. He looked at his daughter.
“I love you,” Anna-Maria called out.
The ghost nodded and mouthed it back before he walked to the light.
“Thank you,” she told Lockwood. “My father can now rest in peace.”
From the entrance, the sound of quizzical people caused the two to turn. Students, faculty, and staff walked in, now unafraid of the hall.
The assembled campers – teenagers and counselors – looked at me, unsure of what to say. I smiled and asked, “So. Was this story true or not?”
I heard mumbling and whispers, but no answer. Francesca, my first love and a counselor, looked at me with a smirk. She knew the answer but didn’t say a word.
“It’s just a story,” a counselor finally answered. Katy Greene was the camp’s music director, a recent graduate from Charlotte State like me. “Our concert hall never had ghosts.”
“That’s true.” I touched Francesca’s hand and stood. “This story is fictional, purely made up.”
“Damn,” I heard a few people say.