The first time I heard Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, my sister Patty and I listened to my dad in stunned silence as he told the frightening tale from memory. Poor Ichabod Crane. He seemed like such an odd fellow with his hooked nose and over-blown ego. I remember thinking he was doomed when he fell in love with the beautiful Katrina since he had to compete for her attention with wicked Brom, the town bully. Finally, when Ichabod sauntered back from teaching and found himself alone in the woods, he began to hear the thunder of horse’s hooves. His worst fear was realized when he discerned that the dreadful man riding the horse was headless with only a glowing-eyed jack-o-lantern straddling his shoulders. As the rider’s steed reared up, he lifted his hollow glowing head and hoisted it at the terrified Mr. Crane. My dad would cock his arm back and say “Buwahahaha!” as he threw the imaginary pumpkin. “Ichabod’s hat was found alongside a shattered pumpkin and he was never seen again.” Left with the ultimate cliffhanger, my sister and I lay awake in horror, afraid the headless horseman would ride through our bedroom door. Continue reading
Tricia had wasted time choosing a costume and now darkness swallowed the winding country road. The party ended long ago while she lost her way. Fog enshrouded cornfields came to life as aged stalks resembled zombies. Continue reading
The weather forecasters had predicted “The Big One” all week. But did I believe them? NO! Not until I woke up this morning, earlier than usual, to a bright shaft of light penetrating a window covered in snow. Where I live it has piled up in amounts over 14 inches and it is still coming down! The last time I checked, 31 Colorado counties were under some kind of advisory or warning. Continue reading
The Winchester House has fascinated me since I learned of its mistress Sarah’s obsession with the occult, the number 13, and her frantic need for redemption. Her husband William invented the rifle responsible for countless deaths during the Civil War. Sarah’s fixation with the after-life occurred after her only child died of mysterious causes as a newborn and her husband William succumbed to tuberculosis. She consulted a psychic who told her to move from Connecticut out West and to build a house for these restless spirits who had taken her loved one’s lives. Sarah believed she would be the next to die unless she built a final resting place for these vengeful souls. As long as she continued building, her life would be spared. In 1884, she purchased a farmhouse in the pristine Santa Clara Valley and hired men to work in continuous shifts. She began a strange reclusive life filled with spiritual guides, architects, and builders. Continue reading
Justine pulled into Mr. Hanson’s driveway as the rain fell down in sheets. She retrieved the casserole from the passenger seat and then splashed through puddles to the door. She turned the knob and let herself in.
“Mr. Hanson? I brought your dinner!” A smell of mothballs and Lysol hit Justine like she’d been slapped. Continue reading
We celebrated my sister Patty’s birthday on Friday the 13th at The Stanley Hotel. Two enthusiastic friends, Connie and Donna, flew out from Madison for the occasion. After meeting at my house in Boulder, we loaded my car with our suitcases and a Ouija Board. It had never been used and I know it’s creepy, but I couldn’t help myself. There was a crisp feel to the air that November afternoon. As the foothills rose up on the side of the highway and the river tumbled by, it began to snow.
Stephen King’s book The Shining made this Estes Park hotel famous. He wrote it after his family experienced paranormal activity when they stayed in room 217. Many remember Jack Nicholson who played the possessed father in the movie and his two famous lines, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” and “Here’s Johnny!”
“I really don’t think anything is going to happen tonight,” I said to the group as we wound north along Highway 36.
My sister rolled her eyes and groaned.
“Ghosts aren’t like dogs that come when you call them.” I said, worried they would be disappointed.
“I know Susie, but it’ll be fun to see what happens,” Patty responded.
As we entered Estes Park, the Rocky Mountains served as a dramatic backdrop with its reflection in the pristine lake. It appeared like a hand-painted movie set. The Stanley Hotel perched above it, exuded an ominous presence with its ghostly white exterior.
After parking the car we walked across the Stanley’s massive veranda and entered the 100-year-old Victorian. Several other groups meandered in the spacious lobby. A few glanced at the Ouija board under my arm and giggled. I felt my cheeks grow hot. The auspicious date hadn’t gone unnoticed by many hotel guests, but several wedding parties arrived as well. I turned around at the commotion caused by a group that entered with all kinds of equipment. We overheard whispers that ghost-busters had come to dispel any paranormal activity.
The man at the front desk checked Connie and Donna into rooms located on a benign wing for ghost activity (much to their relief). However, my sister and I pounced on the very infamous 4th floor wing where hotel guests have often regaled the front desk with reports of children running up and down the hallway in the middle of the night. My sister stayed at the end of the hall in Room 412 and I checked into 406 known as “Billy’s” room. He was a little boy that haunted by moving items in the rooms and closets on our wing. As I put my things away for the evening, I hung my leather coat dead center in the closet so I would notice if it got moved. When I joined my sister and friends, I told them what I did and we all looked at each other and laughed.
Check out the size of those orbs. We could not find any in the same room the next day.
Armed with digital cameras in hopes of catching some orbs on film, we went to the 4:00 Haunted Ghost Tour. Our guide, Kevin, took us on an exploration of the historic Hotel, going to areas that had reported paranormal activity. Connie and I started taking random pictures in the piano room. He took us to Room 217 which is where the King family stayed. He said it was believed to be haunted by a man who swindled and pick-pocketed hotel guests. He was also a lady’s man and has been known to caress female hotel guests. He didn’t seem to be around that afternoon.
Satisfied with extensive historical tour of the building and the number of orb photos we captured on film, we went to our rooms to dress for dinner. I checked to see if my coat had been moved and there it was; dead center where I left it.
During dinner we strained our ears to hear the eerie sounds of the piano that had been reported to play at random intervals, but classical music filtered down from overhead speakers. Since it was November and the off-season, (the same time of year Stephen King had visited) half the cavernous dining room was left in darkness and I couldn’t escape a pervasive draft.
After dinner we walked the hallways and came upon the group there to dismiss any ghostly activity. Ironically, they were using the same EMF detectors the paranormal experts use.
“We took pictures of orbs down that hallway a few hours ago.” I said. Their meters shot way up, but they explained that electrical wiring enclosed in the walls caused the high readings and dust caused the orb effects.
“If I am not seeing ghosts in the middle of the night then what am I seeing?” I asked.
“We call that sleep paralysis. In other words, you are still dreaming when you wake up.”
“I am clearly awake when I see apparitions walk through my bedroom, but they are the experts,” I thought.
As the group went off to investigate another part of the hotel, a blonde-haired woman stayed behind. “Come over here and feel this,” she said. We walked over the bottom of the stairwell. “This is the vortex of the hotel,” she said. I walked up to the wall and stood with my back to it. A tingling sensation began on the soles of my feet and then moved through me to the top of my head where my hair stood on end. We each took a turn. “How would they explain this?” I asked.
The four of us returned to the 4th floor wing. I retrieved the Ouija board and we found a spot in the middle of the long hallway. We sat down on the tapestried carpeting, I pulled out the board and we put our fingers on the “planchette.” After a couple of minutes, I jerked it and everyone screamed. “I did it,” I admitted. We all laughed. I was getting very tired and was ready to go to bed.
Suddenly, we were struck by a cold breeze. We turned and gazed down the empty hallway. The door at the end of the hall stood wide open.
“Oh my God!” we said in unison.
“Do you think someone down there could have poked their head in?” I asked.
As Patty stood up, the door slammed shut. She ran down the hall and checked, but no one was on the landing or anywhere on the outdoor stairwell.
Patty’s friends were pretty freaked out. “I’ve had enough,” said Donna.
We said our good nights and after washing up, I tumbled into bed. Banging on the floor above me kept me awake for hours. I thought, “Why don’t those stupid ghost-busters set their equipment down instead of dropping it on the floor?” I covered my head with my pillow.
As I nodded off, screams of children and the pounding of feet resounded down the hallway. “Seriously?,” I thought rolling my burning eyes, “What if someone sees the hotel guests or staff running and laughing? Someone will catch them.”
It ended as abruptly as it started and I drifted off to sleep. An hour later, I was startled by a sound in my room. A pale-faced man with black hair parted down the middle and a goatee wearing a white shirt, black bow tie, and jacket, floated from the tapestry floor, rose over me and out the window. “Great. Now I am having sleep paralysis on top of all noise!” I turned over and fell back to sleep.
I woke up a few hours later to a shaft of gray morning light. I dressed and called my sister. She came right over. “Did you hear them?” Patty asked, “The children ran down the hall at a really fast pace, but instead of slowing at the end of the hall, their steps just ended in mid-stride.”
“Well, I had sleep paralysis and saw some guy float over my head. What was up with all the equipment being banged over our heads all night?” I got up to check my coat and gasped. The sleeve had been pulled and it was almost off the hanger.
“Can you believe it Patty? I never expected anything, but they really put on a show!”
“Maybe because it was Friday the 13th,” she said. I gave her a big eye-roll.
We met Connie and Donna who said they had a great night’s sleep.
The blonde lady from the night before walked towards us. “Did you hear them?” she asked.
“They weren’t hotel guests or staff?” I asked.
“No,” she laughed, “those were the ghostly children the Stanley Hotel is famous for. Last night was the first time I’ve heard them since arriving a few days ago.”
“Well I had sleep paralysis last night,” I said and described my apparition.
“Sounds like you got a visit from F.O. Stanley himself!” she said, “That isn’t sleep paralysis. Immediately upon waking is the easiest time to see ghosts. That’s why they fade.”
While we checked out, the man at the desk asked how our night was. I said, “I wish those ghost-busters would have set down their equipment more gently. They banged in the attic above me all night long.”
“Ma’am, The Stanley doesn’t have an attic.” He pointed out the window. “You were on the 4th floor wing in a dormer room. There was nothing above you.”
Do you believe in ghosts?
1st photo by hotelsinsider.travelhero.com – The rest by S. Lindau
The wind had slammed into the old Gothic Revival all evening. Camille Hastings shivered from a draft she couldn’t escape and she zipped up her velour jacket. Her grandmother had been taken in for observation and Camille had offered to take care of her pets. While watching old horror movies, one of her three cats darted by.
The cable went dead and she turned off the static. A scraping sound came from behind. She sprang from the Victorian sofa and gazed around the antique laden parlor. The blank dull eyes of a pair of statues seemed to glare at her.
She crossed the room and every hair on her body stood erect. She spun around to look at the porcelain busts and her gut clenched. Their eyes seemed to narrow as their grins grew broader.
She switched off the lights and walked through the dining room into the kitchen. “I’m imagining things.” While reaching for a glass from the cabinet, the overhead light flickered and a dark shadowy figure streaked by. “What the Hell?” She grabbed a knife from the drawer and climbed the stairs to the bedroom where she slid under the cold comforter and drifted off to sleep.
Camille awoke to footsteps. Her heart pounded. The glimmer of fading moonlight peaked between the curtains. Her eyes scanned the room, but no one was there. She glanced over at the bedside table. The carving knife glinted in the pale shaft of light. The alarm clock read 5:47. When Camille sat up to stretch, she let out a blood-curdling scream. The sibling statues stared at her with twin maniacal grins from the dresser at the foot of her bed.
“Mrs. Hastings, time for your medication. No more hallucinations?”
“I hope James and Judith leave Camille alone,” thought Mrs. Hastings.
When was the last time you were truly frightened?
Flash Fiction in 3 – 100 word chapters – The Halloween Friday Fright-fest continues!
Photo by S. Lindau
After sprinting several laps around my kitchen while screaming with my Bichon Roxy trotting behind agitated and barking, I finally settled back down to the computer. Had my eyes played tricks on me? No. There it was. The post with my husband Danny and me in our Addams Family costumes had made the cover of Freshly Pressed on WordPress. I had been told on a WP forum the week before that the chance of being FP’d was, “one in a million.” As I began to call Danny, another line beeped in.
The elation turned to frenzied panic. The Halloween brunch I thought I was having on Thursday, got moved up to the next morning. I only had 5 hours before going out for the evening to play tennis. I had just written about how I decorate for the season and not one pumpkin or witch had been unpacked!
So I did what anyone in my position would do. I threw myself into Granny gear. No, not the easiest cog on your bicycle; Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies! Do you remember when she sped up in fast motion, only stopping to catch her breath when she finished her project? That was me. I finished cleaning, then busted downstairs and pulled out all of the Halloween storage containers. After 5 hours of rushing around the house and decorating like a madwoman including hanging bats from the ceiling, covering mantles and tables with cheesecloth “webs” and setting my haunted table, I was finished. Now I really felt like an old granny; completely exhausted with my chest heaving while trying to suck oxygen into my lungs.
The next morning I woke up and raced to the computer. The stats were mind-boggling! After baking a slab apple cake and finishing the preparations for the brunch, I flew down into the basement to look for a ghost costume. We read a collection of short stories for the meeting and I had added a couple of my own. Dressing like Maeve from “Stolen Regret,” I wore an old fitted white dress purchased at a garage sale years ago and covered it with sheer curtains, topping it off with a pale blonde page-boy wig and red shawl.
Everyone brought a dish to share and as soon as the fun get-together began, it was over. I took a deep breath and looked around my house, pleased that all the decorations were up. We could enjoy them for the remaining weeks in October.
I went upstairs to undress and that is when the problem arose. The “invisible zipper” on my ghostly costume had stuck. I tried moving it up and down and it wouldn’t budge. The dress was fitted so it couldn’t be wiggled out of. “What am I going to do? This is so uncomfortable! There’s no way I can wear this for the next 6 hours until Danny gets home from work.” The unbreathable polyester blend fabric started to overheat my worn-out body. The long sleeves suddenly seemed too tight and binding.
I hurried back downstairs and peeked out the windows, but as usual no neighbors were around. I thought of calling someone to come over and release me from my claustrophobic wardrobe, but that seemed like a ridiculous option. Driving in the car to a friend’s house would be even more outrageous. I tried to pull the zipper down again, but the dress was so tight and it was in such an awkward position, it just wouldn’t slide. “Argh!”
“It would be so convenient if I could dislocate my shoulder so I could slide out of this stupid dress.” I continued struggling and then thought, “If I were double-jointed I could just reach up and unzip myself. Duh! My elbows are double jointed and make my arms stick out at funny angles. Maybe that’s the whole problem!”
Movement caught my attention through the front dining room window. The landscape guys had come to mow my neighbor’s lawn! My heart leapt in my chest. I sprang to the front door and opened it wide. I lifted up the dress so I wouldn’t trip while running down the stairs. In full ghostly white make-up with blue circles around my eyes, blonde wig, and costume I dashed down my driveway and crossed the street. The three men gawked at me with blank stares.
“Okay!” I said, “First of all I want you to know that I have no shame.” They broke into smiles.
“The zipper is stuck on my dress and I need someone to unzip me. And if you’re wondering, I had a Halloween party this morning.” The thirty-something guy closest to me ran over to help release me. I turned my back and just like magic, he slid the zipper down my back. It was too embarrassingly easy!
“I am sure this will be a fun story for you guys to share. Oh well. Thank you!”
I spun around and darted across the street with my bra strap exposed across my back, thinking to myself, “They never said a word. I think they were in shock!”
As I opened up the front door of my house, a question came to mind. “How would Granny have handled the wardrobe malfunction?” I changed my clothes, went back downstairs to my computer, and shifted my fingers into Granny gear.
When was the last time you found yourself in hyper-drive?
Have you ever been in an unavoidable and embarrassing situation?
Photo by S. Lindau
The moon, cloaked in a veil of wispy clouds, cast an unearthly glow on the wooded neighborhood park. A chill crept through Jillian’s thin costume and she picked up the pace. “Hey! Wait up!” Her older brothers had let her tag along on this eerie Halloween night. Encumbered by the long skirt tangling between her legs, she lagged behind. As the dense forest closed in, the path began to glimmer like an oily snake coiled out in front of her. Finally, she emerged from the dense pine forest and found herself alone in the village cemetery.
“I should have known.”
Gravestones appeared like ghosts gliding upward from decomposing bodies. Polished white marble statues of angels and saints with maniacal expressions towered over her waiting to pounce. A black shadow swooped across the path with the beating of huge wings. Jillian’s little heart pounded as she gathered up her skirt and began to sprint. Her lungs burned with the strain of sucking in icy air. She rounded the corner near an ornate crypt and slipped on oak leaves collecting between markers. Tumbling to the ground her head struck the edge of a cracked granite gravestone. Her knees buckled. Everything went black.
Searing pain like a hot poker pierced Jillian’s forehead and an earthy smell filled her nostrils. Opening up her eyes, the surrounding tombstones now looked iridescent. A thick blanket of fog lay all around the graves moving like waves in a tumultuous ocean. An ethereal figure floated towards her and she stepped backward. With a gentle voice it whispered, “Come with me my dear.”
She spun around to feet pounding on the gravel path. Her brothers bent over the granite stone.
“I’m here!” she cried to her brothers.
She rushed up to them and saw herself sprawled out on the frozen ground.
Have you ever been in a cemetery at night?
Have you know anyone who had an out-of-body experience?
Photo by S. Lindau
I anticipate Halloween more than any other holiday because I can be a kid again. As a child, I loved playing dress-up and remember the lovely gowns in our costume box. When trying on these voluptuous dresses with the crinoline skirts, I felt utterly transformed like Cinderella going to the ball – even if it took 5 safety pins to get the top to stay up! On Halloween night, my friends wore sheets to become ghosts or were super heroes complete with a tablecloth cape. My mother was a seamstress so my sister, brother, and I wore get-ups she sewed after dinner on week nights. One of my favorites was a witch costume she made from a McCall’s pattern. My mother sent the cape, dress, and hat with red braids to my daughter Courtney who ran around the house in it for months before the holiday. Soon it was worn in shreds as she cast spells with the words, “Spit, spat, wallerstat.” (I still have no idea where those words came from!) My sister’s favorite was a big black cape with a humongous hood. My mother made my brother a silver and black suit one year. He painted his face, glued on pointy ears and became The Metallic Alien. We proudly wore our costumes to beg for treats on frighteningly cold All Hallow’s Eve.
Decades later I still enjoy dressing up. Now instead of one box, we have a storage room in our basement full of unusual clothing collected through the years. Some hang on makeshift racks. Costumes I sewed for my own children along with many others fill containers to the brim. Continue reading