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. She had lost her way. Fog enshrouded cornfields came to life as aged stalks resembled zombies. The paved road narrowed then changed to gravel. Turning around, she spun the car too fast and rolled it over. After climbing from the crumpled wreck she rubbed her aching head.
Incandescent light beckoned from a farmhouse. Entranced, she stumbled through the corn.
Tricia banged on the door.
It opened on rusted hinges. The woman looked right through her and asked, “Who’s there?”
Have you ever panicked when you were lost?
What is your favorite Vincent Price movie?
Photo by S. Lindau
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.
Over the next 38 years, the quaint home transformed into a massive estate built over 6 acres. According to the Winchester Mystery House website, when Sarah finally passed away in her sleep on September 5th, 1922, “the house contained 160 rooms, 2,000 doors, 10,000 windows, 47 stairways, 47 fireplaces, 13 bathrooms, and 6 kitchens.” It came as no surprise to hear the house is haunted.
A few years ago we flew to San Francisco planning to travel down the coast to Los Angeles. I called for reservations. As we drove to this infamous mansion, I believed we had taken a wrong turn since the area seemed to be choked with modern shopping centers. I had imagined it in a more remote location. As we pulled up to the tourist attraction, it seemed to be frozen in time. My disappointment was soon forgotten once inside its rambling halls.
Our tour began in a room full of Tiffany stained glass windows that had been commissioned but never used. The dark oppressive place set the tone for the entire tour. The desperation of this paranoid woman could be sensed in the awkwardness of stairways going nowhere, peculiar rooms, and strange windows in sets of thirteen or containing panes of that number.
We had been touring for quite a while when we arrived in a storage room Sarah had used for communing with the dead. I did not feel anything out of the ordinary, but pity for this poor woman. Moments later we arrived in another that had nothing in it, but at one time had been used for storage and was originally a hayloft. That’s when it hit me. I felt woozy and unbalanced as if the floor was moving beneath my feet. I became light-headed and nauseous. When we left the unfinished space, I took a deep breath and the queasiness went away.
After the extensive tour, I brought it up with my family and another guide.
“There was one room that made me feel wonky,” I said.
“No way mom!” my daughter Courtney said, “Was it that room with nothing in it?”
“Yes! Did you feel something too?”
“Oh, I felt so dizzy!” Courtney replied.
“Now that you mention it,” the tour guide said, “I have given tours here for quite a while and yet this was the first time that I felt something strange. I rushed my group through that room.”
“Was our experience an isolated event?” I wondered as I wrote this piece.
I searched the Winchester website and found, “Alleged Hauntings.” One time when a group toured the storage room, a tourist told the guide she could still feel violence taking place by spiritual entities. She knew that it had originally been a hayloft before the guide had mentioned it. She went on to say that long ago a fight broke out between two men. One attacked with a sharp tool which most likely killed the other. I literally got shivers down my spine after reading this story!
In the last photo, you can see the trap door in the floor which had been used for pitching hay down to the horses. Can you see orbs floating in the room? This is the first time I have looked at these photos since our vacation!
Do you notice anything unusual in the top photo?
Click on the images to enlarge.
Would you ever be inclined to visit the Winchester Mystery House?
All photos by S. Lindau
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. It had snowed and there were no footprints. What?
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 from which she couldn’t escape. She zipped up her velour hoodie. 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 from the top of a table.
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 broad.
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 searched the house. The three cats stretched out on the couch without concern. She 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?”
She shook her head and thought, I hope James and Judith leave Camille alone.
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