Just thought that I’d share a couple of spooky stories from my childhood, to get everyone all hyped for Halloween.
When I was a child, it was just me and my mother. We lived in a property owned by my grandma, a three story, old farmhouse right at the fringe of the woods. It was far off the road, down a long, unlit, gravel driveway―it felt very isolated at night, being so distant from any other houses, set in an area that hadn’t been inhabited for thirty years before we started living in it. Quite often, I was a fairly rambunctious child, so while my mom went off to work, I would occasionally skip the morning bus to school and stay home alone all day. The big house had a habit of feeling incredibly lonely and sparse, so I spent most of my time playing in the forest expanse out back. Some distance into the woods, far enough that I couldn’t hear my mother when she called, there was a toppled pine tree which had crashed into another―an even larger trunk on its way down was now frozen there, forming a long arc over the forest floor. I loved to climb up the jagged stump at the base of this fallen tree and then steady myself to a point just above the middle. I was never able to make it all the way to the top because it just got too steep for me to continue any further, and I had a bad habit of freaking out from how high up I was.
One day I was sitting in my usual spot on the fallen tree, which was a good distance from the ground, just listening to the birds singing and simultaneously feeling the warmth of the sun on my neck, when I heard something strange from underneath that paralyzed me in shock:
I was gripped by a sudden strong surge of fear for a moment. The voice had come from directly underneath me. I strained to look down, but couldn’t see anything over the ledge. For a long time I just sat there in absolute silence, and I was at the point where I was almost soon to convince myself that I had imagined hearing a man’s voice at all.
“I know you can hear me.”
His voice was much louder this time, as I yelled something out, and scrambled up the log a bit higher. Trembling nervously, I dug my fingernails into the bark and held tight for dear life. I sat there, trying to collect my nerves for god knows how long. Although I couldn’t see it, the presence of the thing underneath me was still clear. The bird song was much softer and more cautious this time, and when I listened closely, I swear I could hear the faintest echo of human breathing. Gathering all my courage, I vowed to prove to myself that it was all my imagination by leaning over the ledge as far as I possibly could without slipping right off. Digging hard into the bark behind me, I stretched out along my arms and peered over, getting a full view of the empty forest floor and undergrowth, when suddenly―
“―COME DOWN HERE OR I’LL COME UP AND GRAB YOU!”
It was so loud, it was as if it was being screamed right in my face. I released my grip on the tree in fright and plunged off the platform. I was saved only by grabbing a nearby branch, and for one awful second, my bare legs dangled in the cool air. When I pulled myself up, I ran at full speed to the top of the collapsed pine, to the point I had never reached before. I sat there, just below the rustling canopy, p*****g myself and staring at the distant base where the splintered wood rose, fully expecting at any moment to see someone crawling rapidly up the pine towards me. Instead, all I heard was the wind whistling in the leaves above and below me, and occasional snippets of birdsong. It was about two hours before my mother got home and found me, after much worried searching, trembling, and crying at the top of the fallen tree.
Although this incident spooked both me and mother, in time I somehow recovered, exhibiting that naive hard skin of a child, although I never went as far into the forest as I used to, and never again even approached that fallen tree. Once when I was twelve, I had the chore of taking firewood from the shed out back (just at the edge of the woods) and to bring it back inside the house. It was a tiresome job, and I always chose to do it at dusk when the air was brimming with mosquitoes and a swampy fog that usually coated the lawn. By the time I had made my last round, I would sprint back to the house, spooked. One of my least favourite things about this job was that the shed was full of barn owls (if you have ever seen a barn owl’s face staring at you from a dark roof corner, then you will know how uncomfortable that shed made me).
One of these nights it got mistier than it had ever been before. A thick silver fog covered everything and limited my line of sight to a short sphere around me. Even though the shed wasn’t far from the house, I found myself feeling disoriented, and more than once I walked in the wrong direction, both times for some reason walking straight into the woods. By the time I had reached my last load, it was too foggy to see the street. My eyes stung in the moisture and it made my vision blur. Lurching forward, I managed to walk headfirst into a tree, doubling over and dropping all of the wood I was bundling onto my feet with a hard crunch. As I went to pick them up, with my foot throbbing pretty hard, I realized that the ground was too misty for me to see my own knees. I decided to head to the house, since we had more than enough wood for one night. However, it was getting to be pretty dark and I couldn’t make out any signifiers of which direction I was heading in. Even though I cautiously walked for several feet in all directions, trying to figure out my position in the mists, I still couldn’t figure out any point of identification.
I couldn’t even locate the fence or the gate, and the more I walked, the more I seemed to stumble into trees, pine needles and mud crunching under my feet instead of dew-covered lawn. After a while, I finally realized that I couldn’t even find the shed any more. Cursing myself for being so dumb (while trying to ignore my thumping heart and sense that something else was at play) I became aware that I was lost somewhere in the fringe of the forest. Screaming out for my mother at the loudest possible volume was only met with a resounding silence from the depths of the mist all around from where I stood, affirming that I had wandered too far from the house to be heard. As a deep panic started to settle on me, I noticed a glimpse of something pink moving against a nearby pine trunk. Coming closer I saw that it was a ripped-out square of pink paper. On it there was an arrow, pointing left. Looks vaguely like something my mom might make, I rationalized, to keep me from getting lost. So, foolishly, I followed the direction set by that green arrow, shivering in the increasing cold.
I kept walking for about five to ten minutes before needing to stop to take a breath. My heart was pounding so fast, it was beginning to hurt. As I was sitting down, however, I spied what appeared to be another note fluttering on a nearby trunk. I noticed that this one was embedded with a long nail. It bore another arrow, this one pointing up, and a small, sloppily written note that said “THIS WAY”. Despite my increasing panic, I convinced myself that these notes were my only shot at getting back before nightfall. I was desperate to get the hell out and my brow was cold with sweat. So I followed the green arrow, to a point where I could just dimly make out another spot of pink, up an incline of collapsed stumps and leaf litter.
At this point it was getting pretty dark, and I had to strain both my eyes just to see a few meters ahead of me. Following the green arrows, feeling less and less sure of where I was, I stumbled through the woods, groping out in the mist to feel for trees (although I was terrified of something unseen grabbing my arm). I came across the third green note, which had another arrow pointing up again, this one lead to an increasingly steep slope that I didn’t recognize being anywhere near my house, and with a poorly drawn smiley face right above it. At this stage, I became too freaked to cope and started to cry there a little. As I slumped against the pine stump, the possibility that I would be out in these woods all night was beginning to sink in, like a syringe being driven into the veins within my arm. I caught a glimpse of another pink square in the near distance. Squinting hard, unnerved by these notes, all of which looked fresh and without sign of decay despite the previous week’s nonstop rain, I read it from afar.
What I read made my blood turn cold. I stood to my knees, dead silently, wobbling on them in fear. My ears were sensitive to any tiny prickle of noise in the mist. For a long time, I stood there in the rolling fog, reading and re-reading that horrible note over and over again, before a snapping stick somewhere behind me caused me to sprint, blindly, twigs snagging at my ankles and cutting up my face as I ran. Written on the note, in big green letters, was my name. It felt like I was running for hours, all the while, the rain and mist lapped at the back of my neck like the decaying breath of someone running right behind me. Somehow I made it back to the house. All the lights were off, and I struggled to find the keys for a moment. When I found them, I bolted indoors and quickly crawled into bed where I remained, unsleeping till morning. Mom just thought I’d come inside and gone to bed, and hadn’t thought to leave the lights on. It was a miracle, aka some freakish coincidence that I even found the house at all. The final “incident” at that damn house was witnessed only by my mother. Up until then she had never experienced any of the strange things as I had, although we mutually shared the peculiar oppressive quality that the house’s interior had on us, and its placement in the dreary, imposing woods.
Although I was obviously never a popular kid, by living way out in the country in the opposite direction from everyone else at my school, I did make some tight friends in my first year of high school. One of these friends, Amanda was her name, invited me over one night and I accepted. My mother drove me out to the place, which was about three miles away, then drove back home. The night went well. We watched a horror movie (suitably), devoured some pizza and probably smoked a little pot. My mother went home alone where she intended to get some writing done. She worked for a magazine at that point. It was about midnight when I received an off-putting text from Mom in all caps:
IS THIS A PRANK I NEED TO KNOW IMMEDIATELY
Thinking it was some kind of joke I texted back: calm urself, is what a prank?
Almost immediately the response:
R U AT THE HOUSE
Of course I responded “No”, though I was thoroughly weirded out. I didn’t receive another message until around 3 AM, when she told me to go to my grandma’s in the morning and to NOT, BY ANY MEANS, dare go home.
I remember those bleak torrents of rain the day I went to my grandmother’s, and how terribly soaked I was when I finally got there. It was nearly two towns away. I’d had to fight the temptation to go home and drop off my bags, but Mom’s disturbing messages from last night were enough of a warning not to do so. When I arrived, Mom and Grandma were having lunch. At first, my mother seemed to be in some sort of a composed state, but when I got a better look at her, I noticed that all of the color had drained from her face and she was slightly trembling. At one point she even sent a small glass crashing to the floor after flinching at the cat brushing around her ankles. It wasn’t until later that night, when my grandma was sound asleep, that she told me what happened. She went further as to forbid me from telling old grandma, out of fear that it would horrify her superstitious soul too much.
This was what happened the night when I was at Amanda’s, as she described in lurid detail. My mother was sitting on the first story in the living room, where she sat on the couch by the fire; curtains open to the view of the sunset on the canopy, going over her latest draft. At first it was so faint that she barely noticed it, but after a while my mother became aware of, and vaguely irritated by, tiny thumping noises near her head, at the window. When she went over to investigate, she saw fat brown moths of a kind we often got at that place, buzzing madly into the glass. Reasoning that this was the cause of the sound, she returned to her work, however feeling rattled in some way. It was when the noises started to get sharper and louder that she paid more attention and saw that rocks were being thrown at the window from the total blackness of the forest edge.
She saw them appear from the shadows of the bush, and then fall in an arc and bounce off the window. Looking carefully she could see small cracks from where some heavy ones had hit, right beside where her head had been moments before. Temporarily captivated, she tried to peer into the darkness enough to make out where the rocks were being thrown from. Then with a startled shock, she jumped back from the window as she saw me standing half behind a tree right near the window, grinning wide and staring at her, my one visible eye stretched wide open, showing all the white. She barely stifled a scream seeing her own daughter standing there, just staring and smiling. Not only did the figure not move nor blink, it was standing by one of the nearest pines, far from where the rocks were shooting up out of the bush, as they continued to do so in a loud downpour. My face unceasingly continued to press out at her, smiling.
Thinking this was all some kind of sick prank (hence the later text), my mother shouted my name at the top of her lungs, frightened to the core. However instead of responding, the mouth of the thing (that looked like me) behind the tree just started moving as if it were mouthing silent words really, really fast. Suddenly it turned its head to the side and seemed to be talking to someone else behind the tree, my mom said, who couldn’t be seen. But she could see a formless black shape hanging against the other side of the tree. The girl that looked like me kept staring at my mother and doing the silent speed-talking thing, then turning and whispering to the thing next to her. Then she would turn back and start up again. Then breaking the monotonous spell, she suddenly pointed straight at my mother and started laughing. My mother screamed and fled to my bedroom on the second story (the only room with a working lock) where she shut herself in and sat at the far end of the bed as the rocks began to pitter patter against the window downstairs, dry-heaving and weeping in fear.
In my room, my mother said she did not feel safe. There was an awful smell, and a weird humming noise in the walls, as she described. She tried to pray for a time before giving up and just listening to the rocks pelt the walls and windows (somewhere in the kitchen, she caught the distinct, vibrant sound of a window actually smashing) and the weird, continuous humming. Listening more carefully she could identify it as the softest hint of a mumbling voice. In absolute horror, she recognized the voice and then, virtually too afraid to look, she tilted her head up to the closet door where an awful white face could be seen staring right at her, mouth contorting and gaping in what sounded like highly sped up whispering.
The closet door was only a meter from my mother.
It started to open slowly.
In an unimaginable explosion of terror, she immediately bolted to the door, only to fumble with the lock as bigger and bigger rocks came crashing through the window, which burst apart in a spray of glass shards, before finally getting out, running out of the house, completely keeping her eyes off the woods, getting into her car and driving off. She said that as she glanced back, right at the end of the prolonged drive, she saw two unmistakable human forms standing at my broken bedroom window, watching as her car got further and further away from our house. This would be their final farewell, as my mother never stepped foot in that place again. As my mother told this story she broke down into tears. I didn’t doubt her and I still don’t. I honestly, and fully believe that she experienced what she says she did. It was also quite clear that we were done living in that house for once, and for all.
I only went back once, with my dad who I see very rarely now. He came from another state to help us move. Mom had already found a place in town and moved in. My dad and I just loaded up his truck with all that was left inside there. It was a silent, sunny morning when we removed all the stuff and emptied the place. I wish I could say there was some closure, some final spooking to cap it all off but there wasn’t. It was just a relief to be out of there. There are however, only two things left worth mentioning:
1. When we checked the house for any signs of intruders we found that several windows, including one in my bedroom and the kitchen, had been smashed and rocks were lying on the floor.
2. Dad went out into the trees for a bit to ‘take a leak’. When he came back he asked how long we’d had the swing set for. Needless to say we’d never had a swing set so I was fairly unsettled to discover that in the week since we’d been gone someone had assembled a rope swing set from one of the highest branches of the old pine over the ridge, against which was the fallen log I’d stopped climbing many years ago.
It was obviously new rope, and a nicely polished, sanded down wooden seat at the base. Dad, wanting to keep my mind from recent events (he doubted the affair and thought my mother was mentally unstable), said that a neighbour probably set it up, not realizing it was on our property. Of course he knew as well as I did that we had literally no neighbours for at least a mile in any direction. There were no houses in all that space, and never in my time living there did I ever see any other signs of human habitation. But I let it all go and was pleased enough just to say good riddance to that horrible place as we drove off for good. For the most part I’ve found it best to try and forget what happened at that place. Sometimes I just can’t help but ponder it, though. It’s been long enough now that I no longer feel scared talking about it, but for a long while I couldn’t.
Seeing as it is Halloween, what better time to share? My grandma just recently sold the house to a new family, that being a young couple and their little son, shortly after we moved out, despite my mother’s desperate insistence that it be left empty. Now she refuses to talk about what happened altogether. I’m less anxious about it, although sometimes I can’t help but let my imagination get the better of me. All I can do is think of that old house, the fallen down tree, the new occupants, and the swing out back, gently spinning in the breeze as that little boy toddles obliviously towards it.