19 Sep Haunting Ain’t Easy
“Haunting Ain’t Easy”Written by Andrew Scolari Edited by Craig Groshek Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek Narrated by N/A
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available
⏰ ESTIMATED READING TIME — 7 minutes
Haunting ain’t easy. Not one bit. Them Hollywood studios make it look so easy, when in reality it’s a chore. You see, I’m a ghost myself. My name is Ernie Harris, and I’ve been a ghost for 115 years now. When I was alive, I was a laborer who, along with others, was hired to build a new courthouse in this town called Wilmington, Missouri located a little northwest of St. Charles on the mighty Mississippi River. You see, the city council back then felt that the 1850s courthouse was too small, outdated and inefficient, and they voted to build a newer, bigger one in 1904. In 1905, construction was almost complete on the three-story brick building when it happened. I was doing some bricklaying when the scaffolding I was on gave way, and I fell to my death. Upon my death, I found myself in the underworld.
Now, the underworld, believe it or not, looks like a giant city with cathedral-like buildings that stretch up into the green, misty sky and stand along cobblestone streets. In the middle of this seemingly endless city is the “Underworld Central” building, a tall, black stone building that comes to a point at the top. That is where ghosts like me go to work and get our haunting assignments from. One day, I was in the break lounge with my other ghost friends, The Major, The Bride, The Greaser and The Señora. Before I go on, let me tell you about my friends.
The Major, whose name is Reginald Redfield, was a Major in the British Army during the Napoleonic Wars and was shot while leading a charge against the French Army during the Battle of Waterloo. The Bride, whose name is Pauline Feller, was on her way to her wedding in 1947 when she lost control of her car and went off a bridge into the Raritan River in New Jersey. The Greaser was a 17-year-old kid from Bakersfield, California named Tommy Marshal who was stabbed with a switchblade during a rumble in 1956. The Señora, whose name is Carlotta Gomez, was the wife of a wealthy Mexican landowner in the 1830s, who fell in love with one of her husband’s servants. When her husband found out about the affair, he forced the servant to leave and never come back, threatening to kill him if he ever returned. As a result, Carlotta took to her room, never leaving it, and she died of a broken heart.
So, we were sitting around the table, just talking. Tommy was going on about his latest haunting. “So I show up in my fright form, emerging from the floor of the abandoned school, and the guy craps his pants right in front of his girlfriend and buddies! No lie! Just soils him right there in front of everybody.”
Now, us ghosts have two forms. There is our “live form”, which is how we looked when we were alive, and there is our “fright from” us ghosts use when we really want scare someone really good. We all laughed about Tommy’s big scare when the P.A. system crackled. “Will Ernie Harris please report to the Assistant Ghost Chief’s office for your next assignment.”
I got up and started down the hallway toward the Assistant Ghost Chief’s office. As I did, I passed another friend of mine, The Gambler, who was a Wild West gambler when he was alive. As I passed him, he asked with a smile, “Are you still on for Poker tonight? I heard ‘Boom Boom Betty’ will be there.” I said, “We’ll see. I don’t know what my new assignment is.” And with that, I made my way to the Assistant Ghost Chief’s office.
Now, the Assistant Ghost Chief’s job is to give ghosts their assignments that were handed down to him by “the Boys at the Top”. The Assistant Ghost Chief is a guy named Darrius. Darrius is one of the oldest ghosts in the underworld. In life, he was a high-ranking official in the Roman government over 2000 years ago, until he was linked to a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and was fed to the lions as punishment.
When I got to his desk, Darius greeted me and motioned for me to sit down. He then went over to a tray marked “New Assignments” and picked up a sheet of paper from the top. “Got another House in the Woods type haunting for you,” he said. “In the Catskills of New York State this time.” I sighed in frustration. I had been doing those types of hauntings on and off for fifty years.
“Let me guess, upper-middle-class white family from the suburbs of some big city, and the dad is like, ‘this will be good for us.’” Darrius gave a wry smile and said, “You got it.” I just sat there shaking my head and said, “Look, I’ll do it, but I’m just going to bang on the doors, flicker the lights and yell boo, really loud.”
Darrius nodded and said, “I know how easy it for you ghosts get burned out, but look, it was faxed to me from the Boys at the Top, and they call the shots. I’m just the middleman around here.” He gave me a sympathetic look. “Look, if it will make you feel better, I’ll see if I can get the Boys to have you haunt The Queen Mary for a while,” he added.
I watched from the attic window as the moving van, followed by a silver Lincoln Navigator and a dark blue BMW sedan, pulled into the driveway. Being dead for 115 years, I’ve seen just about every make and model of car from the Model-T Ford to those fancy foreign jobs of today. The family looked just as I imagined. The father was in his late 30s, with his dark hair tucked under a New York Yankees hat, a light yellow polo shirt and tan pants. The mother was about the same age and was quite attractive, I must admit, with light brown hair, dressed in a black designer pullover and jeans. They had two kids, a boy about 10 years old with his mother’s hair color and with a red t-shirt with green khakis, and a girl of around 5 with her father’s dark hair, with a light blue shirt and white pants. As the parents talked with the movers, I saw the little girl look up at the attic window and I could tell that she saw me. She went and got her mom and pointed up at the window. But before her mom could look up, I went invisible. Good, I thought, start with the youngest ones, then gradually let your presence be known to the rest of the family before you bring out the big guns.
For the next few months, I did my thing. I banged on the doors loudly, I flicked the lights on and off, and I made all kinds of eerie noises like moans, groans and screams; standard ghost noises. Now, I noticed the family was scared, but the dad seemed so insistent that they stay. This I thought was a bit odd but not too surprising. In all my years of haunting, I’ve learned some people are just harder to scare than others. But in the end, they all break at some point. You just have to press the right buttons. I also watched the family who had the last name Mackenzie, when I wasn’t trying to scare them. I watched as the kids, whose names I learned were Trevor and Katlin, went to school, did their homework, and played with their new friends. I watched as the husband, whose name I learned was Nathan, went to work while his wife Julianne stayed at home, went shopping, or went out with some friends. I also noticed how Nathan would often take Julianne on walks along a wooded trail that ran behind the house. At first, I thought nothing of it, and figured that it would be my coup de grâce. I’d show up in my fright form on one of their evening walks, and that would get them. I’d send them packing and moving back to the New York City suburb where they came from. But I wound up only getting one of them.
One night, while Julianne had taken the kids to her parents’ for the weekend, I happened to be by the master bedroom when I heard Nathan talking on his cell phone. The conversation went like this:
“Don’t worry, Britney, baby,” I heard him say. “I’ve got it all planned out. Next week I’ll take Julianne on another walk in the woods to a secluded spot where I secreted away a shovel, hacksaw and a bag of quicklime in a hollowed-out tree. When we reach the spot, I’ll put a bullet in her head. Then I’ll report her missing to the police and eventually have her declared legally dead, and then it’ll be just you and me, baby doll. What’s that? What about the kids? Don’t worry about them. I’ll dump them on my parents in Yonkers, and tell them I just need some time to try and find myself again and get over the loss of their mom, and then it’ll be just you and me together in Puerto Rico.”
Now, when I heard all that, I got steaming mad. You see, when I was a boy, I was the oldest of five children and my mother and father were poor sharecroppers in rural Kentucky. When I around 9, my father left, telling us that he was going to look for work in the steel mills up in Pittsburgh, and that he would send for us once he had money coming and had found a place to live. We never saw or heard from him again. Eventually, my mother moved us kids out of rural Kentucky. We moved three times, first to Louisville, and then to Peoria, Illinois, before winding up in St. Louis. We eventually learned that my father had married some other woman in Pittsburgh. It broke my mother’s heart, and she wasn’t the same after we got the news, and she died a bitter, worn-out woman who had grown old before her time. As a result, I went ballistic when I learned what Nathan was going to do – and I decided to act.
I appeared in the room in my fright form. Nathan screamed in terror when he saw my fright form with rotted, yellowish-brown flesh, dead all-white eyes and crooked, rotting teeth. Nathan tried to run but I blocked his path. You see, us ghosts can become solid at will if we wish. I scared and tormented Nathan all weekend, never letting him leave the room. I only disappeared when Julianne arrived with the kids. By that time, Nathan had gone completely insane. His hair was white and he could barely talk as he had strained his vocal cords with all the screaming he did. After the men from the Hudson Valley Psychiatric Hospital took him away, I manipulated his cell phone so that Britney’s phone number was displayed. I then got Julianne to dial the number by whispering the suggestion in her ear. I listened to the voice on the other end. The female voice said, “Is it done already? Did you kill her and hide the body?”
Julianne hung up the phone with tears in her eyes. I wanted to show myself in live form and comfort her, to tell her everything would be fine, but I knew if I just popped up it would scare her. But she felt my presence and seemed to put things together, and whispered to me, “Thank you, whoever or whatever you are.”
Julianne filed for divorce and got full custody of the kids and remained in the house, Nathan was never charged with conspiracy to commit murder because of his incurable insanity and was left to spend the rest of his days in the psychiatric hospital. I had grown attached to the Mackenzie family and will occasionally peek in at Julianne, Trevor and Katlin from time to time, and even help them a little if needed, but will remain invisible.
Haunting ain’t easy, but it can help.
🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available