Sheesh! After everything I’ve been through lately, you’d think I’d learn, right? I mean, I’ve been scared more than a few times in my life, but never like this!
Let me start at the beginning. My son, Josh, asked me if I’d take him and his friends to a Halloween-themed haunted house. I should have known it would be bad with the name “The Haunting House,” but I know just as well as the next person, that it’s all make-believe. Still, I don’t like people jumping out at me in the dark.
Needless to say, Josh and his friends kind of ganged up on me to go. It helped that they thought I was the coolest mom ever, and would be even cooler if I went in with them. How could I say no to that? After a lot of energetic persuasion from them, I finally gave in, and told Josh and his friends that I’d take them, as long as it wasn’t too scary.
We arrived at the house around six-thirty and got in a line that snaked around and down the street. By the time we got to the gate, I found the house wasn’t at all what I pictured. In fact, even though it was on a major street, it was basically a normal two-story old Victorian-looking mansion. There weren’t any decorations or people dressed up in costumes, so what was the draw? That’s when the kids started talking about how this house was supposed to be haunted for real.
That raised my blood pressure real fast, and I started to panic. Oh crap! In my line of work, I’d actually picked up a few voices from the great beyond, so if it was really haunted, I could be in trouble. Too bad I’d already paid a hefty entrance fee, or I might have backed out.
Just then, our group of four, plus six more people in the line were allowed through the front gate. With a sense of impending disaster, I followed the boys to the front porch and met our guide. I listened real close to his thoughts while he explained the history of the house, trying to pick up if he actually believed it, or if he was reciting from a script.
He wove a story that this home was over one hundred and fifty years old, and had been built by a wealthy merchant. One night the whole family had been murdered by the merchant’s angry partner, who was tried and hung a week later. In the aftermath, the city took possession, and turned it into an orphanage. The orphanage functioned for twenty years before it was shut down, but by then, it had earned the reputation of being haunted with all kinds of spooky happenings.
It had passed through several owners after that, all with the same stories of unexplained events. The recent owner had even invited a team of paranormal investigators who actually documented some of them.
With that auspicious beginning, our guide told us we would now be entering a real haunted house, and he assured us that anything we saw or heard was not part of an elaborate scheme to scare us. It was real.
It might have scared me to death, except I knew from his thoughts that he wasn’t telling the whole truth. Sure, the part about the murdered family was real, along with the orphanage, but the special effects we were about to experience were definitely rigged.
I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful to know I could pick up what would happen from his thoughts before it actually happened, so it wouldn’t be so bad. Still, I moved closer to Josh, just in case I needed to grab onto someone.
The first room we entered was the living room with a fireplace and furnishings circa the late 1800’s. The lights flickered, and the fireplace burst into flames, but that was all part of the scheme. The guide did a good job of acting a little scared, which built up the pretense.
From there, we followed him into the dining room where the table was set for six people. A tablecloth hung nearly to the ground, so when the table shook, rattling the plates, it wasn’t hard to guess that someone was under there. Our guide backed away like it scared him, but it was all part of the act.
Then loud footsteps pounded across the room, coming from the ceiling above us, and we all jerked in surprise. The hairs rose at the back of my neck, and I picked up that our guide hadn’t expected that, but he figured it was new, and covered well by saying the children’s rooms were above us, and that explained the latent energy.
We skipped the kitchen, thank goodness, and he led us up the stairs, telling us how the family had all been killed while sleeping in their beds. He said their rooms; especially that of the sixteen-year-old daughter, was where most of the paranormal activity had been recorded. He saved that room for last, and took us through the other bedrooms first.
The parent’s room was dark, with only two small lights coming from the bedside tables. As he spoke about the wife, a small breeze caressed my check, carrying the smell of roses. I swallowed and glanced around the room. It came again and my breath caught. “Did you smell that?” I asked. “That rose smell?”
Everyone turned my way with rounded eyes, and I did a mental head-slap. Oops. Everyone sniffed, and a girl nodded, agreeing that she could smell it too. I let out my breath with relief, and found the guide staring at me. He was wondering if I was a plant by the owner, because nothing like that had ever happened before. Had I sprayed that perfume?
Oh great! Now what?
Shaking his head, he continued the tour and took us into the children’s rooms. I held my breath, hoping nothing else crazy happened. The rocking chair in the corner began to move, but that was staged, as well as a toy that fell from a shelf. Still, it scared the crap out of me.
Our last stop was the teenager’s room, and I realized I was hanging onto Josh’s arm pretty tight, and couldn’t seem to let go. Our guide opened the door to the room, and a blast of cold air hit me in the face. Everyone felt it, and our guide explained that the cold meant there was likely a ghost inside the room. But not to worry, no one had ever been harmed by this ghost.
He led the way inside we all followed behind with fear and trembling. There was just enough room for us to crowd around the side of the small bed. The room was dimly lit, just like the rest had been, and it was freezing. Luckily, I knew that was part of the act, but it still made my heart race.
He told us about the girl, and how many of the orphans had heard her singing at night. Then he asked us to all be quiet and listen carefully, while he asked the ghost to sing for us. It reminded of the phantom saying, “sing for me,” in Phantom of the Opera. I would have laughed, but the whole thing was freaking me out.
I picked up that the guide always did this, and he waited for the singing to start, but nothing happened. Puzzled, he asked again, only more forcefully, hoping his counterpart would get the show on the road.
All at once the door slammed shut and the lights went out.
In the dark, all pandemonium broke loose. Amid the frightened screams I got pushed against the bed and fell onto the mattress, right onto a hard body. I tried to get away, but found an arm clamped tightly around my waist.
In desperation, I grabbed my stun flashlight from my purse and pushed the on-switch for the light, only I got it wrong, and pushed the stunner instead. It crackled with green light and caught the guy in the arm. He let out a strangled yelp before collapsing on the bed, pulling me down on top of him.
Just then the lights came back on and everyone froze. I pushed off the guy, recognizing him as part of our group who was there with a cute girl. I scanned the room for Josh, and found him jerking guiltily away from the same cute girl, who he’d been holding onto rather tightly.
Oops. Somehow, we’d gotten mixed up, and now the guy was lying there like he was dead.
Both the guide and the girl rushed over to the bed and I had to explain that my stun-gun had gone off in the mix-up. I assured them that the fellow would be right as rain in a few minutes, since I’d only gotten him in the arm.
Lucky for me, the guy started to blink and moan right away. Soon, he was sitting up, wondering what had happened. By then, everyone had gathered around the bed, and we all let out relieved sighs that he was all right.
That’s when we heard it; a young girl’s laughter, echoing through the air in whispered glee.
In sheer panic, everyone high-tailed it out of there. Even the kid I’d zapped lurched out like his pants were on fire. Not me. I started laughing. I just couldn’t help it. What a prank she’d pulled! Josh came back and grabbed my arm to drag me out of there. He was thinking that I’d lost it, and that sobered me up pretty quick.
On the drive home, the boys expounded in great detail about all the special effects, and how real they were, saying that was the best haunted house ever. They even laughed at me and how I’d stunned that guy by accident, thinking I was pretty awesome.
But under that, I picked up that they were mostly trying to assure themselves that none of it was real. Even telling each other that there had to be a girl hiding in the closet who set the whole thing up.
I just laughed and agreed, telling them that was the best joke ever, and keeping my mouth shut for a change. No use telling the truth and giving them all nightmares, or worse, making them think I was nuts instead of awesome, right?
Still, how do I get into these things?
So from now on, I’m swearing off haunted houses. The next time my kids want to do anything even remotely insane like that, they can find someone else to take them. I have enough on my plate without adding ghosts, even if they do have a wicked sense of humor.