Haunted Room [part I] “Don’t open the door”

The house was a two-story building. However, with the large attic on top, it could be considered three stories. The old house had been abandoned for years, although the owners did keep it in fairly good condition. It was said that the house, now over two hundred years old, had been placed on top of a witch-burning site. That, of course, was just one of the stories the local children had made up to scare newcomers to their fair town. In all actuality, the house was built on the Rogers family plot, after whom the mid-west town of Rogersville was named.

Death would not claim Emily until her 65th birthday, to match the age of the witch she helped kill. These facts of her life were unknown to all but her family. Now that her family was all gone, she alone knew the truth of the past. In her early sixties, she decided others should know the truth after her passing. She tried to write a diary to this effect. However, anything that was written would not stay on the paper. The words were scrambled immediately as the ink landed on the paper. It seems the witch still had power over her, even after the witch’s death. If only she could tell others the truth. Emily decided that if she couldn’t warn others in life, she would have to pass along her message after death. She would not allow the truth to be covered in dirt as her body would be. The truth will be told, and she will not be denied. 

The place was turned over to the new owner (Alex Johnson) for the price of back taxes when the final member of the family passed away more than thirty years earlier. The old lady, Ms. Emily Rogers, had died in her sleep in the attic on the top floor, which had been converted into a bedroom when she was just a child. Her parents were considered to be of the highest regard by the town folk. Not only were they the founders of their fair town, but they were also the wealthiest in the whole county. Emily’s father had passed away from a heart attack, leaving her an only child. Since her father was the last male born of the Rogers family and died before producing a son, the family name would end with Emily.

After Emily’s death, days led to months, months led to years, and years became decades. How long would it be before someone, anyone, would visit her room for the truth? Why did the new owner avoid her room like the plague? Wasn’t anyone even curious to discover the secrets her unchanged room held after so many years? Was the witch controlling the new owner in the same way she had been controlled for so many years? Does the new owner even know of the room considered to be on the third floor? How could this room be missed, having three windows that could be seen by the outside world?

The owner of the building and lot had purchased it only to be known as the one who owned it. It was just a talking point to gain him popularity in the town. He was thinking of running for mayor one day, and using the house in the background would help in his campaign. Unfortunately, owning the house and keeping it up cost money, with no return on his investment. This place was becoming a money pit. Demolishing the building would not go over well with the town. Even though the house was an eyesore, the townspeople were used to it being there. In some ways, it made the square look right in the eyes of the people. And, of course, this was one of the oldest buildings left in town and home to the founding father of the town itself. 

To tear it down would be blasphemy, considering the historical presence of the place. So he decided to rent it to whoever would want to live there. The problem was the stories about the place. Trying to get someone to live in a house that was rumored to be haunted would make the venture hard to collect on. Nobody who lived in town needed a house. Besides, anyone who grew up there had heard the stories of the old place.

One day, a man named Robert Cronster, his wife, Mary, and stepson, Gerald, were looking to rent in the area. Robert was a railroad mechanic and loved the look of the little town. After showing his wife and stepson around, they, too, were excited to live there. This family was actively looking for a place to live, but they were running on a tight budget. Although Robert would be making good money fairly soon, the money was tight at the moment. The family had traveled across the country to get to his new job, and they had used up all their savings doing so. Every place they looked was out of their price range, at least until the checks from the railroad started rolling in. They had located one place they could afford, but it was thirty-five miles away, and the commute to work would eat up a lot of his check with the travel expenses.

The old man who owned the old Rogersville house got wind of this and found the young family having dinner at the local restaurant. He approached them, introduced himself as Alex Johnson, and said he had a house that might help them out. He pointed out the window of the restaurant and showed them the big white house across the street. He told them he would rent the house for a third of what the rent was going for if the man was willing to help maintain the house. He also told them the town history of the house. Alex was upfront with them (as far as they knew) and told them of the rumors about the house being haunted. “I have lived in this town all of my life and have owned that house for twenty years now,” he explained. “I have never seen any unusual happenings in or around this house. I believe the stories are all truly just that—stories.

Robert and Mary looked at each other and decided it wouldn’t hurt to take a look. Gerald, listening to his mom and dad talk to this man, became excited. “Living in a haunted house would be so cool,” he thought. The boy’s father told Alex that after they finished their dinner, they would like to take a look at the house. 

Following dinner, the small family walked across the street to the house and met up with Mr. Johnson. The door had the tiniest of creaks, but nothing was unusual for a house of such an old age. The family was surprised to see the house in such fine shape. The interior was actually in a modern state. It was almost surreal how the outside and inside differed. Where the outside showed a weathered, beaten-down old house, the inside looked fresh and very livable. There were five bedrooms, if one counted the room on the very top floor. These bedrooms were all bigger than the normal master bedrooms found in most homes. The kitchen was well laid out and contained newer appliances. Next to the kitchen was a large dining room. There was not just one but two living rooms, complete with all furnishings, including a television in each.

When they reached the stairs that led to the third-floor room, the owner explained how he did not want them to disturb it. He explained how that was the place where the former owner, Ms. Emily Rogers, had spent her last days and that it was of historical significance. One day, that room would be on display for all to see. He told them of his vision for the residence once he was able to restore it. “I plan on making this house a museum for our little town,” Alex said. “One day, this will be a great place for tourists to visit.”

“I’m asking for two hundred and fifty dollars a month and the upkeep of the house as long as you live here,” the owner told Robert. “This is almost too good to be true,” the woman whispered in her husband’s ear. “That is a third the rent and twice the house of any place we have seen! “Besides, it is also very close to your work,” she said. Robert nodded his head and asked his stepson, “What do you think, Gerald?” The boy excitedly exclaimed, “I like it, I really do!” Robert agreed with his wife and stepson. He told Alex how he thought this house would be just what they were looking for. “How soon can we move in?” he asked Alex. The owner answered in a matter-of-fact way, “Today, if you wish?” “What about the furniture?” Robert asked. “The furniture can stay unless you do not wish to use it,” Alex insisted. “You can use it as your own.” Robert grinned and said, “You are very kind, and we thank you. We have little of our own.”

The little family moved in the very next night. For six months, all was well. Robert’s job was going better than expected, and he and Mary had made friends with the only neighbors they had. The front was next to the street, one side of the house had a store, and the back of the house was next to the town’s park. Their next-door neighbors included a boy of Gerald’s age named John. The thirteen-year-old boys became fast friends once Gerald’s family moved in. They were always together, whether in school or not. 

During the evenings, Gerald found himself sitting on the bottom step of the staircase that led to the third-story room. There was something about a room that nobody was allowed to enter. He asked his dad if he had a problem not being allowed in that room. His dad responded by telling him, “As long as the rent is this cheap, that room will never be a problem for me.” His dad added, “You stay out of there too, Gerald!” Gerald had given his stepdad the correct answer of “yes, sir.” But the room he was not allowed to enter called to him and was becoming an obsession. Night after night, he found himself sitting on the bottom step of the staircase, leading to the mystery room on the third floor. However, he dared not go on up. “Why do I only sit on the bottom step and not go up the other four steps to the door?” He asked himself in a quiet voice.

One night, while staring at the third-floor door, he thought he heard something shuffling around up there. Gerald put it in the category of wishful thinking. “It sure would be something if there was a ghost!” He thought.  Then it happened! A low voice spoke, “Come closer.” Gerald jumped to his feet, ran to his room, and was under the covers on his bed before he dared take a breath! After about ten minutes of sheer panic, he finally calmed down. “It was my imagination.” “That’s all it was,” he said to himself with a chuckle. But, in the back of his mind, he could still hear that voice: “Come closer.” This sent chills down his spine and kept him away from the stairs for a week. He decided not to mention this to anyone. 

One week later, Gerald’s curiosity got the better of him. That night, after dinner, he went and sat on the bottom step as before. “There’s nothing up there but a room I’m not allowed in.” He mumbled to himself. “I scared myself with my imagination!” He thought.   “I’m going right up to that door and putting my ear to it! That will prove it was only my imagination at work.” He thought.   It took ten minutes for him to gather the nerve to stand up and start heading for the door. As he stepped on the second step up, a cool breeze seemed to blow around him. “Now I know it’s all in my head,” he thought, and he proceeded up to the third step. Slowly, he went up the five steps and stared at the door from three feet away. “Do you have the guts?” he asked himself. “Only three feet to go,” he thought. He took one step, two steps, and stopped. “What the…?   “Why is there light showing under the door?” he thought, confused. Just as he lifted his foot to take the final step, a shadow crossed through the light under the door! “Oh, crap!” he said out loud and froze, with one foot still in the air. “Come closer, boy!” the voice from the room said with a gravelly voice.

The first thought that crossed Gerald’s mind was, “I’m outta here!” But he never moved. He had come too far and wasn’t about to leave until he laid his ear on the door. The foot he had in the air made its final approach, dragging the other behind it. He was now right in front of the door! Slowly, he leaned in and placed his ear on the door. While listening, he heard movement. Something is being dragged across the room, and there is a strong breeze. No! It wasn’t a breeze; it was full-on wind. That was enough! He slowly turned around and ran to his room, once again seeking shelter under his covers. Sleep did not come that night.

The following morning, Gerald thought about telling his parents what happened last night but thought better of it. Maybe he would tell his friend, John.

Later that morning, at school, he brought it up with John. “If only one room in a house had a ghost, would that qualify as a haunted house?” asked Gerald. “What are you talking about?” John responded.  Gerald explained that he believes he lives in a haunted house, but the ghost only haunts one room. Gerald expected laughter from his friend and was surprised when John believed him. “I knew that place was haunted!” John said. “We need to get into that room,” he exclaimed. “If we can prove that place is haunted, we will be heroes to all the girls!” As scared as Gerald was, he agreed. “There’s nothing wrong with having all the girls,” he thought.

It was Friday night, the night Gerald’s parents used as date night every week, and they said it was alright for John to stay the night. “Make sure you boys stay out of trouble,” Robert told the boys, “we will be back by eleven.” John and Gerald agreed, but in the back of their minds was the room on the third floor. 

When Gerald’s parents left, the boys headed straight to the staircase with great anticipation of finding what was in the secret room on the third floor. Slowly, the boys went up the creaking stairs and stood in front of the door; they intended to enter. “Go ahead, Gerald,” said John. Gerald leaned in and put his ear to the door. No sounds.  He grasped the doorknob, but it wouldn’t turn either way. “It’s locked,” he said, with a sigh of relief. (Truth be known, he didn’t want to go in anyway.) “Let’s go find a key,” John suggested. As the boys turned to leave, they heard the click of the door being unlocked. “Oh, crap!”  John yelled, “There is something in there, just like you said.” “Are you going to chicken out?” Gerald asked. “Umm, no,”  John answered with a small gulp.

The boys turned back to the door, and against his better judgment, Gerald once again reached for the doorknob. This time the doorknob turned easily, and the door creaked open. Both boys held their breath as Gerald pushed the door to fully open it. The first thing they saw was a bed in the center of the room that was made up and had some pictures scattered on top of the bedspread. “Go ahead.”  John nudged.  Slowly, with shaking legs, the boys entered the room. Looking around, there was a dresser, a small closet, and a dinette off to the right side of the room. “See.”  John said, “No ghost.” “Then who unlocked the door?” Gerald asked.  “It was your imagination; you just didn’t turn the knob hard enough.” Said John. 

Old rundown bedroom with big bed and paint coming off walls.
Emily’s room

The boys started looking around; John pulled open the dresser drawers while Gerald studied the pictures on the bed. The dresser was full of the usual clothes found in anyone’s bedroom years ago, and the pictures seemed to be of past family members. Nothing unusual was found until John turned and saw the diary on the floor. He picked it up and started thumbing through it. “This is weird,” he said. “What’s that?” Gerald asked. John held out the diary to his friend, Gerald, who took it. As he was looking from page to page, he saw what looked like an attempt to start writing, but no full words were there. Most were scribbles with half a word started here and there by someone who had fine writing skills. But why all the half words like “hou” (house)? oom (room), dange (danger). But why only put partial words on the page and use hard lines to fill in the rest?

All of a sudden, a hard, cold breeze kicked up, and the boys looked at each other. Both windows were closed. Then, the door slammed shut! “What do you want from us?” Gerald yelled into the wind. Immediately, the wind died down except over the dresser, where a picture album was flipping rapidly through the pages. The wind stopped completely with the album, showing a black-and-white picture of a woman with scraggly black hair standing in front of a burning stake. Tied to the stake was a young, blonde woman screaming as the stake and pile of wood under her burned. This picture was taken by someone just before the young woman was engulfed in flames. 

“What does it mean?” John asked, with his heart finally slowing down. “I’m not sure, but do you see that hillside with the graveyard in the background?” Gerald responded. “That looks like the one over there behind the church, here in town!” while pointing out of the west side window of the room. “I think we should take this picture to the priest at the church,” Gerald added.

Gerald took the picture from the album, and immediately, the door to the room unlocked and swung open. Just as the boys left the room, the door swung closed and locked behind them.

Emily blew out a sigh of relief in the room she was a prisoner in. “Finally, the time had come to put her soul to rest,” the ghost thought to herself. “Maybe I will finally be able to move on to the great beyond.”

The boys rushed downstairs, Gerald holding the picture in his left hand. When they reached Gerald’s bedroom, both boys collapsed onto his bed, still breathing in great gasps. “Who do you think these women in the picture are?” asked John. “I’m not sure, but I bet the priest will know.” My question is, “Who took the picture and watched that lady burn to death?” Responded Gerald. “Wow, we are really onto something here, and I’m scared,” said John. The other boy just shook his head as they stared at the picture.

The morning came, and for the non-sleeping boys, it wasn’t soon enough. They got dressed and went outside to claim their bikes. It wasn’t, but maybe a quarter mile to the church. They both thought it should be a quick trip. Arriving at the church, the boys busted through the door like gangbusters. The priest, Father Metcalf, looked shocked at the crazy boys running down the aisle at him. He held up a hand and told them to stop. “Don’t come into the Lord’s house like that!” he exclaimed. 

The boys, now completely out of breath, stopped at the command of the priest. Gerald yelled while trembling, some from the long bike ride and more from the thoughts surrounding the picture he carried in his shirt pocket. “I’m sorry, Father, but we need to show you something!” Gerald reached in his pocket and handed the picture to the priest. “Where did you get this?” The priest asked with a shaking voice.

Gerald and John proceeded to tell Father Metcalf all about their experience from the night before. When they were finished, John asked who was in the picture. The priest looked again at the picture and told them how the woman tied to the stake was a lady that lived down the street in a run-down shack. The other woman had been a friend for a long time. Both women had disappeared many years ago without a trace. Most believed they had run off together, but a few, like Father Metcalf, knew that could never be true. They hated each other with a passion, even though they were connected in some strange way.

It was said the lady from down the street had been a witch. Of course, nobody believed that except one, Father Jim Metcalf. The priest had a close encounter with the witch in his youth. Although young Jim was as tough as any other fifteen-year-old in the neighborhood, he was shaken to his very core when he met the witch for the first time. There was a deep evil that surrounded her pretty, smiling face. One could not place why this was, but it did drive him to join the church and, later, the priesthood to fight against the evil he felt in her presence. He knew one day he would be the one to destroy her. He hadn’t been there during the burning, but he had felt the evil leave as the flames consumed her. And now, here are two boys, a few years younger in age than he was, who are bringing him a picture of the event. Who had taken the picture? 

His only love, Emily, had her whole being destroyed by this evil. She had attempted to destroy evil with fire. How could he ever get over the love of his life being taken away from him? After the burning, she left the town. not to return to the town until the time of her father’s passing. She had only returned to lay her father to rest; instead, she had stayed in the family’s home to live out the rest of her days. What had kept her in town was not known by anyone, herself included. Such great memories mixed with such evil, and yet she felt the need to stay. She had learned how her true love, Jim, had joined the priesthood. There was nothing to stay for, but she found it impossible to leave the old house. She became a recluse and was rarely seen other than by the local grocery boy, who brought the food and necessities she needed once a week. 

Both Jim and Emily knew they were meant to be together, but instead, she followed the witch, and he had become a priest. Seeing the picture, Father Metcalf, now holding it in his hand, had brought his love for her rushing back to him. However, it also claimed his love for her in a final blaze of glory! She had destroyed the witch but refused to give up the evil within that she had kept living in her heart. Those thoughts, long suppressed, came flooding back into him, bringing back the true hatred of the witch. How can he have so much hate and hurt yet still hold a place in the church? These boys had not just found a picture but also brought back the pain of a time so long ago. Father Metcalf knew he had to put an end to this once and for all, if for nothing more than his sanity. 

How can he remove the evil? He, now in his mid-eighties, was almost crippled and walked using a cane. His old body was slowly giving out on him. And he was thinking of taking on this great evil? Then, a thought came to him about how God was the almighty. His faith would be strong enough, wouldn’t it? years in the priesthood, and he is still having doubts. I shall—no, we shall—bury this evil once and for all, he thought to himself.

Two distant voices were calling his name. Slowly coming out of his shocked and dreamlike state, Father Metcalf realized it was Gerald and John. He looked at them with a glaze still over his eyes and discovered how he had gone off into another state of mind. The two boys were pleading with him to snap out of it. The priest shook his head, and as the far-off memories were released into the night, he once again acknowledged the two teenagers. “The picture holds the truth,” he told the boys. “How, Father?” Gerald asked. “We must find who took the picture, and then we can rid the evil from this place.” Father Jim said and then added, “The two in the picture aren’t the ones we seek, but the one behind the camera holds the truth.” Father Metcalf had no idea why he knew this, but somehow, he did.

Author’s note

If you are enjoying this story and would like to read a continuation, leave a comment below. I do not know yet where this story will go from here. How will Father Metcalf, Gerald, and John find out who took the photograph? Will Emily start to haunt places outside of her bedroom? And what about Gerald’s parents? Will they learn of the secrets the boys have dug up? How about the big question of whether the owner of the house knows the truth about the ghost or is it true that he plans to turn the house into a museum? These questions can only be answered with a continuation of the story. It will take you, my readers, to let me know if this story should go on. I myself am curious to find out these answers. I will leave this here and allow you to digest what you have read. I look forward to reading your responses. Take care and remember, we are all in this together.

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