Haunted houses don’t exist, right? Well, one night when I was about nine, I wasn’t so sure. I was coming home from my friend’s house as the sun was setting, hurrying since I was late for dinner. I was on the east side of the hill, and darkness blanketed me. The last rays of the sun highlighted the tops of the tallest trees. It was a little spooky, so I tried to walk faster.
Up on the top of the hill was the old Finster house. To get home, I had to walk right past it. I was already shivering from the gloominess of the darkened hill, and the presence of that old mansion frightened me. Even from the bottom of the hill, I could see the cobwebs cluttering that rickety front porch and the broken windows on one side.
Creepy as it was, I couldn’t rip my eyes away The only time I’d ever walked past that house was with my friends in the middle of the day We would dare each other to walk up to the front porch and sit on the old rocking chair. No one ever did it. Usually, we all looked at our feet and hurried on by.
Consequently, I never got a good look at the place. Now, if I tried hard enough, I could spot some dusty furniture inside the house. By craning my neck, I saw that the side door hung crookedly in its frame, and blew slightly in the wind. The creak, creak of it sent shivers down my spine.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. I froze, and whirled around. There, in a second story window was a pale yellow gleam. The sun had set by now, and the faint glow cast a square of light on the hill. I wanted to run and hide, but my feet were cemented to the ground. I knew what I had seen.
There had been someone in that room. It was a man, hunched over with age. The light had gone right through him, and his features had been ghostly white. He’d a lantern on the table where it flickered now. If I listened closely enough, I could hear his footsteps on the creaky floorboards.
Then, there was the wheezy sigh of someone settling into a rocking chair. My whole body was shaking violently. Now I found energy to run. Before you could say “boo,” I was up the nearest tree.
No one belonged in that house. Old Man Finster had moved two years ago. I barely remembered it. The house hadn’t been in a better state, that was for sure. All Old Man Finster had done was keep the cobwebs on the porch at bay I wondered if someone had broken in and was planning to rob the place. Then, I laughed shakily Silly me, who would want to rob that dump? There was nothing worth taking, unless you had an interest in rotting timber.
Still, something nagged at me. No one had moved in—the “for sale” sign still swayed in the breeze by the road. Besides, no lights had been on in there ever since Old Man Finster moved out.
I was almost certain it was a robbery. That was even worse than a ghost was, I thought. Ghosts really couldn’t hurt you, but real, live people could. What if they had guns? I climbed a few branches higher in my tree. The sky was a deep, indigo blue now, and the entire world was a shadow. The light from the Finster house’s window seemed much brighter.
I had just resigned myself to a night in the tree when I remembered something I’d read in the newspaper. People were supposed to be in that house. It had been one of the stops on the Underground Railroad in the Moos. Someone had bought it, and was sending a renovation crew to fix it up so people could visit it. That spooky old Finster house was going to be a museum!
I caught another glimpse of the mysterious man. He wasn’t hunched over, at all, nor was he transparent. He was middle-aged, and wearing a baseball cap. A clipboard was clutched in his hand. He made a note on it, picked up the lantern, and left the room.
Comforted, I shinnied down from the tree and alighted on the ground. Picking up my jacket from where it had fallen, I strode on down the road, my head held high. Ghosts? Ha! Ghosts don’t exist. That old house wasn’t haunted, and nothing inside was going to get me. I began to jog, since it was now dark. After all, I was late for dinner.