The moving truck pulled up in front of the mansion with the Taurus wagon just behind it. Mitch climbed out of the truck and signaled to the car. His older son, Larry, slid out from behind the wheel to look at the house. “Wow!” was all he could say. The other kids, Marian and Brad, were just as awed by the large, ancient structure.
“Okay,” Mitch called. “Let’s get this truck unloaded.” They spent the rest of the day carefully unloading the truck and the car. Brad, an energetic ten-year-old with his mother’s looks, worked hardest, trying to get the work done so he could go exploring. When they were finished, both Marian and Larry joined him enthusiastically, even though they were sixteen and eighteen and knew that there were better things to do than go exploring. There was something about the house that made you feel like a little kid again.
The exploration of the top floor resulted in a vigorous game of hide-and-seek. Brad was it. He walked slowly down the hall carefully opening the doors to various rooms, looking for his older siblings. He reached the next-to-the last door on the floor. It was a bit narrower than the other doors. Probably a closet, he thought, carefully turning the knob. The door swung open silently to reveal a flight of wooden stairs leading upward. A thrill of excitement ran up Brad’s spine as he looked up those stairs. He was about to start up, but something in him told him that the others would like to discover this with him.
“Larry, Rian!” he called. “I found something really cool.” Larry’s tall frame appeared in the door of the room he had just checked. “Hey,” Brad yelled, “I just looked in there! How’d you do that?”
“My secret,” the dark-haired eighteen-year-old grinned. Marian came down the hall. She was a bit shorter than Larry and wore a black Bulls cap over her short, straight blond hair, jeans, and a T-shirt. Larry wore his favorite jeans and polo shirt, both stained by repeated use inside and outside their last house. Brad was dressed like his sister, minus the cap.
“What did you find?” Marian wanted to know.
“Look,” Brad said, pointing up the stairs.
“So, it’s the attic,” Larry said, trying to be indifferent, but inside he was just as curious and thrilled as Brad.
“Let’s go up,” his sister suggested.
The attic was an immense room, spanning the whole length of the house. The rafters were visible in the slanted walls. A grand piano covered with cobwebs stood just ahead and to their right. A large octagonal table stood in the center of the room, dusty and ancient, surrounded by several broken chairs. The only other thing the room contained, aside from several old candle stumps and cobwebs stuck to the wall, was a large black chest standing against the wall behind the table. The three stood close to the stairs just taking it all in.
“I wonder if it’s tuned,” Larry remarked walking over to the piano. Marian went to the table and began wiping some of the dust off it, while Brad explored the ancient chest.
“Larry?” Marian was leaning over the table motioning him. He came over and looked at the top of the table.
“What on earth?” he asked wiping the table top. It was covered with strange markings that looked like Sanskrit or Hebrew.
“Hey, guys,” Brad called. “Look what I’ve found.” He had succeeded in opening the chest and now held a board aloft. It was also covered with markings, but these were common English letters and numbers. Ouiga board, shot through both Marian and Larry’s heads. They had never seen one, but they instantly knew what it was.
“There’s some other really neat stuff in here, too,” Brad continued enthusiastically. The two older kids came and looked into the chest. There was a deck of cards on the bottom, next to it an object covered by a black cloth and several wooden sticks along with a great number of candles, a couple of nondescript masks and a thick black book with a pentagram etched on the cover.
“Put it back, Brad,” Marian said quickly. Something in her tone of voice made the boy comply instantly. While the other two were laboring to close the top of the box, Larry suddenly felt the hairs on his neck stand up. A chill ran down his spine as he slowly turned around. Before him stood a hazy figure. It had the appearance of a man with white frizzy hair and wild eyes, dressed in black robes. The figure reached out a claw to touch him.
“Aagh!” Marian and Brad looked up at their older brother. He stood with his back to them, shaking.
“What is it?” Marian asked as she came around and .... She instantly pressed a hand to her mouth. Never had she seen Larry like this before. He was white as a sheet, his blue eyes wild, staring at a spot just above her right shoulder.
“Larry?” she said touching his arm. He didn’t respond. “Larry!” she yelled shaking him. He suddenly came to himself with a start. He was shaking all over, still wide eyed, but she could tell he was looking at her.
“What was that?” he asked.
“What was what?” Brad asked loudly. Both teenagers jumped.
“I don’t know, but I saw this old man here,” Larry said in a shaking voice and described the figure he had seen.
“Let’s get out of here!” Marian suggested and all three almost ran out of the attic to the sunny lower floor.
“Nobody say anything about this, yet.” Larry had regained his composure, but still seemed shaken. The other two just nodded their assent.
That evening Liz noticed something was wrong with her oldest son. Larry, usually the most talkative, was silent, not a word came from him.
“Larry, what’s wrong?” she asked.
“Oh, nothing,” he said, absentmindedly stirring his cheese and macaroni.
“Don’t try that with me, Larry. I know you better than that,” his mother chided. “Now tell me what’s wrong.”
“Larry thinks he saw a ghost,” Brad giggled before Larry could even open his mouth. A glare from his older siblings instantly silenced his laughter.
“A ghost?” Mitch remarked. “Aren’t we a bit old for that?”
“Dad, I know what I saw, and I’m not making this up,” Larry countered.
“Yeah, right,” Mitch mumbled. “So where’d you see this ghost?” Larry sighed to himself and recounted the events with some help from the other two.
“So you saw a ghost, eh?” Mitch laughed. “There’s no such thing. It isn’t rationally possible.”
My father the realist, Larry thought, almost disgustedly. “Well, Dad, until today I thought so, too, but how else do you explain this?”
“Hallucinations,” Mitch said, waving his hand.
“Yeah, right.” Marian wasn’t too convinced of that theory.
“Well, let’s forget about it for tonight,” Liz said. She suddenly had this funny feeling. It was the same one she had when she had hidden under her covers as a little girl, afraid of the boogey man.
“All right,” Mitch said. And that was that.
The rest of the evening progressed normally. Their rooms had been readied somewhat: the beds had been moved in and made, along with the dressers and some other necessities. Mitch and Liz didn’t talk about the incident any more. Brad kept poking fun at Larry because of the “ghost.” The usually reserved Larry blew up at his younger brother, and Marian got it in the neck when she tried to intervene. Finally Mitch exploded into the room, yelled at all of them and sent them to bed.
“Something’s gotten into those kids,” he remarked to Liz as he crawled into bed.
“Hm-hm,” was her answer.
Marian felt very unhappy as she slipped into her bed. The day had started out great, but now this “ghost” story was driving her nuts. She hesitated to turn out the light. You don’t believe this do you? she asked herself. Well, maybe she did. Nah, she thought. Let’s forget about it tonight. It will all look better in the morning. She hit the light and went to sleep.
About midnight something stirred in her room. Marian sat up. Her neck hairs had begun to stand on end. At the end of the bed a pair of luminescent red spots hovered, just above the bottom of her bed. A low guttural growl came from the spots. Marian was too scared to scream. Slowly a weight began to settle on the end of the bed. The girl pulled her feet up as the weight crept up the bed. The bright red slits glowed ever closer and the growling was now accompanied by an acrid sulfuric smell.
“Aieeh!” Larry sat up in bed. He was sure he had heard Marian scream. He instantly leaped out of bed and ran to the room next to his. The rest of the family was at the other end of the hall and couldn’t hear the scream through the closed doors. He almost tore the door out of the wall. The room was filled with an acrid smell. Larry covered his nose and mouth with his hand and slipped into the room. His other hand searched for the light switch, but he couldn’t find it. He thought he could hear something growling in the room. Another piercing scream echoed through the room and suddenly the smell and the growling disappeared. The room instantly grew lighter and Larry saw Marian sitting in her bed, pale, shaking, her blue-gray eyes wide.
“Are you, OK?” he asked. She didn’t answer, just looked at him, afraid he might be another apparition come to torment her. “It’s okay, it’s just me, Larry,” he said. The girl suddenly pitched forward into his arms, sobbing.
“Are you all right?” he asked again.
“No!” she sobbed. “It was here. I saw it. I heard it. It almost got me.” He held her for some time just comforting her. A large figure appeared in the door. Both teens shrunk back.
“I heard you scream,” Mitch said, turning on the light. “What happened?” Then he saw the shocked look on both their faces.
“It was here,” they said, almost simultaneously. Mitch sniffed the room. “What burned in here?” he asked.
“The ghost.” Mitch almost burst out laughing, but the look on his children’s faces stopped him. “Okay,” he said, sitting down on the bed. “Tell me what happened.” They quickly recounted it while Mitch quietly listened.
“Well, I think we all need to go to sleep. If you want you can come and sleep with us in our room, Rian. Larry, I guess you can manage on your own.” Larry nodded.
“Good night,” he said and went back to his room. Marian decided to spend the rest of the night in her room and Mitch went back to his room, shaking his head.
“Well?” Liz said, as he crawled under the covers.
“They said it was the ghost,” he said sarcastically, wrapping his arms around his wife.
“Both of them did?”
“Yeah. I always thought my kids were normal, everyday kids. Now I discover they’re a bunch of paranoid kooks.”
“Now, Mitch,” Liz chided, “don’t say that. If both of them saw or heard something, it must be real. Stop making fun about it.”
“All right, all right,” he said, reaching for the light switch, and they went to sleep.