My Haunted Bed & Breakfast
Dreary 6 AM. Monday morning. No energy to start the car.
Only eight months? Seemed like 1,000 years since my life stopped.
8 AM. I’d sat motionless for two hours. Cell phone. My boss wondering why I was late.
Sent a text: Not coming in.
I used to like my job until it became a means to forget. Now I couldn’t go in for one more day.
Couldn’t go back into the house. Everything about it reminded me of him.
A little blood clot in the brain—aneurysm—and just like that after 10 years I was alone, as if we’d never met and our marriage had never happened.
Started the car and drove. Had no idea where I was going. Didn’t care.
Some hours later, at a country corner, I found an old oak tree and a stop sign. I turned left. At the dead-end sat a big three-story house with cracked yellow paint, shattered windows, and a boarded front door. Something inside of me changed. For some reason I bonded with the house. I couldn’t let it continue its downward spiral.
I never did return to the city. I bought the old yellow house with plans to turn it into a bed and breakfast. I even spruced up the corner with the oak tree and stop sign.
The contract painter suggested I paint the house a light celadon.
“Great,” I said. I didn’t like the pale yellow anyway.
The crew scraped, sanded and painted and I bought furniture for the inside.
Several days later I admired all that had been accomplished. The downstairs rooms were furnished, and the exterior was celadon. Beautiful.
I went to sleep that night, knowing I had made a good start.
Early the next morning, I heard a commotion outside.
To my horror, the fresh paint had faded, discolored, and was dappled with the old cracked pale-yellow bleeding through.
The foreman didn’t look happy. “I’ll prime it again,” he said and growled something under his breath.
“Try a different color and brand,” I said. “Let’s go with periwinkle.”
That didn’t ease his mood.
The foreman tried coconut, eggshell, sand castle, hazel, and stunningly bright canary yellow. He tried different brands of paint but the old cracked pale-yellow kept bleeding through.
“There’s something wrong with this house,” the foreman said. He was on the verge of quitting.
The house had become the talk of the town. Gawkers drove by to see it. No other crew within a hundred miles was willing to tackle the job.
If this foreman didn’t finish, no one would.
“Have you tried everything?” I asked.
“Everything,” he snapped. “Your house wants to be pale yellow.”
“Fine,” I said in defeat.
The house was painted pale yellow with king’s gold for the trim. It worked.
Only one couple came to my three-day grand opening weekend.
On the last night of their stay, just as I had settled in bed, I heard blood-curdling screams.
I jumped out of bed, grabbed my robe, and ran barefoot up the stairs, down the hall, and pushed open their bedroom door.
She was standing in the middle of the room heaving. Tears streamed down her face.
He was rolling on the bed, also having trouble breathing.
“What happened?” I asked.
It looked like a domestic fight until I realized they were laughing hysterically.
“That was incredible,” he exclaimed. “Best special effects. Ever!”
I was confused. “What are you talking about?”
“We heard scratching at the door and thought it was your dog,” she said.
“You’ve been here three days,” I said. “You know I don’t have a dog.”
“We thought you kept him in your private quarters, but he’d managed to escape,” she said.
“We opened the door to let him in and there he was,” he said.
“The dog?” I asked.
“No, the skeleton.”
“Skeleton?” I asked. “What skeleton?” I looked from one to the other. They were serious.
“His head came at us.” She imitated the fictional skull. Her mouth opened and closed much like a fish. She lunged at me.
I jumped back.
He shivered. “We thought it was going to bite our faces off.”
I was stunned. I’d run up the stairs, fearing a murderer was in the house. I was prepared to save my guests from certain death. But what did I find? Druggies.
“It was incredible!” they exclaimed. “We’re going to recommend you to all our friends.”
So now I was going to be inundated with a bunch of crazies expecting a good scare. And when they didn’t get it, I’d be declared as a fraud. All because of those two junkies. Great.
Back in my room, I felt a presence I couldn’t explain. The room swayed, then blurred. Then—
Hallucinations, I told myself. I’d inhaled whatever my guests had been smoking. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, hoping to clear my head. I opened my eyes. Hovering before me were three apparitions. “Get out of here,” I ordered.
“Actually, you’re the newcomer,” a kindly old woman’s voice said.
“But I own the house and you’re not real,” I declared.
“Didn’t mean to scar’ ya, ma’am,” a different voice said. “Name’s Alfred. Died near here, I did.” His voice was tinny as if he was far away. Except for his name, I would not have known he was a man.
“Don’t mind him, ma’am, but he’s right, we don’t mean to scare ya. My name is Gertrude,” she said, “and this is my husband Horace.”
The third apparition bowed. “Ma’am,” he said in a deep voice.
I was definitely hallucinating.
The apparitions were indistinct and looked like flowing smudges.
“You’re not real,” I said, but I was losing my resolve.
“I assure you,” Horace said, “We are very much real indeed.” He seemed to step out of the shadows and became more detailed, though I could see right through him. He was tall, thin and dressed in farmer’s overalls, with a hat to match and a corncob pipe in his hand.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“This house is ours,” Horace said.
“Not exactly, my dear,” Gertrude said. Her image solidified. She wasn’t as tall as her husband, but was twice as wide and dressed like a farmer’s wife. “We did own the land.”
“Moved in after I died,” Alfred said. He was still indistinct.
“Didn’t know Alfred ‘til after we moved in,” Horace said.
“Now can’t imagine living without him,” Gertrude said lovingly. “He’s like a son.”
“You’re the first one the house has let live here,” Horace said.
“Perhaps I should move out,” I said, thinking out loud.
Alfred solidified so fast he actually popped into view. “Oh, don’t do that.” He was a pudgy little man with brown baggy pants and an oversized gray coat and a wide brimmed, tattered black hat.
“Why not?” I asked suspiciously.
“Last night was the most fun we’ve had since . . .” Horace stopped as he thought for a moment.
“Since we died,” Alfred finished.
“You like scaring the daylights out of people?” I asked incredulously.
“They seemed to like it,” Gertrude said.
Yes they did.
“They promised to tell all their friends,” she said.
Yes they did.
“Would it be so bad if their friends did come?” Horace asked.
No it would not.
“We promise not to harm no one,” Alfred said.
And just like that my vision for the house changed. That night, I stayed up with the apparitions and we made plans.
I thought a little scare once in a while would be all right. They thought it would be more fun to terrify my guests.
“They’ll love it, you’ll see,” Horace said.
I wasn’t so sure.
Now when a car rolls up to the corner with the old oak tree and stop sign, a dead man comes from behind the tree. People stop to give him a ride. Or maybe they stop because they heard about him and wanted to see him for themselves. They think it’s funny until he reaches for the car door handle.
Alfred’s skin dissolves and he becomes a skeleton.
They drive off as if being chased by a fire-breathing dragon. To date, no one has picked him up.
Alfred gets a good laugh.
Now I smile when I hear the screams late at night. No one has ever demanded his or her money back.
Morning breakfast conversations are of the scares from the night before. Everyone has a story.
“I woke to find a disembodied skeleton hand tiptoeing across my chest.”
“When I went to the bathroom, a gruesome corpse came rising out of the commode. Try sitting after that.” Laughter all around the table. “I still haven’t gone.”
All who visit get a good scare. They say it’s “great entertainment! Flawless! Seems so real!”
Guests come from around the world to stay at my haunted bed and breakfast. I’m booked months in advance.
Seems people love to have the heebie-jeebies scared out of them. Go figure.